Costa Rica is often referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America”. They are politically stable and environmentally conscious. Its commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable tourism practices helps preserve about 6% of the world’s biodiversity

This natural treasure is carefully preserved and a quarter of America’s national territory is safeguarded in the form of national parks.  In Costa Rica, “Pura Vida” isn’t just a phrase; it’s a way of life. It is an expression used for greetings, farewells, showing gratitude, sharing joy, and expressing love!

Costa Rica is relatively small, complete with a diversity of landscapes. Within hours, you can go from lush rainforests to pristine beaches and active volcanoes. Whether your interests lie in hiking through national parks or surfing waves, Costa Rica has something for everyone. 

Being so small is great for travelers who have a week at hand to cover the beauty of this beautiful country.

So without further ado, let’s devise a 7-day itinerary for a trip to Costa Rica!

Following this guide will help capture the country in its natural form and leave room for relaxation and winding down! 

What Is The Best Time To Visit Costa Rica?

costa rica one week itinerary

The best time to plan a week in Costa Rica is typically from mid-December to April. Costa Rica is in the high season during these months. You can expect plenty of sunshine and occasional brief showers every few days. The weather is pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15 to 30 degrees Celsius. Do keep in mind that it will be very busy and expensive too during the high season.

On the other hand, from the end of April to the end of November, is Costa Rica’s monsoon season. October is the wettest month. But here’s the good news: it doesn’t rain all day; rather, you can expect short, intermittent showers. 

Traveling during off season is more budget-friendly, with regular discounts on hotels, trips, and activities. So, if you’re looking for a more economical option, this would be the best time to consider spending a week in Costa Rica.

Our One Week Itinerary to Costa Rica

Day 1

If you’re staying in the capital city, you can start your day with a walk through the colorful streets of Barrio Amón. Admire the charming colonial architecture that adorns every street corner. You can pick up a Costa Rican coffee from Café Miel. This cozy cafe has many delicious pastries that make it a perfect breakfast spot. 

After a hearty breakfast, you can visit the National Museum, housed in the former Bellavista Fortress. Here you can walk down Costa Rica’s rich history and culture through its exhibits ranging from pre-Columbian and colonial-era artifacts. A short walk away, you’ll find Museo del Jade which hosts an extensive collection of beautiful jade artifacts.

Take a 10-minute walk to Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica, a magnificent architectural masterpiece built in 1897. It’s a national museum and a symbol of national pride. You can enjoy a guided tour to see its interiors and know of its history. If you want a quick bite to eat, the theater’s cafeteria is a good place to consider.

During the evening you can explore San José’s culinary scene at Restaurante Grano de Oro, housed inside the Hotel Grano de Oro. It is known for its luxurious accommodation options. The restaurant offers a fusion of Costa Rican and international cuisine, where you’ll find fresh seafood and farm-to-table ingredients.

Alternatively, consider dinner in the trendy Escalante neighborhood. Over the years, Escalante has become a hotspot for diverse culinary options amongst artistic vibes. Franco is a great option with exceptional food, service, and a captivating atmosphere. Savor your evening by discovering the flavors and culture of San José before you wind down for the night.

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Day 2

On day 2 arrive in La Fortuna, the entrance to Volcán Arenal. We recommend getting an early start from San José. You can choose to make a stop in Ciudad Quesada to take a scenic 2.5-hour drive through beautiful countryside and coffee plantations.

You can also visit the colonial-style cathedral in La Fortuna and take pictures of the vibrant stained glass windows. You can grab breakfast or brunch at Soda Viquez. It’s renowned for its hearty dishes and welcoming staff.

Make your way to Arenal Volcano National Park, a sprawling 29,692-acre expanse dominated by the majestic 5,358-foot stratovolcano. Opt for a guided tour and embark on an exploration of the park’s hiking trails and hanging bridges. The park’s gates open at 8 am and close at 4 pm and it’s advisable to secure your entrance tickets online ahead of time. 

The volcano has been dormant since 2010, but the breathtaking vistas of the volcano and the surrounding rainforest remain as beautiful as ever. For lunch options, don’t miss the chance to savor wood-fired pizzas at the welcoming Lava Lounge. 

To wind down for the day you can relax in the hot springs. Tabacón is a popular option for this. Afterwards, dine at Restaurante Don Rufino, known for its fantastic meat dishes. Try to reserve a table in advance.

