Costa Rica 7 Days Itinerary: Places To Visit And Can’t Miss Things To Do

Costa Rica 7 Days Itinerary: Places To Visit And Can’t Miss Things To Do

The country that lives by way of Pura Vida, Costa Rica is a true nirvana for nature lovers.

After the country faced some of the worst deforestation in the 1990s, the government realized what was at stake, and following nearly a decade of efforts was able to reverse the trend. Today Costa Rica is a model for land conservation and its national parks and preserves are renowned throughout the world.

Why visit Costa Rica

Nearly 30 percent of Costa Rica is protected as reserves, national parks and refuges.

Although Costa Rica is a small country, it’s incredibly scenic! You could spend weeks and even months exploring its jungles, relaxing on beaches and hiking countless scenic trails.

7 days in Costa Rica is not enough to see the whole country, however, it’s enough to see some of the best highlights and get some taste of what life here is like. That’s why I created a perfect Costa Rica 7 days itinerary to help you plan your dream adventure in this beautiful country!

My Costa Rica 7 days itinerary is based around renting car in Costa Rica. Although public transportation is an option, it will take a lot of time as it can be slow and not always reliable.

Costa Rica 7 days itinerary

Where to start your trip in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has two international airports: San Jose and Liberia, with San Jose being the main transportation hub in the country. And since traveling in Costa Rica requires a car, you will need to rent a car when you arrive.

Renting a car in Costa Rica

During the high season in Costa Rica (from late October through April), the country often has shortages of rental cars!

Whether you plan to spend 7 days in Costa Rica, or more, ALWAYS book your rental car before your trip.

During the low season (from May through late October) the country has fewer visitors and your chances of getting a car on the spot are better than during the high season. I suggest Discover Cars, one of the best car rental companies that has a great inventory with many types of vehicles and super affordable prices!

Suggested Costa Rica 7 Days Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrive in Guanacaste via Liberia International Airport

Day 2 – Guanacaste (Optional stop at Rincon De La Vieja National Park)

Day 3 – Tenorio Volcano National Park (Optional stop at Monteverde Cloud Forest)

Day 4 – Arrive in La Fortuna

Day 5 – Spend a day in La Fortuna

Day 6 – Arrive in San Jose. Visit a few landmarks in the area including Irazu Volcano National Park

Day 7: Fly out of San Jose International Airport

GOOD TO KNOW: This itinerary can also be done in reverse order if you plan to start your Costa Rica trip in San Jose. Under this scenario, you will be close to Manuel Antonio National Park, so it makes sense to start your trip there and proceed north to Arenal and Monteverde.

Best places to visit during 7 days in Costa Rica

Places to visit during Costa Rica 7 days itinerary

1. Guanacaste Province

Where to stay: Jardin Del Eden Boutique Hotel

If you arrive to Costa Rica via Liberia, start your Costa Rica 7 days itinerary in Guanacaste, Costa Rica’s northwest Pacific region with coarse, black sand beaches and surfing culture. If you just want to chill and enjoy the beach, Guanacaste, home to the popular beach town Tamarindo, is probably one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica lives by way of “Pura Vida” which means “Pure Life.” Costa Ricans, or Ticos, have a relaxed attitude and don’t spend too much time worrying about things.

Throughout Guanacaste, you will find many places where you can swim, jet ski and snorkel.

PRO TIP: As you drive in Guanacaste, you will see street vendors along roads selling fresh fruits and pipas, open coconuts from where you can drink coconut milk. Try pipa, but bring a reusable straw, or ask to replace the plastic one because Costa Rica really suffers from plastic pollution.

Costa Rica 7 days itinerary Costa Rica 7 days itinerary


Where to stay: Capitan Suizo Beachfront Boutique Hotel

A gateway to Guanacaste, the tourist hub Tamarindo is a coastal town that has hotels, shops and restaurants. If you decide to spend time in Tamarindo during your 7 days in Costa Rica, consider visiting other popular towns in Guanacaste like Brasilito, Flamingo, Samara and Playas del Coco.

