Costa Rica is a place on the bucket list of many. The name alone evokes a feeling of tropical winds, beautiful beaches, ziplining through forests, and a diverse population of wildlife. If you find the thought of traveling there exciting, you have found the right place. No matter what your travel style, we’ve got an itinerary for you.
Get your towels ready, it’s about to go down.
Table of Contents
Before we travel, there are a few to-dos that will help you be prepared and get you into the vacation spirit. Let’s go over the basics.
- Research. Before heading out to any destination, do a little reading on the place you will be enjoying soon. When it comes to Costa Rica, you’re in luck. There are so many interesting facts and nuances in any location, but in Costa Rica, there’s a whole new way of life.
- Trip Goals. Now that you have more of a feel for Costa Rica, you can start prioritizing what you’d like to accomplish.
- Plan. Once you know what to expect and have your favorite excursions picked, it’s time to string them together in a cohesive itinerary.
To save you some time, we’ve done the research ourselves and have some great Costa Rica itinerary suggestions. Whether your group adores typical tourist destinations, history, food, animals, or nature, there are plenty of spots you need to see in Costa Rica during your vacation. Below are five Costa Rica travel itineraries to consider based on interest. Each itinerary starts in Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, and allows you to discover other areas of the country based on the activities you’d like to try and the attractions you’d like to see. Happy traveling!
Tourists Who Want a Little Bit of Everything
If your travel group consists of Costa Rica newbies who’d like a taste of everything the beautiful country has to offer, here are some travel ideas you can try.
After arriving in San Jose, go into the evening with style by attending San José By Night: Culture and Gourmet Dinner. This dinner group meets at Mercado Central and takes four hours. Not only is there food but there is a local who will give you a new perspective on the city.
The next morning, board a shuttle and head three hours north to La Fortuna. Leave your luggage at the hotel and take a taxi over to Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal. Who would not want to see a volcano in a safe way? Depending on your level of interest, there are several different tour options.
Relax in the evening on the Moonshine Sunset Cruise. This is a breezy, two-and-a-half-hour romantic ride through nature while enjoying tasty Costa Rican beverages and snacks.
Another early morning ride has you venturing south to Jaco. Today, you’re spending the day at Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls. This is a more leisurely way to walk through the day and see more than 400 plant species. After leaving the gardens, if you want a bit more pep in your step, there’s quite a nightlife in Jaco. Enjoy bars, clubs, and even luxury VIP treatment at restaurants.
For a bit of something unique, check out El Miro. These are ruins of a mansion that was never completed but offers spectacular views of the coast. After you leave here, head back down to Jaco Beach. If you are into surfing, this is one of the best places to do so in Costa Rica.
Before you take the two-and-a-half-hour drive back up to San Jose to fly out, have a brunch in Jaco at Amara Costa Rica Cocina Mediterránea.
Image by Frank Ravizza.
If you and your travel companion are avid history lovers, there are plenty of places you should check out in Costa Rica. Here are some ideas for you.
After you touch down in a new city, a great way to get acclimated is to soak it up on the first day. Once you’ve had a chance to drop off your luggage at a hotel in downtown San Jose, set out to learn something at the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. There is an extensive collection of artifacts and insight into Costa Rican history. Not only will this be an air-conditioned look into the past, but it gives you the opportunity to walk off jet lag.
If you want to grab something quick on your way to the next museum that has a local flavor, stop by BeeHouse. They have smoothies, desserts, fruit dishes, and savory items like pizzas and burgers.
The oldest collection of Costa Rican history has been around since 1887 at the National Museum of Costa Rica. The timeline represented here starts before the nation was official and covers everything from the people’s history to nature’s. History lovers will adore this museum, as you’ll leave your vacation learning a lot about the country you’re seeing.
With tours in both Spanish and English, at Teatro Nacional Costa Rica, you’ll be first in line to learn about over a century of acting in this famous theater.
