We recently traveled to Costa Rica with our kids and had great times of adventure there. We had heard for so long about Costa Rica’s beauty, and it felt good to finally visit such a famous destination with the family. Before traveling we did lots of research and created the perfect Costa Rica 10 day Itinerary for our family, and I am sharing it with you!
I have created a comprehensive and practical guide of all things you need to know to travel there. Here, you will find what we did and what we learned during this trip. I’m offering other itinerary options so you can take advantage of this information for your next trip.
Definitely, Costa Rica has so much to offer, and there are many great places to visit once you get there. As you probably know, we love slow travel and staying in one place long enough so we can get a bit sense of the country. Doing so, we get to enjoy better their food and learn about their people. Also, this way it feels more like a relaxing vacation rather than a sprint to see as much as possible. This slower pace is important, especially with family.
We chose to stay mostly in the Guanacaste region because we love beaches! However, I have some suggestions for extra time there for what I did an extended research.
First, keep in mind that Costa Rica, once you get there, feels big and has many attractions areas with lots of fun adventure for all. In this post I will share itineraries and I will explain places to visit by areas. It depends in what you like better to choose your destination. Of course, in just about the whole country you can experience nature, hot springs, waterfalls and jungles.
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 Days:
Here are the different Itineraries you can use for your convenience and needs
Costa Rica 10 day family Itinerary for slow travel: Guanacaste South and North
Explore Guanacaste from the South to the North. Guanacaste is one of the busiest areas in Costa Rica, but honestly we like that and also we stayed in hotels that didn’t make it feel super busy at all.
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 day: Day 1 in Tamarindo
Arrival from Liberia airport is approximately 1 hour 15 minutes.
We found a great deal and stayed at Occidental Tamarindo, arriving later in the day. Since they were in COVID curfew we couldn’t go to explore Tamarindo. When we arrived around 10:30 pm, there were no taxis on street and restaurants closed at 10 PM, including the restaurant at hotel, but they were kind enough to give us some cake they’d had on hand.
However, if by the time you read this blog post the curfew is lifted, I recommend you just go enjoy a late walk at this city and take all its energy in.
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Day 2
The next day we visit Langosta beach and check surf rental. Langosta beach is located on the south of Tamarindo about mile and a half. You can access to this beach by public access parking on the road to occidental hotel and just walk through a dirt path on the street.
Another thing you can do to check this beach is to take a horse ride from from Tamarindo to this area. You can also explore the tide pools and walk as far at the beach.
At Langosta beach you find good surf and can contact any surf school to enjoy a surf lesson here. Our son rented a surf board and went surfing. However, this is not an area for beginner surfers. He really likes this surf break.
This beach white sands is quieter and significantly less crowed that Tamarindo although it is very close. this is because it doesn’t have all the restaurants and facilities that Tamarindo has for the toruist. There is beach access by Calle Playa Langosta.
It is good for swimming when the currents is right and at the right place. There is a lifeguard from the hotel occidental from 8-5 pm preventing and helping people close to the beach in front of the hotel.
When you can’t swim in the ocean you have the river coming from the Las Baulas National Marine Park to the ocean. It creates a fun lazy river that people enjoy getting on on. It is very relaxing.
We spend a day not doing much just at the beach, swimming, getting in the lazy river and lay down at the beach. Believe me this lay back area worth it .
At Langosta beach there is plenty of tide pools that we enjoyed exploring
While relaxing at the beach we trying the Guaro Sour made with Costa Rica’s sugarcane called Cacique Guaro. The guaro sour, is a very popular cocktail made with Cacique Gauro, lemon and sugar syrup. You should try it!
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Day 3
We decided to have another beach day as well. If you stay at hotel you could also enjoy the pool. We saw some iguanas fighting on the tree right across our room, they were huge and it was an unexpectet nature show! the boys love it.
Also, at the beach we enjoyed the presence of different birds. We love that we didn’t need to go far to see nature.
In the evening we went for a walk to Tamarindo town with the boys. In our way there we found a huge family of monkeys that live on the trees around just walking through the electric cable lines. You can see that here. It was quite a show.
Tamarindo is about 15 minutes waking and 5 minutes by car from playa Langosta, but if you stay in Tamarindo enjoy it.
Tamarindo town lay along the Tamarindo beach in the past it was a quiet fishing village. It is a very alive beach and town with lots of restaurants and nightlife. Great for not just surfers and also for families. There are snorkeling tour in Tamarindo like this
The Northern end of the beach has bigger waves, and that other area is good for swimming and surf lessons. It is pretty busy but you can find any type of food just strolling down the beach that is super long about 1.5 miles. Don’t forget getting some souvenirs here, and just enjoy be around locals and of course tourist.
Try the ice cream at Venezia Gelati and caffe located at Calle Tamarindo Diria and stroll around the busy town.
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Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Day 4
After swimming in the morning at the beach by hotel we departed to go to Rincon de la Vieja (1 hour to from Tamarindo area) and stay in Hacienda Guachipelin. Check deal here. We decided to stay there after found out that many attractions are walking distance and the Hacienda has free shuttles to take you to your destinations.
This because we were not renting a car to move around. We wanted to relax and enjoy walking around. We took a taxi to get there and cost around $100 but there are more affordable option.
Check our favorite roller for international trips here
Rincon de la Vieja is a National Park is what locals recommend us to visit and they were right. This is the costal active volcano in Guanacaste and the largest one in the area. this park was decelerate by UNESCO as World Heritage Site of the Guanacaste Conservation Area. If you are not staying there the entrance cost in c 800 pesos.
The name Rincon de la Vieja means “The Old Woman’s Corner”, or “Old Woman’s Nook”. There is a legend that states that “the princes Curabanda whose lover Mixcoac, was the chief of a neighboring enemy tribe, was thrown into the crater by her father Curabande after he learned about their affair”. “After she refuged on the side of he volcano and fate she gave birth a son she throw him to the volcano so she can be with his father. where she lived the rest of her life and got healing powers.”
