10 days itinerary costa rica

Ten Days In Costa Rica (From the Pacific to the Caribbean)

With stunning beaches along the coast and impressive mountain ranges in its center, Costa Rica has plenty to offer to all of its visitors. You can walk through a wildlife-rich rainforest one day, and then lie on the beach the next.

The big question for you is, what should you see first, and what should you absolutely not miss.

The national parks? The volcanos? The beaches? Yeah, there is a lot. And we are here to help you assemble the ultimate ten-day itinerary, which will cover all the top spots in this small, but unforgettable country.

Beginning your journey in San Jose, the capital of this Central American gem, and we’ll make our way through the country’s stunning attractions one day at a time. And by the end of this itinerary you’ll not only get a glimpse of Costa Rica’s gorgeous nature and wildlife, but you will also fall in love with it.

Ten Day Itinerary: The Best Of Costa Rica

Ten days might seem like a lot to you, but with so many stunning sights to see, they’ll be barely enough. Additionally, I’ll try to show you as many attractive places as possible and I’ll advise you where you can stay longer if you have more than ten days.

Itinerary Outline

  1.  San Jose
  2. Puntarenas
  3. Monteverde
  4. Liberia
  5. Tamarindo
  6. Arenal Volcano National Park
  7. Tortuguero National Park
  8. Cahuita
  9. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
  10. Punta Uva/San Jose

 

Useful Information About Costa Rica

Below are some of the most important, and yes useful, information about Costa Rica. The kinds of things you want to know before you go. So take a quick peak, and then keep scrolling to the mouth-watering itinerary.

Timezone: Costa Rica is in the CST (Central Standard Time) timezone. It’s eight hours behind Central Europe, two hours behind the USA east coast and an hour ahead of USA west coast.

Currency: The official currency of the country is Costa Rican Colon, but merchants throughout the country often accept US dollars. Here are some exchange rates as of July 4th, and you can always check live rates at XECurrency:

1 USD = 567.456CRC

1 EUR = 660.488CRC

1 CHF = 570.988CRC

1 GBP: 750.936CRC

Language: The official language spoken in Costa Rica is Spanish. You can generally expect that most people will speak English in hotels and other tourist areas, but not throughout the entire country. Learn some basics of Spanish at least if you want to pay respect to the locals, por favor!

Electricity: 110V with the standard American-type sockets. Europeans, be sure to bring an adapter if you want to charge your electronics.

Visa: Americans and most EU citizens do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. People who have a tourist, crew or business visa for the United States or Canada also do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. For others, whether or not you need a visa depends on your nationality, and you can find all the info you need on the  Costa Rican embassy website.

Credit Card Acceptance: Visa, MasterCard and American Express are all widely used and accepted throughout Costa Rica. In addition to that, there are ATMs in all larger cities across the country. Always have a mix of both cash and cards to ensure you can pay anywhere.

Getting Around Costa Rica

You will have to get from one city to another somehow, and here are all your transportation options. Hint: in order from worst to best.

Trains: Costa Rica has a railway, but it is not that developed. Trains only run to and from some larger cities, and they won’t take you to most destinations of this itinerary. Consider the fact that a large part of the country is comprised of mountain ranges, forests and national parks, and there are no train tracks there.

Busses: Obviously there are busses in Costa Rica. However, they are often unreliable and frankly filthy, so they might not be your best option. Especially since there aren’t a lot of direct lines to the destinations in our itinerary, and you would have to get creative to figure out which bus you need to get on. Sure, you’re fine getting a bus from Alajuela to San Jose, but try finding a direct line from Monteverde to Liberia without getting a headache.

Shuttles and Taxis: Besides car rental, they are probably your best option for getting around Costa Rica. Shuttle services are pretty affordable, and they will take you from door to door. And they are even more affordable if you are travelling in a group – definitely cheaper than buying individual bus tickets. Taxis are great if you want to get to an area that is just a little outside a city. And the taxis are pretty cheap, so you won’t have to spend a lot of money on the rides.

