The perfect itinerary for 4 weeks of adventuring in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known for its conservation and preservation practice, and is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet!
From riding waves, chasing waterfalls, and hiking mountains, to watching the diverse creatures all around you! Costa Rica is paradise on earth!
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Costa Rica 4-week Itinerary Summary
*** We had no actual set itinerary, just points pinned on google maps, and booked Airbnb’s or hostels along the way ***
Costa Rica is home to an abundance of wildlife, including monkeys, iguanas, sloths, snakes, toucans, and turtles. Magnificent landscapes, limitless outdoor activities, yoga retreats, and amazing places to stay!
We flew into San Jose International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, and this is where our journey in Costa Rica starts and ends! We stayed in San Jose for one night, and then headed to the Caribbean side for a few days, in all honesty, I loved the vibe on the Caribbean side, and wish we stayed longer!
We rented a vehicle, which made it very easy for us to get around, personally, I felt the shuttles were rather expensive and more inconvenient. However, renting a vehicle is also pretty expensive in Costa Rica, and you think you get a good price online but read through the documents from the rental company because they tend to tack on a lot of extra fees!!
- Day 1: San Jose
- Day 2: San Jose to Puerto Viejo
- Day 3-5: Puerto Viejo / Cahuita (Limón Province)
- Day 6: Cahuita to La Fortuna
- Day 7-10: La Fortuna
- Day 11: La Fortuna to Rio Celest y Los Teñideros
- Day 12-15: Tamarindo (Guanacaste Province)
- Day 16-19: Monteverde
- Day 20-23: Quepos (Monteverde to Jaco to Quepos)
- Day 24-27: Uvita (+ Dominical)
- Day 27-30: Rivas (Near Mount Chirripó)
- Day 31: Rivas to San Jose
Costa Rica 4-week Itinerary
Day 1: San Jose, Costa Rica Arrival
Flying into the San Jose International Airport (Juan Santamaría International Airport) in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.
We stayed just one night in San Jose to grab our rental vehicle, and rest up before we drive to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica! San Jose wasn’t much of an attraction for us!
Where we stayed in San Jose
We stayed at the Nativus Art-Hostel, which is about 20 minutes from the airport. This hostel is a perfect checkpoint for travelers arriving or awaiting a flight from Costa Rica. The room itself is basic, but the hostel itself has a cute, artsy feel, and has a small kitchen/cafe area where you can get breakfast.
When we stayed at the Nativus Art-Hostel, but was very quiet, and didn’t seem like other travelers were there at the same time as us.
Things to do in San Jose
Doka Estate – Costa Rica Coffee Tour – Experience
Visiting the largest coffee plantation in Costa Rica where you can learn everything about the process related to cultivation, processing, and good practices, as well as your natural and cultural environment. Learning about the history of the estate, and the step-by-step process, while also being able to purchase the coffee to bring home! There is also a beautiful butterfly garden!
Day 2: San Jose to Puerto Viejo
San Jose to Puerto Viejo is about a 5-hour car ride, however, there was a lot of road work during our stay, and it seemed to take much longer to get there.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a coastal town in Talamanca in Limón Province in southeastern Costa Rica, with a majority of the roads being dirt! Puerto Viejo has such a cool, chill, hippy vibe! It has some of the most beautiful beaches, suchas, Playa Negra, Playa Chiquita, and Punta Uva, and is known as the best surfing spot in Costa Rica due to its powerful waves!
Where we stayed in Puerto Viejo
I loved Puerto Viejo, and wish we spent much more time here. I also loved the vibe of the Caribbean coast more than the pacific coast, it felt more laid back and less touristy, so if that sounds like your vibe, I recommend staying longer!
We stayed at the Roots Family Hostel, which is a bamboo and wooden-made Hostel, that had that very cool, hippy vibe to it. There were also a lot more travelers staying here! Roots have a common area where other travelers would hang out and get to know each other! There were also a few hostel kitties!
Day 3-5: Cahuita (Limón Province)
Cahuita is only a short distance from Puerto Viejo! Cahuita has a really chill vibe, and as I said above, is less touristy than the pacific side! It is a very small area, but the Cahuita Nation Park is something to definitely check out!
Where we stayed in Cahuita
We stayed in this really simple, but really cool tree house called the Palm Paradise – Oceanfront Cottage. It was surrounded by wildlife! The biggest iguanas I have ever seen lounging in trees above. Howler Monkey’s swinging from branch to branch in the early mornings and evenings. Poisonous Dart Frogs, lots of Agouti and Coatis! Feet from an amazing black-sand beach, and about a 10 min walk into Cahuita downtown and the internationally renowned Cahuita National Park. Abundant wildlife and the biggest coral reef in Central America!
