Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica and wandering what you can see there and what are the best things to do in Costa Rica? You have come to the right Place!
Whether you are in need of a Costa Rica itinerary for 7 days or 10 days this guide should answer all of your questions so pack your bags for Costa Rica now!
Costa Rica is sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America and is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
From rain-forests, cloud forests, and tropical forest in San Jose to the undeveloped Santa Teresa. There is something for everyone no matter if you’re craving the beach, an adventure seeker or nature-lover.
Everyone tells you how amazing Costa Rica is, without telling you where to go, what to see, or only provide you with a few of the most popular sites without showing you what Costa Rica is really about..
This 7 day Costa Rica itinerary will cover all of the main attractions and must see places in Costa Rica but also include a few lesser known gems in Costa Rica.
I’ve also included a few things to make your trip to Costa Rica memoriable and packing list to ensure you are dressed for your vacation to Costa Rica.
To help you plan your time in Costa Rica, I have included a map, recommendations on the best time to visit Costa Rica, how to get to Costa Rica, along with how long to stay and where to stay in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Itinerary
If you are feeling overwhelmed by Costa Rica’s beautiful landscape you are not alone. Costa Rica is surrounded by a national park with hiking trails, sloths, hot springs, and waterfalls.
In Santa Teresa, you will find howler monkeys, frogs, and quetzals which are brightly colored blue, green, and red birds with a mohawk like crowns.
The Corcovado National Park, the largest tropical rain-forest in Pacific Central America, is home to scarlet macaws, giant anteaters, and countless lizards.
However, in order to help you narrow down, I’ve compiled a list of the very best things to do in Costa Rica including ziplining, surfing, hiking, and shopping. You will find it all in this 7 day Costa Rica itinerary.
Adventure travelers can go horseback riding, zip-lining through the cloud forest canopy, hiking in the mountains or canoeing which all can be done easily with a guided tour organized through your hotel.
Another part of Costa Rica’s appeal are the welcoming people, who call themselves “Ticos” and pride themselves on the National motto Pura Vida, or “full of life.”
It’s an apt description for the cultural scene here, which starts with some of the best food and drink (especially locally grown coffee) in Central America.
Costa Rica’s national dishes include gallo pinto (rice and beans) and, of course, lots of fish in the beach zones.
7-Day Costa Rica Itinerary
Most international flights arrive into Juan Santamaria airport in San Jose (SJO) and most tourists will leave via ferry or crop duster plane on to their final destination.
San Jose is not the prettiest destination so do not be thrown off by what you see as soon as you step off of the plane.
Day 1: Arrive in San Jose
After arriving in San Jose, I suggest dropping your luggage off and spend the day exploring San Jose. There’s something for everyone from shopping, authentic Costan Rican food, to art.
If you are like me you want to know where to go shopping so I suggest exploring the heart of downtown San Jose. The Central Market should be first stop if you want to delve more into Costa Rica’s culture.
You can also find souvenir shops, clothing shops and locals selling handmade pottery and jewlery.
Next, you should check out Morazan Park especially if you are on sensory overload and in need of a quiet place to walk around or just relax without all of the noise.
Upon arrival you can’t miss the pair of golden wings that are immediately at the entrance. They are a clever and inviting idea that are great for a photo.
The park itself is a little dated but the area is nice and it could be fun to sit and watch the skaters perform tricks off the local bandstand.
If you love museums head over to the National Museum of Costa Rica. Visitors will learn about the history of Costa Rica which is really quite fascinating.
If history is your thing, check out the Jade Museum. The building looks like a piece of jade and is home to a collection pre-Columbian jade artefacts.
Where to stay in San Jose
The majority of travelers don’t stay long in the city. Rather, they use it as a jumping point or travel directly to their next destination.
For those travelers interested in the culture and happenings around the capital city or for those staying overnight following a late flight, San Jose Costa Rica hotels vary widely by style, budget, and interest.
