The first time I heard someone explain “Pura Vida” to me, I was a little skeptical. They gave this whole story about how it’s not just a saying but a way of life, which seemed kinda cheesy to be honest. But then I went to Costa Rica, and boy did that opinion change quickly. It really is a way of life – the best things are the simplest things, and those that bring pure joy. And it’s not hard to get engulfed in that mentality when you’re spending ten days exploring beautiful beaches, getting lost in the cloud forest, ziplining through the jungle, walking on suspension bridges through the treetops, and bathing in hot springs below a volcano. Sounds dreamy, right? It is.
There are SO many incredible parts of Costa Rica, and even though we had a solid 10 days there, we barely scratched the surface. Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Tortuguero, and Limon are a few of the places we didn’t get to see that I’m dying to get back to explore. For folks who have about the same amount of time that we did and who dont want to spend a lot of their time traveling between places, I’d recommend following the same itinerary that we did. You’ll get to do all the incredible things I mentioned above and feel like you got a good taste of what Costa Rica has to offer.
I’d recommend starting at the western beaches – we chose to stay on Playa Langosta just south of Tamarindo, as it was a bit lest touristy then staying in town. It’s about a 45 minute drive from the Liberia airport, and we found it to be the perfect starting point for our trip. Try to stay for 3 nights so you really have time to explore the beautiful beaches in this area – and if you’re a surfer, you’ll LOVE this region as it’s known for it’s spectacular surfing opportunities. For specifics on where to stay and what to do in the Tamarindo/Playa Langosta area, check out this post.
Next, head inland to Monteverde, the heart of Costa Rica’s cloud forest. We booked our transportation through a super helpful local agency called Anywhere Costa Rica. Check them out here! We opted for a semi-private shuttle which cost $42/person and took around 4 hours. It was a beautiful way to see the countryside, and there aren’t flight options or train anyway, so car is really the only way to travel between these two areas. Monteverde is a pretty small town, but there are still a handful of fun activities, so I’d recommend staying 3 nights here as well. For specifics on hotels and activities in Monteverde, check this post.
End your trip in beautiful Arenal, home of the famous Arenal Volcano. This area is full of beautiful resorts and tons of activities for all ages, so it’s a great place for families as well. Again, we booked our transportation from Monteverde through Anywhere Costa Rica. We took the Jeep-Boat-Jeep option which cost $25/person and took about 3.5 hours. Definitely spend 3 days here as well. For specifics on activities and lodging, check here. Arenal is about 2.5-3 hours north of San Jose, so we booked our transit to the airport through, of course, Anywhere Costa Rica (they only had private shuttles at the time which cost $70/person).
As a quick summary, here’s what I’d recommend if you have ~10 days in Costa Rica:
- Fly into Liberia, Costa Rica
- 3 Days/Nights in Tamarindo/Playa Langosta
- Hotel Reco: Sueño del Mar
- 3 Days/Nights in Monteverde
- Hotel Reco: Hotel Belmar
- 3 Days/Nights in Arenal
- Hotel Reco: Arenal Manoa
- Fly out of San Jose, Costa Rica
A few tips for traveling to Costa Rica:
- Visas are not required for US citizens, you just have to have a US passport valid for the entire length of your trip, and you have to have proof of a return flight
- Bring LOTS of sunscreen – it gets REALLY hot in Costa Rica, especially at the beaches, and the sunlight is pretty direct given the country’s location
- I’d recommend looking at both multi-city flights (i.e. from your home to Liberia and from San Jose back to your home as one ticket) and also as separate one-way flights. For our trip to CR, we found the multi-city option, which is usually cheaper than two one-way flights, would cost $250 more than two one-way flights
Been to or planning a trip of your own to Costa Rica? Let me know if you have any questions or if you have favorite places of your own. I’d love to hear!