Within an hour of Tamarindo, you will find plenty of beaches big and small. While some beaches such as Playa Flamingo, Playa Coco and Playa Minas are popular and easy to find, there are less discovered beaches that are less busy.

Best things to do in Tamarindo

Surfing – Tamarindo is one of the best places to surf in Costa Rica, because of its calm point break and consistent waves. Newbie surfers particularly enjoy this destination. There are many surfing schools around Tamarindo like Waveriders Surf School Costa Rica and Surf Spirit Tamarindo where you can get a lesson.

Sailing – If there’s one place in Costa Rica where you can enjoy world-class sailing, it’s Tamarindo! The best time to go sailing is in the morning (if you want to snorkel) or in the evening (if you want to watch the sunset). Catamaran sailing tours of Tamarindo ca be booked online.

Scuba diving – Whether you are PADI certified or want to do a quick discovery dive, head over to Las Catalinas islands off the coast of Tamarindo. It’s a popular diving site in Guanacaste and tours to Las Catalinas leave the Flamingo marina 30 minutes away from Tamarindo.

Zip-lining – Tamarindo is famous for it beaches, but there are many other things to do here. The mountains outside of town have several zip lining locations, and one of them is Diamante Eco Adventure Park about one hour away from Tamarindo that has zip lines, wildlife refuge and botanical gardens.

Kayaking – kayaking is one of the most popular activities in Tamarindo because it offers a chance to explore the lush mangroves of the Tamarindo Estuary. Here you can spot monkeys, iguanas, all kinds of birds and other animals. You can book a kayaking tour online.

Catalinas, Guanacaste

One of the hidden beaches where mostly locals go is Las Catalinas, a sleepy village about 45 minutes north of Tamarindo. You will not find touristy stores or restaurants in Las Catalinas, but you will have a chance to hike a nice trail between Danta and Dantita beaches separated by the mountain.

2. Rincon de la Vieja National Park

An optional stop along your Costa Rica 7 days itinerary, Rincon de la Vieja National is a less touristy spot in Guanacaste. Translated from Spanish as the old lady’s nook, this national park offers a view of the still volcano where you can hike along the waterfalls.

GOOD TO KNOW: If you like getting off the beaten track, hiking in Rincon De La Viejo is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica.

The entrance fee to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park is $15. If you don’t have a car, consider joining a guided tour of Rincon De La Vieja from Tamarindo and other parts of Guanacaste Province.

Tenorio Volcano National Park

3. Tenorio Volcano National Park

Tenorio Volcano National Park is one place that you definitely should include in your Costa Rica 7 days itinerary. Located just a few hours northeast of Guanacaste, this national park boasts lush jungles and cascading waterfalls around a magnificent volcano.

Best places to visit in Costa Rica

Rio Celeste

Where to stay: Posada Rio Celeste La Amistad

One of the highlights of Tenorio Volcano National Park is the enchanting Rio Celeste with its bright turquoise waters. According to a legend, the Rio Celeste River became turquoise after God put his brush in the river while he was painting the sky.

When you enter Rio Celeste, you will hike a 1-mile trail along the Rio Celeste River. As you walk toward the end of the trail, you will come to an overlook of the confluence of two tributaries and will see the exact spot where Rio Celeste gets its amazing turquoise color!

Rio Celeste is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica Costa Rica 7 days itinerary

Another prominent spot in Rio Celeste is the waterfall.

Only a limited number of visitors are allowed to enter the area at a time, it’s not uncommon to have to wait in line before you can enter area. Once you do, you will have to walk down the stairs toward the observation platform in front of the waterfall.

PRO TIP: The trail along the Rio Celeste River is muddy and can be very slippery, if it’s raining, so don’t forget to bring a pair of good hiking shoes.

To enter Rio Celeste, you have to pay $12. The area closes at 2 p.m., so you have to arrive before that time if you want to do the hike. Ideally, you should show up as early as possible to avoid standing in line.

