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The BEST 3 Week Costa Rica Itinerary: 3 Unique Options

Embarking on a 3 week Costa Rica adventure promises an unforgettable journey through lush rainforests, pristine beaches and adrenaline pumping activities.

This 3 week Costa Rica itinerary is your roadmap to exploring the country’s diverse landscapes, vibrant culture and thrilling activities.

This blog post will give you three distinct itinerary options to choose from. Catering to the beach lovers, thrill seekers and all of those in between.

Costa Rica has easily become a favourite destination for many people; young and old.

I have been two times in the last two years already and I can’t wait to plan my next adventure there. There is truly something for everyone in this gorgeous Central America country.

So, are you ready? Let’s dive into the ultimate 3 week Costa Rica adventure!

Some links in this 3 week Costa Rica itinerary are affiliate, if clicked I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Is 3 weeks too long to visit Costa Rica? 

The quick and straightforward answer to this question is NO, three weeks are by no means excessive when it comes to experiencing Costa Rica.

In fact, for someone like me, who cannot stop visiting this country, it is not enough.

Ok, so now what…

How many days do you need in Costa Rica?

The ideal duration of your trip to Costa Rica is dependent on your unique interests and travel styles. If you’re searching for a tranquil and peaceful getaway with minimal hustle and bustle, you might find three weeks to be more than you need (or maybe not!!).

Now, for those adventure enthusiasts who crave heart pounding experiences like white water rafting, parasailing and ziplining, three weeks is an absolute dream.

Moreover, a three week Costa Rica trip is the perfect length of time for those who seek flexibility in their trip planning; want to hike some volcanoes but then relax on the beach for a week? No problem!

Three weeks is the sweet spot to immerse yourself in the wild beauty Costa Rica has to offer. But don’t worry, if your schedule cannot make three weeks work, Costa Rica is still a gorgeous adventure at any length of time.

This 10 days in Costa Rica itinerary may suit you better.

Ultimately, there is no set duration of time that suits all. This will be dependent on you, those you are travelling with and your respective travel styles.

Whether you are planning to spend 1 week or 1 month, Costa Rica is waiting with open arms for you!

Jaco Beach from El Miro Viewpoint at sunset
Jaco Beach at sunset from El Miro viewpoint

How to get to Costa Rica

Getting to Costa Rica is fairly easy these days with direct flights from most North American cities. If you are coming from farther away, you will most likely have a connection in North America before arriving in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica has a few international airports, two of the most commonly used with the best access are Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), located in the capital city, San Jose, and Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR), situated in Liberia, Guanacaste.

Both of these airports welcome international flights from a number of airlines from around the world.

My top recommendation is to search for the most budget-friendly and convenient flight option from your home country that lands at either of these airports.

From there, you can embark on your three week adventure, starting in the regions surrounding the specific airport.

Skyscanner has amazing deals. Watch out for price fluctuations and set alerts to your email.

If you opt for roundtrip flights from the same airport, do keep in mind you will have to circle back to your initial starting point.

Below, you will find a table indicating the best airport for each destination we will be exploring in the 3 week Costa Rica itineraries.

Table of closest airports to some towns in Costa Rica
Costa Rica Airport Table

How to get around Costa Rica

Planning out your transportation for your three week Costa Rica itinerary is going to be crucial in ensuring your trip goes as efficiently and smoothly as possible.

To explore the beauty of Costa Rica, consider a combination of transportation methods. Start off by renting a car from the airport to get you to your first stop. This is only recommended if you are comfortable driving in a foreign country. 

Renting a car will provide the utmost flexibility in your travels and is my personal favourite choice for getting around in Costa Rica.

Visit Rental Cars for deals and discounts.

NOTE: Avoid driving after sunset, as Costa Rica’s roads are inadequately lit, making unsafe driving conditions. 

If you are uncomfortable driving in Costa Rica, their public transportation services are well established, especially in the larger tourist towns.

Public buses, coach buses and private rental bus services are available to use. Additionally, private shuttle services are available for comfort and ease, make sure to book these in advance.

ILT Costa Rica offers private transfers to multiple different destinations in Costa Rica. Check them out here!

To make the most of your three weeks in Costa Rica, it is essential to plan your desired routes ahead of time, make sure to leave a bit of wiggle room in your schedule for any unforeseen traffic/transportation hiccups!

How to pack for 3 weeks in Costa Rica

Packing for a 3 week Costa Rica trip requires careful consideration and planning. Your planned activities will dictate your packing.

