How much time do you need to see Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has nearly 20,000 miles filled with fabled rich coastlines, rainforests, cities, volcanoes, mountains and valleys… and you have a week off to see the country. When it comes to vacation time, you've got to work with what you have.
Here are a few tips for making the most of whatever amount of time you can afford to have in Costa Rica.
The three-day rule
It's one thing to say you've visited Costa Rica; it's another to really get a feeling for the country. But when you've only got a week off to see the country, how can you fit it all in? Well, if you really want to get a feel for a destination, then our advice is that you need at least three days in a given place. It's enough time to do an activity or two and still spend a day walking around getting a feel for the atmosphere of a place without being rushed. Any shorter, and you start cutting into your vacation trying to rush around from one place to another.
Two nights in San Jose
Keep in mind when planning that you'll probably be flying into San Jose or Liberia. It's common to spend the night in the city before venturing out to your next travel destination. If that's the case, make sure to adjust your schedule accordingly.
Keep it simple with a week-long split
If you've got a week off for vacation, choose at most two different destinations and soak them in. For a week, the Costa Rican standard is to spend at least half your time at the beach and half in the verdant interior. Here are a few common week-long itineraries: Monteverde/Manuel Antonio, Arenal/Jaco, Osa peninsula/Dominical, Tortuguero/Tamarindo, or any other combination therein.
The two-week gold standard
It's not enough to spend a week on a beach or in the mountains. If you really want to see what Costa Rica has to offer. For those that really want to take in the culture, food, scenery, wildlife and adventure, two weeks is the minimum.
Rent a car or take a bus, either way you're going to want to make the trek to both of Costa Rica's coasts. Each has its own distinct culture and influence. Enjoy the laid-back afro-Caribbean-influenced Rasta culture and delicious coconut-infused food in the Caribbean, then venture over to the Spanish-influenced culture of the Pacific, home to Costa Rica's most popular cuisines, the casado and the empanada. In addition to the coasts, you'll want head inland and explore some of the paths less traveled by venturing to refreshingly cool San Isidro, climbing Costa Rica's tallest mountain, Chirripo, or exploring the wilderness of the Osa Penisula.