The BEST of Costa Rica in 10 Days

I spent a gorgeous couple of weeks in Costa Rica for the spring of 2022 and 2023 and loved it so much I plan to return for 2025!

Costa Rica has many different regions, each with something spectacular to offer. Therefore, I created this amazing Costa Rica in 10 Days Itinerary to help you start your journey!

Within this Costa Rica 10 day itinerary, I squeeze in 3 different regions; Arenal/La Fortuna, Monteverde & Guanacaste Province.

Some may say that 10 days in Costa Rica is too little for three regions, and honestly, they are probably right. However, it is possible, and you can jam pack a ton of beauty into them.

Worry not, if you do not like the jam-packed itinerary style, I have created a 3 Week Costa Rica Itinerary to help you spread it out!

Some links in this 10 Days in Costa Rica Itinerary post are affiliate. If clicked, I may receive a s mall commission at no extra cost to you. 

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano from Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

Table of Contents

How Many Days to Spend in Costa Rica

Unless you spend months in Costa Rica, the chances of you seeing the entire country is slim to none.

I strongly recommend about 3+ days per unique area. This gives you enough travel time between regions and plenty of time to explore.

Recommended time to spend in Costa Rica: for a trip; 2 weeks, to see the entire country: 1-2 months+

Recommended amount of time per unique region: 3-5 days

How to get around Costa Rica for 10 days?

I am going to give you my quick recommendation: rent a car!! It is just so much easier and faster.

Of course; this is only if you feel comfortable driving in another country and you are able to!

I have no real advice for taking transit or a bus in Costa Rica, asides from tours. My brother recently took a bus from Tracopa Station; San Jose to Manuel Antonio and said it was completely safe and comfortable.

Make sure to look at the fine print of whichever company you book with and ensure you have the right driving insurance for renting in Costa Rica.

Click here for Rental Cars deals & discounts!

Where to stay for your 10 Days in Costa Rica

Where to stay in Arenal / La Fortuna

Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa (Luxury Hot Springs)

Tabacon is the definition of luxury. A luxury resort surrounded by Arenal’s natural hot springs.. it cannot get better.

Tabacon can be quite expensive but a visit to this resort for a hot spring day pass will show you why. My family recently stayed here and their bedroom had views of Arenal Volcano.

With complimentary access to the hot springs day & night you won’t want to leave the resort… but please make sure you leave as there is so much to see in Arenal.

Click here for booking & prices Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

Hotel Los Lagos Spa & Resort

One of the benefits of staying in a volcano town is the amount of hot springs resorts & hotels. Hotel Los Lagos is a great choice for proximity to hot springs for a better price.

Hotel Los Lagos is a great choice for families travelling with children for their play areas, activities and pools.

Click here for Hotel Los Lagos Spa & Resort booking & prices

Selina La Fortuna (Hostel)

Hostels can have a bad rap but Selina hostels are changing the game for all hostels out there. They are aesthetically pleasing, kept clean, swimming pools, great social activities, exercise groups and most importantly are located in some of the best locations.

Give Selina La Fortuna a chance if you want to save some $ and meet some like-minded people!

Check out prices and booking Selina La Fortuna (Hostel)


Where to stay in Monteverde

Koora Hotel

Stay in the cloud forests at this luxurious Monteverde Hotel. Koora Hotel is rated the #1 Hotel in all of Monteverde.

Sit back in bungalows overlooking expansive lush greenery while monkeys swing by on their branches!

Book Koora Hotel Here!

Selina Monteverde

For all the same reasons as above! Stay in an affordable and cute space, socialize with other people looking to explore Monteverde and enjoy the lush cloud forests.

Click here for Selina Monteverde

Where to stay in Guanacaste Province

The Westin Reserva Conchal (Playa Conchal)

Located next to one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Conchal is The Westin Reserva Conchal. A golf lovers dream.

Walk a short distance to the vast ocean, relax by the infinity pool or go golfing for hours. Check out this hotel for a slice of heaven in Costa Rica.

Check for prices & booking The Westin Reserva Conchal

Occidental Tamarindo

Stay at this all-inclusive resort for everything you can possibly think of. Full-service spa, multiple swimming pools, fitness centre, tennis courts, a ton of restaurants and bars!