Keep in mind the type of trip you will be doing; adventure, relaxation, a mix of both? Take this into consideration when packing the different types of clothing.

Here is a thorough list of what to bring to Costa Rica.

Access to laundry services via vacation rental or hotel will also help to pack lighter. Travel sized laundry detergent packets are a great option if you need to hand wash your clothing.

Try your best to  pack as lightly as you can and find access to laundry. Prioritize comfort and functionality in Costa Rica as you will be hot hot hot!

Jaco Beach, Costa Rica
Jaco Beach, Costa Rica

How to spend 3 weeks in Costa Rica 

When planning your three week Costa Rican adventure, you will discover numerous possibilities and opportunities, all of which can be tailored to your unique travel preferences.

Below are three different options for a Costa Rica 3 week itinerary. There are multiple ways to pair each of the towns and attractions in Costa Rica.

These itineraries demonstrate how to group together specific towns and regions to fit into the perfect 3 weeks in Costa Rica.

The “Highlights” itinerary will have you visiting the most known and frequently visited parts of Costa Rica.

On the other hand, the “Adventure” itinerary will have your adrenaline soaring and heart pumping. 

Alternatively, the “Beach Holiday” itinerary invites you to relax and unwind by the sea, basking in the sun to your heart’s content.

If you prefer a slower paced vacation, consider visiting fewer destinations and maximize your time in one or two locations. The choice is yours, ensuring your three weeks in Costa Rica are a reflection of your unique travel goals.

What makes Costa Rica special is the flexibility to mix and match these itineraries to create your own ideal 3-week adventure. The power is in your hands to ensure that your three weeks in Costa Rica are uniquely your own!

The 3 Week Costa Rica Itinerary: 3 Options to Choose!

Option 1: The Costa Rica Highlights Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at SJO airport in Costa Rica

Start out on your Costa Rican adventure! Arrive at SJO airport, pick up your rental car or hop in a taxi to head to your accommodation in the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose or in the city of Alajuela just minutes from SJO airport.

Depending on your energy levels, head out for the afternoon/evening in San Jose.

SJO/Alajuela Accommodation Recommendations

Transportation Recommendations

  • Red taxis with a yellow triangle are the official taxis of Costa Rica
  • Uber is available in the large Costa Rican cities
  • Rental car; our personal favourite choice for getting around Costa Rica!

Check out Rental Cars for deals and discounts on your Costa Rica car rental.

Day 2 – 4: Uvita & Dominical

  • Day 2: Drive from San Jose to Uvita, Uvita Waterfall
  • Day 3: Uvita Town, Marino Ballena National Park
  • Day 4: Dominical, Playa Dominical or Dominicalito, Nauyaca Waterfalls

Uvita

Rise early and hit the road early in the morning to get to Uvita. The journey from San Jose takes approximately 3.5 hours.

Your first destination in Uvita is the breathtaking Uvita Waterfall. Upon arrival, you will hike a scenic path through lush forests and flowing streams that lead you to the waterfall.

Once at the waterfall, enjoy a refreshing dip or slide down the natural waterslide (AT YOUR OWN RISK, that thing is scary)!

Uvita Waterfall, Costa Rica
Uvita Waterfall
Climbing up the ladder beside Uvita Waterfall
Arujan climbing up the ladder beside Uvita Waterfall to slide down! (AHHH!)

Spend a full day in this region exploring Marino Ballena National Park. Take a leisurely stroll through Uvita until you reach the park entrance. This park is known for its iconic Whale Tail – a natural sandbar that can only be seen at low tide (look up the tide schedule here to ensure low tide when visiting).

If you are visiting at the right time of year, Marino Ballena National Park offers amazing whale watching excursions. July – November or December – March are the best times of year to have the chance at seeing whales.

Check out this once in a lifetime tour if you are visiting during these months!

Spend the rest of your day lounging on the gorgeous beaches of Marino Ballena National Park.

Dominical

Head over to Playa Dominical (if you wish to do some surfing), or Playa Dominicalito, (photographed at the top of this post), my personal favourite (less crowds, more for swimming and fishing).

While in this gorgeous region spend one or two days in Dominical. This beach town has an amazing laid back vibe to bring you into the Pura Vida lifestyle. Dominical town has an organic farmers market held on Friday’s and a souvenir market by the beach daily!

Spend your afternoon at Nauyaca Waterfalls, truly one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Costa Rica. Just a 30-40 minute drive from Dominical awaits the two tiered waterfalls.

