The Best 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: A Detailed 10 days in Costa Rica

10 day costa rica itinerary
Tortuga Island in Costa Rica

Looking for the perfect 10 day Costa Rica itinerary?

These 10 days in Costa Rica will have you hiking volcanoes, exploring waterfalls, melting into Costa Rica hot springs, spotting exotic wildlife (including sloths!), relaxing on golden beaches and surfing some of the best breaks in the world.

This 10 days Costa Rica itinerary highlights Costa Rica hot spots like the adventure-packed La Fortuna and the biological reserve of Monteverde, plus up-and-coming beach destinations like the digital nomad-laden town of Santa Teresa, and the boujee surfing paradise of Nosara, Costa Rica.

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Every itinerary for Costa Rica in 10 days should follow a logical loop to make transportation and accommodation easy to plan. This Costa Rica 10 days itinerary has you landing in San Jose, the capital of the country. From there you will quickly make your way to La Fortuna, your first destination, whether by renting a car in Costa Rica or a plane, shuttle or bus.

I’ve also included a 7 days Costa Rica itinerary and 2 week Costa Rica itinerary options if that’s more suitable to your timeline.

In this best Costa Rica itinerary 10 days, you will find a destination breakdown – such as things to do, where to stay and the best hotels, plus the best way to get around Costa Rica. If you plan to take a Costa Rica road trip and driving in Costa Rica by car, I have you covered there, too.

10 Days in Costa Rica Itinerary: Essentials

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COSTA RICA CAR RENTAL
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10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Overview

Day 0: San Jose – Land at San Jose Airport (SJO)
Day 1: La Fortuna – Waterfalls, Volcano Hike & Hanging Bridges
Day 2: La Fortuna – Sloths, Chocolate & Hot Springs
Day 3: La Fortuna – Rio Celeste & Travel to Monteverde 
Day 4: Monteverde – Selvatura Adventure Park & Rainforest Night Walk
Day 5: Monteverde – Monteverde Cloud Forest Hike & Coffee Tour
Day 6: Santa Teresa – Travel to Santa Teresa & Beach Day
Day 7: Santa Teresa – Day Trip to Montezuma Town, Waterfall & Beach
Day 8: Santa Teresa – Day Trip to Tortuga Island & Bioluminescence Tour
Day 9: Santa Teresa – Surfing & Sunset Horseback Riding
Day 10: San Jose – Travel to San Jose, Fly Home

10 Days Costa Rica Itinerary:
Route Map

This Costa Rica route map of my suggested 10 day itinerary Costa Rica gives you a general idea of the destinations and the distances travelled over 10 days in Costa Rica, whether you plan to rent a car and enjoy an epic Costa Rica road trip, or follow this Costa Rica travel route via shuttle or bus.

10 days costa rica
10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary Route Map

Costa Rica in 10 Days Itinerary: Philosophy

Costa Rica is a relatively small country, but surprisingly, the hidden gems and even the hot spots are at least a 3-hour journey apart. This leaves your 10 days in Costa Rica wracked with long hours in the car or shuttle, lugging your bags around from one spot to the next. That’s definitely not my idea of the perfect travel costa Rica itinerary.

My philosophy for this 10 Days Costa Rica itinerary, is to select three destinations. I highly recommend the adventure-packed La Fortuna as your first stop along any Costa Rica 10 day itinerary, from there you can make your way to the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean via Monteverde, a mountainous hiking area with beautiful views of the gulf.

After an adventure-packed 5 days, it’s time to head to the coast and spend time along the epic beaches of Costa Rica in either Santa Teresa or Nosara. I’ll explain who each is suited for, too.

Also keep in mind, with a few minor tweets this could be a romantic honeymoon in Costa Rica itinerary, a Costa Rica family itinerary, or a Costa Rica backpacking itinerary. I’ll give you all the details you need to make an informed decision before embarking on your fun-filled 10 days in Costa Rica.

10 days in costa rica
Sea Turtles at Playa Ostional Costa Rica

Best Way to Get Around 10 Days in Costa Rica

Renting a Car in Costa Rica

If you are searching for the best way to get around on your 10 day trip to Costa Rica, I highly advise renting a car in Costa Rica.

I personally use and recommend Discover Cars. It’s perfect for destinations like Costa Rica because it makes things simple by doing the work for you. Discover Cars compares local and international car rental companies to give you the best value based on your needs. Plus, they give you full insurance coverage for only $7USD a day (30% lower than booking directly with the local company). 

Driving in Costa Rica

Roads in Costa Rica

Generally speaking, driving in Costa Rica is safe. The roads to most of the main tourist towns are well maintained and you do not require a 4×4 car rental in Costa Rica. But, I can definitely recommend renting a car in Costa Rica with high clearance and AWD.

Places like Santa Teresa, Nosara and even Monteverde, all located in the Guanacaste and Puntarenas Provinces, may require a hefty vehicle at some points on the road. Each of these destinations has sections of pothole-ridden dirt roads to navigate.

