Skip to Content

7 Days Costa Rica Itinerary: Top Sights for First Timers

Abundant in nature and adventure, Costa Rica is one of the most incredible countries in the world and spending a week here is a dream! But how do you even choose where to go and how long to stay in each spot? From the beach to a cloud forest and even a dormant volcano, this 7 days Costa Rica itinerary has the exact details you need to plan an amazing week!

7 days Costa Rica itinerary aerial view beach teal water white waves trees
7 days Costa Rica itinerary: Manuel Antonio National Park 😍

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my disclosures.

Costa Rica is a country you could spend a month – or more – exploring. What it lacks in size it makes up in adventure! This 7 days Costa Rica itinerary will take you through 3 regions of the country, plus give you some alternatives. After all, it’s nice to have options, right?

From the lush rainforests to stunning beaches of Manuel Antonio and a whole lot more, this small Central American country has so much to offer visitors.

Fill your days with amazing (and natural) wildlife encounters, thrilling ziplines, crazy night tours, waterfall hikes and more. This Costa Rica 1 week itinerary has a bit of everything, no matter what your vacation style.

Before diving into what to do on each day of your vacation, let’s go over some details that will help you plan your trip.

How many days in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica itinerary view of mountains and lush tropical foliage under tree
Stunning countryside while driving Manuel Antonio to San Jose

To make the most of your trip, you’ll want at least a week in this beautiful country. A full 7 days in Costa Rica is just the right amount of adventure and relaxation.

You could do a 5 day itinerary Costa Rica and just omit one of the 3 regions below. But honestly, a week gives you a good taste for the nature and culture that Costa Rica is famous for.

And if you have longer – even better! Spend 10 days, 2 weeks or a month exploring this gorgeous country. With more than a week, you can see more regions, like Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast or take part in slow travel, exploring restaurants, getting to know the locals, soaking in Pure Vida and so much more!

Best time to visit Costa Rica

black monkey white face walking on tree branch in costa rica
Wildlife while on this Costa Rica travel itinerary🤯

If you’re wondering when the best time to visit Costa Rica is, the answer completely depends on what matters most to you!

May through November is typically the rainy season in Costa Rica, so you could generally avoid that timeframe. However, if you want to find cheap prices, this is the timeframe you’d find the best deals!

December through April is the best time to visit Costa Rica. With amazing weather, abundant wildlife and tourist operations fully open, you’ll have a really comfortable trip with many conveniences this time of year.

You could also try the shoulder season to see if you can score a great deal for pricing. Try early to mid-November and mid-late April to try your luck.

Of course, peak travel season is January – March, so keep this in mind for pricing and crowds.

7 days Costa Rica itinerary: map

This is a map of the itinerary in this guide. The orange icons are the recommended areas for your Costa Rica 1 week itinerary. The yellow icons are alternative options if you’re looking to switch things up. Black icons are the most popular airports for international travel.

As you can see, this Costa Rica itinerary will cover the areas of:

  • La Fortuna
  • Monteverde
  • Manuel Antonio
  • Drive between Monteverde and Manuel Antonio
  • Isla Tortuga (optional)
  • Tamarindo (optional)

Get the perfect packing list for your next beach vacay!

    I won’t send you spam. I hate spam. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    How to get around Costa Rica

    views while driving San Jose to Monteverde tree covered hills looking out to mountains
    Views of the Gulf of Nicoya near Monteverde

    So at this point you might be thinking: how do you get around Costa Rica? Well good news: there’s plenty of options!

    Rental car for your 7 days in Costa Rica

    This is the most flexible option for your trip to Costa Rica. You’ll be able to go when you want and where you want. If you’re a US citizen, you can use your US drivers license.

    Just keep in mind most vehicles are manual transmissions, and there’s typically an upcharge for automatic (if it’s available).

    I recommend using Discover Cars for car rentals in Costa Rica. It’s a free service that searches the major rental companies and provides the best rate. I typically save 10-30% using Discover Cars.

    Shuttle service

    This is a popular option, especially if you’re looking to relax and keep a slower pace while you’re at each destination on this Costa Rica travel itinerary.

    Taking a shuttle service is also great for large groups, or if you simply don’t want to drive the roads in Costa Rica.

