If you only have a week to explore, it’s important to prepare your trip in advance to make the most of your adventure. Our 7 day Costa Rica itinerary will guide you through the highlights. You’ll hit bucket-list cities, verdant rain-forests, and serene beaches. Costa Rica’s capital city of San José is a great place to begin your adventure, but where you end up is entirely up to you!
Arrive in San José and check into your luxury hotel or villa. Explore the highlights of the city, including the National Theater, National Museum of Costa Rica, Central Avenue, and La Sabana Park. The city is a vibrant hub of activity, and the more you see, the more you’ll love it. There’s nothing better than a stroll around the city to get you in vacation mode! Continue by dining at a farm-to-table or authentic Central American restaurant. You can find our favorites in our best restaurants in San José guide. Or take a walk to the Mercado Central to taste fresh produce and local goods. Day 1 can be concluded in a rooftop bar overlooking the cityscape, in a cocktail room sipping your own signature drink or at one of the city’s live jazz and blues clubs.
Day 2: Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs
Drive to Sarchi in Alajuela Province an hour from San José. The quaint Costa Rican town is famed for its hand-painted oxcarts which line streets and gift shops. Following a light lunch on the town, continue 2 hours north to Arenal. This region is home to tranquil lakes, hot springs and a simmering volcano. Here you can relax with a decadent massage with botanical rainforest products. Enjoy a magical evening dip in hot springs illuminated by tiki torchlight.
Day 3: Arenal and the Cloud Forest
Start your morning with a sunrise hike, admiring colorful birds and wildlife as you make your way along the base trail towards Arenal Volcano. It’s prohibited to climb to the volcanic summit. However, several hikes in the national park allow walking around the base, through forests and old lava fields. Following lunch, the early afternoon can be spent horseback riding, rafting, or rappelling by tranquil Arenal Lake. Later in the day, drive to Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Check into your hotel then take an eerie night tour of the Cloud Forest with a local naturalist guide. The forest comes alive at night as armadillos scuttle across pathways and two-toed sloths rustle leaves as they climb trees. Your guide will keep you safe and identify animals and birdlife of interest during your tour.
Day 4: Monteverde
Arise early and walk tree-top pathways or enjoy a thrilling zipline tour soaring through trees and clouds while admiring hummingbirds and the vibrant plumage of the revered Quetzal bird. Monteverde or ‘Green Mountain’ is home to approximately 3000 plant species, 100 mammal species, 400 different birds, and 161 species of reptiles and amphibians! All of Costa Rica’s wildcat species reside here including the margay, ocelot, jaguar, puma, and oncilla. There are 3 primate species including the white-faced capuchin monkey so don’t forget your camera!
After a late breakfast, spend a couple of hours learning about the crop-to-cup process of coffee making at a local coffee bean farm. take a chocolate-making lesson and sample a sweet, tasty glass of sugar cane juice. In the afternoon, take the coastal drive to pristine shores of Manuel Antonio National Park 3 hours south and after booking into your ocean-view hotel, enjoy a romantic sunset dinner overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Day 5: Manuel Antonio
Continue your 7 days Costa Rica itinerary with one of the top attractions. Manuel Antonio National Park on the western Pacific coast boasts some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, forest trails, and a verdant rainforest teeming with wildlife. It may be the smallest park in Costa Rica but it’s a great place for viewing the very social Capuchin, Squirrel, and Howler Monkeys. Take a guided tour in the morning or head for Quepos. This friendly harbor town on the coast has a great mix of shops, cafes, restaurants, and markets. Stay here for lunch of fresh seafood before taking a sea kayaking expedition through mangroves at Dama Island Estuary or topping up your tan on the beach. End the day with a sunset catamaran cruise and see the coastline and jungle from a different perspective.
Day 6: Santa Juana and Cartago
Wake up early and drive 1 hour inland to Santa Juana Mountain Village. The village offers visitors the opportunity to experience a traditional campesino lifestyle enjoyed by Costa Rica’s rural residents. You can try your hand at cooking local cuisine in a class, fish for tilapia in the nearby river, or horseback ride through lush pastures and meadows before lunch. Before returning to San José for the evening stop off in historic Cartago. The city was once the country’s capital and offers architectural enthusiasts the opportunity to observe lesser-known gems of Costa Rica such as the Byzantine Basilica de Nuestro Senora de Los Angeles. When you’ve completed your sightseeing, drive an easy 30 minutes back into San José. Take your final evening to enjoy a lavish dinner and city nightlife before you depart.
Day 7: San José and Departure
Finish your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary fully-adjusted to the local pace. Awake to traditional Costa Rican coffee and Gallo pintos. They’re a popular vegetarian breakfast dish of scrambled eggs, rice, beans, and tortilla. Pick up last-minute souvenirs at Central Market or pop into the Jade Museum and Pre-Columbian Gold Museum before you depart.