The volcano erupted in 2021 so now is an active volcano and it is not possible to get the close anymore for now. However, you find hot springs and fumaroles close by. Together with Rincón de la Vieja the other six active volcanos in Costa Rica are Poás, Irazú, Miravalles, Arenal, and Turrialba.
Once we arrive and settled down we did a short hike to Chorreras waterfall that is located very close to the hotel hacienda Guachipelin. Just 1.5 km about a 20 minutes walk it was easy to find with the boys and signals around. Just be aware you swim under you own risk and it is not a place for diving. It is quiet and relaxing.
It is a pool formed by a tropical waterfall. do you see the blue water? the area is warm and the dark water is cold is so cool and we had it all to ourselves!
You find Two twin falls cascade of mineral water!!! because there is a small canyon of volcanic rock surrounds the falls and the pool, creating an intimate and private tropical oasis for a refreshing dip.
To get there you walk around a dry tropical forest and observing the birds.
My son loved finding a colony of cutter leaves ants working hard. it was a relaxing evening then we grab some food at hotel.
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Day 5
Try Water rafting at Rio Tenorio
The next day we check our family bucket list doing water rafting at Rio Tenorio. You can reserve online this service here or here. It was our first water rafting adventure in family and it was a great experience. Although, I was nervous for the boys to be okay they do great. The thing that gives me peace of mind is that they are great swimmers. We flipped twice and they were smiling like they had an ice cream, they love this experience more than I did.
You can find many water rafting companies just check online. Look for one with good reviews and well know. We did it with Tenorio adventure, they provide us breakfast and transport to the area where the river was.
Although they gave us short explanation, our guide was quiet but well knowledge. I think to do water rafting with kids there is always a risk so you have to know what are your kids capable of.
This was so much fun. once we back boys were tire but my husband and I were still with energy to explore so we head to explore more of the National Park Rincon de la Vieja.
After come back, we did a short hike to Poza Roja a short distance from the hotel. it was windy but we made it walking through the dry forest just 1.5 km hike and in the way there you find archeological sites and explanation of native people.
The Poza Roja has red stone and water was cold but is a very relaxing area with water coming from the river.
We arrived late but during the day would have been more beautiful. It is surrounded by the dry forest and super picturesque. After that you can head to the hotel which is very convenient.
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Day 6
We choose to star the day early with the plan to do a short hike and visit the waterfall Oropenza, you can do this and also Hike to volcano path Rincon de la Vieja.
This is on The Las Pailas sector you can find Fumaroles, geysers, bubbling mud pots, and many other attractions give you an experience that you won’t find in any other volcano in Costa Rica. It is a 2.10 miles loop through the tropical dry forest.
The Oropendola waterfall, is an impressive 25 meters waterfall, falls into a bubbling turquoise pool in the exuberant canyon of the Blanco River. It is pretty cold but relaxing.
You can reach the Rincon de la Vieja National Park and La Oropendola Waterfall using the hotel’s transportation, in one or both directions.
The hotel shuttle schedule drop off at 8:30 so we brought our breakfast and their pick up time was at 11:30 we got few hours of fun there.
Once on the entrance You need to do a short hike and walk through a hanging bridge that can carry 200 pound at the time until you reach the waterfall.
If you are not staying at the hacienda you can book similar adventure here
It has an area where you ca jump from and it is not crowded. We spent few hours there and it was pretty quiet most of the time. The boys enjoyed jumping there and I even jumped for the first time in my life.
Then we went to explore the other waterfall that are smaller. We took the shuttle that drop us at Rio Negro Hot springs. After a cold waterfall the hot springs were perfect for relaxing. We spend an hour there enjoying the hot spring and refreshing on the cold river.
Here, we saw a river snake but the hot spring but the people in charge of the park took acre of it. Exciting!!! On the entrance they provide you towel and there are bathrooms and changing rooms
If you are not staying at the hacienda you can book similar adventure here
Just a very close distance you find the Rio negro waterfalls it is a 0.8 miles hike with 4 small waterfalls that takes about 20 minutes to finish. We love this tiny waterfall it was pleasant to swimming there.
We sat of the Botton of one getting there very carefully because it can be slippery and felt the waterfall in our heads it was so relaxing. ire command you not to miss it if you are in this area. The boys wanted to jump but if it is not recommend it to dive and make sure if deep enough to jump there.
Now that we were all relaxed we decided to go to and after having lunch we decided to end the day with a zip lining adventure in the canyon. We made our reservations and went for lunch at hotel.
I know it sound like a lot but we had enough energy. You could do this in 2 days if you want to.
Go ziplining in Hacienda Guachipelin:
This zip lining experience is so unique at Hacienda Guachipelin. We zip ling through the White River Canyon, form by water erosion over million of years, and cross. Not just 1 or 2 zip lines we did 8 ! from treetop to treetop above past grand waterfalls, with rappel and rock climb including swing like Tarzan that stop our hearts.
We found this at the adventure center in Hacienda Guachipelin. Just walking distance from our hotel’s and we though it would be and great experience to do in family. I cost total around $200 for 4 of us.
It was sure more than we expected but the canyon is impressive and this experience is full of adrenaline. We crossed hanging bridges, with a rapel of 20 meter but no one of us wanted to do it. the tour last more than an hour and the Tarzan swimming was there scariest part for me. it remind me my fear for heigh. The one the wasn’t scared at all was my 10 year old. Check the video of our experience here.
We love staying in Hacienda Guachipelin because everything was was distance accessible. So convenient when you have kids. I highly recommend this place for adventure seekers.
If you are not staying at the hacienda you can book this adventure here
Other combination you can have at hacienda guachipilin are:
Hacienda Guachipelin One Day Adventure Pass and you can book it here
Check more tours in Guachipilin here
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Day 7
We left the beautiful hotel in hacienda Guachipelin after breakfast and head to Visit Goulf de Papagayo. It took us about an hour to get there.