If driving is not an option for you, taxis can be taken or there are many tours visiting Nauyaca Waterfalls from Quepos and Manuel Antonio region.

Add this excursion to your time in Manuel Antonio and opt for a tour. This half day tour option includes pick up, snacks, lunch, water and entrance fees for the waterfall. Check it out here!

Hike to the upper falls for gorgeous views and then down to the lower falls to set up for the rest of the day.

Nauyaca Waterfall, Costa Rica
Nauyaca Waterfalls

Uvita & Dominical Tips

Uvita and Dominical Accommodation Recommendations

I recommend staying anywhere within or between Uvita and Dominical.

We opted for a vacation rental on Playa Matapolo, Puntarenas Province, just a short drive from Dominical.

Click here for vacation rentals in Puntarenas province.

Click here for hotels in this region on TripAdvisor.

Check out hotels on Booking.com for this region.

Where to eat?

This restaurant is GORGEOUS. Many locals recommended this place to us. The seafood is delicious. If you are lucky you will get to see the monkey family that visits this restaurant daily just before sunset.

Make sure you reserve your table ahead of time or you will be waiting.

This is a great place for craft beer lovers! The restaurant has fun vibes and delicious eats.

For more detailed information on the above mentioned activities in Uvita and Dominical, head to the end of this Manuel Antonio itinerary!

Dinner at La Parcela, Dominicalito
La Parcela
Fuego Brew Co.
Fuego Brew Co.

Day 5 – 8: Manuel Antonio

  • Day 5: Dominical to Manuel Antonio, Playa Espadilla Norte, Parasailing
  • Day 6: Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Day 7: Relaxing Beach / Pool Day
  • Day 8: Explore Quepos, Manuel Antonio Catamaran Cruise

A short 45-minute drive from Dominical brings you to the paradise of Manuel Antonio. In my opinion, it is one of the best towns and parks in Costa Rica.

Start off your Manuel Antonio adventure by diving into Playa Espadilla Norte, this is a publicly accessed beach and requires no entrance fees. Here is where you can enjoy swimming the waves and if you are daring, go for a parasailing adventure!

Parasailing in Manuel Antonio is a once in a lifetime adventure that is a lot more calming and peaceful than it looks.

We went parasailing with Aguas Azules, check them out here!

They offered us pick up at our accommodation and were very professional, safe & most important; FUN!

Parasailing with Aguas Azules, Manuel Antonio
My husband, brother and I parasailing in Manuel Antonio

Save a full day in Manuel Antonio for Manuel Antonio National Park, an absolute must-see park in Costa Rica. This 3 week Costa Rica itinerary would be incomplete without a visit here.

This park hosts some of the richest biodiversity in Costa Rica. From wildlife to jungle to beaches, you are in for a treat!

Explore the park on your own or opt for a guided tour for better chances of wildlife viewing. After walking through the jungle, you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful beaches.

I recommend spending time at both Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla Sur.

Playa Espadilla Sur is less busy as most people will see Playa Manuel Antonio first and stop here, keep going, Playa Espadilla Sur is serene.

Manuel Antonio National Park Note

Food is NOT permitted into the park, water is allowed. There is a cafe inside the park for food purchase. This measure is taken to protect the wildlife. Please respect these rules while visiting. 


Following your active day of hiking Manuel Antonio National Park, enjoy a relaxing day at your hotel pool or return to your favourite beach.

Spend some time exploring the town of Quepos. Wander through the vibrant streets, visit the marina and immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture.

Later on, venture back to the beach to head on a sunset catamaran cruise.

A catamaran cruise in Manuel Antonio is the perfect way end to your beautiful time here.

Tip: Visit the Manuel Antonio 3 day itinerary for the full detailed breakdown with accommodation, transportation, activity recommendations and important tips!

Monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park
Monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park
Playa Espadilla Sur
Playa Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio

Day 9 – 10: Jaco 

  • Day 9: Manuel Antonio to Jaco, Sunset Hike to El Miro
  • Day 10: Surf School and Beach Day

Get ready to dip your feet into Jaco, immerse yourself in the vibrant surf culture of this lively coastal town. Explore charming shops, get a massage and savour the culinary delights at their wide range of restaurants (our favourite – Jerah Thai Cuisine)!

In the afternoon, embark on a unique adventure with a hike to the best Jaco viewpoint, El Miro. This scenic trek takes you to ancient ruins with graffiti and murals painted all over white pillars.

Enjoy this special sunset over the ocean, one you will never forget. This is one of the most unique hikes in Costa Rica and is definitely worth it!

