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Best itineraries in Costa Rica for 21 days

Are you planning to visit Costa Rica for 21 days? But you don’t know which is the best itinerary according to your budget and holiday duration? Don't worry! I'm going to help you to plan your best-trip-ever!

In my last blog, I wrote about some itineraries you could use as a template to visit Costa Rica. Today I'm going to give you my recommended itinerary to spend 21 days in Costa Rica and travel like an expert all around this country.

Almost Tico in 21 days

I prepared this itinerary for those who want to visit almost the whole country once.

This is perfect for travellers who are prepared for everything: jungle, rainforest, sun, humidity, cloudy days… Costa Rica with all its microclimates.

Day 1. San Jose arrival – City Hotel

I recommend you to look for a hotel in San José instead of Alajuela or Heredia because it will give you a better start to your next destination. Also, in San José, you have many restaurant options, free city tours, or you can even take a walk to get to know downtown without complications.

Day 2. Pick up in your hotel – Tortuguero

Most of the hotels in Tortuguero work with an "all-inclusive package". That means that what you are paying for includes: transfer from your city hotel to Guápiles, breakfast, transfer to the dock, boat tour along the Tortuguero canals until you reach your hotel. ALSO, it includes all meals, lodging, and 1 or 2 tours depending on you ... plus the transfers back to Guápiles or San José.

TIP: It's important to stay in Tortuguero for 2 nights to really enjoy your trip. Please do not consider only 1 night because it would be very exhausting and all the time spent on transfers will not be worth it for 1 night.

Day 3. Tortuguero

Enjoy a morning/afternoon canal tour, a visit to the Tortuguero village, a night tour to see baby turtles or adults' oviposition (if you’re in the season), and relax! Many hotels have on-site amenities like pools, decks, butterfly gardens, trails, among others.

Day 4. Tortuguero – Guapiles – Cahuita

Coming back from Tortuguero you can be dropped off at Guápiles to continue to Cahuita. From here you can visit the Cahuita and Manzanillo National parks, meet friendly people, visit stunning beaches (some of them are almost private), taste delicious rice and beans, patty or plantain tart.

Day 5. Cahuita & Puerto Viejo

Take a ride on a rental bike around Puerto Viejo and visit every beach from Playa Negra to Punta Uva! You won't regret it!

PVL 3 min

Day 6. Cahuita – Turrialba

Turrialba is an authentic place where you can find a lot of things to do. For the adventurous, rafting is around here. For birdwatchers, this is a hotspot. For cultural seekers, Guayabo National Park and some other cultural tours are close by. Horseback riders, canyoning, rivers... are waiting for you.

Day 7. Turrialba – San Gerardo de Dota

The cloudy San Gerardo de Dota… the quetzal land.

A quetzal tour is a must right here so don’t go to bed too late and wake up very early in the morning to meet him!

Tip: Don't forget to try a delicious trout here!

Day 8. San Gerardo de Dota - Sierpe - Osa

This part of the country has the most pristine forest in Costa Rica. The beauty of Osa is evident in Corcovado National Park. You will be close to nature hiking the same path of jaguars, tapirs, monkeys, and coatis.

It works similarly like in Tortuguero because all the hotels work in "package" prices which include: transportation (land and boat), meals, lodging, and tours.

Day 9. Osa

After your breakfast, today you will visit Corcovado National Park! :D

Don't forget your camera!

Day 10. Osa

Get prepared for this snorkelling tour to Caño Island. With a little bit of luck, you can see several marine species with your gear.


I recommend you an action camera to record these beautiful creatures. I'm still regretting that I did not listen to that tip.. :(

Day 11. Osa - Sierpe – Dominical

This coastal place is known for the dolphin and whales tour. Don’t miss it!

The lodging offer is for everyone and the stunning views are a good souvenir too.

Day 12. Dominical – Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio offers one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica. Let’s go and find out why this place is so visited. Many animals are not shy right here ☺

Day 13. Manuel Antonio

One night is not enough to do all the things possible at Manuel Antonio. Visit the beaches nearby, or do one of the tours possible here. This is a place for everyone: birdwatchers, adventurous people, calm boaters, hikers and beach lovers.

Day 14. Manuela Antonio - Monteverde

Still in Puntarenas… Monteverde is known for its cloud forest reserves and birdwatchers spots :)

At night, take a tour in one of the reserves findable in Monteverde.

Day 15. Monteverde - Nosara

A couple of beachy days are waiting for you!

In my opinion, the beaches of Nosara are perfect to relax and also some of them are perfect for surfing. These calm vibes will energize you to get prepared for the next days full of adventure and volcanoes :)

Day 16. Nosara

Continue visiting the beaches of Nosara or depending on the lodge you book, you could spend the day on your lodge or doing a short hike at a reserve.