Things to do in Cahuita
Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park is one of my absolute favorite places in Costa Rica! I found the Caribbean side to be less crowded than the pacific coast, which meant a lot more wildlife sitings! Cahuita National Park has a 5-mile (8-kilometer) hiking trail that leads through beautiful rainforests, howler monkeys high above filling the jungle with their strong sounds! Many animals come relatively close and don’t seem to be scared off by human interactions, but remember to give them space!
Bribri Indigenous Village, Chocolate Tour & Medicinal Plants Bioenergy Cleansing Ceremony
The Bribri Indigenous Village, Medicinal Plant Healing Ceremony, and Chocolate Tour is an amazing experience! We booked our tour through Willies Tours which is right on the main street in Cahuita.
You will participate in a Cacao Ceremony with “The Healer Shaman,” and will learn the process of making chocolate using ancient archaic tools, which grind the cacao beans, making them into a paste. Next, you will do a cleansing Ceremony with a Cacao Paste Facial. Be prepared for the absolute best organic chocolate tasting!
Luis “The Healer Shaman” will walk you around the property, and show you the resourcefulness of the Bribri village, and the usage and benefits of different plants.
Then there is a Ritual Medicinal Plant Sweat Lodge Cleansing Ceremony. This is an amazing experience and helps with releasing past traumas, stress, anxiety, and fears. It is such a magical and healing experience!
An amazing typical Bribri Organic lunch will be served.
You end your tour with a hike through the rainforest to a waterfall, watching and listening to the monkeys as they swing from the trees above!
This tour is an all-day experience, and so worth it!
Day 6-10: La Fortuna
La Fortuna (Alajuela Province) is a popular destination in Costa Rica! La Fortuna is located in the Northern Highlands of Costa Rica, about 2.5 hours from San Jose’s international airport, and just under 5 hours from Cahuita. Arenal Volcano and lots of Hot Springs, both resorts and free options, are popular attractions in this area!
Where we stayed in La Fortuna
While we were in La Fortuna area, we stayed at a few different places, with friends, and just the two of us. We stayed at the Arenal Volcano Inn which has a beautiful view of the Arenal Volcano! It is about a 10-minute drive from La Fortuna downtown! We also stayed at the La Fortuna View Volcán Downtown, which was perfect for a couple, a walking distance to downtown where there was an abundance of shops, parks, and restaurants! We also stayed in a private room, basically just to sleep between Cahuita and La Fortuna as the Bribri tour was an all-day experience, and then we drove the distance that evening (this is near the airport).
Things to do in La Fortuna
Downtown La Fortuna has a lot of restaurants! I found my this was my favorite area to eat, as they had many choices! Although I found some of my favorite restaurants to be outside of downtown and near the hot springs!
La Fortuna Free Hot Springs
Just outside of La Fortuna town, you’ll find a river where the water is hot! These are naturally heated by the volcano’s thermal energy. This is free, however, there is usually someone in a work vest, requesting payment to keep your car safe… It’s up to you to decide whether to pay them or not, I believe it was $5/car. There are plenty of hot spring resorts too for a more intimate, luxurious experience! Highly recommend checking this out!
Arenal Volcano Site Seeing (or do you dare hike the volcano?)
Arenal Volcano is such an amazing site! Standing at 5,436 feet, and can be seen for miles. Hiking the volcano is illegal, however, there are plenty of tour guides in the area that will take this risk. The hike is about 8 miles total, and 4500 feet of straight incline! You start the hike around 1:30 AM to catch the sunrise, so listening to nothing but the soundscape of nature, while wandering beneath the stars! It happened to be rainy, windy, and foggy when we reached the top, so we did not get the view we hoped for, but such an amazing experience!
Interested in hiking the active volcano, here are all the details you need!
Day 11: La Fortuna to Rio Celest y Los Teñideros
Rio Celest y Los Teñideros is a must see! Rio Celest y Los Teñideros was just a mid-stop for us as we headed to Tamarindo (Guanacaste Province). Rio Celest is a magical, unreal place to experience! The Río Celeste waterfall is approximately 30 meters (98 feet) in height and the water has a very intense, vibrant beautiful blue color, surrounded by the lush jungle.
Where we stayed Near Rio Celest
We drove north from La Fortuna to Rio Celest, checked out the Tenorio Volcano National Park for the day, and then found a place for the night as a midpoint from Rio Celest to the Pacific Coast, Guanacaste Province, this is the loft Airbnb we stayed in, which was perfect for 2 traveling couples!
Things to do in Rio Celest
Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park
Rio Celeste translates to ‘light blue river’. The color is known to come from the mixing of two rivers when minerals (silicon, oxygen, + aluminum) from both rivers come together creating that vivid blue. Rio Celeste is about a 1.5-hour drive (68.4 km) from downtown La Fortuna.