El Miro Viewpoint, Jaco
The Ruins at El Miro, Jaco

The following day, go surf-side in Jaco. Surf schools are aplenty in Jaco and are available for all levels of surfer (even those who have never touched a surfboard).

Enjoy spending the rest of your day on the beach.

Our favourite restaurants in Jaco

Jerah Thai Restaurant
Jerah Thai Restaurant
Britt Coffee in Costa Rica
Britt Iced Coffee
Breakfast at Soda Jaco Rustico
Breakfast at Soda Jaco Rustico
Ridiculous Burgers
Ridiculous Burgers, Jaco

Day 11 – 14: Arenal / La Fortuna

  • Day 11: Jaco to La Fortuna, La Fortuna town, Bogarin Trail
  • Day 12: La Fortuna Waterfall, Hot Springs
  • Day 13: Arenal Volcano National Park
  • Day 14: Mistico Hanging Bridges

Leave Jaco behind and embark on a scenic drive to La Fortuna, where you’ll immerse yourself in the ambiance of this charming volcano town.

Stroll down the streets adorned with an array of fantastic restaurants (local gems known as “sodas”), eclectic shops, and inviting smoothie (“batido”) stands.

After exploring the town, set your sights on the Bogarin Trail, renowned for its sloth sightings, which are best experienced through a guided tour.

Your adventure continues with a visit to the breathtaking La Fortuna Waterfall – an absolute must-see.

Get La Fortuna Waterfall skip the line tickets here!

Descend the 500 steps early in the day to savour the sight before the crowds arrive, and I highly recommend taking a dip in the waters below!

La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

For an indulgent afternoon, pamper yourself at one of Arenal’s fabulous hot springs. There are plenty of them to choose from!

Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa offers the ultimate opulent experience. Whether you opt for a day pass or an overnight stay, you will have the opportunity to soak in some of Costa Rica’s most lavish hot springs.

Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa
Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

The following day, lace up your hiking shoes (or running shoes) for a full day trek in Arenal Volcano National Park. This park has multiple hiking trails, allowing you to explore them all in a single day – an adventure that is as rewarding as it is breathtaking.

Finally, what could be more quintessentially Costa Rican than strolling along hanging bridges amidst cloud forests?

Experience this amazing scenery at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, one of Costa Rica’s most captivating parks.

La Fortuna / Arenal Tips

  1. Purchase your Mistico Hanging Bridges tickets in advance by at least 1+ days. You can purchase them here!
  2. Download the FREE hiking App, Alltrails to read about the different hikes, review them, download the paths and use offline while hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park. You can download this free app here!
  3. Visit our 3 day Arenal itinerary for a detailed breakdown on how to spend your time in this region.

Day 15 – 17: Monteverde 

  • Day 16: Drive from Arenal to Monteverde, Santa Elena town 
  • Day 17: Ziplining, Coffee Tour
  • Day 18: Monteverde Cloud Forest and/or Santa Elena Cloud Forest 

In Monteverde, your next three days promise a blend of nature, adventure and cultural exploration. Your journey will kick off in Santa Elena town, immerse yourself in the local way of life and explore the eclectic shops.

Make time for an exhilarating ziplining adventure through the lush cloud forests. Sky Adventures ziplining stands out as one of Costa Rica’s most renowned companies.

In addition to ziplining, Sky Adventures park includes hanging bridge tours, arboreal tree climbing and a skytram!

Costa Rica’s rich coffee and chocolate can best be enjoyed through a tour. Monteverde is known for some of the best coffee due to the climate surrounding the cloud forests.

Don Juan tours offer numerous different options to enjoy these Costa Rican treats. Click here for a Don Juan Coffee, Chocolate and Sugar Cane tour.

Don’t forget to spend some time in the cloud forests. Monteverde Cloud Forest or Santa Elena Cloud Forest are wonderful places to view wildlife, cross over suspension bridges in the clouds and admire the lush greenery of Costa Rica.

Ziplining at Sky Adventures, Monteverde
Ziplining at Sky Adventures, Monteverde

Monteverde Tips

Monteverde Accommodation Recommendations

For an authentic Monteverde experience, I highly recommend staying at a local finca (farm) to truly immerse yourself in the region’s unique charm.

Click here for Monteverde vacation rentals.

Click here for Monteverde hotels.

Monteverde Safety Tip

Be sure to secure a 4×4 car rental to navigate the area effectively and safely. Avoid driving after sunset as this region is not well lit in the evening.

