Two Weeks In Costa Rica: An Action-Packed Itinerary For First-Timers

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In the last post, we showed you the 16 unforgettable things to do in Costa Rica. Can you believe we did ALL that in 14 days? Today, we are going to reveal how we spent our two weeks in Costa Rica. This action-packed itinerary will take you through the best of Costa Rica – perfect for those that love all things outdoors!

two weeks in Costa Rica_Beach Hopping Costa Rica

Costa Rica Road Trip Itinerary

This self-drive itinerary will take you through 5 major areas, from San Jose to Papagayo in 14 days. We followed this exact itinerary when we visited Costa Rica last November. Although most of the activities are not season dependent, we advise you to confirm with the tour operators to be sure the tours will be offered at the time of your visit. Also, we strongly recommend reserving a 4×4 car beforehand

Quick Links
Day 1: Arrive in San Jose
Day 2: Ride the Rapids in Rio Pacuare
Day 3: Explore Alajuela
Day 4: Drive to Arenal Volcano
Day 5: Experience the Best of Arenal
Day 6: Get Closer to Nature
Day 7: Drive to Monteverde
Day 8: Extreme Adventures in Monteverde
Day 9: Drive to Guanacaste
Day 10: Discover Guanacaste’s Best Beaches
Day 11-12: Explore the Underwater World
Day 13: Free Time
Day 14: Time to Go Home

How To Spend Two Weeks In Costa Rica

Day 1: Arrive in San Jose

Afternoon: It’s only the first day, let’s take it easy! After passing through customs and immigration at SJO airport, head over to the Kolbi service desk and buy a prepaid SIM card. For 2 weeks, you can get 2GB for only USD$20.

Planning a Trip to Costa Rica Travel Tips

Then, pick up your rental car. Most car rental companies have staff waiting at the exit to assist you. Simply look for the cardboard signs. If you’re lost, ask someone. Most people speak English and are very friendly. For car rental, we recommend Adobe Rent a Car. Their service is exceptional and most importantly, they are transparent in their quote! You can read more in details in this post.

Next, check into your hotel in San Jose.

Evening: For dinner, consider dining at Grano De Oro. Housed in a restored Victorian mansion, this elegant restaurant offers French Mediterranean-inspired menu alongside local influences. Everything is beautifully presented!

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Day 2: Ride the Rapids in Rio Pacuare

two weeks in Costa Rica_Whitewater Rafting

Morning: Wake up early and experience the rush of Central America’s best rapids on the Pacuare River! It’s one of the best day trips from San Josefull-day whitewater rafting adventure will take you through Costa Rica’s unspoiled landscape while rafting your way through 52 exciting rapids. It will be an unforgettable journey. To fully immerse in the wilderness, a multi-day rafting trip is also possible!

Exploradores and Rio Tropicales both offer whitewater rafting tours, with transportation included.

Evening: Enjoy traditional Costa Rican food at La Posada de Las Brujas. The patrulla is a must try! All dishes come in humongous portions so control how much you order.

Day 3: Explore Alajuela

Morning: The first thing on the agenda is La Paz Waterfall Gardens. At this eco-park, you will encounter more than 100 species of animals (including hummingbirds, toucans, and sloths) and 5 picturesque waterfalls!

two weeks in Costa Rica La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Note: Ideally, you’ll want to visit Poas Volcano National Park the first thing in the morning. Poas is one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica and is known for its massive crater containing a turquoise blue lake. However, due to the recent eruptions in April 2017, the park remains closed to the public. We were so bummed this happened. If you’re lucky enough to visit after it reopens, the best advice is to arrive there at 8 am because beginning at 9 AM, clouds will settle in and obscure the view of the volcano’s crater. Don’t forget to send us a photo!! 

Afternoon: Not too far away is the Doka Estate. The famous coffee plantation offers guided tour to walk you through all the steps in the coffee production process. At the end of the tour, you’ll also get a chance to sample coffee and try chocolate covered coffee beans. What a unique way to experience Costa Rica!

Evening: Stop by Jalapenos Central for some authentic Mexican food.

