A 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Exploring the Rainforest + Beach [2022]

Are you spending time in Costa Rica and looking for the perfect 10 day Costa Rica itinerary? I’ve got you covered!

Costa Rica is a destination that should be on your bucket list. It has mountains, beaches, rainforests, high adrenaline activities, cloud forests, sloths, adventuring, lots of wildlife, incredible food, flavorful smoothies, friendly people… I mean, the list is never-ending!

While you could extend your Costa Rica trip indefinitely and still find more to do, I think 10 days is a perfect amount of time to experience many of the high points in this gorgeous country. It gives you time for adventuring in the mountains and lounging on the beach, with lots of extras sprinkled throughout. 

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Here is My Optimal 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary:

Costa Rica Day 1: 

Arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica, pick up your rental car from the airport, and drive from San Jose to the city of La Fortuna. Alternatively, you can also fly into Liberia, which is a little closer to La Fortuna. 

If you’re spending 10 days in Costa Rica (or really, any amount of time), you’ll definitely need a car! We found the best prices and deals on cars at RentalCars.com

Browse available cars at RentalCars.com here!

Read More: Driving in Costa Rica (for everything to know about driving conditions in the country!)

Hotel in La Fortuna: I can highly recommend staying at the Los Lagos Hot Springs Resort in La Fortuna. This resort has several pools and many hot springs to enjoy, surrounded by lush vegetation and a view of the Arenal volcano! Plus the breakfast buffet is top notch

 Book the Los Lagos Resort here!

A semi-covered small, manmade, hot springs pool is surrounded by lush vegetation and tropical ferns. A blue sky is overhead.
We loved this resort! Lush vegetation and hot springs everywhere!
A small, manmade hot springs pool is surrounded by lush vegetation.
Absolutely gorgeous!

Day 2 – The first full day on your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary: 

Begin your day by eating breakfast at the resort. An extensive breakfast buffet is offered every morning – make sure you put the salsa lizano on your eggs!

A counter with a hot breakfast buffet is set up. Five different stations with gallo pinto, eggs, and other Costa Rican foods are available. Various salsas are in bowls in the background.
The first section of the breakfast buffet

Start off your Costa Rica vacation with a bang by doing some adventure activities – you have a lot of options in La Fortuna! Here are some of these high adrenaline activity options:

Ziplining + Tarzan Swing

Ziplining through and above the rainforest canopy is a super popular adventure activity in La Fortuna. And with good reason — the platforms where you launch and land are in the trees, but in the middle of the line you are zipping high above the canopy, and the views were incredible.

This particular tour offers a package that includes the regular ziplining, plus the Superman Zip and the Tarzan swing, which were incredibly fun add-ons as well!

A woman ziplines through the rainforest of Costa Rica. All around her are trees and ferns. She is holding onto the zipline and coming towards the camera.

You put on a different harness entirely for the Superman zip (somehow all of our pictures doing the Superman disappeared, but there are good pictures here!) so that you are laying flat and face down as you launch – it TOTALLY feels like you are flying and was absolutely exhilarating.

The Tarzan Swing is a fun addition to the zipline tour: At first glance, the swing looked really scary – like I honestly was pretty nervous at first, but it ended up being so fun, I did it twice! The guides took us up to a really high platform in a clearing in the forest and hooked us up to this giant rope tied up to a super high tree. You jump off the platform and then swing far out.

Book this zipline + Superman + Tarzan swing tour here!

Getting hooked up to the swing
And swinging out! (Can you see me??)

White Water Rafting

White water rafting is another fun, high adrenaline activity in La Fortuna.  The route includes class 2 and class 3 rapids and lasts several hours. The rapids were really fun and very bouncy, but never got super scary, which I appreciated.

There are two great options for white water rafting I’d recommend:

This morning white water rafting experience OR this afternoon white water rafting adventure

Six people are smiling at the camera in a white water raft. They are wearing life jackets and yellow helmets. A river and dense jungle are behind them.

Canyoning

Canyoning is another fun adventure, which was essentially rappelling down and through waterfalls. It was fun, but fairly tame rappelling. No experience is needed, and you can go as fast or as slow as you want (the guides are really accommodating!).

Book this canyoning adventure here!

Combo Tour Option

Finally, if you want to do a few different activites, you have the option to combine several experiences into one tour:

➡️This tour is a fun combination of the ziplining tour + superman zip + white water rafting
➡️This tour offers white water rafting, canyoning, and the Tarzan swing
➡️This full day tour gives you all the activities, with canyoning, white water rafting, ziplining, the Superman zip, and the Tarzan swing!