Car Rental: In general, this is always your best option. If you rent a car for your stay in Costa Rica you will be able to set your own travel hours, you will get everywhere faster and you won’t have to worry about missing the last bus or shuttle. Plus, if you are travelling with a group of friends it is much cheaper to rent a car than to pay for individual bus tickets to a different town every day. Especially since services like Expedia offer mind-blowing $1 per day deals!

But that’s too good to be true – when you check that you want collision insurance, the price suddenly jumps to about $140. However, that is still the price for all 10 days on the road, so it is pretty good deal. And if you start adding up the cost of shuttles and bus tickets from one place to another, you’ll see just how much money you could save by renting a car.

Arrival And Landing In Alajuela

Alajuela is a small town about 20 km away from San Jose, the capital of this country. It’s the home of the Juan Santamaria International Airport, which is the closest airport to San Jose. You don’t have to land here – there are a few more international airports across the country, and of course where you land depends on which airline you fly with. But, since this is the largest airport of the country, chances are that your flight is going to come to an end there, and that you’ll be looking to make your way to San Jose when you land.

Well, the good news is that this airport offers a 24 hour shuttle service that will take you to pretty much any hotel in San Jose. And since the distance between the airport and the city is small, you won’t waste too much time in transport or spend a lot of money on it. But you will also see plenty of taxis at the airport, which will take you to your destination in San Jose, and will even wait for you to enter your hotel if you arrive at night.

And of course, you can always take the bus if you prefer to do so. This is your cheapest option and if you don’t have too much luggage with you, a great one – the ride will cost you a little less than $1. To get to the buss stop you need to cross the street and head toward the parking garages when you exit the airport terminal, and then turn left and go along the sidewalk until you pass the hospital. You can then turn right, and if you walk for about 2-3 more minutes, you will get to the bus stop. A TUASA bus will take you from there to San Jose, and it will take you about an hour to get there.

Day One: San Jose

San Jose Costa Rica

Courtesy of dconvertini

So you’ve made your way to your hotel from the airport, and hopefully you’ve gotten some rest. Fill up your favorite daypack with snacks and your on-the-go necessities and get ready to spend the day roaming around the capital of Costa Rica.

You will see plenty of Spanish colonial buildings and one of them is the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica. Here you can check out many of their permanent and temporary exhibitions about the history and culture of costa Rica, as well as a few that are mostly comprised of anthropological and archeological exhibits. And just across the park from it is the Museo del Jade Marco Fidel Tristán Castro. It features the largest jade collection in the world, and it’s definitely something you should check out. You can also find some artefacts from the pre-Columbian times there, as well as learn a lot about this part of the history of Costa Rica. See how the people lived and what they wore and ate – it will definitely help you get in the spirit for the rest of the journey!

San Jose National Museum

Mural in the National Museum in San Jose, courtesy of m.prinke

When you exit the Jade Museum turn left and head down the Av. Central. Make your way to the Plaza de La Cultura – it’s a public square with some fountains and a park, so it’s a good place to sit down and get some rest. And the walk there from the museum shouldn’t take you more than 5-10 minutes, and there’s really no need to grab a bus. Maybe even eat a snack or two as you admire the National Theatre of Costa Rica from afar. You can see the neoclassical building from the square, but be sure to get a little bit closer to it – it’s a stunning photo-op. The interior of the building is truly a sight for sore eyes, with statues, lavish furnishings and murals all over it, including the Allegory of Coffee and Bananas on the ceiling.

San Jose Highlights:

  • Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
  • Museo del Jade Marco Fidel Tristán Castro
  • National Theatre of Costa Rica
  • Plaza de La Cultura
  • La Sabana Metropolitan Park
  • Museo de los Niños
  • Castillo Del Moro
  • Costa Rica’s National Stadium
  • Museum of Costa Rican Art
  • Central Park

From there head to the La Sabana Metropolitan Park. It’s about a 40 minute walk, so you’re better of catching a train. You can get to the Estación del Pacífico from the National Theatre in a few minutes, and it will take you to the park in no time. Get out at the Contraloría stop, since it is right next to the park. And I would spend most of my day here, since there are over 72 hectares to explore. You can check out Costa Rica’s National Stadium, which is a must-see if you are a football fan!

