10 days in Costa Rica: The ultimate Costa Rica itinerary

From the lava-bubbling volcanoes and jaw-dropping cloud forest in Monteverde to the tropical wildlife and the cascading waterfalls, here’s how to spend an amazing 10 days in Costa Rica.

10 days in Costa Rica is the perfect amount of time to get a real feel for the country. You’ll have time enough to get deep into the jungle, get up close with the wildlife, soak up the beaches, and get active with zip lining and white water rafting.

I’ve made this Costa Rica itinerary for you with tips from my time there.

I’ve selected the best from my trip and suggested how long to spend in each place. Although distances are fairly short, you might need a few extra days to see it all.

But – if you’re keen on seeing it all, it is possible, you’ll just be busy. You can also check out my other post about how to spend 3 weeks in Costa Rica.

Here’s how to spend 10 days in Costa Rica.

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10 days in Costa Rica: The best Costa Rica itinerary

Costa Rica is so different from its neighboring countries in more than one sense. We traveled overland from Nicaragua and found the contrast quite stark. It has an amazing biodiversity, a stronger focus on sustainability, and the way of life here is more relaxed.

No wonder it’s one of the most popular destinations around the world, for solo travelers, families with kids, seniors, and even backpackers, despite the higher prices.

I know most of you would want to spend ten days to two weeks in Costa Rica, which is ideal. Luckily, most roads are in good shape and well-signed, so you won’t spend a lot of time getting lost.

Costa Rica is more or less ALL about nature. So, this Costa Rica itinerary includes a nice mix of the best and different types of nature and scenery.  

Read next: What to pack for Costa Rica – MUST-HAVE essentials

10 days in Costa Rica

Costa Rica itinerary 10 days

Arenal and La Fortuna: 2 days

First stop: Arenal.

Arenal Volcano is one of the most significant landmarks you can visit during your 10 days in Costa Rica. 

Imagine this looming 1,670m high volcano and picture yourself staying at the base of it. Sounds adventurous (and warm), doesn’t it?

I recommend basing yourself in La Fortuna, which has a great variety of accommodations for all budgets.

From there, you can visit the 65m high La Fortuna waterfall, soak in the nearby hot springs, go white water rafting, zip lining, try an ATV tour, hike around the volcano, or canoe, SUP, or kayak on Lake Arenal. As you can hear, there’s a lot to do in Arenal!

Read next: 12 bucket list things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica

10 days in Costa Rica

Monteverde: 2 days

Next stop on your Costa Rica itinerary should be Monteverde. 

When planning our trip, I wanted to experience the best nature Costa Rica has to offer, and Monteverde came up as a winner. What makes Monteverde special is that it’s a cloud forest. Now, this is similar to a rainforest, except it’s located higher in the mountains and is almost always covered in white fog. It feels like a real jungle with mossy trees and a super intense vibe. I loved our trip there!

Plus… Monteverde has a whole bunch of activities, including zip lining, walking above the cloud forest on hanging bridges, wildlife, and much more. 

Here are some helpful posts on the most essential things to do in Monteverde:

10 days in Costa Rica

Rio Celeste or Llanos de Cortez waterfall: 1 day

No doubt you’ll be visiting waterfalls during your 10 days in Costa Rica, and Rio Celeste (quite possibly the bluest waterfall on earth) and Llanos de Cortez waterfall are two of Costa Rica’s most impressive. 

You can visit on a day trip from Arenal or on your way to Tamarindo.

Llanos de Cortez is the most beautiful waterfall in Costa Rica. It’s wider than it’s tall, with streams of water cascading over a rock wall. The pool at the base of the falls is clear and perfect for a refreshing swim. Just by the waterfall, there’s a little white sandy beach where you can relax in a hammock or on a towel.

Absolute heaven! 

Read next: How to visit Llanos de Cortez waterfall

10 days in Costa Rica

Tamarindo: 2 days

Tamarindo is all about relaxation.

This is the place to unwind, swim in the blue ocean, surf, and go out at night. If you visit from October 20 – February 15, you can book a night tour to watch the leatherback turtles lay eggs (at a safe and non-intrusive distance, of course).

Definitely worth doing!

You can also visit Playa Negra, a volcanic black beach, just 23 km south of Tamarindo. It’s not a pure black sand beach like Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland, but it’s still worth a visit.

Tamarindo is a lot of fun, and it makes a nice change from the hiking and exploring that you’ll no doubt be included in your Costa Rica itinerary. 

Read next: The ultimate guide to Tamarindo

10 days in Costa Rica

San Jose and Poas Volcano: 1 day

After a few days by the beach, it’s time to head to San Jose to visit Poas volcano.

For me, San Jose isn’t a great city, but you’ll probably end up here when you fly in or out of the airport. Plus, from San Jose, you can visit the steaming Poas volcano.

The beauty of this specific volcano is that the main crater is an easy 15-minute walk from the visitor center and that you can look straight down into the crater. The crater of the volcano is over 1.6 km across and 320 m deep, which makes it one of the largest geyser craters in the world. 

It’s an easy day trip from the capital (1,5-hour drive). Just jump in your rental car or take the public bus there. That’s what we did.

Read next: How to visit Poas volcano

10 days in Costa Rica

Corcovado National Park: 2 Days

Your 10 days in Costa Rica are nearly up, except for one last destination: Corcovado National Park.

Corcovado is one of the best places to spot wildlife in Costa Rica. From monkeys, snakes, and macaws to whales and turtles, this is the place for a unique experience. You can’t visit Corcovado National Park without a guide, so you’ll need to book one. Your hotel will be able to recommend local guides.

