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Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 Days In Costa Rica; Sample Itineraries, How Many Places To Visit, How Many Activities To Do, And More!

Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 Days In Costa Rica; Sample Itineraries, How Many Places To Visit, How Many Activities To Do, And More!

Last updated on February 21st, 2021 at 09:07 am EST

The article below is the first part of a five-part series about Costa Rica itineraries. Information is divided across five pages:

Costa Rica Itinerary: 5 days in Costa Rica (4 nights)
Costa Rica Itinerary: 8 days in Costa Rica (7 nights)
Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 days in Costa Rica (9 nights)
Costa Rica Itinerary: 12 days in Costa Rica (11 nights)
Costa Rica Itinerary: 15 days in Costa Rica (14 nights)

Costa Rica vacation planning

Vacations in Costa Rica are as unique as the travelers who take them. Money, interest, previous travel experience, ability, endurance, and patience are a few of the factors that help shape a trip itinerary but time is the most telling. How you should plan and execute your Costa Rica experience is a question best answered by the number of days and nights you wish to spend in the country.

The good news is, despite popular belief, you don’t need anyone to plan your Costa Rica trip for you. If you know the number of days and nights you’re able to travel to Costa Rica for, you can quickly and easily create your own Costa Rica itinerary. Of course, as always, we’re here to help guide you through this process. In particular, the article below will teach you how to plan a trip/itinerary for 10 days in Costa Rica.

Do you have 10 days in Costa Rica or are you considering a 10-day trip to Costa Rica? Here’s who we think you are.

At the risk of making general assumptions about Costa Rica travelers, our years of working for Costa Rica’s tourism industry have shown us patterns in Costa Rica itinerary planning; specifically, patterns across the types of travelers who vacation in Costa Rica, and patterns in the number of days they visit. If you identify with a type of traveler listed below or with any of the wants/desires listed below, a 10-day vacation to Costa Rica may be right for you.

People who choose to vacation in Costa Rica for 10 days tend to be the following:

  • Couples vacationing in Costa Rica for their honeymoon or for a romantic trip
  • Individuals or friend groups looking to get away from home for a short while
  • Parents (or a parent) traveling with young children, preteens, teenagers, or adult children
  • School, church, and/or other organizations that coordinate group travel
  • Backpackers traveling throughout Central America (i.e., who visit Costa Rica from Nicaragua or Panama)

People who choose to vacation in Costa Rica for 10 days tend to want the following:

Either/or…

  1. A mix of Costa Rican destinations, typically adventure destinations and beach destinations.
  2. An mix of accommodation types, whereby the first half of the trip is spent exploring Costa Rica (and staying in hotels) and the second half of the trip is spent at an all-inclusive resort (with few or no day tours taken to/from the resort and other areas of the country).

Travelers who vacation in Costa Rica for 10 days also typically want…

  • A nice balance of travel time between destinations and time spent at each destination
  • A variety of experiences, including things to do in Costa Rica, things to see in Costa Rica, and things to learn in Costa Rica
  • To travel to Costa Rica’s most raved about destinations, sites, and attractions (skipping the country’s most remote locations)
  • To participate in Costa Rica’s most popular tours and activities

With 10 days in Costa Rica, here’s how many places you should visit

Regardless of whether you identify with traveler type #1 or traveler type #2 listed above, you have likely already decided that your vacation will involve travel to at least two destinations. If so, that’s a great choice. Costa Rica is full of worthwhile adventures, and spending 10 days in the same location would be a shortcoming. But do you know what’s even better than experiencing two unique destinations in Costa Rica? Experiencing three unique destinations in Costa Rica! With 10 days to spend in the country, choose three destinations to visit during your trip in addition to the region that contains the airport you plan to fly into and out of.

Why choosing three destinations is best

Unless you plan to fly to Costa Rica incredibly early in the morning and depart from Costa Rica incredibly late in the evening, international travel will likely eat up most of the first and last days of your vacation. Though there may be time to fit in an activity on these days, the information provided below errs on the side of caution and assumes that Day #1 and Day #10 are lost itinerary days.