Click here to see prices & book Occidental Tamarindo


Costa Rica in 10 Days

Day 0: Arrive in Costa Rica – SJO Airport

I am considering this Day 0 if you arrive in the evening (like we did), if not start at Day 1

If you are arriving to Costa Rica via SJO airport, Alajuela is going to be the closest city to you.

Instead of taking the 30 minute drive to San José, Costa Rica (the country’s capital), opt to stay in this closer city.

Hit the town and enjoy your evening before a big travel day tomorrow!

We headed to El Patio Food Garden at the recommendation of our hotel and we had such an amazing meal.

El Patio Food Garden has a number of different restaurants and bars, check out their menus and see what you would enjoy!

We ate at Black Tap, the below dish is called the Chorrillana; french fries, garlic aioli and steak. It was to die for!!

french fries with steak at El Patio
Chorrillana at Black Tap

El Patio Food Garden Address: 2Q7Q+CW7, Alajuela Province, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Head home and get to bed for your big day tomorrow.

Click here for hotels in Alajuela City.

Day 1: Alajuela -> Arenal

Morning: Drive Alajuela to Arenal

Wake up, get in your rental car and head to La Fortuna! I strongly suggest renting a car. Driving is the most convenient way to get around Costa Rica.

The drive from Alajuela to La Fortuna is about 2 hours and 35 minutes. Make sure you always drive during the day, Costa Rica’s night driving can be dangerous as the roads are poorly lit.

I recommend you have some type of GPS while driving. We were offered to purchase a GPS with our car rental for $10.00 USD per day.

We opted out and instead, used our phone data with the app Waze.

Lunch: Soda La Hormiga

Check out my restaurant guide for La Fortuna. Wherever you go, I am sure you will enjoy an affordable feast!

Soda la hormiga lunch - casado & taco - traditional costa rican cuisine
Soda La Hormiga

Afternoon: La Fortuna Town & Bogarin Trail

Walk around La Fortuna. It is a wonderful town, full of character and the sweetest people!

If it is not a cloudy day, you can see Arenal Volcano from town. It is such a picturesque backdrop.

Views from downtown La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano in the background
La Fortuna

Head over to the Bogarin Trail, just outside of the city centre, to see some sloths!

FYI, the sloths only come down from the trees once per week to go to the bathroom. We were lucky to see one from a distance.

Bogarin Trail

Tickets are $15.00 USD for entry.

We did not take a guided tour, those that did saw more sloths, however, people were very friendly and would show us the sloths that they saw!

Sloth sighting on Bogarin trail, Costa Rica
Sloth on the Bogarin Trail

Evening: Dinner

Head out for dinner, I recommend visiting Restaurante La Parada right in the centre of town.

Have a good night!

Day 2: La Fortuna Waterfall & Arenal Volcano National Park

Morning: La Fortuna Waterfall

Drive over to La Fortuna Waterfall as early as you can!

The drive from town is about 10 minutes.

La Fortuna Waterfall opens at 7:00 AM and the earlier you get there the better, as the crowds start to come at around 9:00 AM.

Tickets cost $18.00 USD per person. You can purchase in person right before, or ahead of time online here.

Steps down to La Fortuna waterfall
500 Steps down to La Fortuna Waterfall

Once you enter the park, you will have to walk down ~500 steps to the waterfall. The way down is easier than up, spend some time down there to avoid walking up right away.

We did the walk in sandals and running shoes without any issues. The stairs are well maintained (as per the above pic).

However, please note access to the waterfall is not accessibility friendly!!

Enjoy the water and go for a swim. This was one of my favourite places in all of Costa Rica, next to Nauyaca Waterfall outside of Dominical, Costa Rica.

Swimming under La Fortuna waterfall
Swimming at La Fortuna Waterfall

Lunch: Gecko’s Waterfall Grill

Head to Gecko’s Waterfall Grill for lunch after your big walk up the 500 steps.

Afternoon: Arenal Volcano National Park

After an early lunch, head over to Arenal Volcano National Park.

From town, this is about a 30 minute drive. Spend the rest of the day exploring this wonderful National Park and it’s many trails.