Driving in Costa Rica at Night

Driving in Costa Rica at night is not something I recommend unless you are very used to driving in the country. Street lighting is intermittent and not guaranteed, and during the rainy season of April-October, you can expect the roads to be slick and a bit dangerous.

That’s why in this Costa Rica trip itinerary I have you travelling between destinations in the morning or afternoon. The sun sets consistently in Costa Rica between 5:30-6PM, so keep that in mind when planning the minutia of your trip.

costa rica in 10 days
Sunsets in Costa Rica are Epic

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Day 0

Day 0: Land in San Jose Costa Rica

You’ve arrived in the capital city of Costa Rica – San Jose. Now, I’ve made the educated decision to exclude a day in San Jose to really maximize your experience here in Costa Rica.

How to Get from San Jose to La Fortuna

I’ve also made the assumption that you will be landing in San Jose at midday in order to make it to your first destination of La Fortuna by the time night falls – a 2.5 hour drive by rental car. If you do end up arriving in San Jose late, I recommend spending the night at one of the hotels near San Jose Costa Rica Airport and making your way to La Fortuna bright and early.

If you are looking for alternatives to renting a car in Costa Rica you can check out my guide on how to get from San Jose to La Fortuna for the best choices.

Picking Up your Costa Rica Rental Car

If you plan to follow this Costa Rica travel itinerary 10 days, for convenience’s sake, I suggest picking up your rental car at the San Jose Costa Rica Airport (SJO).

There are a couple of important things to note when considering car rentals in Costa Rica:

First, even if your reservation has San Jose International Airport Costa Rica as your pick-up destination, all Costa Rica rental car companies are located away from the airport property. This means you will be required to either take a shuttle (sometimes provided by your car rental company – make sure to check!) or grab a taxi.

Second, because you are technically picking your car up at the airport, you will be charged an airport tax of 13% on the total of your Costa Rica car rental duration, so don’t be surprised when this shows up on your bill.

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary:
Days 1, 2 + 3

Destination: La Fortuna
Day 1-3 Emphasis: Adventure, Food & Relaxation

10 Days in Costa Rica La Fortuna
Downtown La Fortuna in Costa Rica

About La Fortuna Costa Rica

La Fortuna Costa Rica offers an immense amount of outdoor activities and highlights what Costa Rica is really all about – nature and wildlife.

While, of course, Costa Rica can probably take a decently high placement on any ‘countries with epic beaches’ list, the nature and wildlife are really what attracted me over other beach destinations like Bali, Mexico or Sri Lanka. La Fortuna is the epicentre for the country’s nature excursions.

Thundering waterfalls, epic jungle treks, looming volcanoes and steamy natural hot springs are just the tip of the iceberg for La Fortuna’s natural attractions in Costa Rica.

You will spend the first 3 days diving deep into the Costa Rican rainforest.

Want more information on where to stay in La Fortuna? Here is my detailed guide on the best areas and hotels in La Fortuna, Costa Rica for every budget.

Day 1: La Fortuna Waterfall, Arenal Volcano
& Hanging Bridges

Today you will start your Costa Rica itinerary off with a bang. La Fortuna Waterfall, an Arenal Volcano hike and the Mistico hanging bridges park are the top things to do in La Fortuna, if not Costa Rica.

The easiest way to see all of these top La Fortuna attractions is by taking this highly rated, organized La Fortuna Waterfall, Arenal Volcano & Hanging Bridges tour. You can also choose to visit these sites on your own with a rental car which gives you the added flexibility of choosing whatever order you want to experience them in and at what time.

La Fortuna Waterfall

10 day itinerary costa rica
La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica (also known as Catarata La Fortuna) is located a 10-minute drive outside of La Fortuna town. The La Fortuna waterfall hike consists of 530 paved steps down to the falls, with a butterfly garden, orchid garden and on-site restaurant (opens at 9AM). 

La Fortuna Waterfall Complete Guide

Arenal Volcano Hike

costa rica 10 day itinerary
Sendero Las Coladas Arenal Volcano Hike

A dominant feature in the Arenal region and an epic backdrop to the town of La Fortuna, the Arenal Volcano has a couple of beautiful hikes. There are two different regions that are hikeable around Arenal Volcano Costa Rica – the main sector of the Arenal Volcano National Park and the Peninsula.

The main sector has the famous Arenal 1968 Trail, a medium-difficulty 4.7km (3 miles) hike up to a scenic viewpoint, and the Sendero Las Coladas trail, a shorter path of easier difficulty.

The Peninsula section is not as popular yet still incredibly scenic, with views of Arenal Lake and a multitude of wildlife viewing opportunities. If you can, try out both in one day! That’s what I did.

Mistico Hanging Bridges

10 days in costa rica itinerary
Mistico Hanging Bridges in La Fortuna

The park at Mistico Costa Rica is nestled into the Arenal jungle with breathtaking views of Arenal Volcano from its starting point. Make your way through several hanging bridges (6 suspended and 10 stationary) and keep an eye out for the plethora of wildlife, flora and fauna. The main trail is 3.2km (2 miles) with a few options to shorten it, as well as visit a small waterfall.

