Ultimate Costa Rica Itinerary: A 17-Day Adventure Travel Guide

Costa Rica Itinerary

Get ready to dive into the vibrant heart of Central America – Costa Rica! I’m incredibly excited to share our Costa Rica travel itinerary with you. This country quickly became one of our all-time favourite destinations. All the research and planning really paid off, allowing us to make the most of our 17 days while still finding time to disconnect and recharge. And we are about to share it with you!

This place is an eco-lover’s paradise, full of raw beauty and biodiversity. Picture this: lush rainforests teeming with wildlife, epic surf spots, and active volcanoes that remind you just how wild Earth can be. Intrigued? You should be.

The Ticos (that’s what the friendly locals call themselves) are known for their warm hospitality and dedication to eco-preservation. Brush up on your Spanish because they’ll be more than happy to chat with you. But don’t sweat it if you’re not fluent – English is widely spoken, especially in tourist hotspots.

Curious about surfing the legendary waves, hiking through misty cloud forests, and savouring the local cuisine? Read on for all the adventure details!

Where to Go

Deciding where to go in Costa Rica can be a bit overwhelming with so many amazing places on offer. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! Here’s an overview of the itinerary we followed, which hit the sweet spot between adventure and relaxation (no rushing around, promise!).

Day 1-3: Arrival in San Jose, La Fortuna and Exploring Arenal Volcano 
  • Stay overnight in San Jose, then head to La Fortuna to experience the La Fortuna Waterfall and the rugged beauty of Arenal Volcano.
Day 4-6: Discovering the Monteverde Cloud Forests
  • Walk among the treetops on hanging bridges and zipline through the clouds.
Day 7-12: Surf, Yoga and Relaxation in Nosara
  • Head to the laid-back beach town of Nosara for some sun, surf, and yoga. Relax on the beaches and enjoy the local cuisine.
Day 13-15: Exploring Punta Islita
  • Discover the serene beaches and vibrant wildlife of Punta Islita. Enjoy more surfing, scenic views, and perhaps a horseback ride along the beach.
Day 16-17: San Jose and Departure
  • Wrap up your adventure with a scenic drive back to San Jose, soaking in the last views of Costa Rica’s beautiful landscape

This itinerary worked wonderfully for us, giving us time to soak in each destination without feeling rushed. Ready to dive into the details? Let’s go!

Costa Rica Itinerary Day 1-3: Exploring La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano

The Drive to La Fortuna

Costa Rica La Fortuna
Gallo Pinto: a Costa Rican Breakfast Staple

We left the busy streets of San José behind and made our way to the lush humidity of La Fortuna. It felt like entering another world—as the three-hour drive progressed, the urban backdrop slowly gave way to the dense, vibrant greenery of Central Costa Rica, with the towering Arenal Volcano in the distance. Though this is the easiest stretch of road on our entire trip, I recommend leaving early to avoid the heavy traffic that can build up around San Jose.

Quick Guide

  • Driving Time: Approximately 3 hours from San José.
  • Road Conditions: The roads are smooth sailing until you hit the outskirts of La Fortuna; then it gets a bit bumpy—adds to the adventure, right?
  • Pro Tip: An early start is your best friend here—less traffic, cooler air, and more time to enjoy the scenery.

First Stop: La Fortuna Waterfall

Costa Rica La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall seen from the start of the hike

Straight into adventure mode, we headed to La Fortuna Waterfall after arriving in the afternoon. Despite some mixed reviews I’d read, this spot turned out to be absolutely stunning and deservedly popular. The hike itself isn’t too challenging but does include a fair number of steps down to the waterfall—perfect for stretching the legs after a long drive. Along the way, we spotted a family of monkeys! When we finally reached the 76-meter high waterfall, the view was breathtaking. You can choose to cool down further along the stream.

Quick Guide

  • Entry Fee: $18—well worth the investment.
  • Hike Difficulty & Time: Easy to moderate; about 15 minutes down and 30 minutes up. Be prepared for steps—good for the calves!
  • Wildlife Watch: Monkeys? Check. Exotic birds? Absolutely. It’s like walking into a nature documentary.
  • For More Information visit the Catarata La Fortuna website

El Mirador de Silencio Hike

Costa Rica Arenal El Mirador de Silencio
Old growth rainforest at El Mirador de Silencio

After a good night’s rest, still buzzing from the first impressions, we were on a mission the next day to explore the trails around Arenal Volcano. If La Fortuna Waterfall was the appetizer, this was the main course. El Mirador de Silencio isn’t just a trail; it’s more like an expedition through a set from Jurassic Park—ancient trees, hanging vines, and even lava fields from the 1968 eruptions. Better yet, we barely encountered anyone else! If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path, and possibly even more stunning, alternative to the tourist-thronged hikes around Arenal Volcano — this is it. The only thing that could have made this day any better would have been clear views of the volcano.

Quick Guide

  • Entry Fee: $10 – much cheaper than all the other trails around.
  • Hiking Time: Count on 3-4 hours, depending on your pace and stops (and you will stop—often). We combined trails 1, 3, 5, 6, and 2 for a moderate hike—expect a variety of terrain including roots, rocks, and stunning natural beauty.
  • Lake Views: The lookout points over Arenal Lake make for fantastic pictures. Especially if you see hundreds of toucans flying like we did!
  • What to Bring: Comfortable hiking shoes, water, snacks and sunscreen
  • Best Time to Visit: Early morning to avoid the heat and catch the best light for those photos
  • For More Information visit the official Mirador El Silencio website

Ecothermales La Fortuna

Ecothermales La Fortuna Costa Rica
Serenity at Ecothermales

After all that intense hiking, Ecothermales was like finding an oasis. Imagine this: multiple thermal pools ranging from lukewarm to hot, an unexpected tropical downpour, and sitting in the midst of it all with a whiskey sour in hand. There’s something about relaxing in hot springs while rain patters on the thick jungle canopy above—can highly recommend this as a meditative experience!

Quick Guide

  • Price & Stay Duration:
    • Entry starts at $45, varying based on the package chosen.
    • Plan at least 2-3 hours to unwind properly and try all the baths. Especially the hot bath including a waterfall in the back corner has proper jungle vibes!
  • Rainy Day Perk: Don’t rush indoors. The rain adds a whole other layer to the jungle hot spring vibes.
  • Best Time to Visit: Late afternoon or early evening to catch the sunset while soaking.
  • What to Bring: Swimsuit, towel, flip-flops, and a waterproof pouch for your valuables.
  • For More Information visit the official Ecothermales La Fortuna website

Stay Tuned for More Adventures!

We’re still polishing up this blog post, but we were so excited to share our journey with you that we couldn’t wait to put it online. Check back soon for more updates and stories!