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park
On our way to our midpoint (Airbnb) to Tamarindo, we took a scenic route to the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park. Rincón de la Vieja National Park is a National Park in the Guanacaste Province of the northwestern part of Costa Rica. It includes the Rincón de la Vieja and Santa María volcanoes, as well as the dormant Cerro Von Seebach. Boiling hot mud springs, sulfur springs, and an abundance of wildlife!
Day 12-15: Tamarindo (Guanacaste Province)
Tamarindo is in the district of the Santa Cruz canton, in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica, located on the Nicoya Peninsula. The town of Tamarindo is the largest developed beach town in Guanacaste, on the Pacific Coast, with the main attraction of surfing!
Where we stayed in Tamarindo
We stayed at 2 really cool boho-style inns. The first one was The Pura Vida Inn in Playa Grande and the second one was Glamping at the Flor y Bambú!
The Pura Vida Inn in Playa Grande is a really chill vibe, rooms are great, a large swimming pool, and an outdoor bar/common area!
The Flor y Bambú offers a glamping experience in Playa Grande, Costa Rica. A little more of a splurge, but totally worth it! It is surrounded by beautiful gardens, a terrace with a pool, a cafe with amazing food, free bicycles to use, and many activities to connect with nature.
Things to do in Tamarindo
Tamarindo is a world-class surfing destination! You can often find surf instructors around the beach or surf shops offering surf lessons for a reasonable price!
Walk Downtown Tamarindo
There are tons of shops and a variety of restaurants to check out downtown!
Go Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, or Sailing!
There are many diving, snorkeling, and sailing tours in Tamarindo! If you love beach towns, this is the place for you!
Day 16-19: Monteverde
Monteverde is a small town in the mountain ranges of Costa Rica and a major destination for ecotourism in the country. Monteverde made me feel at home! About 3 hours from San Jose, and a little of 3 hours from Tamarindo! Monteverde is known as the best place to experience a cloud forest. We loved being able to take some time to slow down here and enjoy the views from our Airbnb!
Where we stayed in Monteverde
We stayed at this amazing Cabaña Paraiso Farm stay, another favorite Airbnb in Costa Rica! Nestled atop a hill with lovely views overlooking the verdant green valleys of the Monteverde forests and pasturelands! They offer meals with fresh ingredients from the farm!
Things to do in Monteverde
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
If you have been researching Costa Rica, you have likely come across the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the world’s most visited cloud forests. However, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is equally as beautiful, and has a lot fewer people! The Santa Elena Cloud Forest is higher in elevation at 1600 meters (5250 feet) than Monte Verde and has 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) of well-maintained trails. The forest is so thick and lush, and lots of wildlife to be spotted!
We saw species here we didn’t spot in other parks, like Tarantulas!
Day 20: Monteverde to Jaco to Quepos
Jaco was just a midway stop from Monteverde. Jaco is the closest major beachside destination to the capital city of San Jose. Jaco is considered to be one of Costa Rica’s most developed beach towns, with a bustling main strip! Jaco seems to be known for its crocodiles, and we can attest to that!
If you like noise and to party, this is the place for you. There are a ton of restaurants, bars, and clubs along the main strip, and a casino too! Definitely a cool place to check out if you need to spice things up!
The Land of the Crocodiles!
Along a busy main highway near Jaco is a main bridge over Tárcoles River known as “puente de cocodrilo,” or “crocodile bridge.” You will likely spot dozens of crocodiles, easily 13 feet long and weighing hundreds of pounds each, hanging out under the bridge as they sun themselves. A rather cool, and unusual site to check out!
Day 20-23: Quepos
Quepos is a harbor town in the province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. About a 3.5-hour drive from Monteverde. This town is named after the indigenous people of the area, the Quepos natives! Well known for its proximity to Manuel Antonio National Park! The town has a variety of restaurants, bars, and shopping.
Where we stayed in Quepos
We stayed at this really cool condo-like complex that we found on Airbnb. A jungle right outside the balcony, where you can watch the monkeys and tucans! They include an amazing vegan breakfast that is delivered right to your room! They offer daily activities for an extra fee such as yoga, salsa dancing, dinner, and hikes! It is located right in town, so walking to restaurants, shops and the beach!
We also stayed in a Hostel called Villa Escondida. Located in a beautiful farm area called “Finca Los Alfaro,” very near to Quepos.