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is located a 30-minute drive west of La Fortuna town and is amongst the top things to do in La Fortuna, especially combined with the aforementioned Arenal Volcano hike and /or La Fortuna waterfall. 

Ultimate Visitors Guide to Mistico Hanging Bridges

Where to Eat in La Fortuna

10 day trip to costa rica
Mercadito Arenal Eatery in La Fortuna

I have left the evenings open in this 10 day Costa Rica itinerary for flexibility and because everyone has different priorities. Of course, you’ve got to eat! So here is my guide to the best restaurants in La Fortuna to consult for the three nights in town.

Day 2: La Fortuna Hot Springs, Sloths & Chocolate

Sloth Tour (Morning)

costa rica travel itinerary 10 days
Costa Rica Sloths

Generally speaking, wildlife in Costa Rica is the most active in the morning time. That’s why I recommend a La Fortuna Sloth Tour starting at 6AM. I know, it’s early – but you only live once, right?! And witnessing these little fur balls hanging in the trees is such a delight. The tour runs approximately 3-4 hours.

Rainforest Chocolate Tour (Midday)

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Cacao Pods on the Rainforest Chocolate Tour in La Fortuna

Costa Rica isn’t only known for fabulous coffee, the chocolate scene here is phenomenal. Visit a chocolate farm just outside of La Fortuna, tour the grounds and find out how they traditionally made chocolate back thousands of years ago.

The most popular tour in this region is the Rainforest Chocolate Tour, which I highly enjoyed and recommend. The tour runs for 1.5 hours and I suggest taking the 1PM tour to fit perfectly into this day 2 schedule on 10 days in Costa Rica. Plus, it’s great for those who get a bit of a sweet tooth after lunch.

Alternatively, you can opt to take this adrenaline-rushing Canyoning & Waterfall Rappelling Tour that starts at 12PM and runs for 4 hours.

Arenal Hot Springs (Evening)

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Tabacon Hot Springs in La Fortuna

Steaming mineral water spills out in rivers coming from deep under Arenal Volcano. Thermal water is incredibly relaxing and healthy for your body to boot. It’s one of my must-dos when it comes to what to do in La Fortuna – you cannot miss it!

The Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa is my favourite La Fortuna hot springs. This picturesque property includes the only hot springs set around a naturally flowing thermal river. The hotel offers day passes for people not staying on-site and the restaurant available is of great quality – a nice way to spend the evening here in La Fortuna.

The day pass to Tabacon hot springs comes in at $80USD. If this is out of budget, you can also opt to visit the more economical and family-friendly Eco Termales Hot Springs – which I also thoroughly enjoyed!

A Guide to the Tabacon Hot Springs Day Pass
A Guide to Eco Termales Hot Springs

Day 3: Day Trip to Rio Celeste from La Fortuna

If you have access to a rental car for your journey along this Costa Rica itinerary, you can make your way to Rio Celeste before moving onward to your next destination of Monteverde. Yes, you will have your stuff with you in the car when you are parked at the Rio Celeste Visitor’s Centre, but do note that the parking lot is patrolled throughout the day for safety.

If you are travelling around on a shuttle or bus, you can opt to take a Rio Celeste Day Tour, return back to La Fortuna town and then take a shuttle to Monteverde from there.

Rio Celeste Waterfall & National Park

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Rio Celeste Waterfall in Costa Rica

Rio Celeste (meaning ‘light blue river’ in Spanish), is apart of Tenorio Volcano National Park, a 1.5 hour drive northwest of La Fortuna Costa Rica.

This picturesque river runs through the park resulting in an incredible waterfall, bright blue lagoon, and bubbling thermal waters. No, you cannot swim here, but you can hike along its beautiful path. Should take upwards of 4 hours if you move slowly. There’s a lot to explore and see here!

I absolutely loved my time spend in the park around Rio Celeste waterfall and highly suggest trying to fit it into your itinerary Costa Rica.

Rio Celeste Costa Rica Visitor Guide

How to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde 

If you have a rental car, stop for lunch at Restaurante Metamorphosis for a delicious local lunch before taking Route 6, Route 1 and Route 606 into Monteverde – a 3 hour drive by rental car.

For more detail on travelling by car, shuttle or bus, check out my guide on how to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde.

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Days 4 + 5

Destination: Monteverde
Day 4 + 5 Emphasis: Nature, Hiking & Wildlife

costa rica travel itinerary
Monteverde Cloud Forest

About Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde is a hilltop region in northwest of Costa Rica. Literally translated to ‘green mountain‘ and famous for its Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Monteverde makes a great second destination along your Costa Rica itinerary 10 days.

Monteverde offers something a bit different than La Fortuna. Less touristy, a bit cheaper and amazing rainforest adventures like ziplining and hanging bridges, hiking and birdwatching. All with a bit more of a mountain-lodge feel.