    You’ll find routes between most popular cities and tourist destinations. The pricing depends on the route and size of the shuttle. For this, I recommend using 12Go. They have a variety of options for transportation, and a ton of routes in Costa Rica, including between the destinations on this travel itinerary!

    7 days in Costa Rica view of road over bridge with hill in distance
    Driving through Costa Rica


    This is the most budget-friendly option for transportation in Costa Rica. However, the bus lines take a long time and won’t really help you stay on schedule for this Costa Rica itinerary 7 days – it would be more like 12 days based on all the time you’ll spend on the bus!

    But, public transportation is the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica, and most other countries for that matter. I recently took a bus like this across the Peloponnese during my 2 weeks Greece itinerary, and it worked out smoothly.

    Taxi or Uber in Costa Rica

    I really only recommend using a taxi service or Uber once you’re in a town – the cost is price prohibitive to take a private transfer like this from region to region.

    Uber works in most major areas of Costa Rica, and is quite convenient too. If your hotel to and from the airport in San Jose or Liberia doesn’t have a free shuttle, Uber or taxi is the way to go.

    What to pack for your 7 days in Costa Rica

    view of beach through palm trees
    Peek-a-boo beach!

    Let’s go over the items you’ll want to make your trip comfortable! You’ll be visiting a volcano, cloud forest and beaches for this itinerary, so you’ll definitely want a variety of items for Costa Rica!

    • Water shoes. So many waterfalls, hot springs and beaches in this epic Costa Rica 1 week itinerary! You’ll want a great pair of water shoes, ones sturdy enough to hike to the spot you’re going to need them. These are my favorite water shoes that travel with me everywhere – from the best beaches in Thailand to the Black Sand Beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico and yes, even Costa Rica!
    • Mineral sunscreen. Protect your skin while protecting the Earth’s waterways and marine life with mineral sunscreen. The chemicals in traditional sunblock kills marine life so please only wear mineral sunblock in the ocean in Costa Rica (and everywhere else).
    • Grippy shoes for hiking. If you’re planning to go for an actual hike, like in Arenal Volcano National Park or the Cloud Forest in Monteverde, you’ll want shoes that can handle the mud and give you extra stability. These are my favorite hiking shoes that come with me to hiking destinations.
    • Bug spray. You’ll definitely want bug spray! This is my favorite natural bug repellent I used in Costa Rica to ward off those pesky insects and it worked really well.
    • Dry bag. From beaches to waterfalls, this is a damp environment even when it’s not raining! Keep your valuables in a dry bag to protect your items from getting wet. I love the dry bags with a shoulder strap – so handy for short hikes!
    • Lots of layers. This Costa Rica itinerary will cover 3 regions from the mountains to the beach. You’ll want comfortable, moisture-wicking clothes for the humidity and layers for higher elevation. My favorite are merino wool – breathable and they travel great!
    • Rain poncho/umbrella. Even in the dry season, it still rains in Costa Rica. Pack a poncho and/or umbrella for your week in Costa Rica.
    • GoPro. Whether you want to take snorkeling photos, smooth videos while ziplining or road tripping, a GoPro works wonders while in Costa Rica – or on any vacation!
    • Travel insurance. Last but not least, when you’re traveling quite literally anything can happen. Grab travel insurance before you leave home just in case!

    Here’s a complete beach packing list if you’re looking for more details.

    How to use this Costa Rica itinerary

    7 days in Costa Rica with a view of a dark sand beach palm trees and ocean with sun setting
    Enjoying the beach near Jaco (see day 5 of this 7 days Costa Rica itinerary)

    Geesh are we ready to get to it?! Some important details are covered already in this guide, and it’s just about time to start planning a trip to Costa Rica!

    Not-so-fun-fact: the travel times between destinations in Costa Rica will take way longer than Google Maps shows. So for planning purposes, you’ll want to prepare extra time than what GPS is telling you.

    So, to use this itinerary, it will assume you’ve arrived in San Jose or Liberia the night before day 1 and that you’re flying out after day 7. However, if you are truly only in the country for 7 days, you can condense this itinerary down to fit your flight schedule.

    7 days Costa Rica itinerary

    Are you ready for it? This adventure of a lifetime is *almost* too good to be true. Enjoy this fabulous week in Costa Rica. You’re gonna love it!

