Sloths & Sunsets: Two Weeks in Costa Rica Itinerary

by Sasha Savinov

Earlier this year, we crossed another country off our list when we finally visited Costa Rica. Many of our friends had been there and they all had rave reviews about it. When a good friend told us she could get us half-price tickets to the Envision Festival, we finally booked those flights. Here’s a recap of our two weeks in Costa Rica, along with some other suggestions for how to tweak our route and plan your own epic Costa Rica itinerary.

Traveling to Costa Rica

Like it or not, most trips to Costa Rica start out in the capital city of San Jose. There’s actually another international airport in Liberia as well, but there aren’t quite as many options. One great thing about spending two weeks in Costa Rica is that you don’t have to waste that much time in transit if you’re coming from other parts of North America.

We flew direct from Cancun to San Jose in around two hours. Our flights only cost $190 each, plus $30 extra for a checked bag. Our flight was actually on Rachel’s birthday, which she wasn’t too pumped about.

Phish Mexico!

It turned out to be a great idea, though. After raging the Phish Riviera Maya shows, we got to spend a few days in Tulum with several friends instead of rushing off to the Cancun airport.

Of course, we had to celebrate at midnight with some drinks. The whole crew turned out and we ended up staying up until around 4. Two hours of “sleep” later, and we were dragging ass to the bus station. We slept the entire way to the airport, moved like zombies through security, and then slept the entirety of the flight.

Tulum birthday party for Rachel!

Next thing you know, we were kicking off two weeks in Costa Rica!

One Night in San Jose

We thought about making a beeline for Uvita where the Envision Festival is, but decided against it.

Our Costa Rica itinerary started out with just one night in San Jose. We booked a stay at the Selina Hostel based on a friend’s recommendation.

We were a bit drained, so we used our one afternoon in the Costa Rican capital to charge our batteries (literally and figuratively) before another festival. Thankfully Selina has a nice cafe/restaurant with decent WiFi, so we just posted up for a while.

san jose costa rica itinerary

A few sights of San Jose.

I get itchy feet and can’t sit still for too long, so I took a quick lap around the area to grab some cash and take some photos. A short stroll took me through the National Park, past some cool street art, and around the National Museum. It was already closed, but it seems well worth a visit.

Most people who travel to Costa Rica want to get to the beach or the jungle as quickly as possible. I totally understand that. I usually like to give the capital city a chance, though. It seems like there are a few fun things to do in San Jose, but we’ll just have to save those for next time.

One cool thing about Selina hostels is that they usually have fun events at night. On Rachel’s birthday, they actually had a DJ spinning tunes and a special bar set up for craft gin & tonics. We ordered up some cocktails, plopped down in a hammock, and grooved to the tunes.

san jose costa rica itinerary

Continuing the birthday party.

Even though the vibe was great, we don’t like staying in the hostel bubble. We think it’s important to spread your business around when you travel and make it a point to visit local establishments. That night we went around the corner to a local craft beer bar to continue the celebration.

In the morning, we packed up our stuff and took a quick walk to another local spot for breakfast. Some delicious empanadas and strong coffee were the perfect way to jump-start our two weeks in Costa Rica.

Since the local bus left at the ungodly hour of 5 AM, we opted to hire a driver with a few other girls.

Getting Around Costa Rica

Before we continue in our Costa Rica itinerary, I feel like I should talk a bit about how to get around the country.

We almost always use public transportation when we’re traveling. With just two weeks in Costa Rica, though, it was difficult to rely on public transport.

You see, they have plenty of local buses in Costa Rica. They just don’t have that many routes connecting tourist hot spots. These routes clearly aren’t in demand by locals, and they’d rather have tourists rent cars or hire the more expensive shuttles than open a bus line.

We had the option of taking a bus from San Jose to Uvita, but it left at 5 AM.

No bueno.

There’s no bus line from Manuel Antonio to La Fortuna, so we would have to take three different buses.

No gracias.

There’s a bus from La Fortuna to San Jose, but it doesn’t go to the airport.

