2 Week Costa Rica Itinerary: An Ultimate Trip Guide

With beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and national parks, Costa Rica is bursting with natural beauty. If you’re looking for the adventure of a lifetime read on to discover all that Costa Rica has to offer with our 2 week ultimate itinerary.
Arenal Volcano Costa Rica - Cosmic Time Traveler -Unsplash
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica. Photo: Cosmic Time Traveler | Unsplash

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Costa Rica is an extraordinary country that offers visitors the opportunity to explore its beautifully preserved scenic landscapes. As one of the world’s best countries for ethical and sustainable tourism Costa Rica is a destination you can visit knowing that you are not negatively impacting local communities and wildlife. 

The Central American country offers something for everyone. From adventure to biodiverse wildlife, luxurious hotel resorts, and amazing restaurants, Costa Rica has it all. Here, we’ll share our ultimate 2 week Costa Rica itinerary so you can enjoy the most magical trip to this stunning country.

For this 2 week trip, you’ll be flying into the capital city of San Jose, where you’ll spend the first day of the trip exploring before heading around the country to some of the best national parks, beaches and towns that the country has to offer. 

The best way to travel around Costa Rica is by bus. The country’s public bus service is excellent. It’s reliable and inexpensive, with frequent services, even in remote areas. However, private shuttle buses are quicker and still very much affordable.

On the other hand, car rental can be expensive, as well as quite scary when you’re travelling on unknown roads with steep drops in places. That’s why this itinerary will be based on travelling by private shuttle bus.

Day 1: San Jose

San Jose is one of the most vibrant cities in all of Central America. It is home to a thriving art and music scene as well as a plethora of traditional and contemporary restaurants and cafés. There are a number of great museums and cultural attractions in the city as well as a lively nightlife scene.

Teatro Nacional, San Jose in Costa Rica
Teatro Nacional,  San José. Photo: Richie Diesterheft | Wikimedia Commons

What to do and see in San Jose?

  • National Museum – The best way to discover the history and culture of Costa Rica, with exhibitions that highlight the country’s natural history, archaeology and anthropology.
  • The National Theatre (Teatro Nacional) – One of San Jose’s most prestigious buildings, filled with art, marble statues and lavish furnishings. The theatre is still operational so you can watch a show here too.
  • The Museum of Costa Rican Art (Museo de Arte Costarricense) – Houses over six thousand pieces of art in varying mediums and gives visitors a real insight into the arts and cultural history of the country. There are both permanent collections and temporary exhibitions on display here.

Where to eat in San Jose?

  • Restaurante Silvestre is known for its sensational fine dining, using traditional Costa Rican ingredients to create spectacular contemporary dishes. There’s meat, fish, and vegan options on the menu alongside an impeccable wine list.
  • Restaurante Grano De Oro, at the Hotel Grando De Oro serves exquisite French Mediterranean cuisine with a tropical twist. 
  • Café Rojo is a Vietnamese-inspired restaurant with generous portion sizes and a good variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes available too.

Where to stay in San Jose?

  • $$$ – Hilton Garden Inn San Jose La Sabana
  • $$ – KC Hotel San Jose
  • $ – Hostel Finca Escalante

Day 2, 3 & 4: La Fortuna

Travel time: 2.5 hours via private shuttle bus.

For the next stop on our Costa Rican adventure, we’re leaving the city behind and heading to the town of La Fortuna. As one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica, La Fortuna is the gateway to the Arenal Volcano National Park. Here you’ll find an abundance of natural hot springs, forest canopies, incredible wildlife and plenty of adventurous outdoor activities to partake in. The town of La Fortuna itself is full of charm and dotted with wonderful restaurants.

La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica
La Fortuna Waterfall. Photo: J. Amill Santiago | Unsplash

What to do and see in La Fortuna?

  • Arenal Volcano National Park – Discover the park’s two volcanoes; the still-active Arenal Volcano and the dormant Chato Volcano. The area surrounding the Arenal volcano is popular for its hiking trails and wildlife viewing opportunities. 
  • Hot springs – There are plenty of picturesque hot springs dotted around the area so be sure to take some time to relax and enjoy them.
  • Adventurous activities – Take part in some high-octane adventures such as canyoning, white water rafting and ziplining. 
  • La Fortuna Waterfall – Hike to and swim in this amazing waterfall.  
  • Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park – Witness incredible views and spot some wildlife at the same time.
  • River Safari – For another chance to see the wildlife and relax in the peaceful surroundings.