San Jose National Stadium

Courtesy of Bernal Saborio

This park is also home to an amusement park, which is always a fun way to spend an afternoon. And definitely check out the Museum of Costa Rican Art , which boasts more than six thousand pieces of art from Latin American artists like Jose Sancho, Max Jimenez, Francisco Zuniga… When you are finished at the museum, make your way to the ‘little’ artificial lake in the heart of the park. Not only is the scenery stunning and peaceful, but you will also be able to rest for a little while. And if you are with friends, you can always have an impromptu football match in the park, since there is a large field for that. It’s not as magical as the stadium, but it’s close enough! :>

And that would be all for our day in San Jose. You’ll get back there at the end of the trip, so you will have some more time to additionally explore the town later on.  But for now get back to your hotel and get a good night’s sleep because a long journey awaits in the morning!

Day Two: Puntarenas

Puntarenas Resort

Courtesy of Caroline Gagne

Puntarenas is a small port city in Costa Rica, and it is almost like a peninsula since a narrow road is all that connects it to Costa Rican land. You can get to Puntarenas in about an hour and a half if you are driving, and about two and a half hours by bus. I’ll assume that you are heading there from San Jose – the bus terminals there where you can catch a bus to Puntarenas are on Calle 16 and Avenida 12. The bus departs every 40 minutes or so, and you should easily be able to find it. However, if you are worried about your general safety, your best option is to arrange a private transport from the airport. And if you are travelling with friends, this will be cheaper than individual bus tickets.

I would also advise you to get on the road early, so you can make the most of your day here. And we are going to spend some time at the beach today, but not the Puntarenas beach. Instead, we are heading to the San Lucas island, which is a part of the larger area of the Puntarenas Province – but more on that later.

When you first enter the town, you will notice the Marino del Pacífico Park. It is a humble national park that is full of sea creatures, which is surely an interesting sight. However, don’t expect too much out of the park – the sea horses and fish are interesting to observe, but there is not much else to do there. So, when you get tired of looking for Nemo (and hopefully finding him), head over to the Catedral de Puntarenas. Churches are always interesting to photograph, and the stone facade of this cathedral will really pop out in the photos.

About three minutes away from the park is Estadio Municipal de Puntarenas Miguel Ángel “Lito” Pérez Treacy – the football stadium. I find it very interesting that the football culture is so strong in this country that you’ll find a football stadium even in this tiny port town! From there we are going on a boat, and heading to the San Lucas island.

Puntarenas Pier

Courtesy of Richie Diesterheft

You might be wondering why I am insisting that you take the ferry to the island when there’s a perfectly swimmable beach in the town. Well, Costa Rica is all about the beauty of the nature and the scenic views. It is full of gorgeous beaches, but the Puntarenas beach is not one of them – it is average at best. It’s a 40 minute boat ride from there to the island, and it’s more than worth it. For one thing, the island is now a wildlife preserve, with some stunning beaches and gorgeous forests. But, it wasn’t like that a couple decades ago. In fact it was a penal colony – the Costa Rican version of Alcatraz. You can even get a tour today of the cells from the former prison, as well as to a few other buildings on the island that are a testament to its gruesome past. Now, isn’t that much more attractive than laying on a plain, deserted beach?

Walk around the island, hike in the forests and swim in the sea – really enjoy yourself. Relax as much as you can because you are going to spend most of the next day on foot and hiking through the forests of Monteverde!

Day Three: Monteverde

Monteverde View

Courtesy of Shiva Shenoy

Monteverde is also a part of the Puntarenas Province, and it is not too far away from the Puntarenas town itself. But to get to there you are going to have to get back from the San Lucas island to the city of Puntarenas to get on a bus. The busses depart at 8 AM, 1:30 PM and 2:10 PM – I strongly suggest you get on the first bus, since the ride is about three hours long and you are going to lose some time in transport. That way you can arrive in Monteverde at about 11AM and have a full day to explore it!

And what you do in Monteverde will be completely up to you. I will give you some ideas, but I’m not going to tell you exactly to go here or there. That’s because there are so many different types of activities there and I can’t tell you to go to an adrenaline park or a zip line if you are afraid of heights!

