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Costa Rica Itinerary: 8 Days In Costa Rica; Sample Itineraries, How Many Places To Visit, How Many Activities To Do, And More!

Costa Rica Itinerary: 8 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 8 days in Costa Rica.

Do you have 8 days in Costa Rica or are you considering an 8-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, an 8-day vacation to Costa Rica may be right for you.

People who choose to vacation in Costa Rica for 8 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
  • Travelers who have work and/or study commitments and approximately one week off from work and/or school
  • School, church, and/or other organizations that coordinate group travel

People who choose to vacation in Costa Rica for 8 days tend to want the following:

Either/or…

  1. A mix of Costa Rican destinations, typically adventure destinations and beach destinations.
  2. An all-inclusive vacation, whereby the entirety of the trip is spent at an all-inclusive resort with the exception of day tours taken to/from the resort and other areas of the country.

Travelers who vacation in Costa Rica for 8 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 8 days in Costa Rica, here’s how many places you should visit

If you wish to spend your entire Costa Rica trip at an all-inclusive resort (i.e., if you identify with traveler type #2 listed above), then you have already decided how many places to visit during your trip: one. You may also want to read our related blog posts Why Costa Rica Is Not An All-Inclusive Resort Destination and How To Have An All-Inclusive Vacation Without The All-Inclusive Resort prior to committing to your all-inclusive stay. Alternatively, if you wish to spread your 8 days in Costa Rica across multiple destinations (i.e., if you better relate to traveler type #1 listed above), choose two Costa Rica 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 two 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 #8 are lost itinerary days.

Let’s assume that an 8-day trip to Costa Rica provides 6 full days to explore the country (i.e., Day #2, Day #3, Day #4, Day #5, Day #6, and Day #7). While you could spend all 6 days in one place, such as an all-inclusive resort or a health retreat, visiting two destinations is more rewarding. Doing so will provide you with an opportunity to combine time spent relaxing with time spent being active—the best of both worlds.

To confirm, 8 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, and c) travel between Destination #2 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 third destination?

It’s possible to visit three destinations with 8 days to spend in Costa Rica but we don’t recommend doing so. If you’d like to experience more than two areas of Costa Rica, it would be best to extend your vacation by a few days, if at all possible. (Our Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 Days In Costa Rica blog post can help you coordinate a longer stay.) Otherwise, you may find that squeezing in visits to three destinations over the 6 full days you’ll have in the country creates a rushed travel experience, increases stress, and decreases opportunities for exploration and rest.

Suggested itinerary / itineraries for an 8-day trip to Costa Rica

If you’re in the process of planning an 8-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 or Destination #2, the number of days/nights spent at each can be adjusted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 8-day itinerary #4 summary: 3 nights at Destination #1 and 4 nights at Destination #2
  • 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 #8 (our recommendation also assumes that your flight departs late enough in the day to travel between Destination #2 and the airport on your last day in the country)
7-Night / 8-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: Full-day exploration of Destination #2, overnight at Destination #2
Day #8: 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 and Destination #2)…

Don’t miss our related blog post:

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

Why spending 8 days in Costa Rica might be the best option for you

An 8-day vacation in Costa Rica is the most popular choice

Hands down, the most popular Costa Rica itinerary we see travelers build is an 8-day itinerary (in some cases, a modified 7-day itinerary), likely because many travelers can only miss work for one week or two weekends and one workweek. If this is true for you, too, then traveling for 8 days is the right choice because it’s your only choice.

An 8-day vacation in Costa Rica offers a nice balance between adventure/exploration and beach/relaxation

By visiting two destinations in Costa Rica over 8 days, you won’t just get to see two places that differ geographically but also two areas of the country that differ across demographics, ecosystems, foods, attractions, and other experiences. Want to hike in the rainforest and relax on the beach? Zipline through the cloud forest and 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 an 8-day itinerary that includes visits to two unique destinations will help you cross a few off your bucket list.

An 8-day vacation in Costa Rica allows enough time to take in many of Costa Rica’s highlights

Are you asking yourself, “Is 8 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 8 days in Costa Rica enough time… for what?” Is 8 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 8 days enough time to experience what other travelers do when they visit for 10 days, 12 days, 15 days, or longer? Sadly (and obviously), no.

With 8 days to spend in Costa Rica, we recommend participating in no less than 4 tours/activities and no more than 12-14 tours/activities. The chart below provides a breakdown of this range according to the itineraries already discussed above.

Itinerary options #1 and #2 (see above)A total of 5 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1 and 2.5 days at Destination #2) is available. Aim to select no more than 13 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 5 full-day activities, 10 half-day activities, or 10+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.
Itinerary option #3 (see above)A total of 4.5 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1 and 2 days at Destination #2) is available. Aim to select no more than 12 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 4 full-day activities, 9 half-day activities, or 9+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.
Itinerary option #4 (see above)A total of 5.5 full days of exploration time (2.5 days at Destination #1 and 3 days at Destination #2) is available. Aim to select no more than 14 experiences for an adventure-filled trip (i.e., 5 full-day activities, 11 half-day activities, or 11+ activities via the use of combo tours), or less for a more relaxing vacation.

An 8-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 an 8-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, 8-day vacations do provide enough time to comfortably move between two 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

Costa Rica Transportation: 12 Ways To Get Around Costa Rica

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

An 8-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 8 days in Costa Rica?

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Costa Rica Itinerary: 8 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: 8 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 8 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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