Costa Rica has been on my bucket list forever and I really want to do a adventure trip to this beautiful country. So much so, that I designed a DIY Costa Rica road trip itinerary for myself – In hopes that I will make it there someday (Hey, you know I will!).
Costa Rica is the perfect getaway for naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts. It is blessed with beaches , islands, mountains, meadows. rainforests and even mesmerizing cloud forests. The best way to explore is by hiring a 4×4 vehicle in Costa Rica and designing your own custom itinerary. Just pick the spots you would want to visit the most, check routes and get going. Stop where you want, explore what you desire and steer yourself in whatever direction you want.
Table of Content
- 1 Complete itinerary for a DIY Road trip in Costa Rica
- 1.1 Day 1- Arenal and La Fortuna
- 1.2 Day 2: Hike in Arenal National Park
- 1.3 Day 3 – Hanging bridges and hot springs
- 1.4 Day 4 – Tenorio Volcano National Park
- 1.5 Day 5 – Head for the Best of the Pacific along Costa Rica
- 1.6 Day 6 – Quepos
- 1.7 Day 7 – Manuel Antonio National Park
- 1.8 Day 8 – Uvita
- 1.9 Day 9 – Monteverde Cloud forest
- 1.10 Day 10 – Back to San Jose
- 1.11 Costa Rica Car Rental Advice
Complete itinerary for a DIY Road trip in Costa Rica
Start your fabulous trip in Costa Rica from its capital city of San Jose after booking your wheels from Nomad America, which is a renowned name in jeep and other 4×4 rentals and adventure camping in Costa Rica.
Day 1- Arenal and La Fortuna
Start the day with a trip to Arenal, the live erupting volcano and view the magnificent wonder and its soothing mineral waters pools. Once you have relaxed in the naturally heated hot springs and Jacuzzis close to the volcano, explore the picturesque town of La Fortuna that is just about 4 miles from the Arenal Volcano. Watch the majestic volcano looming over this peaceful town. These are one of the most famous areas in Costa Rica and guaranteed to give an unforgettable experience.
Day 2: Hike in Arenal National Park
Drive to the Arenal National Park that covers about 30,000 acres but has easy-to-navigate trails through the forest and lava fields. The families with children enjoy the flat trails especially . You can take the Los Heliconias trail to get fabulous views of the volcano. Depending on how far you would like to go, you can easily spend the whole day here. There is a wealth of geologic and biological diversity and complexity in the area because of the active and incredible Arenal Volcano.
Day 3 – Hanging bridges and hot springs
There are 16 hanging bridges in Arenal of varying lengths, and they take you higher in the rainforest canopy, and you can enjoy a spectacular view of the wildlife and bird watching. After your walks, relax in the famous Arenal hot springs. Get ready for a very relaxing and enjoyable afternoon as you walk on those bridges and enjoy breathtaking views.
Day 4 – Tenorio Volcano National Park
Make an early start today and reach Tenorio Volcano National Park to enjoy breathtaking views of the bright blue Rio Celeste river. Hike up to indulge in one of the most magical experiences of the 60 ft waterfall roaring and crashing into clear turquoise waters. Rio Celeste is surely the highlight of visiting Tenorio, however, you can even go to Lago Danta, pay a visit to the volcano and check out the hanging bridges.
Day 5 – Head for the Best of the Pacific along Costa Rica
Drive through the old Spanish route of 1606 towards the Pacific Coast and it will take you 10 hours. You can start early and reach there in time to enjoy the jungle boat tour on the Tarcoles River. Enjoy the experience of watching different species of birds and enter the world of crocodiles. You will have plenty of time to enjoy the Punta Leona Beach with the deep blue waters of the Pacific along the pristine white sand beaches.
Day 6 – Quepos
Head for Quepos in your car and get ready to enjoy once in a lifetime experience in Manuel Antonio National Park. Quepos is a nice city and offers a wide array of services. Explore marlin fishing, during the months of December to April. There are many other activities accessible such as the tours through the Damas Estuary and Butterfly Botanical Gardens.
Day 7 – Manuel Antonio National Park
Next day, head to Manuel Antonio, which is known for its rich forests and is home to several endangered species of Costa Rica. Don’t be deceived by its small size as it is regarded as one of the best parks for its variety of flora and fauna. It boasts of four of the best beaches in the country – Manuel Antonio, Escondito, Espadilla Sur and Playita.
Day 8 – Uvita
On the seventh day, you can move to Uvita, which is more peaceful and a lovely beach destination. Top attractions include Uvita waterfall and the beach. It is a perfect spot for adrenaline junkies with plenty of options from kayaking, rappelling, kitesurfing, canoeing and the likes.
Day 9 – Monteverde Cloud forest
Today is the time to make your way towards the warmer Pacific coast in your private 4×4 vehicle and hit the Pan American Highway along the Northern Pacific Coast. It will be a long drive so brace yourself for the 250 km ride. It is an amazing experience to see those thick clouds hovering around the upper canopy of the forest. The moisture from the clouds helps to thrive the great diversity of forests that is home to lichens, orchids and bromeliads as well as a large number of endemic species. You can take long hikes through the reserves and the interior of jungles to spot the abundance of animals and birds that have made these forests their adobe.
Day 10 – Back to San Jose
This was just a ball park itinerary for my future visit to Costa Rica but be sure to design your itinerary well so as to make the most out of your trip. Jam pack your trip with the top places on your list and experience the wonderful sights and the extraordinary environment of Costa Rica. Your 10-day vacation is sure to motivate you to plan another trip to this amazing destination.
Costa Rica Car Rental Advice
Renting a jeep in Costa Rica is super easy as it is a big destination for adrenaline junkies. There are plenty of advantages of having your own wheels. You can easily explore the lesser-visited places and enjoy the freedom to make any changes to your plans or itinerary. Booking your 4×4 rental in Costa Rica is simple as all you need to do is enter your pick up/drop off dates, times and locations along with the vehicle type.
Be sure to read the various car rental Costa Rica reviews before choosing which provider/site to go with. I would suggest that you opt for a trusted provider like – Nomad America for your 4×4 rentals in Costa Rica. Depending on your trip and route, you can choose the kind of car you want. Consider renting a four-wheel drive vehicle if planning to explore rural roads, coastal areas or if driving in the mountains. There are options of both compact and full-size SUV available with the car rental companies. Nomad America cars come fully equipped with camps, rooftop showers, WiFi and even cooking equipment, which can make your road trip the ultimate camping adventure.
Disclaimer – This post is written in collaboration with Nomad America. The road trip planning and destination ideas are, however, my own. Full disclosure policy here.