Arenal National Park is one of the best places to visit during Costa Rica 7 Days itinerary

4. Arenal National Park

Your 7 days in Costa Rica are not complete without visiting Arenal National Park.

While it’s no doubt a touristy place, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica. I don’t recommend less than 2 days in Arenal just because there’s so much to do there.

La Fortuna

Where to stay: Hotel Arenal Kioro Suites&Spa

The gateway to Arenal is La Fortuna, a small town in the middle of the lush jungle full of waterfalls and hot springs. La Fortuna has many hotels ranging from the popular Hotel Secreto with a pool and a volcano view to more modest ones like La Fortuna Apartment in the city’s downtown.

If you are looking for a good mid-range hotel in La Fortuna, I suggest La Fortuna The Corner House.

To find more budget-friendly hotels in La Fortuna, check, a website popular with backpackers and budget-travelers.

Costa Rica sloths

When you visit La Fortuna, you might be able to spot a sloth or perezoso, an animal that has become a symbol of Costa Rica. Sloths are notoriously slow but they are really good at camouflaging themselves as they crawl from one tree to another.

Best sloth watching tours in La Fortuna

Best things to do in La Fortuna

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Arenal 1968 Volcano View and Lava Trails

A series of trails that snake through the jungle and culminate with a panoramic view of the volcano, this trail is named after the year when the Arenal volcano suddenly woke up and erupted the hot lava over the surrounding area.

The 1968 hike is located on the western side of the volcano about 25 minutes away from La Fortuna.

To find Arenal 1968 trail, you will need to take route 142 west and make a left turn toward Castillo and Arenal Volcano National Park. The area at the beginning of the trail has a parking lot and a visitor center.

La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the best spots to visit during your Costa Rica 7 Days Itinerary

La Fortuna Waterfall

If there’s one place you can’t miss during your Costa Rica 7 days itinerary, it’s the gorgeous La Fortuna waterfall.

Considered one of the most beautiful spots in Costa Rica, this 200-feet waterfall sits at the bottom of the long concrete staircase. If you bring your swimsuit, you can also take a dip in its chilly waters. To beat the crowds, arrive when the waterfall opens at 7 a.m.

La Fortuna Waterfall is about 10-15 minutes away from the town. Visitors are required to pay $18 and get a bracelet after putting a name on the list for safety reasons.

Costa Rica 7 days itinerary

Arenal Hanging Bridges

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park offers approximately 1,5-2 hour hike along a series of suspension bridges where you can admire the biodiversity and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of the rainforest.

Tickets to Arenal Hanging Bridges vary between $26 per person for a self-guided tour to $40 for a guide tour. If you are going on a self-guided tour, make sure to pay attention to the tree tops and different layers of rainforest to catch a glimpse of some of some of the cool animals.

Arenal Hot Springs

A must visit for anybody who comes to La Fortuna, hot springs can be found in many parts of La Fortuna and there’s a number of hotels that also have their own hot springs. Most of these hot springs require a special day pass, but you can visit for free, if you book a stay in one of the hotels.

This is a perfect stop on your 7 days Costa Rica itinerary, if you want to recharge your batteries before going forward!

Best Arenal Hot Springs

To enjoy some of the best hot springs in La Fortuna, you can book a stay in one of the hotels that provide FREE access to these natural wonders.

Just to give you an example, a day pass could be around $35 per person, while the hotel could cost around $100, and include a variety of amenities. This is well worth the price, in my opinion 😊

Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa – One of the most popular hot springs in La Fortuna and a 5-stat hotel that feels like a real slice of paradise

The Springs Resort and Spa at Arenal – This gorgeous hotel offers some of the best views of Arenal Volcano and 28 hot springs

Baldi Hot Springs Hotel and Spa – This is one of the biggest hot springs resorts in Costa Rica with over 20 hot spring pools in the middle of the jungle. Since reservation is not required, it can get a busy here.

