Traveling with Stephy

The ultimate Costa Rica travel guide: 1-month itinerary

Who has never dreamed of visiting Costa Rica? Located in Central America, Costa Rica is synonymous with diverse wildlife, incredible green sceneries, and unspoiled beaches. In this blog post, I share with you the ultimate Costa Rica travel guide that gathers notably a 1-month detailed itinerary packed with tips. After reading this guide, you will have everything you need to know to organize your trip to Costa Rica! Pura Vida!

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Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua and Panama countries. You can therefore easily enter the country by land.
Costa Rica is home to two international airports:
  • Juan Santamaria international airport (SJO), located in the central part of the country, more precisely in San Jose.
  • Liberia airport, also known as Daniel-Oduber-Quiros, located in North West part of the country. I would only recommend this airport if you plan to visit the Nicoya Peninsula. 

When to visit Costa Rica?

As per its geography, Costa Rica is surrounded by the Pacific ocean on one side and the Caribbean sea on the other side. Consequently, the country has two different seasons at the same time. In other words, the dry season of the Pacific coast and center region of Costa Rica is approximately from December to April. On the contrary, the dry season in the Caribbean side is mainly from July to November, with October as the best month for visiting.
Therefore, knowing all that, and depending on your itinerary, you will probably get a little bit of rain. We visited Costa Rica from January to March and except during our time on the Caribbean side, we had no important rains.
“In summary, if you decide to focus your itinerary in the central part and Pacific coast, I would recommend visiting Costa Rica in February as there are fewer tourists at this time of the year and no rain.”

How long to stay in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a small country of less than 50’000 km2 but with so much to offer! Roads in Costa Rica are very basic, so it usually takes a lot of time to go from one place to another.
This is the reason why, I always advise you to have at least 3 entire weeks to visit the main parts of the country namely the Pacific coast, the central part, and the Caribbean side. If you have less time ahead of you, I suggest you just pick only two regions to visit such as the central part and the Pacific coast or the central part and the Caribbean coast. Otherwise, you will have to rush things out and it would be very sad to miss the Pura Vida lifestyle.
We had the chance to stay for 3 months (maximum time without a visa), so we had time to slow travel and it was the best time ever!

How to move around in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is one of the Central American countries that have good public transportation. Consequently, if you have time ahead of you, you can discover the country by bus. Just keep in mind that it is always one day of travel. Therefore, if you have time, this is a great and sustainable way to travel to Costa Rica. However, as the road service is very poor, there is mainly one road that goes from one place to another. Hence, if you plan to visit a remote place, you might need to take a taxi to complete the trip (or hitchhike). You can also hike the last part to get to your destination but just be aware that there is no sidewalk in Costa Rica. Hence, it can quickly become dangerous. I won’t recommend hiking along the road as there are all very small and limited to 90km/h.
Having said that, if you have the budget for it, I would sincerely recommend you rent a car. You don’t need necessarily a 4×4 if you visit Costa Rica during the dry season. In this way, you won’t be dependent on the bus schedule (which is not accurate or on time). Therefore, you will be able to visit any places you want at any time.
We traveled the whole country by bus and it was quite challenging sometimes. Anyway, we are happy that we did this way as we were slow traveling.

What budget do you need per day?

Alright, so one important thing to highlight is that Costa Rica is the most expensive country in all of Central America. That is to say, the prices are equivalent to the ones in US/Canada and Europe. Sometimes, it is even more expensive! We didn’t expect that before coming here.
Grocery shopping is by far the most expensive part of your budget. Frankly, sometimes it is cheaper to eat in Sodas (local restaurants). Even though you need to keep in mind that there are 10% service tax + 13% general tax that will be added up at the end. Check out my full guide about things to know before visiting Costa RicaWe had about 15 US dollars per day on average, which is by far too expensive to only eat at home in this part of the globe!

Regarding the lodging, it depends on what you are looking for. If basic accommodation is OK with you, then you can have an average of 30 US$ per night for a double room and private bathroom. Note that to get this kind of price, you need to book way ahead your stay! Book your room now at the best prices here!

Regarding transportation, in case you move around Costa Rica by public transportation, count about 10 us dollars per day on average. If you rent a car, your budget will rise very quickly. Indeed, you won’t find a good car with full insurance below 70 US dollars per day. However, if you have a limited time, renting a car is mandatory to be able to explore Costa Rica to the fullest. Book your car at best prices here! 

1-month costa rica itinerary

I am super happy to share with you our itinerary from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean coast, through the center of the country. Within this route, you will be able to see most of the places in Costa Rica. In this way, you will have the chance to get a great sense of what the country of Pura Vida has to offer! Enjoy!