Again, no bueno.

Interbus is the (not so cheap) way to go.

Instead of dealing with all that, we used private drivers and the Interbus shuttle. It wasn’t exactly cheap, but we viewed this trip as a vacation.

With just two weeks in Costa Rica, we decided it was worth it to spend more money to save time.

Many travelers to Costa Rica opt to rent a car, and there are obvious advantages to doing so.

However, we heard a lot of horror stories about people getting ripped off on the insurance charges. We made some friends at Envision and they were paying over $100 a day for their rental car. Hard pass from us!

la fortuna costa rica itinerary

We did a lot of walking in La Fortuna.

If you have more time and want to save money, take the local bus. Those who prefer comfort and speed can easily hire drivers. You can even use Uber to get from San Jose to places several hours away. In between, you have the Interbus shuttle service.

Or you can just spend the coin to have your own wheels, in which case make sure you fully understand all the charges associated with it.

Ok now that you know a bit about getting around, let’s get back to our Costa Rica itinerary.

Uvita, Costa Rica

Uvita is a small town on the southwest coast of Costa Rica. It’s famous for the Marino Ballena National Park and the “Whale Tail” beach you can see there at low tide. Other than that, there’s really not that much going on here.

That is until Envision rolls around…

envision festival costa rica

Sunset on the beach is wild at Envision Festival.

The Envision Festival takes place just up the road at Rancho La Merced. This year marked the 9th edition of the festival, which is focused on yoga, art, and sustainability just as much as music.

Think a mini-Burning Man in the jungle of Costa Rica, and that’s Envision.

We’ve already written all about our transformative experience at Envision Festival, so give that a read if you missed it. Or you could just check out our short highlight video of the festival:

We didn’t actually camp at Envision and stayed up the hill at a nice guesthouse called Osa de Rio.

It was a bit of a hike to get to and from the festival, but we thought it was well worth it. We thoroughly enjoyed being able to sleep in a bit and make our own breakfast and coffee.

Oh yeah, those late-night showers alone were worth the struggle!

Our “tent” was pretty awesome.

If you’re planning to spend two weeks in Costa Rica, chances are you’re not going for Envision. We realize not everyone is into super crunchy hippie festivals as much as we are!

I think Uvita is still worth a visit even if you’re not going to Envision. You can hit the beaches, check out the waterfall, do some yoga, and just enjoy a chilled out beach town.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Next up on our Costa Rica itinerary was Manuel Antonio. We stayed there for 4 nights.

I usually choose destinations based on research, but I picked this one for convenience. I knew we’d be pretty burnt out after back-to-back festivals, so ease of travel was key.

Most Envision attendees head to the nearby town of Dominical, but we weren’t really looking for the after-party vibe. Instead, we booked a nice looking Airbnb with a pool to decompress for a few days.

manuel antonio costa rica

A look at Manuel Antonio from above.

The thing about not doing any research is I didn’t notice Manuel Antonio is basically on a mountain. There’s the bigger town of Quepos at sea level, and then the road winds and curves its way up the mountain.

Our Awesome Airbnbs in Manuel Antonio & Things To Do

We stayed in two different Airbnb’s for two nights each.

Our first Airbnb was halfway up a steep hill and there was no such thing as a sidewalk. Whoops…

It was a good thing we didn’t want to do anything but relax for a few days! We mostly just chilled in the pool but had to brave the steep hill a few times to get some groceries, do laundry, and go out for a nice dinner.

two weeks in costa rica manuel antonio

Enjoying some much needed R&R.

The main draw for this town is the national park of the same name. It’s actually the most-visited national park in all of Costa Rica.

It’s so popular, in fact, that you have to line up at 6 in the morning just to have a chance to be let in. You see, they have limits on the number of people who can enter, which is definitely a good thing.

However, many people wait for hours only to be denied entry to the park. Guides basically coerce you into paying for their services to “skip the line,” and we read a lot of negative reviews saying these tours were basically a waste of money.

