10 day itinerary costa rica

This was my second time visiting Costa Rica. There is so much to see in this beautiful country that we had to come back. The adventures, hiking through the jungle, and spending the day on pristine beaches are travelers’ dreams. If you like any of these activities, then Costa Rica is the place for you. Costa Rica is home to 6% of the world’s biodiversity. That is a huge reason for what makes this country so great. Every year Costa Rica gets more and more popular. Now is always the best time to go but planning a trip is the hardest part. I’m here to help you with that. In this blog, I will go over a 10 Day itinerary in Costa Rica with all activities I have done myself.

One thing I wanted to do when coming back to Costa Rica was to explore the Nicoya peninsula. I’ve heard about the amazing beaches and the untouched jungle. Even after coming to this beautiful country for a second time, there still is so much to see. I do believe we saw a lot and chose some of the best locations the country has to offer. That’s why I think you will love this 10 day itinerary of Costa Rica I have for you.

10 day itinerary costa rica

Why You Should Visit Costa Rica

Whether you’re looking for a unique beach getaway or are a lover of wildlife then there is no better place in the world than Costa Rica. They are continuously making it easier to get around and tourists flock here every year. My suggestion would be to try and go in the wet season because it’s cheaper and the jungle is more full of life. There’s really no reason to think about not visiting Costa Rica!

10 day itinerary costa rica

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

This all depends on the activities you want to do and your budget. If you google it right now most answers will tell you to go in the dry season. This will normally be the best time to go for most individuals. I love going to warmer places in January/February because that is when we have the coldest weather where I’m from. The worst thing that you could think of during a vacation is for it to rain the whole time. I completely understand that but coming to Costa Rica during the Green is also great. This time period stretches from May to June and also November.

10 day itinerary costa rica

Best Ways to Get Around for 10 days in Costa Rica

Finding your way around the entire country of Costa Rica could seem daunting. It’s actually really easy and there are many options which I will go over below.


This has become a very popular option amongst travelers especially if you are staying in one location for a long time. The comfortable nature of the trip helps with making spending the money more worth it. It normally will cost 4-5x that of using the local buses but a lot easier. Some roads are hard to navigate through on your own. Depending on which map service you use, might tell you the wrong way to go. This is because some roads are not that well maintained and can be hard to drive through. This is where the shuttle is handy because these are local drivers that will always get you to your location the fastest way possible. We normally tried to book through a local travel agency or online at Tropical Tours (Nicoya Peninsula). Using shuttles during your 10-day itinerary in Costa Rica is possible but harder.


This is easily the cheapest option available when traveling in almost any country. It is doable but only if you have time. During your 10-day itinerary in Costa Rica, I do not suggest taking buses as your main source of transportation. There will be a lot of transfers and a lot of them go through San Jose. It can be hard to figure them out sometimes but you have to connect the dots with the towns you are going to. A place that has helped us in the past with buses through Costa Rica was this Facebook group. Ask any question about which buses to take and they will point you in the right direction.

Car Rental

The most convenient way to travel throughout any new country is by renting a car. The idea of road-tripping has always been of interest to me from living in the United States. There is something about seeing the world at your own pace and really getting the time to take it all in. An itinerary in Costa Rica can look a lot different depending on what you choose.

If you want to see the most while planning your 10-day itinerary in Costa Rica then I highly suggest you rent a car. When we went to Costa Rica we decided on the company Adobe as it was the best bang for our buck. It is highly suggested to rent a 4×4 as some of the roads in Costa Rica are not the easiest to drive through. If you do decide to come during peak season (dry season) then it would be in your best interest to rent one as far in advance as possible as they do sell out.

My Suggested Hiking Gear

Below is a list of some of my favorite hiking/travel gear I bring everywhere. Everything below is something I currently use and never leave my house without.

  • KEEN Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots: I finally upgraded my hiking boots in 2022 and these are fantastic. They have top-notch ankle support and are super durable.
  • Petzl Tikka Headlamp: A headlamp for hiking is a must if you’re like me and love sunrise hikes. This is a great price for a quality headlamp and also has a good red light to not disturb others in the morning.
  • Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks: I originally got these as a present but I had to buy more because these are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever tried on.
  • Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: You will never have to rebuy plastic water bottles. This is the best water filtering device on the market. It is excellent for hikers and travelers alike.

What Does a 10-Day Itinerary in Costa Rica Look Like?

The majority of this road trip will be in the western part of the country. I have fallen in love with this part of the country but it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything good on the eastern side. Below will be an outline of our trip to Costa Rica.