Map of Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
Map of Arenal Volcano National Park

Entry into the park is $15.00 USD per person.

The park is open from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

I recommend spending as much time as possible in this park. We spent the entire afternoon and were able to walk every single trail (surprisingly).

TIP: Download the free app, AllTrails. You can use them offline for trails. I have used the free version for years and strongly recommend them for hiking!

I have an itinerary for the hiking trails of Arenal Volcano National Park and more details to help you plan your Arenal trip in my Arenal itinerary!

Hiking close to Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano

Evening: Dinner at Restaurante Cafe Mediterraneo

Treat yourself to a pizza dinner at Restaurante Café Mediterráneo.

Day 3: Massage, Spa & Arenal Hot Springs

Morning: Breakfast & Massage

Start and end this day in relaxation mode. You are in paradise and you worked hard hiking yesterday. It’s time to relax!

Grab some smoothies in town at Frutas Y Verduras Hnos Lazo. Find yourself a masseuse in town or spend a full day at a hot spring resort.

Serenity Spa in La Fortuna business card
Serenity Spa for couple’s massage!

In town there are a number of vendors offering massages for an affordable price.

We found this company Serenity in town and just walked in to see if they had any availability. To our luck they were available!

We had a couples massage for $80.00 USD for an hour and it was one of the most relaxing massages I have had.

The massage helped kick start our relaxation day, additionally, the price point helped.

Afternoon: Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

After a wonderful massage, we drove over to Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa. We purchased a day pass with 1 meal (dinner).

Lounging in the hot springs at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa
Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

Tabacón is HEAVEN on earth. There are a number of thermal resorts and hot springs in Arenal. We chose Tabacón, and we were SO happy.

Check out my hot springs blog post to choose yours!

For a more upbeat and lively hot spring check out Baldi Hot Springs.

Day 4: Mistico Hanging Bridges, Drive Arenal to Monteverde

Morning: Mistico Hanging Bridges

It is time to say goodbye to Arenal and drive to Monteverde.

On the way to Monteverde is Mistico Hanging Bridges (just 30 minutes drive from La Fortuna)!

I strongly recommend you stop and spend a few hours here. It is magical.

Entry tickets cost around $33 USD per adult.

Explore the luscious green forests, walk along hanging bridges and spot exotic wildlife. We were lucky to see tons of small reptiles and monkeys from afar!

I detail more of this excursion in my Arenal blog post.

Hanging bridge at Mistico Hanging Bridges, Arenal, Costa Rica
Mistico Hanging Bridges

Afternoon: Driving to Monteverde & Santa Elena

Enjoy the beautiful views on Highway 142 as you pass Lake Arenal.

Drive the 2.5 hours from Mistico Hanging Bridges to Santa Elena, town.

View from Café & Macadamia
View from Cafe & Macadamia

Stop for an iced coffee & treat at Café & Macadamia on the way to Monteverde. The views from this café, are so gorgeous and the iced coffee was delicious.

Once you get closer to Monteverde, the views will change to green pastures, hills, and sweet animals!

Cows on the way to Monteverde, Costa Rica
Santa Elena

When you get to Santa Elena, park your car and walk around this sweet town.

Grab a bite to eat at Tico Y Rico for traditional Costa Rican cuisine or grab an iced coffee at Panaderia Jimenez.

Head to your Airbnb/Hotel

I detail our experience at a finca (farm) Airbnb in Monteverde in my Monteverde blog post.

If you have the chance, (and a 4×4 vehicle), I recommend staying at a finca to get a full Costa Rican experience.

Our Airbnb had sheep & horses. We got to spend time feeding the sheep and hanging out with the horses while they were bathed. It was amazing!!

Sheep at finca Airbnb in Monteverde Costa Rica

Good night!

Day 5: Monteverde Ziplining & Cloud Forest

Morning: Ziplining at Sky Adventures Park

This 10 days Costa Rica itinerary would be incomplete without a ziplining / canopying tour.

Do not leave this activity out when planning your trip to Costa Rica and/or the Monteverde region.

It is AMAZING!! I recommend Sky Adventures Park. They were safe, incredibly professional and most important, SUPER fun.

Me flying through the sky at Sky Adventures, Monteverde, Costa Rica
Ziplining through the cloud forests

Look, how beautiful!!