Corcovado is also one of Costa Rica’s most remote destinations and farthest from the capital. But if you don’t mind the cost, you can catch a flight directly from San Jose. It takes 40 minutes and will cost you from $111 to $155 USD. Otherwise, you’re looking at between 7-9 hours of transportation by car, shuttle, or public bus.

How to travel around Costa Rica

Unless you only come for the beaches in Guanacaste, you’ll be traveling around during your 10 days in Costa Rica. You’ve got four options: to go by public bus, shuttle bus, rental car, or air. 


The cheapest way to get around in Costa Rica is by local busses (it costs as little as $2 from one town to another). That’s how we traveled through Costa Rica, and I found the buses reliable and comfortable. Buses are not that modern and they lack air-conditioning, which can be challenging, but overall, public buses were a great way to get around the country.

Shuttle busses

Another option is to travel by shuttle bus. Local companies run their shuttles between tourist destinations, and you can book services online or without prior reservation in all major towns.

Rental car

Renting a car is a great way to explore the country at your own pace. Roads are generally well maintained (although still far from perfect) and distances are pretty short. I recommend renting a 4×4 car as you’ll be driving on gravel roads (with potholes) in national parks, small towns, and near waterfalls. Also, don’t leave your belongings in the car, and always use a secured parking lot to avoid thieves. 

Domestic flights

If you’re short on time, you can also fly with the local airlines, Skyway, Aerobell, Air Caribe, and Sansa, between the main cities. If you book in advance you can get flights down to $50. 

Safety in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a safe country, and I felt very safe traveling around.

Petty theft (including bag snatching) is the most common type of crime you’ll face in Costa Rica. And that can be avoided if you follow these safety tips:

  • Don’t wear flashy items
  • Don’t leave your items unattended
  • Be alert of petty theft when using public transportation
  • Avoid isolated areas
  • Always take authorized taxis and be aware of taxi scams, particularly in San Jose. Read my guide on how to avoid taxi scams.

Is Costa Rica safe for (female) solo travelers? 

Yes. It’s the safest country in Central America and a good destination for your first solo trip. Just avoid isolated locations and don’t travel alone after dark.

There’s a lot of catcalling in Central America (Nicaragua in particular), and if you happen to experience harassment from strangers on the street, be confident, avoid eye contact, and walk away. 

Read next: 20 solo female travel safety tips

Pura Vida

One of the things that make Costa Rica so likable is the friendly locals and their way of life. They have a saying in Costa Rica – pura vida – which translates to “pure life” and means something along the lines of “take it easy”, “Hakuna Matata” or “c’est la vie”.

It represents Costa Ricans’ relaxed attitude towards life. Like, always take time to relax, not worry about the small stuff, and remember to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, like your morning cup of coffee or feeling the tropical sand in between your toes.

Pura Vida is a big reason why Costa Rica is such a peaceful, laid-back place.

10 days in Costa Rica

What to pack for Costa Rica

The last part of your Costa Rica 10 day itinerary is packing. And with so many different trips possible in Costa Rica, you’ll need to pack carefully.

While some of you visit for a relaxing holiday (and won’t need hiking boots), others enjoy a few adventurous activities, too. If you’re visiting several places in Costa Rica over a few weeks, my main advice is to pack LAYERS! 

For 10 days in Costa Rica, this is what you need to pack:

  • Shorts and/or skirts
  • T-shirts
  • Leggings and light trousers
  • Dresses
  • Sweater
  • Sports bra, socks and underwear
  • Swimsuit
  • Light jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Insect repellant and sunscreen
  • Sunglasses and a hat
  • Sneakers (and hiking boots depending on your activities)
  • Water shoes (perfect for white river rafting and waterfalls)
  • Daypack and dry bag
  • And your camera

FAQ – 10 day Costa Rica itinerary

Is 10 days long enough in Costa Rica?

Yes, 10 days in Costa Rica is great. You’ve got time to wander through the jungles, kick back on some awesome beaches, and spot cool animals.

Make sure you plan well so you get a bit of everything – adventure, chill time, and a taste of local life. You’ll manage to see the big hits like Arenal Volcano and Monteverde without feeling like you’re racing through.

What to see in Costa Rica in 10 days?

In 10 days, hit up Arenal Volcano for some epic views and hot springs. Don’t miss Monteverde Cloud Forest for zip-lining through the treetops. Chill on the beaches of Manuel Antonio and go wildlife watching.

Check out the Tortuguero National Park for amazing turtle nesting sites. And definitely soak in the local culture and food in San José.

How much money do I need for 10 days in Costa Rica?

For 10 days in Costa Rica, budget around $1,000 to $1,500 per person if you’re keeping it mid-range – that covers decent hotels, local eats, transport, and activities.

If you’re going luxe or super budget, adjust accordingly. Remember, adventure activities and dining out can add up, so tweak your budget based on what you plan to do.

How many days do I need in Costa Rica?

10-14 days in Costa Rica is ideal. This span lets you explore a bit of everything – from chilling on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, trekking through rainforests, to checking out volcanoes and wildlife.

It gives you enough time to move at a relaxed pace without missing out on the must-sees.

Is Costa Rica an expensive trip?

Yes, Costa Rica can be pricey compared to other Central American countries.

Your spending really depends on your travel style. Luxury resorts, guided tours, and eating out often can add up. However, choosing budget accommodations, eating local, and using public transport can make it more affordable.

More posts from Costa Rica you might like

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From the lava-bubbling volcanoes and mythical cloud forest in Monteverde, to the tropical wildlife and the cascading waterfalls, here's how to spend amazing 10 days in Costa Rica.

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