As such, we made the executive decision to skip the park altogether.

There are still plenty of things to do in Manuel Antonio, though!

One day we walked to the “Hidden Beach,” which really isn’t that hidden. You just have to walk down a path to get there, and we saw both monkeys and sloths on the way!

manuel antonio costa rica itinerary

Hey there, sloth!

Down at the beach, you can rent umbrellas and loungers or just plop your towel in the sand. We were trying to do two weeks in Costa Rica on a budget, so we chose the latter.

They also rent snorkels, kayaks, and SUPs down at the beach.

hidden beach manuel antonio costa rica

SUPing at the Hidden Beach.

We decided to rent a SUP for an hour and just take turns. It really is a beautiful spot to cruise around on a board for a while.

Our second Airbnb in Manuel Antonio was a local apartment that was pretty simple but comfortable. It was right next door to the grocery store and one of the local sodas (Costa Rican restaurant), so that was nice.

two weeks in costa rica

Our two different Airbnb apartments in Manuel Antonio.

Another day, we walked down to Playa Espadilla to check it out. It was a long, sweaty walk down the hill, but it was well worth the effort.

While we were on this nice, mostly empty stretch of beach, I decided to fly our drone. I’d say we got some pretty awesome shots down there!

playa espadilla costa rica itinerary

Playa Espadilla

The highlight of our trip to Manuel Antonio was definitely the sunset catamaran cruise. We headed to the pier in Quepos and boarded a large catamaran for a few hours out at sea.

Check it out on Viator!

I did some research for this one and good thing I did. We definitely chose the best boat out there.

This one has two cold jacuzzis, a jumping platform, and a freaking waterslide! 

manuel antonio catamaran cruise

Catamaran Cruise!

They also cooked us a delicious meal and gave each of us eight – yes, eight! – adult beverages.

We had several “Captain’s Specials,” which consisted of the local liquor known as guaro along with juice and fresh pineapple. Yummy!

We had several cold cervezas as well, so we were feeling loose!

costa rica itinerary sunset cruise

Jacuzzi life is the best life.

 

manuel antonio costa rica

Sunsets and cocktails!

Other than that, we basically just chilled out in Manuel Antonio. We hit a few solid Happy Hours to enjoy sunset views with 2×1 cocktails. Even in an expensive country like Costa Rica, we can sniff out the deals!

While our nice loft Airbnb was great, it wasn’t exactly convenient without a car. There’s a bus that goes between Manuel Antonio and Quepos, but it didn’t help us that much in the first place we stayed.

Click here to see the Loft With Pool. 

Click here to see the Local Apartment.

Not on Airbnb yet? Get 15% off your first stay up to $415 and $15 towards an experience of $50 or more with our link. If you’d prefer to find a hotel or hostel, search Booking.com for the best deals:



Booking.com

 

If we went back, I think I’d just stay in Quepos and use the bus to get around.

There are way more options there and things cost a bit less than in Manuel Antonio, which is 100% geared towards tourists.

I prefer being able to go to places where locals eat and spend local prices wherever possible.

Check out highlights from Envision Festival and Manuel Antonio in Part One of our Costa Rica vlog.

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Last but not least for our two weeks in Costa Rica, we headed to La Fortuna.

This town in the mountains in northern Costa Rica is one of the most popular places to visit, and rightfully so!

two weeks in costa rica la fortuna

A look at the center of La Fortuna from above.

La Fortuna is near the Arenal volcano and lake and is surrounded by hot springs. It’s known as the adventure capital of Central America, as you can go hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, SUPing, and much more here.

After a whirlwind couple of weeks, it was time to slow down a bit and catch up on work.

That’s why we booked an Airbnb for a whole week and made sure it had decent enough internet so we could teach English online.

Teach English online

Rachel’s classroom at our Airbnb.

The apartment was great and just what we needed.

It’s located right next to the park and the church, so we were walking distance to supermarkets, restaurants, and the Selina hostel.

Click here to check out the apartment we stayed at on Airbnb.

