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. It’s really no surprise that Costa Rica is the more visited country in Central America by tourists.
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, book a one-on-one consultation call to discuss planning your unique vacation to Costa Rica, or hire me for a full-service approach.
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, I encourage you to have the freedom to explore when traveling, which is why I never plan your itinerary down to the minute. I 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 me) 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
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
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, book a one-on-one consultation call or hire me for a full-service approach.
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.
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 village on the Caribbean with a mix 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!
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
visit Costa Rica
Do you think Costa Rica just might be the perfect country your next great adventure?
At Sapphire & Elm Travel Co. I’m proud to have been to the destinations I plan trips to. I don’t plan my clients’ vacations based on vague, outdated, impersonal, or incomplete internet searches, but on personal experience and knowledge.
By traveling to the country ahead of my clients I am able to research and gather insight into the cities, activities, hotels, transportation, what to see, what to miss, and more. This often means I make mistakes in order to save my clients precious time, energy, money and hassle while you’re abroad.