How to Plan Your Ultimate Costa Rica Itinerary
Congratulations! You're in the beginning process of planning a vacation! Even though you're not lounging on an exotic beach yet, this part of the process can be a blast.
There are a lot of things to consider when arranging your Costa Rica itinerary, from the weather, hotels, flights, transfers to the cities and beaches you'll visit. If the cost seems intimidating, fear not--we'll walk you through it! Keep reading to find your best Costa Rica itinerary!
Though there is not a true winter in Costa Rica, you still may want to consider the time of year for your trip. The months of May to November are considered the rainy season, with September and October typically have the heaviest rains. This leaves December through April having little to no rain.
Being the dry season, December through April are also considered peak tourist season and it typically is the most expensive time to travel. Don't let this stop you, the slightly elevated cost will definitely pay off allowing you to see and explore the many rainforests and beaches.
Now that you have a general idea of when to travel, now you need to know when and how to book your flights. Keep in mind, that with almost everything, you get what you pay for. The cheapest flight may not be the best and the best probably isn't the cheapest. And the cheapest may be a royal pain in the you-know-what.
Sure, you've flown before. Even so, you might want to read this. And if you haven't flown or flown internationally, definitely read this section!
Be wary of sites that hide the stopovers, track your information, (always search in a hidden browser!) and have really long layovers in random cities. Sometimes going old school is best--booking directly through the airline or a travel agent.
Some studies have shown that booking 81 days before your flight for international trips will be cheaper than booking more than 200 days in advance. Also, know the expensive and cheap cities to fly out of and see if an airport outside of your hometown may be more cost-effective.
Hotels & Shuttles
Where you lay your head will vary greatly depending on what city you'd like to stay in, what season you travel, and what you're willing to spend. There are many to choose from, but it's a good idea to book with a company that allows you to combine your transportation and hotel.
Always read reviews. One or two bad reviews does not mean a bad hotel.
Possible Costa Rica Itinerary
Now the exciting part! Where to go, what to see and do; the adventures! Or, if you want, what beaches to lounge on. This trip is yours--it is all about you and how you want to spend your tropical days. So here are some cities you may want to consider and options on what to do in them:
If you fly into San José?, you can easily get to La Fortuna by car, bus, or shuttle. La Fortuna sits at the base of the Arenal Volcano. You can take a hike or horseback ride through Arenal Volcano National Park and enjoy some of the wildlife that calls this beautiful place home.
The La Fortuna Waterfall is also a sight to see. With a simple walk down 500 stairs, getting there is decently easy, getting back might take a bit of work.
With all that hiking, you may want to check out the hot springs. There are resorts in the area that you can pay a day rate to access their facilities, but you can also just ask a local for a recommendation on the naturally occurring springs.
Rincón de La Vieja in Guanacaste
If you choose to visit Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure Center, you can zip line, traverse suspension bridges, and explore the tropical forrest in the foothills of the Rincón de La Vieja National Park. Hiking through the primary tropical forrest is also a fantastic option to see awesome flora and fauna, waterfalls and even get to the natural hot springs where you can relax after an adventurous hike.
There are also night walk tours available for those adventurous vacationers wanting to make the most of their Costa Rica itinerary and be able to brag about the snakes, tree frogs, and tarantulas they met while abroad.
With a small trip of about 3.5 picturesque hours, you will find yourself at Samara Beach. It isn't Montezuma, it's better. It is one of the most gorgeous beaches in Costa Rica, as well as one of the safest. The beach is a favorite among locals and tourists alike with its 3-mile coast, living coral, and tropical plant life.
A lesser known secret about 20 minutes from Samara Beach is Belen Waterfall. It is a small series of swimming holes and waterfalls hidden from main roadways. You'll hike through some woods and water to reach your destination of natural pools created by the rock formations.
A few other beaches to check out are Jac?, Tamarindo, and Manuel Antonio. If beaches are secondary on your list of things to do, try picking beaches relatively close to where your "base" is for those nights as you don't want to waste an entire day traveling, no matter how beautiful the landscape is.
If beaches are a primary reason you're taking your trip, look around at neighboring cities for day trips to add to your Costa Rica itinerary as heat exhaustion is real (and so are sunburns!)
Are You Ready?
If these cities or excursions don't seem appealing to you, don't worry. There are plenty of other cities made for every taste, every fitness level, and every budget. There are plenty of other cities too, the ones listed are all just suggestions or ideas.
If planning an entire Costa Rica itinerary sounds daunting or like it might be too much to handle, look into a vacation package. Many can be fully customized to your liking making your trip as leisurely or as adventurous as you want it!
Don't forget the sunscreen!