Monteverde Highlights: 

  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  • Selvatura Park
  • 100% Aventura
  • Curi Cancha Wildlife Refuge
  • The Bat Jungle
  • Monteverde Butterfly Gardens
  • Monteverde Art House Gallery
  • TreeTop Climbing Monteverde
  • El Cafetal Coffee Tour
Monteverde Cloud Forest

Courtesy of toomim

Have loads of fun: in the many adventure parks of Monteverde. But by far the best one is the 100% Aventura park, which features ATV buggy rides, rope bridges, a 10-cable zipline course and much more. The zipline in the park is actually the longest one in entire Latin America, which certainly sounds exciting! And you can also spot some animals while you are flying down – mostly sloths and monkeys in the forest below. But if adrenaline is your thing then you can’t miss the Mega Tarzan Swing. I don’t know about you, but jumping from a 45 meter high platform and than swinging in the air sounds like an amazing afternoon to me!

Admire the wildlife: now this is something that I would personally avoid, but that doesn’t mean you should. Attractions and tours like Night Walk Santamaria´s and Kinkajou Night Walk feature encounters with some pretty large spiders, which is definitely not for me. I would rather ride that zip line all the way back to Europe than deal with the spiders and snakes during the night. But if that is something you enjoy doing, then definitely go for at least one night walk – after you’ve spent the day exploring the area.

Monteverde Monkeys

Courtesy of dconvertini

And if you want to see even more of Costa Rica’s wildlife, then also visit the La Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena. They also call it the Forest in the Clouds, since the winds generate a system of clouds that lasts pretty much all year in this forest. Oh and it’s about 1600 meters above sea level, which also with the cloudiness. It’s full of wildlife, and not just pesky spiders and reptiles – more than 200 species of birds can also be found here, as well some wild cats like jaguars and pumas. And to mention all the different plants and trees that the forests are brimming with. It’s truly one of the best spots in Costa Rica for the true nature lovers.

Hike your heart out: in the clouds. Yes, that is something else that you can do in the cloudy forest, just be prepared for the dampness and the cloudy mist. But that shouldn’t stop you from taking on the Sendero Del Rio trail or the Sendero Nubloso. Fun fact, sendero actually translates to trail in English, which is why all the hiking trails are called that. You can get a map that shows al the trails and where they lead in the entrance office, which is pretty useful.

And you can hike all the way back to your hotel when you’ve seen enough. Get some sleep and prepare yourself for day four of this awesome journey through Switzerland of Central America!

Day Four: Liberia

Liberia Costa Rica

Courtesy of casey atchley

Rise and shine because we have a long day ahead of us! The drive from Monteverde to Liberia is about three and a half hours long if you get on a shuttle. They are pretty affordable, and they will take you from door to door, which is always a bonus. If you drive on your own you could save about an hour, which is great if you decided to rent a car. Unfortunately, you can’t get on a public bus since there is no direct connection from Monteverde to Liberia. You would have to switch busses at one point, and according the official website of Horaiode busses in Costa Rica, the ride would last about hours, which is totally not worth it. Oh, and keep in mind that we won’t stay entirely in the city of Liberia – most of the fun attractions are closer to the Liberia airport (area is called Guardia de Liberia), than they are to the city centre.

Lliberia (area) Highlights: 

  • Tio Leo Coffe Tour
  • Hidden Garden Art Gallery
  • Antigua Gobernación
  • Museum Guanacaste
  • Ponderosa Adventure Park
  • Ecologico Park
  • Heriberto Rodríguez Chinchilla Memorial
  • Church of Ermita de La Agonía
  • Maderos Brewery
Plane Liberia Airport

Colorful plane at Liberia airport, Courtesy of JarleNaustvik

So, you’ve made it to Liberia! Stretch your legs a little, grab something to eat and let’s go. But don’t get a coffee because our next stop is Tio Leo coffee tour! You’ll get to walk around a coffee plantation, learn about growing and farming coffee and also taste some! So, definitely keep track of your caffeine intake before the tour to avoid becoming a little hyperactive. The tour lasts about two to three hours, and it is more than worth your time – don’t you want to try to crush sugar cane?

