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Costa Rica Itinerary: 5 Days In Costa Rica; Sample Itineraries, How Many Places To Visit, How Many Activities To Do, And More!

Costa Rica Itinerary: 5 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 20th, 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! 🙂

The below post is the first 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: 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: 12 days in Costa Rica
[OR SKIP TO] Costa Rica Itinerary: 15 days in Costa Rica
5 days in Costa Rica
5 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 5 days in Costa Rica.

DO YOU HAVE 5 DAYS IN COSTA RICA OR ARE YOU CONSIDERING A 5-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 5-day vacation to Costa Rica may be the best for you.

People who choose to vacation in Costa Rica for 5 days tend to be the following:

  • Couples looking to get away from home for a quick romantic trip
  • Individuals looking to get away from home for an extended weekend trip
  • Individuals who travel to Costa Rica for health purposes (i.e., dental work or other medical procedures) who have a number of days to spare before/after their procedure
  • Friend groups looking to relax and/or party in Costa Rica for an extended weekend trip (i.e., bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, engagement parties)
  • Businesspeople who travel to Costa Rica for work purposes (i.e., meetings, conferences, site checks) who have a number of days to spare before/after their work commitment

People who choose to vacation in Costa Rica for 5 days tend to want the following:

Either/or…

  1. A visit to one of Costa Rica’s top destinations, ideally a destination that offers a variety of “adventure” experiences, “nature” experiences, or “beach” experiences
  2. To stay in a predetermined region (i.e., in San Jose nearby their work commitment or medical procedure) with the exception of day tours taken to/from the predetermined region and other areas of the country)

Travellers who choose to vacation in Costa Rica for 5 days also typically want…

  • To minimize travel time between destinations and maximize time spent at destinations given the limited amount of time they have to spend in the country
  • 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

WITH 5 DAYS IN COSTA RICA, HERE’S HOW MANY PLACES YOU SHOULD VISIT

If your time in Costa Rica is restricted to one geographical area (i.e., if you identify with traveller type #2 listed above), then you have already decided how many places to visit during your trip: one. Fortunately, many of Costa Rica’s top destinations (San Jose included) offer day tours to other notable regions, including the La Fortuna/Arenal area, the Monteverde area, the Manuel Antonio area, and more, so experiencing much of what the country has to offer is possible via daily travel to and from your required home base. Alternatively, if your time in Costa Rica is not limited to one area for a specific and set reason and you wish to fit in everything that you can during your limited time in the country (i.e., if you better relate to traveller type #1 listed above), consider choosing one destination to visit (in addition to the airport region you plan to fly into and out of) and focus on making the most of your time while there.

Why choosing one destination 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 #5 are lost itinerary days.

Truthfully, then, a 5-day trip to Costa Rica provides 3 full days to explore the country (i.e., Day #2, Day #3, and Day #4). Fortunately, having 3 days in Costa Rica is better than having no time to visit at all, and there is certainly enough to do and see to warrant making the trip. This being said, with such little vacation time available, time is of the essence, which means that no moment should be wasted on unnecessary travel between multiple destinations. Since many areas of Costa Rica offer a variety of tours/activities/sites/attractions that can entertain visitors over a 3-day period, most would agree that given the timeline, one destination is enough.

More specifically, 5 days in Costa Rica provides time for a) travel between the airport and Destination #1, and b) travel between Destination #1 and the airport. With such a simple and direct itinerary plan for 5 days in Costa Rica, participation in tours and activities of interest is maximized through the minimization of indirect travel and multiple hotel check-in and check-out procedures.

Can/should I add in a second destination?

Opting to visit two destinations is possible with a 5-day Costa Rica itinerary, however we very rarely recommend doing so. In this case (if at all possible), we would suggest extending your trip to Costa Rica; our Costa Rica Itinerary: 8 Days In Costa Rica blog post may be of greater interest to you. With only 3 full days available to explore the country and an ambitious goal of visiting two destinations, while doing so is certainly possible, your vacation will feel more rushed, your already limited 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.

SUGGESTED ITINERARY/ITINERARIES FOR A 5-DAY TRIP TO COSTA RICA

If you’re in the process of building a 5-day vacation to Costa Rica, aim for an itinerary that mirrors one of our suggested itineraries below.

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.


