36 days in Costa Rica & Nicaragua Itinerary

36 days in Costa Rica & Nicaragua Itinerary

Created using Inspirock Central America trip itinerary planner

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Route & dates

36 days in Costa Rica & Nicaragua Itinerary

Start: Banff National Park, Canada
shuttle + Fly:  16​h 30​min
1
San Jose, Costa Rica
— 3 nights
shuttle:  3​h 30​min
2
Tortuguero, Costa Rica
— 1 night
Drive:  3​h 45​min
3
Vara Blanca, Costa Rica
— 1 night
Drive:  3​h 45​min
4
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
— 4 nights
Drive:  3​h 45​min
5
Monteverde, Costa Rica
— 3 nights
Drive:  4​h 45​min
6
Granada, Nicaragua
— 3 nights
7
Leon, Nicaragua
— 4 nights
Drive:  6​h
8
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
— 4 nights
Drive:  2​h 15​min
9
Area de Conservacion Guanacaste, Costa Rica
— 4 nights
Drive:  3​h
10
Cano Negro, Costa Rica
— 1 night
Drive:  2​h 15​min
11
La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica
— 5 nights
Fly + bus:  18​h 30​min
End: Banff National Park, Canada


Learn more about your trip

3
nights
San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose
A trip to San Jose, the capital, commercial center, and cultural hub of Costa Rica, gives you a chance to experience the lively atmosphere and rich cultural past of this vibrant country.
Deepen your sense of the past at sights like Guayabo National Park and Monument and Iglesia La Soledad. Get a sense of the local culture at Santuario Nacional Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles and Museo Nacional De Costa Rica. Step out of San Jose with an excursion to Poas Volcano in Poas Volcano National Park--about 1h 25 min away. There's lots more to do: see the interesting displays at Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, shop like a local with Galeria Namu, take an in-depth tour of Jade Museum, and explore the world behind art at Museo de Arte Costarricense.

To see where to stay, reviews, photos, and tourist information, read our San Jose trip app .

Banff National Park, Canada to San Jose is an approximately 16.5-hour combination of shuttle and flight. You can also do a combination of shuttle, flight, and bus; or drive. You'll lose 1 hour traveling from Banff National Park to San Jose due to the time zone difference. Prepare for much hotter weather when traveling from Banff National Park in January: high temperatures in San Jose hover around 30°C and lows are around 21°C. Cap off your sightseeing on the 18th (Sat) early enough to travel to Tortuguero.

Things to do in San Jose

Nature Parks Museums

Side Trips

Poas Volcano, Guayabo National Park and Monument, Santuario Nacional Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles, Ruins of Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Limpia Concepcion
Find places to stay Jan 14 — 18:
Highlights from your plan
Poas Volcano
Poas Volcano
Guayabo National Park and Monument ©
Guayabo National Park and Monument

1
night
Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Tortuguero ©
One of Costa Rica's least accessible destinations, Tortuguero sits within an eponymous national park and remains accessible only by plane or boat.
On the 19th (Sun), explore the striking landscape of Tortuguero National Park and then get a new perspective on nature at Sea Turtle Conservancy.

To find more things to do, maps, other places to visit, and other tourist information, refer to the Tortuguero journey planner .

Traveling by combination of bus and taxi from San Jose to Tortuguero takes 3 hours. Alternatively, you can drive; or take a shuttle. In January, daily temperatures in Tortuguero can reach 33°C, while at night they dip to 24°C. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 19th (Sun) to allow time to drive to Vara Blanca.

Things to do in Tortuguero

Nature Parks Museums
Find places to stay Jan 18 — 19:
Highlights from your plan
Tortuguero National Park ©
Tortuguero National Park
Sea Turtle Conservancy ©
Sea Turtle Conservancy

1
night
Vara Blanca, Costa Rica

Vara Blanca
A vacation in Vara Blanca, located in the heart of Costa Rica, offers excellent access to a number of attractions across the area.
On the 20th (Mon), look for all kinds of wild species at La Paz Waterfall and Peace Lodge Gardens and then take in the dramatic scenery at Jardins da Cachoeira de La Paz.

For traveler tips, more things to do, ratings, and other tourist information, use the Vara Blanca online journey maker .

You can drive from Tortuguero to Vara Blanca in 4 hours. Another option is to take a bus. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 20th (Mon) early enough to drive to Manuel Antonio.

