Costa Rica is a compact yet unbelievably varied destination with abundant natural attractions and a broad selection of awe-inspiring scenery, adventurous activities, and diverse ecosystems. On a trip to Costa Rica, you can visit rainforests, cloud forests, and active volcanoes, and walk along miles of beautiful beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Adventure hounds will have their fill choosing from an exciting array of activities, and those looking for some rest and relaxation can soak in hot springs, get a volcanic mud wrap and massage, or simply grab a lounge chair and a pair of binoculars. Costa Rica’s relatively small size makes visiting several destinations during a single vacation both easy and enjoyable.
The fastest and easiest way to get around the country is by small commuter aircraft. Most major destinations are serviced by regular commuter or charter airline companies. However, this does mean using San José or Liberia as periodic transfer hubs. If your connections don’t line up, you may end up having to tack on nights in either of these cities at the start, end, or in the middle of your trip. Luckily, sufficient flights and internal connections make this an infrequent occurrence.
Unless you’re traveling on a really tight budget or are unwilling to drive in a foreign country, renting a car is the best way to get around Costa Rica. (But I can’t recommend doing much driving in the chaotic capital, unless you have nerves of steel and know where you’re going.) Most major destinations are between 2 and 5 hours from San José by car, and many can be linked together in a well-planned and convenient loop. For example, one popular loop links Arenal Volcano, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio.
It’s also possible to pick up a car in San José and drop it off in Liberia if you want to fly in one airport and out the other, which can save a considerable amount of driving time for more or less the same price.
However, be forewarned that the roads here are often in rough shape, many major roads and intersections are unmarked, Costa Rican drivers can be reckless, and traffic jams can appear out of nowhere.
The itineraries in this section are specific blueprints for fabulous vacations, and you can follow them to the letter. You might also decide to use one or more of them as an outline and then fill in some blanks with other destinations, activities, and attractions that strike your fancy as you explore.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.