You only need one day in San Jose so don’t put too much thought, time or money in where to stay. Here are my top picks for where to stay in San Jose.
Where to eat in San Jose
While Costa Rican food isn’t widely known outside of the country, it’s simple, wholesome and definitely worth a try.
Costa Rican cuisine contain various combinations of meat, rice, beans, plantain, salads, vegetables, cheese and corn tortillas.
1. Park Café
For an exceptionally well-crafted evening, make sure to seek out the Park Café. This gastronomic restaurant, located by the large Sabana Park, provides only the best and will not sacrifice quality for a larger influx of guests; so much so that you will need to make reservations here in advance.
Whether sitting inside, surrounded by antiques, or in the elegant garden outside, the Park Café provides an intimate environment to enjoy an evening with close companions.
2. Café de los Deseos
With a setting that feels almost more like an art gallery than a restaurant, Café de los Deseos whisks you away to a funky evening that is, in a word, hip.
With dishes inspired by cultures all over the world, it really will fulfil your deseos (wishes). They offer a variety of coffee drinks and alcoholic beverages including craft beer and sangria.
3. Restaurante Grano de Oro
The fine-dining restaurant Grano de Oro, located in the boutique hotel of the same name, serves gourmet cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Featuring both European and Costa Rican dishes, the restaurant offers a variety of flavors as well as an extensive wine list.
It’s no surprise the restaurant has gained such an outstanding reputation with alluring dishes such as the ‘a foie gras crème brûlée with caramelized pears.
4. Andiamo La
This Italian restaurant located in the neighborhood of Santa Ana is not to be missed while visiting San José. Enjoy traditional Italian dishes such as gourmet pizzas, ravioli, panna cotta, antipastos, calamari and gnocchi that will make you feel like you’re in Italy.
The the welcoming ambience and attentive staff make for a relaxed experience, even attracting famous clientele such as actor Chris Hemsworth.
DAY 2- La Fortuna: Arenal Volcano & Hot Springs
Getting to La Fortuna can be a bit rough, but Costa Rica is all about adventures so get ready! I booked my day trip to La Fortuna through Viator. (Travel Day)
We were able to discover the natural beauty of the La Fortuna region on an action-packed full-day tour that is ideal for people who enjoy outdoors activities.
Hike through lush rain forest; visit a butterfly garden and Maleku Indian village; take a dip at La Fortuna waterfall; look for wildlife; and view the Arenal Volcano. Top off the day with a cocktail and a relaxing soak in a natural hot water river.
- Includes lunch and cocktail
- Hear insightful commentary from the guide
- Hotel pickup and drop-off provided
- Small-group tour limited to 10 people
Day 3 Full Day Exploring La Fortuna
Up until December 2010, the Arenal Volcano was considered to be Costa Rica’s most active volcano. It is now ranked third behind Rincon de la Vieja and Turrialba.
The Arenal Volcano is the most picturesque volcano and has the iconic cone shape. The surrounding area is rich with wildlife, beautiful rainforests, waterfalls, and natural thermal hot springs, with so many exciting and family-fun adventure activities and nature tours available in the Arenal Volcano National Park and La Fortuna area.
Incredible Places to Stay Around the Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
Nayara Springs is an adult-only, romantic and luxurious boutique hotel located on the fringes of the Arenal Volcano National Park.
Your backdrop is of the active volcano and pristine lush rainforest. Each villa has its own private plunge pool that is fed by natural hot springs.
You also have a private garden, an outdoor dual rain shower, and a private host. The villas are elegant and incredibly comfortable. Nayara Springs is one of the top hotels in Costa Rica and Central America.
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2. Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens, La Fortuna
Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens is the sister hotel of Nayara Springs. This luxurious, eco-conscious, and romantic resort is absolutely stunning and will be the most wonderful place to come back to after all your adventuring.
There are private villas and deluxe casitas, as well as a world-class spa, several gourmet dining options, and a great selection of eco-tours. Plus, the views and scenery here are spectacular.
3. Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa, La Fortuna
The Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa is the closest hotel to the perfectly cone-shaped Arenal Volcano, at only 1.7 miles (2.7km) away.
At this incredible lodge located within the Arenal Volcano National Park, guests have convenient access to hiking and biking trails that go through both primary and second forest, past waterfalls, and beautiful pastures.
There are also 400 species of birds that make their home in this immediate area, so this is definitely a birding hotspot. This comfortable lodge offers several different types of accommodations, a spa, and a great restaurant.
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4. The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort, Alajuela Province
The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort offers a harmonious blend of nature and luxury. This 54-room luxury boutique offers guests stunning views, natural hot springs and multiple pools, a full spa.
Also enjoy international gourmet cuisine, several bars, and close proximity to all the adventure and nature tours that you could possibly want. In 2016, the Royal Corin won the World Luxury Hotel Award.
Day 4 Monteverde (Travel Day)
At nearly 1,500m above sea level, the elevation brings cooler temperatures and wetter weather than other parts of the country. I
t’s no surprise that Monteverde literally translates as green mountain! But that’s what makes it such a haven for wildlife and a must visit on your 10 day trip to Costa Rica.
Day 5 Monteverde
Monteverde is home to 400 species of birds, and the best place to go on a bird watching tour is the Curi-Cancha Reserve.
On a professionally guided tour, you will have the opportunity to see some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful birds, including the keel-billed toucan, resplendent quetzal, orange-bellied trogon, and the blue-crowned motmot, as well as a variety of hummingbirds and other species.
While there are tons of great activities to do in Monteverde, just going for a simple hike through the cloud forest is spectacular in itself.
There are numerous well-maintained and easy-to-walk trails throughout each of the reserves. Most trails range from one to three miles (one to five kilometres), and there are both self-guided and guided hiking tours available. Walking through the cloud forest is a magical experience.
Walking the Selvatura treetop suspension bridges is an incredible way to experience the cloud forest. There are eight suspension bridges that are connected by walking trails.
This bird’s eye view opportunity is a great way to see monkeys, sloths, birds, and beautiful plant life from above.
This two-and-a-half hour leisurely nature walk is like walking through a beautiful forest fantasy. You will experience every shade of green, and breathe in the cleanest and freshest air.
Day 6 Santa Teresa Costa Rica (Travel Day)
Santa Teresa is a booming beach town on the western side of the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
It is a beach, surf, and nature lover’s paradise. The white sand beaches and consistent surf have continually attracted a growing number of travelers each year.
There is definitely a laid back, surfer, backpacker, hippie kind of vibe here. There are also luxury accommodations, amazing restaurants, happening nightlife, and modern day amenities packed into this small town.
Santa Teresa is the whole package and my personal favorite destination in Costa Rica.
Day 7 Explore Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
There is so much to do while staying in Santa Teresa; it’s a great destination for those who are seeking action packed adventure days, as well as those who are seeking a more zen-like escape complete with yoga, massages, and long sunset walks.
Maybe the perfect Santa Teresa day is complete with action and relaxation. Whatever you are seeking on your Costa Rica trip, it is likely that you will be able to achieve it in Santa Teresa.
There are three main surf breaks in Santa Teresa and several more just south in Mal Pais. Playa Santa Teresa has a variety of beach breaks and point breaks.
The waves here tend to be faster, hollower, and more powerful. Playa Santa Teresa is great for experienced surfers, especially when there is a good swell.
Just north of Playa Santa Teresa is Playa Hermosa, which is a gentler wave and perfect for beginners, especially when the waves are on the smaller side. Then, at the very end, is Manzanillo, which is a reefy point break.
Hike to the waterfall
Just a short ATV or car ride away is the entrance to the Montezuma waterfalls. This is a great day activity for those looking to hike to and swim beneath a giant cascade.
The hike can be a bit hot, so make sure to bring water and wear sunscreen, but the cool pool at the end is a wonderful and refreshing reward.