Things to do in Vara Blanca

Parks Nature Wildlife

Side Trip

La Paz Waterfall and Peace Lodge Gardens
Find places to stay Jan 19 — 20:

4
nights
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio ©
The rainforest meets the sea at Manuel Antonio National Park, a small but scenic natural preserve on the west coast of Costa Rica.
Your itinerary includes some good beach time at Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Biesanz. Get in touch with nature at Fishing Charters & Tours and Nature & Wildlife Tours. Venture out of the city with trips to Dominical (Parasailing & Paragliding & Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary). Next up on the itinerary: get a new perspective on things with Boat Tours & Water Sports, view the masterpieces at The Captain's Booty, and explore the wealth of natural beauty at Manuel Antonio National Park.

For other places to visit, maps, photos, and other tourist information, refer to the Manuel Antonio sightseeing planning app .

You can drive from Vara Blanca to Manuel Antonio in 4 hours. Another option is to do a combination of taxi and bus. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 24th (Fri) to allow time to drive to Monteverde.

Things to do in Manuel Antonio

Outdoors Parks Tours

Side Trips

Quepos, Dominical
Find places to stay Jan 20 — 24:
Highlights from your plan
Playa Manuel Antonio ©
Playa Manuel Antonio
Fishing Charters & Tours
River Rafting & Tubing

3
nights
Monteverde, Costa Rica

Monteverde ©
Monteverde is all about natural attractions, not surprising for an eco-tourism hotspot known for its cloud forests and rich diversity of animal life.
Ecological Sanctuary and Santa Elena Skywalk will appeal to history buffs. Step out of the city life by going to Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve and Zipline. Next up on the itinerary: look for all kinds of wild species at Curi Cancha Reserve, explore the world behind art at Chorotega Arts & Crafts, experience rural life at El Trapiche Tour, and learn about wildlife with up-close encounters at The Bat Jungle.

To see other places to visit, traveler tips, more things to do, and other tourist information, refer to the Monteverde vacation builder website .

Getting from Manuel Antonio to Monteverde by car takes about 4 hours. Other options: do a combination of bus and shuttle; or take a bus. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 27th (Mon) early enough to drive to Granada.

Things to do in Monteverde

Parks Wildlife Historic Sites
Find places to stay Jan 24 — 27:
Highlights from your plan
Zipline
Curi Cancha Reserve ©
Curi Cancha Reserve

3
nights
Granada, Nicaragua

Granada ©
The lakeside city of Granada has the look and feel of a historically important economic and political center, with grand colonial architecture, a unified look, and many cultural attractions.
Visit Iglesia de La Merced and Iglesia Parroquial de Santiago for their historical value. Do some cultural sightseeing at Centro Cultural Antiguo Convento San Francisco and Casa de Los Tres Mundos. Explore the numerous day-trip ideas around Granada: Iglesia San Juan Bautista (in Masatepe) and Apoyo (in La Laguna de Apoyo). Next up on the itinerary: see the interesting displays at ChocoMuseo Granada, get impressive views of Mombacho, take in the architecture and atmosphere at La Capilla Maria Auxiliadora, and step off the mainland to explore Islets of Granada.

Ask Inspirock to suggest an itinerary and make planning a trip to Granada fast, fun, and easy.

Traveling by car from Monteverde to Granada takes 5 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of taxi and bus; or do a combination of car, flight, and shuttle. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 30th (Thu) to allow time to drive to Leon.

Things to do in Granada

Nature Parks Museums

Side Trips

Iglesia Parroquial de Santiago, Apoyo, Iglesia San Juan Bautista
Find places to stay Jan 27 — 30:
Highlights from your plan
Iglesia de La Merced ©
Iglesia de La Merced
Mombacho ©
Mombacho
Apoyo
Apoyo

4
nights
Leon, Nicaragua

Leon ©
A cultured and storied city, Leon attracts guests from all over the world, drawn to the second city's style, thriving intellectual life, and liveliness.
Get some historical perspective at Catedral de la Asunción and Parroquia Santa Ana. Visiting Juan Venado Island Nature Reserve and Momotombo will get you outdoors. Change things up with a short trip to Chorotega-Nicarao Museum in Chinandega (about 48 minutes away). There's lots more to do: examine the collection at Museo de Arte Fundacion Ortiz-Gurdian, take in the spiritual surroundings of El Calvario Church, get impressive views of Telica Volcano, and learn more about the world around you at Museo Entomologico de Leon.

To find reviews, other places to visit, maps, and other tourist information, you can read our Leon day trip website .

You can drive from Granada to Leon in 2.5 hours. Other options are to take a shuttle; or take a bus. January in Leon sees daily highs of 39°C and lows of 25°C at night. Finish your sightseeing early on the 3rd (Mon) to allow enough time to drive to Tamarindo.