Restaurant recommendation: While Delfines Con Amor is open for breakfast, you may want to save this spot for their specialty of seafood. Lobster dinner, anyone?
Image by Jose Conejo Saenz.
If your travel group is chock full of food lovers, Costa Rica has plenty of opportunities to try unique foods and desserts. Here are some ideas to get you started.
When you arrive in San Jose, the first thing you’ll want to do is set out for a bite to eat. A great way to get a feel for the types of local food options to come over the course of your stay is at the market. Head over to Mercado Central on foot or by taxi and enjoy this golden opportunity to snack.
The next day, you’ll want to rent a car and head three hours northwest, where there’s a delicious itinerary for Guardia. Don’t just see the sights in Costa Rica, drink it in, too! Cafe Tio Leo offers interested coffee enthusiasts a walk through the world’s most celebrated beverage. On the Tio Leo Coffee Tour, you’ll learn about the history of coffee in the country while walking through a working plantation. Snacks and roasting are included.
After a tour of all things coffee, take a moment to absorb the waves. Del Coco Beach is the oldest beachfront on this side of Costa Rica as well as the fastest-growing. Not to mention all the pop-up snack options along the strip, your group surely won’t go hungry.
You won’t want to leave a place surrounded by the ocean without trying the seafood. Travel over to Mordos Fish & Chips for a delicious meal you won’t forget!
While you’re out walking on the beach, stop at Corazon Contento, the top-rated eatery around. They offer quick bites like burgers and fries, as well as soups, chicken platters, shakes, breakfast, and coffee.
Image by Jeremy Cooley.
Costa Rica is an ideal vacation spot for animal lovers, as the country has plenty of unique animal life that tourists can enjoy. Here are a few ideas.
Due to the distance it takes to get to Limon, it’s the least touristy area in the country. But the Sloth Reserve alone is worth the three-hour drive, especially to have one-on-one time with these slow-moving, sweet-faced sloths. This sanctuary is 320 acres and is funded purely through tours.
After a sloth tour, check out the dining room walls at Gecko Beach Club, which are actually wrap-around windows. That’s the kind of view you want while chomping down on burgers or enjoying a milkshake after visiting some animal friends.
The Jaguar Rescue Center exists to provide safety and comfort to animals in need. Visiting here will allow you to interact with jaguars, monkeys, anteaters, wild cats, reptiles, and more.
Image by Minke Wink.
Calling all nature lovers: Costa Rica will be a vacation paradise for you! Enjoy beautiful views and scenic adventures during your stay. Check out our ideas below.
Travel less than three hours north of San Jose to the ideal destination for nature lovers in La Fortuna. This day starts at Arenal Hanging Bridges. It’s a lake and nature preserve with views from the forest canopy that will make you want to sleep under the stars.
That kind of outdoor activity will work up a hunger. It’s best to go to a place where the slogan is “Food & Natur” so you know this is exactly where you should be. Bugai Rio Celeste is unassuming but the scenery and menu are not. They offer juice, soups, and even handheld fast bites.
Bring your birdwatching book to Curi Cancha Reserve. There are over 200 species of birds to see here and there are excursions after dark. Half of the over 200 acres are virgin forests, so this is as close to untouched nature as you can get.
When you’re ready for a sit-down meal, you’ll want to stop by a place that has the best steaks and cheesecakes in central Costa Rica. The Volcano restaurants make art out of their dishes.
Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja has easy-to-follow hiking trails that get you close to wildlife and plant you in front of a waterfall. Make sure to bring a camera as you enjoy a hike alongside scenic views!
Image by Tanja Wilbertz.
Book Your Trip to Costa Rica Today!
If you and a few travel companions are trying to figure out where to vacation next, Costa Rica is the ideal spot no matter what your interests are. Costa Rica has tourist attractions, buildings, eateries, and tour options that’ll fit into any group’s vacation plans. Consider the itineraries above as you work with a trusted travel agency to custom-plan your Costa Rica vacation!