Read this Complete Monteverde Travel Guide

Want more information on where to stay in Monteverde? Here is my detailed guide on the best areas and Monteverde hotels for every budget.

Day 4: Selvatura Adventure Park & Monteverde
Night Walk

Ziplining at Selvatura Adventure Park (All Day)

costa rica trip itinerary
Ziplining at Selvatura Adventure Park in Monteverde

The Monteverde zipline course at Selvatura Park takes you through the scenic Monteverde Cloud Forest canopy, where you can enjoy views of the lush rainforest. Zip across 8 lines, try out the tarzan swing and maybe even take a crack at flying superman-style!

My recommendation is to get the full-day Selvatura Adventure Park package which includes ziplining, hanging bridges, a butterfly garden, a sloth sanctuary, and a reptile exhibit. This is the package I did, with no regrets! I also suggest getting an early start this day (around 7AM) because the line ups at each zipline platform will get longer as the day goes on.

Read this ultimate Selvatura Adventure Park Visitor Guide

Rainforest Night Walk (Evening)

best costa rica itinerary
Green Side-striped Pit Viper on the Monteverde Night Tour

Taking a Monteverde night tour is a top experience here where you can walk through the rainforest at night with an experienced guide and spot amazing wildlife. 80% of Monteverde’s wildlife is nocturnal, so this is really the best way to see them.

Check out this detailed guide on my recommended Monteverde Night Tour and what you can expect to see in the rainforest.

You will likely be in the Selvatura Adventure Park until around 4PM, just in time to get home, fresh up and head into Santa Elena town for a quick dinner at Taco Taco or Belmar Craft Brewery. Your night walk will begin around 5:30PM and run for roughly 2 hours. You can also choose to have a slower dinner after your hike.

Day 5: Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve
& Coffee Tour

Monteverde Cloud Forest Hike (Morning)

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Walking through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve

Rise and shine sleepy head! It’s time to explore the beautifully serene Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

The term ‘cloud forest’ derives from a layer of ground-level clouds that create a misty fog that blankets the lush Monteverde rainforest. This is an paid-entry park full of hiking, wildlife, a plethora of flora and fauna, and an epic viewing platform.

For all you birders, you may even spot the elusive Resplendent Quetzal. The park is home to over a 100 species of mammals, 160 reptile and amphibian species and thousands of insects over thousands of hectares – you are bound to see something!

There are a variety of hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels – something for everyone. For more details on the entrance fees, tours, and trails, check out my Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve Visitor Guide.

Monteverde Coffee Tour (Afternoon)

As one of Costa Rica’s premium coffee-growing regions, a Monteverde Coffee Tour will be a highlight of your trip. Learn about the growth and production of the this heavenly gem – the coffee bean, and even taste test different roasts.

For Dinner afterwards, book something special at San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience, especially if you are on a Costa Rica honeymoon itinerary. For something more casual but still high quality, opt for a sunset dinner at Celajes Restaurant, one of the top organic Monteverde restaurants.

Skipping La Fortuna? Find out how to get from San Jose to Monteverde directly.

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary:
Days 6, 7, 8 + 9

Destination: Santa Teresa
Day 6-9 Emphasis: Beach Adventures & Relaxation

costa rica vacation itinerary
Playa Carmen in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

About Santa Teresa Costa Rica

The last destination along this best Costa Rica itinerary 10 days is the trendy beach town of Santa Teresa. Located. on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean, the town borders a singular road running parallel to 10kms (6.2miles) of white sand beaches.

Exploding in popularity over recent years attracting an international crowd of digital nomads and young backpacker-type travellers, Santa Teresa can only be described as lively and hip. I’ve made sure to leave plenty of time on this Costa Rica trip itinerary to enjoy some relaxation time on the beach here, and maybe take a surf lesson.

Santa Teresa also has so many amazing things to do beyond its own shores.

Santa Teresa makes a great base for your adventures around the south of Nicoya Peninsula, including some really special day trips to the bohemian Montezuma town, beach and waterfall, plus the paradisical Tortuga Island.

These day trips are made super easy by access to a rental car. Even if you don’t have a car, and a Santa Teresa ATV rental is out of the budget, these Costa Rica hotspots can be reached via organized day tour, too.

Read the Ultimate Santa Teresa, Costa Rica Travel Guide

Here’s a detailed guide on the best areas and hotels in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.

Day 6: Travel to Santa Teresa & Santa Teresa Beach Day

This morning it’s time to get a headstart on your journey from Monteverde to Santa Teresa. The sooner you get to Santa Teresa and drop your bags the sooner you will be relaxing on the beach. This makes a perfect intermission along this action-packed 10 days Costa Rica itinerary.

How to Get from Monteverde to Santa Teresa (Morning)

How to get from Monteverde to Santa Teresa is pretty straightforward. By rental car, make your way out of town heading west along Route 606. Turn left onto Route 145, right onto Route 1 and then a left onto Route 18. Once you make it over the La Amistad Bridge spanning the River Tempisque, head south along Route 21 following the interior coastline.