While you are in the area, stop by the Hidden Garden Art Gallery. It’s just about 5 kilometers away from the Liberia airport and you’ll get there in no time. The gallery features art from dozens of different local artists, all of who have different styles. And not just that – you can purchase the art for a fair price, and bring home with you a piece of Costa Rican culture. Also, wouldn’t paintings done by local artists make great souvenirs for all your friends back home?

If you’re still a little bit high on caffeine and want to put that energy to good use, head over to the Ponderosa Adventure Park. It will take you 20-30 minutes to get there if you drive, and it’s an awesome way to spend the afternoon. You can go kayaking, horseback riding and even go on a safari tour. That last one sounds pretty wild to me, especially if you want to see giraffes, zebras, ostriches and many other animals up close! Or if you aren’t that interested in the exotic animals, go on a waterfall tour. Just imagine all the long exposure photos you could take there and remember to bring that ND filter!

You can finally make your way into the city of Liberia. Walk around for a while and check out the Antigua Gobernación, Museum Guanacaste or the Ecologico Park. I’m not sure how much time you have left until the end of the day, but I assume it’s not a lot, especially if went a little cray-cray at the adventure park and spent several hours there. If you are hungry I would suggest the Restaurante Tierra Mar, since it is one of the top-rated ones in Liberia. Grab a bite to eat or head straight to the hotel, just be sure to get enough sleep so you are well rested for the adventures of day five!

Day Five: Tamarindo

Tamarindo Costa Rica

Courtesy of Haylee Sherwood

We spent two days in the nature, hiking through the forest and getting our adrenaline pumping in the adventure parks. Now is the time to relax and unwind a little bit, and what better place than one of the most popular resort destinations in entire Costa Rica? There are some 80 kilometers to cover from Liberia to Tamarindo, so you don’t even have to get up too early – you’ll arrive there in about an hour and a half.

Tamarindo Highlights: 

  • Las Baulas National Marine Park
  • Playa Avellana
  • Playa Ventanas
  • Marlin del Rey Catamaran Sailing Tours
  • Kelly’s Surf Shop
  • Sueño Azul Sportfishing and Tours
  • Lydia Beech Art
  • Tamarindo Diving Course

If you really want to experience Costa Rica, you are going to have to get your hands dirty – but only metaphorically. You see, Tamarindo is an incredibly popular fishing town and if you are not up for a day of lying on the beach then I suggest you get a charter and go fishing. A photo of you and your catch is an awesome memory to take back home and showcase your newly acquired skills to everyone back there.

But if hunting your lunch is not your thing, then go sailing or at least surfing. Head over to Kelly’s Surf Shop, where you’ll find not only all the equipment necessary for this sport, but also some amazing instructors who will do their best to help you stand up on that board. And this is negotiable – surfing is incredibly popular in Costa Rica, so much so that there are some beaches that are practically unswimmable due to all the surfers. Plus, what’s the worst that can happen, you’ll learn a hot new skill that will make you the coolest among your friends?

Tamarindo Sea Creatures

Diving in Tamarindo, Courtesy of Kimon Berlin

But if you fear the surfboard as much as I fear spiders, then no pressure. While your friends are trying to learn some cool surfing moves, you can spend the day at Las Baulas National Marine Park. The ‘Baulas’ in the name stands for leatherback turtles, which are the main wildlife attraction of this park. And they are a big part of this area’s history, since they’ve been around Tamarindo for thousands of years. Additionally, a large part of the park is underwater and they also offer scuba diving lessons. But, if you are interested in diving or snorkeling, I would suggest you book a course with the Tamarindo Diving instructors.

They will take you over to the Catalina Islands, which are full of sea creatures. So, you get some basic scuba training (if you are a beginner) and you get to swim with all the amazing sea creatures – isn’t that exciting? This open water diving course is one of the most popular adventures in Tamarindo, but it’s not for those on a budget. A two-day training will set you back about $1000, and definitely go for it only if you have cash to spare.

Whether you spend the day surfing, diving, admiring the leatherback turtle colonies or just working on your tan, when the sun sets it’s time to head to a hotel. You need to get to bed early, because the next day has a pretty long drive in store – we’re starting to make our way to the east coast of Costa Rica.