You can also check out the best deals on La Fortuna accommodation on Booking.com:



Booking.com

Digital Nomad Life at Selina

Since this apartment is a studio, only one of us could teach there.

We decided to sign up for the week at the co-working space at Selina since they offered to open up early for me to teach my classes.

Gracias, amigos!

selina la fortuna costa rica

Living the DN life at Selina.

If you’re traveling around as a digital nomad, Selina hostels are a lifesaver. They always have solid WiFi and good coffee, and most of them have a dedicated co-working space.

It’s tough for us to stay at them with our obnoxiously loud teaching jobs, but we’ve really enjoyed working from a few Selina locations.

While we honestly didn’t love their San Jose location, Selina La Fortuna is way more up our alley.

It’s located right on the river, has a yoga studio and co-working space, and there’s a nice pool. You can even sleep in teepees here! I highly recommend staying there if you have La Fortuna on your Costa Rica itinerary.

We’re not affiliated with Selina, we just really liked their La Fortuna location!

selina costa rica

A drone view of Selina’s awesome location.

Of course, we didn’t travel to the adventure capital of the region just to sit on our computers!

We managed to squeeze a lot into one week in La Fortuna, including a few amazing tours.

Jacamar Full-Day Tour

First up, we went on a jam-packed full-day tour with Jacamar.

This tour was a beast, lasting 14 hours and hitting all the top attractions in La Fortuna.

arenal volcano costa rica

Hiking a trail around the base of Arenal Volcano.

Our day started with a hike around the base of Arenal volcano.

This dormant volcano had a catastrophic eruption back in 1968, entirely destroying two nearby towns.

Despite its dormant status, it is still illegal to hike to the top of the volcano. There are a few options for hiking around the base of the volcano, and we really enjoyed the trail this tour brought us to.

How cool is this panorama our guide took?

From there, we headed to the La Fortuna waterfall. Towering at 70 meters, this is a pretty impressive waterfall to see. Previously, it was a dangerous hike to get here down a steep hill.

The people of the town built a nice path down to the waterfall and put in bathrooms to make the experience safer and more enjoyable.

Sorry, TLC, but we like chasing waterfalls…

While many tourists gripe about the high prices in Costa Rica (myself included), I was happy to pay the entrance fee for the waterfall. They take all the money that’s earned from tourists and put it right back into the town, building roads and bridges, funding schools, and so on.

That was my major takeaway from our short time in La Fortuna. Tourism is huge here, and the people of the town do an excellent job of managing it and making sure everyone benefits from it instead of just a few people at the top.

After the waterfall, it was time for lunch at a farm-to-table restaurant. We had some of the best fish we’ve ever had along with rice, veggies, soup, homemade yucca chips, and more.

We had an awesome lunch during this tour.

Our guides also whipped up some tasty Costa Rican coffee for us and taught us how to make sugar cane juice.

This was not one of those crummy lunches that you usually get on an organized tour!

The afternoon portion of the tour took us to the Mistico Hanging Bridges Park. At first, I thought this seemed like some kind of cheesy tourist trap, but boy was I wrong!

mistico hanging bridges park costa rica

The awesome Mistico Hanging Bridges Park.

This place is a gorgeous park high up in the mountains where you follow a trail for a few miles. Along the way, you spot tons of wildlife and learn all about the ecosystem from your guide. The highlight of the park is the hanging bridges you get to cross.

These weren’t built specifically for tourism, but rather to help study the various levels of the rainforest.

Walking across them provides for some absolutely incredible views, although it can be a bit freaky if you look down!

mistico hanging bridges park costa rica

Such a cool place to visit!

Finally, our tour finished up at one of the area’s many hot springs. There are several different options that vary in style and price.

We opted for the Eco Termales hot springs, as it’s said to be one of the quieter (read: fewer kids) options.

Relaxing in the therapeutic hot springs was the perfect way to wind down the tour. We also got to enjoy some ice-cold cervezas and piƱa coladas as well as a tasty buffet dinner!