The journey from Monteverde to Santa Teresa should take 4.5 hours not including stops. Do note, that the last hour or so of this drive is quite curvy, so make sure any possible motion sickness before embarking.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a rental car, no problem – just grab a shared or private shuttle via Book Away. Easy peasy.

Santa Teresa Beach Day (Afternoon)

Depending on where you choose to stay (check out my Santa Teresa hotel guide), you will have a few choices when it comes to Santa Teresa beaches to hang out at. The most lively is Santa Teresa Beach, the most relaxed is Banana Beach (get a hammock at Hotel Tropico Latino!), the best surfing is at Playa Carmen and the most secluded is up the coast at Playa Hermosa.

Banana Beach is my choice!

Where to Eat in Santa Teresa (Evenings)

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Trendy Somos Cafe in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Gosh, you definitely won’t be limited when it comes to restaurants in Santa Teresa. From amazing local cuisine, sushi, and healthy bowls, to vegan comfort food and indulgent pasta and burgers, there’s something for everyone. Honestly, cafe hopping was one of my favourite things to do in Santa Teresa.

Check out my guide on the Best Santa Teresa Restaurants

Day 7: Day Trip to Montezuma Waterfall & Beach

Cabuya Island Cemetery (Morning)

Montezuma, a small bohemian haven located at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, a 1 hour drive from Santa Teresa is your Day 7 destination along your trip to Costa Rica. But, I do suggest making a stop along the way at the Cabuya Island Cemetery. It’s very unique among Santa Teresa things to do and I loved it!

The little island cemetery is located off the coast of Cabuya and depending on the tide, you can reach the island on foot. Make sure to check the timing of the tide before your visit! Wander around the island for a bit, taking in the scenery and the epic views of the Costa Rica coastline before making your way to Montezuma.

If you don’t have a rental car, grab a Santa Teresa ATV rental from Tico Tours along the main strip. A high clearance rental car or ATV is necessary because the roads between Santa Teresa and Montezuma are dirt and gravel with plenty of potholes.

Montezuma Waterfall, Town + Beach (Afternoon)

costa rica itinerary 10 days with family
Beach & Coastline in Montezuma Costa Rica

Montezuma, Costa Rica is a backpacker hotspot for its chill hippie vibe, beautiful beaches and Montezuma waterfall. Undoubtedly, you should make a day trip to Montezuma from Santa Teresa, even for it’s for the waterfall alone.

Park your car or ATV at the Montezuma Waterfall parking lot, pay the small cash fee to the attendant and make the short hike into the falls. Do be aware that the walk does have exposed tree roots, hops over the river via rocks and a short embankment rope walk, so this hike isn’t really accessible for all, unfortunately.

The beautiful lagoon under the thundering Montezuma Waterfall makes it absolutely worth it! Spend an hour lazing in the waters or cliff jumping from the rocks to the side.

Have a seafood lunch at the Tico-owned Soda Tipica Las Palmeras outside of Montezuma, or at the Restaurante Montezuma Latino Beach Food in Montezuma’s quaint town centre.

Spend the afternoon relaxing on Montezuma Beach before heading back to Santa Teresa for dinner.

Read my detailed guide on Visiting Montezuma Costa Rica

Day 8: Day Trip to Tortuga Island
& Bioluminescence Tour

Tortuga Island Day Trip (All Day)

best costa rica itinerary 10 days

Talk about a little piece of paradise. Day 8 of your 10 day itinerary Costa Rica will have you spending time on Tortuga Island. Today will require either use of your rental car, or a Santa Teresa ATV rental. Simply drive to Organos Beach near Paquera (1.5 hour drive) and take a Tortuga Island day trip from there.

Honestly, Tortuga Island has something for everyone. Swimming in the incredibly clear tropical waters, relaxing in a lounger on the white sand beach (beverage in hand, of course), or taking a wilderness hike up to the top of the island for incredible views of the bay, are just a few amazing things to do on Tortuga Island.

For the more adventurous folks, there are water sports galore to enjoy – including kayaking, SUPing, and jet ski. But without a doubt, my favourite activity was snorkelling!

Read my full guide on Visiting Tortuga Island on a Isla Tortuga Tour

Bioluminescence Tour (Evening)

Arrive back on Organos Beach, drive into Paquera for a quick dinner (Macho’s is a popular choice) and back to Organos Beach for your evening kayaking in the cove. This Bioluminescence Kayak Tour is something special.

Watch the water come to life while you paddle through the waters at night. Glowing with every touch of your paddle on water – it’s absolutely beautiful! The tour runs from 6PM to 7PM, roughly an hour.

Drive back to Santa Teresa.

Day 9: Santa Teresa Surfing & Sunset Horseback Riding

Santa Teresa Surfing (Morning)

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Surfing in Santa Teresa

It’s your last full day in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica and along your road trip in this stunning country. You can’t leave Santa Teresa without taking advantage of some really great surf breaks.