One big plus of almost all of these tours is that they provide transportation to and from your hotel in La Fortuna.

You can pick and choose between these activities to create your preferred schedule for your first full day in Costa Rica!

Dinner: The swim-up grill in the resort pools and hot springs area. After a long day of adventuring, relaxing in the hot springs while eating dinner is the way to go!

Costa Rica Day 3: 

Morning

Wake up early to get to the Rio Celeste Waterfall first thing in the morning. It’s a 1.5 hour drive from La Fortuna, and only a certain number of tickets are sold each day, so you don’t want to get there too late!

A waterfall cascades into a  vibrant, milky blue pool. Surrounding the waterfall and pool is dense rainforest. A stairwell zig zags through the trees to reach the base of the waterfall.

It takes about 20-25 minutes to hike through the rainforest to the waterfall, and then you descend about 500 stairs to get to the base of the waterfall. It’s well worth it! The water is this gorgeous milky blue color, and the stairs down are adorable. This was maaaaybe my favorite activity in Costa Rica on this 10 day itinerary! 

After you see the waterfall, continue on the trail for another ½ hour. You’ll pass by the Blue Lagoon, the bubbling hot pots (you’ll smell it before you see it!), an adorable bridge, and the to Teñideros – the spot where two different colored water streams meet and create a chemical reaction to make that milky blue color! All together, it’s a wonderful hike.

Two sources of water meet and mix in a river, and the water turns from clear-ish and brown to a milky blue. The river is surrounded by lush jungle.
Teñideros – see how the water is turning blue from the chemical reaction happening?

Make sure to only bring water in reusable containers – single use plastic bottles are not allowed in (and they will check!)

Lunch: When you get out of the park, grab lunch from the food stands just outside the entrance – we ate fresh mangoes and kebabs and it was delicious. 

Afternoon

Head to the public hot springs in the Tabacon River. There is parking along the side of the street. Make sure you bring good footwear – it’s rocky along the banks and in the water!

Six people sit in a row in a hot springs river. They are in the water just up to their shoulders and are all smiling at the camera. Palms and ferns in the rainforest are behind them on the banks of the river.

Dinner

Restaurant Pizza La Cava – the pizzas were delicious, but the appetizers were my favorite!

Day 4: 

Morning

Time to visit the La Fortuna waterfall. It’s only 10 minutes away and a beautiful spot to visit. From the parking lot, it’s a 2 minute walk to the top of the staircase and then it’s 500 stairs down to the base of the waterfall, but it’s a pretty walk and worth the effort!

Everything is well-paved – I actually just wore flip flops to this waterfall!

Buy advance tickets for the waterfall here!

For a little more adrenaline and a really unique and cool expeirence, you could also do a zipline course, where one of the lines takes you right above and across the waterfall!

Book this La Fortuna waterfall zipline experience here!

Lunch: Swing by Soda La Hormiga for lunch (they close at 4pm) – the food is yummy and super inexpensive. Eating at a soda is a must-do sometime during your 10 days in Costa Rica – they are ubiquitous and a very “local” experience!

Three plates of food are on a table. One plate has a variety of foods on it, including rice, beans, salad, chicken, and pasta. One plate has a fried burrito. One plate has some meat in a red sauce.

Afterwards, stop by Frutas Y Verduras Hnos Lazo fruit stand that’s right around the corner and get a smoothie (definitely get it with milk). These smoothies are incredible and crazy cheap!

Afternoon

Hang out at the El Salto Costa Rica rope swing. This off-the-beaten-path spot features a rope swing over a natural pool area in the local river. Park on the side of the road (don’t forget to tip the parking attendant), and head down on the left side of the river to find the rope swing. It’s a lot of fun!

Alternative Afternoon Option:

If rope swings aren’t your thing, or if you end up with lots of time afterward, you can also visit another hot springs resort this afternoon. Many of the resorts in the area offer day passes, so you can jump around and visit a few different spots.

Baldi Hot Springs is a beautiful resort featuring 25 hot pools surronded by lush vegetation and landscaping. You can book your day pass ahead of time here!

Tabacon resort is THE place to go for the ultimate luxury experience. It is different than the free public river, and has some stunning features. Book your day pass here!

Dinner:  Grab dinner at the Alfa Venezuelen food truck. You can’t beat the prices, the quality of the food, or the atmosphere at this food truck.  Don’t miss the plantain and queso empanada ( it sounds weird, but was really amazing!)  

