10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary | Ultimate Trip Planner & Guide

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary | Ultimate Trip Planner & Guide

April 30, 2021 5 By Kerry

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Costa Rica has the perfect balance of nature, wildlife, beaches, and adventurous activities to make an unforgettable vacation. Whether you want to hike a volcano or see sloths and turtles in their natural habitat, you will find it by traveling to Costa Rica. There’s so much to see and do; my ultimate 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary will help you plan your trip.

Don’t worry if you’re staying for a week or two; just adapt this Costa Rica itinerary 10 days to suit your needs. So get ready for a brilliant vacation in this exciting adventure destination.

This 10 day costa rica itinerary contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a small commission should you choose to make a purchase using my link, but this is at no extra cost to you. I love all of these companies anyways, and you will too, so go on, help a girl out.

Costa Rica Itinerary – Quick Reference Guide

Costa Rica Itinerary - visit San Jose, La Fortuna, Sarapiqui and Tortuguero in 10 days
Map of this 10 day Costa Rica Itinerary

I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list

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Planning your 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary

People often ask whether Costa Rica is safe. The answer is yes, but like with all foreign countries, keep your wits about yourself and don’t attract unnecessary attention. If you’re not traveling with friends or a partner, then you can explore this Central American gem through a group tour or travel solo.

Group Tours

I discovered the majority of what to see in Costa Rica in 10 days on a group tour with G Adventures.

Booking an organized group tour really helps to create a hassle-free trip so you can make the most of the experience.
Taken under the wing of a highly knowledgeable local Costa Rican guide, you can sit back and relax while you learn about the history and culture.

In this option, your travel, accommodation, and many meals are taken care of for you. However, you also have the flexibility to choose additional activities that suit you. Better still, you will meet other like-minded travelers that will become friends for life.

I have copied below some of the most popular Costa Rica tours available, but there are many more to suit all budgets and interests:

Backpacking Costa Rica & Solo Travel

Costa Rica is also perfect for solo travellers or backpackers. There are many hostels available, and it is generally safe and easy to travel around. If you’re backpacking Costa Rica on a shoestring, then take a look at the best travel resources online which will help you plan and budget for your Costa Rica vacation. 

If you’re still not sure how to complete your 10 days in Costa Rica, take a look at the pros and cons of group travel which will help inform your choice.

Day 1 – San José | Costa Rica Itinerary

San José is the capital of Costa Rica. With San Jose’s great international connections from all major airports, you will likely start or end your vacation here. San Jose is only a relatively small metropolis despite being the capital city, but it will give you a taste of Costa Rican city life.

Where to stay in San José Costa Rica

There are ample hotels, b&bs, airbnbs and hostels throughout San José. Costa Rica, that will suit all travelers.

If you want to be in the heart of the action, then look downtown San Jose. Moreover, staying downtown will give you a central location to get to the various museums, restaurants, markets, and shopping centers.

You can also stay slightly further out, but close enough to the center in the Barrio Amón or Los Yoses areas. However, if you’re looking for peace and quiet and perhaps more luxury, you can try the suburban areas of Escazu, Rohrmoser, San Pedro, or San Antonio de Belen. You can find these areas on the map of San José below.


Things to do in San-José Costa Rica

There are many things to do in San José, from museums and parks to markets and shopping centers. A couple of things to look out for:

  • Simón Bolivar Zoo. This not-for-profit zoo has rescued the majority of animals from terrible conditions. While it has an honorable mission, be prepared for gloomy animals.
  • National Museum of Costa Rica. This museum is situated in an old city fortress that was initially used as a military barracks. You can find plenty of displays about Costa Rica’s history and culture.
  • Plaza de la Cultura is in the city’s center, with many excellent shops and bars close by.

San José Day Trips

There are also many day trips from San José that you can add to your Costa Rica trip planner. My personal favorites are:

  • Monteverde Hanging Bridges Day Trip: walk across the famous bridges suspension bridge set within the dense rainforest.
  • Irazu Volcano:  spend the day hiking Vulcan Irazu, which is about an hour away and easy to get to by public bus or Uber. Irazu is the highest active volcano in Costa Rica, and it provides incredible views above the clouds.

Days 2 – 5: San José to La Fortuna | Costa Rica Itinerary

La Fortuna is located in the northern highlands of San José and is the adventure capital of Costa Rica. La Fortuna is known for the Arenal Volcano National Park and other thrilling, adrenaline-pumping activities. Therefore, depending on how adventurous you are, you should allow 2-3 days of your Costa Rica itinerary to experience everything La Fortuna has to offer.

If you’re driving to La Fortuna in a hire car, it will take approx. 3-5 hours. Catching public transport in Costa Rica is cheap and easy (£4/$6), but the public buses only run once a day, early in the morning. Therefore, driving yourself, or as part of a group, transport will be much faster.

