38 days in Costa Rica & Nicaragua Itinerary

38 days in Costa Rica & Nicaragua Itinerary

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Route & dates

38 days in Costa Rica & Nicaragua Itinerary

Start: Banff National Park, Canada
shuttle + Fly:  16​h 30​min
1
San Jose, Costa Rica
— 2 nights
bus:  3​h
2
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
— 4 nights
Drive:  1​h 30​min
3
Jaco, Costa Rica
— 3 nights
shuttle:  1​h
4
Monteverde, Costa Rica
— 5 nights
Drive:  2​h 15​min
5
Liberia, Costa Rica
— 2 nights
Drive:  7​h
6
Granada, Nicaragua
— 5 nights
Drive:  1​h
7
Managua, Nicaragua
— 4 nights
Drive:  2​h 30​min
8
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
— 5 nights
Drive:  3​h 45​min
9
La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica
— 3 nights
Drive:  2​h 45​min
10
San Jose, Costa Rica
— 2 nights
Fly + shuttle:  16​h 30​min
End: Banff National Park, Canada


Learn more about your trip

2
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.
Kick off your visit on the 14th (Tue): get engrossed in the history at Museo Nacional De Costa Rica and then contemplate the long history of Ruins of the Church of Carthage.

To find ratings, maps, photos, and more tourist information, read our San Jose online sightseeing planner .

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. The time zone difference moving from Mountain Standard Time to Central Standard Time is 1 hour. Prepare for much warmer weather when traveling from Banff National Park in January: high temperatures in San Jose hover around 30°C and lows are around 21°C. You'll set off for Manuel Antonio on the 16th (Thu).

Things to do in San Jose

Museums Historic Sites

Side Trip

Ruins of the Church of Carthage
Find places to stay Jan 14 — 16:
Highlights from your plan
Museo Nacional De Costa Rica ©
Museo Nacional De Costa Rica
Ruins of the Church of Carthage ©
Ruins of the Church of Carthage

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.
You'll get in some beach time at Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Biesanz. Take a break from the city and head to River Rafting & Tubing and Nature & Wildlife Tours. There's still lots to do: explore the wealth of natural beauty at Manuel Antonio National Park, get some thrills out on the water with a waterskiing or jet-skiing adventure, stroll around Parque Nahomi, and take a memorable tour with Tours.

To find out how to plan a trip to Manuel Antonio, use our trip itinerary maker.

You can take a bus from San Jose to Manuel Antonio in 3 hours. Alternatively, you can drive; or take a shuttle. Wrap up your sightseeing by early afternoon on the 20th (Mon) to allow time for the car ride to Monteverde.

Things to do in Manuel Antonio

Outdoors Parks Tours

Side Trip

Quepos
Find places to stay Jan 16 — 20:
Highlights from your plan
Playa Manuel Antonio ©
Playa Manuel Antonio
River Rafting & Tubing
Nature & Wildlife Tours

3
nights
Jaco, Costa Rica

A seaside resort town with plenty of entertaining distractions along its attractive coastline, Jaco has long been a major tourist destination on the central Pacific coast.
Get outdoors at Zipline and Canyoning & Rappelling Tours. Tico Pod Art House & Gifts and Bambu are good opportunities to explore the local culture. And it doesn't end there: trot along with a tour on horseback, kick back and relax at Jaco Beach, get the adrenaline pumping with an extreme tour, and take in the views from Tarcoles Bridge.

To find reviews, maps, ratings, and other tourist information, read our Jaco trip itinerary app .

Drive from Manuel Antonio to Jaco in 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus. Cap off your sightseeing on the 23rd (Thu) early enough to catch the shuttle to Monteverde.