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Day 4: Drive to Arenal Volcano

Morning: Leave San Jose. Head towards Arenal Volcano National Park. The drive takes approximately 3.5 hours.

Afternoon: Drive 5.5 km outside La Fortuna town and take a dip at La Fortuna Waterfall.

Warning: To get to the waterfall, you need to hike down a 500-meter trail. It is well maintained but steep. It can be strenuous on your way up.

two weeks in Costa Rica La Fortuna Waterfall

Join a guided nature history walk at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. This 2.5-hour tour will take you through a private rainforest reserve overlooking the Arenal Volcano. The best part of having a naturalist guide is that s/he will point out the animals living in the canopy and the forest floor!

Pro tip: an advance reservation is needed if you’re interested in the guided tour. The last tour starts at 2pm.

Check into your hotel in Arenal. We recommend The Springs for exclusive views of the Arenal volcano and access to hot springs!

Evening: Have dinner at Tierra Mia in the town of La Fortuna. This mom and pop restaurant serves delicious Costa Rican cuisine.

[bctt tweet=”First time in Costa Rica? Learn how to cram 16 activities in 2 weeks!” username=”fortwoplz”]

Day 5: Experience the Best of Arenal

Morning: Wake up naturally and enjoy a slow morning. Soak in natural hot springs. If you stay at The Springs, you can go pool hopping as there are as many as 28 freeform, landscaped spring-fed pools throughout the property!!

Afternoon: Why not challenge yourself by rappelling down beautiful waterfalls? Don’t worry if it is your first time. We joined Pure Trek for a half day adventure and we had a blast even though we had never done it before!

Unforgettable things to do in Costa Rica in November waterfall rappelling

Evening: Dinner at Las Ventanas. This fine-dining restaurant features fusion cuisine with a Tico twist. Their pork belly confit was our favourite! Advance reservation needed.

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Day 6: Get Closer to Nature

Morning: A safari float is a fantastic way to see wildlife in a natural setting. Jacamar offers a tour that takes you down Rio Frio in the Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve. Howler monkeys, Jesus Christ lizards, caimans, iguanas, toucans, kingfishers are just a few animals you will see along the way. Make sure to bring your camera, rain jacket, and binoculars!

Afternoon: Have a hearty Costa Rican meal at El Coloso in La Fortuna town. Patacones and chifrijo are our top picks!

Evening: Night Walk is an absolute must in Arenal. It is the perfect way to spot nocturnal animals. At The Springs, the professional guide will take you explore the rainforest of their own Club Rio. The tour starts at 5:45 pm. Please wear long pants and a good pair of hiking shoes.

Two Weeks in Costa Rica Club Rio Night Walk

Day 7: Drive to Monteverde

Morning: Depart from Arenal to Monteverde. The whole trip takes about 4 hours. Most roads are well paved, except the last 1/3 of the drive turns into pothole-ridden dirt and gravel roads.

Afternoon: Monteverde has unique climates, brimming with a marvelous diversity of wildlife and plant life. Spend 1~2 hours exploring Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. While you’re there, don’t miss the Hummingbird Gallery. The park closes at 4 pm so make sure to go early.

Two Weeks in Costa Rica_Monteverde

Evening: Check into your hotel in Monteverde. Dinner at Celajes, the best restaurant in the region. Arrive early so that you catch the stunning sunset. Their grilled octopus and pork belly are not to be missed.

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Day 8: Extreme Adventures in Monteverde

Morning: The most unforgettable thing we’ve done in Costa Rica is ziplining through the cloud forest. With 100% Aventura, you can experience the longest zipline in Latin America. The Mega Tarzan swing at the end will give you an adrenaline-pumping thrill.

Unforgettable things to do in Costa Rica in November Ziplining

Afternoon: For some extraordinary forest fun, try treetop climbing. Finca Modelo Ecologica has a 40m-tall fiscus tree that is hollow inside. There are 3 different ways to conquer it: climb through inside, outside, or with a rope. Once you’re at the top, you will be rewarded with a gorgeous view of the misty cloud forest!