If you are a newbie, I recommend taking a surf lesson on Hermosa Beach (a 10-minute drive north of Santa Teresa). Or simply find yourself an ad-hoc lesson along Santa Teresa Beach – I can recommend a board rental from Pacifica Surf School a couple of minutes’ walk from the waves.

For more intermediate to advanced Santa Teresa surfing, head to the south end of Playa Carmen where the waves are a bit punchier.

Surfing in Santa Teresa is one of the top things to do!

Santa Teresa Beach Time (Afternoon)

It’s time to lay out on the beach, frolic in the waves and reminiscence about your time spend in Costa Rica. 10 days in Costa Rica full of adventures, nature, wildlife, beaches and waterfalls. Ahh, what an amazing country.

Sunset Horseback Riding (Evening)

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Horseback Riding on Manzanillo Beach outside Santa Teresa

For your final activity in Santa Teresa, I recommend driving out to Playa Manzanillo – a secluded untouched piece of Costa Rica’s coastline. Here you will be introduced to your horse and take a serene ride along the beach, into the jungle and across a river. Grab a beer at a local watering hole and head back to the beach for an unforgettable Costa Rica sunset.

Do note, that the roads leading along the coast toward Playa Manzanillo are rough and require a rental car with high clearance or ATV. The tour starts around 3PM and ends just after sunset.

Spend your last dinner somewhere special like Angelina for great Italian cuisine or Katana for tasty Asian. For something younger and lively-feeling, hit up Somos Cafe.

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary:
Alternative Day 8 + 9

This alternative ending to your trip in Costa Rica is for people with access to a rental car.

Switch day 8 and 9 activities and instead of heading back to Santa Teresa after your day trip to Tortuga Island, take the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya from Paquera and spend your last night in Jaco.

On the morning of day 10 of your itinerary for Costa Rica, head to the San Jose airport to fly home.

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Day 10

Day 10: Travel to San Jose Airport & Leave Costa Rica

How to Get from Santa Teresa to San Jose Airport (Morning)

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Architecture in San Jose Costa Rica

It’s time to make your way to the airport in San Jose from Santa Teresa. The journey does take upwards of 6 hours so it’s recommended to get an early start depending on your flight time. Head out of Santa Teresa towards the Paquera Ferry Port (about 1.5 hour’s drive).

From here, take the car ferry to Puntarenas Port on the mainland of Costa Rica which takes approximately 1.25 hours. A beautiful ferry ride! Remember to check the ferry schedule.

From the Puntarenas Port make your way to the San Jose Costa Rica International Airport (SJO) using Route 1 or Route 27 (both taking roughly 1.5-2 hours).

Don’t have a rental car? Check out my guide on how to get from Santa Teresa to San Jose using a plane and shuttle.

Alternative Day 6-9 Itinerary Costa Rica Destination: Nosara

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Playa Guiones in Nosara Costa Rica

Nosara, a top-notch surf haven about a 4-hour distance north of Santa Teresa makes a great alternative destination along this 10 day Costa Rica itinerary. Nosara, an American ex-pat community, attracts health-conscious families, older digital nomads and avid surfers and has a great mix of boujee and hippie.

Things to do in Nosara include visiting wildlife sanctuaries including the nesting ground of the incredible Olive Ridley sea turtles at Playa Ostional, farmers markets, day trips to idyllic secluded beaches and of course, the main reason people visit Nosara – the surfing! One of the most consistent surf breaks in the world.

Find out where to stay and the best hotels in Nosara

Nosara vs Santa Teresa

Can’t decide between Nosara or Santa Teresa? Here are the differences when it comes to Santa Teresa vs Nosara:

Santa Teresa

  • Livelier Vibe
  • Some decent Nightlife
  • Younger International Crowd
  • More Mixed with Locals
  • More Backpackers
  • Broad Selection of Hotels & Hostels

Nosara

  • Quieter
  • Boujee + Hippie Vibe
  • American Ex-pat Community
  • Epic Surf
  • Yoga-centric
  • Boutique-style Hotels

Brief 3-Days in Nosara on 10 Days Costa Rica Itinerary

There’s definitely more than enough to fill 3 full days on your road trip Costa Rica-style and my top recommendation if you are looking for more of a Costa Rica surf trip than anything else.

Day 1 in Nosara:

Day 2 in Nosara:

  • Hike in Nosara Biological Reserve
  • Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Beach day at Playa Pelada
  • Sunset Horseback Riding or La Luna for cocktails

Day 3 in Nosara:

  • Ostional National Wildlife Refuge
  • Day trip to San Juanillo Beach or Perozah Beach Club at Playa Garza
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Nosara Costa Rica

7 Day Costa Rica Itinerary Option

Only have 7 days in Costa Rica? I recommend spending your time in two destinations on your 1 week Costa Rica itinerary. Want adventure and beaches? Visit La Fortuna and Santa Teresa or Nosara. Hiking and nature? Go for inland destinations like La Fortuna and Monteverde only.