5-day itinerary #1: If you wish to spend the first night nearby the airport

  • 5-day itinerary #1 summary: 1 night in the airport region and 3 nights at Destination #1
  • 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 #5 (our recommendation also assumes that your flight departs late enough in the day to travel between Destination #1 and the airport on your last day in the country)
4-Night / 5-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 the airport region, departure from Costa Rica


5-day itinerary #2: If you wish to spend the last night nearby the airport

  • 5-day itinerary #2 summary: 3 nights at Destination #1 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 #5 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to schedule an overnight stay in the airport region for your last night in the country)
4-Night / 5-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 exploration of Destination #1, afternoon travel to the airport region, overnight in the airport region
Day #5: Departure from Costa Rica


5-day itinerary #3: If you wish to spend both the first night and the last night nearby the airport

  • 5-day itinerary #3 summary: 1 night in the airport region, 2 nights at Destination #1, 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 #5 (our recommendation also assumes that you would prefer to schedule an overnight stay in the airport region for your last night in the country)
4-Night / 5-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: Morning exploration of Destination #1, afternoon travel to the airport region, overnight in the airport region
Day #5: Departure from Costa Rica


5-day itinerary #4: If you wish to spend neither the first night nor the last night nearby the airport

  • 5-day itinerary #4 summary: 4 nights at Destination #1
  • 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 #5 (our recommendation also assumes that your flight departs late enough in the day to travel between Destination #1 and the airport on your last day in the country)
4-Night / 5-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: Full-day exploration of Destination #1, overnight at Destination #1
Day #5: Morning travel to the airport region, departure from Costa Rica


As a side note, if you’re wondering which specific destination in Costa Rica you should choose (i.e., which area should be Destination #1)…

Don’t miss our related blog post:

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

SPENDING 5 DAYS IN COSTA RICA: WHY DOING SO MIGHT BE THE BEST OPTION FOR YOU

A 5-day vacation in Costa Rica may be your only opportunity to explore the country

If we’re being honest, we admit: we do not normally recommend 5-day vacations to Costa Rica; there is simply too much to do and see in the country that cramming a significant amount of it into a few days wouldn’t only be a difficult task to accomplish, but it would also be a tiring and uncomfortable trip to endure. This being said, we can appreciate that life is busy and expensive. If your only opportunity to experience Costa Rica is via a 5-day vacation, then so be it. With some careful trip planning and wise itinerary decisions, your 5 days in Costa Rica can still be life-changing.

A 5-day vacation in Costa Rica allows some time to take in many of Costa Rica’s highlights

Are you asking yourself,

“Is 5 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 5 days is enough time to spend in Costa Rica, we would respond by asking, “is 5 days in Costa Rica enough time for what?” Is it enough time to get away from home, have some fun, and get a taste of what Costa Rica is all about? Of course! Is it enough time to experience what most other travellers do when they visit for 8, 10, 12, or 15+ days? Honestly, no.

To help you gain a better idea of the number of things you should plan to do with 5 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 “experiences” 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 5 days in Costa Rica?

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

According to our recommended 5-day itinerary option #3 described above, a total of 2 full days of exploration time (2 days at Destination #1) is available. If you build a Costa Rica itinerary in line with our recommendation, aim to select no more than 7 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 2 full-day activities, 4 half-day activities, or 4+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

According to our recommended 5-day itinerary option #4 described above, a total of 3 full days of exploration time (3 days at Destination #1) is available. If you build a Costa Rica itinerary in line with our recommendation, aim to select no more than 9 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 3 full-day activities, 6 half-day activities, or 6+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

Overall, with 5 days in Costa Rica, we recommend participating in no less than 2 tour/activity experiences and no more than 9 tour/activity experiences.

A 5-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 5 days in Costa Rica, or whether they can get by for 5 days in Costa Rica without one. The short answer to both inquires is “yes”. In fact, having access to a rental car in Costa Rica may offer an advantage to travellers with short vacation timelines in terms of schedule flexibility since a personal rental vehicle avoids reliance on transportation service providers’ predetermined and set departure times. For travellers who would prefer not to rent a vehicle, shared shuttle services and/or city-to-city transportation-inclusive tours which reduce trip costs and maximize trip experience should be considered. Domestic flights and/or private transfer services are also an option and may be required in order to execute trip itineraries according to tight travel schedules, but it should be known in advance that on average both are the most expensive modes of transportation in Costa Rica.

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 5-day vacation in Costa Rica may be the best for your budget

It is no secret that the longer a vacation is, the more money will be spent, so if your Costa Rica vacation budget is limited, perhaps your vacation duration should be too. This is not to suggest that Costa Rica cannot be experienced on the cheap, as there are plenty of means to accomplishing this (don’t miss our related posts categorized under the Costa Rica Money Saving Tips department of our blog for more information), but even the most frugal 2-day Costa Rica vacation would come at a higher cost than that of a 1-day vacation. Or, perhaps you are a traveller with hefty Costa Rica travel funds, but you would prefer to put them toward a short and luxurious vacation as opposed to a longer and more humble one. In either case, although having 5 days in Costa Rica might not be preferred by all travellers, given your spending abilities and priorities, it might be the right trip plan for you.

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Do you plan to spend 5 days in Costa Rica? Share your Costa Rica itinerary thoughts with us below!

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