Let’s assume that a 10-day trip to Costa Rica provides 8 full days to explore the country (i.e., Day #2, Day #3, Day #4, Day #5, Day #6, Day #7, Day #8, and Day #9). While you could spend all 8 days in one place, such as an all-inclusive resort or a health retreat, visiting three destinations is far more rewarding. Doing so will provide you with an opportunity to combine time spent relaxing, time spent exploring nature, and time spent experiencing some of Costa Rica’s most thrilling adventures.

To confirm, 10 days in Costa Rica is enough time for you to a) travel between the airport and Destination #1, b) travel between Destination #1 and Destination #2, c) travel between Destination #2 and Destination #3, and d) travel between Destination #3 and the airport. With this itinerary plan, you’ll also have enough time to make stops along the way during cross-destination travel (if desired), to check-in/check-out at multiple hotels, and to participate in tours and activities of interest.

Can/should I add in a fourth destination?

It’s possible to visit four destinations with 10 days to spend in Costa Rica but we don’t recommend doing so. If you’d like to experience more than three areas of Costa Rica, it would be best to extend your vacation by a few days, if at all possible. (Our Costa Rica Itinerary: 12 Days In Costa Rica blog post can help you coordinate a longer stay.) Otherwise, you may find that squeezing in visits to four destinations over the 8 full days you’ll have in the country creates a rushed travel experience, increases stress, and decreases opportunities for exploration and rest.

Can/should I stick with only two destinations?

Though doing so will limit the number of experiences you’ll be able to have in Costa Rica, yes, certainly, you can visit only two destinations over the course of a 10-day trip. In fact, there are a few cases where we would recommend this. If your travel group is composed of very young children, elderly travelers, travelers with health conditions, or travelers with limited physical abilities, adding a third destination may prove to be too ambitious in which case an itinerary that keeps a slower pace may be preferred. Also, if you’ve already committed to a 10-day vacation but you find yourself short on travel funds, opting to visit two, not three, destinations during your trip (therefore reducing costs associated with cross-destination travel) is a good way to save money.

Suggested itinerary / itineraries for a 10-day trip to Costa Rica

If you’re in the process of planning a 10-day vacation to Costa Rica, aim to build an itinerary that mirrors one of the itineraries below.

Note: The itineraries below can be adjusted to fit your preferred travel arrangements (i.e., rental car delivery/pick-up time, domestic flight departure time, private transfer service pick-up time, or shuttle service departure time).

Note: If your tour/activity interests require you to spend more or less time at Destination #1, Destination #2, or Destination #3, the number of days/nights spent at each can be adjusted.

10-day itinerary #1: If you want to spend the first night near the airport

  • 10-day itinerary #1 summary: 1 night in the airport region, 3 nights at Destination #1, 2 nights at Destination #2, and 3 nights at Destination #3
  • The below itinerary recommendation assumes that your flight from home to Costa Rica arrives into the airport region late in the day on Day #1 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to schedule an overnight stay in the airport region for your first night in the country)
  • The below itinerary recommendation assumes that your flight back home from Costa Rica departs late in the day on Day #10 (our recommendation also assumes that your flight departs late enough in the day to travel between Destination #3 and the airport on your last day in the country)
9-Night / 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary #1:

Day #1: Arrival into Costa Rica, overnight in the airport region
Day #2: Morning travel to Destination #1, afternoon exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #3: Full-day exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #4: Full-day exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #5: Morning travel to Destination #2, afternoon exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #6: Full-day exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #7: Morning travel to Destination #3, afternoon exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #8: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #9: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #10: Morning travel to the airport region, departure from Costa Rica

10-day itinerary #2: If you want to spend the last night near the airport

  • 10-day itinerary #2 summary: 3 nights at Destination #1, 2 nights at Destination #2, 3 nights at Destination #3, and 1 night in the airport region
  • The below itinerary recommendation assumes that your flight from home to Costa Rica arrives into the airport region early in the day on Day #1 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to travel between the airport region and Destination #1 for your first night in the country)
  • The below itinerary recommendation assumes that your flight back home from Costa Rica departs early in the day on Day #10 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to schedule an overnight stay in the airport region for your last night in the country)
9-Night / 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary #2:

Day #1: Arrival into Costa Rica, afternoon travel to Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #2: Full-day exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #3: Full-day exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #4: Morning travel to Destination #2, afternoon exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #5: Full-day exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #6: Morning exploration of Destination #2, afternoon travel to Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #7: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #8: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #9: Morning exploration of Destination #3, afternoon travel to the airport region, overnight in the airport region
Day #10: Departure from Costa Rica

10-day itinerary #3: If you want to spend both the first night and the last night near the airport

  • 10-day itinerary #3 summary: 1 night in the airport region, 3 nights at Destination #1, 2 nights at Destination #2, 2 nights at Destination #3, and 1 night in the airport region
  • The below itinerary recommendation assumes that your flight from home to Costa Rica arrives into the airport region late in the day on Day #1 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to schedule an overnight stay in the airport region for your first night in the country)
  • The below itinerary recommendation assumes that your flight back home from Costa Rica departs early in the day on Day #10 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to schedule an overnight stay in the airport region for your last night in the country)
9-Night / 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary #3:

Day #1: Arrival into Costa Rica, overnight in the airport region
Day #2: Morning travel to Destination #1, afternoon exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #3: Full-day exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #4: Full-day exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #5: Morning travel to Destination #2, afternoon exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #6: Full-day exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #7: Morning travel to Destination #3, afternoon exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #8: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #9: Morning exploration of Destination #3, afternoon travel to the airport region, overnight in the airport region
Day #10: Departure from Costa Rica

10-day itinerary #4: If you want to spend neither the first night nor the last night near the airport

  • 10-day itinerary #4 summary: 3 nights at Destination #1, 3 nights at Destination #2, and 3 nights at Destination #3
  • The below itinerary recommendation assumes that your flight from home to Costa Rica arrives into the airport region early in the day on Day #1 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to travel between the airport region and Destination #1 for your first night in the country)
  • The below itinerary recommendation assumes that your flight back home from Costa Rica departs late in the day on Day #10 (our recommendation also assumes that your flight departs late enough in the day to travel between Destination #3 and the airport on your last day in the country)
9-Night / 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary #4:

Day #1: Arrival into Costa Rica, afternoon travel to Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #2: Full-day exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #3: Full-day exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #4: Morning exploration of Destination #1, afternoon travel to Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #5: Full-day exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #6: Full-day exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #7: Morning travel to Destination #3, afternoon exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #8: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #9: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #10: Morning travel to the airport region, departure from Costa Rica

As a side note, if you’re wondering which specific destinations in Costa Rica you should choose (i.e., which areas should be Destination #1, Destination #2, and Destination #3)…

Don’t miss our related blog post:

Where To Go In Costa Rica: Determining The Best Places To Visit During Your Trip

Why spending 10 days in Costa Rica might be the best option for you

A 10-day vacation in Costa Rica is our preferred choice

Though 8-day vacations to Costa Rica tend to be the most popular, 10-day vacations (in some cases, modified 9-day or 11-day vacations) are our preferred choice. The reason why is simple: 10-day trips to Costa Rica are low-risk, high-reward. In terms of risk, 10-day trips aren’t nearly as expensive as long-term visits (or even two-week visits), and they don’t require a lengthy departure from commitments at home (work, school, etc.). With respect to reward, 10-day trips provide enough time for travelers to get a feel for Costa Rica, to be active in Costa Rica, to relax in Costa Rica, and to experience multiple areas of Costa Rica.

A 10-day vacation in Costa Rica offers a nice balance between adventure/exploration and beach/relaxation

By visiting three destinations in Costa Rica over 10 days, you won’t just get to see three places that differ geographically but also three areas of the country that differ across demographics, ecosystems, foods, attractions, and other experiences. Want to hike in the rainforest, zipline through the cloud forest, and relax on the beach? Float through canals or mangroves, relax in volcanic hot springs, and take a sunset cruise along the coast? Costa Rica provides all of these experiences (and more), and a 10-day itinerary that includes visits to three unique destinations will help you cross several off your bucket list.