Day 3

Start your day in La Fortuna, which is renowned for its delicious coffee. Take a sip to get your day going. Consider a morning tour that includes canyoning and waterfall rappelling with organizations like Pure Trek if you’re an adventurer. The weather in Costa Rica can be unpredictable due to its varied microclimates, so tours might vary depending on the day’s weather.

After that, drive for three hours to Monteverde. The route offers beautiful vistas as it takes travelers to Monteverde’s foggy cloud forests. The town focuses primarily on tourism, providing a range of lodging options and excursions.

Make a pit stop at the family-run Cafetera Orqudeas, known for its homemade pastries and superior coffee, during your drive. You can take a leisurely afternoon to stroll around town. Enjoy shopping and trying out regional cuisine.

Alternatively, spend the afternoon at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. You can choose to go on a guided nature walk or explore on your own. Given that Monteverde’s weather can be erratic, it is advisable to carry a raincoat, dress comfortably and wear sturdy shoes.

Visit Tree House, a special eatery with a huge tree growing through the center of it. It has outstanding pizzas, a fantastic atmosphere, first-rate service, and affordable prices. A sweater should be brought because Monteverde gets chilly and windy at night. Enjoy a wonderful evening in this unusual environment.

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Day 4

Your journey on day 4 starts in Monteverde! Many of the adventure parks in the area provide early morning pick-up services from your hotel and some even offer pick-up in San José. Although Sky Trek, Extremo Monteverde, and Original Canopy are well-liked choices, Selvatura Park is hidden gem amongst them.

Selvatura Park provides a taste of everything with its extensive selection of events and attractions. It has more than 15 cables and 18 platforms. Their canopy and zipline tours let you soar through the treetops while taking in breathtaking views of the cloud forest.

A network of hanging bridges that crisscross the canopy can also be found in the park. There are guided tours available that give an understanding of the distinctive local flora and fauna. If you prefer a slower pace, check out their hummingbird and butterfly garden, insect museum, herpetarium with reptiles and amphibians, and even sloth sanctuary!

Treat yourself to authentic Costa Rican food at Sabor Tico Restaurant after an action-packed day (tours frequently last all day). Enjoy savory dishes such as casados, gallo pinto, and plantains along with a fruity juice. It is the most authentic location to sample Costa Rican food.

Take a leisurely stroll through the town after dinner to experience the culture before going back to your hotel for a well-earned rest.

Day 5

The Open Kitchen is a delightful location with delicious food where you should start your day. Drive for three and a half hours to Manuel Antonio Beach in the Puntarenas province after breakfast. 

Although there are few other amenities, the route offers lush greenery. If you need a break, there are a few small towns along the route with family-run restaurants (sodas) and minimarkets. 

Winding roads that wind through the region’s hilly terrain will welcome you as you enter Manuel Antonio. Due to the town’s hilly location in the middle of these interconnected hills, most restaurants and hotels provide outstanding views of the ocean. You’re here primarily for the breathtaking beaches, though the hills offer opportunities for ziplining and wildlife viewing. 

There is a lot of entertainment available in Manuel Antonio. Some of the area’s upscale hotels offer day passes that give you access to their spas, swimming pools, and other amenities if you’re looking to unwind. The Makanda Hotel is a great place to spend the day poolside with a view because of its serene ambiance and delicious cocktails.

Consider ziplining through the forest canopy with organizations like Canopy Safari, which provides expertly guided tours, for those seeking a more active experience.

Visit the unique restaurant El Avión, which is housed inside a remodeled cargo plane. Enjoy their world-famous margaritas and delectable seafood dishes while admiring the ocean.

Manuel Antonio has a thriving nightlife scene if you feel like staying out late. Although it usually caters to a younger audience, the Selina Hotel frequently hosts events and parties. Alternatively, walk the short distance of 5 minutes to Restaurante La Cantina, where you can enjoy some live music.

Day 6

Spend the morning at the essential Manuel Antonio National Park. It is one of the smallest national parks in the nation. But it is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty, varied wildlife, and breathtaking beaches. You can explore the park by yourself or join a trail-based nature walk.

The main trail, which takes 2 to 3 hours to complete, traverses the entire park. As you walk, keep an eye out for monkeys, sloths, and a variety of birds. Bring your bathing suit if you want to enjoy a refreshing swim in Espadilla Beach’s crystal-clear waters. Book ahead of time as the tickets are usually limited especially during peak season.

If you’re back in town for lunch, stop by El Wagon, a charming eatery with a vintage train wagon in the center. They focus on making authentic brick oven pizza. Enjoy a brief lunch before getting ready for the catamaran cruise that will be the next activity.