Unfortunately, the beach from our hotel was non swimmable due to arch so after setting down we decide to head to explore Playa Coco.
Located 20 minutes from there.
A taxi will cost you $25 but we need to go there since we need it cash.
Costa Rica doesn’t have many ATM machines, and also they mostly accept cash in restaurants. So while we were eating at hotel was okay but when we need to visit restaurants it was tricky if they didn’t accept cards.
Playa Coco is a popular local spot and sort of big around this area. It has lots of commercial places, restaurants and sort of big town. Here is where you can find the appreciate ATM machines in the area. Although this beach doesn’t have pristine water. It is where lots of locals hang out and there is so much street food, kids playing basketball without shoes. We stroll down and watch the sunset form there.
Although we found a group of kids didn’t mind playing volleyball over us. We got a taste of local life for sure.
We ate at a local restaurant, but the fly problem made hard to eat. Unfortunately we didn’t find any food in Costa Rica amazing. I will say if you like to see local living explore Playa del Coco be ready for discomfort which is what travel for right?
At Paya coco you can book a Catamaran tour like this or a
It is located 1 hr 24 min from Tamarindo and 30 minutes taxi cost $35
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Day 8
Go Sport fishing at Papagayo Gulf
My husband wanted to check his bucket list and catch a big fish. You can book a sport finish boat online they pick you up by our hotel. They pick up us in playa Panama (remember Is not swimmable friendly) jump on the boat and go out to Papagayo Golf. We saw many schools of Tunas jumping .
During our trip in the bote we were lucky to fins a huge pack of whale 7 in total. We were lucky to find a pack of whales (7 in total) even the locals fisherman were surprised to see the many. It was just magical.
After the magnificent show we were able to caught a barracuda and we took I to aqua sport restaurant where the cook it for us and spend the rest of the day there. During the sport fishing tour they will make tuna and feed us providing refreshment and they were very helpful. They caught several fishes and was a fun experience for the boys.
With your fish you can either go back to the hotel or stop at Playa hermosa to get it cook. We did and hang out at Aqua Sport where they made a ceviche for us and some chicharrones for no additional cost.
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Day 9
On our lat day since we were enchanted by Playa Hermosa, so we decided to come back the taxi cost us $25. It is a short distance but is the cost of taxis in Costa Rica since there are no many as well as ATM Machines!
We played at the beach, got a beach massage per $45 and rented Jet skies and cost $100 per an hour – you dont sign any weaver 🙈
However we didn’t drive the much and the money we save in renting a car we use it for other adventure as sport fishing. A perfect way to end a great trip.
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Day 10
A day to get ready and leave to airport. We took our Covid test the day before and results were ready this day.
If you want to ad some extra adventure to your trip check this tour and ad it to your list.
If Rincon de la Vieja hacienda Guachipilin here is fully booked here another great option.
There is a choice to fill up one of these days with a day trip to Volcano Arenal check this
Some People get a car, you can do that but we like slow traveler when you stay at one place and enjoy and also support the local this tips of traveling is also more eco friendly. However is up to everyone budget.
The hotel Occidental was okay not excellent for the price, but it was close to playa Papagayo so a great location.
In new year was very prizie but we don’t have many chicer since places we want to be were bucket. We choose this expensive choice because we travel wit kids and long hike in the heat are not pleasant either for adults.
Our trip happened around late December and early January so keep that in mind.
We usually don’t go to many different places in short amount of time in order to don’t overpack our schedule and be able to relax in our trips. I always recommend leave few days to spontaneous local exploring.
You can do ziplinnig, water rafting and canyon in most of Costa Rica areas; you should include these activities in a Costa Rica Itinerary of 10 days.
In Costa Rica there is so much to see and you could easily go to 4 places in 2 day but that is not what we enjoy. However, if that is what you looking for I will give you choices you would like. The main tourist areas I will say are: Guanacaste, Arenal and the Caribbean.
Next, I will share other itineraries for a trip to Costa Rica, explaining areas and distances. You will need to check the rest of this post to understand the areas I am suggesting you:
COSTA RICA OTHER 10 DAYS ITINERARIES IDEAS:
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Guanacaste and Arenal
Day 1: arrive to Guanacaste, set at hotel and explore Tamarindo.
Day 2: take a surf lesson at Tamarindo.
Day 3: visit Rincon de la Vieja and explore Poza Roja.
Day 4: Visit Oropenza waterfall and Rio Negro Hot springs.
Day 5: visit Chorreras and walk to Volcano.
Day 6: travel to Arenal approximately 2h 13m to drive from Guanacaste to Arenal Volcano .
Day 7: explore Arenal waterfall.
Day 8: visit hanging bridges and do zip lining.
Day 9: Water rafting at Arenal.
Day 10: Drive back to San Jose or Liberian.
Costa Rica Itinerary 13 days South Guanacaste, Arenal and Caribbean
Day 1: arrive to Guanacaste, set at hotel and explore Tamarindo
Day 2: surf at Tamarindo.
Day 3: visit Rincon de la Vieja, explore poza roja
Day 4: Visit Oropenza waterfall and Rio Negro Hot springs
Day 5: Visit Chorreras and hike around Volcano
Day 6: travel to Arenal approximately 3h to drive from Guanacaste to Arenal Volcano
Day 7: explore Arenal waterfall
Day 8: visit hanging bridges and do zip lining
Day 9: water rafting
Day 10: leave to Caribbean side approximately 3 hours
Day 11: take a boat ride to tortugero
Day 12: Explore Tortuguero
Day 13: day to back to airplane and back airport Liberia or San Jose
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Arenal and Monteverde
Day 1: arrive and travel to Arenal approximately 3h to drive from Guanacaste to Arenal Volcano
Day 2: explore Arenal waterfall
Day 3: do hanging bridges and zip lining
Day 4: water rafting and Visit doña mara for a tortilla making class and authentic homemade lunch.
Day 5: drive to Monteverde.
