The official Costa Rica Travel Blog. Hundreds of articles on Costa Rica trip planning, Costa Rica travel, and saving money in Costa Rica, plus free discounts. Pura vida!

Costa Rica Itinerary: 12 Days In Costa Rica; Sample Itineraries, How Many Places To Visit, How Many Activities To Do, And More!

Costa Rica Itinerary: 12 Days In Costa Rica; Sample Itineraries, How Many Places To Visit, How Many Activities To Do, And More!

NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on October 24th, 2017.

ARE YOU BUILDING YOUR COSTA RICA ITINERARY AND NEED HELP ARRANGING YOUR DESIRED TOURS AND ACTIVITIES ACCORDING TO THE NUMBER OF DAYS/NIGHTS YOU WILL BE IN COSTA RICA? CLICK HERE TO ACCESS OUR FREE CUSTOM DAY TOUR ITINERARY INFORMATION REQUEST FORM; SIMPLY LET US KNOW WHICH EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE IN MIND FOR YOUR TRIP AND WE CAN RECOMMEND THE BEST WAY FOR YOU TO COORDINATE THEM THAT WILL MAXIMIZE TIME AND MINIMIZE COST.¬†PURA VIDA!¬†ūüôā

The below post is the fourth part of our five-part series about Costa Rica itineraries. For the purpose of our series, the Costa Rica itinerary information has been divided into five sections:

#1. Costa Rica Itinerary: 5 days in Costa Rica (i.e., 4 nights and 5 days in Costa Rica)
#2. Costa Rica Itinerary: 8 days in Costa Rica (i.e., 7 nights and 8 days in Costa Rica)
#3. Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 days in Costa Rica (i.e., 9 nights and 10 days in Costa Rica)
#4. Costa Rica Itinerary: 12 days in Costa Rica (i.e., 11 nights and 12 days in Costa Rica)
#5. Costa Rica Itinerary: 15 days in Costa Rica (i.e., 14 nights and 15 days in Costa Rica)

[CONTINUE READING BELOW FOR] Costa Rica Itinerary: 12 days in Costa Rica
[OR SKIP TO] Costa Rica Itinerary: 5 days in Costa Rica
[OR SKIP TO] Costa Rica Itinerary: 8 days in Costa Rica
[OR SKIP TO] Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 days in Costa Rica
[OR SKIP TO] Costa Rica Itinerary: 15 days in Costa Rica
12 days in Costa Rica
12 days in Costa Rica

COSTA RICA VACATION PLANNING

Vacations to Costa Rica are as unique as the travellers who take them. Some people have little time to spend in the country and want to make the most of their trip, while others have plenty of days to spend lounging at the beach and leisurely travelling from place to place. How you should plan for and execute your¬†Costa Rica experience–together with which information you should know about the experience–are inquiries best answered by the number of days and nights you wish to spend in the country.

The good news is, you don’t need anyone to plan your entire Costa Rica trip for you–simply by narrowing down the number of days and nights you plan to travel to Costa Rica for you can quickly and easily create your own Costa Rica itinerary. Of course, in true Costa Rica Travel Blog style, we’re here to give you the encouragement and guidance you need to plan your own trip, and as per the focus of this particular blog post: a trip for 12 days in Costa Rica.

DO YOU HAVE 12 DAYS IN COSTA RICA OR ARE YOU CONSIDERING A 12-DAY TRIP TO COSTA RICA? HERE’S WHO WE THINK YOU ARE.

At the risk of making general assumptions about Costa Rica travellers, our years of working in the industry have shown us patterns in Costa Rica itinerary planning; specifically, patterns in the types of travellers who choose to vacation in Costa Rica and patterns surrounding the approximate number of days those travellers opt to vacation for. If you identify with any of the types of travellers we list below, or any of their itinerary wants/desires also listed below, a 12-day vacation to Costa Rica may be the best for you.

People who choose to vacation in Costa Rica for 12 days tend to be the following:

  • Couples vacationing in Costa Rica for their honeymoon or for a romantic trip
  • Parents (or a parent) travelling with young ones, preteens, teenagers, or adult children
  • Backpackers travelling throughout Central America (i.e., who visit Costa Rica from Nicaragua or Panama)

People who choose to vacation in Costa Rica for 12 days tend to want the following:

Either/or…

  1. A mix of Costa Rica destinations, typically a mix between “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)

Travellers who choose to vacation in Costa Rica for 12 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 famed destinations, sites, and attractions (skipping the country’s most remote locations)
  • To participate in Costa Rica’s most popular tours and activities
  • To participate in unique and specialized experiences of personal interest

WITH 12 DAYS IN COSTA RICA, HERE’S HOW MANY PLACES YOU SHOULD VISIT

In our related blog posts Costa Rica Itinerary: 8 Days In Costa Rica and Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 Days In Costa Rica our recommendations were clear: visit two destinations with the former and three destinations with the latter. However, with respect to a 12-day vacation in Costa Rica, our recommendation is divided; if you are looking to squeeze in as much to do and see as possible in Costa Rica, we recommend visiting four destinations (in addition to the airport region you plan to fly into and out of), whereas if you would prefer to travel at a slower pace, we maintain that visiting three destinations would be best (in addition to the airport region you plan to fly into and out of).