Hotel Arenal Kioro Suites and Spa – This popular hotel has 8 cascading hot springs and phenomenal views of Arenal Volcano from its rooms.

Best tours of Arenal Hot Springs

If you are not staying in a hotel, you can also purchase a pass that will allow you to enter the hot springs.

Other cool things to do in La Fortuna

Venado Caves – If you want to go spelunking, check out Vendo Caves located about 50 minutes away from La Fortuna. Here you can walk through the maze of caves with stalactites, stalagmites that are homes to many bats and insects

Zip lining – Arenal has tons and tons of zip lines in many areas. My general recommendation is to try at least one zip-line during your 7 days in Costa Rica, since there are so many of them here!

Tabacon River – If you want to experience La Fortuna like a local, head to Tabacon river near Tabacon Resort where you can tube on the river and enjoy the scenery

Bogarin trail – Considered one of the best places to see sloths in Arenal, Boragin Trail is your chance to spot these cute animals, as well as birds, and even retiles like frogs!

Most popular tours of La Fortuna

Optional stop: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Where to stay: Senda Monteverde Hotel

As an option for a day trip, I recommend a stop at Monteverde Cloud Forest, one of the most incredible places to visit in Costa Rica.

Here you can find tons of wildlife, lush tropical plants and a great variety of hiking trails that range from one to three miles. If you plan to spend 7 days in Costa Rica, book a guided tour of Monte Verde.

During the tour you will be able to see many cool birds, such as toucans, hummingbirds, and motmots. Walking around this this tropical forest is a surreal experience and is an absolute must for your Costa Rica 7 days itinerary.

If you stay at the park a bit longer, there are many great accommodations nearby, like Koora Hotel.

San Jose Costa Rica

5. San Jose

Where to stay: Hotel Presidente

Although San Jose is the the largest city in Costa Rica, most visitors treat it only as a transportation hub for hopping to scenic destinations across the country. San Jose has many landmarks and museums that are worth your attention!

The inner city of San Jose is walkable and is home to some nice street art, colorful markets and vendors selling their merchandise along Avenida Central – the big shopping street in San Jose.

San Jose, Costa Rica

Mercado Central

For a cultural experience, head to Mercado Central where you can try local produce and sample authentic Costa Rican food. But the food is not the only thing that you can find here – many shops along Avenida Central sell everything from quick bites to souvenirs.

Metropolitan Cathedral of San Jose

To learn some culture during your Costa Rica 7 days itinerary, make sure to visit Metropolitan Cathedral of San Jose in the heart of the city. Located at the intersection of Calle Central and Avenues 2 and 4, this church is one of the most prominent landmarks in San Jose.

The National Museum of Costa Rica

Another great place to visit is Museo Nacional de Costa Rica (National Museum of Costa Rica) where you can enjoy exhibits ranging from history to modern art. Out of nine exhibits about 4 are always temporary, so you should check online before your visit.

The admission fee is $9.

The National Theater of Costa Rica

And if you are in for some entertainment, check out The National Theater of Costa Rica that hosts a variety of shows throughout the year. If you don’t want to attend a show but still want to see this magnificent European-style building, you can hire a guide who will help you to learn about this beautiful building.

Irazu Volcano National Park

6. Irazu Volcano National Park

One of the best day trips (or half-day trips) from San Jose is Irazu National Park, home to an active volcano over 11,000 feet above sea level. Irazu National Park is about 1,5 hours northwest of San Jose and about 1 hour away from Cartago, the former capital of Costa Rica.

This is a perfect stop on your Costa Rica 7 days itinerary, if you want to get off the beaten track!

Igauzu Volcano National Park Irazu Volcano National Park

Although you can visit Irazu year-round, remember to bring a jacket or some layers as the temperature on top of the volcano is cooler because of the higher elevation.

Plan your visit to Irazu for a sunny day to see the crater and the surrounding landscapes.