Some Costa Rican locals did not speak English in Costa Rica, brush up on some basic Spanish before you go.

Looking for a more detailed Monteverde itinerary? Click here for all of our Monteverde information!

Sheep at finca Airbnb in Monteverde Costa Rica
Monteverde Farm Rental (Finca)

Day 18 – 20: Tamarindo

  • Day 18: Drive from Monteverde to Tamarindo, Playa Tamarindo
  • Day 19: Surfing School, Catamaran
  • Day 20: Visit nearby beach; Playa Conchal, Playa Flamingo

Prepare for a scenic drive to the coastal haven of Tamarindo, Guanacaste Province! Spend some time visiting the cool, laid back surfer town.

Head to Playa Tamarindo to take a stroll along the beach and watch the surfers hit the waves.

Playa Tamarindo has one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in Costa Rica, as evident by the BIG crowds lining the beach!

The following day, get yourself into the ocean and surf! If you didn’t get enough in Jaco, visit another surf school or simply rent a board and try for yourself.

In the afternoon, head out for a sunset catamaran. Many catamaran tours in Tamarindo start at 2:00 PM and offer snorkelling, snacks and sunset sailing.

Click here to book your catamaran!

Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica at sunset
Playa Tamarindo at sunset

Spend one of your days in this region exploring nearby beaches; Playa Conchal and Playa Flamingo. Start at Playa Conchal, known for its shore covered with tiny seashells.

Continue your coastal journey to Playa Flamingo where white sands and the brightest blue waters await. Relax on the beach and swim in the ocean.

These nearby beaches offer a more peaceful escape for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Tamarindo.

On your way back to Tamarindo, visit the Origami Street Food Truck for some delicious bao.

Bao at Origami street food CR
Origami Street Food

Day 21: Head to LIR airport, Home

End your three weeks of heaven by going to Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR). Reflect on your amazing 3 weeks in Costa Rica, it will forever be in your heart.

Option 2: The Costa Rica Adventure Itinerary

Day 1: Land in San Jose (SJO)

Day 2: Day excursion from San Jose, white water rafting on the Sarapiqui River. Check for tours here.

Day 3-6: La Fortuna / Arenal. Hiking volcanoes! See our detailed Arenal itinerary.

Day 7-10: Monteverde. Ziplining, cloud forests & hiking! See our detailed Monteverde itinerary.

Day 11-14: Jaco for surfing & hiking!

Day 15-17: Manuel Antonio. Parasailing, hiking & more! See our detailed Manuel Antonio itinerary.

Day 18-20: Dominical & Uvita for chasing waterfalls. More details can be found in the Manuel Antonio itinerary.

Day 21: Home from SJO in San Jose.

Jaco Beach sunset, Costa Rica
Jaco Beach Sunset, Costa Rica

Option 3: The Costa Rica Beach Holiday Itinerary

Day 1: Land in Guanacaste Province’s airport, LIR.

Day 2-4: Tamarindo. Surfing & sun! Playa Tamarindo has some of the most gorgeous sunsets.

Day 5-8: Beach days at Playa Conchal & Playa Flamingo. Go on a sunset catamaran tour in Playa Flamingo for extraordinary snorkelling.

Day 9-12: North Guanacaste, Playa El Jobo & Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Time for hot springs! Read more in the Guanacaste Itinerary.

Day 12-14: Tenorio Volcano National Park, Rio Celeste (Celeste Waterfall). Relax by waterfalls and admire the volcano.

Day 15-20: Arenal & La Fortuna; massage, hot springs, waterfalls. See the Arenal Itinerary for more.

Day 21: Head home from LIR in Guanacaste or SJO in San Jose.

Busy? Pin the 3 Week 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!

Check out my travel service packages here. I would love to plan your Costa Rica itinerary for you.

Plan Before Land Personal Travel Planning Service

Final Thoughts on your 3 Week Costa Rica Itinerary

These 3 week Costa Rica itineraries offer something for everyone.

The Highlights Itinerary is a fantastic balance of natural beauty, adventure and relaxation. From parasailing and ziplining to lounging on beaches and soaking in the volcanic hot springs.

The Adventure Itinerary will have the thrill seekers in heaven. Those who want a fast paced, heart pumping experience. Conversely, The Beach Holiday Itinerary will put you in the peace and tranquility mindset; massages at hot springs, lounging on the beach and soaking in the Costa Rican sun.

Whichever 3 week Costa Rica itinerary you choose, you will leave this gorgeous country with memories to last a lifetime. Costa Rica’s beauty and adventure will always be with you.

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