Why choosing four destinations is best

Unless travellers plan to fly into Costa Rica incredibly early in the morning and fly out of Costa Rica incredibly late in the evening, the first and last days of most vacations are missed. Although there may be time to fit in an activity during your first and/or last day in the country, the information we provide below errs on the side of caution and assumes that Day #1 and Day #12 are lost itinerary days.

Truthfully, then, a 12-day trip to Costa Rica provides 10 full days to explore the country (i.e., Day #2, Day #3, Day #4, Day #5, Day #6, Day #7, Day #8, Day #9, Day #10, and Day #11). As we have already explained with respect to our 10-day Costa Rica vacation itineraries (see our related blog post Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 Days In Costa Rica for more information), travellers can easily visit three destinations within the 8 full days in-country that an 10-day vacation provides; with an extra 2 full days added to the trip, a fourth destination is certainly possible. In fact, not only do 12-day Costa Rica vacations allow travellers to experience both adventure and relaxation over the 10 full vacation days that they have in-country, but the extra time allows for a fourth unique experience, such as rainforest exploration, philanthropic projects, or enrollment in multi-day classes/courses (such as Spanish classes, cooking classes, dance classes, and/or scuba diving courses).

More specifically, 12 days in Costa Rica provides time for a) travel between the airport and Destination #1, b) travel between Destination #1 and Destination #2, c) travel between Destination #2 and Destination #3, d) travel between Destination #3 and Destination #4, and e) travel between Destination #4 and the airport. Having 12 days in Costa Rica also provides ample time for making stops along the way between routes (if desired), multiple hotel check-in and check-out procedures, participation in tours and activities of interest, random road trips (with a personal vehicle rental), and beach hopping (with a personal vehicle rental or the use of local taxi services).

Why choosing three destinations is best

If your vision of your trip includes ample downtime, relaxation, town exploration, and/or souvenir shopping, then a 12-day vacation to Costa Rica that opts to include visits to three destinations (as opposed to four destinations) would likely be preferred, as the extra two days will provide your vacation with some handy buffer time. In addition, if you like the itineraries that 10-day vacations to Costa Rica present (such as those we describe in our related blog post Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 Days In Costa Rica), however you determine that your tour/activity interests require you to spend more time at the three destinations you have selected for your trip, then giving yourself 12 days in Costa Rica will provide you with further opportunities to obtain your ideal trip. If either of the above situations apply to you, skip the fourth destination in favour of lengthening your stay at three Costa Rica destinations you desire to explore.

Can/should I add in a fifth destination?

Yes, a fifth destination can be added to a 12-day Costa Rica itinerary. No, we do not recommend doing so. In this case (if at all possible), we would suggest extending your trip to Costa Rica; our Costa Rica Itinerary: 15 Days In Costa Rica blog post may be of greater interest to you.

If there is an extra destination that you absolutely must visit and you believe that your current vacation will be your only trip to Costa Rica, then by all means, add in the fifth destination. Note, however, that by doing so, your vacation will feel more rushed, your balanced trip itinerary will be weighted down by increased travel time between destinations, and there will be less time overall for tour/activity participation and/or rest.

Can/should I stick with only two destinations?

Opting to visit only two destinations is possible with a 12-day Costa Rica itinerary, however we very rarely recommend doing so. With 10 full days available to explore the country and only two destinations scheduled on the itinerary, you may find that your time at any given destination (with the exception of La Fortuna/Arenal perhaps) is difficult to fill. Consider visiting three destinations to make better use of your available vacation time.

SUGGESTED ITINERARY/ITINERARIES FOR A 12-DAY TRIP TO COSTA RICA

If you’re in the process of building a 12-day vacation to Costa Rica, aim for an itinerary that mirrors one of our suggested itineraries below.

Note: If your tour/activity interests require you to spend more or less time at Destination #1, Destination #2, or Destination #3, and/or Destination #4, the number of days/nights spent at each can be adjusted accordingly.