Day Six: Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano

But before we get to the east coast, we’ll stop at Arenal Volcano National Park in the heart of the country. It’s about a three and a half hour drive to there from Tamarindo, so hit the road early – you want to have almost an entire day to spend here because there’s so much to see. Volcanos, monkeys, butterflies, hiking trails; you name it and you’ll find it in this national park in Costa Rica.

You can go to the butterfly conservatory, walk along the hanging bridges or roam around the Venado Caves, among other things. But by far the most popular things here are hiking tours around the volcano, so don’t forget your hiking shoes. You have to be properly equipped to take on the El Silencio Mirador Trails  or The Lost Hill Trek. The good news is that there are a lot of different tours you can go on – some include only hiking while others combine hiking with kayaking, rafting and animal watching. But, there is definitely something for everyone to do in this awesome national park.

Sky Walk Hanging Bridge

I don’t want to plan out the entire day for you because not everyone will want to do the same things here. Some of you might relish the thought of another zipline, while other might dread it. But I will tell you which tour sounds amazing to me – Pure Trek & Chocolate Tour. Your day would begin with a ride along the outskirts of La Fortuna in a 4×4 vehicle, which would take you to the top of the waterfalls. Then you would go rappelling down those waterfalls, which sounds incredibly exciting! The guides naturally planned a lunch break, after which you the chocolate part of the tour comes into play. Learn about the importance of chocolate and cacao beans in Costa Rica and how to harvest them, and then you’ll get to make your own chocolate drink.

Arenal Volcano National Park

But if you feel that it’s time for a break, why not hit the Los Lagos Hot Springs. They are just outside the national park, and they are a great spot if you just want to relax for a while. You can choose between several pools with different water temperatures, water slides, bubble coves, waterfalls and other fun gimmicks. Oh and all of that with a view of the volcano in the background – amazing, right? But, I’m not sure how worth it would be for you if you only have a couple hours left before you have to head back to the hotel; the springs are very entertaining, but most people spend almost the entire day there. However, if you choose to stay at the Los Lagos hotel, then you must check them out.

At the end of the day head to Los Lagos, or whichever hotel you decided to stay at. Hopefully those hot springs really helped you unwind and you’ll be able to sleep like a baby. You want to be well rested before you hit the road on the seventh day of your journey through Costa Rica!

Day Seven: Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero Jungle

It’s already day seven of your trip and I’ve kept you pretty busy. Well, this day is going to be different because we are going to one of the most peaceful places in Costa Rica. Some people describe it as heaven on earth and others as a Costa Rican piece of Amazon, but only one thing is or sure – getting to this amazing place is an adventure in itself.

You are going to want to hit the road early, because you have to cover about 200 kilometers on the road. You are heading to La Pavona first, and you will make your way to Tortugero from there. But why exactly are you doing this, can’t you just drive to Tortugero? No, you can’t. You can get to the national park either by boat or you could fly there, and those are your two only options. If you’ve rented a car and wish to save some money, then getting on a boat in La Pavona is your best option. Or if you are travelling by bus. The boat ride to Tortugero lasts about an hour, and it costs some $3. Plane tickets are much more expensive, naturally. But if you want to fly there, drive back to San Jose and grab a flight with one of the domestic airlines from there.

Also, keep in mind that there are no banks or ATMs in Tortugero, so if you need to get some cash do it before you get to La Pavona – preferably before you leave La Fortuna (I’m assuming you spent the night there). Cell service is limited to the village, and there are no gas stations there.

Tortuguero Iguana

When you finally get there, you’ll see why it’s worth it. For one thing there are no cars in the area, and you can really enjoy some peace and quiet. And you can also admire the wildlife in its natural habitat, and hike along the beaches and try to catch a sight of a nesting leatherback turtle. One thing you will definitely want to do is go on a tour of Tortuguero’s famous canals – and for just $25. You can go with a guide, or you can rent a kayak and explore the canals on your own, while trying to catch glimpses of nearby sloths, otters, monkeys and all the other animals. Just one tip – avoid going on a motor boat. The animals don’t really like the sound of the engine, and they could go into hiding as a result.