    Fun fact: 6.5% of the worlds biodiversity is in the tiny country of Costa Rica. So you’ll have plenty of options for experiencing amazing vegetation and wildlife during your time in this stunning country!

    La Fortuna (days 1-2 on this Costa Rica 1 week itinerary)

    lake with trees and arenal volcano large mountain peak
    Lake Arenal and Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna

    🚗Waking up in San Jose or Liberia (or flying in early in the day), you’ll make your way to La Fortuna. It’s about a 3 hour drive almost straight north of San Jose and slightly less than that from Liberia.

    La Fortuna is one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica. It’s at the doorstep to Arenal Volcano, and is a nature-lover’s oasis!

    Day 1 on this Costa Rica travel itinerary: La Fortuna

    A dormant volcano, rainforest, waterfalls and abundant nature is what you’ll find in La Fortuna! After your drive from the airport city, you can grab lunch and explore downtown a bit. Try the budget-friendly Soda La Hormiga or try the traditional Costa Rican food at La Cascada.

    La Fortuna Waterfall

    La Fortuna waterfall Costa Rica 1 week itinerary view of waterfall in lush rainforest from a distance
    La Fortuna Waterfall 😍

    One of your first activities on this Costa Rica itinerary is to visit this fabulous waterfall in La Fortuna. This stunning waterfall in the rainforest is quite the welcome to this beautiful country, and a preview of the adventures to come!

    There’s an entrance fee at La Fortuna Waterfall to access the waterfall, in which the funds go directly into maintaining and preserving the property.

    You’ll walk down about 500 steps to get to the base of the waterfall. Stop at one of the many viewpoints along the way for beautiful photos of the falls from a different angle.

    At the base of the falls, you can swim in the gorgeous Jade colored water. You’ll want your water shoes for climbing over the boulders along the way as the rocks are very slippery.

    Note: the current is really strong so inexperienced swimmers should stay near the rocky edges and not get too close to the waterfall.

    La Fortuna Hot Springs (one of the best things to do on this 7 days in Costa Rica itinerary)

    Tabacon hot springs view of hot springs pool through lush foliage in La Fortuna Costa Rica
    Tabacon hot springs in La Fortuna

    Well-known in this area are the naturally occurring thermal hot springs. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) most of the land surrounding the hot springs have been purchased by hotels and resorts, which means you’ll either need to pay to spend the night there or pay for a day pass.

    So let’s first talk about the one free hot springs in La Fortuna. It’s just down the road from the popular Tabacon resort. There’s a small parking area near the entrance, and a walking path that leads down to the river.

    Like most places in Costa Rica, there’s an unofficial parking lot attendant who ‘watches over your car’ while you’re enjoying the hot springs. You’ll just pay him a few bucks to keep it safe – or risk what may happen otherwise (I don’t actually know – I’ve just always paid it)!

    There are a few other places you can find day passes to enjoy the hot springs in La Fortuna. Some of them can be pricey, and often have an option to include a meal with it, which can be worth the cost.

    Some of the mosts popular day pass options are at Tabacon, The Springs Resort & Spa and Baldi.

    Day 2: La Fortuna (one of the best days on this 7 days Costa Rica itinerary)

    Let’s amp up the adventure and views on your 2nd full day in La Fortuna!

    Arenal Volcano

    arenal volcano view of large volcano peak on a clear day with dense forest
    Arenal Volcano National Park

    This is what’s drawn visitors to La Fortuna for decades. And it’s beautiful to see in real life!

    The best places to experience it are the Arenal Volcano National Park and Arenal 1968 Reserve. The national park is government funded and the reserve is private property.

    Both have great hiking trails with classic shots of the volcano. Arenal 1968 Reserve is less crowded and you’ll get equally as beautiful of views.

    Taking a guided hike at Arenal Volcano National Park will help you learn the history of the volcano and region as you climb for impressive views of the lake and park. Just remember to wear good shoes for hiking (sandals definitely not recommended here).

    You’ll want to spend at least 1/2 day in the park or reserve hiking and soaking up this incredible natural experience! After all, it’s one of the very best things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica!