Note: If a particular travel arrangement (i.e., a rental car delivery/pick-up time, a domestic flight departure time, or a shuttle service departure time) requires scheduling in the morning, afternoon, or evening, the itineraries provided below can be adjusted accordingly.


12-day itinerary #1: If you wish to spend the first night nearby the airport (three destinations option)

  • 12-day itinerary #1 summary: 1 night in the airport region, 3 nights at Destination #1, 3 nights at Destination #2, and 4 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 #12 (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)
11-Night / 12-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: Full-day exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #8: Morning travel to Destination #3, afternoon exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #9: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #10: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #11: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #12: Morning travel to the airport region, departure from Costa Rica


12-day itinerary #2: If you wish to spend the first night nearby the airport (four destinations option)

  • 12-day itinerary #2 summary: 1 night in the airport region, 3 nights at Destination #1, 2 nights at Destination #2, 2 nights at Destination #3, and 3 nights at Destination #4
  • 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 #12 (our recommendation also assumes that your flight departs late enough in the day to travel between Destination #4 and the airport on your last day in the country)
11-Night / 12-Day Costa Rica Itinerary #2:

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 travel to Destination #4, afternoon exploration of Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #10: Full-day exploration of Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #11: Full-day exploration of Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #12: Morning travel to the airport region, departure from Costa Rica


12-day itinerary #3: If you wish to spend the last night nearby the airport (three destinations option)

  • 12-day itinerary #3 summary: 3 nights at Destination #1, 3 nights at Destination #2, 4 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 #12 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to schedule an overnight stay in the airport region for your last night in the country)
11-Night / 12-Day Costa Rica Itinerary #3:

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 exploration of Destination #2, afternoon travel to 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: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #11: Morning exploration of Destination #3, afternoon travel to the airport region, overnight in the airport region
Day #12: Departure from Costa Rica


12-day itinerary #4: If you wish to spend the last night nearby the airport (four destinations option)

  • 12-day itinerary #4 summary: 3 nights at Destination #1, 2 nights at Destination #2, 2 nights at Destination #3, 3 nights at Destination #4, 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 #12 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to schedule an overnight stay in the airport region for your last night in the country)
11-Night / 12-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 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 travel to Destination #2, afternoon exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #7: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #8: Morning exploration of Destination #3, afternoon travel to Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #9: Full-day exploration of Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #10: Full-day exploration of Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #11: Morning exploration of Destination #4, afternoon travel to the airport region, overnight in the airport region
Day #12: Departure from Costa Rica


12-day itinerary #5: If you wish to spend both the first night and the last night nearby the airport (three destinations option)

  • 12-day itinerary #5 summary: 1 night in the airport region, 3 nights at Destination #1, 3 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 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 #12 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to schedule an overnight stay in the airport region for your last night in the country)
11-Night / 12-Day Costa Rica Itinerary #5:

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: Full-day exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #8: Morning travel to Destination #3, afternoon exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #9: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #10: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #11: Morning exploration of Destination #3, afternoon travel to the airport region, overnight in the airport region
Day #12: Departure from Costa Rica


12-day itinerary #6: If you wish to spend both the first night and the last night nearby the airport (four destinations option)

  • 12-day itinerary #6 summary: 1 night in the airport region, 3 nights at Destination #1, 2 nights at Destination #2, 2 nights at Destination #3, 2 nights at Destination #4, 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 #12 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to schedule an overnight stay in the airport region for your last night in the country)
11-Night / 12-Day Costa Rica Itinerary #6:

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 travel to Destination #4, afternoon exploration of Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #10: Full-day exploration of Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #11: Morning exploration of Destination #4, afternoon travel to the airport region, overnight in the airport region
Day #12: Departure from Costa Rica


12-day itinerary #7: If you wish to spend neither the first night nor the last night nearby the airport (three destinations option)

  • 12-day itinerary #7 summary: 4 nights at Destination #1, 3 nights at Destination #2, and 4 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 #12 (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)
11-Night / 12-Day Costa Rica Itinerary #7:

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: 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: Full-day exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #8: Morning travel to Destination #3, afternoon exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #9: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #10: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #11: Full-day exploration of Destination #3, overnight at Destination #3
Day #12: Morning travel to the airport region, departure from Costa Rica


12-day itinerary #8: If you wish to spend both the first night and the last night nearby the airport (four destinations option)

  • 12-day itinerary #8 summary: 3 nights at Destination #1, 3 nights at Destination #2, 2 nights at Destination #3, and 3 nights at Destination #4
  • 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 #12 (our recommendation also assumes that your flight departs late enough in the day to travel between Destination #4 and the airport on your last day in the country)
11-Night / 12-Day Costa Rica Itinerary #8:

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: Morning exploration of Destination #3, afternoon travel to Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #10: Full-day exploration of Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #11: Full-day exploration of Destination #4, overnight at Destination #4
Day #12: 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, Destination #3, and/or Destination #4)…

Don’t miss our related blog post:

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

SPENDING 12 DAYS IN COSTA RICA: WHY DOING SO MIGHT BE THE BEST OPTION FOR YOU

A 12-day vacation in Costa Rica is the slowed-down version our preferred choice

We confirm in our related blog post Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 Days In Costa Rica that 10-day vacations to Costa Rica are our most popular recommendation. This being said, as we describe above, having 12 days in Costa Rica presents an opportunity to experience popular 10-day itineraries with an extra two days of buffer time to add in wherever travellers wish. Want to volunteer with a sea turtle conservation organization for a day, donate supplies to a local school, or get some dental work done in San Jose? Need to give yourself an extra day or two to attend a wedding or conference in Costa Rica, or meet up with an old friend who resides in-country? With a vacation allotment of 12 days, you can plan for the 10-day/three-destination trip itinerary you want while still being able to accomplish everything you need. Alternatively, if you’re an eager and adventurous traveller who cannot narrow down the areas you wish to visit to less than four destinations, you’re in luck! Spending 12 days in Costa Rica will let you accomplish that dream too.

A 12-day vacation in Costa Rica offers flexible balance between adventure/exploration and beach/relaxation

Since we explain above how itineraries of 12 days in Costa Rica create opportunities to visit three or four destinations, consequently, visitors can experience three or four completely different sides of Costa Rica. 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? What about planning to visit destinations both on the Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast all in one trip? Costa Rica is home to a wide variety of vacation destinations, and although each offers something different from the next, 12-day vacations in Costa Rica can help travellers cross three or four diverse areas of the country off their bucket list, even when one of the list items is to travel from one side of the country to the other!

A 12-day vacation in Costa Rica allows enough time to take in many of Costa Rica’s highlights, plus specialized tours/activities of interest

Are you asking yourself,

“Is 12 days in Costa Rica enough time?”¬†

If so, you’re asking one of the most popular questions we receive from travellers. To answer this question, you must first ask yourself what you are looking to get out of the trip. In other words, if you were to ask us whether 12 days is enough time to spend in Costa Rica, we would respond by asking, “is 12 days in Costa Rica enough time for what?” Is it enough time to experience the majority of what you likely wish to do and see in Costa Rica, including a mix of popular and less-popular activities? Yup! Is it enough time to participate everything that the country has to offer? No, but then again, one could argue that even a lifelong trip to Costa Rica wouldn’t be long enough to do and see it all.

To help you gain a better idea of the number of things you should plan to do with 12 days in Costa Rica (i.e., the approximate number of tour/site/attraction experiences that you should aim to have within the timeframe) please see our chart below.

Note: The estimates below are provided in wide ranges given that some activities are half-day experiences, some activities are full-day experiences, and some activities (i.e., combo tours) are full-day experiences that combine two, three, and sometimes four activities. Depending on a traveller’s tour/activity interests, either a full-day tour that provides one experience or a combo tour that provides four experiences may be selected. For this reason, the range of possible activities to fill available itinerary time is broad.

Note: The ‚Äúexperiences‚ÄĚ noted below refer to unique tours, activities, site visits, and/or attraction visits that have a defined start and end. Examples include (but are not limited to) volcano tours, hot spring visits, zipline tours, hanging bridge visits, canyoning/canyoneering/rappelling tours, waterfall visits, boat tours, wildlife refuge visits, sailing tours, tram rides, ATV tours, plantation visits, rafting tours, exhibit visits, horseback riding tours, museum visits, mountain biking tours, garden visits, national park tours, farm visits, night tours, surf lessons, nature hikes, tubing/canoeing/kayaking tours, yoga classes, and more.

How many tour/activity experiences should I plan to have during my 12 days in Costa Rica?

