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I kind of see Costa Rica as Latin America for beginners, because the country’s tourism industry is so hot that they’ve adapted to the tastes and needs of the average American traveller. For this reason, 2 weeks in Costa Rica is one of the best options for your first time in Latin America if you don’t speak Spanish. It’s also a fantastic country to travel with your family, as there are adventures to be had for all ages.
Like all my 14-day trip plans, this 2 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary has been crafted with backpackers and glampackers in mind, so will be a bit of a whirlwind if you’re used to 14-day all-inclusive-hotel-style holidays. Perhaps take out one of the destinations to give yourself a little more time to enjoy the journey if this is an issue.
After reading this 2 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary, you may also want to have a skim of:
I assume you’ll be flying in to start your 2 weeks in Costa Rica in the capital city, San José. There isn’t a huge amount for tourists to do in the city, and it’s not the most safe corner of the universe, so I’m suggesting you get a bus straight down to the Caribbean coast if your flight times allow it.
Costa Rica is not really the place for night buses, and luckily none of the legs in the journey of this Costa Rica itinerary are long enough to warrant travelling through the night anyway. However, it will mean a number of travel days during your 2 weeks in Costa Rica.
Infrastructure is generally not great in the country, with most roads just leading to the capital rather than the neighbouring town, so even I’m impressed that the below route is avoiding having to connect buses in San José so well.
Wherever possible, I strongly recommend taking private shuttles instead of public buses, just because buses take so much longer on the bumpy roads, and usually require route connections. Shuttles are easily organised through hostels/hotels and reputable travel tour sites like Viator or Get Your Guide.
When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?
A destination that’s popular all year round, there’s no wrong time to spend 2 weeks in Costa Rica, but you might want to avoid US school holidays, including around Christmas.
Rainy season (known as green season for the lushness it blooms) is from May to November, but because of the tropical climate the downpours won’t last too long, and the temperature will not be much affected. I was in Costa Rica during the months of May, June and July, and didn’t feel restricted by the weather.
The ideal 2 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary:
Here’s a quick run-down of my suggested 2 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary with recommended places to stay; below I’ll tell you more about what to do in each of these destinations.
What not to miss in your 2 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary:
Days 1-4: Puerto Viejo
Welcome to the Caribbean! Puerto Viejo is the perfect example of Central America’s Caribe, with lots of fascinating cultural influence from West Africa (due to slavery), Jamaica (from the diaspora) and the indigenous Bribri people who have lived in the region since before records began.
The town is relatively small but not exactly quaint, and the vibe is incredibly laidback. The bars in Puerto Viejo tend to be pokey, but that doesn’t stop locals having amazing parties – there’s always a ladies’ night somewhere!
There are beaches on both sides of the cape. To the West, the sand is white/yellow, and to the East, it’s black.
Not to be missed in the first stop of your 2 weeks in Costa Rica is a guided tour of the Jaguar Rescue Centre (which doesn’t actually have any jaguars but does amazing work in researching and rehabilitating monkeys, sloths and more).
Wildlife-lovers are going to absolutely adore this stop on my 2 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary. Tortuguero is famous for its popularity with several species of turtle, who come here between the months of July to October to lay their eggs in the sand (plus some rarer nesting from loggerheads in February-April).
Though the beaches are excellent during the day, expect to be more or less nocturnal if you want to experience watching turtle nesting (please go with an official tour to ensure you’re observing in a safe way).
Prepare to be hit by lushness! The most northern destination in your 2 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary is centred around the active Arenal Volcano, which looms over the green countryside. There is another volcano, El Chato, nearby, but it’s dormant and therefore infinitely less exciting, but still pretty damn cool for its turquoise crater lake.
Let’s get deep into the rainforests of Costa Rica in Manuel Antonio. This is a national park that centres around the stunning beachy landmark of Punta Catedral, a satisfyingly symmetrical peninsula with sandy beaches and palm trees on both sides.
During this final part of your 2 weeks in Costa Rica, make plans to hike into the remoteness of the national park, visit wildlife centres, seek whales & dolphin sightings from a catamaran, explore the mangroves of Isla Damas by boat, shop in the farmers’ market in Quepos on a Saturday or spend a day lounging on the various beaches.
Don’t want to spend 2 weeks in Costa Rica on your own?
I don’t blame you for not wanting to travel on your ones, it’s something people tend to other love or hate. Thankfully, Costa Rica is a popular place for small group tours companies, with Intrepid and G Adventures being some of the most highly regarded amongst backpackers.
What’s exciting is that G Adventures have only just launched their new wellness retreat trips, and their Central America wellness route takes mindful travellers around Costa Rica. You can expect to finish the 8 days feeling refreshed, well-nourished and at peace after their hiking excursions, healthy menus, meditation and yoga sessions with a stunning backdrop. Accommodation is included for all 7 nights. You can then decide whether you’re feeling brave enough to do the final 6 days of your 2 weeks in Costa Rica travelling solo, or keep travelling alongside some of the friends you made at the retreat.
Intrepid offers an action-packed Classic 15 Days in Costa Rica, with a similar itinerary to this 2 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary, but with additions such as Monteverde (image below) and a local homestay. This tour includes 11 meals and all accommodation in the package price. It has a maximum of 12 guests on the tour – a great group size to get to know people well during your travels.
Got 3 weeks in Costa Rica?
If you have a few more days to play with, lots of people like to spend time in Jaco, which is not far from Manuel Antonio, and is great for surfing and partying.
3 weeks in Costa Rica will also just about give you enough time to head over to the peninsula to check out some more of the country’s Pacific beaches, such as Santa Teresa (image below).
Another popular region is Guanacaste, which is home to more incredible hot springs, waterfalls and a volcano in the peaceful Rincón de la Vieja national park.
Not quite convinced on a Costa Rica itinerary?
If you’re not yet sold on a 2 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary, and want to hone in on where in Latin America to spend your 2 weeks’ holiday, you might also want to check these out before booking those flights!