Costa Rica is home to some of the most beautiful rainforests, beaches, and mountains. Their food is also too good to pass up, and their Pura Vida lifestyle is quite intriguing.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, pura vida means pure life, being grateful for everything that you have, even the simplest things.
Costa Rica is a country located in the Central American region of North America. It is bordered by the Caribbean Sea in the Northeast, Panama in the Southeast, Nicaragua to the North, and the Pacific Ocean to the Southwest.
It is known for its coffee, rich biodiversity, and incredible natural wonders. In this article, you will find numerous itinerary options for spending 2 weeks in Costa Rica. Hopefully, this will help you explore this beautiful country and experience Pura Vida along the way.
BASIC TRAVEL INFORMATION FOR COSTA RICA
Unsure when to go, the cost, or transportation? You’ll find all those information below:
When is the best time to travel to Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a tropical gem with varied microclimates. The best time to visit is during the dry season, from mid-December to April, when sunshine prevails. This is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds.
The rainy season, or “green season,” spans May to November, with heavier showers typically in September and October.
Shoulder seasons, just before and after the peak, offer a balance of fewer crowds and pleasant weather. Regardless of when you choose to visit, Costa Rica’s natural beauty shines through.
Are 2 weeks enough for Costa Rica
How to get around
There are various ways to get around Costa Rica. The fastest and most convenient option is domestic flights and private transfers. The most affordable are public buses and shared shuttles, suitable for backpackers.
When it comes to inter-city, there are ride-hailing apps and taxis; you can use Uber. Renting a car is actually highly recommended, which gives you flexibility to move around much faster, but make sure to consider 4×4, especially if you’re going off the main roads.
Language and currency
Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish. However, English is widely spoken in tourist areas, making it relatively easy for English-speaking visitors to get around. Nevertheless, learning a few basic Spanish phrases can enhance interactions with locals and deepen the travel experience.
The official currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colón (CRC). While US dollars are often accepted in tourist areas, it’s advisable to use colones for local transactions to get the best rates.
In Costa Rica, while credit cards are accepted in many hotels, restaurants, and shops, cash is preferred, especially in smaller towns and local businesses.
Carrying a mix of colones and a small amount of US dollars is recommended. It’s always a good idea to check the exchange rate and carry local currency, especially when venturing outside main tourist zones.
Many foreign visitors can enter and travel around Costa Rica without a visa. If your passport is issued by countries from most places in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zeland, South AFrica, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, some Gulf Countries, and Malaysia, you are eligible to stay in Cost Rica between 30 days up to 180 days.
Also, if you have a valid visa or residence permit from the EU, US, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland, you can use it as a substitute visa for Costa Rica, allowing you to stay for 90 days.
Cost of 2 weeks in Costa Rica
- Affordable: Expect to spend $700-$1,000, staying in hostels, eating at sodas (local eateries), and using public transport. That’s about $50 to $75 a day which is suitable for those on a budget.
- Mid-range: A mid-range budget of $1,500-$3,000 offers comfortable hotels, dining options, and some guided activities. That’s $110 to $210 per day, suitable for those looking for comfortable trip, but also not too luxurious.
- Luxury: For a lavish experience, anticipate $4,000-$8,000 or more, indulging in top-tier accommodations, gourmet meals, private tours, and personalized services. So, around $290 and up for a hassle-free and high-end 2 weeks in Costa Rica.
Travel arrangement tips
MAP OF TOP SITES AND ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA
Click the icon on the top right to enlarge the map. Credit: map data: Google
2 WEEKS IN COSTA RICA ITINERARY
Costa Rica is not only a haven for its stunning beaches and fantastic surfing and kite surfing spots, it’s also the place to go to see exotic animals in the wild. This includes resplendent quetzal, sloth, jaguar, keel-billed toucan, and scarlet macaws. If you love to see wild animals, visit the Amazon during a 2-week Brazil trip.
There are two travel itineraries below. You don’t have to follow it religiously. Perhaps you can draw some inspiration and tips from the following travel plans.
Itinerary #1: First-timer (San Jose, Uvita, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, La Fortuna, Tortuguero)
The first itinerary for those who are planning to stay for 14 days in Costa Rica is perfect for first-timers. You’ll start with San Jose, a major transportation hub with historical sites and natural landscapes, such as waterfalls and animal sanctuaries.