Take a catamaran cruise in the late afternoon to enjoy the sea breeze, look for dolphins and turtles, and snorkel in colorful coral reefs. I advise using Ocean King, which is renowned for providing excellent tours, to reserve your cruise. The majority of cruises last from noon until dusk, giving passengers the chance to view one of the most stunning sunsets from the boat.

Day 7

Visit Manuel Antonio Spice Farm first thing in the morning. Learn more about the many different spices and tropical fruits that are grown here by taking a guided tour. Enjoy a healthy breakfast of fresh fruit and flavorful Costa Rican coffee.

Treat yourself to a spa day after the tour; after all, you’ve been traveling actively for a week. There are several spa facilities in Manuel Antonio, but the neighborhood favorite is Raindrop Spa. You’ll relax and recharge with a therapeutic massage or restorative treatment in a serene environment.

On your last day, visit a beach in Manuel Antonio that is smaller, less developed, and offers a more laid-back experience than the main beach. You can visit Biesanz is a quiet, isolated location ideal for water sports like snorkeling and paddleboarding.

You can go to a restaurant if you’d like, or you can bring a picnic to enjoy on the beach. La Luna, which is perched on a cliff and offers expansive ocean views, is a fantastic option. Go to the Manuel Antonio Marina as the sun begins to set for a change of scenery. There are many bars and eateries, perfect for a last dinner by the Pacific Ocean.

Emilio’s Café, a charming seafood restaurant famous for its legendary garlic shrimp, is another fantastic dining option. As you savor your meal and take in the scenery and views of the Pacific Ocean, get ready to say goodbye to Costa Rica..

Packing List For A 7-day Trip

Packing List For A 7-day Trip

  • Quick-Dry Clothing: Since Costa Rica’s tropical climate can bring sudden downpours, it’s wise to pack quick-dry clothing made from materials like polyester, nylon, or merino wool.

  • Universal Travel Plug: Ensure your chargers and electrical devices work; Costa Rica uses 110 Volts, similar to the U.S.

  • Raincoat: Unpredictable weather calls for a packable raincoat to keep you dry.

  • Long Socks & Trousers: For hikes and night walks, opt for breathable long socks and trousers to protect against mosquito bites and stay comfortable.

  • Comfortable Walking Shoes: Choose closed-toe shoes with a good grip sole for the rocky and muddy hiking trails. Flip-flops aren’t suitable for Costa Rica’s trails.

  • Waterproof Camera: Protect your camera from downpours and use it underwater for activities like snorkeling and chasing waterfalls. A more budget-friendly option is a waterproof phone case.

  • Power Bank: Keep your devices charged with a handy power bank.

  • Insect Repellent: Essential in coastal areas with lots of mosquitoes

  • Sunscreen: The strong sun in Costa Rica calls for SPF50 or at least SPF30.

  • Swimwear: Ladies, pack a couple of bikinis/swimsuits, and guys, bring several swim shorts for enjoying Costa Rica’s famous beaches.

  • Beach Cover-Up: A sarong or lightweight beach dress is handy for quick beach bar or restaurant visits.

  • Over-the-Counter Medication: Include painkillers, nausea tablets, hydration sachets, and sinus medication if needed; these items can be expensive in Costa Rica.

  • Small First Aid Kit: Stock it with antibacterial wipes, self-adhesive gauze, an instant cold pack, thermometer, scissors, and band-aids.

  • Reusable Water Bottle: An environmentally friendly choice, and insulated versions keep your drink cool during long hikes.

  • Day Bag: A 20-25 liter day bag is perfect for carrying essentials during hikes or city explorations.

Conclusion

So that completes our week-long itinerary of the beautiful country of Costa Rica! It is truly a place like no other! We recommend visiting during off season for its cheaper prices and relatively calm atmosphere! This was just a suggestion from our end. Do some research before you actually embark on this journey to this coastal paradise!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 7 days enough for Costa Rica?

A 7 day trip provides an excellent opportunity for an introduction to the highlights of Costa Rica. It us just enough time to truly savor its beauty!

What can you not bring into Costa Rica?

You can expect to have your luggage hand-searched and possibly scanned. Please be aware that you cannot enter Costa Rica with plants, seeds, vegetables, or fruits.

How much cash are you allowed to bring into Costa Rica?

There are no limitations on the import or export of local money and US dollars, but anyone carrying more than US$10,000 or more must declare it.

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