Costa Rica has become one of the top destinations for tourists from all over the world. Rightly so.
That beautiful country in Central America has such variety on many levels and it will surely take your breath away more than once. Think rain forest and volcano hikes, Tarzan swings and bungee jumps, beaches and sunsets, surfing and dancing. Pura Vida!
Here’s your ultimate travel guide and itinerary for 10 days in Costa Rica designed by a backpacker for backpackers.
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How much time should you spend in Costa Rica?
Plan at least one week, anything else would be a shame. You would miss out on too many exciting experiences.
My friend and I spent about 10 days in Costa Rica. We focused mostly on the Western part of the country. Arriving from Belize to San José Airport, we spent only a night in San José before making our way north to the Cloud Forest.
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10 day Costa Rica itinerary
Day 1-3: La Fortuna
I must admit, La Fortuna wasn’t our favorite spot and if you are pressed for time, skip it and do Monteverde instead. Looking at the map, you’d think the two aren’t too far apart but it is a hassle getting from one to the other and takes about half a day.
You can book several tours in and around La Fortuna
Volcán Arenal tour (half day $40, usually $45 – see below): A minibus will take your group (around 8 people) to the national park and you will get a guided tour through the park (our guide was Juan Carlos and he was amazing!). We saw tucans, snakes, spiders (yikes!), howler and spider monkeys, and wild turkeys.
On our way back, Juan Carlos had the driver stop in the middle of the road to (it was already dark outside) to go into the woods and catch a frog that glows in the dark. He didn’t turn into a prince though – oh, no… The last part of the tour was a 30-minute stop at the Hot Springs where got a Volcanic Mud Facial Mask and a local rum drink.
We didn’t do any of these but other tour options are: Horseback riding, Ziplining, Sky Walk (hanging bridges walk), Sky Tram, Lake Arenal Kayaking and/or biking, etc.
Book tours either with your hostel, a tourist agency or from a guy approaching you on the bus to La Fortuna. Prices vary only very slightly and you can always get a better deal if you book several tours together. Also, if you plan on doing tours in Monteverde, book them at the same time. You can save around $5-10 per tour.
If you’re anything like me and absolutely love food, you might feel the need to do a little workout. You don’t come by gyms too often, backpacking from village to village. So it was a nice surprise to see that there was a gym in La Fortuna (Xtreme, just by Burger King). It cost me CRC 2,000 and I had a personal trainer for 1,5 hours who kicked my butt.
It is a quite town, usually very foggy and rainy (it’s in the Cloud Forest, duh), and in the town itself your options are definitely limited. Not that there is much more to do in Monteverde but I personally found it much more charming. There’s also a waterfall just outside of town but nothing too spectacular.
Day 4-5: Monteverde
Monteverde was definitely one of my personal highlights on this trip!
An absolute must – the Canopy tour (plan half a day). We had booked it with Extremo. It cost us $40 and included the Tarzan Swing and Superman zipline. Honestly, I was a little scared before the first zipline but then it was so much fun. Read the full eXtremo Zip Lining review.
Definitely do the Tarzan Swing – it might have been the scariest thing I have done in my life so far (probably went down in Extremo history for the loudest scream, haha) but I felt such a rush afterwards. Just amazing.
The very last zipline, was the Superman. Face down your flying across the longest zipline of the track.
If you have more than time than we had, I could recommend the Cloud forest tour (supposed to be better than the one in La Fortuna). I would have also loved to do the horseback riding tour. Different wildlife tours are also quite popular.
Easier options would be a coffee tour, a chocolate tour or just relaxing in a hammock and enjoying the crisp mountain air and the sound of chirping birds.
Tours are usually half or full day tours.
Simply walk/jog around the village – it’s so hilly, great for the booty. You can also climb up the Ficus tree, to get there, you need to walk uphill and then it’s also not as easy as it looks to climb to the top! But fun 🙂
Day 6: Montezuma
Day 7-10: Playa Santa Teresa, Playa Mal País and Playa Hermosa
Oh, what fun we had here! We stayed at Tranquilo Backpackers by Playa Santa Teresa which wasn’t so ‘tranquilo’ – a fun backpacker place where everyone got together in the evening to eat and drink.
I think staying around Playa Santa Teresa is a really good option. The beach is nice and there are many restaurants and bars a short walking distance. Though the nicer beaches were a bit further down towards Playa Hermosa.
Surf! There are several good surf spots along the beaches. You can rent a board from several places. Usually they all charge the same price, around CRC 5,000/24 hours. When we went, the ocean was so wild that it was almost impossible to swim out there. You were constantly washed back to the shore and especially with a long board it was terrible. The next day I exchanged it for a body board. So cool.
Several Yoga options – mostly morning and evening classes or do some Yoga on the beach for yourself. There are some lovely, quiet spots.
Rent an ATV. It’s a great way to explore the area and to go to the different beaches (it’s too long to walk especially with a surf board). Plus, it’s great fun.
Have a bonfire on the beach. A great way to spend the night. Take a bottle of the best rum in the world (Flor de Cana, but you already knew that) and you’re guaranteed an amazing night. (Just don’t fall asleep on the beach or you’ll be eaten by crabs).
There is a “club”, almost half way between Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa. It’s huge and though we were basically the only 6 people in there, it wasn’t too bad. Different bars have different events/specials/happy hours on certain nights.
So, enjoy! Pura Vida!