Things to do in Quepos
Manuel Antonio National Park
The Manuel Antonio National Park is a must!!! Manuel Antonio National Park is a small national park located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, just south of the city of Quepos. The park fee is a bit expensive. It is the smallest park in Costa Rica, but rich in biodiversity. You walk on a boardwalk, through the jungle, which eventually leads you to some beautiful beaches! The more secluded beach is Playa Espadilla Sur — but watch your belongings, the monkeys are great at searching and taking valuables or food from your packs while you’re swimming! The Iguanas were abundant too!!
When we visited there was a huge surfing competition that was going on, really cool to watch! The waves here were massive and too intense for me, but if you like that thrill, then get some surf lessons!
Day 24-27: Uvita (+ Dominical)
Uvita is a VIBE! My favorite Pacific Coast Beach “town!” Uvita is less than an hour drive from Quepos. This may be an unpopular opinion, but Uvita has the best sunsets in Costa Rica! So you may notice, I like the quieter, less touristy areas. Uvita is it! It’s small, it’s quiet, other than the howler monkeys! It has your basic supermarkets, pharmacies, local restaurants, banks, and gas stations. Uvita is often known for the Whales Tail and Marino Ballena National Park.
Dominical is on the way from Quepos to Uvita and is a cool town to check out!
Dominical is a chill surf town on the Central Pacific Coastline, about 28 miles south of Quepos. Some of the best waves of Central America are found at Dominical Beach — this is where John took surf lessons! They have a cool natural foods store called Mama Tucan’s Natural Market & Deli! And there is a lot of chill, boho-style restaurants in this area!
Where we stayed in Uvita
We stayed at this Cozy loft just 50 meters from the beach, pretty basic, nothing glamorous, but perfect for us!
Things to do in Uvita
Marino Ballena National Park + Whales Tail
This park was specifically created to protect marine life such as turtles, dolphins, coral, and humpback whales. It is known as the best place to spot humpback whales! And the shape of the beach is a whale’s tale!! The best sunsets are here!!
Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park is a National Park on the Osa Peninsula. The Corcovado National Park requires a tour guide! Corcovado National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, it contains over five percent of the world’s animal population. National Geographic describes it as the “most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity.”
You can take an early morning 1.5-hour boat ride starting at Punta Uvita beach to Corcovado National Park. Along the way, you might spot dolphins, turtles, whales (when in season), and more. You’ll likely spot spider, squirrel, howler, and white-faced monkeys, sloths, a variety of snakes, frogs, coatis, tapirs, and a diversity of birds, plants, and trees. And you’ll end with a visit to a small waterfall!
Day 27-30: Rivas (Near Mount Chirripó)
San Gerardo de Rivas is a small town in the Talamanca Mountains in the South Central region of Costa Rica. It is very close to the highest mountain in Costa Rica, Cerro Chirripó. This area is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, as there is not necessarily a town, but more of cloud forests, rivers, mountains, and waterfalls.
Where we stayed in Rivas
We stayed at the Yellowcathouse Airbnb which is an amazing space full of tranquility, peace, love, and serenity with breathtaking views, near a mountain, rivers, hot springs, and butterfly sanctuary. We did not want to leave this space!!
Another cool place we stayed was the Rustic Cabin and Tranquility Airbnb!
Things to do in Rivas
Hiking Cerro Chirripó
Cerro Chirripó is the tallest mountain in Costa Rica, rising 12,533 feet above sea level. This is a 12.4-mile trail that with an elevation gain of 7,218 feet. However, reservations need to be made way in advance, as they only allow so many people up at a time… Unfortunately, I tried for months to get reservations and was not successful… So we did not get to climb this beauty! You can get your permit here through the Chirrpó National Park website.
Cloudbridge Nature Reserve
The Cloudbridge Nature Reserve is a private Reserve and Research Center protecting the cloudforest nearby Chirripó National Park. Lots of hiking trails, waterfalls, and nature!
Kapi Kapi Chirripo Eco Mercado & Café
The Kapi Kapi Chirripo Eco Mercado & Café is located just over 5 miles from the Yellowcathouse Airbnb, I walked it, however, the road is basically walking up a mountain! The Kapi Kapi Chirripo Eco Mercado & Café is an organic grocery store and cafe. A really cool vibe, a bar area, and a place to get a healthy organic meal and watch the wildlife right in front of you as your sit at the bar. They often have different events, music, yoga, and massages that are offered in this space. 10/10 do recommend!
Day 31: Rivas to San Jose
Rivas to San Jose is about a 4-hour drive, so I recommend staying somewhere close to the airport to make traveling back home less stressful with such a long drive to the airport. We stayed in this private room of a nice couple’s house that was very near to the airport!
More Costa Rica Travel Inspiration
Costa Rica 4-Week Itinerary
Arenal Volcano Volcano Hiking Guide
Ultimate Hiking Guide for Costa Rica
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