For the dare devils out there, you can actually climb up the waterfall and jump off of it. Be careful of the rocks below though.
Explore a nature reserve
Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is one of the oldest nature reserves in Costa Rica and is a spectacular place to visit. Cabo Blanco is home to a large variety of birds, mammals, and other animals, among which are anteaters, white-tailed deer, capuchin monkeys, coyotes, and elusive wildcats.
There are also over 150 different types of trees that have been identified here. Don’t miss this beautiful reserve when staying in the Santa Teresa area.
Incredible Places to Stay Around Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
1. LATITUDE 10
Originally built as a private summer hang-out, Latitude 10° is the kind of place where you’ll trade stories with friends you’ve just met.
The Clubhouse Restaurant, Bar and Pool are exclusive to you and only a handful of guests so overcrowding will not be an issue at Latitude 10 if tranquility is what you are in search of for your vacation to Santa Teresa.
When you want to ease into Santa Teresa local life, you can. Then come back and settle into your hammock by the ocean and enjoy a little relaxation in Costa Rica.
Click here if Latitude 10 is right for your Costa Rica Itinerary
2. FLORBLANCA RESORT
Florblanca is a luxury Costa Rica resort on the shores of the Pacific coast, Florblanca is an award-winning destination for every adventurous traveler.
Located on the pristine beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula, in an unspoiled tropical jungle overlooking the world famous surf of Playa Santa Teresa, Florblanca offers a vacation experience like no other.
At Florblanca, you will always enjoy fresh, healthy, and locally grown food prepared by our chefs at Nectar.
Stimulate your senses with surfing, hiking, horseback riding, or zip line excursions, just to name a few of the many adventurous activities they make available to you.
Connect more deeply with the world around you with professionally guided sessions of Yoga or Pilates. And when you are ready to thoroughly indulge, try any of our relaxing and rejuvenating body treatments at the stunning Spa Bambu.
Click here if Florblanca Resort is right for your Costa Rica Itinerary
3. HOTEL TROPICO
Tropico Latino is an intimate beachfront hotel located in Santa Teresa, a breathtaking white sand beach on the Pacific Ocean of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula Blue Zone.
Situated on four acres of unspoiled tropical beach, you will find beautiful swimming areas and also outcroppings of rock where natural tide pools form.
Their exquisitely-designed tropical bungalows, built with exotic hardwoods, are surrounded by abundant tropical gardens under an old forest canopy, giving you the feeling of landing in paradise.
Immerse yourself in the most pristine natural environment and experience the wildlife of Costa Rica right outside your window.
Howler monkeys, hummingbirds, iguanas and bright flowering heliconias are just a few examples of what you will see.
Your stay would not be complete without a delightful dining experience. Our open-air beachfront restaurant combines a relaxed, yet classy atmosphere with nationally-renowned organic international cuisine.
Click here if Hotel Tropico is right for your Costa Rica Itinerary
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4. PRANAMAR VILLAS
Pranamar Villas is a gorgeous, intimate boutique hotel right on the water with luxury two-story villas built around a free-form saltwater pool and tropical gardens, and elaborate beachfront villas.
Picture Balinese architecture with bamboo, hardwoods, stone, water and plenty of windows and doors to let in fresh sea breezes.
Getting here is an adventure in itself! Best way to get here is by flight through our local domestic airline Green Airways or by private charter.
This is a short 25-minute scenic flight that will get you from Juan Santamaria Airport to Tambor. From Tambor, you can either have a car rental company meet you or we can help you arrange a transfer to pick you up for the 50-minute drive to Pranamar.
You can also get here through land. Keep in mind that any of the driving options from San José or Juan Santamaria airport takes minimum 5 hours and involves a ferry crossing.
Click here if Pranamar Villas is right for your Costa Rica Itinerary
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ADDITIONAL ARTICLES FOR EXPLORING COSTA RICA
If you’re traveling to Costa Rica I hope my 7 day Costa Rica Itinerary is just what you need to navigate around Costa Rica.
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