Where to eat in La Fortuna?

  • Restaurante Travesia creates the right balance of upscale food in a laid-back setting. They specialise in smoked meats and seafood dishes but also offer lovely burgers, tacos and more. 
  • Jalapas Restaurant is a little bit off the beaten track, but is well worth making the effort for. The restaurant sits at the top of a hill with unbeatable volcano and rolling valley views, alongside fantastic Costa Rican food.
  • Chante Verde Restaurante-Cafe-Bar is a super trendy spot with an eclectic menu of unique burgers, naan sandwiches, pizzas, salad bowls and much more. There are great vegetarian and vegan options here.

Where to stay in La Fortuna?

  • $$$ – Paradise Hot Springs
  • $$ – Los Lagos Spa & Thermal Resort Experience
  • $ – Palacios Arenal (Hostel/Hotel)

Day 5, 6 & 7: Monteverde

Travel time: 4 hours via private shuttle bus.

Today we’re heading to the mountains of Monteverde. Although our next destination appears close on the map, there’s a national park, a volcano and a lake to pass around! Monteverde, located 4,662 ft above sea level, is a town sitting on the Continental Divide among a cloud forest. The weather is much cooler here than in other parts of the country so don’t forget to pack some warm clothes. 

Selvatura, Monteverde, Costa Rica
Selvatura, Monteverde. Photo: Leslie Cross | Unsplash

What to do and see in Monteverde?

  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve – This area is well known for being one of the best places in the world to view cloud forests. It is a truly fascinating place to explore as it has a completely different ecosystem. 
  • Aventura Park – Thrillseekers can enjoy some of the longest zip lines and hanging bridges in the country, thanks to the park’s dense forest canopy.
  • Selvatura Park – Animal lovers should visit the Sloth Sanctuary and while you’re in this park you can cross the hanging bridges for unbeatable views and the chance to see even more wildlife.

Where to eat in Monteverde?

  • Cafe Monteverde is a brilliant specialty coffee shop serving Costa Rican coffee, which you have to try! You can even buy a bag or two to take home with you.
  • The Green Restaurant serves incredible burgers, paninis, pasta and steaks alongside craft beers and beautiful wines.
  • Choco Café Restaurant and Coffee Shop offer a relaxed environment with quality food and brilliant coffee. The burgers are amazing and make sure you save some room for dessert.

Where to stay in Monteverde?

  • $$$ – Hotel Senda Monteverde
  • $$ – Monteverde Lodge & Gardens
  • $ – Monte Fresco

Day 8, 9 & 10: Manuel Antonio

Travel time: 4 hours via private shuttle bus.

Our next destination is Manuel Antonio, home of Manuel Antonio National Park. It is Costa Rica’s smallest national park, but one of the most popular because of what it has to offer. It is an amazing place to visit with immaculate beaches, beautiful forest trails, and unbelievable wildlife.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio. Photo: Christina Victoria Craft | Unsplash

What to do and see in Manuel Antonio?

  • Manuel Antonio National Park – Great for hiking and relaxing at the beaches. The park is full of hiking trails including the El Perezoso Trail which translates to ‘The Lazy One’, meaning it’s one of the best places to see sloths.
  • Playa Espadilla Norte beach – A lovely spot to relax, soak up the sun and go for a swim.
  • Night Jungle Tour – Exploring the jungle at night provides you with a completely different and unforgettable experience.
  • Kids Saving the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary – Take a tour of this sanctuary to discover 50 different species and learn about the wildlife native to Costa Rica.
  • Mangrove boat tour – These organised excursions take you through an exotic flooded Mangrove Forest. You’ll have the opportunity to see white face monkeys, turtles, iguanas, boa constrictors, crocodiles and a wide variety of birds.

Where to eat in Manuel Antonio?

  • Emilio’s Cafe offers staggering views over Manuel Antonio beach and bay, which make it worth visiting alone. However, the food is incredible too, with varied menu of traditional Costa Rican dishes and Western options too. There’s a great choice of vegetarian and vegan dishes too.
  • Agua Azul also offers stunning views for diners, with amazing seafood, burgers, sandwiches, tacos and more.
  • El Wagon is famous for its fantastic wood-fired pizzas and pasta dishes, as well as serving burgers and wraps. This place is the perfect spot for cocktails too.

Where to stay in Manuel Antonio?

  • $$$ – Makanda by The Sea
  • $$ – Parador Resort & Spa Manuel Antonio
  • $ – Wide Mouth Frog Hostel

Day 11, 12 & 13: Drake Bay

Travel time: 3.5 hours.