If you really want to jam-pack your schedule and experience as much as humanly possible in 7 days, you can take out the 2 slower beach days in Santa Teresa and the Rio Celeste day trip from La Fortuna and keep the rest!

A Fast-Paced 7 Days Costa Rica Itinerary

Day 0: San Jose – Land at San Jose Airport (SJO)
Day 1: La Fortuna – Waterfalls, Volcano Hike & Hanging Bridges
Day 2: La Fortuna – Sloths, Chocolate, Hot Springs & Travel to Monteverde
Day 4: Monteverde – Selvatura Adventure Park & Rainforest Night Walk
Day 5: Monteverde – Monteverde Cloud Forest Hike & Travel to Santa Teresa
Day 6: Santa Teresa – Surfing & Day Trip to Montezuma
Day 7: Santa Teresa – Day Trip to Tortuga Island, Travel to San Jose & Fly Home

road trip costa rica
Shops in Montezuma Costa Rica

2 Week Costa Rica Itinerary Option

Is 2 weeks in Costa Rica too long? A resounding no. You can fill a Costa Rica 2 weeks itinerary very easily.

In this case, I suggest visiting both Nosara and Santa Teresa, or following my 10 days Costa Rica itinerary (choosing between Santa Teresa and Nosara) and then spending 2 nights in Jaco and 2 nights in Manuel Antonio National Park along the Pacific coastline before flying out from San Jose Airport.

Best Time to Visit: 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary

The Pacific coast of Costa Rica has two distinct seasons, the dry season (November to April) and the wet season (May to October).

Wet Season

During the wet season, you can expect daily showers which often last an hour or two in the late afternoon. The upside of visiting during this time is fewer crowds, lower hotel prices and lusher rainforest in coastal beach towns like Nosara and Santa Teresa. Plus, you won’t get the dusty conditions from the roads during this time, albeit maybe a little mud.

costa rica road trip
Monteverde Costa Rica

Dry Season

The dry season is the best time to visit Costa Rica for most travellers, which runs from December to April. 

What is the weather like in Costa Rica? The weather is sunny and dry with very little rain. The exception lies with destinations like La Fortuna and Monteverde that experience unpredictable weather all year round That is a part of the charm, though as it’s a living, breathing rainforest after all. With a high of 27°C (80°F) during the day and a low of a comfortable 20°C (68°F) at night, you can pack light.

The downside of the dry season in Costa Rica is the dusty conditions along the dryer coastlines, like Santa Teresa and Nosara. Expect most vegetation to be coated with a layer of dust.

What is the best month to go to Costa Rica? Shoulder season months of April or November

What is the cheapest month to go to Costa Rica? May, June, September and October

10 Days Costa Rica Travel Budget

You are planning a Costa Rica trip, so how much does a trip to Costa Rica cost? Of course, this really depends on what type of traveller you are.

Love luxury villas? That will be drastically different than people moving along a Costa Rica backpackers itinerary staying in hostels. Your choice of accommodation will is the biggest variable on your Costa Rica trip cost and whether it will be affordable for you or not.

costa rica route
Downtown Guiones in Nosara Costa Rica

Is Travelling in Costa Rica Expensive?

Generally speaking, yes and there are several reasons. With a relatively stable government (rare for Central America), Costa Rica enjoys higher-quality labour laws, a better national health system, biodiversity preservation and generally speaking, higher quality of life. 

It’s important to note, that tourism is Costa Rica’s top-earning economy, and the majority of that tourism comes from the USA. Given that, the government decided to price tourism-related amenities closer to American prices. 

You most definitely can do Costa Rica on a budget by staying in hostels and travelling by bus, just make sure to build extra time into your Costa Rica itinerary to deal with multiple bus transfers (can be upwards of 12 hours to get from place to place).

Costa Rica uses both the Costa Rican Colones (CRC) and the American Dollar (USD).

Daily Budget for Costa Rica (for 2 people)

*excludes international flights

  • Costa Rica Hotel: ~$125USD Nightly (on average)
  • Costa Rica Car Rental or Shuttle: ~75 USD Daily Car Rental or per Shuttle Ride
  • Costa Rica Meal: $15-25 USD average per meal per person
  • Costa Rica Attractions & Entrances: ~$200-$300 USD per Person per 10 Day Trip
roadtrip costa rica
Downtown La Fortuna Costa Rica

10 Days in Costa Rica Packing List

Generally speaking, the dress code in Costa Rica is comfortable and casual. This Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary takes you through the wet rainforests of La Fortuna and Monteverde, but also the drier areas like Santa Teresa, Tortuga Island, Montezuma and Nosara. I would recommend clothing that is quick-dry or moisture-wicking to cover your bases.

I lived in athletic shorts, a cotton tank top and a light linen cover-up for most of my trip in Costa Rica. I also wore my trusty ball cap to keep the sun off my head – even when it’s cloudy, you can still be affected by UV.

A packing list for Costa Rica also always includes mosquito repellent and sunscreen.

