If you’re wondering what to do for 10 days in Costa Rica, here’s an itinerary that works well for families who don’t want to travel too fast, but still want to experience the best things to do in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with something for everyone. From stunning beaches and rainforests to volcanoes and coffee plantations, there’s so much to see and do.

And if you’re travelling with kids, don’t worry – there are plenty of activities that will keep them entertained!

This 10 day Costa Rica itinerary will let you experience all the best that the country has to offer and it’s perfect for families. So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure!

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There’s so much to see and do in Costa Rica. You could easily spend a few weeks or a month and not get bored. But if you’re short on time or travelling with kids, then this 10 day itinerary is perfect for you. In just ten days, you’ll get to experience all the best that Costa Rica has to offer!

And while we can’t guarantee that you’ll see a sloth (although the chances are pretty good!), we can guarantee that you’ll have an amazing time.

Fall asleep to the sound of the howler monkeys (which I’ll admit is a bit scary when you’re not sure what the noise is), get your adventure on, soak in the hot springs or relax on one of the many stunning beaches. However you choose to spend your time in Costa Rica, you’re sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.

So, without further ado, here’s a Costa Rica 10 day itinerary for families!

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary at a Glance

10 day costa rica itinerary at a glance

Optional Ideas for a 2 week Costa Rica Itinerary

  • Visit Uvita and Dominical, either on a day trip or stay overnight, add in another day in La Fortuna and Monteverde.
  • If you have 2 weeks or prefer to travel faster, from Monteverde head to Samara for a few days, then visit Montezuma waterfall and take the ferry/boat across to Jaco before continuing on to Manuel Antonio

10 Days in Costa Rica

Day 1: Arrive in San Jose

Start your Costa Rica trip at the San Jose airport where you’ll pick up your rental car or transfer to your accommodation.

Depending on how early your flight arrives, you may have time to visit the Jade Museum, the National Museum of Costa Rica or head to the Mercado Central for something to eat. Looking to try a typical Costa Rican dish? Order ‘casado’, available at almost any stall or restaurant, it consists of rice, beans, salad and protein (usually chicken, fish or beef).

casado - rice, egg, chicken, salad, fried plantain, cheese, rice and black beans - a typical Costa Rican dish

Day 2: Drive to La Fortuna

If you’re not renting a car, there are shared or private shuttles available. We used mydaytrip.com and highly recommend them. They will pick you up from your accommodation and drive you right to your next accommodation. Shared shuttles are also available.

On the way to La Fortuna, stop at Volcan Poaz – you do need to register for a time slot before visiting – tours take about 45 minutes. Then head to La Paz Waterfalls and visit the different animals in the sanctuary (jaguars, monkeys, toucans, frogs and snakes). Continue driving to La Fortuna.

view of the crater on Volcan Poaz in Costa Rica
Volcan Poaz

Where to Stay: Arenal Oasis Ecolodge or Springs Resort & Spa

Day 3: Visit Arenal Volcano National Park

The Arenal Volcano is Costa Rica’s youngest volcano and it was active until a decade ago. Now it’s dormant and a hike through Arenal Volcano National Park takes you over lava fields, where you’ll have a fantastic view of the top of the volcano, as well as Lake Arenal to the other side. The trail also passes a 400 year old Ceiba tree and a few other lookout points.

view of arenal volcano (top obscured by cloud cover)
Arenal Volcano

In the afternoon, head to La Fortuna Waterfall, and while you can’t swim under the waterfall, you can swim near the base and along the river. It’s a steep 500 steps to get down to the waterfall, which isn’t a problem going down but makes for a bit of a trek getting back up! There are changing rooms by the entrance so be sure to bring your bathing suit – although be warned, the water is chilly!

Day 4: La Fortuna

Take advantage of the numerous activities offered in La Fortuna and try ziplining or walk along the hanging bridges. There are several tours to choose from; Arenal Hanging Bridges and Mistico Hanging Bridges Park are ones we recommend.

Hanging bridges at Mistico Park in La Fortuna Costa rica
Hanging Bridges at Mistico Park

In the afternoon, relax and soak in the hot springs. Many hotels in the area have hot springs on their property, but if you’re staying elsewhere, you can still visit the hot springs on a day pass. Baldi and Eco Termales (check that) offer reasonably priced day passes. There’s also a free hot springs just opposite Tabacon resort, but you’ll have to park on the side of the road and it does get busy!

**Consider adding an extra day or two in La Fortuna if you have extra time in Costa Rica. There are so many things to do in the area that you will easily be able to spend a few more days here. This post has plenty of recommendations for things to do in La Fortuna.

Day 5: Travel to Monteverde

If you’ve rented a car, the drive to Monteverde is around 3 hours, as you have to drive around Lake Arenal. If you don’t have a car, the taxi-boat-taxi ride is faster and a great way to see Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano from a different vantage point.

view of Arenal Volcano from Lake Arenal
Arenal Volcano

Depending what time you arrive in Monteverde, you may have time to do a tour but our suggestion is to do a night walk or relax and explore the town of Santa Elena.  There are quite a few good restaurants in the town of Santa Elena – Tico Y Rico and the Tree House are good choices, both on the main street.