Day 6 : travel to Arenal approximately 3h to drive from Arenal Volcano to Monteverde
Day 7: Hiking in the Monteverde cloud forest.
Day 8: visit Curi-Cancha reserve and Skytrek hanging bridges
Day 9: choose among Ziplining, Night wildlife tour, Horse ride
Day 10: leave to airport. It takes aprox. 3 hours.
Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: Manuel Antonio and Monteverde
Day 1: arrive and drive to Manuel Antonio
Day 2: Monkey Mangrove boat tour
Day 3: Adventure tour
Day 4: Do Horseback and waterfall tours
Day 5: try a Surf lessons or/and water rafting
Day 7: Hiking in the Monteverde cloud forest.
Day 8: visit Curi-Cancha reserve and Skytrek hanging bridges
Day 9: choose among Ziplining, Night wildlife tour, Horse ride
Day 10: leave to airport apron 3 hours.
Things to consider for a family vacation in Costa Rica
When you travel to Costa Rica to make the most of your time you need to thing about what are your priorities: if you want to see every touristic attraction or relax and enjoy jungle. You ned to considerate distances and time available.
Costa Rica has so many areas to visit the list can go on and on. For example if you go to Costa Rica to learn to surf or surf great waves it is important to considerate best surf spots are in Tamarindo, Guanacaste North but this areas areas are far from volcano Arenal and la Fortuna area about 4 hours in car from San Jose airport and 2 from Liberia. It has a domestic airport so you could book a fly.
However, if you are looking for a jungle experience you should think about spending more time exploring el Arenal area in the Fortuna or South of Guanacaste and the Caribbean in Tortuguero Area.
What are the Airports in costa Rica?
San Jose Airpot
Is one of the most important international airports in Costa Rica, located in San Jose Costa Rica about 3 hours from Guanacaste, approximately 3 hours from Fortuna area and 2 hours 40 minutes approximately from Manuel Antonio.
Liberia International Airport The Daniel Oduber International Airport
This is one of two international airports in Costa Rica. It is located in Guanacaste’s capital city of Liberia. The region’s best resorts and beaches are just an hour away by car.
Located approximately 1 hour from Tamarindo Guanacaste, 4 hours to la Fortuna area and 4 hours driving from Manuel Antonio.
Arenal Airport Arenal Airport
It is the domestic airport serving La Fortuna, a district in San Carlos Canton, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica. named after the Arenal Volcano. It takes 1 hour to fly from Liberia to Arenal airport.
IS TAMARINDO WORTH VISIT ?
We included in our Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days and this is why. If you are looking for the best surf spot in Costa Rica and want to enjoy the sunshine or learn to surf, definitely worth the visit and spending time on this area. Tamarindo is located at the north area in Guanacaste.
Distance from airport Liberia 1 hour drive and 10 minutes.
Distance from airport San Jose is approximately 4h
IS ARENAL WORTH VISIT?
The Arenal volcano is one of the most famous Volcanos in Costa Rica. However, costa Rica has other volcanos. This Volcano has a beautiful symmetrical cone shaped and that is why is popular. Specially because is surrounded by a fertile landscape: the Arenal Volcano National Park. Until recently, it was the country’s most active volcano with an average of 41 eruptions per day! Although the Arenal Volcano is currently in a resting phase, the region offers an abundance of exciting adventures.
To see the Volcano Arenal you need to time it correctly. This is because as a tropical area sometimes can be surrounded by tropical clouds by rainforest so chances are you may not ever see a clear view of the Volcano. I know people has travel all the way there and haven’t been able to see it. The area where is located is just gorgeous and you can do lots of adventure stuff but if you are looking for the view of the Volcano make sure too during the right time if the year April to October.
Although some people feel that because the volcano is not erupting since 2010 is not worth going but other people disagree.
Arenal Volcano is located in north-western Costa Rica. Roughly 4-hours by car from SanJose. You will love the lusciously green this area has and filled with exotic flowers, waterfalls, and wildlife.
Here is a mini itinerary for few fun things you could do in this area:
Distance from airport Liberia is 2 hr 30 min.
Distance from airport San Jose is about 4 hour 30 minutes.
However for the road situation can take longer. If you’re coming from Playas del Coco, Gulf of Papagayo, Conchal or Tamarindo, it is around 4 hours. So plan to spend a day driving.
A rental cart will cost approximate $400 per 10 days.
Arenal Itinerary for 4 days visit
If you don’t need a Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days here is another option just for 4 days:
Day 1: hike to see the Wild Sloth Spotting and Hanging Bridges overlooking a scenic lake
Day 3: Hiked and swim at La fortune waterfall
Vernado Cave tour, or day pass to The Springs to river tube.
Where to stay:
Parrot Hill Ranch if you want to get away form expensive resorts and a homestay feeling. located 30 minutes from town. To get to this place you will need a 4X4 or high-clearance rental vehicle to access to this 50-acre location.
This is a working ranch’s animals and kids can help with animals; with easy access to horseback riding, hiking, and archery. The house comes with a full kitchen but meals are available.
Arenal Springs If you want a bit more luxury feeling Stayed at this is an amazing resort at Rio Guanacaste. Both have activity centers (zipline lines, horseback riding, etc right on property). Lots of natural hot springs of different temperatures, private villa style rooms.
Los Lagos resort at la Fortuna
Volcano Lodge with a Hotel and Thermal experience. It has rooms with private thermal pools.
Finca Luna Nueva has beautiful family bungalows
IS LA FORTUNA AREA WORTH VISIT?
Definitely, I always encourage people to thing about what they are looking into their trips, so if your trip is to see the jungle. Definitely this is a great area to to explore the jungle in Costa Rica and try different adventures as zip lining, water rafting. This area is full of lush rainforest greenery.
One great attraction is La Fortuna Waterfall one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, just a 15-minute hike. Another popular place to visit is Arenal Hanging Bridges.