Evening: Go on a night tour and explore the nocturnal biodiversity with a guide! The animals you see in high elevation cloud forest are very different from those in lowland rainforest. Finca Modelo Ecologica provides night tours that start with a night climb through their fiscus tree. Night walk tours are also available at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve at a slightly cheaper price.

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Day 9: Drive to Guanacaste

Morning: Leave Monteverde. Slowly make your way to the Guanacaste coast. Stop by a hidden waterfall along the way. Send me a message if you’re interested in checking it out.

Two Weeks in Costa Rica Catarata Llanos de Cortes

Afternoon: Continue driving to Guanacaste. Check into your hotel in Papagayo. We recommend Casa Chameleon at Las Catalinas. This adults-only hotel is one of the most photo-worthy hotels on the planet! Don’t believe me? Just take a look at their infinity pool!


Evening: Romantic dinner at the Sentido Norte. The restaurant serves beautifully prepared dishes made with fresh ingredients from the farm and ocean!

Day 10: Discover Guanacaste’s Best Beaches

Morning: Go beach hopping on an ATV! Spend 1~2 hours driving along the coastline and uncover unspoiled and secluded beaches!

Unforgettable things to do in Costa Rica in November beach hopping atv

Afternoon: Take a cooking lesson and learn to make some Costa Rican signature dishes. Sentido Norte offers private demonstration classes with the chef. You’ll get to enjoy a 3-course meal with recipes to take home!

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Day 11-12: Explore the Underwater World

Morning: One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is going scuba diving and discovering the fascinating underwater worlds! You don’t see coral reefs, but the water is clear and the marine life is abundant and diverse! There are several dive spots depending on your level of experience and skills. One day is simply not enough. Plan to dive for at least 2 days!

Unforgettable things to do in Costa Rica in November

We had a lot of fun diving in Playa del Coco. We went with Deep Blue Diving and the dive masters were very professional and friendly.

Evening: Participate in a turtle nesting tour if you visit in between November and May. You will learn a lot about sea turtles and their nesting behaviours from the certified guide. If you’re lucky, you might spot this amazing creature!! Apparently, Christmas to New Years is the best time to see them.

Day 13: Free Time

It’s do-whatever-you-want day! Relax and do nothing. Go for a massage. Take a sunset cruise. Or explore the nearby towns!

Day 14: Time to Go Home

Time flies. It’s now time to say goodbye. Sad face.

Take your last photo. Pack your luggage. Return the rental car and fly back home from LIR airport!

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Can you believe that’s two weeks in Costa Rica? There, you have all the insider tips, a list of unforgettable things to do, and a sample 2-week itinerary. What are you still waiting for? All you have to do now is book your flight!


Two Weeks in Costa Rica Itinerary



Two Weeks in Costa Rica Itinerary


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25 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. I think I’d enjoy Monteverde the most, I love zip lining and treetop trekking. Going on a night tour for wildlife seems exciting too. I feel seeing going to Arenal Volcano National Park would be a must for any visitor as well as the La Fortuna waterfall – I’ve seen so many pics of it!

  2. What an awesome itinerary and a great way to spend 2 weeks in Costa Rica! Repelling down a waterfall looks like so much fun…although I am pretty scared of heights, but I would put myself to the challenge. Ziplining looks and sounds sooooo much fun…especially through the clouds! And how fun to go beach hopping on ATVs, that looks so cool.

  3. Now that’s a packed itinerary! I love how many things you managed to fit into the two week stay in Costa Rica. I think the Arenal area and Monteverde and the two places I’m most interested in spending time — the rainforest and the animals are my two primary reasons for wanting to spend time in Costa Rica.

  4. Way to pack it all in! I love to swim and explore under the water, so I might save an extra day or two for scuba diving and snorkeling around. Well, that and maybe another day to go zip lining! There’s so much to see and so many different species to discover! That infinity pool at Casa Chameleon looks amazing and worth a stay just to have access to it!

  5. That zip line looked like loads of fun! It looks like you had an amazing 2 weeks in Costa Rica. And to see the underwater life in that beautiful blue water had to be a treat. We would enjoy the ATVing on the beaches as well!