TIP | A grippy pair of watershoes can come in handy when climbing over rocks to check out La Fortuna Waterfall, Montezuma Waterfall or the Mal Pais tidal pools.


VIFUUR Water Sports Unisex Shoes Black - 12.5-13 W US/ 11-11.5 M US (44-45)

WATER SHOES | I used my water shoes to climb around waterfalls, and natural hot springs. They are particularly grippy and come in so many sizes and colours. Good for the whole fam!

Teva Women's Tirra Sandal,Black/Grey,9 M US

HIKING SANDALS | I lived in a solid pair of hiking sandals for the entirety of my trip in Costa Rica. These sandals have great grip and strap you in so your foot doesn’t move around. Plus, they look cute, in my opinion.

Columbia Women's Switchback III Jacket, Black, Medium

RAIN JACKET | Because Costa Rica is covered in rainforest, that means the weather can be pretty unpredictable. Make sure to bring a hooded rain jacket with you that can pack up small in your day bag just in case. I definitely used mine.

ZOMAKE Lightweight Hiking Backpack Water Resistant,20L Packable Daypack Foldable Small Backpack for Travel

WATER RESISTANT DAYPACK | Costa Rica is a wealth of adventure and with that comes multiple day trips or days spent in and out of your rental car. Make sure to have a water resistant daypack that can carry your water bottle, snacks, mosquito repellent and sunscreen.

LARQ Bottle Movement PureVis - Lightweight Self-Cleaning and Non-Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle with UV Water Sanitizer, 32oz, White/Pebble

PURIFYING REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE | I travel full time, so I’ve seen the devastation single-use plastic can have on our environment. Once I purchased this purifying reusable water bottle, I never looked back. It’s super stylish and you can recharge it through USB!

Rainleaf Microfiber Towel,Blue,24 X 48 Inches

MICROFIBRE TOWEL | Costa Rica is humid, so a normal cotton towel will take forever to dry. Let’s try to avoid that moldy towel smell. For those day trips to waterfalls, hot springs, rivers and beach, make sure to carry along a microfibre quick-drying towel.

JOTO Waterproof Case Universal Phone Holder Pouch, Underwater Cellphone Dry Bag Compatible with iPhone 13 Pro 12 11 Pro Max XS XR X 8 7 6S, Galaxy S21 S20 S10 Note Pixel Up to 7.0" -2 Pack,Black

WATERPROOF PHONE CASE | Plan on repelling or canyoning down a waterfall? Snapping pics in the hot springs? You will need a good waterproof phone case.

Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen – Safe, Natural Sunblock for Sports & Active Use - Water Resistant Sun Cream –UVA/UVB Sun Protection – Vegan, Reef Friendly Sun Lotion, 6oz

SUNSCREEN | Y’all, the sun is HOT in Costa Rica as the country is located close to the equator. Make sure to throw on some sunscreen even if it’s cloudy out. That’s what it gets you. There are some great reef-safe sunscreens out there nowadays, so let’s protect our ocean life!

Natrapel 12-Hour Insect Repellent, 6 oz. Eco-Spray Picaridin Bug Spray – Family Insect Repellent for Mosquitoes, Ticks, & More, Black (0006-6878)

MOSQUITO REPELLENT | Yup, there are mosquitos in the rainforest, who would have thunk. I like to use a more natural mosquito repellent.

Is Costa Rica Safe?

Costa Rica is a very secure tourist destination with some of the warmest people in the world. As one of Central America’s countries with the lowest crime rate, you can rest assured that your trip will be an enjoyable one.

But as expected when visiting Latin American nations, there may be occasional issues concerning drug trafficking and poverty – although these problems are rare and should not deter you from visiting this beautiful country!

To ensure a safe experience while exploring Costa Rica, always keep your belongings within view and practice caution.

Travel Insurance Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for adrenaline-packed adventures, and with that, comes the risk of fall, injury or accident. Don’t be left with huge hospital bills and protect yourself with the right travel insurance.

Travel insurance is one of those things I hope you never have to use. But in case you do, you’ll want reliable insurance on your side. Plus, it’s such a small cost for peace of mind. Please, don’t leave home without it!

I used HeyMondo insurance on my trip to Costa Rica and can recommend it.

What’s great about HeyMondo:

  • No out-of-pocket fees
  • 24/7 doctors available through their handy app to answer all of your questions
  • Covers travellers from any country in the world
  • Offers short-term, long-term and multi-trip annual plans (I recommend single-trip insurance for Costa Rica)
  • Covers trip cancellation – very useful these days!

>>> Find the perfect travel insurance for you. (and get an exclusive 5% discount for being my reader!)

Costa Rica in 10 Days Conclusion

So there you have it, my ideal Costa Rica itinerary 10 days! Explore the inland hot spots of La Fortuna, and Monteverde with plenty of nature, wildlife and hot springs and spend the last 4 days along your Costa Rica 10 days itinerary in Nosara or Santa Teresa. Idyllic Costa Rica beaches, amazing surf breaks and trendy cafes are at your fingertips.

Enjoy!

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