Another option is to choose an activity that collects you from your hotel and drops you off somewhere else. This is not available with all companies, but it is an option worth exploring.

Things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica

Arenal in La Fortuna is crowned the adventure capital. There are so many adventurous activities, I have written a whole blog about the things to do in Arenal. Some of what to see in Costa Rica in 10 days in La Fortuna are below:

Arenal in La Fortuna is the adventure capital. There are so many adventurous activities, I have written a whole blog about the things to do in Arenal. Some of my favorites are listed below:

1. Whitewater Rafting. If you’re looking for extreme thrills and exhilarating class III to IV rapids, head to the scenic river Rio Pacuare. Better still, you can book packages that include both rafting and rappel experience

2. Mountain biking to Catarata Rio Fortuna. If you enjoy nature, hiking, and tremendous waterfalls, then it’s time to explore Catarata Rio Fortuna.

3. Arenal Hot Springs. A trip to Arenal would not be complete without a relaxing soak in the sublime waters from a natural hot spring. So be prepared for total relaxation in tranquil surroundings.

4. Arenal Volcano. Take one of the trails to hike the Arenal volcano. Consider tailoring an activity package suited to you that includes several fun experiences. See the below options for ideas:

5. Lake Arenal. Discover the many different species of birds and absorb yourself in nature and outdoor activities at Lake Arenal. 

Where to Stay in La Fortuna Costa Rica

There are some fantastic budget options in La Fortuna. The accommodation on offer is suitable for backpackers, solo travelers, and groups of friends (old and new).

If you want to be close to the center, where it is bustling, will fellow travelers, then stay downtown. This is also handy if you haven’t got your own car. Many accommodation choices, even hostels, have pools and cool places to relax and socialize. In addition, there are many bars, restaurants, and cafes in the area, so it is a nosier area and very convenient.

Things are spread out in La Fortuna, so you can look for more luxurious hotels slightly further out if you are driving in Costa Rica yourself. Some of them even have hot springs on site. La Fortuna even has one of the most unique places to stay in Costa Rica if you’re looking for something different.


Day 5 – 6 La Fortuna to Sarapiqui | Costa Rica Itinerary

One of my favorite destinations to spend 10 days in Costa Rica is Sarapiqui, perfect for nature-loving, eco-conscious tourists. As Sarapiqui is a rural area, many homestays and immersive experiences here give you a taste of local life.

Getting to Sarapiqui from La Fortuna

If you are driving in Costa Rica, head west on route 142, turn onto Route 4, and drive all the way to Sarapiqui. However, if you’re using public transport, take a look at the schedule and price. There is likely to be a changeover, so factor that in. You can also get a transfer for approximately $90, which is pretty cheap if you’re traveling with a group.

Sarapiqui is a vast area, so if you don’t have a hire car, then look into hotel options that have many activities either on-site or that include pick up/drop-offs.

You can also look for tours that start in La Fortuna and end in Sarapiqui. This way, you will get some of your transport covered by the tour. Bonus right?

Things to do in Sarapiqui

There are many things to do in Sarapiqui on your 10 day Costa Rica Itinerary that will give you a heavy dose of nature and wildlife. In fact, some of the best activities are listed below. Did I mention this Costa Rica trip planner is adventurous?

  1. Kayaking. What better way to explore Costa Rica than to combine wildlife watching with an exciting kayak trip down the beautiful Rio Sarapiqui river. It is one of the top adventurous activities in Costa Rica

2. White water rafting. The Sarapuiqi river has the infamous ‘jungle run’ white water rafting experience to enjoy class III to IV rapids. Above all, you will be in for an exciting adventure.

3. Nature parks. You can visit several nature parks while you’re in Sarapiqui; a) Dave & Dave’s Nature Reserve, b) Tirimbina Biological Reserve, c) Frogs Heaven. These nature parks all contribute to preserving Costa Rica’s natural forests, and each has its own beautiful appeal.

Our G Adventure tour used Cinco Ceibas for our accommodation and kayaking experience. We were able to walk the wooden paths through the forest and enjoy the scenic river view during our stay. Moreover, the rooms we stayed in were really quirky, adding color, charm, and a Costa Rican feel.

Where to eat and drink in Sarapiqui

Sarapiqui is a wide area, with most bars and restaurants spread out. Barrio Arrepentidos has a selection of restaurants and a few bars if you wanted to wander around.

Looking for vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free cuisine? Then I recommend Mantras Veggie Café and Tea House as they believe in healthy, organic foods.

Day 6  – 8 Sarapiqui to Tortuguero | Costa Rica Itinerary

Tortuguero is a river-based village in the Limón Province on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Because of its beautiful beaches and nature-rich location, it appeals to different travelers:

  • Those who love water experiences such as boat trips or kayaking down big rivers and narrow canals.
  • People who want to experience a taste of traditional village life.
  • Wildlife lovers who want to discover the nesting areas of the fantastic green sea turtles on the beach.