10 Day Itinerary in Costa Rica Map

(Day 1): Fly into San Jose Airport

The most common airport to fly into is San Jose (SJO). This is where the majority of people fly in and out of Costa Rica. If you are more of a city person then you can spend more time here. There are great parts to the city and also some parts you want to stay away from (as is with any big city). San Jose is home to many restaurants, museums, and shops. If you are like us and came to see wonderful nature then immediately pick up your car rental and head to La Fortuna.

If you like to buy a sim card for your adventure then I would highly suggest Kolbi. This is a government-owned company and from personal experience, has the best coverage throughout the country. Other popular companies are Claro and Movistar. Most sim card companies will give you Waze for free and this is very useful when driving throughout the country. The drive to La Fortuna should take between 2 1/2 to 3 hours depending on traffic.

(Day 2): Go to La Fortuna Waterfall

There are so many waterfalls in Costa Rica that it is hard to choose which ones you want to go see. La Fortuna waterfall is easily accessible for nearly every kind of traveler and is a remarkable sight. The hike consists of 530 steps which take around 20-30 minutes to hike. It currently costs $18 to enter the park. The waterfall is a height of 70-75 meters or 200 feet. The price may seem steep to visit this waterfall but it is well worth it. If you decide to jump in the water, you will be able to feel the sheer power of this waterfall.

After you spend a few hours here, you can either go back to your accommodation and relax or go visit some sloths! There is a popular sloth walking tour. What is cool about this is that you are guaranteed to see a sloth and other wildlife during this tour! This is a very popular trail your expert guides know exactly where these sloths are at. It is easy for them to know because sloths tend to not move too much from day to day. Once you are finished there you can grab a bite to eat and drink at the lava lounge!

(Day 3): Drive to Montezuma

Try not to stay out too late because you will be needed to wake up early to drive to Montezuma. This drive will be around 5 hours. It’s long but not too long. If you leave at a decent time in the morning, you can get there with plenty of time to explore the famous Montezuma Waterfalls. This area consists of three different size waterfalls ranging from 4 meters to 27 meters. It is a very popular location with locals and foreigners for obvious reasons. This town was my favorite along in our 10-day itinerary in Costa Rica. Try to get to bed at a reasonable time because you will have a long day ahead of you tomorrow that you won’t want to miss!

(Day 4): Explore El Chorro Waterfall

El Chorro waterfall is a special one. It is one of seven waterfalls in the entire world that flow straight into the ocean. This is a remarkable sight to see. The cool thing is that it is not that close to Montezuma so it isn’t as crowded as it could be. There are a couple of ways of getting here. Firstly some say you can’t get here by car but you are able to drive to Tango Mar hotel and then it is only a 10-minute walk down to the hotel. Make sure to take all of your valuable possessions with you. I would not suggest taking this route though. Instead, there is a path along the beach you can hike to it.

It is a very easy path to find and take to El Chorro waterfall. Go down to the main street of Montezuma and take a left. This will be the main beach where the popular resort-type accommodations are located. Make sure you start early because it takes around 2 – 2 1/2 hours to hike here. Along the way, you will pass some of the popular destinations in Montezuma like Piedra Colorada and Playa Grande. It is a great adventure and I am so glad that we took this path instead of driving to it. These were some of my favorite times during our trip to Costa Rica.

(Day 5): Rent ATVs in Santa Teresa

There is no need to wake up as early as the day before because Santa Teresa is so close. If you were in Montezuma on a Saturday then you should go downtown at 10 pm. Once you wake up, head west for about 30 – 45 minutes until you get to Santa Teresa. This area is one of if not the best beaches I’ve ever been to. It is amazing for surfing if you like that and has some great restaurants. What we did there and what is still one of my favorite activities I’ve done in a while was renting ATVs.

While on these ATVs you can cruise around the areas surrounding Santa Teresa. There are many different beaches to explore such as the pristine Playa Hermosa. This beach is famous for its more beginner-friendly waves and its long stretch of beach. After this, you can keep cruising down the roads and enjoy some imperials at a nice bar. Shortly down the road, you can move onto the beach and really start riding. The beaches in Costa Rica are amazing and it was a great first few days of our trip.

10 day itinerary costa rica

(Day 6): Drive to Jaco

After spending a few wonderful days on the beach in the Nicoya Peninsula it is time to hit the road again. You want to make your way toward Jaco which is a couple of hours south of San Jose. This lovely beach town is a backpackers’ heaven as it is cheap and fun. There are many bars to go to and another wonderful beach for surfing. Get a good start to the day so you can watch the beautiful sunset this area has to offer. If you really do enjoy this part of Costa Rica then by all means stay another night. The next stop will be on the east coast of the country with a completely different vibe. It will take around 5 hours to get from Santa Teresa to Jaco (which does include a ferry).