The next destination on our itinerary is slightly more tricky to get to but is definitely worth the effort. From Manuel Antonio you’ll need to take a 15 minute shuttle bus to the neighboring town of Quepos, where you’ll take a further shuttle to the boat dock in Sierpe. From the boat dock we’re jumping on a ferry that will take us down the river to Drake Bay. 

So, why are we making all this effort to get to Drake Bay? Well, because not only is it a stunning tiny town, but it’s also close to the largest rainforest in Central America – Corcovado National Park. This awe-inspiring national park is only accessible by boat which just adds to how incredible and magical it is. From Drake Bay it takes about an hour by boat to reach the park.

A squirrel monkey in Corcovado National Park
A squirrel monkey in Corcovado National Park. Photo: Diane Theresa Hendrick | Unsplash

What to do and see in Drake Bay?

  • Corcovado National Park – Take a guided hike where you’ll see all kinds of wildlife in the heart of the rainforest.
  • Snorkeling & Scuba Diving –  Take to the beautiful waters of Caño Island Biological Marine Reserve and swim amongst incredible coral reefs, schools of tropical fish, turtles, rays and more.
  • Kayaking on the Agujitas River – Enjoy a relaxing kayaking trip on the river in this jungle oasis.

Where to eat in Drake Bay?

  • Kalaluna Bistro has lovely views out over the bay and serves delicious gourmet food and a great drinks menu.
  • Casa El Tortugo Drakes Kitchen has a beautiful setting with seafood dishes and more.
  • Cocina de Ana is the place to go for wonderful authentic Costa Rican food.

Where to stay in Drake Bay?

  • $$$ – Aguila de Osa Rainforest Lodge
  • $$ – Drake Bay Wilderness Resort
  • $ – Martina´s Place, Bahia Drake

Day 14: Travelling back to San Jose

Travel time: 50 minutes by plane. 4.5 hours by shuttle bus.

The view from a small plane flying over Drake Bay.
The view from a small plane flying over Drake Bay. Photo: Traveling Tall Girl | Unsplash

It’s time to head back to San Jose in time for your return flight home. There are two options you might want to consider for your journey from Drake Bay back to San Jose. Option one is the quickest and arguably the most exciting way to get back, by taking a small plane. It just depends on how brave you are, as these tiny planes are a bit scary for some people. Your second option is to jump back on the boat to Sierpe and take a private shuttle bus from here to San Jose.

Useful tips for traveling in Costa Rica:

Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano National Park. Photo: Ben Turnbull | Unsplash

The best time to visit Costa Rica:

The best time to visit Costa Rica is from December to April. This is the driest time of the year, with warm temperatures around 28°C and up to twelve hours of daylight each day.

What is the currency of Costa Rica?

The currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colon (CRC). It’s best to travel with cash as this is the most commonly accepted payment method in Costa Rica, especially in the more rural parts of the country. US dollars are also unofficially accepted in the capital of San Jose, but we recommend exchanging them for Costa Rican colones.

Can you drink tap water in Costa Rica?

Yes, you can drink the tap water in Costa Rica, in almost all parts of the country. However, we do recommend that you check with locals if you are unsure. In some areas, mainly on the Caribbean side and in non-tourist areas of the country, it’s best to buy bottled water.

The language of Costa Rica:

Spanish is the national language of Costa Rica. Many Costa Ricans can speak English in the more touristy areas of the country but it’s always good to know some Spanish before you go. Some common phrases include:

  • Hola – Hello
  • Adiós – Goodbye
  • Por favor – Please
  • Gracias – Thank you
  • Lo siento – Sorry
  • Sí – Yes
  • No – No
  • ¿Quién? – Who?
  • ¿Qué? – What?
  • ¿Dónde? – Where?

Is Costa Rica safe?

Costa Rica is one of the safest countries for travellers in Central America. However, there is some petty crime so you should be on your guard and keep your possessions safe especially when in busy tourist areas. Avoid isolated areas and plan excursions with experienced guides.

Final thoughts:

A Toucan in the Manuel Antonio National Park.
A Toucan in the Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica. Photo: Iulian Aghei | Unsplash

So, there you have it, our ultimate 2 week itinerary for your Costa Rica adventure. With this plan of action, all you need to do is start booking your flights and accommodation. Thinking of travelling even further down to South America? Then check out our guide on How To Spend One Month In South America.


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