How to get to Irazu Volcano National Park from San Jose

The easiest way to get to Irazu from San Jose is by car, but be prepared for a fun drive, as this is the winding road that curves in some places. If you want to drive to Irazu, rent a four-wheel drive. The drive to Irazu from San Jose opens views of the valley and takes you through the rolling hills and green mountains.

If you don’t have a car, you can get on a bus to Irazu at the National Theater in San Jose as early as 8 a.m. The bus will bring you right to the park, but you will have to wait around for the next one as they don’t run every hour.

The best part about Irazu is that it’s not as popular as Arenal or Monteverde. Take advantage of this less visited place to enjoy its gorgeous nature during your 7 days in Costa Rica!

7. Manuel Antonio National Park

Where to stay: Gaia Hotel and Reserve

Manuel Antonio National Park is one of Costa Rica’s renowned natural landmarks, and it’s not hard to see why: It’s home to pristine beaches, and tons of wildlife from monkeys to lizards, toucans and sloths.

The park has a number of hiking trails that lead to beaches and overlooks, and is considered one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica by many travelers.

It takes about 3 hours to get from San Jose to Manual Antonio National Park by car. If you don’t have a car, catch a bus from the Tracopa Bus Station in San Jose. The bus ticket costs about $8 and is somewhat similar to the Greyhound and it takes you straight to Manuel Antonio with a couple of stops along the way.

Things to do in Manuel Antonio

Home to a wide array of biodiversity, Manuel Antonio National Park is a rainforest that is home to many hiking trails and pristine beaches. The best way to experience Manual Antonio is simply by exploring it, but there are also many activities here that are perfect for an adventurous traveler like you.

It’s also one of the best stops along the Costa Rica 7 days itinerary because of its wildlife watching opportunities and wonderful scenery 🤩

Best tours of Manuel Antonio National Park

  • Hire a guide to see wildlife –Going on a tour with a licensed guide is the best way to see some of the best wildlife in this national park such as sloths, frogs, snakes, and other animals that call this place home.
  • Damas Island – one of the most popular day trips from Manuel Antonio, Damas Island is home to the largest mangrove system in Central America where you can spot many beautiful animals such as monkeys, snakes, and even anteaters.
  • Catamaran cruise – jump on a catamaran tour to experience the beauty of this national park. Catamaran tours leave daily from Manuel Antonio with the most popular times at sunset.
  • Playa Biesanz – a hidden spot in Manuel Antonio, this beach requires some effort because of the rocky path that leads to it, however, the effort is well worth it: Once you arrive here, there’s a good chance you will have this entire place to yourself. If you plan to come here, make sure to put on good sturdy sandals.
  • Parasailing – Parasailing along the coast of Manuel Antonio is pure joy. The best way to do that is Playa Espadilla Norte from where you can take a 20- minute parasailing tour with one of the local companies.


While Manuel Antonio National Park is located along the small town called Manuel Antonio, the biggest nearby town is called Quepos and if you don’t have a car, you can catch a bus between Manuel Antonio and Quepos every 15 minutes.

If you plan to staying in Quepos, I suggest Selva Linda Lodge located in a gorgeous jungle setting or Casa Belavia with a private pool and garden.

The town of Manuel Antonio stretches for about 6 kilometers and has a variety of accommodations, restaurants and bars geared toward tourists.

I hope you enjoyed my overview of 7 days in Costa Rica and now can plan your dream trip to this beautiful Central American country. I will be happy to help you with some tips an advice, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Returning to San Jose to catch your flight

Spend the rest of your day in Manuel Antionio before driving back to San Jose to catch your flight back home.

While you won’t cover the entire country during 7 days in Costa Rica, you will see major highlights. I hope you enjoy your journey and come back to explore more later.

Final thoughts on spending 7 days in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a small, but incredibly scenic country with many scenic vistas, national parks and protected areas. Although you can see only a small part of all the country’s wonderful treasures during 7 days in Costa Rica, you can easily see some of the biggest highlights and get a great introduction to this country.