PRIORITIZE YOUR TIME VISITING COSTA RICA WITH KIDS
One of the most important part of a successful trip with kids to Costa Rica is to prioritize your time. Costa Rica has so many attractions on different parts of the country and the distance can be long and roads are not always good and make the trips longer. You not always have to do every touristic thing. I recommend you choose and area to explore if you have limited time if you don’t want feel in a rush. however if you have plenty of time to explore. Go of it.
Costa Rica is a great place to relax ; thing about what you enjoy and your family you can fid adventure things to do in almost every area in Costa Rica as waterraflting and ziplinning.
Also thing about what are your kids are capable of doing according for their age, for example can they go water rafting or spending time at the beach is better.
Remember if you bring a little one make sure to bring the proper gear so for hiking a good backpack or carrier that is the clue of success. also plan the hikes and outdoor time around nap time if you kid really needs quiet time. Every kid is different my kids used to slept in the carrier while hiking however there are kids that need really a very quiet environment. you know your kid better than anyone else.
Just don’t over think most of Costa Rica offers you fund adventures. You cant see all in one trip but enjoy where you go!
DRIVING OR NOT DRIVING AND AREAS TO VISIT:
Take in consideration driving time to places. For example if you are flying into San Jose airport and plan on spending a few days in the Manuel Antonio area and then driving to La Fortuna for a few days. You need to understand that it could take about five hours, what area you prefer? can kids handle the drive? Plan your stops and driving a lot. Since the road can be in bad shape it can be uncomfortable sometimes.
If you go only for a week staying Manuel Antonio and then go to La Fortuna, it probably will feel rushed especially if you are renting a car and driving between the two areas. We heard it wasn’t an easy drive and takes the most part of a day.
If you want to do beach and jungle Guanacaste and La Fortuna has similar driving distances about 5 hours. I would recommend a private transfer if you want to be worry free and saves time!
If you rent a car Costa Rica required everyone to have 3rd part insurance which is bought in Costa Rica. They do not accept your credit card insurance or any other insurance. Check Expedia or such they can either that insurance into your price or will be an add-on when you’re picking up your car. You can find them through expedia.com with insurance included for about $17/day. Adobe has the best reviews.
If you planning to drive from Manuel Antonio to la Fortune. It can take about 5 hours with few stops to stretch, but is long I will recommend someone driving you I can’t imagine driving those roads and having to worry about directions.
Car sickness can be real and you can bring pressure point bracelets. My kid really get car sick. Dramamine or Noggle are good for car sick. Cool air helps a lt and the Noggle is an extension of the car’s air vent .
A popular option is to do San Jose to La Fortunate and then Manuel Antonio and then skip the other coast and save for the next trip.
If you choose that do 3 days la Fortuna and 5 days Manuel Antonio. Because I rather time at the beach but if you prefer beach then do it different.
If you are going somewhere and staying like we did in Rincon de la Vieja, somewhere that has all the activities then getting a car is not necessarily. If you want to leave the hotel a lot and do a bunch of excursions I would get a rental car. When we visited we got a driver to take us to Guanacaste, then Rincon de la Vieja, then back to the airport. The water rafting company pick us up, most of them offer that including it on the package.
Few Rental Car Companies:
Odyssey Tours Puntarenas
Costa Rica for drivers.
Basic information about Costa Rica: Caribbean Side and Pacific Side of Costa Rica
The Pacific side Is the area more develop in Costa Rica specially the areas close to airport like cities in Guanacaste. It is divided into several sections: North Guanacaste, South Guanacaste, Nicoya Peninsula, Central Pacific, South Pacific and the Osa Peninsula.
The Southwest you go the more rustic it gets and rural and less developed it is. However, still gorgeous.
The Caribbean coast is such a gorgeous part of Costa Rica and it is divided into two main areas: Caribbean North (Tortuguero) and Caribbean South (Puerto Viejo).
In the Caribbean you find untouched beaches with pristine water, and remote non-commercial areas. However is hard to access and requires more logistic. For this reason you will find instead of luxury resorts the Caribbean vibe lay back and relaxing with huts and bamboo bungalows that blend with nature. What you get is the less crowd that other areas and get surrounded by nature including monkeys and sloths!
What to do in Guanacaste Costa Rica with kids – Itinerary 10 days:
Guanacaste is the main province on the Pacific coast and located on the northwest of Costa Rica. It is one of the most develop and touristic area in the country. However, don’t be concern it is nothing like Cancun style. It has areas with a lay back vibe but it is growing rapidly.
It is well known for their great surf spots with a mix geography that offers adventure of any type. Guanacaste covers the southeast part of the Nicoya Peninsula and limited with Puntarenas province.
In Guanacaste you find Santa Rosa National Park that is home to rare dry tropical forest. The province is bounded on the east by a group of green-swathed volcanoes forming the Cordillera de Guanacaste (which features Orosi, Rincón de la Vieja, Miravalles and Tenorio volcanoes) and the Cordillera de Tilarán.
So, if you are looking for volcanos but not in perfect cone shape you will be in the right place. take in consideration the active volcanos in Costa Rica are Tenorio, Miravalles, Orosi, and Rincon de la Vieja. Some of them used for the production of electricity through geo-thermal power plants, impressive craters with fumaroles and geysers, and cool Cloud Forest on the mountain tops
When it comes to vibes and crowds, Northern Guanacaste and the Tamarindo has the most with more expats. It has lots of all-inclusives resorts. Samara, Nosara, Montezuma and Santa Teresa are also torusitic. The Central Pacific towns of Jaco and Manuel Antonio are extremely touristy and developed but the South Pacific is completely opposite, but as I said harder to get there.
The northern part is limited with Nicaragua and the Gulf of Papagayo. You find here great beaches specially in the gulf of Papagayo and many water sport and snorkeling, surfing ad more. One of the reason this area is popular is due to is close to Liberian International airport and you find many resorts. Many spats has move here and has become develop over years.
Despite being the driest coastal area in Costa Rica, It is home of one of the remnant of tropical dry forest left in Central America. I will strongly suggest you to include this area in your Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days.