    More things to do in La Fortuna

    white water raft near with people near waterfall in jungle
    White water rafting in Costa Rica 😍

    For your last afternoon, you have options to explore La Fortuna how you prefer. If you’re staying at a hot springs resort, relaxing is a great way to soak in the latter part of this day. Especially if your morning hike was intense!

    Otherwise, booking a tour or visiting another local attraction is a great way to spend the afternoon. Here are some other ideas:

    Best places to stay in La Fortuna

    Here are some fun places to stay in La Fortuna. Remember, you can always opt for a vacation rental property on VRBO if you’re looking for more space or a kitchen to make your own food and save some money.

    Monteverde (days 3-4 of this 7 days Costa Rica itinerary)

    rolling hills with trees white puffy clouds in blue sky best Costa Rica itinerary
    Views while driving to Monteverde – such a beautiful country!

    🚗Waking up in La Fortuna, hit the road to Monteverde. You’ll curve around Lake Arenal and then south to Monteverde, over 3 hours drive.

    Monteverde is home to the Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. It’s a big deal and so much fun to experience in real life! And remember that biodiversity we chatted about earlier? Yep, it’s big here, too!

    Day 3: Monteverde (one of the best places to go in Costa Rica)

    After traveling to Monteverde, you’ll arrive in the main town of Santa Elena. Grab food in downtown for a quick lunch before heading out to your next adventure!

    That afternoon, you’ll want to take some time to experience the the best things to do in Monteverde.

    Monteverde Cloud Forest

    Monteverde view of cloud forest with cloud lingerie low in trees 7 days Costa Rica itinerary
    The incredible Cloud Forest in Monteverde

    One of the top tourist destinations in the country – and certainly the Puntarenas province, visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest is a must-do on this Costa Rica itinerary!

    Note: you’ll definitely want to buy tickets in advance or go with a group tour.

    If you arrive by 1:00 – 2:00pm, that will give you some time to hit the trails and see some spectacular fauna and hopefully wildlife!

    One of the best hikes in the Monteverde Cloud Forest is the Sendero Bosque Nuboso – La Ventana trail. It’s a 3.6 mile loop, and takes you over the continental divide. Watch for the mysterious Resplendent Queztal bird – the notoriously elusive bird which makes it’s home in the Cloud Forest.

    Along the hike, you’ll pass overlooks, which are great on a clear day (a rarity). Expect clouds because you’re quite literally in a cloud forest!

    A guided tour will help fill you in on the cloud forest’s nature, including spotting certain wildlife. Expect all kinds of amphibians, mammals, birds, insects and so much more!

    Remember your grippy shoes and poncho. You’re in the clouds so expect some moisture!

    Resplendent quetzal in Monteverde cloud forest view of brightly colored bird sitting on tree branch
    Seeing the Resplendent Queztal

    Treetop dining experience (one of the most unique things to do on this 7 days Costa Rica itinerary)

    If you want a truly authentic and totally unique experience, enjoy a fine dinner amongst the trees! This dinner will get you feeling all the feels in Monteverde!

    I recommend make reservations at San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience. If you can, go at sunset as it’s simply magical.

    Note: you’ll need an advance reservation for this dinner. Select a time that works with your time exploring the Cloud Forest, getting cleaned up and driving from your accommodations.

    Day 4 of 7 days Costa Rica itinerary: Monteverde

    woman on zipline with black pants teal jacket Costa Rica itinerary 7 days
    Ziplining in Monteverde on this Costa Rica travel itinerary💚

    This full day in Monteverde will have you pinching yourself and asking “is this place even real??”

    Grab breakfast in Santa Elena to fuel up for your adventures. I recommend the incredible food (and my husband said the Costa Rican coffee was amazing) at Choco Cafe.

    Hanging bridges and zipline in Monteverde

    If you’re up for a thrill, you’re going to love this day! Definitely make a reservation in advance to experience one of Monteverde’s top attractions! There are several places where you can experience ziplining over the cloud forest and walking through it via picturesque hanging bridges.

    The locals we talked to all recommended Selvatura Park, so that’s the option in the photos and videos within this guide. But, if you can’t get a reservation there, try Sky Adventures or 100% Adventure Park.

    Fly through the air on one of the world’s longest ziplines! It’s truly breathtaking and a travel bucket list check, for sure!

