Have you planned your trip to Costa Rica yet? No? No worries, we’ve got you covered – check out our 8 day trip itinerary 🙂
Best time to travel
The best time to go to Costa Rica is from the end of December to April. In dry season you will get very little rain, lots of sunshine, but note that the rates go up too and the parks are crowded.
There are two main airports – San Jose (SJO) – which handles the majority of international flights and Liberia (LIR) which receives direct flights from Canada and the US.
DAY 1 – Liberia to Rio Celeste
Our first destination is Tenorio Volcano National Park. If you want to get to Rio Celeste before the sunset you should arrive in Liberia in the morning.
The airport is pretty small, but well organized. If you need a SIM card for your phone, there are multiple stands where you can buy one. In our case the best bang for the buck is Kolbi, located in the arrivals hall, next to the exit.
Example prepaid plan – Kolbi, 2GB data ~15 USD. In order to register your card, you will be asked for ID or Passport.
There are many car rental companies located near the airport and all of them provide a shuttle service just outside the airport building.
Note that car rental is very expensive in Costa Rica and everyone is obliged by law to purchase liability insurance (either from a third party or from a rental company)
Once we pick up the car we can stop by a shopping mall and withdraw some money. Be aware of the prices of bottled water – they’re insane! Beer is cheaper 😉
Finally we can get on Highway 1 towards Rio Celeste where we will spend our first night. The drive takes about 2 hours, the first half is pretty boring, but once we turn into Route 6 the view will pay off.
Recommended Hotel: Celeste Mountain Lodge
This is most likely the best hotel we’ve ever stayed at. It’s located in the rainforest, the hotel rooms don’t have glass windows but just mosquito net from the floor to the ceiling with a beautiful panoramic view of two volcanos and the valley. Every evening all the guests gather in the dining room for delicious and well served dinner. The owner is very knowledgable and always up for conversation.
DAY 2 – Rio Celeste to La Fortuna
After amazing breakfast and check out, we are ready for our first hike. We will get to Tenorio National Park in the short drive from the hotel.
The park is one of the less popular destinations in Costa Rica, but still worth visiting. We can walk 250 steps down a staircase to get to the waterfall or hike up and down the narrow paths in the rainforest with small hanging bridges to reach tenideros – the point where two rivers meet and the water turns bright blue.
After the hike we are heading towards La Fortuna where we will stay for the next 2 days.
The entrance fee is ~12USD. Bring trekking shoes as the trails are muddy. Note that you will have your bags checked. If you have a drone, you won’t be allowed to bring it with you – you will be asked to leave it in a car or in the park office.
DAY 3 – La Fortuna & Arenal
We will spend a full day hiking and visiting a few view points around Arenal volcano. If you like adrenaline we can also go to the adventure park and zip over mountains at breathtaking speeds and heights.
DAY 4 – La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio
Early morning check out and we are back on the road. It will be a long but scenic drive to Manuel Antonio. In the middle we will have a break on a famous bridge to watch crocodiles chilling in the Tarcoles River.
Once we arrive in Quepos and check in the hotel, there should still be some time to explore the town. For example, we can go watch the sunset on a beach. Playa Biesanz is where the locals go and we highly recommend it.
DAY 5 – Manuel Antonio
If it is Monday – we have a problem – the park will be closed. BUT it can actually turn out to be the best day of the trip, because instead we can take a 3h surfing lesson.
Check out MASS. Fabian, the instructor and the rest of the staff are amazing! We had so much fun and after a few attempts caught our first wave. These guys know how to teach, we felt very safe even though the conditions were rough.
DAY 6 – Manuel Antonio to Monte Verde
We will get up early to avoid the lines to the most popular park in Costa Rica. The park is outstanding, we can easily visit it without a guide. Prepare to see sloths and lots of monkeys 😀 Around noon we should be ready to hit the road again. We will drive to famous area called Monte Verde.
On the way to Manuel Antonio do not listen to any random guys appearing on the street and trying to rush you to the “only available” parking. Keep calm, tell that you don’t want to get to the park but to some hotel nearby and they should let you pass. Fortunately, there are more policemen when the park opens, so the scammers will likely disappear.
The last leg of the road to Monte Verde is unpaved. Pick Route 606 over Route 605. If you rent 4×4, you are fine and it will save you time, otherwise prepare for a very bumpy and unpleasant road. Despite what people say we can confirm though that you can get there in a sedan. 🙂 But we would not recommend driving there at night nor in rain.
DAY 7 – Monte Verde to Playa Hermosa
We will get to the Cloud Forest early in the morning to avoid crowds. We will enjoy nice and easy trails, loud wildlife and a beautiful 360 view of the mountains
After the hike, will we head south on the same unpaved road towards highway 1 and catch the sunset on the beach in a small town called Playa Hermosa. Apart from it, there is not much to do there, but it is a good place to spend the last night before the flight.
DAY 8 – Playa Hermosa to Liberia
We will drive back to Liberia, return the car and get to the airport to catch the flight home…
The plan is ready, now pack your camera and we will see you in Costa Rica! 🙂