Few of the well know beaches in this area are Playa del Coco, Playa Hermosa, Playa Flamingo, Playa Conchal, Tamarindo, and the Papagayo Peninsula.
Tamarindo is a big beach and popular spot for locals and tourist and a raid growing area. The town of Tamarindo lay along the Tamarindo beach in the past it was a quite fishing village. It is a very alive beach and town with lots of restaurants and nightlife. Great for not just surfers also for families. The Northern end of the beach has bigger waves, and that other area is good for swimming.
Among other hotels Capitan Suizo hotel stand up is in Tamarindo right on the beach, hotel rooms or bungalows that are very spacious, zero-entry pool with monkeys in the trees overhead & walkable to places in town.
Distance This fun town is located 1 hour 17 minutes from airport and taxis cost between $75 and $90
Distance from airport San Jose is 5 hours and 3 hours from Liberian airport
As I said this beach white sands is quieter and significantly less crowed that Tamarindo although it is very close. Located by the occidental Tamarindo however there is beach access by Calle Playa Langosta. It is a great place for advance surfer and also for swimming when the currents is right and at the right place. there is a lifeguard from the hotel from 8-5 pm preventing and helping people. When you can swim in the ocean you have the river coming the Las Baulas National Marine Park build an awesome lazy river that people enjoy getting on on.
Distance located 10 minutes walking from Tamarindo or 5 minutes driving. Taxis are $10
We didn’t visit this beach but we hear has white sand and clear warm water, Playa Conchal is a popular destination for families and sun lovers.
Distance located just North of Tamarindo Only 20 minutes from Tamarindo taxis cost $25 each trip
Here you can rent jets ski click here to see how.
El Rincon de la Vieja
As I explained Rican de la Vieja in Guanacaste is a must visit! Find our itinerary on the top of this post. Here you find one of the active volcano in Costa Rica, also Zip Lining adventure, the Oropendola Waterfall and pails Trails, where you can admire the varied terrain and animal watching, also Poza Roja and Chorrreras waterfall loop among other amazing thing.
We love staying in Hacienda Guachipelin because everything was was distance accessible. So convenient when you have kids. I highly recommend this place for adventure seekers
You should considerate this area for an itinerary of 10 days if you visit Costa Rica.
Distance This volcano is located 48 minutes from Liberian airport and taxis cost $35-45
Distance from airport San Jose is 4 hours 45 minutes
Visit Cangreja Waterfall
This another beautiful waterfall in Rincon de la Vieja, to get there is a 5.9 mile hike. So, quite a hike we didn’t do it with kids because we had other ones close by. However if you have time and up for the challenge people said it worth it! Also it is great to watch the wild life as monkeys, howler monkeys and spider monkeys, coatis, armadillos, agoutis, iguanas, and birds such as the bobo bird or the emerald tucancillo.
It is a 40 meters waterfall. In despite we spend tree days at hacienda Guachipelin we couldn’t go to this but we would love to visit next time.
Water rafting at Rio Tenorio
The Gulf of Papagayo
Here you find Playa Papagayo, Playa Coco, and Playa Hermosa among others. It is a great area for sport fishing and whale watching or just to get a sunset sail and play with jet ski.
Distance: It is located 30 minutes from the Liberia International Airport and 1 hour and half to get to the Gulf de Papagayo.
This is a dark sand beach and the foliage reaches almost the shore. It is a tranquil beach for families because its mild waves.
A popular local beach with main commercial development on the area.
Distance 1 hr 24 min from Tamarindo and 30 minutes taxi cost $35
Distance from airport: Liberia is half hour
Distance from airport: San Jose 4 hours 17 minutes
We love the lay back feeling of Playa Hermosa. It is located next to Playa del Coco, It is hard to find taxi in this place. So plan in advance!
Distance Just 26 minutes from Liberia airport and 4 hours 10 minutes from San Jose.
Distance 2 hour drive from Liberia International Airport.
The Southern Guanacaste goes down to Samara and Nosara beaches. This part of the country has great beaches and surf areas and is very tourist but not as commercial as other. Here you find Samara, Santa Teresa and Montezuma beaches.
Explore Nosara area: Visit playa Guiones, playa Pelada, playa Oscipital
Nosara is locate on the Nicoya Peninsula. It’s known for its lay back style however it is actually no the cheapest area since drive many surfers and yoga retreat fans.
Distance from Liberia drive 2-2.5 hours. Keep in mind that the roads can be dirt and gravel with huge potholes/holes all over.
Playa Pelada has a reef just offshore and a tidal blowhole. On this area you can find Sanctuary rescues.
Playa Guiones: is very well know for is surf break and good waves. It is the bigger beach of all the Nosara beaches. It has 4.3 miles of beach and is surfers paradise because it has multiple beach breaks along. And as I said at this area you find lots of yoga retreats.
Playa del Ostional, located 20 minutes north from Playa Guiones in Nosara. Here you find plenty of wildlife experiences. Why? because is where green sea turtle (olive Ridley, Leatherback and Green Sea) come to lay their eggs from July to December every year. For this reason is a protected zone. You can find programs where people can volunteer and help with their conservations.
There are small motorboat ecotour that can takes you to explore the rivers Nosara and Montana. The plenty of flora and fauna in this region leads to great natural experiences. In short time you can find monkeys, crocodiles, parrots and iguanas.
Also there is opportunities to do zip lining, and visiting animal sanctuaries as the Sibu Wildlife sanctuary. The town is small and easy to navigate with enough restaurants. In the evenings, everyone would stroll down the dirt roads to the beach to watch the sunset. It is a must do tradition on this area, because they are great.
Visit Samara beach
Distance is 2 hours from Liberia Airport and between 3-5 hours from airport San Jose depending on the road and you will beed to drive around the golf Nicoya.
Next, drive about and hour and a half to get from Nosara area to Samara beach. It is Located in the north side of Guanacaste in Nicola Peninsula.