    Note: there’s some walking between ziplines so wear comfortable shoes and layers for various weather conditions.

    suspension bridge through lush forest 7 days in costa rica
    Hanging bridges in Manuel Antonio

    The hanging bridges are an experience in their own! Walk through trails that take you over as many as 8 suspension bridges, deep in the Costa Rican rainforest.🌿

    Most of the walking paths are relatively easy. Depending on which route you choose, you may encounter some incline or some mud based on recent rainfall.

    A tour like this in Monteverde will take about 4 hours. What a fun adventure!!

    Sloth Sanctuary, Coffee Tour or Monteverde Waterfall

    For the afternoon on day 4 of this Costa Rica 1 week itinerary, it’s up to you what you want to do to fill your time. There’s so many activities – you could literally spend a week in Monteverde, exploring and relaxing.

    view of Monteverde waterfall with rocky base tall trees surrounding
    Monteverde Waterfall

    But since you only have an afternoon before continuing on with the trip, here are a few options:

    • Sloth Sanctuary. Located at Selvatura and hosted by the Caribbean Sloth Sanctuary, you can see sloths that can no longer survive in the wild.
    • Coffee tour. Learn what it takes to process the perfect cup of coffee, from farm to table!
    • Monteverde Waterfall. This road-side surprise will have you hiking down to a picturesque setting in the heart of the Cloud Forest.
    • Horseback riding. Get away from the crowds and see beautiful views, unlike most others will experience on horseback!
    • Downtown Santa Elena. This cute downtown is a fun place to walk around. Admire artwork, go shopping or leisurely dine until your heart’s content.

    Where to stay in Monteverde

    Whether you want to stay in the clouds of the Cloud Forest or near the action, here are a few recommendations for where to stay in Monteverde.

    Monteverde to Manuel Antonio (day 5 of this best Costa Rica itinerary)

    7 days in Costa Rica view of road over bridge with hill in distance
    Views while driving through Costa Rica

    🚗This is a fun travel day across Costa Rica! The trip is nearly 5 hours in a car including traffic, so this is an opportunity to…

    • Have a slow morning and sightsee along the way.
    • Hustle to take an extra day trip to a dreamy island.

    Let’s dive into the details!

    Monteverde to Manuel Antonio drive – stops along the way

    The scenery is spectacular as you head out of the mountains near Monteverde and start your descent to sea level in Manuel Antonio. The curvy roads are fun to drive on – but just remember there’s a lot of switchbacks and potholes to be cautious of!

    Along the route from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and explore a bit. And when you see a scenic overlook – stop! You’ll (likely) only be here once in your life. Soak in the views and grab those photos.❤️

    El Roble Costa Rica

    By the time you get to El Roble, you’ll likely have been driving around 2 hours. El Roble is a great spot to stretch your legs, grab something to eat or even hit the beach!

    Pro tip: pick up pizza and watch the surfers at Boca Barranca. It’s a famous surfing spot where surfers can often ride a wave almost 1km before it breaks!

    Tarcoles Bridge (AKA Crocodile bridge, a must-see on this Costa Rica itinerary 7 days)

    Costa Rica itinerary crocodiles on sand bar in muddy river
    Crocodiles on sand bar in Tarcoles River

    It’s a crazy phenomenon in southwestern Costa Rica, and one that you should definitely stop and see if you’re driving from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio. Less than an hour down the road from El Roble is the Tarcoles Bridge.

    This is a cool stop on the basis that you can see dozens – potentially hundreds – of crocodiles in the river below. The Tarcoles River is home to over 2,000 American Crocodiles. They seem to congregate in the area below the bridge, making it a safe place to view these wild animals in their natural habitat.

    Because it’s drawn the interest of tourists, there’s also a few shops, vendors selling artisan crafts and a restaurant nearby. Oh, and a restroom stop as well.

    Just don’t drop anything into the water below. You won’t be getting it back!

    This is a fun activity, and maybe one of the most expected adventures on this 7 days Costa Rica itinerary.


    Jaco sign with multi colors and ocean in distance
    Jaco sign – near the macaws!

    One of the best stops on this Costa Rica 1 week itinerary is in Jaco. It would honestly be a great place to stay for a few days, if you have more than a week in this country.

    But since you’re on your way from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio, you could stop here for a bit. Grab some lunch and hit the beach!