NOS min

Day 17. Nosara - Rincón de la Vieja

I love this part of Costa Rica. Even when it´s dry and hot, these landscapes and waterfalls are an excellent reward for me. I planned here two days because I truly recommend you to wear your hiking shoes and hike all the Rincón de la Vieja National Park and also visit all the hidden waterfalls there… La Cangreja, Oropendola, Las Chorreras and La Victoria are impressive (and you can swim in them!)

Day 18. Rincón de la Vieja

After your hikes, swim at the pool and rest to continue your trip tomorrow.

RDV 2 min

Day 19.  Rincón de la Vieja - La Fortuna

The famous Arenal Volcano is here. This volcanic giant is almost visible from all La Fortuna, so bring your camera with you and at the moment all the clouds disappear… SNAP! Take that photo as your souvenir.

Day 20. La Fortuna

The lodging options here are huuuuge, but I really recommend staying at a hotel with thermal springs to use them whenever you want.

Keep this day to visit the volcano or to do any of the tours offered in the zone.

Day 21. La Fortuna - Alajuela airport

Today you say goodbye to these beautiful lands.

With this complete itinerary, you could say you almost visited the whole country at one time or at least, the most important places in it.

Please remember to arrange your departure flight in the afternoon or early evening. This will help you to get on time for your flight and avoid any unplanned situations.

Ufff! What do you think about this itinerary? Does it fit you?

Even when there is a good route remember it is only an idea that can be redesigned or adjusted to you and your needs. All these routes are fittable for all the budgets and preferences.

If you are looking for help with your itinerary or if you need recommendations for tours, hotels (from 1* to 5*) and transportation methods please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.! We can give you more tips to design your best-trip-ever!

Pura Vida, Judy

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  • Janaina & Dieter

    The trip was wonderful! Your help was invaluable and without your choices it would not have been so good! I am very very satisfied and very happy with the choices you made!

    Thank you very much for everything!

    Janaina & Dieter
  • Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo

    Hello dear Aline, many thanks to you for the great compilation and organization of the trip. We were able to spend eventful, interesting and wonderful days in Costa Rica and will keep them in good memory. A thank you also goes to the ARA Tours team, which was available 24/7 for problems and questions, which were solved and answered quickly and reliably. The punctuality of the transfers offered should also be emphasized. In summary, it was a wonderful holiday.

    Kind regards

    Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo
  • Carina und Thomas

    Hello dear Aline,
    Now we have arrived back at San Jose Airport after a great trip. Everything worked out great and the tour was just perfectly planned and organized. Thank you very much. We take a lot of positive memories with us.
    Best regards.

    Carina und Thomas
  • Yvonne Deiss

    The Costa Rica trip together with my family is already behind us - it was wonderful!!! Everything went smoothly from A to Z, we had a wonderful time, no incidents and wonderful experiences.
    We all enjoyed it very much; the nature is enormous, but also the warm-hearted people, the cleanliness, the food - we are very enthusiastic!
    At this point I would like to thank you very much for your support in the preparation, for all the bookings, clarifications and enquiries!!!
    We visited the waterfall in La Fortuna and had a great view of the Arenal. In Monteverde we did a Hanging Bridges and Zipline tour and in Nosara a surf course. In Finca Rosa Bianca we did the coffee tour, it was all great, fun and interesting 😊. All in all, we saw lots of animals, always ate well, enjoyed the beaches....even in rainy weather 😊. Often we were even glad that it was overcast, otherwise it would have been almost toouuu hot for us.
    So THANK YOU again so much for everything!!!!

    Yvonne Deiss
  • Christina

    Many thanks for the extensive support (before, during and after the trip) and the professional handling of our concerns. With your support we had a smooth and unforgettable vacation in Costa Rica! Our favorite hotels: Hotel Plaza Yara and the Poas Volcano Lodge - a dream!
    All the best

  • Steinebrunner

    Yay! I´m glad we are back on track. Thank you again for helping us with all these changes.
    I´m glad we choose ARA-you are amazing! Thanks for all your help! It made it a very memorable visit!