This tour was definitely a highlight of our two weeks in Costa Rica.

two weeks in costa rica hot springs

Not a bad way to end the tour!

Desafio Peddle & Paddle Tour

We couldn’t travel all the way to La Fortuna and not pay a visit to Arenal Lake. After all, I’m from Michigan, where our slogan is “Great Lakes, Great Times!”

Instead of getting ourselves all the way out there, we signed up for a tour with Desafio Adventure. These guys run tours all over Costa Rica and are incredibly professional. I highly recommend checking them out before you plan your Costa Rica itinerary.

We settled on their “Peddle & Paddle” tour, which is a combination of mountain biking and stand-up paddleboarding. The tour started out with an introduction to the bikes before we set off.

two weeks in costa rica

An excellent tour with Desafio Adventure!

It was a bit challenging at times, but it really wasn’t too hard. Neither of us are experienced mountain bikers and we did just fine.

Along the way, our guide spotted plenty of wildlife and had us pull over to search for it. The funniest part of the tour was when he and the driver started calling the howler monkeys. They really sounded like them!

Once the biking portion wrapped up, we got to enjoy some fresh pineapple and a few cold beers. From there we jumped on the boat to head out into the lake for some SUPing.

Rachel has really taken a liking to SUPing, as a friend got her into it in our home away from home of Puerto Vallarta. I love it, too, as it’s the only board I’ve ever had any luck with. Skateboards, snowboards, surfboards, ironing boards – I can’t use any of them.

sup costa rica la fortuna

SUP?!

It was a cloudy, somewhat rainy day out on the lake. While we didn’t have the best views or weather, we still had a great time. The clouds finally parted for a bit and we saw the volcano peeking out.

When we got back to shore, we cracked a few more beers and jumped in the van bound for their restaurant.

The company has its own place called Hunters and Gatherers where they cook up a delicious buffet lunch. I was seriously impressed by the food on both tours we took.

Sloth’s Territory

While we use Airbnb all the time (seriously, we live in one), we had never tried the “Experiences” part of the site. When Rachel got an offer through her credit card for $25 off one that was $50 or more, we decided to give it a try.

As luck would have it, there was an experience in La Fortuna called “Sloth’s Territory” that was exactly $25.

That meant we got a 2-for-1 deal on it.

A good deal and the promise of seeing sloths? You know we were in! Seeing sloths was high on our bucket list for two weeks in Costa Rica.

la fortuna costa rica

Living my best life.

To get there, we decided to rent a scooter for a day. We used to ride scooters everywhere when we lived in China and Bali, so it was nice to finally jump on a bike again.

This Airbnb experience is run by a local family out at their property. They spent a lot of time and energy building a path around the rainforest they call home.

wildlife two weeks in costa rica

A few highlights of the tour.

During the tour, their son leads you around the trail with his telescope to search for wildlife. It was just the two of us with him and he did an excellent job.

Along the way, we saw blue jean frogs, porcupines, herons, motmots, and several sloths!

Most of the sloths were high up in the tree, sleeping as sloths tend to do. They basically just looked like a ball of fur. Little did we know that it was our lucky day…

costa rica itinerary sloth

They call me the sloth!

Towards the very end of the trail, our guide stopped dead in his tracks and excitedly told us to look in the tree. There was a sloth moving around (very slowly, mind you) just a few feet from us!

It was such a cool experience and one of the best parts about our two weeks in Costa Rica for sure.

Other Things to Do in La Fortuna

There are tons of things to do in La Fortuna, but most of them come with a pretty high price tag.

Thankfully there are a couple of fun and free things to do there as well.

Not too far from the center of town, there’s a swimming hole called El Salto. It’s a favorite with local school kids, who rush here after the bell rings to use the rope swing and jump off the rocks in their uniforms.

costa rica itinerary swimming hole

El Salto

There’s also a local hot spring that’s totally free to visit. And by hot spring I mean a random section of the river under the bridge. We took our scooter out there one night with a few beers for a nice soak.

