How to spend 18 days in Costa Rica, our 18-day Costa Rica route ⬇️
Firstly, our overall impressions of Costa Rica. We were obsessed. 😍 It has everything from black sand beaches, surfing, jungles, wildlife, hiking, zip lining, and waterfalls!
To break it down our 18-day route looked like this
1️⃣ San Jose (1 night)
2️⃣ Manuel Antonio (2 nights)
3️⃣ Uvita (2 nights)
4️⃣ Jaco (1 night)
5️⃣ Montezuma (1 night)
6️⃣ Santa Teresa (4 nights)
7️⃣ Tamarindo (2 nights)
8️⃣ La Fortuna (3 nights)
9️⃣ San Jose (1 night to fly home from).
Are there other routes you could take?
Costa Rica is quite big, there’s the Caribbean coast which has hot spots like Cahuita, Puerto Limón, Tortu, and Puerto Viejo. 🏄♀️
Following on there’s the Pacific Coast which tends to be a little more touristy with areas like Manuel Antonio, Quepos, Drake Bay, Montezuma, Santa Teresa, and Tamarindo 🌊
What’s public transport like in Costa Rica?
Honestly, it’s actually good. In saying that, it is definitely more expensive than most other countries in Central America. In addition, renting a car to navigate your way around Costa Rica is very popular, if you’re travelling in a group this might be an option, however, if you’re on a budget or traveling alone or in a small group you’d be forking out a lot of money.
Is Costa Rica expensive?
Yes! To answer this question bluntly, I’m not going to sugar it, Costa Rica is very expensive when you compare it to other countries in Central America. Here’s a list of ways you could save money on your trip to Costa Rica.
Is Costa Rica safe and are the locals nice?
Yes, in my experience I felt safe in Costa Rica, as mentioned before it’s a popular holiday destination for tourists from the States so most places are quite modernized for backpackers. Jaco isn’t the safest city so just be more cautious here!
If you’re planning on visiting Costa Rica one phrase you should get to know is “Pura Vida”. Ticos (Costa Ricans) use this phrase all the time and it can mean hello, goodbye, you’re welcome, or thank you! 🥰
Pura Vida translates to means pure life or simple life. 🧘♀️
Costa Rica is known for being one of the happiest countries in the world mostly due to the very relaxed, simple way of looking at life, not stressing about the little things and being grateful for the small things in life 🥰⭐️
Manuel Antonio Park is a huge tourist attraction in Costa Rica, it’s a huge natural park where you’ll see the most amazing animals. Click here for a detailed guide to visiting Manuel Antonio Park.
📍Uvita (2 nights)
✈️ How to get to Uvita
We took a bus from Quepos to Uvita Main Street, it takes about 2 hours then our hostel was a 20-minute walk from the station or a taxi was like £3!
🛏 Where to stay in Uvita
We stayed in Hostel Cascada and loved it, it’s off the beaten track but still popular for backpackers! Check it out here.
🗺️ What to do in Uvita
🐬 Visit Marino Ballena, a national park that has the famous whale tale-shaped beach of Punta Uvita. During peak season you can see whales, dolphins, and sea turtles! Theres 5 beaches; Playa Uvita, Playa Chaman, Playa Colonia, Playa Piñuela and Playa Ballena.
💦 Visit Uvita waterfalls which was only a 10-minute walk from our hostel, the waterfall is also a slide with a 6ft drop at the end!
🏞 Drive up to Nauyaca Waterfalls about 30 minutes up north, they look cool but they’re just more expensive than others!
🍽️ Where to eat and drink
Indomitos for really good vegan food! 🌱
✅ Extra tips
❌ Don’t leave your bags down at Marina Balleno or any of the waterfalls, they’re notorious for pickpocketing!
📍Jaco (1 night)
So Jaco isn’t top on everyone’s itinerary for Costa Rica, it’s known to be quite dangerous and there’s not a whole lot to do, we used it as a stopover to get to Montezuma and spent the night here. 💤
✈️ How to get to Jaco
Take a public bus from Quepos, we took a bus from Uvita up to Quepos and then to Jaco from here! All public buses in Costa Rica are WAY cheaper than the shuttles but they tend to take longer and could literally show up an hour late 😂
🛏 Where to stay in Jaco
We stayed in Casa Jungla and found it nice. The hostel had a communal kitchen area to cook 👩🏻🍳 We got a private room here and it was so reasonably priced. Here is what it looked like!
🗺️ What to do in Jaco
🏄♀️ Surf! Like most places with a beach in Costa Rica, the surf is very good in Jaco!
🍹 If you’re looking for drinks, grab ‘two for one’ cocktails while watching the sunset. 🌅
🎉 If you like drinking and socializing, Jaco is mainly a drinking and party spot so some people stay for a few nights here!
🍽️ Where to eat and drink in Jaco
Unfortunately, we only stayed a night here but liked Aloha happy hour drinks 🍹 ‘Rayana’ for good burgers and nachos!