Day 5: 

Morning

Start your day with some relaxation by the pools at the resort, then head to your chocolate tour with Don Olivio. This family run tour is waaay more than a basic chocolate tour – you get to sample all sorts of interesting tropical fruits as well.

You’ll try cocoa beans in all stages of preparation, and make your own chocolate. You can also sample the homegrown coffee, cinnamon, and vanilla. Plus, they point out a big variety of interesting plants, animals, and insects on the farm. 

Come hungry because you will get stuffed! 

Book this chocolate tour here!

A smiling woman in a white shirt holds up a yellow fruit in the shape of a star for the camera.
Sampling starfruit!

Lunch: The food from Don Olivio will cover lunch.

Afternoon

Visit Mistico Hanging Bridges for an extremely beautiful walk through the rainforest canopy on 6 different suspension bridges. The hanging bridges were split up throughout the rainforest walk (which took about 2 hours)!

While the suspension bridges were easily the highlight, don’t sleep on the rest of the – more traditional – hike through the rainforest. Most of the trail hugged the side of a ravine, with one side of the trail dropping out and looking over the side of the ravine. I loved it!

A woman in a white dress is walking along a suspension bridge high up in the rainforest canopy. She is looking out over the rainforest, and trees and palms are all around the bridge.

The trail takes about 2 hours and the park closes at 4:30pm, so make sure you start by around 2pm.

You do need to buy tickets ahead of time, as timed entry is currently being enforced.

Dinner: La Parada restaurant – everything here was delicious, but the patacones and the smoothies were standouts for us!

A plate of food is shown. At the top of the plate are patacones - fried plantain chips. There is also three small dishes holding pico de gallo, bean spread, and guacamole.
Patacones are savory, fried plantains!

Evening: You know what’s coming – relax in the resort pools and hot springs!

Read More: 17 Awesome Things to Do in La Fortuna (for even more details and information about the activities discussed here)

Day 6:

Morning: Take one last quick swim in the resort pools early,  then check out of your rooms and hit the road! If you want to get to Manuel Antonio before it gets dark, I would recommend leaving first thing in the morning. Stop at the Frutas Y Verduras Hnos Lazo fruit stand on your way out to grab a smoothie for the road!

A hand is holding a mango smoothie in a plastic cup in a store. In the background are fruit displays from the store.

It takes about 5 hours to drive from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio, not counting any stops, so settle in for a drive.

Afternoon: On your way down to Manuel Antonio, it is totally worth stopping at the Crocodile Bridge. You can grab lunch here if you want, but the main attraction is walking across the bridge that spans the Tarcoles River. We saw between 15-20 crocodiles laying out and swimming on the sand and in the water beneath! This is a quick stop – if you don’t stop for food, 20 minutes is plenty of time here.

This bridge is free to visit. 

A crocodile is hanging out in some semi-murky water. It is half-submerged until the water.
Six crocodiles lie on the dirt of a river bank next to a river. The vantage point is from way above on a bridge, so the crocodiles are relatively small.

Arrive: Manuel Antonio beach, check into your resort and hit the pools or beach!

The Costa Verde Resort has 3 beautiful pool areas (the adult-only pool overlooks the ocean!), lots of jungle areas, and monkeys everywhere! It’s a great base camp spot for exploring Manuel Antonio – we loved it! Check current prices here!

View over the resort jungle to the beach

Dinner: Hit up Falafel Bar for dinner. Their seating arrangement is super chill, cozy, and intimate, and the food is incredibly fresh and flavorful!

Day 7:

Day: Beach and pool day! Espadilla Beach is super close and is very beautiful. You can walk down from the hotel, or you can drive and park – do note there is a parking fee at some access points though! 

This is also the perfect day for a snorkeling cruise tour! A snorkeling tour is a fun option because you can watch the scenery and look for marine wildlife as you sail along, eat a freshly cooked hot lunch, and then cool off by snorkeling, or even just going down the slide off the boat!

Day 8:

Daytime: Today is the day to hit up Manuel Antonio National Park. I would for sure get to the entrance first thing in the morning and DEFINITELY buy your tickets online in advance.  (The process to buy tickets on-site is ridiculously slow, confusing, and inefficient)

Saw this guy in Manuel Antonio!

Once in the park, you can wander around looking for wildlife, such as frogs, butterflies, crabs, coati, monkeys, and sloths. After you’ve explored for a while, head to the beaches only accessible in the National Park. Most people go to Manuel Antonio beach, but if you continue on the trail past the beach and take a right, you’ll end up on Espadilla Sur beach. This beach is just as beautiful and much less crowded! 

