How to Spend a Week in Costa Rica – 7-Day Itinerary

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Live the pura vida in tropical Costa Rica, where rivers jigsaw to the coast and exotic birds flash through jungle canopies like fire. We’ve created a six-night, seven-day itinerary to help you get the most out of your Costa Rican adventure. Volcanic peaks, black-sand beaches, farm-dotted valleys, and mysterious cloud forests are calling your name.

Day 1: San Jose

Aerial View of San Jose, Costa Rica

Arrive at the international airport in San Jose. You may feel a little jet-lagged, so plan an easier first day. San Jose has something for everyone, from restaurants that give you a taste of the local cuisine to museums and cultural venues.

Explore Avenida Central

Avenida Central is one of the city’s most accessible areas and home to many of its plazas, shops, museums, and restaurants. If you’re only going to have half the day to explore, this is the place to position yourself. The diversity of culture that you’ll find in this part of San Jose will help you get orientated to the country on your first day. You can also easily grab lunch or dinner here before heading back to your hotel or on to another attraction.

Museum-Hopping

San Jose’s main attractions are its museums. If museums are your thing, pick a favorite or two and spend some time visiting. The National Museum and the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum are some of the best, but you may also enjoy the stunning artifacts at the Jade Museum or the artwork at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design.

Do Some Shopping

Get your shopping out of the way by visiting the National Artisans Market, located between the National Museum and Jade Museum. Here you’ll find your typical souvenirs alongside locally crafted, handmade items. The Galeria Namu is another place to shop for local goods, and this fair trade handcrafts store has items from many of the indigenous communities.

Night Options

If you’re not ready to call it a night, consider a show at the historic National Theater (who’s architecture alone is well worth the ticket price). For dinner, try the French cuisine at La Terrasse—a quiet restaurant near Hotel Aranjuez.

Day 2: Monteverde

Zip Line in Costa Rica

After your day in San Jose, head to Monteverde to see the natural side of Costa Rica. The Cloud Forest Reserve is something you simply must see to appreciate, with its colorful quetzals and other native wildlife. Here’s the best way to spend a day in the cloud forest.

Take a Tour

The Extreme Adventure and Safety Selvatura Park Canopy Tour in the virgin cloud forest of Monteverde will give you the full jungle experience. Soar through the canopy along a zip line and channel your inner jungle creature on the Tarzan Swing. The tour lasts for approximately three hours and is safe ages 5 and up.

Take a Hike

If you prefer to adventure at your own pace, head out on a hike through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The trails accommodate a variety of ability levels, so don’t worry if you’re not an experienced or avid hiker. If you find the crowds too heavy, head to the nearby Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve or the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. Both of these provide excellent immersive jungle experiences.

Grab a Bite to Eat

You’ll find a number of restaurants near Monteverde that feature diverse cuisines. If you’re looking for a traditional Costa Rican meal,  try Sabor Tico in the Plaza Monteverde. Another great option in the plaza is Green Restaurant, which offers farm-to-table dining.

Days 3 & 4: Arenal Volcano Region

6 nights in Costa Rica - Visit a hot springVisit the Volcano

The Arenal Volcano and nearby thermal springs are impressive sites. Be sure to bring a swimsuit if you plan on soaking in the hot springs. Many of these sit adjacent to cold pools, so you can alternate between temperatures to your heart’s content!

Explore the National Park

The national park surrounding the volcano lets you explore the flora and fauna unique to the area. If you enjoy hiking, consider the trail from the Arenal Observatory or La Fortuna Waterfall to the top of dormant Cerro Chato. Keep in mind that the area directly around the active Arenal Volcano is off limits.

Visit the Lake

After getting to know the area around the volcano, spend a relaxing day at Lake Arenal. This location is a great place to fish and provides stunning views of the volcano.

 

Days 5 and 6: Manuel Antonio

6 nights in Costa Rica - Capuchin Monkeys

For more natural experiences, spend your last two nights near Manuel Antonio National Park. This rugged coastal rainforest is home to capuchin monkeys, three-toed sloths, iguanas, toucans, and a whole host of astonishing plant species. Here are some ways to spend your days while visiting the national park:

 

Tour the Park

Make sure you get the right tour of the Manuel Antonio National Park. With a guide, you will have a better chance of seeing the birds, monkeys, orchids and other flora and fauna that calls the area home. The Manuel Antonio National Park guided tour is a great choice, and after the half-day tour you’ll have the rest of the afternoon to explore the region.

Manuel Antonio Beach EscapeVisit the Beach

Before you leave the region, plan to spend an afternoon lounging on the beach. White sand, palm trees and the occasional monkey make the Playa Manuel Antonio a truly tropical experience. Considering visiting the beach at sunset, when it is particularly picturesque.

Grab Some Dinner

If you’re looking for local cuisine, visit Amillio’s Cafe or Cafe Agua Azul. For a fine dining experience, consider seafood at Kapi Kapi or contemporary food at Le Papillon Restaurant.

Day 7 : Head Home

Most likely you’ll fly home out of the San Jose International Airport. If you have a late flight, you’ve got plenty of time for some last-minute shopping. If you’ve already visited the local artisan shops, get the mall experience at City Mall, which is not far from the airport. You can also eat here before you check in for your flight.

Spending a week in Costa Rica will give you a true taste for the richness and diversity of this popular destination. There won’t be time for you to see everything in one trip, but seven days here will give you a taste of the country’s richness and wonders. Book your Costa Rica vacation today!

Learn more about Costa Rica with these blog posts:

Insider’s Guide to Costa Rica

10 Ways to Get off the Beaten Path in Monteverde and Arenal

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