Wonderful week travel in Costa Rica Itinerary

Ultimate 7-day itinerary in Costa Rica

Traveling to Costa Rica is a dream for nature lovers. It is relatively easy to get around, especially when renting a car. However, local buses are a good option if you are traveling on a budget. Here’s how to spend 7 days in Costa Rica.

Day 1: San José to La Fortuna

Your trip to Costa Rica probably starts in San Jose, the country’s capital and one of only two international airports. San Jose itself is not worth visiting if you only have 7 days in Costa Rica. Therefore, it is better to rent a car, book a shuttle or a tour, or take the local bus directly to La Fortuna.

How to get from San Jose to La Fortuna

By car:

San Jose is about 3 hours from La Fortuna. There is a well-paved road between the destinations, so you don’t need a 4×4 car for this entire route if you rent a car. However, we recommend that you rent a car slightly higher from the ground to avoid damage to potholes.

Where to stay in La Fortuna

La Fortuna has many excellent accommodations that suit all budgets. However, you will find the best accommodations and campsites just outside La Fortuna if you have your means of transport. If hot springs play an important role in your itinerary in Costa Rica, consider staying at a hotel with hot springs also included in the price of the night. (Here are all your hotel options)

Day 2: Hot Springs and Arenal Volcano

Welcome to La Fortuna, a city famous for its incredible surrounding nature and its Arenal volcano. In the morning, head to Arenal National Park for the hike on the unique Arenal 1968 trail near the volcano. In addition, it is an excellent two-hour walk that takes you to a viewpoint for a good view of the volcano. (read more about this)

After this hike, relax at the natural hot springs of La Fortuna which are heated to 35-38 degrees by the Arenal volcano. Most of these sources are owned by hotels, so you have to pay for a day pass or stay at the hotel to get to them. We highly recommend Tabacon Hot Springs. However, there is also a free and public hot spring to visit.

Day 3: La Fortuna and drive to Monteverde

Head to the next town named Monteverde. However, before that, stop at the Mistico Arenal suspension bridges. These unique suspension bridges are suspended among the rainforest canopy, which means that you can spot awesome animals like sloths, tarantulas and frogs. Cross bridges and admire the beautiful forest, rivers and a waterfall with an incredible height of 45 meters (148 feet)!

How to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde

By car:

There is a national park between La Fortuna and Monteverde, so although the villages are close, you have to go around Lake Arenal to get to Monteverde. Fortunately, it’s a great drive of about 3 hours. The roads around the lake to Santa Elena (town of Monteverde) are all well paved, but it is recommended to have a slightly more powerful car for the steep hills and to have a little clearance to avoid any damage caused by potholes (no 4×4 necessary to visit Monteverde).

Where to stay in Monteverde

Monteverde offers many accommodation options, from huts in the forest to hotels in Santa Elena. (See all your hotel options here)

Day 4: Monteverde

Monteverde is an ecologically diverse mountain region famous for its cloud forest. It is also a protected area where you can easily spot hummingbirds, toucans and other tropical birds. Enjoy the fresh mountain air and experience a rapidly changing weather with incredible fluctuating temperatures.

During your stay in Monteverde, plan a hike in the Monteverde Cloud Forest and a coffee or tea at the Hummingbird Cafe. After dark, take part in a guided night walk to spot the animals that only come out when it’s dark.

Day 5: drive to Manuel Antonio

From the cloud forest of Monteverde, descending to the beaches of Manuel Antonio. Manuel Antonio is a coastal village surrounded by lush jungle and pristine white sandy beaches. However, it is most famous for being home to one of the most beautiful national parks in the world: Manuel Antonio National Park. Here you can spot a huge range of wild animals!

If you arrive in Manuel Antonio around noon, relax at the beach, Playa Espadilla Norte, or opt for a Chocolate and coffee tour.

By bus or shuttle

Unfortunately, there is no direct bus between Monteverde and Manuel Antonio. Instead, take the bus from Santa Elena (Manuel Antonio) to Puntarenas and change buses to Quepos. Once in Quepos, change buses to Manuel Antonio. The total trip will take about 6-8 hours and should cost about 10 USD.

Where to stay in Manuel Antonio

The closer your accommodation is to Manuel Antonio National Park, the more expensive it costs. Therefore, we recommend that you stay between Quepos and the National Park if you have your own transport. (See all your hotel options here)

Day 6: Manuel Antonio National Park

Finish the 7-day itinerary in Costa Rica on the wild and tropical beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park. The park is one of the best national parks in the world, famous for its many animals and biodiversity. In addition, there are many beautiful trails through the park. Expect to see animals like sloths, snakes, monkeys and much more.

The trail ends at the beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio Beach and Espadilla South Beach, which are also part of the protected area. Spend the rest of the day relaxing and swimming at the beach or spotting wild and colorful iguanas that are always around the beach.

Day 7: return to San Jose

All great adventures come to an end, and unfortunately, this is the last day of your 7 days in Costa Rica. Return to SJO airport, or if you have a flight at the end of the day, you can visit another waterfall (like La Paz). If you need a hotel close to the airport, stay in Alajuela instead of San Jose.

How to visit Costa Rica in 7 days

Getting to Costa Rica

There are two international airports in Costa Rica. San Jose International Airport is where the majority of flights arrive. Immigration lines are always long here, so keep that in mind. The second option is Roberts International Airport in Liberia. If you are traveling to Liberia instead of San Jose, you can still do this 7-day itinerary in Costa Rica.

Getting Around in Costa Rica

By Car

The easiest way, by far, to get around Costa Rica is with a rental car. In addition, you have the freedom to stop wherever you want, at your own pace, which gives you the flexibility to complete your 7-day itinerary in Costa Rica. It is good to know that rental car prices double in high season.

Driving in Costa Rica

Contrary to the stories you may have heard or read before, most of the roads in Costa Rica are well paved and in good condition. The only unpaved road you might experience on this route is if you take the wrong road from La Fortuna to Monteverde. For this reason, always use the Waze app in Costa Rica to find the right roads.

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