Where to Stay: Mar Inn / Hotel Don Taco or Hotel Belmar

Day 6: Monteverde

Explore the Cloud Forest on your first full day in Monteverde. There are three different cloud forest reserves in Santa Elena; the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which is the most popular, Children’s Eternal Rain Forest, and the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, which is less busy but just as worthwhile visiting. Bring your hiking shoes and explore the trails!

In the afternoon, head to one of the adventure parks for a zipline canopy tour, or to walk along the hanging bridges. Selvatura has both options, but you can also book the hanging bridge walk separately (if your kids are too small for the zipline, the hanging bridges are a great way to explore the upper canopy of the rain forest).

hanging bridges onthe top of the rain forest canopy in Monteverde Costa Rica

Day 7: Monteverde

Take a coffee tour and learn how the Monteverde region is one of the best areas in Costa Rica to grow coffee. Don Juan has a popular 3-in-1 tour where you learn about the coffee process, then try your hand at making sugarcane juice, before learning about the cacao bean and sampling some delicious chocolate.  

Alternatively, you could explore another of the cloud forest reserves (the Monteverde reserve and Santa Elena reserves are quite different and it’s worth visiting both). There are also plenty of places where you can observe wildlife up close, such as bats, frogs and butterflies. Here are more ideas on family-friendly things to do in Monteverde.

Day 8: Travel to Manuel Antonio

Today is a longer travel day. If you aren’t renting a car, there are plenty of shared shuttles running once a day to Manuel Antonio or you can opt for a private driver. Many hotels will be able to recommend a private driver or help you book a shared shuttle.

On the way to Manuel Antonio, stop at Tarcoles to visit the Crocodile Bridge. It’s a busy spot but worth a quick stop to see the many crocodiles enjoying the sun on the river bed below the bridge.

crocodiles sunning on the riverbed near Tarcoles, Costa Rica
Crocodile Bridge near Tarcoles

After checking in to your accommodation in Manuel Antonio, head to the beach and watch the sunset. Manuel Antonio has some fantastic sunsets!

Where to Stay: Hotel Manuel Antonio Park or Hotel San Bado Resort & Spa

Day 9: Manuel Antonio National Park

While Manuel Antonio has a large public beach in town, the real gem is visiting Manuel Antonio National Park. The park has trails to hike, plenty of wildlife to see and some absolutely stunning beaches. Spend the day exploring the park and then relaxing on the beach. Tickets and time slots must be booked online and there is a limit per day so be sure to book ahead of time. Here’s a guide to visiting Manuel Antonio National Park with kids

Playa Espadilla Sur - beach at Manuel Antonio National Park
Playa Espadilla Sur in Manuel Antonio National Park

Although Manuel Antonio is a popular tourist area, if you have more time to spend in Costa Rica, this is a good place to add a few days. You can spend the days in Manuel Antonio and relax at the beach, kayak through the mangroves or take some day trips to Uvita or Dominical, both further down the coast.  

Day 10: Manuel Antonio/San Jose

Spend the day on the beach or head back to the San Jose airport for your flight home. Transfers are readily available from Manuel Antonio to San Jose or the public bus is also an option.

the sunset on the beach in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
Sunset in Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica is such a diverse country and you could easily spend more than 10 days exploring. If you have more time to spend exploring the country, we’ve listed some alternative itineraries below.

While we opted to spend several days in each place (because travelling slower works better for us as a family), if you prefer to travel faster, you can definitely spend less time in each place and add another destination, such as Samara or Corcovado National Park to your Costa Rica travel itinerary.

Alternate Costa Rica Itineraries

Two Weeks in Costa Rica Itinerary (Arenal and Caribbean area)

  • San Jose (1)
  • Monteverde (3)
  • La Fortuna (4)
  • Tortuguero National Park (1)
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (3)
  • Cahuita National Park (1)
  • San Jose (1)

Two Weeks in Costa Rica Travel Itinerary (Arenal and Pacific area)

  • San José (1)
  • La Fortuna (3)
  • Monteverde (2)
  • Samara (3)
  • Santa Teresa (2)
  • Montezuma (1)
  • Manuel Antonio (2)

10 Days in Costa Rica Trip Itinerary (Liberia and San Jose Airport)

  • Tamarindo or Nosara (3)
  • Monteverde (3)
  • Puerto Viejo (3)
  • San Jose (1)

This itinerary involves some long travel days but will give you a taste of all parts of Costa Rica: the pacific side, the rainforest and the Caribbean Side

Two Weeks in Costa Rica Itinerary (Liberia and San Jose Airport)

  • Tamarindo or Nosara (3)
  • Monteverde (3)
  • La Fortuna (3)
  • Puerto Viejo (3)
  • San Jose (2)

Whichever itinerary you choose, you will be sure to enjoy your time in Costa Rica!  There’s honestly so much to see and experience, that I bet you’ll be planning your next trip before you even leave!

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For more Costa Rica travel ideas and information, including recommended accommodations, be sure to check out these posts:

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