Then, you’ll head over to Uvita, which is famous for its beaches, where you can watch the sunset or do horseback riding. Speaking of beaches, Manuel Antonio is also famous for these, so you can have picnics by the beach, listen to the calm waves, feel the fine sand beneath your feet and continue soaking up under the sun here.
The next stop is Monteverde, an elevated town positioned directly under a dense cloud forest. It is home to some of the longest-hanging bridges and ziplines in the country.
La Fortuna, on the other hand, is a laidback place famous for its natural resources, such as a volcano, hot springs, and waterfalls. Last but definitely not the least is Tortuguero, a national park filled with black sea turtles, wildlife-rich canals, and lagoons.
San Jose for 3 days
San Jose is a major transportation hub. That’s why it is the perfect place to start your trip. It is Costa Rica’s capital and largest city and is known for historic buildings, museums, hotels, theme parks, and the like. Basically, it is an urban plain surrounded by lush hills and majestic volcanoes.
Some of the things to do here include guided tours, watching a musical play at the National Theater of Costa Rica, visiting the National Museum, Pre Columbian Gold Museum, Central Market, and California Blvd or Calle 17, which mimics the streets of LA, hence, the name.
Uvita and Manuel Antonio for 4 days
The next stop during your 2 weeks in Costa Rica is spending 4 days at Uvita and Manuel Antonio. Uvita is a town in the South Pacific of Costa Rica that is a backpacker’s haven as it has fewer crowds and scenic landscapes. There are tons of quaint cafes, eye-catching restaurants, wildlife, and of course, sea, sun, and sand.
A couple of must-visit locations here are Marino Ballena National Park, El Pavon Waterfall, Sierpe Mangrove Tour, Nauryaca Waterfall, and even a day trip to Dominical.
Manuel Antonio, on the other hand, is a National Park famous for the scenery and the wide variety of activities that you can do here, such as hiking, swimming, sportfishing, surf lessons, and food tours.
The distance between San Jose and Uvita is 223 km. You can take the bus to get from San Jose to Uvita. The travel time is 5 hours. If you’re renting a car, driving is faster, which is around 4 hours, but is a little bit more expensive.
Monteverde and La Fortuna for 4 days
Monteverde is the twelfth canton of Costa Rica’s Puntarenas province. It is famous for its miles upon miles of forest trails and exotic plants, as well as its cloud forests.
A couple of activities to do here are ziplining, canyoning, coffee tasting, and more. La Fortuna, on the other hand, is Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destination, and one of the reasons is The Arenal Volcano, which has amazing hiking trails.
Other famous tourist spots here include the hot springs, La Fortuna Waterfall, and restaurants that serve various cuisines.
If you’re coming from Uvita to Monteverde, the fastest option would be to ride the bus, with a travel time of more than 4 hr and 30 minutes. Other options include driving, which is around 4 hours.
Tortuguero for 3 days
Tortuguero is a National Park located in the Limon Province of Costa Rica. The locals named it long ago as the place where turtles go. It is immensely abundant with wildlife, such as lizards, birds, caiman, monkeys, and more, lingering in the thick rainforests or mangroves.
If you’re coming from Monteverde, the best way to reach Tortuguero if you’re on a budget is by bus. However, it has a long travel time, reaching almost 7 to 8 hours.
However, you can also travel back to San Jose to catch a flight home from here. As the distance is only 96 km, you have a couple of travel options, such as by bus, by van, or by flying.
Itinerary #2: The Jungles and Oceans (San Jose, Rio Pacuare, Corcovado, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde/La Fortuna)
In this itinerary, you’ll surely experience an adventure like no other. This is perfect for adrenaline junkies and people who love outdoor activities.
Of course, we’ll start off slow with San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. There are a couple of historic establishments, and you can also purchase all of your essentials here.
Next is Rio Pacuare, where the adventure begins. This river is considered by many as one of the best bodies of water in the whole world to river raft.
You can then proceed to Corcovado, where you can hike, go on a beach, or witness as many wildlife species as you like. Since Manuel Antonio has multiple beaches, some of the most famous activities they offer here are boat rides and snorkelling.
If you thought that I’ve already managed to disclose everything Monteverde has to offer, we’re barely scratching the surface as aside from zip lines; they also have attractions called Sky Walk and Sky Tram.
They offer coffee tours as well, while in La Fortuna, you can check out the rainforest at night, visit chocolate farms, and have a taste of the cocoa fruit straight from harvesting.
