10 Days Classic Costa Rica Itinerary: Cloud Forests, Volcanoes & Beaches

La Fortuna (Costa Rica)

This is a suggested ten days travel itinerary for Costa Rica that covers San José, La Fortuna, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio.


Why Travel To Costa Rica

  • Stunning beaches
  • Magical cloud rainforests
  • Biodiverse wildlife
  • Varied landscape
  • Delicious cuisine
  • High quality coffee
  • Friendly locals

Costa Rica Itinerary Map


Costa Rica Itinerary Map
A:San José  B:La-Fortuna  C:Monteverde  D:Manuel-Antonio

Costa Rica Travel Itinerary

  • Day 1-3: San José
  • Day 4-5: La Fortuna
  • Day 6-8: Monteverde
  • Day 9-10: Manuel Antonio

If you have only one week for travel, then I would suggest to skip San José and transfer directly to La Fortuna after arriving and then follow the itinerary.

 

Best Time To Visit Costa Rica

The best time to visit Costa Rica is between December and April, when the weather is at its driest. You could also consider traveling in any other month when there are less travelers, just avoid the months of September and October when the rainfall is the heaviest.

 

Costa Rica Top Experiences

  • Stunning La Fortuna Waterfalls
  • Magical Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve
  • Amazing beaches and wildlife at Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Drinking delicious high quality Costa Rican Coffee
  • Eating delicious Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican beans and rice)

Day 1-3: San José

Day 1

San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. After arriving in San José settle down in your hotel. Take is easy on your first day in Costa Rica.

The best areas to book your stay in San José as a first time visitor are Escazú, downtown and near international airport.

 

Day 2

Start your day in San José visiting Museo Nacional de Costa Rica which is located in an old fort and has exhibits highlighting Costa Rican natural history, anthropology, archaeology, and history. 

After lunch take a guided tour of the stunning Teatro Nacional Costa Rica. Then spend rest of your afternoon walking around downtown San José. End your day with dinner at one of the authentic Costa Rican restaurant.

Museo Nacional De Costa Rica (San José)
Museo Nacional De Costa Rica (San José)

Teatro Nacional Costa Rica (San José)
Teatro Nacional Costa Rica (San José)

Day 3

Start your day by visiting the Poás Volcano National ParkThe national park covers an area of approximately 65 square kilometers and the summit is 2,700 meters (8,900 feet). The crater of the volcano is over a mile across and 1050 feet deep. 

Travel Tip: Please check the conditions and visibility at the volcano before visiting. I visited the volcano with a tour company. Unfortunately we could not see the crater due to heavy cloud cover. Along with the volcano we also visited a coffee plantation close by.

Spend rest of the afternoon exploring any nice neighborhood of San José. Escazú has some really nice shopping, cafés and restaurants which you can explore.

Poás Volcano National Park
Poás Volcano National Park

(Above photo by Peter Andersen, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Coffee Plantation In Alajuela
Coffee Plantation In Alajuela 

Day 4-5: La Fortuna

Day 4

Take the transportation from San José to La Fortuna which takes around 3-4 hours by road. La Fortuna is a small town northwest of San José. It’s known as a gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park. It is also popular with travelers for hot springs, waterfalls and adventure activities.

I would recommend to stay close to downtown La Fortuna where restaurants, shops, and other amenities are located.

After arriving in La Fortuna settle down into your hotel. In afternoon walk around and explore downtown La Fortuna. In evening relax and enjoy the hot springs at one of the many great facilities in the town.

Baldi Hot Springs (La Fortuna)
Baldi Hot Springs (La Fortuna)
(Photo By John Menard from Phoenix, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Day 5

Travel Tip: I recommend to book a day tour with a tour company that includes visiting La Fortuna Waterfalls, hiking near Arenal Volcano and enjoying the natural hot springs.

You'll start your day by visiting the stunning 200-feet La Fortuna Waterfalls. Here you can spend your time by enjoying the beauty of the place, taking some lovely photographs and even taking a refreshing dip in the water.

After the waterfalls you'll hike through the lovely trail at the base of Arenal Volcano where you can admire the amazing ecosystem. In late afternoon you'll relax by soaking in the natural hot springs.

La Fortuna Waterfalls
La Fortuna Waterfalls

Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano
(Photo by Leonora (Ellie) Enking, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
 

Day 6-8: Monteverde

 
Day 6

Take the transportation from La Fortuna to Monteverde. Monteverde is Costa Rica's major ecotourism destination. The area is host to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and several other natural attractions, which draw considerable numbers of tourists and naturalists. Monteverde rests at roughly at 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above the sea level. It would be best to take it easy on your first day in Monteverde to acclimatize yourself to the altitude.

I would recommend to stay close to Santa Elena city center for better access to restaurants, shops, and services.

 
Day 7

Start your morning with a guided hike in Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. A cloud forest is an evergreen moist forest characterized by a persistent or frequent low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level. During the guided hike you'll learn about the fascinating ecology of the area. A knowledgeable guide should be able to locate and show you some of the amazing wildlife in the cloud forest with their very good pair of binoculars. I would suggest to also carry your own binocular if you can.

In the afternoon visit Monteverde Orchid Garden or Monteverde Frog PondMonteverde Orchid Garden has a large collection of orchids and more than 450 different species. At Monteverde Frog Pond you can admire numerous species of native frogs and toads. Make sure you join the guided tour offered at both these attractions to enjoy your visit.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

Quetzal (Monteverde)
Quetzal (Monteverde Cloud Forest)

Day 8

Start your day by visiting Selvatura Adventure Park. Here you can enjoy zip-line, which is built entirely within the cloud forest allowing you to soar through the forest canopy at exciting speeds. In the park you can also enjoy in safe way the amazing cloud forest canopy by walking through the forest heights on suspension bridges. 

In the afternoon join a tour to learn about the history and production of coffee and chocolate in Costa Rica. Don Juan Tours is a well known company for coffee tours in Monteverde.  

Hanging Bridge (Selvatura Park)
Hanging Bridge (Selvatura Park)

Zip-line (Selvatura Park)
Zip-line (Selvatura Park)

Chocolate & Coffee Making Tour (Monteverde)
Chocolate & Coffee Tour (Monteverde)

Day 9-10: Manuel Antonio

Day 9

Take the transportation in morning from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio. Manuel Antonio is a popular coastal village surrounded by lush jungle and pristine white sand beaches. After reaching Manuel Antonio settle down in your hotel and in afternoon relax at the stunning beach.

 

Day 10

Start your day by visiting Manuel Antonio National Park. The park is well known for its beautiful beaches, hiking trails and wildlife. Visiting the park with a guide will help you locate the vast variety of flora and fauna in their natural habitat. 

In the afternoon just relax again at the beach. Or you could go to Quepos which is the nearest town for some shopping.

Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio 


What to Shop In Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for high quality coffeeChorreador de Café (Costa Rican coffee maker), chocolates, Lizano Sauce (condiment), colorful ceramic pottery and other handcrafted souvenirs.

Please do let me know in the comments section below if you like this itinerary or if you've any questions/suggestions about the itinerary.





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