Costa Rica Travel Guide: Itinerary for 10 Days & Travel Tips

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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Playa Santa Teresa Quad Tour (20)-1

 

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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Interested in Yoga, detoxing, or surfing in Costa Rica? Book your retreats here:

 

10 day Costa Rica itinerary

Day 1-3: La Fortuna

5 - La Fortuna Walk (4)-1

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.

2 - La Fortuna Volcano Hike (34)-1-2

Tours:

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.

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2 - La Fortuna Volcano Hike (27)-1

1- la fortuna snake

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1 - la fortuna jane

2 - La Fortuna Volcano Hike (41)-1

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.

3 - La Fortuna Glowing Frog (17)-1

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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.

 

Fitness:

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.

 

Town life:

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!

6 - Monteverde Canopy Tour Extremo (23)-1

 

Tours:


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.

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6 - Monteverde Canopy Tour Extremo (17)-1

6 - Monteverde Canopy Tour Extremo (20)-1

6 - canopy

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.

6 - tarzan

The very last zipline, was the Superman. Face down your flying across the longest zipline of the track.

6 - Monteverde Canopy Tour Extremo (45)-1

6 - Monteverde Canopy Tour Extremo (48)-1

6 - Monteverde Canopy Tour Extremo (50)-1

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.

6 - Monteverde Canopy Tour Extremo (67)-1

Fitness:

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 🙂

6 - Monteverde Climbing the Ficus Tree (11)-1

6 - Monteverde Climbing the Ficus Tree (16)-1

Day 6: Montezuma

Well, Montezuma. Hyped by so many. Wasn’t really our cup of tea though.
9 - Montezuma Yoga Session (2)-1

Beach:

It’s a little hippie beach village. There is not much else to do than sit back and relax. The beach does look stunning but it wasn’t too great for swimming due to some rocks and strong current/waves.
10 - Montezuma Beach (6)-1
10 - Montezuma Beach (18)-1

Fitness:

Do some Yoga! We took a 9 am morning class at Montezuma Yoga which was really great ($4).
9 - Montezuma Yoga Session (15)-1
9 - Montezuma Yoga Session (18)-1

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.

12 - Playa Santa Teresa Sunset (14)-1

16 - Playa Santa Teresa Sunset and Flor de Cana (24)-1

11 - Playa Santa Teresa Quad Tour (6)-1

Beach:

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.

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11 - Playa Santa Teresa Quad Tour (14)-1

16 - Playa Santa Teresa Sunset and Flor de Cana (28)-1

16 - Playa Santa Teresa Sunset and Flor de Cana (39)-1-2

16 - Playa Santa Teresa Sunset and Flor de Cana (44)-1

Fitness:

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.

14 - body board 1

14 - body board

Several Yoga options – mostly morning and evening classes or do some Yoga on the beach for yourself. There are some lovely, quiet spots.

18 - yoga

16 - Playa Santa Teresa Sunset and Flor de Cana (86)-1

Fun:

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).

16 - Playa Santa Teresa Sunset and Flor de Cana (5)-1

13 - Playa Hermosa Bonfire (3)-1

17 - Playa Santa Teresa Bonfire (5)-1

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.

Best hostels and restaurants in Costa Rica for this 10 day itinerary and a guide on how to get around.

 

I recommend: 

For this 10 day itinerary, skip La Fortuna, spend a day or two more in Monteverde. If you’re a fan of cities, San José might also be worth a day or two.
If you can, spend three weeks or more in Costa Rica. I would have loved to visit the Caribbean Coast: Parque Nacional Tortugero, Limón, Puerto Viejo/Manzanillo. On the Pacific side, Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Herradura, and Tamarindo Bay had also made my list. If only I had had unlimited time on that trip…
Costa Rica is totally worth a visit – you will experience so many different things, have so much fun, be wooed by the hospitality of Costa Ricans – you might simply have the time of your life.

So, enjoy! Pura Vida!

16 - Playa Santa Teresa Sunset and Flor de Cana (74)-1

11 Comment

  1. […] are based on my ten day trip to Costa Rica in 2014. You should also read my ultimate Costa Rica Backpacker Guide which includes an itinerary for 10 days and tips for how to get around Costa […]

    1. definitely taking your advice and doing the Tarzan swing!

      1. Haha yes, you totally should! I’m not sure if I’d have an easier time jumping the second time or if I’d still be a big baby about it 😀

  2. […] you read my Costa Rica Itinerary for 10 days and now you wonder how to get to and around Costa Rica? Here are some tips, especially for budget […]

  3. Thanks for sharing now I wanna go there and experience the surfing and practicing yoga there 🙂

  4. Loved the Tarzan swing at Monteverde. So much to do on Yoga in Costa Rica? Must do on my list when in Costa Rica. loved all your pictures

    1. Costa Rica is very popular with Yogis. You can specifically go for a Yoga retreat but even if you’re just traveling around, you’ll find plenty of options to do drop-in Yoga classes (which we did regularly).

  5. Loved this review! Costa Rica is on my must do list and I’ll definitely be referring to this post as i plan out my trip.

  6. Forests, forests and more thick forests. That’s the most enduring image of Costa Rica for me. Seems like you really had a super time there. And the itinerary sounds great…glad I came across this.

  7. Do you remember who you booked the volcano arenal tour though?!

    1. Hi Mecah, I don’t recall the name of the tour company unfortunately as we booked it through a guy who was friends with the owner of our guesthouse. They all seemed to be pretty similar so I don’t think you can go wrong but it doesn’t hurt shopping around for prices a bit.

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