Things to do in Jaco

Outdoors Tours Parks

Side Trip

Tarcoles Bridge
Find places to stay Jan 20 — 23:
Highlights from your plan
Horseback Riding Tours
Zipline
Canyoning & Rappelling Tours

5
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.
Satisfy your inner culture vulture at Ecological Sanctuary and Alas y Raices. Step out of the city life by going to Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve and Zipline. Take a break from Monteverde with a short trip to Viento Fresco Waterfall in Tilaran, about 56 minutes away. The adventure continues: take in the views from Santa Elena Skywalk, relax and rejuvenate at some of the best spas, experience the excitement of Curi Cancha Reserve, and explore the world behind art at Chorotega Arts & Crafts.

To find where to stay, ratings, photos, and other tourist information, read Monteverde trip planner.

Traveling by shuttle from Jaco to Monteverde takes an hour. Alternatively, you can drive; or take a bus. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 28th (Tue) to allow time to drive to Liberia.

Things to do in Monteverde

Parks Wildlife Nature

Side Trip

Viento Fresco Waterfall
Find places to stay Jan 23 — 28:
Highlights from your plan
Zipline
Curi Cancha Reserve ©
Curi Cancha Reserve

2
nights
Liberia, Costa Rica

Liberia ©
Tourism in Liberia has been growing since the opening of its airport, with more and more international visitors using the city as a starting point for explorations of the country's northwest.
On the 29th (Wed), look for all kinds of wild species at Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands, admire the sheer force of Llanos de Cortez Waterfall, and then take in the spiritual surroundings of Church of La Ermita La Agonia. Get ready for a full day of sightseeing on the 30th (Thu): explore the striking landscape of Rincon de La Vieja National Park.

To find photos, more things to do, reviews, and other tourist information, refer to the Liberia trip maker .

Drive from Monteverde to Liberia in 2.5 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of taxi and bus; or take a shuttle. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 30th (Thu) early enough to travel to Granada.

Things to do in Liberia

Parks Nature Wildlife

Side Trips

Area de Conservacion Guanacaste, Rincon de La Vieja National Park
Find places to stay Jan 28 — 30:
Highlights from your plan
Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands ©
Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands
Rincon de La Vieja National Park ©
Rincon de La Vieja National Park
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall ©
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

5
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.
Your cultural itinerary includes sights like Iglesia de La Merced and Centro Cultural Antiguo Convento San Francisco. Take a break from the city and head to Mombacho and Islets of Granada. When in Granada, make a side trip to see Apoyo in La Laguna de Apoyo, approximately 36 minutes away. Next up on the itinerary: examine the collection at ChocoMuseo Granada, kick your exploration up a notch at some of the top local zipline courses and adventure parks, take in the architecture and atmosphere at La Capilla Maria Auxiliadora, and relax and rejuvenate at some of the best spas.

To find more things to do, maps, photos, and tourist information, refer to the Granada online day trip planner .

Drive from Liberia to Granada in 3 hours. You will have some time to spend on the 4th (Tue) before leaving for Managua.

Things to do in Granada

Parks Nature Tours

Side Trip

Apoyo
Find places to stay Jan 30 — Feb 4:
Highlights from your plan
Iglesia de La Merced ©
Iglesia de La Merced
Mombacho ©
Mombacho
Apoyo
Apoyo

4
nights
Managua, Nicaragua

Managua ©
Nicaragua's largest and capital city, Managua remains relatively unknown as a tourist destination, though it boasts a scenic location on the southwestern shore of the Xolotlan Lake.
Do some cultural sightseeing at Santiago of Managua Cathedral and Ruins of Leon Viejo. Take a break from the city and head to Volcan cerro negro and Playa de Pochomil. Take a break from Managua with a short trip to Chocoyero-El Brujo Natural Reserve in Ticuantepe, about 58 minutes away. Next up on the itinerary: pause for some serene contemplation at Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, don't miss a visit to Puerto Salvador Allende, take in the spiritual surroundings of Mezquita De Managua, and stop by Mercado Roberto Huembes.

To see where to stay, other places to visit, ratings, and tourist information, go to the Managua trip planner .

Drive from Granada to Managua in an hour. Alternatively, you can take a bus. You'll have a few hours on the 8th (Sat) to wrap things up before traveling to San Juan del Sur.