    One of the top things to do in the area – and one that’s relatively unknown to most tourists is to stop by the Jaco sign and see the macaws. The sign is located on Highway 34 south as you’re leaving town. It’s on the edge of the coast, and just beyond that are a group of trees home to macaws.

    Park near the Jaco sign and witness beautiful macaws in their natural environment. Look up into the tall trees, or watch them flying above! Macaws mate for life, so you’ll likely see them in pairs. So fun!

    Alternative day 5: Isla Tortuga Tour

    view from the green water looking at beach and treelike
    Never tire of these Costa Rica beaches😍

    Okay so if you’re the kind of person who likes to see alllll the things while on vacation, then this day is for you. It’s action-packed and a long day, but it can be done if you’re determined enough!

    Visiting Isla Tortuga is a dream! This beautiful, uninhabited island is a fun day just off the southeastern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. Take a catamaran tour for snorkeling, beaching and exploring this beautiful island.

    Note: you’ll need to book this tour in advance to make it all work!

    Starting your day really early in Monteverde, you’ll drive nearly 3 hours to Jaco to make the early morning departure to the marina. (Remember to allow extra time for curvy roads and traffic.) From there, hop on the catamaran and sail about an hour and a half to the island.

    Isla Tortuga was once a popular snorkeling destination, and snorkeling is definitely still an option today. However, the reef isn’t as vibrant as it once was, so it’s more of an island destination now. (Remember to always wear mineral sunblock; chemicals in traditional sunblocks kill our reefs!)

    While at Isla Tortuga, you’ll get lunch (as part of your tour), can rent kayaks, go on a nature hike and more.

    Returning back to Jaco in the afternoon, check out the macaws and Jaco sign as you make your way down to Manuel Antonio.

    Manuel Antonio (days 6-7 of this Costa Rica itinerary)

    beach view of rocky shore with land across bay
    Playa Biesanz in Manuel Antonio

    Known for its incredible beaches and wildlife, Manuel Antonio is the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation. This Costa Rica itinerary has you spending 2 days here and driving back to the airport (in San Jose) at the end of your 2nd day.

    Note: if you’re flying back to your home from the airport in Liberia, then you may want to consider the alternative region on this itinerary, Tamarindo, which is detailed below. Otherwise, plan 5-6 hours to drive from Manuel Antonio to Liberia.

    Day 6 of this Costa Rica itinerary: Manuel Antonio

    Manuel Antonio is known for its incredible national park, beaches and coastal views. This area is a big attraction and for good reason. Nature, wildlife and good food are the themes in this Costa Rican destination.

    There’s so many things to do in Manuel Antonio, you could spend an entire week here and not experience it all. But since you only have 2 days here on this Costa Rica itinerary, these are the highlights.

    Manuel Antonio National Park (must-see on this best Costa Rica itinerary)

    Manuel Antonio national park beach with palm trees white sand and water Costa Rica Itinerary
    Manuel Antonio Beach 😍

    This is the day to fully explore one of the best places to go in Costa Rica! The Manuel Antonio National Park is a stunning landscape, perfect for the beach lover and nature lover.

    First, let’s talk about the amazing beaches within the park. Playa Manuel Antonio is the main beach in the park. It’s great for swimming and sunbathing. It’s also the busiest, so if you want a spot in the shade under a coveted palm tree, get there early!

    I also loved Playa Espadilla Sur. This wide open beach had plenty of room to stretch out. The waves are typically a bit bigger here, but still a great spot to lay out a towel and soak in the views.

    And if you’re going for a more secluded vibe, head to Playa Gemelas, just a short walk from Manuel Antonio Beach.

    Beyond the beaches, wildlife is abundant in the park. These are the types of animals you might see in Manuel Antonio National Park:

    • 2 Toed Sloth
    • 3 Toed Sloth
    • Howler Monkey
    • White Faced Monkey
    • Squirrel Monkey
    • Variety of reptiles
    • Many species of birds

    To see wildlife in the park, it’s best to take a guided tour. The experts know when and where to look for wildlife, increasing your chances exponentially!

    This is a must-do on this 7 days Costa Rica itinerary!

    Night tour in Manuel Antonio

    spotted glass frog on green leaf during night tour
    Take a night tour!