San Jose for 3 days
San Jose is often overlooked as a stopover for other tourist spots, but this capital city also has a lot to offer, specifically historical sites and museums. Some of the must-visit locations here include the Jade Museum, Metallic Building, Chocolate Factory, and Chinatown. They also have a Children’s Museum for travelling families.
This is the perfect starting point for the trip as it has one of the two international airports in Costa Rica. Aside from that, since it is an urbanized city, you can get all of the things that you will need here, such as money changing, a sim card, food stock, or renting a car.
Rio Pacuare for 2 days
During your two weeks in Costa Rica, I advise that you spend 2 days in Rio Pacuare to experience everything it has to offer. Rio Pacuare or Pacuare River is popular for the activities that you could do there, such as white river rafting, riverboarding, and whitewater kayaking.
It is divided into three sections and is also known for its rich flora and fauna. Some of the species that you could encounter there are raccoons, anteaters, iguanas, sloths, and Capuchin monkeys.
The distance between San Jose and Rio Pacuare is 135 km, and the best way to reach your destination is via bus, which has a travel time of more or less 3 hours.
Corcovado for 3 days
Corcovado is the largest lowland rainforest on the Pacific coast. It oozes with biological richness and is bordered by crystalline waters of the ocean, filled with coral reefs and marine life.
You’ll also find the town of Agujitas, as well as a couple of eco-lodges and resorts here. Here are a couple of activities to do: horse riding, snorkelling, trekking, and more.
The distance between Pacuare River and Corcovado is 413.4 km, and the available transportation option is by driving. Travel time lasts for more than 8 hours. You can also travel back to San Jose to catch a flight to Drake Bay, which is 41 km (1 hr and 30 mins drive) from Corcovado.
Manuel Antonio National Park for 3 days
Did you know that Monteverde is a Spanish term for green mountain? This is very fitting for this place as it is home to a cloud located on mountains.
A couple of things to do here include hiking and bird watching. Aside from trying out their coffee, you can also try Costa Rican chocolate and sugarcane. You can even visit Santa Elena, another neighbouring cloud forest.
La Fortuna, on the other hand, is Costa Rica’s adventure capital. A couple of places to visit here include Catarata del Toro, Rio Celeste Waterfall, El Salto Rope Swing, Arenal Volcano, and more. Other things to do here are chocolate tours, rafting, ziplining, hanging bridge crossing, and more.
For those who are coming from Monteverde, the mode of transportation is by bus, taxi, or van, the cheapest being by bus and the fastest being by taxi, with a travel time of 4 hours and 30 minutes.
It is the perfect place to end your trip as it is near to both the international airports. It is 2.5 hours away from San Jose International Airport and Liberia’s International Airport.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN COSTA RICA (per city)
Knowing where to go and how many days to spend in each place is not enough. You should also have some ideas on things to do there. This will give you even more ideas if the locations you are considering for your itinerary planning are suitable for you.
Here’s a quick list of various activities in Costa Rica:
- National Museum of Costa Rica
- Mercado Central
- La Sabana Metropolitan Park
- San José Cathedral
- Museum of Contemporary Art and Design
- Costa Rican Center of Science and Culture
- Spirogyra Butterfly Garden
- Museum of Costa Rican Art
- Jade Museum
- Simón Bolívar Zoo and Botanical Garden
- Plaza de la Cultura
- Children’s Museum
- Day trip to Bajos del Toro/Tesoro Escondido Waterfall
- Day trip to Poas and Irazu Volcanoes
- La Paz Waterfall – combo tour for Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall or just the waterfall and wildlife refugee
- Parque Diversiones
- Go whitewater rafting at Pacuare River – see the tour price
- Day trip to La Paz Waterfall Gardens
- Book a walking food tour – check the reviews
- The National Theater
- Excursion at Tortuga Island – join a boat tour
- Pre-Colombian Gold Museum
- Hike the Arenal Volcano – book one with lunch and dinner
- Hacienda y Beneficio La Chimba Coffee Farm
- Sign up for a day filled with thrilling activities – read the itinerary