If that sounds like you then you absolutely see why it is included in this 10 day Costa Rica Itinerary.

How to get to Tortuguero from Sarapiqui

Tortuguero is a national park that is only accessible from Sarapiqui by road and boat. Therefore, getting to Tortuguero from Sarapiqui is definitely easiest by hire car or taxi. However, if you drive, you will need to leave your rental car to take a small public water taxi to Tortuguero.

The boat taxi is a scenic adventure in itself, and before you know it, you’ll be in La Pavona mainland.

Where to stay in Tortuguero

There are many hotel resorts and affordable accommodation in Tortuguero. The peak turtle season (July & August) is the prime time to visit, although Tortuguero is popular year-round. Most people will choose somewhere within the Tortuguero national park itself to enjoy the activities on offer around the village and river.

If you stay on the opposite side of the river to the main village, your resort will likely offer transport over at certain times of the day, or you can grab a water taxi. For instance, our G Adventures tour stayed at the La Baula Lodge, which was in a great location next to the river, with amazing BYGOF cocktails!

Tortuguero bar area

Things to do in Tortuguero

Tortuguero is partly in a national park famed as a nesting spot for the huge green sea turtles. Therefore, you can expect activities around here to be wildlife and nature-focused. Much like the rest of this 10 day Costa Rica Itinerary!

  1. Kayaking the canals of Tortuguero. This is my favourite kayaking experience so far. Starting on a wide river, you will navigate to stunning narrow canals that divide up the lush green rainforest. Above all, you will see so much wildlife!

2. Sea Turtle Conservancy. If you want to learn more about the sea turtle research and support the conversation efforts, then visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy. this

3. Boat Wildlife safari. If you don’t fancy doing the hard work, then take a boat trip around the river where a guide can point out wildlife as you sit back and enjoy the ride.

4. Explore the local village. Tortuguero Village used to be a remote fishing village among coconut and cocoa plantations. However, today the village is central to sea turtle conservation and research. Moreover, you can spend countless hours perusing the local stalls or eating and drinking at the many restaurants.

5. Visit Tortuguero beach. depending on when you go, you might be able to do turtle walks to watch the turtles nest.. The sands are black, the winds are strong and the waves are hard so Tortuguero beach is not suitable for swimming.

Day 9-10 Tortuguero to San José | Costa Rica Itinerary

You’ve made it through the traveling aspects of this 10 day Costa Rica Itinerary! It’s now the final hurdle before finishing your epic adventure back to where you started.

Getting to San José from Tortuguero

After you’ve got a public water taxi back to where you started, there are a couple of travel options from Tortuguero to San José.

You can catch a flight from Tortuguero from domestic airlines. The flight will only take 30 minutes and will beat a 6.5 hour drive. If you have a hire car, you might have no choice but to drive, but you will have many scenic stop offs to break up the journey.

If you’re travelling Costa Rica on public transport, then a shared shuttle would be the best option as private transfers would be costly over this distance.

Final days of this 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary

You’re likely to want a relaxing evening after this adventurous Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days. You could even have an early flight the next day. But if you’ve got the time, take a look at the top of this post for a recap on what to do and where to stay in San José.

You might even want to do a full day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. The park is located on the Pacific Coast and has many things to see and do. At 82 miles from San Jose, the easiest option to visit Manuel Antonio park is an combo tour that includes transport and multiple stops on route so that you can see all the area has to offer. You can also travel from La Fortuna to Manual Antonio easily if you wanted to add this into your itinerary.

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Tips to make the most of your Costa Rica Itinerary 10 Days

  1. Consider renting a car – driving Costa Rica is generally considered safe and it is much more convenient to drive. Take a look at the licence requirements for your country and book your car in advance.
  2. Research international and domestic flights. Use travel agents or comparison sites to get the best deals to reduce the costs of your trip.
  3. Let the hassle be taken away from you. Now you have an idea of what you want to do, look into different group tour options. G Adventures or Intrepid Travel are leaders in this field and will cater for your specific needs.
  4. Take a dry bag – a lot of the activities will provide these, however it rains a lot in Costa Rica and its always good to have your own for when you need it.
  5. Take extra clothes – it sounds obvious but you will need to change several times a day if you’re doing these activities. Don’t find yourself short for dry, clean clothes.
  6. Invest in a go-pro – while you can buy photos/videos of your adventurous activities, the costs soon rack up. Make your own memories with your own kit.

What do you think of this 10 day Costa Rica Itinerary?

Costa Rica is such an exciting destination that I covered La Fortuna (Arenal) and the top adventurous activities such as the kayaking and white water rafting in more detail. Click on the buttons below to read the posts I mentioned.

Costa Rica Itinerary 10 day, is a fun and adventurous experience. Did you find this trip planner helpful? If so please let me know in the comments.

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