If you only have a week to explore, it’s important to prepare for your trip in advance to make the most of your adventure. Our 7 day Costa Rica itinerary will guide you through all the highlights. You’ll hit bucket-list cities, verdant rainforests, and serene beaches. Costa Rica’s capital city of San José is a great place to begin your adventure; our guide to where to stay in Costa Rica can give you a clearer picture of all your options. Of course, booking a tour in Costa Rica can simplify figuring out where to go and how to do it. Read on for more ideas and inspiration!
Arrive in San José and check into your luxury hotel or villa – we’ve curated some great options right here. Explore the highlights of the city, including the National Theater, National Museum of Costa Rica, Central Avenue, and La Sabana Park. 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 Mercado Central to taste fresh produce and local goods. End the day 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. Our ultimate private tour takes the guesswork out of hitting all the highlights of San José.
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. The area is also the natural habitat of adorable sloths, and this sloth experience and hot springs tour combines two of the best things about the Arenal region. Arenal has many picturesque hotels, resorts and lodges, which offer enticing amenities and lush, tranquil rainforest scenery. Explore our full range of tours in and around Arenal to find the perfect one for you.
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. This volcano hiking tour will help you navigate the area like a pro, or choose a tour that combines exploring the hanging bridges and a chocolate tasting. 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.
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! This guided nature tour of Monteverde will help you spot, identify and learn about this incredible region.
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, which is made easy and fun with this classic coffee tour. But if you have more of a sweet tooth, take a chocolate-making lesson and sample a sweet, tasty glass of sugar cane juice. Afterward, take the coastal drive to the pristine shores of Manuel Antonio National Park 3 hours south. After checking into your ocean-view hotel, enjoy a romantic sunset dinner overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Day 5: Manuel Antonio
Continue your Costa Rica adventure at one of the country’s top attractions. Manuel Antonio National Park boasts some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, forest trails, and a rainforest teeming with wildlife. It may be the smallest park in Costa Rica, but it’s a great place for viewing Capuchin, Squirrel, and Howler Monkeys. Take a guided tour in the morning, and then head for Quepos. This friendly harbor town on the coast has a great mix of shops, cafes, restaurants, and markets. Be sure to get the inside scoop on customs and culture with our guide to Costa Rican culture. Stay here for lunch of fresh seafood before taking a sea kayaking expedition through mangroves at Dama Island Estuary. Finally, end the day with a catamaran cruise and see the coastline and jungle from a different perspective. Folding in all these experiences is easy with this 6-day tour of the Pacific coast and Arenal.
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.
A Week of Pura Vida
Our 7 day Costa Rica itinerary showcases how rich Costa Rica is in natural beauty and culture. But with so much to pack into a week, the logistics of planning solo might seem overwhelming. The 7-day Costa Rica Semi-private Tour Package packs all these wonderful experiences into one fabulous trip. Combine with one of our Costa Rica hotels in each location, and an incredible trip is guaranteed.