Best of Costa Rica in 10 Days: Itinerary Tips

With its hundreds of miles of beaches, dozens of national parks and incredible biodiversity, Costa Rica is an ideal destination for anyone who loves the outdoors. Whether you’re coming as part of a family vacation, taking your honeymoon in Costa Rica or enjoy the thrill of adventure tourism, the country has something for everyone. If you plan your Costa Rica itinerary for 10 days carefully, you can minimize extra travel and maximize fun.

Let’s be clear: You simply can’t see everything that Costa Rica has to offer in 10 days. There are simply too many options! But that means no matter what you fit into your 10-day Costa Rica itinerary, you can spend every moment enjoying something exciting and new.

With that, let’s dive right into what to do for 10 days in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica family Vacations for 10 Days

Even if everyone in the family likes something different, you’re in luck. During a 10-day family vacation to Costa Rica, you can enjoy a volcano, the rainforest, and the beach!

For basic family travel and safety tips in Costa Rica, check out our Costa Rica With Kids post.

When you’ve got the whole family with you, visiting Arenal Volcano is a must. Towering more than 5,000 feet above a lake, Arenal is one of the most postcard-worthy (or Instagram-worthy) destinations in Costa Rica. It’s just two hours from the San José airport, and the area has activities for all ages.

Arenal Volcano National Park is home to miles of well-maintained trails through secondary forests where you can spot wildlife and hardened lava flows. Nearby, you can hike to the awe-inspiring La Fortuna waterfall, or on hanging bridges through the heart of the rainforest. If you’re itching for adventure, there are zip line canopy tours, too.

Lake Arenal and the surrounding rivers are perfect for water sports — from whitewater rafting to tubing to paddleboarding. And you can unwind from it all at natural hot springs, the ideal place to relax and rejuvenate in paradise.

Arenal isn’t Costa Rica’s only volcano — far from it! San José is less than two hours from Poás and Irazú Volcanoes. Both are beautiful, especially on a clear day, and stopping for volcano-grown strawberries and cream on the drive is highly recommended.

No trip to Costa Rica is complete without a day at the beach. Fortunately, from San José or Arenal, you’re less than a three hours’ drive to the oceanfront city of Puntarenas, but it’s worth traveling further south along the scenic coastal highway to Manuel Antonio, home to the world-renowned Manuel Antonio National Park.

Costa Rica Manuel Antonio National Park.
Manuel Antonio National Park is an excellent destination during a ten-day trip to Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio has several paved trails, where you’re likely to spot sloths, iguanas, and monkeys. Or, after entering the park, you can walk directly to its beaches, which are some of Costa Rica’s best.

You can easily spend a full day in Manuel Antonio National Park. (Speaking from experience, though, don’t leave small bags unattended — the white-faced capuchin monkeys won’t hesitate to steal them!) And the town has plenty of family-friendly restaurants that offer sunset views over the Pacific Ocean.

If you’re searching for more outdoor adventures, take a day trip from Manuel Antonio to Dominical for surfing, Rainmaker Costa Rica to hike and cool off in the river, or to the stunning, two-tiered Nauyaca Waterfalls.

Costa Rica Honeymoon for 10 Days

It’s hard to go wrong when taking your honeymoon in Costa Rica.

Just consider the family destinations detailed above. Is there anything more romantic than watching the sunset from private hot springs with a volcano as your backdrop? Or, in Manuel Antonio, spending an afternoon at Playa Biesanz or Playa Macha, two serene, secluded beaches?

It’s easy to turn almost any 10-day itinerary into a romantic trip for honeymooners in Costa Rica.

But if you want to explore a different side of Costa Rica, the Caribbean Coast has a unique culture and is equally pretty. It’s also less-visited, making it better for a romantic adventure.

Cahuita National Park is perhaps the country’s most underrated. It welcomed just 127,000 visitors in 2017 despite offering an excellent white-sand beach, a jungle walking trail and wildlife.

costa rica sloth cahuita national park.
A 10-day honeymoon itinerary to Costa Rica would be incomplete without seeing a sloth!

Stretching more than a kilometer, the park’s principal beach rarely feels crowded, and it’s easy to find a secluded area just for you. On the well-maintained hiking trails, you might see (or hear) howler monkeys, sloths, coatis and a variety of birds.

And Cahuita is known for its coral reefs, where you and your partner can snorkel in search for sea turtles as you’re surrounded by schools of colorful fish. If you visit from May to October, you could even have the chance to watch sea turtles nesting or hatching.

Just south of Cahuita is Puerto Viejo, a culturally diverse city on the ocean with waves that are perfect for learning to surf. Or, spend a day visiting nearby indigenous communities, where you’ll learn centuries-old traditions and participate in chocolate-making — and tasting!

Finally, rent bikes with your loved one and spend a day exploring! Near Puerto Viejo, you’ll find plenty of hidden beaches and nature reserves that protect sloths and jaguars.

If your idea of romance is a white-sand beach under a blue sky with your partner, then Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast is for you.

Costa Rica Adventurer for 10 Days

Untamed and relatively unpopulated, Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula in the Southern Pacific is the ideal destination for the true outdoorsman. The Osa Peninsula alone is home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity.

You could easily create a 10-day itinerary focusing entirely on Costa Rica’s Southern Zone.

A trip to Costa Rica’s South Pacific should start with a stop at Uvita, home to Marino Ballena National Park. In addition to its distinctive tail-shaped beach, the ocean near Uvita is one of the best places in the Americas to see humpback whales.

Just 15 minutes from Uvita is Dominical, a small beach town that is popular with surfers.

costa rica beach surfing.
Surfing and beach life is at the core of the Costa Rica experience

Speaking of surfing: The Southern Zone is home to Pavones, a legendary destination featuring one of the longest left-hand waves in the world. There you’ll find locals and international visitors alike who visit Pavones and its unforgettable waves.

This region of Costa Rica contains the Terraba-Seirpe National Wetlands, one of the largest mangrove reserves in Central America. You can take boat tours of the mangroves from the small town of Sierpe — opt for a night tour for the chance to watch snakes awakening to hunt.

Sierpe is considered the gateway to the rest of the Osa Peninsula. From there, you can take a snorkeling or scuba tour to Caño Island, where you’ll find dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, rays, and more types of fish than you could possibly imagine.

The Osa Peninsula contains very few towns, one of them being the biological paradise of Drake Bay. Scarlet macaws fly overhead, and a public hiking trail takes you past several small beaches before ending at San Josecito Beach, one of the country’s finest.

And the Osa Peninsula’s main attraction, Corcovado National Park, is worthy of a day hike or overnight stay. It’s one of the best places in Costa Rica to see wildlife, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot jaguars, tapirs, and other protected species.

After surfing, snorkeling, and hiking, celebrate with the catch-of-the-day (and a cerveza) at one of Drake Bay’s many seafood restaurants before taking a direct flight back to San José.

After conquering the Costa Rican wilderness, you’ve earned it.

A 10-day Trip to Costa Rica: In Summary

Ten days in Costa Rica won’t let you see everything the country has to offer. Costa Rica may be small, but it’s packed with enough nature, adventure and romance to keep visitors coming back again and again.

So when you’re envisioning your 10-day trip to Costa Rica, consider your top priorities. If your goal is to see sloths and monkeys, Manuel Antonio can’t be beaten. If you want to look into a volcano, check out Poás and Irazú, or visit Arenal for a comprehensive outdoors experience. The Caribbean Coast is more secluded, and the South Pacific is a wild adventure unlike any other.

Once you’ve made up your mind, it’s time to plan your trip to Costa Rica! Please contact us using the form below if we can help with planning a trip!