    One of the most wild experiences you can have in Costa Rica that aren’t available in most places are night tours in the rainforests. There are many tourist destinations across the country that offer night tours, and one of the best is in Manuel Antonio.

    You’ll want to book this tour in advance as it definitely sells out. But on a night tour you’ll get a chance to see the nocturnal creatures in their natural element.

    It’s common to see frogs, snakes, tarantulas, sloths, kinkajous and more on a Manuel Antonio night tour.

    If you have a fear of anything creepy or crawly – you’ll probably want to skip this. Otherwise, it’s a great opportunity to experience the biodiversity within Costa Rica.

    7 days in Costa Rica itinerary: day 7

    This is the last day of your Costa Rica 1 week itinerary, so you can truly craft it how you choose! Want to lay on the beach all day? Perfect. Ready for an epic waterfall hike? It’s here. Looking for more thrill on an ATV? Also a good idea.

    So, here are the things I’d recommend, but know that you have many more options in this fun coastal town.

    🚗Just remember that if you’re only spending 7 days in Costa Rica, you’ll need to make your way back to San Jose for the airport. Plan your afternoon accordingly, as it takes over 3.5 hours to make the journey from Manuel Antonio to San Jose.

    Beach hopping in Manuel Antonio

    7 days Costa Rica itinerary picture of busy beach aerial view with hilly coastline teal water white waves
    Playa Espadilla

    This is such a beach destination and offers so many water activities. You can spend the entire day on the beach if you’d like!

    One of the best beaches in Manuel Antonio is Playa Biesanz. A fun spot for pretty much any type of beaching you like, Playa Biesanz is away from the main town and national park, and is a bit of adventure to get to.

    It’s about a 10 minute walk to get down to the beach from the parking area. Wear your water shoes, which will double as good walking shoes down the varied terrain on the way.

    At the beach, you’ll find food and drink for purchase, bathrooms and even kayak, beach chair and umbrella rentals. Oh, and watch for sloths on the trees by the beach – it’s a common sighting here!

    Costa Rica itinerary: more things to do in Manuel Antonio

    7 days in Costa Rica view of old airplane with plants and roof overtop
    El Avion, Manuel Antonio

    Depending on how much time you have after beach hopping and before driving, you can hang out in town or book a tour. Here’s what I’d recommend if you have the time!

    • Ziplining. How does 11 ziplines sound? Catch beautiful views of the area as you soar though the air on a Manuel Antonio zipline!
    • Nauyaca Waterfall. This fun adventure is a 1/2 day trip from Quepos (just north of Manuel Antonio). If you’re into waterfalls, this is definitely a tour you’ll want to take!
    • Day trip to Damas Island. Another island adventure on this list? Yes, please! This day trip to Damas Island leaves in the morning, and then you can go beaching in the afternoon.
    • ATV tour. Add more thrill to the last day of your trip with this ATV tour in Manuel Antonio. Such a fun way to spend a few hours!

    Any combination of activities you choose on your last day in Costa Rica will be perfect!

    Best places to stay in Manuel Antonio

    Alright, to end this amazing 7 days in Costa Rica, I highly recommend a stay at this bucket-list property. The Hotel Costa Verde has traditional style hotel rooms and also offers old airplanes converted to hotel rooms.🤯

    And speaking of amazing and unique stays, you’ll love these cave hotels in Cappadocia! so fun!

    Anyway, here are my recommendations for places in Manuel Antonio:

    Alternative Costa Rica itinerary destination: Tamarindo

    If you’re looking for the laid-back beachy vibes in Costa Rica and don’t want to make your way as far south as Maneul Antonio, Tamarindo might be a better alternative for your 7 days in Costa Rica.

    Also, if your flights are from Liberia, I might suggest you choose Tamarindo instead of Manuel Antonio. The drive from Tamarindo to Liberia is much, much closer than Manuel Antonio and it will give you more freedom to explore and relax.

    🚗From Monteverde to Tamarindo is about a 4 hour drive west. If you’re swapping Tamarindo for Manuel Antonio, you can add another day in Monteverde or Tamarindo based on your interests.

    What to do in Tamarindo Costa Rica

    tan sand beach with palm trees in Tamarindo best Costa Rica itinerary
    Tamarindo Beach

    Located in the Guanacaste Region, Tamarindo is known for its surfing and beaches. It’s also a popular tourist destination if you simply want to hang out at a resort and relax!