Lunch: Bon Appetit!

Have a delicious pizza lunch at Bon Appetit!

Afternoon: Monteverde Cloud Forest & Biological Preserve or Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

After your adrenaline rush while ziplining, spend some time at one of the cloud forests in this area. You can also opt for the hanging bridges walk at the Sky Adventures Park (this can be purchased as part of a package with your zipline tour).

We chose to spend time at the Monteverde Cloud Forest & Biological Preserve.

An adult entrance fee ticket is $25.00 USD.

If you do choose to go to the Monteverde cloud forest, please be advised that you must pay for parking at the parking lot below and they shuttle you up to the cloud forest.

If you have not seen hanging bridges yet and are dying to at this park, ensure that it is open to visitors. When we were about to head over, we were told that the hanging bridge was closed for maintenance.

Day 6: Monteverde -> Guanacaste Province; Playa Flamingo

Morning: Drive from Monteverde Region to Guanacaste Province

Before you head out for your drive, grab some breakfast at Choco Café Restaurant & Coffee Shop in Monteverde.

Breakfast at Choco Cafe Restaurant & Coffee Shop
Choco Cafe Restaurant & Coffee Shop Breakfast of Champions!

Once you’re good & full, head out for your drive to Guanacaste Province!

The drive from Monteverde to Tamarindo is about 3 hours & 10 minutes, to Playa Conchal is 3.5 hours and to Playa Flamingo is 3 hours & 15 minutes.

Afternoon: Playa Flamingo catamaran boat cruise!

A Costa Rica boat cruise is a must when you are in Guanacaste Province. Choosing which company to sail with can be very overwhelming as there are a number of them.

Click here if you need help choosing which Guanacaste catamaran tour is for you!

Our favourite choice was, Lazy Lizard Sailing.

Sunset on Playa Flamingo sunset cruise, Lazy Lizard Sailing
Sunset on Playa Flamingo Catamaran

Companies usually offer a morning/day cruise and a sunset cruise. We chose the sunset cruise with Lazy Lizard Sailing.

I mean, look at the colours in these photos, how can you not want to see this at sunset.

The sunset cruise still gives the opportunity to snorkel as they start at 2:00PM and go until dark! They also serve unlimited drinks and a late lunch on board, (which included delicious tacos and salads).

Visit here, Lazy Lizard Sailing to book tickets in advance.

Sunset Cruise Tickets: $95 USD per adult, $70USD per child (<12 years old)

I highly recommend this tour, we loved every minute of our sailing experience.

Other Highly Rated Catamaran Companies:

Day 7: Guanacaste Province; Playa Conchal

Morning: Grocery store

Plantain chips in Costa Rica
Plantain Chips

One of the most underrated things I love on vacation is grocery shopping. I love to get local snacks and try new foods that I can’t find in Toronto (or find easily).

I love trying different baked goods and chip flavours.

Head to a grocery store and purchase some snacks to take on your beach day!

There are a number of different markets or small convenience stores all over Costa Rica. Some bigger stores that you will see around include; Mega Super, Maxi Palí and Super Económico.

Late Morning/Early Afternoon: Head to Playa Conchal

Unless you are staying at the Westin Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal hotel, you will most likely have to drive or walk a slight distance to get to Playa Conchal.

How to get to Playa Conchal

  • Driving from Huacas on Highway 180 all the way to the beach, there is some parking spots close to to the restaurants or there is a free parking lot at this address: C653+762, Guanacaste Province, Brasilito, Costa Rica
  • Another entrance to Playa Conchal is to the left side of the beach. On google maps this is titled Puerto Viejo (there is a parking lot across from restaurant El Encanto).

Playa Conchal is worth a visit on  your 10 days in Costa Rica.

It is revered as one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, Explorers Away even lists it as their number 1! (They also list some other amazing Costa Rica beaches you should check out)!

The ground is full of tiny seashells and it is a sight to see. We parked ourself closer to Puerto Viejo and spent the day here, as it was closer to our Airbnb. This area is also sandy and was more comfortable for us to hang out on!

Dinner: La Casita Del Pescado

Head to La Casita Del Pescado for a delicious and VERY affordable meal. If you want to have more fun, there are some bars close by to enjoy. We stopped in at Pacific Palms at Conchal for a drink.