  • Janka

    Hi Eli & ARA Team,
    We have spoken to the guest and they are super enthusiastic about their Costa Rica roundtrip! Everything was well organized, nice hotels, nice mix of activities & beach and they have big compliments for you guys!!
    Many thanks for all the good work!! The guest highly appreciate it!!
    They had lunch nearby in Ara Ambigua Lodge, and they loved this place. Friendly staff and good food!
    Do you work with this accommodation? If so, we would love hear 😊
    Once again, heads off for this amazing trip!
    With warm regards

  • Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula

    Dear Priska
    Happily I write some words to you in English, so you can easily forward them also to Ara Tours, please. Thank you all, we spent a magic time in Costa Rica! Baumeler's and Ara Tours organisation and logistics were perfect, everything worked out even better than we expected. The tours were brilliant, we really enjoyed everything very very much!
    All the accomodation was absolutely wonderful... the setting, the quality, the food, with happy helpful friendly staff everywhere. It was a wonderful way to experience this beautiful country the way we did, on a private tour with personal guide and drivers. We saw and learnt sooo much - it would have been impossible to do so on our own.
    Especially we praise our brilliant guide Fernando Perez, we benefited so much from his truly wide knowledge and deep love for his Country which he passed on in lovely encouraging way. We even became friends and we will meet in Switzerland coming September! Also our driver Carlos Sandi was great, not only as a driver but also as a compagnion, animal spotter and photographer. Thank you!
    So.... now we just enjoy our last day...
    Sunny greetings, pura vida

    Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula
  • Yvonne & Andrea

    Hello all
    Unfortunately, our wonderful trip is already over and everyday life has caught up with us again. We would like to thank you very much for everything. The trip was planned exactly according to our wishes and we have seen so many beautiful places.
    Thank you Stefanie!
    We have felt completely comfortable and top cared for by you. Via Whats App we got immediate answers to our questions, with the car everything worked out great. In all locations we were treated very warmly and nicely. It was just so indescribably beautiful, we will dream of the beautiful experiences for a long time. In any case, we will warmly recommend you and hope for a next time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Best regards.

    Yvonne & Andrea
  • Anita

    We have arrived safely in Switzerland and have already returned to work.
    It was a wonderful trip you put together for us.
    Your excellent service, as well as the 24 hour support service from ARA Tours, was truly outstanding.
    I have already recommended you several times and would book with you again and again. Thank you very much and keep me informed if there are any interesting offers.
    Best wishes.

  • Lukas & Isabelle

    Hello Pedro, our time in CR is coming to an end and we wanted to say "thank you very much for organizing a phenomenal week". Everything has been well organized and we have seen many beauties of nature. Thanks!

    Lukas & Isabelle
  • Reinout & Yvonne Woittiez

    Thanks Jenny for the clear answer. We will make an appointment via the link you gave us.
    Today we visited National Parc Cabo Blanco. What an amazing park, so quiet for tourists, so full of animals, really lovely and therefore together with Monte Verde, Cahuita and Corcovado the park today, Cabo Blanco, scores high in our ranking of most beautiful parks of CR.These parks give us reason, together with the Pura Vida in CR, to come back soon. We'll keep in contact.

    Reinout & Yvonne Woittiez
  • Dominik

    Good day Jennifer
    As we have already told Simone, the stay at Lapa Rios is extremely enriching, thanks to the well planned planting and the untouched environment we see a lot of animals. Contrary to the plans before the stay, we do not want to visit more animals in captivity at the end. We will have a look at the few hours before we leave.
    We thank you and your team very much for the excellent advice and the permanent support! We can only recommend Ara Tours.
    Best regards.

  • Daniel, Jana und Theo

    A big thank to you, you saved our vacation!
    Communication already worked very well in Germany. The help from you, especially through Aline, should be mentioned here. This was fantastic from the first WhatsApp message to the last. We already know Costa Rica, so we knew what we wanted and what not. Ara Tours was an important point of contact for us. We are very grateful to Aline precisely because our actual travel agent cancelled our trip 36 hours before departure. She immediately organized everything for us. Whether the hotel in beautiful Punta Leona, the tours to the national parks, even the shuttle service with the great driver Guillerno Ortega has to be mentioned here. We are very grateful to you, dear Aline, but also to the entire Ara Tours team. You too made our almost 3-week trip to Costa Rica unforgettable again. We would love to come back and of course we will book through Ara Tours again.

    Daniel, Jana und Theo
  • Wolf Family

    Thank you, everything really worked out great. Super organization and at any time quick info / help / support from you!
    We liked it very much. The conclusion in Quepos was crowning. We liked the beach in the National Park Manuel Antonio very much. We would have liked to stay longer, but we take home many wonderful, unforgettable impressions. PURA VIDA!
    Many thanks to you Aline! We will gladly recommend you to others.

