Your Costa Rica itinerary! There is SO MUCH to do in Costa Rica. Nearly every town offers unique outdoor experiences, beautiful hikes, jungles and/or abundant wildlife. We met at least 3 people on our trip that were on a one month trip around Costa Rica. Being as we have jobs and don’t have the luxury of a month of travel, we had to narrow down our destinations.
As we did research and laid out all the popular places to visit in Costa Rica, we narrowed it down to western Costa Rica because:
- We knew we wanted to see the Arenal Volcano
- We wanted to zip-line through the rainforest in Monteverde
- Soaking in the hot springs was on the to-do list
- Travel time from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean coast can take 3-4 hours so we didn’t want to spend that much time traveling
Summary of Costa Rica Itinerary
In Summation: we stayed
- Manuel Antonio: 2 nights
- Monteverde: 2 nights
- Arenal: 2 nights
- La Fortuna: 2 nights
For details on how we filled our 8 days (9th day= travel day) then keep reading!!
Saturday: Day 1
- 5:30 am flight out of the US with arrival time of noon in Costa Rica!
- Drive time from San Jose airport to Manuel Antonio= 3hours
- Account for extra time to get through customs and get your rental car (if you are renting)
- We were blindsided by the 2 hours it took to get off the plane and through customs and another 1.5 negotiating our rental car
- Upon arrival to Manuel Antonio, it was dark (Sunset ~5:30 pm in October!)
- Tried dinner at Rafeals but it was closed- went to El Avion
Sunday: Day 2
Morning: Manuel Antonio National Park
- 3 hours in the park
- Be sure to pre-purchase your tickets here (required!!). TO NOTE: You will have to create a login to purchase tickets!
Lunch: We opted for a grocery store-bought lunch at an overlook on the side of the main road
- One of the highlights of the whole trip: 6 Scarlet Macaws flew by in pairs 😍
Afternoon: Zip Coaster
- Spent about an hour and a half
- Slow zip coaster or faster, short zip-line type of ride
Dinner: El Wagon
- patio with jungle views
Click here for a FULL guide to Manuel Antonio!!
Monday: Day 3
Travel day Manuel Antonio>Monteverde
- Drive ~3 hours
- Recommended pitstop at the Rio Tarcoles to see the wild crocodiles
- FREE AND WORTH IT
- You don’t have to veer off your path from Manuel>Monteverde
- The road to Monteverde was wild. Potholes, steep, curvy and at one point the pavement was washed out and we thought we had gone the wrong way (we didn’t. we just had to keep trucking along)
Monteverde arrival: around 1:00 pm.
- Lunch at Taco Taco
- DELICIOUS with great passionfruit margaritas.
- We checked into the Airbnb with plans to go on a night jungle tour
- It was POURING so we opted out and kind of had a waste of a late afternoon/evening.
- If you are traveling during rainy season I recommend to have an indoor event planned
Tuesday: Day 4
We woke up to BEAUTIFUL clear skies.
- We went straight to the cloud forest of Monteverde
- $25 per person
- The hanging bridge was closed due to a tree falling on it
- We didn’t’ see any wildlife on our self-guided tour
- The waterfall was underwhelming compared to others we saw on the trip.
- Wasn’t worth $25, especially without the hanging bridges
- Your Costa Rica itinerary isn’t complete without zip-lining!
- We chose to do it through 100% Adventura and I 100% recommend the company!
- It POURED through nearly the entire zipline, but everything was well-organized, sturdy and the staff was friendly and knowledgeable.
- $55 per person
- We got our car stuck in the airbnb driveway 🙃
- The owner graciously helped get us out and her dad cooked us a delicious Costa Rican meal 😍
- It turned out great, but recommend 4-wheel drive and, again, be prepared for the October rains in Monteverde!
Wednesday: Day 5
Recommended pit stop: Rio Celeste waterfall
- $7 entry Fee per person
- 3 hours from Monteverde to Rio Celeste
- Hike took about 2 hours
- No swimming allowed
After the hike it is about a 1.5 drive from Rio Celeste to Arenal
- Arenal area has less options than La Fortuna
- We ate at Que Rico based on a recommendation from the hotel staff. Tilapia stuffed with shrimp was 😍
- After dinner we took a night swim in the free hot springs! RECOMMEND!
Thurdsay: day 6
- Hike the Arenal Volcano National Park
- There are two main trails: The Volcano Trail and the Forest Trail
- The Volcano Trail can lead to the Forest Trail or can turn back to the entrance
- Recommend hiking the Volcano Trail back to the entrance and then taking a left from the entrance to the restaurant for a nice view of the volcano
- The Forest Trail along the lake didn’t provide anymore views of the volcano and the lake was green and not a good view (kind of felt like a waste of time.)
- $17 per person
- After our hike we had lunch at El Novillo del Arenal
- had a great view of the volcano (depending on your seat)
- We splurged for a night at the Tabacon.
- The hot springs river runs through Tabacon’s property.
- One night at the hotel gives you access to the springs until 10 pm the next night.
- Entry into the springs is typically $80 by itself so with the hotel stay it was only about $40 more per person
**Warning: we found fly larvae (little red worm-looking things) in our swimsuits when we got out. I’d rather not share this information, but it is worth you knowing so you can check and shower off ASAP!*
Friday: Day 7
- Free breakfast included with the stay
- Hike to the La Fortuna waterfall
- Cost $18
- Only about a 20 minute hike to the waterfall.
- 552 steps down (and back UP!)
- You are allowed to swim in this waterfall
- No bathrooms at the waterfall
- Hot springs at Tabacon
- We took advantage of the two nights of access to the hot springs with our stay at the Tabacon and went to soak in the springs again
Saturday: Day 8
- White water Rafting
- On more than one occasion we had recommendations to do water rafting in La Fortuna
- Arenal Rating Company was recommended by someone who had rafted the day before
- I will continue the recommendation! It was a blast. The staff was great and a homemade, wonderful lunch was provided at the end
- Click here for more info on rafting with Arenal Rafting Company!
- Volcano Lodge Hot Springs
- Our hotel at San Bosco came with free entry into the springs of Volcano Lodge
Sunday: Day 9
Travel day back to the US.
If you plan to go to Costa Rica soon, look up the COVID requirements. Don’t forget to make arrangements for the test!
- You can book your appointment online at the airport
- $65 per person
Your Costa Rica Itinerary Recap
If you are planning a trip, I hope this Costa Rica itinerary helps! We chose an itinerary where we could make the most of 9 days in Costa Rica and check off the adventures we had on our list. Our thoughts after the trip:
- It felt well spaced-out
- If you are traveling in October or anytime during “rainy season,” I recommend not staying in Monteverde.
- I definitely recommend Zip-lining in Monteverde, but I suggest making it a pitstop or only staying one night
If you are looking for adventure, Costa Rica has it! Enjoy your time and Pura Vida!!