Things to do in Leon

Parks Nature Museums

Side Trips

Chinandega, Juan Venado Island Nature Reserve
Find places to stay Jan 30 — Feb 3:
Highlights from your plan
Juan Venado Island Nature Reserve ©
Juan Venado Island Nature Reserve
Cerro Negro Volcano ©
Cerro Negro Volcano
Catedral de la Asunción ©
Catedral de la Asunción

4
nights
Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Tamarindo ©
Surfing remains the main reason to take a trip to Tamarindo, as the beachside town is mostly known for its excellent waves.
We've included these beaches for you: Tamarindo Beach and Barrigona Beach. Get outdoors at Samara Beach and Scuba & Snorkeling. Explore Tamarindo's surroundings by going to Playa Conchal (in Playa Conchal) and MAEL's ABSTRACT ART GALLERY (in Nosara). And it doesn't end there: enjoy the sand and surf at Playa Avellana, identify plant and animal life at Monkey Park, and view the masterpieces at Lydia Beech Art Boutique.

To find reviews, traveler tips, maps, and more tourist information, refer to the Tamarindo travel planner.

Traveling by car from Leon to Tamarindo takes 6 hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus; or do a combination of shuttle and bus. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 7th (Fri) to allow time to drive to Area de Conservacion Guanacaste.

Things to do in Tamarindo

Outdoors Parks Beaches

Side Trips

Playa Samara, Playa Conchal, MAEL's ABSTRACT ART GALLERY
Find places to stay Feb 3 — 7:
Highlights from your plan
Tamarindo Beach ©
Tamarindo Beach
Playa Conchal ©
Playa Conchal
Scuba & Snorkeling

4
nights
Area de Conservacion Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Area de Conservacion Guanacaste ©
Get in touch with nature at Parque Nacional Volcan Rincon de la Vieja and Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands. Change things up with a short trip to Church of La Ermita La Agonia in Liberia (about 44 minutes away).

To find more things to do, reviews, photos, and other tourist information, refer to the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste route maker website .

Getting from Tamarindo to Area de Conservacion Guanacaste by car takes about 2.5 hours. Cap off your sightseeing on the 11th (Tue) early enough to go by car to Cano Negro.

Things to do in Area de Conservacion Guanacaste

Parks Nature Outdoors

Side Trip

Church of La Ermita La Agonia
Find places to stay Feb 7 — 11:
Highlights from your plan
Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands ©
Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall ©
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

1
night
Cano Negro, Costa Rica

Cano Negro ©
Kick off your visit on the 12th (Wed): look for all kinds of wild species at Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.

For ratings, reviews, photos, and tourist information, use the Cano Negro trip itinerary planner .

You can drive from Area de Conservacion Guanacaste to Cano Negro in 3 hours. February in Cano Negro sees daily highs of 39°C and lows of 24°C at night. Cap off your sightseeing on the 12th (Wed) early enough to go by car to La Fortuna de San Carlos.

Things to do in Cano Negro

Parks Wildlife
Find places to stay Feb 11 — 12:
Highlights from your plan
Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge ©
Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge

5
nights
La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica

Set against the backdrop of the imposing Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna de San Carlos offers visitors a chance to explore diverse natural landscapes and sample some delicious local produce.
Satisfy your inner culture vulture at Iglesia de La Fortuna de San Carlos and Onirica Art Gallery. Get in touch with nature at Tabacon Hot Springs and La Fortuna Waterfall. Step out of La Fortuna de San Carlos with an excursion to Catedral de Ciudad Quesada in Quesada--about 1h 15 min away. And it doesn't end there: take a memorable tour with Tours, witness a stunning natural landmark at Ecotermales Fortuna, explore the wealth of natural beauty at Arenal Volcano, and skim along the rocks with a canyoning and rapelling tour.

To see other places to visit, ratings, traveler tips, and more tourist information, read La Fortuna de San Carlos online tour itinerary maker .

Traveling by car from Cano Negro to La Fortuna de San Carlos takes 2.5 hours. Finish your sightseeing early on the 17th (Mon) so you can travel back home.

Things to do in La Fortuna de San Carlos

Parks Nature Outdoors

Side Trips

Catedral de Ciudad Quesada, Arenal Volcano
Find places to stay Feb 12 — 17:
Highlights from your plan
River Rafting & Tubing
Tabacon Hot Springs ©
Tabacon Hot Springs
La Fortuna Waterfall ©
La Fortuna Waterfall

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