You can also go for a night walk at dusk. This is an amazing opportunity to observe all the nocturnal animals in their natural habitat, and it’s definitely something I wouldn’t pass up on. You can see owls, snakes and even the elusive red-eyed frog – as long as you dress appropriately and don’t scare them away. The staff of Tortugero National Park suggests that you wear dark clothes, so that you don’t stand out too much in the dark and that you can observe the animals without scaring them. In addition to that, mosquito repellent is a must here.

Toucan

The point of this little excursion is to get in touch with nature for a little while, and just forget about everything else. And I’m willing to bet that that will be the most peaceful and relaxing part of your entire vacation, especially because you’ll be off the grid for a few hours. Hike through the forest, get a tour of the village and learn about the history of the place – really cherish those moments. Because most hotels in the area have WiFi, and you’ll easily catch up on all the notifications you missed when you turn in for the night.

Day Eight: Cahuita

Cahuita Costa Rica

Courtesy of Alexandre Patrier

Tortugero was different from anything else we previously explored in Costa Rica. But generally, you should be aware that the Caribbean side of the country is vastly different form the Pacific one. It is less popular with tourists, which means more locals and less developed towns. It also means that the towns here are less crowded, which I consider a big benefit. And the beaches are just as stunning as the ones on the Pacific coast – just without all the noise. That is exactly what awaits in Cahuita.

It will take you some three hours to get there from Tortugero, since you have to get back to La Pavona first if you drove there. However, if you are riding your bus through Costa Rica then you’re about to catch a break – you can get a boat from Tortugero to Moin, which is just outside of Puerto Limón. You can get a bus to Cahuita there, and the ride is about an hour long. When you get there, it’s up to you what you decide to spend your day doing. I usually like to do all the fun and adventurous things in the first few days of my vacation, and then leave the last few days for realaxtion and lying on the beach. But, there are a few things that you can do to entertain yourself here, if you choose to do so.

Cahuita Highlights: 

  • Playa Blanca
  • Playa Negra
  • Cahuita Boat, Snorkel and Hiking Tour
  • Cahuita National Park Hike and Waterfall
  • Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica
  • Playa Grande
  • Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue Center and Botanical Gardens

This small town in the Caribbean Sea is most famous for its gorgeous beaches – the vastly different Playa Blanca and Playa Negra. The first one is the most popular with tourists, since it is completely covered in white sand and it is a part of the Cahuita National Park. On the other hand, Playa Negra is covered in black sand and it is almost never crawling with tourists. So, if you want to have some time for yourself on the beach and avoid a crowd of people, definitely choose the black sand over white. :>

Sloth Sanctuary

But if you want to see the stunning coral reefs in the sea and even a sloth sanctuary, then make your way to Punta Cahuita and Playa Blanca. The national park has so much to offer, but you really don’t have to go there if you’ve had enough of Costa Rica’s wildlife – whether you decide to spend the day on the beach or in the forest is completely up to you. If you choose the latter, be prepared to see some stunning waterfalls, toucans, sloths and all kinds of monkeys! But also be prepared to encounter some snakes, bats and tarantulas – yikes.

To me, the snorkeling and hiking tour sounds the most exciting. I generally love seeing and photographing anything that is colorful, so the coral reefs would be a must for me. But, you can do this same tour from our next destination, so feel free to skip it in Cahuita if you don’t have the time or just don’t feel like it. Get back to your hotel at the end of the day if you’re tired or hit the Reggae Bar if you feel like partying. Although, between you and me, I would hit the hotel and save my party energy for the next day and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, one of the top party destinations in the Caribbean.

Day Nine: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Courtesy of Flash and Mel

You can finally sleep in as much as you want – I haven’t said at all as far as I recall! That’s because Puerto Viejo is only about 16 kilometers away from Cahuita, and you can cover that distance in 15 minutes. The beaches, craft markets and art galleries will probably draw your attention when you first arrive there, but also be prepared for blasting music as soon as the sun sets. This town is one of the hottest party spots in Costa Rica and if you want to let loose and go wild for a night, this is the perfect spot to do it.