This beach is well known by its beautiful palm that lined by the main beach and its picturesque look. Here you find a town full of life and restaurant, the beach it is very close to all restaurants. Its Calm water and the reef right on the beach make a great place to swim and enjoy water sports. It is one of the reasons is a popular destination for families.
Explore Belen Waterfall
In this area and just 20 minutes from Samara is located this beautiful waterfall. It has different swimming holes and super popular among locals. At this rustic area there are no facilities, the entrance is even unmarked. So make sure to ask the locals if you there.
Visit a Macaw Center
This refuge for mamas is located 50 minutes south of Samara. Here you get the chance to observe this bird on their habitat and learn about their conservations since this parrots are endangered in Costa Rica. So their goal is breed parrots and let them are, however they keep coming back.
This area is amazing and should be considerate for a Costa Rica Itinerary of 10 days on its own or just explore some of these areas and include others.
Visit Santa Teresa and Malpaís
Is a popular areas that are growing fast and Nosara is being called the next Tulum. As always In Costa Rica coast there are great areas for surfing, fishing and go scuba diving.
Distance is about 4 and half hour ride from Liberia and six hours from San Jose Airport and required to take a ferry.
A private car will cost around $230 or shuttles charge $40 per person on shared shuttles.
THE CENTRAL PACIFIC COAST AREA IN COSTA RICA
Distance it takes just 20 minutes from San Jose airport while from Liberia Airport it can take 2 hours and a half.
Punta arenas is a beautiful region with lot of city feeling and has many island to explore. Here you find Cabo Blanco Reserve, and Coco island among others attractions that worth visiting.
Locals “Ticos” love to explore since is the area where you can take your boat ride to all these island in the Gulf of Nicoya.
Monteverde Cloud forest
Distance 2 hours from Liberian airport and similar time from San Jose Airport
It is approximately 3 hr 27 min from Manuel Antonio National Park and 2 hr 55 min from el Arenal
Monteverde cloud forest is another well know attraction. It is located in mountains. It has 10,500 hectares and of cloud forest 90% is virgin forest so you can expect lots of animals and natural diversity. The vegetation is tropical and located on the mountainous. Located in The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
It is located in Puntarenas. The entrance is $25 and $5 parking fee.
The walkways were originally constructed for scientists seeking to learn more and discover new creatures but now is one of major attractions.
Hotel Fonda Vela – large rooms, friendly staff
Things to do:
- Hiking in the Monteverde cloud forest
- Curi-Cancha reserve
- Skytrek hanging bridges
- Night wildlife tour
- Horse ride
The Treehouse – great food and the restaurant is built around a huge tree
Visit Manuel Antonio National Park
Distance: It is located one hour and a half from the airport of San Jose and around 3 to 4 hours from the airport of Liberia.
The famous Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most visited places in Costa Rica. This area is one of the most developed of Costa Rica due to its affluence in tourist with all the amenities need it.
Here you find a rain forest with beaches (Gemela beach, Playa Manuel Antonio favorite for snorkeling, and Playa Espadilla) and wild animals. A place where you can easily spot Iguanas, agoutis, Capuchin, Howler and squirrel Monkeys. Also for this reason it can get very crowded, Playa Espadilla is a bit farther one were you can find less crowed.
Although is one of the most beautiful parks you can easily see most of these animals in Costa Rica without needed to travel down there. You won’t miss out on that. However, it is a very popular destination for a reason.
Manuel Antonio National Park has 18 hectares of mangler water a mangler that is a body of water about 18 hectares that runs parallel to playa Antonio; and Espadilla Sur where you find different kids of fishes.
Manuel Antonio Park has seasonal waterfall. Other areas are Punta cathedral, Punta Serrucho view, and Puerto Escondido view point.
Check my suggestions above in how to include this are a in a Costa Rica Itinerary of 10 days.
Activities at Manual Antonio National Park:
- Monkey Mangrove boat tour
- Adventure tour
- Horseback/waterfall tours
- Surf lessons
- White water rafting
- Sloth Tour
- Waterfall tours
Los Altos in Manuel Antonio Has a elevator literally opened into our hotel suite. We mostly hung out at the pool and private beach.
El Avion amazing sunset views!
Casa Capuchin in Manuel Antonio. Here you should expect monkeys come at the house every day and interacted with the kids.
More information here
Have a Beach day Jaco beach
Jaco beach is a popular and beautiful beach located at the North of Manuel Antonio National Park. It is a city beach in a beautiful palm tree beach. I said a city beach, because its location and have a party vibe. It is surrounded by big buildings and luxury resorts. So there is plenty of night life and good surfing for beginners.
Things you can do here are also fishing, kayak, snorkeling. Also is a good point to start visit Tortuga Island Cruise, Mangrove & Crocodile.
Carara National Park
Distance distance from both airports is about 3 hours and a half.
Carara is another Costa Rica’s popular National Parks, due to its proximity to San José located on the Northern area where the rain forest turn into tropical dry forest.
In this place you can see cruise ship’s passengers arrive for day trips and also is a destination for local field trips.
Ride Horses to Bijagual Waterfall
The Bijagual waterfall is a impressive 590 feet waterfall. Located near Turrubares, San José and close to Jaco beach. It is 3.7 miles out and back moderate hike.
However, the trail include plenty of climbing rocks so don’t forget to bring the right shoes for this. Another popular way to get there is with guide ride horses because it can get muddy and slippery when wet.
Swim at Herradura Beach
Distance 1 hour from San Jose Airport .
Located just 4 kilometers from Jaco Beach, Playa Herradura is a beautiful and tranquil beach with calm water and is perfect for swimmers. Its name come from the shape of the bay.
Located in a developed area, with plenty of hotels and resorts, major grocery stores, and night life.
Glamp at Isla Chiquita
From Punta Arenas you could take a ferry to Isla Chiquita a private island located 40 minutes in ferry. Located in the peaceful Gulf of Nicoya.
The only island glamping destination in Costa Rica. It blends the fun excitement of camping with traditional comforts and hotel amenities.