    Wolf Family
  • Neumann

    - The route was super planned, first time to arrive at the beach and then from Monteverde with excursions inland etc. and at the end again beach - perfect!
    - Support from Ara Tours was VERY good!!! Through Whatsapp reachability the service was great, very quick answers / very flexible, good suggestions etc. Also with the doctor Ara Tours helped with translations by phone - that was very, very good!
    - The Home Stay day was absolute highlight - very authentic - so they got to know the locals REAL, the family was super friendly and very open and have talked about everything. Not at all touristy perceived, you were also allowed to look at the house there and Mrs. Neumann found it also a great experience for their children

  • Marine & Bruno Serra

    We would like to thank you personally for this beautiful trip that you organised for us and for the follow-up that you did throughout the stay. A big thank you also to Jennifer d'Ara tours! Thank you again and have a great week!

    Marine & Bruno Serra
  • Walter Eggenschwiler

    We really appreciated your (almost) daily updates from Costa Rica on Covid and related issues. That was a highlight compared to other incoming agents worldwide! We thank you for your effort and wish you that you manage the coming time well and stay healthy.

    Walter Eggenschwiler
  • Ronald Raadsheer

    Our great compliments for keeping us informed every day on the developments. We wish you all the best and keep yourself and families in good health and mood during this unprecedented period!

    Ronald Raadsheer
  • Kathrin Vonschiller

    You are really super! It is impressive how you manage the crisis with your super flow of information and the great reversal. Hats off!

    Kathrin Vonschiller
  • Michael White

    Hello, we were on a round trip in Costa Rica from 27.11., which was booked through BigXtra and organised by them. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much. The tour was simply amazing! The support by Carlos was just great. We have done many trips before, but this one was an unforgettable experience thanks to Carlos. Carlos speaks very good German and was able to sensitively introduce us to Costa Rica, its incomparable nature and its great, friendly inhabitants. Pura Vida became for us a term for the attitude towards life in Costa Rica. Please say hello to Carlos from us and once again a huge thank you to him in the name of the whole group of 8. We wish him only the best for his future.

    Michael White
  • Evelyne Thommen

    Wie just did a 4 week trip in Costa Rica which was organised from ARA tours and we really liked it - well done Ara Tours! We also had a guide - his name is Enrique. His German is really good and he knows a lot about Costa Rica and he showed us a lot of animals. We had a wonderful time with hime - thank you so much Enrique!

    Evelyne Thommen
  • Tanja Weber

    perfect tour perfect tour guide pablo, everything very well organised 👍👍👍👍🇨🇷🇨🇨🇷 were thrilled

    Tanja Weber
  • Ines Lechner

    Many thanks and great praise to our tour guide Mauricio and our bus driver Adrian! We felt very comfortable during the 2 weeks in Costa Rica. The wide-ranging knowledge of Mauricio and the super driving skills of Adrian were particularly admirable. Thanks to the eagle eyes of both of them, we had the opportunity to observe a variety of animals in Costa Rica. Thank you for everything!

    Ines Lechner
  • Sabine Schumacher

    I can only recommend ARA Tours. Thanks again to Nicole for the great planning of the tour and the support. Our tour guide Peter Käser was simply incredible (a walking encyclopaedia) and always had an answer to all my questions about the flora and fauna and the history of CR. Our driver Julio carried my father on his hands, for which I am very grateful. CR is also worth a trip for wheelchair users at any time (with ARA Tours, of course).

    Sabine Schumacher
  • Familie Thieme

    We would like to thank you once again for organizing our trip [...] through the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Our special thanks go to our tour guide Enrique, who with his extensive knowledge of flora and fauna about his country brought it very close to us and made us want to come even a second time. We were very glad and happy to travel with him, as he was also very committed to our problems on site, in addition to his competent function as a tour guide.

    Familie Thieme
  • Familie Stalder

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sensational effort! I do not know such a competent tour guide as with you really from nowhere else... and we have already traveled a lot... 🙏🏻🍀

    Familie Stalder
  • Katja Stadelmann

    I wanted to thank you again for the great Costa Rica trip. We flew back home very happy and with many great impressions. A compliment for the super organisation. Everything worked out perfectly (except for the handover of the rental car, which was force majeure...). So thank you again and I have already recommended you to friends:-)!

    Katja Stadelmann
  • Conny Koch

    You and your team have organized a great trip and wonderful days for the guests in your beautiful country and I thank you very much for that!

    Conny Koch
  • Denise Steiger

    Thank you very much for your email and the tickets. We really appreciate how quickly and efficiently you deal with our requests each time!

    Denise Steiger
  • Philippe

    Hello Christine Thank you very much for this information. The support is super👍 many thanks Gruss

  • Marianne & Stefan Gräub

    Otherwise, the planned trip was a complete success. Everything went well and the visits you organised were all very interesting. The visits you organised were all very interesting and gave us a great insight into the respective topics. The fact that the Ticos are very friendly and always ready to help was fully confirmed.

    Marianne & Stefan Gräub

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