But, before you enter the town, you should stop by Museo de Cacao. It’s on the way from Cahuita, and it’s a great opportunity to taste some authentic Caribbean food and visit a chocolate museum! You can go on a basic tour that lasts only about two hours and seems like an awesome way to start the day!

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca Highlights: 

  • Museo de Cacao
  • Chimuri Beach Retreat
  • Playa Negra
  • Luluberlu
  • Comisariato Don Manuel León
  • Koki Beach Restaurant Bar Lounge
  • Wahoo Fishing & Tours

The best thing about Puerto Viejo is that you don’t even have to go to a nightclub to party – you can do it right there on the street. But if you want to go to a bar or a club, don’t worry there is a lot of them to choose from. Mango Sunset is one of the most popular ones, and it’s great if you want to party where the locals party. Oh, and enjoy some $1 tequilas! My honest advice – don’t bring too much money with you, if you want to avoid alcohol poisoning. :>

Beach Bar Puerto Viejo

Beach bar in Puerto Viejo, Courtesy of Leonora (Ellie) Enking

Another popular spot, especially with the surfers is Tasty Waves Cantina. It perfectly captures the essence of this small town and its laid back vibe. And if you go there on a Tuesday, you can expect it to be really busy – Taco Tuesdays are a thing in Tasty Waves Cantina, and they draw people from all over the town there. But if you don’t feel like partying at all, there are other ways to have fun in Puerto Viejo. Go check out the Luluberlu Art Gallery. This is not just your regular art gallery – it is also a boutique, and it presents the story of Natacha.

She is a famous French artist who moved to Costa Rica, and she is famous for her mosaics. You can admire them, and you can also buy paintings from local artists, especially if you desperately need to shop for souvenirs! Or go paragliding, parasailing or rent a fishing charter – the possibilities are endless. Only one thing is for sure – you have to make the most of your penultimate day in the Switzerland of Central America!

Day Ten: Punta Uva/San Jose

Punta Uva is one of the most beautiful beaches not just in Costa Rica, but in the entire world. The sand is clean and the water is a stunning shade of turquoise. It is popular with both swimmers and surfers, but it’s not overly crowded so you wont have to fight for a spot. And there are trees that will offer you some shade and protection from the sun if it gets too hot. Also there’s a beach bar where you can pop in for a drink or two if you get tired of the sand between your toes.

The best thing about the beach is that it’s only some 10 kilometers away from Puerto Viejo, and you could even walk there. If you’re driving, it will take you about 15 minutes to get there, so there’s no rush. There are also busses but they are not too frequent – if you do go by bus, you want to catch one headed for Manzanillo, as it stops in Punta Uva on the way. Additionally, since the distance between the two places is so short you could get a ride in a taxi for a bargain.

My suggestion is that you spend your last day in this amazing country just enjoying yourself as much as you can. Go swimming, surfing, work on your tan a little bit – you can’t return home as pale as you left! And with all that time in the national parks and rainforests, you probably didn’t get much vitamin D.

Another option is that you make your way back to San Jose, especially if you rented a car. You want to return it to the same place where you picked it up, if you don’t want to pay any extra fees. And that would give you some additional time in the capital of Costa Rica. There’s still a lot of places to visit there, like the Children’s Museum or the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden. And that museum isn’t just for kids – it was a penitentiary up until the 1980s when it was closed. The vacant building just stood there until Gloria Bejarano de Calderon (first lady of Costa Rica at the time) decided that it was time to turn it into a museum which would focus on entertainment and science.

Anyway, if you decide to get back to San Jose on day ten, prepare yourself for a long drive. There are some 220 kilometers to cover, and it should take you about four or five hours to get to San Jose. If you don’t have a car but still want to return to the capital of Costa Rica, might I suggest catching a plane at Puerto Limon? The flight back to San Jose lasts only about 30 minutes, and you could save a lot of time in transit. I’m not sure just how much tickets cost, but they can’t be too expensive – especially when you look at the cost of other transportation methods in Costa Rica.

And that’s it! I hope this itinerary was good for you and that you had fun! I want to hear all about your time in Costa Rica and definitely see some photos – but please, no spiders! :>

About the Author Anna Timbrook

Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.

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