Diverse, natural, misty, and ethereal. That’s how I’ll always remember Costa Rica! This lush country offers serene beaches, foggy forests, hot springs, and adventure sports. There’s truly something for everyone!
It may seem impossible to get the most out of Costa Rica in 5 days, but with a well-planned itinerary and a few guided tours, you can make the most of your trip!
So, what do you do if you only have 5 days in Costa Rica? Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an adrenaline-pumping adventure, my carefully curated hybrid itinerary will cater to all your needs.
Let’s jump in! Here’s my guide on how to spend five days in Costa Rica.
Learn more from the rest of our Costa Rica series…
- Navigate Costa Rican airports like a local
- Find the best areas to stay
- Stay at a Costa Rica hostels that won’t disappoint
- Don’t miss out on these local spots—the best places to go in Costa Rica
- Add these exciting things to do to your trip plan
- Make time for a few guided tours during your adventure
- Spend the night out enjoying Costa Rica’s nightlife
- Want to simplify your planning? Follow this 7-day trip plan
- Get our tips on budget travel in Costa Rica
- Discover the best advice for backpackers going to Costa Rica
- Find more helpful information if you’re a solo traveler
- Remember, camping in Costa Rica is also a great option!
- Dive into our snorkeling guide—essential tips and advice before you go
Travel in Costa Rica: General tips
For your five days in Costa Rica itinerary, renting a car is the ideal mode of transportation. Driving allows you to explore the tropical country at your own pace, which public transport can’t always offer.
Though ride-sharing services and taxis are also good options, they can get a little expensive.
However, note that driving on Costa Rican roads can sometimes be a challenging endeavor. They are narrow and, in many instances, in poor condition.
So if you’re not too confident about your driving skills, it’s a superb idea to ask for a driver from your rental company.
5 Days in Costa Rica: My Itinerary Guide
Forests cover 25% of the Costa Rican land. And, of course, there’s the stunning Caribbean coast as well. What better place to take a break? That's what I thought when I planned out my 5 day journey exploring Costa Rica.
Planning is the key to fitting as much as possible into your five-day Costa Rica trip, that's why I thought I share my itinerary so you have a basis on what you can explore in a short 5 days!
I've curated my itinerary into a guide so you'll know exactly what to expect and what to do. Here’s how the trip and itinerary went down:
Day 1: The Capital City, San Jose
Chances are, you’ll land at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose, the busiest airport in the country. The first thing to do is check in to your hotel. I advise booking in advance through TripAdvisor or Booking.com for a hassle-free process.
Flights can be tiring, so freshen up at the hotel and maybe even take a quick nap. Then start your exploration of the country’s capital!
The National Museum of Costa Rica, with its pre-Columbian artifacts and contemporary art displays, is the perfect place to get familiar with the country’s culture and history.
After exploring the museum, head out to the Central Market, where you’ll find a bustling crowd. Wander the busy streets and grab a handmade souvenir.
Don’t forget to taste the outstanding Costa Rican cuisine at one of the delicious local restaurants or street food vendors!
End your day with a tour of the city’s most prominent landmark, Teatro Nacional, a neoclassical theatre.
Day 2: Serene Yet Adventurous La Fortuna
It’s time to relax and energize yourself in La Fortuna. You could start your day with a swim in the mystical La Fortuna waterfall, but I suggest going straight for the hot springs!
Grab a drink, lean back, and soak in mineral-rich therapeutic water while enjoying the best spa experience and panoramic views.
Once you’re energized, you can take a challenging hike to the peak of Arenal Volcano and witness some breathtaking forests along the way. Other activities include waterfall rappelling, whitewater rafting, zip-lining, and canyoning. Let your inner wanderer decide the adventure for the day!
Day 3: Misty Monteverde
Monteverde is a misty cloud forest with various exotic plant and bird species. You can take a peaceful hike through the forest alone, but a guided tour can make the experience much better. If you’re lucky, you might even get the chance to see an extremely rare quetzal bird!
If a calm forest stride doesn’t excite you and you’re more on the lookout for thrills, you’ll also be able to zip-line and bungee jump through the forest’s lush canopy.
Not only is this a great adventure, but you’ll also get a completely different perspective of the forest! But wait, there’s more. You can also request guided night tours to immerse yourself in the nocturnal forest life.
Day 4: Diverse Manuel Antonio National Park
The four beautiful beaches of the Manuel Antonio National Park are perfect for tanning. With a pristine turquoise sea and magnificent forests, this incredible park has a diverse and unique ecosystem you can explore with professional guides.
There’s so much to do! You can book boat guides, snorkeling, and a scuba diving session for a unique underwater view. If you’re a fan of surfing, you’ll instantly fall in love with Manuel Antonio’s perfect surfer spots, which are also welcoming for beginners!
You could also take another zip line for a scenic view of the Caribbean coastline.
Day 5: Explore Historic Cartago
Your five days in Costa Rica would only be complete with visiting at least one volcano, so spend your last exploring Irazu Volcano National Park. It features Irazu Volcano, one of the most active in Costa Rica.
Love rafting? Cruise through the Pacuare and Reventazon rivers and rapids ranging from Class II to IV. On the touring side, Chirripo National Park’s tour and canopy tours in Turrialba will surely satisfy the adventurer inside you! Viewing the most exotic Costa Rican flora and fauna is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, after all.
Finally, head back to the historic city of Cartoga and explore the central market for one last shopping spree.
Then it’s time to leave for San Jose and wrap up your fantastic five days in Costa Rica!
Plan an Unforgettable Itinerary With Pilot!
Planning a five-day inclusive itinerary can be a challenge, but you'll definitely be able to maximize your time spent in Costa Rica with my guide! If you're planning to stay longer or not do road trips in Costa Rica, find out where the best areas to stay are, and what Costa Rican hostels you should consider staying at!
Whether planning is your favorite part or you find it a chore, let Pilot help!