  6. What an adventure-filled itinerary, I love it! 🙂 The rapids looked thrilling, something I will certainly do when I visit Costa Rica! Love the waterfall and the hot springs activities! Not sure though if I could do the zipline but you most certainly looked awesome doing it! 😉 Next time I get the opportunity to visit Costa Rica, I will take it.

  7. What I love about your itinerary is that it is so action and adventure packed! Everything from white water rafting, waterfall rappelling, ziplining to romantic dinners and lovely beaches, 2-weeks in Costa Rica cannot get better than this! These are the exact things we also love doing when we travel to a new destination so your suggestions are just about perfect for us! Can’t wait to get there.

  8. Such a travel you did! So much funny experience you lived in Costa Rica! Diving would probably be the activity I would enjoy more. I love water, and I am happy as a child every time I have the chance to explore its secrets. Thanks for sharing

  9. I am actually reading this from the rainforests of Costa Rica right now! I think we have a free day at the end of the week and I would really like to check out the La Paz waterfalls. We’ll let you know if we make it and what we think. It looks like so much fun!

  10. I’ve heard of Monteverde, would love to go bird watching there! And I tried rapelling in Ecuador, I wouldn’t do it again! It was too much adventure for me haha.

  11. This Costa Rica itinerary sounds like so much fun looks like you had a great time exploring the nature, wildlife and with those adventure activities. Costa Rica is definitely a paradise for nature and wildlife enthusiasts for the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, safari float, and Night Walk. Scuba diving and turtle nesting tour is something we wouldn’t want to miss.

  12. Wow! I can’t believe you did all this in two weeks. But you’ve laid it out so clearly that it makes me think even I could do that much and not get stressed out. hahah. I love the logistic tips too like where to buy a SIM card as soon as you arrive.

  13. Wow, this looks amazing! I want to do everything on the list but especially all the wildlife stuff! Looking forward to going to Costa Rica in the future.

  14. This is a great itinerary. Its hectic but it makes a thrilling one. I loved our pictures. The wildlife stuff has to be my favorite. That infinity pool in Papagayo, La Fortuna Waterfall,Arenal Volcano National Park would be high on my list.

  15. Costa Rica seems like a dream place to explore and I really hope to cross it off my bucket list soon, Cat. This is an exceptional itinerary and an ultimate travel guide for there. When’s the best time fo the year to visit Costa Rica?

  16. I’m exhausted just thinking about doing all of this! You’ve certainly put together an action-packed itinerary. If I were younger, I’d be tempted to cram in as much of this as possible in two weeks… but then I think I’d need a vacation after my vacation! Haha

  17. There are so much to do in Costa Rica! 2 weeks seems short I’d probably need more time there. You definitely showcased the best things to do in Costa Rica!

  18. I LOVE your itinerary, Cat! I was in Costa Rica in 2015 for a week-long writing retreat, and we were based it Alajuela. I did get to visit Poas Volcano National Park, but I wish I had added some extra time in there to explore other areas of the country. Thanks so much for your detailed guide — will definitely use it for our next trip there. 🙂

  19. This is a great article! I am so excited about my holiday to Costa Rica next month and this article has been really helpful. Looking forward to the sightseeing and adventures!

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  22. This is definitely an action-packed itinerary! I’ve not been to Costa Rica, but now I’m super excited to visit! I know I’d definitely want to check out the secret waterfall just outside of Guanacaste. Also, Arenal Volcano and the waterfall near there would be at the top of my list as well! 

  23. Nice breakdown Cat! We loved our time in CR. One of our fave places on earth. Quepos was our favorite stay but doing a house sit in the remote jungles around Bribri was far and away our most special travel experience ever. Fabulous post!


  24. I can’t wait to visit Costa Rica one day. Don’t think I’ll be flying with anything like your abandon! That jungle’s been calling for a long time and the great trees, like that hollow one, are asking ‘why aren’t you here yet, Elaine!” Thanks for the inspiration. I only wish I had two weeks to explore it all.

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