    Spending 2 days of your 7 days in Costa Rica will be really easy here. Choose between a mix of adventure and relaxation to soak in all the Pure Vida in Tamarindo!

    • Tamarindo Beach. This long stretch of beach has a place for your beach chair or towel, just calling your name! It’s a great way to spend the afternoon soaking up the sun and views of the coast.
    • ATV tour. For adventure and thrill, take an ATV tour! Anytime you combine an ATV ride on the beach, it’s a win in my book!
    • Learn to surf. One of the best surfing destinations in Costa Rica, Tamarindo is great for beginner surfers. Take a lesson or rent a board to enhance your skills!
    • Volcano Brewing Company. Their tropical beers set the scene for a brewing company in Costa Rica. Relax over a fun meal while enjoying some brews.
    • Kayak the mangroves in Las Baulas National Marine Park. This is such a fun experience! It reminds me of kayaking the mangroves near Anna Maria Island, Florida. So fun!

    Of course, you can hang on the beach and find other water sport rentals like kayaks, boogie boards, paddle boarding and more.

    Tamarindo is a great place to spend a few days of your 7 days Costa Rica itinerary! Just remember to leave extra time to drive from Tamarindo to Liberia for your flight (or overnight the day before).

    Best places to stay in Tamarindo

    Whether you prefer staying close to the beach or in a more secluded area, check out these properties in Tamarindo!

    7 days Costa Rica itinerary – that’s a wrap!

    Monteverde forest Costa Rica 1 week itinerary view of cloud forest with walking path through trees
    One more view of the hiking trails in Costa Rica 😍

    Can you believe all the adventure, sightseeing and epic experiences you can see in just a week’s time? From amazing beaches to incredible nature, Costa Rica is a destination with a variety of experiences for every travel style.

    Pick and choose which activities are suited to your tastes within this guide. Swap out some of these activities for alternatives, or spend more time at the attractions that really interest you!

    Hope you have a great time on your 7 days in Costa Rica!

    Related content to read next:
    26 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Monteverde Costa Rica You Can’t Miss
    26 Incredibly Fun Things to Do in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica You Gotta See to Believe
    6 Most Breathtaking Beaches in Manuel Antonio You’ll Love

    Find this post helpful? Save it for later or share it on social media!

    7 day itinerary Costa Rica beaches-rainforests-volcano with view of beach and blue water cloud forest and volcano


    Wednesday 31st of January 2024

    How is the drive from Tamarindo to San Jose airport. We leave Saturday at 7:30 pm and thinking of leaving Saturday morning. Is that doable. thank you


    Thursday 1st of February 2024

    You should be fine if you leave in the morning. Just add an hour or two for extra drive time. In my experience, if GPS showed a certain amount of time, it takes at least 25% more time (even up to 50% more time) to account for traffic. Slow vehicles are inevitable and most roads aren't built for traffic. Have fun!!


    Thursday 19th of October 2023

    I've been to Costa Rica several times and love it! The environment and the people are amazing. My favorite places in Costa Rica are Santa Teresa and Nosara, but I haven't made it to Manuel Antonio yet.


    Sunday 22nd of October 2023

    Oh fun Michelle! I'll trade ya and have to head to Santa Teresa my next visit ;)


    Thursday 19th of October 2023

    I lived in Costa Rica for a while as a child and reading this brought back all the nostalgia. I’m glad you had such a lovely trip, it’s a beautiful place and it looks like you made the most of it!


    Sunday 22nd of October 2023

    Oh yay Rose! What a wonderful childhood. 🌿I'm glad this brought back fun memories for you!


    Thursday 19th of October 2023

    We visited Costa Rica earlier this year and LOVED it. I would definitely go back.


    Sunday 22nd of October 2023

    Oh yay Jolayne! I'd go back in a heartbeat too. Such an amazing destination.


    Wednesday 18th of October 2023

    A very detailed and helpful guide for first time visitors to Costa Rica. Such diversity and choice of locations and experiences across the island. I particularly would like to experience the cloud forest.


    Wednesday 18th of October 2023

    So glad you found this helpful, Marilyn! It's such a fun country with soooo much to do!