3 Weeks in Costa Rica: Where To Go & Things To Do

Sapphire & Elm Travel co-founder,   Stephanie  , recently spent three weeks exploring Costa Rica.

Sapphire & Elm Travel co-founder, Stephanie, recently spent three weeks exploring Costa Rica.

After 3 months of traveling Central America I thought that I had a pretty good idea of the landscape of the region. When I arrived at my first Costa Rican destination of La Fortuna, I quickly realized I was wrong. Costa Rica is unparalleled in the region in terms of lush jungle and waterfalls.

For a little frame of reference; I've personally visited 26 countries and Costa Rica is by far one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen with it's rainforests and empty, pristine beaches.

Costa Rica is one of the most diverse places in the world. It's home to a variety of landscapes; rolling mountains, rainforests, jungle, rivers, volcanoes, lakes, open plains, desert, and lush valleys. With over 615 wildlife species per 10,000 sq km, Costa Rica sits atop of the list as the most bio-diverse region of the world!

In fact, there are 27 national parks in Costa Rica, and many wonderful towns, reserves, and beaches to see.

With so much to do in Costa Rica, it's hard to pick what do to in just three short weeks.

However, my recommended vacation for your first 3 weeks in Costa Rica is the following.

*Please Note: this is a general itinerary based on my personal experience and recommendations from locals. This is NOT the recommendation we'd give you personally because you are a unique individual and your vacation should reflect your unique interests. This is a starting guide line. Contact Us to plan your unique vacation to Costa Rica.


Arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica

Day 1 – Fly into San Jose, preferably in the morning. Then drive to first stop, Tortuguero National Park.


Tortuguero National Park

Day 2 – Kayak Around the Park

Tortuguero National Park is one of the few national parks that you must explore by water.  

Day 3 – Rest and/or Freedom to Explore

At Sapphire & Elm Travel we encourage you to have the freedom to explore when traveling, which is why we never plan your itinerary down to the minute. We believe that the most fun experiences are ones that you create on your own in the moment, with the advice and recommendations given to you from travel experts like us and locals.

Day 4 - Drive to La Fortuna

Upon arrival, explore the charming town of La Fortuna. It's quite developed so it's a good starting place in Costa Rica for those with limited travel experiences to developing countries.


La Fortuna / Arenal National Park

Day 5 – River Rafting

Sapphire & Elm Travel co-founder, stephanie, "bull riding" the front of the raft

Sapphire & Elm Travel co-founder, stephanie, "bull riding" the front of the raft

River rafting is such a thrilling and enjoyable way to see an area! Perfect for all ages!

Day 6 – Hiking Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs

Take a stroll or avid hike around Arenal Volcano. For recommendations on which hike is best suited for you and your group, Contact Us.

After your walk or hike, soak in one of the many hot springs. There are so many hot springs to choose from, for which is best suited to you and your group, Contact Us.

Day 7 – Rest and/or Freedom to Explore

Giving yourself the freedom to explore is a huge part of traveling, it allows you to opportunity create unique experiences and memories. Upon arrival in a new place, talk to locals and see what they recommend! You'll be armed with other recommendations from experts like Sapphire & Elm Travel before you go so you always have an idea of options for what to do!

Day 8 – Drive to Monteverde, explore the town. Optional night walk.


Moneteverde Cloud Forest

Day 9 - Cloud Forest Hiking


Day 10 - Zip Lining

One of my favorite activities in Monteverde was zip lining. It's fun for all ages and adventure levels! Some parts are extremely terrifying but still very safe. 

Day 11 – Drive to Tenorio & Relax in the Rio Celeste

Upon arrival in Tenorio, spend the Afternoon in the Rio Celeste in Tenorio.


Tenorio National Park

Day 12 - Hike Tenorio National Park

One of my absolute favorite national parks in Costa Rica was Tenorio National Park! It was the least crowded and provided us with such a lovely hike in the jungle with views of the incredible Celeste Waterfall.

Day 13 - Drive to Manual Antonio National Park


Manual Antonio National Park

Day 14 – Manual Antonio National Park

Spend the day walking the park, seeing lots of monkeys and sloths, and playing on the beautiful beaches.

Day 15 - Drive to Puerto Viejo

Upon arrival in Puerto Viejo, spend the afternoon exploring the town.

Puerto Viejo

Day 16 – Take a Yoga Class, Explore the Town of Puerto Viejo

The town of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica is quite small, but trust us there is so much to see. It's such a charming, hippie village with lots of dive bars and nice restaurants.

Day 17 – Cahuita National Park

Take a trip to Cahuita National Park. It's only a 20 minute drive from Pueto Viejo. It's the only free national park in Costa Rica, however they do take donations. You can hike in the park around the ocean peninsula and snorkel as well. If you snorkel, a guide is required.

Day 18 & Day 19 – Waterfall Hike, Kayak, Playa Cocles, Freedom to do What you Choose!

sapphire & elm Co-founder, Stephanie at Bri Bri waterfall

sapphire & elm Co-founder, Stephanie at Bri Bri waterfall

Sapphire & Elm co-Founder, Stephanie doing some yoga on playa cocles, costa rica

Sapphire & Elm co-Founder, Stephanie doing some yoga on playa cocles, costa rica

There's lots to do in and around Puerto Viejo, including relaxing on one of the most beautiful beaches, Playa Cocles or hiking to a waterfall (there's several to choose from)! This is your time to explore or rest and just enjoy yourself! Pura Vida!

Day 20 - Drive to San Jose

Day 21 – Fly Back Home

There is so much to see and do in Costa Rica, and your holiday time is both limited and valuable. Don't waste your time trying to plan it yourself. Contact Us for personal recommendations and bookings for your trip to Costa Rica!

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