We got lucky because a hostel tour group was there. Their guides had lights and were helping people in and out of the water.  It may have been a bit tough on our own in the pitch black.

Better to get out before sunset if you’re visiting on your own.

la fortuna costa rica

Cowboy fiesta right outside our door.

Maybe we were just all-around lucky with our visit to La Fortuna. After all, the name means “The Fortune” in Spanish!

It just so happened that there were a few cool fiestas going on while we were there as well. One night, there were a bunch of cowboys outside our door in a parade of dancing horses.

We heard about a carnival/rodeo going on down the street as well, so naturally, we went there to check it out. Along the way, we made friends with a couple who was also spending about two weeks in Costa Rica.

They were so nice that they even offered to buy our tickets for the rodeo and a couple of beers.

Oh, the awesome people you meet while traveling!

la fortuna costa rica

We saw a real-life rodeo! How cool!

The rodeo was pretty hilarious.

Most of the time, the bull was just chasing people around the arena. They had a few bull riders towards the end as well, which was pretty cool to see.

I’ve always wanted to go to a rodeo but Rachel is never interested back in the US!

We dive deeper into our week-long stay in La Fortuna in Part Two of our Costa Rica vlog.

Alternatives for Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Of course, not everyone is traveling as a digital nomad. If you don’t need to hole up and get a bunch of work done, then three days is probably enough in La Fortuna.

If you’re spending two weeks in Costa Rica but don’t want to spend a week in La Fortuna, you’ve got tons of other options. From Manuel Antonio, you could check out another beach town like Jaco or Punta Arenas.

We’ve also heard it’s worth the effort to reach Montezuma.

two weeks in costa rica swimming hole

Might as well jump!

There are tons of national parks within a few hours drive from La Fortuna as well, so you could add one or two of those to your Costa Rica itinerary.

It’s also not that far from here to cross the border into Nicaragua, which we highly considered. San Juan del Sur is supposed to be an amazing place to visit, but we decided to fly up to Guatemala to see the processions in Antigua instead.

Headed in the opposite direction, we’ve heard good things about the town of Puerto Viejo on the southeast coast. This is a great place to end your two weeks in Costa Rica if you’re headed into Panama next.

We didn’t make it over there but maybe next time!

Final Thoughts

Overall, we’re very happy with how our two weeks in Costa Rica turned out. While it’s definitely true that Costa Rica isn’t exactly a budget-friendly destination, we feel like we got our money’s worth for the most part.

Coming from Mexico, it was a bit of sticker shock for us there. If you’re American or Canadian and are used to those prices, you won’t really notice a difference.

costa rica itinerary la fortuna waterfall

The beautiful La Fortuna waterfall.

While Costa Rica is definitely the most touristy of the Central American countries, we both feel like they handle the whole industry quite well here.

Tourism in Costa Rica runs like a well-oiled machine, and things are much more efficient here than they are in, say, Guatemala.

Our biggest disappointment with our two weeks in Costa Rica was probably the food.

Not that it was terrible or anything, it just isn’t anything special. We’re definitely spoiled with Mexican food, but we’ve traveled a lot and found Costa Rican cuisine to be just OK.

two weeks in costa rica food

A typical Costa Rican meal.

Are we going to rush to move to Costa Rica?

Probably not. It’s a bit outside of our preferred budget range.

Would we love to go back for another two weeks in Costa Rica?

Absolutely! There are so many stunning landscapes there and so much wildlife that we would love to return. Perhaps next time we’ll follow the lines going south and cruise on into Panama!

 

Have you been to Costa Rica? Where did you go? We would love to hear your thoughts so we can plan our next Costa Rica itinerary!

*We received the tours with Jacamar and Desafio for free in exchange for blog content. You will always get our honest opinion no matter who is footing the bill. We thoroughly enjoyed both tours and would happily pay to do them again! This blog post may contain other affiliate links which means if you purchase a product through our link, we will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep the site running so many thanks for the support!

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