A 10-day vacation in Costa Rica allows enough time to take in many of Costa Rica’s highlights

Are you asking yourself, “Is 10 days in Costa Rica enough time?” If so, you’ve joined the club; this is one of the most popular questions we receive from travelers. To it we could respond, “Is 10 days in Costa Rica enough time… for what?” Is 10 days enough time to get away from home, have some fun, and get a taste of what Costa Rica is all about? Of course! Is 10 days enough time to experience what other travelers do when they visit for 12 days, 15 days, or longer? Sadly (and obviously), no.

With 10 days to spend in Costa Rica, we recommend participating in no less than 6 tours/activities and no more than 16-18 tours/activities. The chart below provides a breakdown of this range according to the itineraries already discussed above.

Itinerary option #1 (see above)A total of 6.5 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1, 1.5 days at Destination #2, and 2.5 days at Destination #3) is available. Aim to select no more than 17 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 6 full-day activities, 13 half-day activities, or 13+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.
Itinerary option #2 (see above)A total of 6.5 full days of exploration time (2 days at Destination #1, 2 days at Destination #2, and 2.5 days at Destination #3) is available. Aim to select no more than 17 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 6 full-day activities, 13 half-day activities, or 13+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.
Itinerary option #3 (see above)A total of 6 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1, 1.5 days at Destination #2, and 2 days at Destination #3) is available. Aim to select no more than 16 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 6 full-day activities, 12 half-day activities, or 12+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.
Itinerary option #4 (see above)A total of 7 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1, 2 days at Destination #2, and 2.5 days at Destination #3) is available. Aim to select no more than 18 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 7 full-day activities, 14 half-day activities, or 14+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

A 10-day vacation in Costa Rica warrants either a personal car rental or reliance on other modes of transportation; the decision is yours!

Some travelers ask us whether they should rent a car for a 10-day trip to Costa Rica or whether they can get by without one. The short answer to both inquires is “Yes” but to elaborate, renting a car has its advantages, mainly complete flexibility with respect to routes taken, departure times, and stops made along the way. Also, it’s worth noting that some car rental agencies (including the company we discuss in our related blog post This Is The Costa Rica Car Rental Agency We Rent Cars Through) offer the 7th or 8th rental day for free, so having a car for a week (or longer) can provide some monetary savings. If you don’t want to rent a car for your trip, fortunately, 10-day vacations do provide enough time to comfortably move between three destinations while using other modes of transportation. This means that you can rely on services like shared shuttles, city-to-city transportation-inclusive tours, domestic flights, and public transportation to get around, assuming you don’t mind adhering to preset departure times.

Don’t miss our related blog posts:

Costa Rica Tour Transportation: How To Use Tours To Travel Between Destinations

CCosta Rica Transportation: 12 Ways To Get Around Costa Rica

Renting A Car In Costa Rica: Should You Do It?

A 10-day vacation in Costa Rica provides opportunities to reschedule missed activities due to unforeseen circumstances

Two things you can’t account for when forming a trip itinerary are surprises and spontaneity. What if a member of your travel group gets sick? What if severe rain or wind causes tour delays or cancellations? What if a national holiday, street protest, vehicle malfunction, construction project, or natural disaster rewrites your travel plans? Though you can’t plan for unforeseen occurrences, you can recognize one truth: the more time you have to spend in the country, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to adjust your travel plans when problems arise, allowing you to not miss out on key experiences. In other words, the greater number of days you plan to explore Costa Rica, the better your chances of squeezing sweet lemonade out of sour lemons you encounter along the journey. 🙂

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: How do you plan to spend 10 days in Costa Rica?

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Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 Days In Costa Rica; Sample Itineraries, How Many Places To Visit, How Many Activities To Do, And More!
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Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 Days In Costa Rica; Sample Itineraries, How Many Places To Visit, How Many Activities To Do, And More!
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What you need to know about spending 10 days in Costa Rica; Costa Rica vacation itineraries and destination/tour/activity scheduling advice.
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The Official Costa Rica Travel Blog
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