According to our recommended 12-day itinerary option #1 described above, a total of 8.5 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1, 2.5 days at Destination #2, and 3.5 days at Destination #3) is available. If you build a Costa Rica itinerary in line with our recommendation, aim to select no more than 21 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 8 full-day activities, 17 half-day activities, or 17+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

According to our recommended 12-day itinerary option #2 described above, a total of 8 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1, 1.5 days at Destination #2, 1.5 days at Destination #3, and 2.5 days at Destination #4) is available. If you build a Costa Rica itinerary in line with our recommendation, aim to select no more than 20 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 8 full-day activities, 16 half-day activities, or 16+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

According to our recommended 12-day itinerary options #3 and #5 described above, a total of 8 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1, 2.5 days at Destination #2, and 3 days at Destination #3) is available. If you build a Costa Rica itinerary in line with our recommendation, aim to select no more than 20 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 8 full-day activities, 16 half-day activities, or 16+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

According to our recommended 12-day itinerary option #4 described above, a total of 8 full days of exploration time (2 days at Destination #1, 1.5 days at Destination #2, 2 days at Destination #3, and 2.5 days at Destination #4) is available. If you build a Costa Rica itinerary in line with our recommendation, aim to select no more than 20 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 8 full-day activities, 16 half-day activities, or 16+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

According to our recommended 12-day itinerary option #6 described above, a total of 7.5 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1, 1.5 days at Destination #2, 1.5 days at Destination #3, and 2 days at Destination #4) is available. If you build a Costa Rica itinerary in line with our recommendation, aim to select no more than 19 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 7 full-day activities, 15 half-day activities, or 15+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

According to our recommended 12-day itinerary option #7 described above, a total of 9 full days of exploration time (3 days at Destination #1, 2.5 days at Destination #2, and 3.5 days at Destination #3) is available. If you build a Costa Rica itinerary in line with our recommendation, aim to select no more than 22 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 9 full-day activities, 18 half-day activities, or 18+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

According to our recommended 12-day itinerary option #8 described above, a total of 8.5 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1, 2 days at Destination #2, 2 days at Destination #3, and 2 days at Destination #4) is available. If you build a Costa Rica itinerary in line with our recommendation, aim to select no more than 21 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 8 full-day activities, 17 half-day activities, or 17+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

Overall, with 12 days in Costa Rica, we recommend participating in no less than 7 tour/activity experiences and no more than 19-22 tour/activity experiences.

A 12-day vacation in Costa Rica warrants either a personal car rental or reliance on other modes of transportation; the decision is yours!

Many travellers question whether they can secure a rental car for 12 days in Costa Rica, or whether they can get by for 12 days in Costa Rica without one. The short answer to both inquires is “yes”. Although 12-day vacations are not long enough to do and see everything that the country has to offer, the period is long enough to warrant you getting around however you please. If you would prefer to rent a vehicle for your trip, Costa Rica car rental rates are typically discounted after the first week (for example, with a minimum 7-day car rental, the vehicle rental agency we discuss in our related blog post Good Car Rental Agencies Are Hard To Find. Here’s Where We Choose To Look.¬†offers every seventh rental day for free). Alternatively, if you opt not to rent a vehicle for your trip, 12-day vacations allow for more time to schedule affordable travel from destination to destination. Although shorter vacations and/or vacations that try to squeeze in too many destinations typically require travellers to rely on domestic flights or private transfer services (two of the most expensive modes of transportation in Costa Rica) in order to execute trip itineraries according to tight travel schedules, a 12-day vacation (especially one in which only three or four in-country destinations are visited, as per our recommendations above) can better utilize shared shuttle services and/or city-to-city transportation-inclusive tours which reduce trip costs and maximize trip experience.

Don’t miss our related blog posts:

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

Costa Rica Transportation: 10 Ways To Get From Point A To Point B Throughout Your Trip

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

A 12-day vacation in Costa Rica provides opportunities to reschedule missed activities due to unforeseen circumstances

Here’s something you cannot plan for throughout your trip: spontaneity. What if a member of your travel group gets sick? What if severe rain or wind causes a tour delay or cancellation? What if a national holiday, street protest, vehicle malfunction, or natural disaster (such as a mudslide) rewrites your travel plans? Unfortunately vacation arrangements cannot always accommodate such unforeseen occurrences, but the likelihood of your trip being able to do so increases with the number of days you will be in the country. Imagine having only two days to vacation in Costa Rica. When disaster strikes on Day #1, you’re left with only Day #2 to rebuild. Now imagine your trip is 8, 10, 12, 15, or 15+ days long. Although you likely would have made plans for most days, your itinerary may also hide a number of opportunities to adjust, move, and/or reschedule aspects of your trip without problem or penalty. You may just be able to squeeze some sweet lemonade out of the sour lemons you’ve been handed.

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Do you plan to spend 12 days in Costa Rica? Share your Costa Rica itinerary thoughts with us below!

Pura vida!

Costa Rica Travel Blog

DIY Costa Rica

Costa Rica tour discounts



Have something to say or add to the discussion? Leave your comment below!