Day 8: Guanacaste Province; Tamarindo

Tamarindo is the main surfing hub of Costa Rica. It is one of the most popular destinations within the country and one that many spend their whole trip in, making it a tourist hot spot.

Although it is tourist heavy, Tamarindo is a VIBE. It is definitely the place to be in Costa Rica for a fun time.

Tamarindo, Donde Los Mundos Se Unen
Tamarindo Sign

Morning: Tamarindo Surfing school OR Shop around town

Surfing is a must in Tamarindo. Please let me know if you went to any of these surf schools, I would love to hear about your experience!

  • El Muda Surf: El Muda Surf has 5 STAR PERFECT reviews. If you don’t stand on the board, you are guaranteed your money back!! This is a great deal for beginners!

Many surf camps & companies in Tamarindo also have lodgings and hostels where you can purchase stay & surf packages.

Surfer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Afternoon/Evening: Playa Tamarindo Sunset & Dinner

Spend the rest of your afternoon & evening lounging on Playa Tamarindo.

Enjoy people watching, listening to the music of the close by bars/restaurants.

Dinner: El Mercadito De Tamarindo

Grab some dinner at El Mercadito De Tamarindo. There is something for everyone here, think of this place as a fancy food court, affordable with many options.

We chose the arepas at Doña Ana, INCREDIBLE.

After you have enjoyed a tasty dinner, maybe had some ice cream or a few drinks, make sure you head back to Playa Tamarindo for the grand finale!

Truly one of the most breathtaking sunsets.

I think I have 1000 photos of that sunset on Playa Tamarindo. It was fabulous. End your perfect day on the beach!

Day 9: Guanacaste Province; Playa Minas

All day: Beach day at Playa Minas

Playa Minas was our favourite. It is private, secluded and not known by many tourists.

Our Airbnb owner shared it with us and we are so grateful!

Playa Minas, Costa Rica
Playa Minas

The beach is called Playa Minas, however, it is a bit challenging to find on a map. Another name you can use to search is “Playa Zapotillal”.

How to get to Playa Minas

If you can put this address into Google Maps, I advise this first: 95XC+372, Provincia de Guanacaste, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

  • If you are coming from Huacas you will go southwest on highway 933 for 2km.
  • You will then make a right turn at Parada de Buses La Garita.
  • From here, you will drive about 5km, and then turn left onto Playa Real.
  • Then 1km later turn right onto Playa Mina. Once you are on Playa Mina the beach will be seen in 1km where you can park your car wherever you would like!

Evening: Guanacaste sunset & dinner

Wherever you are catch the beautiful sunset in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. We chose to spend it at our Airbnb close to Playa Conchal.

Dinner: Origami Street Food CR

We had driven by this park lined with food trucks in Huacas one day and decided we had to try one of them for dinner.

We chose Origami Street Food CR and I still think about the bao I had, to this day.

Origami Guanacaste street food (bao)
Bao from Origami Street Food

If you have the opportunity to try this food truck, do not miss out.

Enjoy the rest of your evening. Grab drinks or head to bed!

Day 10: Guanacaste Province -> Airport -> Home

Drive to the airport & head home

Head to the airport (LIR in Liberia being the airport in Guanacaste, or drive further to SJO ~4.5 hours) and say goodbye to beautiful Costa Rica!

If you want to stay in Costa Rica longer check out this 3 week itinerary. I highly recommend staying longer in this gorgeous country.

Busy? Pin the 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary for later!

Need help with personal travel planning?

I create custom itineraries and activity guides starting at $25.00 CAD per day!

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Final Thoughts on your 10 Days in Costa Rica

10 days in Costa Rica will never be enough for this beautiful country, but there is still a way to enjoy it the best you can with whatever amount of time you have. Break up your time between different regions to get the feel of this amazing country full of adventure.

Thrilling activities, delicious food and beaches that create relaxing atmospheres, you are in for a treat!

Extend your Costa Rica holiday longer or visit different regions like Manuel Antonio or Uvita for a different feel. Pack your goggles and let’s go.

The option are yours when filling your time in Costa Rica!

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