- Toucan and Sloth Rescue Ranch
- Go on a night tour – dinner and cocktail class or an evening bus tour with dinner
Manuel Antonio National Park
- Hiking the Cathedral Point Trail
- Snorkeling at Manuel Antonio Beach
- Kayaking through mangroves
- Playa Espadilla
- Whale watching at Marino Ballena National Park
- Snorkelling at Whale Tail Beach
- ATV Tours
- Uvita Waterfall
- Horseback riding
- Stand-up paddleboarding
- Yoga retreats
- Scuba diving
- Night wildlife tour
- Bat Jungle exhibit
- Cheese Factory tour
- Horseback riding
- Coffee plantation visit
- Monteverde Cloud Forest – go on a hiking tour or a zipline tour or a night walking tour
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve
- Lake Arsenal – go kayaking or paddleboarding
- Monteverde Butterfly Gardens
- Learn how to make traditional Costa Rican bread – through this bread-making class
- La Reserva Bosque Nubosa
- Book a coffee, chocolate, and sugar cane tour – look at the reviews or farm & cheese tour
- Thrill at Sky Adventures Monteverde Park
- Bird watching at Curi-Cancha Reserve – there’s a watching tour you can sign up for or combo Curi-Cancha and Cloud Forest
- Frog Pond Ranario
- The Original Canopy – book a tour
- Hanging Bridge at Selvatura Adventure Park – get an all-pass for all activities or just do the suspension bridge
- Arenal Volcano hike
- Hot springs visit
- La Fortuna Waterfall swim
- White-water rafting
- ATV Tours
- Cave spelunking at Venado Caves
- Lake Arenal kayaking
- Turtle nesting tours
- Canoeing through canals
- Wildlife spotting
- Jungle hiking
- Fishing expeditions
- Village tour
- White-water rafting
- Jungle zip-lining
- Wildlife spotting
- River tubing
- Riverside camping
Corcovado National Park
- Guided jungle hikes
- Wildlife spotting
- Snorkeling at Caño Island
- Beachcombing at Corcovado Beach
- Photography tours
- Camping in designated areas
LOCAL COSTA RICAN DISHES AND DRINKS TO TRY
When travelling around, make sure to try a few dishes from this list to see which one you like the best. A lot of them are quite similar to the rest of Latin America, but there’s always an ingredient that makes it unique and a must-try:
- Gallo Pinto: A traditional breakfast dish made of rice and beans, usually served with eggs, sour cream, and tortillas.
- Casado: A hearty lunch plate with rice, beans, salad, fried plantains, and a choice of meat or fish.
- Olla de Carne: A hearty beef stew with potatoes, yucca, plantains, and corn.
- Tamales: Corn dough stuffed with meats, rice, and veggies, wrapped in banana leaves.
- Chifrijo: A bowl with layers of rice, beans, pork, and pico de gallo, typically served with tortilla chips.
- Sopa Negra: Black bean soup is typically served with a hard-boiled egg.
- Arroz con Pollo: Rice with chicken, mixed with vegetables and seasoned with spices.
- Patacones: Fried green plantains, often served with a dipping sauce.
- Tres Leches: A sponge cake soaked in three types of milk, topped with whipped cream.
- Flan: A creamy caramel custard dessert.
- Churros: Fried dough pastries, often filled with sweet fillings and sprinkled with sugar.
- Agua de Sapo: A refreshing drink made from ginger, lemon, and sugarcane juice.
- Horchata: A creamy rice and cinnamon drink.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN COSTA RICA
Now that you know where to go, what to do, and even what to eat, for final tips, here’s a list of highly-rated accommodations in Costa Rica:
- Affordable: Eco Stay Hostel or Nativus Art Hostel or Chillout Hostel
- Mid-range: Casa Mayela Guest House or Hotel Aranjuez or Hotel Casa 69
- Luxury: Bee Suites or Labana Hotel Suites Apartments or Park Inn by Radisson
Manuel Antonio National Park and Uvita
Monteverde and La Fortuna
- Affordable: Cabinas Vista Al Golfo or Freddy’s Place B&B
- Mid-range: The Green Tree Lodge or Tityra Lodge or Hotel Santa Fe B&B
- Luxury: Burbi Lake Lodge or Calathea Lodge or Camino Verde B&B
Corcovado National Park
SUMMARY OF 2 WEEKS IN COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is definitely a haven for nature lovers and thrill seekers as it is filled with national parks and adrenaline-fueled activities. Aside from that, it is known as the hummingbird capital of the world, is an unsung culinary destination, and is filled with world-class resorts.
With all that being said, I honestly don’t think 2 weeks in Costa Rica, but it’s a good start. Hopefully, you’ll like it, and you’ll come back again in the future.