From Isla Chiquita, explorers can connect with unique experiences and adventures. From magical bioluminescence expeditions (where seawater glows in the dark) to island-hopping and artisan fishing.
Visit The Whale Tail
Distance it is about 3-4 hours from San Jose airport and 5 hours from Liberia airport
It is located in the remote and small town of Uvita, is part of Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.
It is famous because the hundreds of humpback whales congregate each year to breed and raise their young.
It may not have white sand beaches but still an amazing place to visit. Make sure to catch a sunset here. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with sunset views in Costa Rica, but this place is special. If you want to explore around you will need a 4×4.
The restaurant Mirador Don Roger has a great view to watch this unique sunset.
The Nicoya Peninsula
This is about a 4 hour drive from Liberia International Airport and 4-5 hour drive or drive/ferry from San Jose International Airport.
Nicoya Peninsula is more inaccessible, and for this reason its beautiful beaches are not crowd.
It is located between the northern Guanacaste Province and southern Puntarenas Province. The commercial centre in the region is Nicoya, one of the oldest settlements in Costa Rica.
You can access using the ferries that run between the town of Puntarenas (mainland) and the Nicoya Peninsula.
Nicoyan is know for its older population and it has the country’s highest calcium content, that credit lower rates and heart disease.
The beaches you find here are: Santa Teresa, Mal País in the south, Montezuma, Paquera, Tambor and Grande, and in Las Baulas National Marine Park, in the north.
This area is the turtle paradise. The Leatherback turtles nest and hatch at Playa Grande. Olive ridley turtles arrive farther south at Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, the second largest beach where the turtles come to nest, at Santa Rosa national park a protected area.
THE SOUTH PACIFIC COAST
Distance from airport Liberia is about 7 hours and from airport San Jose is about 8 hours.
The Southern Zone of Costa Rica is the most remote of all the areas with a dense forest. No much development here and with tropical weather (hot and humid). Here you find protected areas and dense rainforest.
Because the large protected area such of them is uninhabited. It home of 3 National Parks: Corcovado, Piedras Blancas, and La Amistad National Parks.
Once there It is hard to get around, and you will need 4 wheels cars but it is a great ecotourism area where you can find few natural lodges in the Golfo Dulce and along the Osa Peninsula.
The Osa Peninsula
Distance is about an 8 hour drive or 1 hour plane ride from San Jose. Oso peninsula which you get to in a tiny tiny local plane.
It is a biologically diverse area in Costa Rica with untouched rainforest and secluded beaches. Remotes and breathtaking views
Located on the Southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and bound on the northwest by Drake Bay, on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and on the east by the Golfo Dulce.
Corcovado National Park is in a part of the country less explore and visited. It important due to its largest lowland rainforest in Central America and is home of the largest population of scarlet macaws in Costa Rica, second by Caracara National Park. Jaguar and pumas are other endanger species that live also at this park but is not easy to spot. A guide at the park is a requirement to visit and usually The lodges in this area offer day tours.
The wildlife here is everywhere, scarlet macaws, toucans, anteaters, the red-eyed maki tree frog, monkeys, snakes, hummingbirds, sloths and even pumas if you lucky enough!
El Remanso is located on the remote Osa Peninsula, right next to Corcovado National Park. They have many trails to explore, waterfalls, tide pools, ziplines, hanging bridges, deserted beaches with huge waves, ocean-view pool!
La Paloma lodge
Drake Bay on the Pacific Ocean
After the Osa peninsula to its north is located Drake Bay. This small town is accessible by boat or small airstrip. This area provide the adventures and traveler an authentic experience.
It is easy to get Corcovado National Park and Caño Island Biological Reserve from Drake Bay. Those areas provide pristine wildlife not only snorkeling and scuba diving and waterfalls.
Cano Island Biological Reserve
Cano Island Biological Reserve is located Twelve miles offshore of Drake Bay. The island was once used as a cemetery in Pre-Columbian times and now is popular for diving and snorkeling.
Down in the Costa Ballena, it changes completely as this area is still quite rural. The beaches become more spread out, all with dark sand and waters. The South Pacific is a little like the Caribbean in the sense that there aren’t many people and it’s more jungle.
Here you can do here is Snorkel Cano island, nighttime creature/bug tour and remote mangrove kayak tour.
COSTA RICA CARIBBEAN SIDE:
What to do in Tortuguero
Distance about 5 hours from San Jose airport, bus is around 6.5 and shuttle is around 5-6 hours.
Puerto Viejo is the main tourist town in the South Caribbean.
The Caribbean of Costa Rica is an eco destination and is known as the amazon of Costa Rica due to its geography and untouched pristine jungle. The Caribbean is Known as el tortugero a remote area and accessible by boat and plane.
It is home of one of the most important areas for green turtle to nest; National Park el Tortuguero.
When it comes to the vibe and atmosphere, the Caribbean is way more chill and less crowded. It’s largely made up of descendants of locals.
The main beaches on the Caribbean side are Negra, Puerto Viejo, Cocles, Chiquita, Blanca and Vargas , Punta Uva and Grande.
You will find here gorgeous beaches and plenty of nature. Although the area is touristic, it is not very developed and maintains a raw charm that people love.
The Caribbean side of Costa Rica instead of resorts and big hotel building has the charm of having villages and bungalows disperse among the jungle and beautiful turquoise water beaches. Cahuita National Park has the longest coral reef so snorkeling and is a must do!
Tortuguero requires more logistical planning by either flying there or getting transportation to the dock for the boat – most tour operators supply all transportation, will pick up at San Jose hotels. So, take that in consideration if you want to ad it to your Costa Rica Itinerary per 10 days.
On your boat to Tortuguero you are viewing wildlife along the rivers and canals. At your lodge you’ll have some boat outings into the national park via different canals and rivers, excellent wildlife spotting particularly during the early morning rides.
I hope this Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days and all this information helps you to plan an extraordinary trip …Pura vida
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