📍Montezuma (1 night)
Montezuma is on the very southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsulas, it’s very remote and not overly crowded! It’s a real bohemian little area with loads of yoga and waterfalls!
✈️ How to get to Montezuma
To get to Montezuma, we took a taxi speed boat from Jacó to Montezuma with Zumba which was $45 each. Of course, this was quite expensive but a better option if you’re stuck for time traveling around! Alternatively, you can take the local bus instead to Quepos then from Quepos to Puntarenas, and then the ferry to Paquera, and from there by bus to Montezuma.
🛏 Where to stay in Montezuma
We stayed in Downtown Hostel Montezuma, it was like most of the reviews on hostel world said very average but it was the cheapest we could find and we were only staying one night!
🗺️ What to do in Montezuma
- Visit the lower and upper Montezuma waterfalls which are only a 20-minute walk from the town!
- Take a yoga class!
✅ Extra tips for Montezuma
- We wouldn’t recommend staying here, to be honest, most people do a day trip from Santa Teresa or other areas! It’s a cute little town but not a lot to do that’s not in other places!
📍 Santa Teresa (4 nights)
🚌 How to get here to Santa Teresa
From Montezuma, we took a local bus to Copano then from there another 2-hour bus to Santa Teresa!
🛏 Where to stay in Santa Teresa
We stayed in Hostel La Pos and really liked it, it had lots of other backpackers and we made lots of friends here.
Selina South has the most insane co-working area I’ve ever seen if you’re remotely working.
🗺️ What to do
- Spend a day in the tide pools at Mal Pais
- Go surfing
- Zip lining
🍽️ Where to eat and drink
Suna for the nicest Thai food! The owner Michael was also so lovely here too. Just read these reviews to be convinced!
Bali Beach Cafe
Soda Pura Vida
Gaucha for the best ice cream
✅ Extra tips
We were here during low season and loved it, we actually extended our stay by 2 nights but apparently, during peak season, it gets really busy and overcrowded so just be aware of that 😊
🏍 Getting around Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa and Mal Pas are dirt-road types of towns so during the dry season it’s quite dusty then during the wet season it really muddy and hard to drive through so just something to think about if you’re going to rent a car here 👏
📍Tamarindo (2 nights)
✈️ How to get to Tamarindo
We took a shuttle bus up from Santa Teresa but it’s very easy to get here from pretty much anywhere! If you’re coming down from Nicaragua you can take a shuttle down from San Juan Del Sur!
🛏 Where to stay in Tamarindo
🗺️ What to do in Tamarindo
🏄♀️ Surfing! It’s one of the best beaches in Costa Rica if you’re a beginner surfer! I recommend booking a lesson with, our instructor Evi was really good!
🐢 During peak season (July to October) release baby turtles into the oceans
☀️ Have lazy days by the beach and walk the sunset on Playa Tamarindo 🌅
🍽️ Where to eat and drink in Tamarindo
El Mercadito de Tamarindo
Drinks at rumours
Waffle monkey pancakes
✅ Extra tips
Tamarindo definitely isn’t for everyone! We heard very mixed reviews but wanted to see them for ourselves! It’s very touristy and reminded me of Florida with loads of hotels and fancy boutiques! The main attraction is surfing if you’re a beginner, the waves are a little less intimidating than the ones in Santa Teresa!
📍 La Fortuna (3 nights)
✈️ How to get to La Fortuna
From Tamarindo take a shuttle, even during the low season they book up quickly so book in advance otherwise it’s 3 public buses from Tamarindo! Otherwise, you can pretty much book a shuttle from wherever you’re coming from, La Fortuna is close to San Jose too so it’s also a good place to start your trip 👏
🛏 Where to stay in La Fortuna
We stayed in the Selina hostel here, as mentioned before the Selina hostels are great but usually overpriced and more expensive than others but this one had a cinema room with Netflix that you could pre-book so we made use of that when it was raining in the evenings ☔️💧
🗺 What to do in La Fortuna
💦 La Fortuna Waterfalls
🌋 Arenal Volcano
🛁 Hot springs
You can also
🦥 Go to the sloth park
🍽️ Where to eat and drink
I’ll be honest, we had a bad two-day hangover in La Fortuna and were pretty skint for money so we mainly at Soda La Parada, which is a cheap restaurant for backpackers 👏
✅ Extra tips
As mentioned in my last post, Monteverde is known as being a great spot for zip lining but we didn’t have time to get there so we did it in La Fortuna instead and had the best time 💯
How to spend 18 days in Costa Rica; Places I would visit on my next trip
To be totally honest I’d probably skip Uvita next time and just see the waterfalls in La Fortuna instead, just do a day trip to Montezuma instead of staying there and spending those extra few nights in Santa Teresa surfing 🏄♀️
Places I’d visit next time;
🌊 Drake Bay
🐢The Caribbean side so Tortuguero and Viejo!
✅ If you have time you could take a bus up to San Juan Del Sur and spend a week or so in Nicaragua.