Costa Rica is a true champion of sustainable and ecological tourism. This small country is also one of the happiest countries in the world, the land of pura vida as the ticos say.
Between mountains, volcanoes, beaches and primary forests, the country offers an incredible diversity of natural landscapes. Take your rental car and explore Costa Rica in a 14-day (2 weeks) itinerary.
Here are the best activities to do in Costa Rica :
Step 1: Costa Rica: road trip from San José (1 day)
The best way to discover the capital of Costa Rica in San Jose is to walk around. Your itinerary of the city's must-see places includes:
Mercado Central: The bustling Mercado Central (Central Market) is the perfect place to get fruits, vegetables, all kinds of foodstuffs and handicrafts.
Avenida Central: Next to the Mercado Central, the Avenida Central is a pedestrian street surrounded by stores and restaurants. Very popular.
Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica: Founded in 1897, the National Theater of San José is an architectural jewel, a miniature replica of the Paris Opera House.
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo: This museum houses the most important collection of works by Costa Rican artists from the colonial and contemporary periods.
Step 2 : The Poás Volcano (1 day)
Twenty kilometers west of San Jose, in the province of Alajuela, stands this active volcano whose last eruption was documented in 1953.
This volcano has a crater of 1.5 kilometers in diameter, is considered one of the largest volcanoes in Costa Rica and is crowned by a lagoon of acidic and boiling water with fluorescent colors. There are several trails that allow you to appreciate the local flora and fauna up close. With an altitude of 2,700 meters, the volcano is easy to access and can be reached by car almost to the top.
Step 3 : Coffee plantations in the Central Valley (1 day)
It is possible to visit some of the coffee plantations around Valle Central. For example, the Hacienda Alsacia Starbucks or Doka. Both are located very close to volcanoes and waterfalls that you can visit the same day. You will learn all the secrets of its coffee production. You will also enjoy, of course, a delicious tasting at the end of the tour. Book your tour with a guide and save time!
Step 4 : The Arenal Volcano and its hot springs (2 days)
The Arenal volcano is considered one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica. This majestic 1,600 meter high conical volcano overlooks the town of La Fortuna de San Carlos, located 3 hours drive from the capital, San José.
The area is also famous for its hot springs, including Tabacón, a resort dedicated to thermal waters. Book your tours in advance and enjoy the breathtaking views of the volcano.
Step 5 : Surfing in Tamarindo (1-2 days)
After hiking, if you're looking for a convenient place to rest for a few days, this is the place to be!
Tamarindo, located in the province of Guanacaste, on the Nicoya Peninsula, is a great place to take a break or take surf lessons. It has a large beach with deck chairs for rent, a sea made for surfing and many restaurants and bars. Also very convenient to go to the bank!
H2. Step 6 : Relaxing in Samara (1-2 days)
The small village of Samara attracts visitors looking for a family friendly beach town. The town of Samara is quite small and you can easily walk to get around, or better yet, rent bikes. The beach in Samara is perfect for walking, relaxing and swimming with the kids. There are also surf schools right on the beach; the waves are good for beginners. At the main entrance to the beach, they have made a very nice platform to go down to the beach. There are a couple of beachside bars where you can sip your favorite juice with your feet in the sand or otherwise do a little shopping in the shops on the main street.
Step 7 : Walking on the suspension bridges of Monteverde (1-2 days)
The cloud forests of Monteverde are spectacular. You can enjoy the breathtaking views of the mountains and rainforest as you climb the telescope or the zip lines or suspension bridges that proliferate throughout.Waterfalls and the unobstructed view of the Arenal volcano, its lake and the coast are part of the charm of the area. Adventure lovers, come this way!
Step 8 : The Caribbean Coast (3-4 days)
Turtle watching in Tortuguero
The sea turtles arrive in Tortuguero from July. The young sea turtles begin to hatch in September and October in the Tortuguero National Park. This small picturesque town has a lot of charm. Small houses around the soccer field, typical restaurants and lots of reggae. Book your tour with a guide to see the turtles at night. Beware, it is mandatory to wear dark clothes and red light torches in order not to scare the turtles, which would otherwise turn back to the sea.
Pura Vida in Puerto Viejo
A small village on the seaside, Puerto Viejo receives tourists looking for authenticity, reggae, lobsters and Pura Vida.
The population, mainly composed of descendants of Jamaicans, speaks a mixture of Spanish and English (patois). If you like surfing or snorkeling, you won't be disappointed here. And above all, you should not be in a hurry!
Prepare your trip
Budget (Car, Visa)
U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. They simply need a passport valid for at least one day from the day you enter Costa Rica and a return ticket. Do you know the budget for your trip ?
It is highly recommended to book a 4x4 in Costa Rica as the roads can be very bad.
The Instituto Costarricense de Turisme is the best contact for any useful information.