Why: Costa Rica is a perfect place to start if you want to visit Latin America.  It is quite safe, many tourists come here, and there are tons of outdoor adventures, beaches, and rainforests.  It is one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth and it is a great place to learn Spanish.

Flight: Look for a flight on skyscanner.com or come in overland from Nicaragua or Panama.  I have both flown in and traveled overland.  Visiting Nicaragua and Costa Rica together makes a lot of sense.

Ziplining in Monteverde

Day 1: Fly into San Jose Airport.  You flight will probably get in in the afternoon so stay in Alajuela, where the airport is at Alajuela Backpackers so you don’t have to go into downtown.  If you can catch a soccer game do so!  While I did the budget option of taking public transportation, renting a car would also make a lot of sense as well.

Day 2:  Head up to the Arenal Volcano area which will take most of the morning to get there.  This is a great place to start. Stay at Arenal Backpackers, which has great views of the volcano.  Go check out the hot springs later in the afternoon, which is one of the true highlights of the region.

Hanging out near Arenal Volcano

Day 3: Go out for one of the great hikes in Arenal National Park.  Try Los Tucanes or Colada 1968 for a couple great trails.  This is a must do when in the region.  If you can include some of the hanging bridges in the park this is highly recommended. In the afternoon hike your way out to beautiful La Fortuna Waterfall.

Day 4: Go ziplining.  Flying through the jungle is the perfect Costan Rican adventure.  There are tons of options so choose which canopy tour is best for your time and budget.  In the afternoon head over to Monteverde via the boat taxi which is a cool ride.  Stay in Hammock House Hostel.

Walking the catwalks of the local cloud forest

Day 5: Take an aerial tram and zipline tour through the cloud forest.  Monteverde’s cloud forest is one of the prettiest in Central America.  There are 3 major reserves, Monteverde, Santa Elena, and Children’s Eternal Rainforest.

Day 6: Go out and explore Selvatura Park.  This is one of the best places in the world to see birds, butterflies, and tons of the other diversity that calls Costa Rica home.

Day 7: Head down to Parque Manuel Antonio.  This will be a full morning of travel.  Stay in Hostel Plinio.  Spend the late afternoon surfing, parasailing, or swimming on the beach.  There are lots of tasty snacks to try, coconuts being among them.

Entering Parque Manuel Antonio

Day 8: Get out early to beat the crowds to Parque Manuel Antonio.  Unless you want a guide, take to the trails on your own.  In the morning you have the best chance of seeing animals, so the earlier the better!  This is one of the best to see monkeys up close in the Americas.  Spend the afternoon chilling on the nearby beaches.

Day 9: Today will be a big travel day.  Head across the country to the Caribbean Coast.  Limon and Puerto Viejo have a totally different vibe than the Pacific.  Stay in Puerto Viejo at Veronica’s Place.  Take in the Caribbean vibes and tasty seafood.

Exploring the waters of Boca del Toro

Day 10: Head out to visit the Sloth Sanctuary, where injured and sick sloths are being nursed.  This is an incredible chance to see these unusual animals up close.  In the afternoon go out and snorkel in Cahuita National Park, which has a lot of beautiful reefs to explore.

Day 11: Make your way across the border into Panama.  Bocas del Toro are too close and too cool to leave out of your Costa Rica trip. Getting the water taxi out to Bocas del Toro is a cool experience. Stay at Bamboda Lodge.

About to start the Jungleman Marathon near Cahuita

Day 12: Go snorkel, explore the local beaches, surf, or just chill out on one of the coolest places in Central America.  This is a place that will make you want to stay longer!

Day 13: Cross the border back into Costa Rica and make your way back up the Coast and to the capital.  This will be a big travel day and may need to be broken into 2 days depending on how early your start.  In San Jose stay in Transilvania Hostel.

At a local fútbol game in San José

Day 14: If you can time in right try to get a soccer game either on your first or last day of your trip.  Fly out to your next country in Central America or back home!