After having some drinks and watching the sunset, grab a great bite to eat at some of Jaco’s famous sodas like Jaco Rustico. If you plan on making the drive to the next place then get a good night’s rest. The drive to the next spot could be a long one. It ranges between 5 – 6 hours but this all depends on the traffic. This area is known for heavy traffic sometimes due to car accidents. The earlier you start the better.

10 day itinerary in costa rica
10 day itinerary costa rica

(Day 7): Drive to Puerto Viejo

The next and final area that you will be traveling to is the town of Puerto Viejo. This town is located in the Talamanca region and is 1 hour south of Limon. Travel days like these can be fun and exhausting. It’s something that you have to do though when creating a 10-day itinerary in Costa Rica. This drive will be so worth it though. Since Puerto Viejo is on the West Coast of Costa Rica it has a lot of Caribbean influence. Try your best to get here early so you can go to the famous Soda Lidia’s Place.

10 days itinerary costa rica

(Day 8): Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center

Easily the most popular thing to do in Puerto Viejo is to visit the world-famous Jaguar Rescue center. It is at the top of my list of things to do in Puerto Viejo. This is a place where injured animals come to be rehabilitated and eventually (hopefully) released back into the wild. Unlike what the name suggests it actually has never rescued a Jaguar. The cost is $20 to enter and is so worth it.

I would suggest that you rent bikes for this day and venture around the town as you bike your way toward the rescue center. This is the preferred method of getting around Puerto Viejo. At the Jaguar Rescue Center, you will most likely see sloths (potentially babies), toucans, ocelots, monkeys, and much more!

things to do puerto viejo
10 days itinerary costa rica

(Day 9): Explore Cahuita National Park

A short 30-minute drive north of Puerto Viejo is the town of Cahuita. This is more of a low-key area to stay in but is home to one of the best national parks in Costa Rica. The entrance fee is free but everyone usually leaves some sort of donation. This is a must when coming to this area as it is very close to Puerto Viejo. The easiest way to get here is to go to the bus station and buy a ticket. It should cost a little over a dollar (around 860 colones) and will take you right to the town.

When we arrived we saw three sloths within 30 minutes. I was shocked. We didn’t think it was going to be this prevalent wildlife throughout the park. We also saw vipers, monkeys, raccoons, and frogs throughout the park. If you walk for around 30 – 45 minutes you will eventually get to the corner of the park where many people are swimming. Be careful of this area because many monkeys and raccoons will try to steal your belongings.

cahuita national park
10 day itinerary costa rica

(Day 10): Drive Back to San Jose

Now the trip is coming to an end. Try and pack your bags the night before so you can leave Puerto Viejo as early as possible. You don’t want the possibility of getting stuck in traffic at all. It’s sad to leave such a beautiful place like Costa Rica. There will always be next time and hopefully more time as well. It can be hard to create a 10-day itinerary of a country because there is always so much to see, especially in Costa Rica. I hope this has helped you come up with some cool things to see and ways to travel throughout this country during your stay.

10 days itinerary costa rica

How Expensive is Costa Rica?

At the time of writing this article, the conversion rate is $1 USD = 652 Colones. This might take some time to get used to. Compared to the other countries in Central America, Costa Rica is up there with the most expensive ones. Many travelers that I met were comparing it to European prices. I don’t think it is there but don’t expect it for the extremely cheap (especially in the peak season). That being said it is possible to travel for cheaper here than where you are from most likely.

Travel Tips for your 10-day Itinerary in Costa Rica

Here are some travel tips when planning your Costa Rica itinerary that you might already know but maybe I’ll tell you some that will surprise you.

  1. Book your accommodation months in advance
  2. Go grocery shopping and don’t eat out as much
  3. Buy things like sunscreen in a pharmacy when you land and not at a beach destination. Prices can easily triple from those two spots.
  4. If you have time then stay in each place for longer and take the buses.
  5. Don’t travel during the peak season as prices could double.
  6. If you do go out to eat, try the local sodas! These are local restaurants that serve Costa Rican food for a lot cheaper than anywhere else.
  7. Go to the spots that are off the beaten paths for the best adventures and cheaper prices.
10 day itinerary costa rica

Final Thoughts on this 10-day itinerary in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is an amazing country that everyone should visit one day. It is and has been very popular for many years for obvious reasons. This increased popularity has driven up the prices in certain locations but is still worth it. Driving around from coast to coast in a country when you only have 10 days might not make much sense. I agree with this in some ways so if you would rather spend some extra time in the earlier towns then definitely do that. Travel is all about going at your own pace and seeing the country for what it truly is. At the end of the day, this 10-day itinerary in Costa Rica should be custom-built by you for you. I only hope I helped give you some creative ideas of things to do and places to see in Costa Rica.

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