Things to do in Managua

Parks Historic Sites Nature

Side Trips

Leon, Chocoyero-El Brujo Natural Reserve, Playa de Pochomil
Find places to stay Feb 4 — 8:
Highlights from your plan
Chocoyero-El Brujo Natural Reserve ©
Cerro Negro Volcano ©
Cerro Negro Volcano
Santiago of Managua Cathedral ©
Santiago of Managua Cathedral

5
nights
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur ©
Set in a crescent-shaped bay, San Juan del Sur has become known as a popular surfing spot and coastal holiday destination for Nicaraguan families and international visitors alike.
Visiting La Flor Beach Natural Reserve and San Juan del Sur Beach will get you outdoors. Do some cultural sightseeing at Museum El Ceibo and Los Ramos. Venture out of the city with trips to Isla de Ometepe (Punta Jesus Maria & Laguna Charco Verde). The adventure continues: kick your exploration up a notch at some of the top local zipline courses and adventure parks, make a trip to Mirador del Cristo de la Misericordia, see the interesting displays at ChocoMuseo San Juan del Sur, and see what you can catch with a fishing tour.

To see traveler tips, maps, and other tourist information, you can read our San Juan del Sur trip itinerary planner .

Traveling by car from Managua to San Juan del Sur takes 2.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus. Expect a daytime high around 36°C in February, and nighttime lows around 28°C. Finish up your sightseeing early on the 13th (Thu) so you can go by car to La Fortuna de San Carlos.

Things to do in San Juan del Sur

Outdoors Parks Tours

Side Trip

Isla de Ometepe
Find places to stay Feb 8 — 13:
Highlights from your plan
San Juan del Sur Beach ©
San Juan del Sur Beach
La Flor Beach Natural Reserve ©
La Flor Beach Natural Reserve
Laguna Charco Verde ©
Laguna Charco Verde

3
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.
Get in touch with nature at Tabacon Hot Springs and Proyecto Asis. Iglesia de La Fortuna de San Carlos and Wood & Art Gallery are good opportunities to explore the local culture. There's still lots to do: relax and float downstream with a rafting and tubing tour, shop like a local with Onirica Art Gallery, identify plant and animal life at La Fortuna Waterfall, and take in the exciting artwork at Galeria Estudio.

To find traveler tips and more tourist information, use the La Fortuna de San Carlos day trip website .

Drive from San Juan del Sur to La Fortuna de San Carlos in 4 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of car and bus; or take a bus. Finish your sightseeing early on the 16th (Sun) so you can drive to San Jose.

Things to do in La Fortuna de San Carlos

Parks Nature Spas
Find places to stay Feb 13 — 16:
Highlights from your plan
River Rafting & Tubing
Tabacon Hot Springs ©
Tabacon Hot Springs
La Fortuna Waterfall ©
La Fortuna Waterfall

2
nights
San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose ©
Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and Metropolitan Church (Catedral Metropolitana) are good opportunities to explore the local culture. Visiting Irazu Volcano National Park and Canyoning & Rappelling Tours will get you outdoors. See even more of San Jose: take an in-depth tour of Jade Museum, wander the streets of Multiplaza, pause for some serene contemplation at Iglesia La Soledad, and view the masterpieces at Galeria Namu.

To see reviews, maps, ratings, and other tourist information, use the San Jose day trip planner .

Getting from La Fortuna de San Carlos to San Jose by car takes about 3 hours. Other options: take a shuttle; or take a bus. Cap off your sightseeing on the 18th (Tue) early enough to travel back home.

Things to do in San Jose

Museums Tours Outdoors

Side Trips

Irazu Volcano National Park, Multiplaza
Find places to stay Feb 16 — 18:
Highlights from your plan
Pre-Columbian Gold Museum ©
Pre-Columbian Gold Museum
Irazu Volcano National Park ©
Irazu Volcano National Park
Jade Museum ©
Jade Museum

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