Juan Santamari airport (SJO)

Depending on your flight arrival, you should stay one night close to the airport before starting your trip across Costa Rica. There are two scenarios: 

  • If you traveling by car, grab your rental car and then stay at Alajueal town instead of San Jose downtown. You will skip the traffic jam the next morning and save time.
  • If you traveling the country by bus, try to find accommodation close to Calle 5 in Downtown San Jose. This is where Tracopa Station is with all the buses that go to Costa Ballena (your next stop!).
“In case you arrive early in the morning, I advise you to skip San Jose/Alajuela town and start directly your journey to Costa Ballena!”

1 NIGHT (depends on your flight)

Dominical, Uvita or Ojochal


Drake BAy


Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is the ideal hub if you like beautiful beaches, living towns, and intense jungles. Indeed, Manuel Antonio town is home to the most famous National park of Costa Rica, called by the same name.

Well-known for its abundant fauna, the park is always put on the list of travelers, so it is a victim of its success! This is the reason why, to protect nature and wildlife, the National Park has a limited number of visitors per day. Hence, you need to book your spot online at least the day before if you want to be sure to have availability. You will have to choose a schedule for your visit. Don’t bother if you don’t have the schedule you wanted. You can go to the entrance whenever you want, they will let you go in. 
There are so many other things to do around the Manuel Antonio region, from kayaking into the mangroves to hiking into a rainforest. Therefore, watch my YouTube video here to get all the info on what to do in Manuel Antonio. 
“Note that the park is closed on Tuesday. Moreover, I advise you to avoid going at the opening hours because everyone is doing that. You will have a long waiting line.”


La Fortuna



Tamarindo is a great place to enjoy beautiful beaches and amazing living city vibes! It is one of the few towns in Costa Rica that has so many restaurants and bars close to the beach.

Book the best lodge in Costa Rica for your stay in Tamarindo!

“Don’t be surprised if the vibes of Tamarindo remind you a bit of the United States! We loved this parenthesis during our 3 months immersed in nature.”




Cahuita or Puerto Viejo

Cahuita and Puerto Viejo are the two main towns located on the Caribbean side of the country. They are the perfect hub to visit Cahuita National Park. 

Cahuita National Park is one of my favorite parks in all of Costa Rica. Indeed, this place is packed with so many species. From a family of Howler monkeys to many sloths in the trees, this National Park offers a beautifully marked path along the Caribbean sea. In addition to their abundant wildlife, those two towns offer great reggae vibes! This side of the country is completely different from what you have seen now.

“We went three times at Cahuita National Park since we had the chance to see so much wildlife every time we went (and the park is on donation fees, so no need to say more)!”


Tortuguero National Park

Famous for its abundant presence of turtles, Tortuguero National Park is a must-do if you are visiting the coast during the right season (July to October), meaning during the nesting and hatchling time of the turtles. 
Tortuguero is only accessible by boat from La Pavona (1,5 hours boat ride) or Moin deck (4 hours boat ride). As per the itinerary, you will visit Tortuguero after Cahuita or Puerto Viejo, I therefore highly recommend starting your journey from Moin deck as you will save time (but not money). 


“We, unfortunately, didn’t have the chance to visit Tortuguero National Park during our 3-month trip. One more reason to come back to Costa Rica!”


Alajuela town

Alajuela town is a great hub to visit the volcanoes of the region such as Poas or Irazu. In addition, the city is closer to Juan Santamaria airport than San Jose downtown itself. Therefore, this is the perfect last stop of your trip before flying back home.

“The only advice I can give you regarding the volcanoes is to go there only if this is a clear day. Moreover, you need to be at the National park the earliest possible. Indeed, the more the day advances, and more there is a fog settling above the craters, which will obstruct the view.”


In conclusion

In summary, Costa Rica is the perfect destination for all animal and nature lovers. If you seeking some adventures in the wild surrounded by endemic wildlife, combined with laid-back time on unspoiled beaches, this country is definitely for you!
We fell in love with Costa Rica at first sight and this country felt like home to us. We are so grateful to have been able to stay in Costa Rica for 3 entire months. This is why I sincerely hope I have inspired you to visit Costa Rica soon with this ultimate Costa Rica travel guide. 
In the meantime, don’t forget to check out all my posts related to Costa Rica. From the best tips and tricks to specific travel guides, you will have all the resources you need so that you can enjoy the Pura Vida to the fullest! If you have any questions, let me know! 
Sending you lots of love,
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