Espadilla Sur from Manuel Antonio NP

Lunch: Currently, no food is allowed to be brought into Manuel Antonio, but there is a a little café in the middle of the park you can get food from.

On your way out, head through the mangroves for a different variety of trail – I loved the boardwalk through the mangroves and thought they were super peaceful and interesting. 

Entrance to the mangroves

The park closes at 4pm, so you still have some time to swim or relax before dinner.

Read more details about what to know about Manuel Antonio National Park here!

Dinner: Go to Emilio’s Cafe for delicious entrée offerings, such as tender, succulent fish, or flavorful, fresh salads, but you absolutely need to save room for dessert!

Their cakes, cheesecakes, and brownies were to die for. We bought a bunch to share at the table, and loved everything so much we got several more slices to go. Our favorites were the almond cheesecake and the passionfruit cheesecake!

Note: Both Emilio’s Café and Manuel Antonio National Park are closed on Tuesdays, so if your Day 8 is a Tuesday, you’ll want to switch this day with another.

Evening: Relax in the resort pools  

Day 9: 

Breakfast: La Baguette for coffee and pastries (both sweet and savory)

Daytime: Another day spent on Espadilla Beach! 

This is also a great day to do some type of fun experience, be it parasailing, learning to surf, or going on a snorkeling cruise. 

Parasailing at this particular beach is fun because you do a running beach launch to start parasailing. You get hooked up to the parasail right on the beach with the ropes running out to the boat in the water, and then you start running into the water as the boat pulls you up in the air! Check availability for this parasailing experience here!

Running for our beach launch!

Surfing lessons are a great way to get a handle on the basics of surfing if you’ve never done it before! Lessons take place right on the beach and you get a hands-on instruction on what to do. Check availability for surfing lessons here!

Dinner: El Avion restaurant – it’s right next to La Baguette and is the coolest restaurant. The dining room is built around an old airplane and the tables have views right over the ocean – perfect for enjoying the sunset.

The food is absolutely delicious here, too. I got the mahi mahi, which was delicious, and the virgin pina colada was insane. I had already ordered another drink, but I took one sip of the pina colada my brother ordered and immediately got one for myself as well.

Of all the places we ate in our 10 day Costa Rica itinerary, this was probably my favorite! (You can’t beat the combination of cool dining room, beautiful views, delicious food, and incredible smoothies!)

Costa Rica Itinerary Day 10:

Morning: Spend the morning at the resort pools or at the beach soaking in that Costa Rican vibe before you have to leave for the airport. It takes 3 hours to get from Manuel Antonio back to the San Jose airport, so make sure you leave with plenty of time to spare!

Travel Essentials for Costa Rica

These are some of my favorite items that I brought and used in Costa Rica!

I love this light, airy, tropical dress – it comes in a whole variety of prints and colors and is perfect for a tropical destination.

This straw hat is waterproof, totally compressible (you don’t have to baby it in your luggage, just smoosh it flat), and it looks great in photos.

I also love these rattan tassel earrings! They come in a two pack and work great as a beach accessory.

This cover up is floral and lightweight and works great as a kimono over an outfit or a coverup on the beach.

Sunscreen of course is important at the beach – I always wear this facial sunscreen for acne-prone skin (it’s the best!), but Matthew, with his non-sensitive skin, always just uses this very convenient sunscreen stick.

As I mentioned above, you’ll need to bring your own beach towels, and I’ve used these microfiber towels everywhere! They pack down really small but are somehow super absorbant and also dry extremely fast. Highly recommend!

These are my favorite travel sandals! They are super cushy and have great arch support and keep my feet very happy, even after a long day of walking around.

Finally, I love these packing cubes – they are great for keeping clothes and gear organized, not getting all messed up in my suitcase. They really do make traveling so much easier!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Securing some travel insurance is an important part of prepping for any international trip – you never know when something might happen, and your regular insurance generally won’t cover you overseas. Costs for a medical emergency on vacation can add up extremely fast, so it’s just better to be safe than sorry. 

I like booking insurance at Insure My Trip, as they offer a variety of plans with different coverages to choose from, so you can find the right option for you. Plus, they have great customer support if you need help before, during, or after your trip.

Check rates at Insure My Trip here!

Final Thoughts on Costa Rica

Costa Rica is the most beautiful country, with delicious food, friendly locals, cool wildlife, and no end to fun activities. This 10 day Costa Rica itinerary is the perfect marriage of relaxing and playing – you will love your time there!

My final tip for Costa Rica – drink as many smoothies as you can!

Read More Costa Rica Articles here!

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