A perfect week in Costa Rica

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Imagine you have a free week to travel and explore the beauty and adventure of Costa Rica. With towering volcanoes, lush rainforests, incredible wildlife, and breathtaking beaches, it can be hard to figure out how to spend your limited time. This one-week Costa Rican itinerary packs in the best of this Central American gem so you can fully experience the pura vida lifestyle.

Everyone travels differently. It’s recommended to explore the destinations in Costa Rica to see what interests you most. Working with a Costa Rica itinerary provider (such as this one) and knowing Costa Rica’s airports will also greatly help your travel planning.

Day 1: Explore the Arenal Volcano

National park in🇨🇷 Costa Ricarated

Kick off your week of travel with a trip to Arenal Volcano National Park. Situated northwest of the capital city San José, this area is home to one of Costa Rica's most iconic natural sights. Arenal Volcano looms large over the countryside, often capped with clouds even when not actively erupting.

Start with a moderate hike on the Arenal 1968 Trail. As you walk through the lush forest at the volcano's base, your guide will explain the history of its eruptions over the years. Finish the trek with a reward—a relaxing soak in nearby Tabacón Hot Springs. These natural, mineral-rich pools sit right along a river, with the mighty volcano visible in the background.

Spend the night in the small town of La Fortuna. It was renamed after the 1968 eruption, when the lava flowed down the other side of the volcano, sparing the town. Wander the main street, sample delectable local cuisine, or visit more springs before retiring for the evening.

Explore Arenal Volcano National Park

Day 2: Zipline through the Monteverde Cloud Forest

Nature reserve in🇨🇷 Costa Ricarated

On your second day, head northwest to the mountainous Monteverde region. This area is actually a cluster of small communities situated around the incredible Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. A ziplining canopy tour is a thrilling way to explore these lush, misty forests.

Strap into your harness, take a leap off the platform and zoom through the treetops on cables up to half a mile long. Expert guides will point out exotic flora and fauna unique to this rare ecosystem. If you're lucky, you might even spot the resplendent quetzal, an exceptionally beautiful bird once revered by ancient Central American cultures.

After your adrenaline rush, stretch your legs on one of the reserve's numerous hiking trails. The paths wind through dripping, vibrant green rainforest understory bursting with life. Watch for playful monkeys swinging through branches, tiny dart frogs, peaceful sloths, and over 400 species of birds.

Spend the evening recovering from all the adventure and excitement with dinner at one of Monteverde's excellent restaurants. Be sure to try some of Costa Rica's delicious coffee too. The rich volcanic soil here makes for some of the best in the world.

Explore Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Day 3: Beach day at Manuel Antonio National Park

National park in🇨🇷 Costa Ricarated

What Costa Rican vacation would be complete without some time on the beach? Just a few hour's drive southwest near Quepos lies Manuel Antonio National Park, home to some of the country's most idyllic stretches of sand. Wake up early and take a pre-park breakfast cruise along the coast. These catamaran tours often include a light morning meal along with opportunities to go snorkeling and spy dolphins or whales offshore.

After your cruise, spend the afternoon relaxing on gorgeous Espadilla Sur Beach, the park's most popular swimming beach. Its warm, blue waters are perfect for swimming, snorkeling around the nearby rocky coves, or just sunbathing. Keep an eye out for white-faced capuchin monkeys too. These curious primates are used to humans and may come right down to the beach to beg for snacks!

In the late afternoon, explore some of the park's rainforest hiking trails. The paths here are short, wide, and mostly paved, making it easy to discover more extraordinary wildlife. You'll likely spot more mischievous monkeys, noisy tropical bird flocks, and maybe even some sloths or coatis. Make sure to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean before heading back to your beachside hotel for a delicious dinner of fresh seafood.

Explore Manuel Antonio National Park

Day 4: Turtle nesting on the Caribbean coast

National park in🇨🇷 Costa Ricarated

On day four, embark on a bit of a journey to reach the opposite side of Costa Rica. Land transportation and ferries can take several hours to traverse the country here, but the sights are well worth it. Head to the northeast coast and Tortuguero National Park, one of the world's prime turtle nesting destinations.

This park protects over 20 miles of remote, pristine beaches where four species of sea turtles lay their eggs each year. Depending on the season, you may get to witness these gentle giants haul themselves ashore at night to nest, or you may even watch hatchlings emerge and scramble out to sea. Out-of-nesting season, the park still bursts with biodiversity, including manatees, monkeys, and over 300 bird species.

Stay the night in the tiny village of Tortuguero, accessible only by boat or plane. While rustic, the local culture here is wonderfully vibrant and authentically Costa Rican. Make sure to try some delicious Caribbean-influenced cuisine incorporating flavors like coconut and cilantro.

Explore Tortuguero National Park

Day 5: Surf and sunbathe in Tamarindo

Village in🇨🇷 Costa Ricarated

Midweek, make your way to the vibrant surf village of Tamarindo along Costa Rica's northern Pacific coast. The laidback pura vida culture that defines the country thrives in this small but lively beach town. Spend the earlier part of your day learning how to surf Tamarindo's famous waves. Excellent year-round conditions make this an ideal spot for beginners and advanced surfers alike. Local instructors will teach you surfing fundamentals on the sandy beach before accompanying you into the water to practice riding the swells.

Afterward, treat any surfing soreness with a beachfront massage or some time sunbathing on the sand. When evening rolls around, enjoy a stunning sunset, then explore Tamarindo's nightlife. Funky restaurants and bars come alive after dark, many featuring live music or DJs. Don't be surprised if you meet fellow travelers here and end up chatting late into the warm tropical night.

Explore Tamarindo

Day 6: Marvel at La Fortuna waterfall

Village in🇨🇷 Costa Ricarated

Drag yourself out of bed early the next morning for the drive to La Fortuna Waterfall. Located close to the Arenal Volcano area you visited earlier in the week, this towering cascade drops nearly 200 feet into a wide pool ideal for swimming.

Prepare for a bit of a downhill hike on a steep but short jungle trail before you catch your first glimpse of these thundering falls. Pause at the overlook for some photos of the entire breathtaking scene engulfed by vibrant greenery. Then clamber down the rocky path to the pool for a brisk refreshing dip beneath the torrents of water crashing down around you.

After drying off, head into the town of La Fortuna again for lunch and shopping. Make sure to pick up some artisanal crafts or delicious chocolate made from the country's top-quality cacao. Spend the afternoon relaxing in one of the area's many hot springs before toasting to the end of your adventurous week in Costa Rica over a gourmet meal.

Explore La Fortuna

Day 7: Wildlife spotting at Corcovado National Park

National park in🇨🇷 Costa Ricarated

For the grand finale of your Costa Rican escape, make your way far southwest to remote Corcovado National Park. Part of the vast Osa Peninsula jutting into the Pacific Ocean, this preserve protects the last remaining lowland Pacific rainforests in the country. The incredible biodiversity here is unmatched anywhere else in Central America.

With limited accommodations existing around Corcovado, most people choose to stay just north of the park in Drake Bay. Book yourself onto a full-day wildlife viewing boat tour into the park's interior. Your experienced naturalist guide will expertly pilot you up the Sirena River, deep inside Corcovado, in search of creatures.

This park is home to all four of Costa Rica's monkey species, making howler, capuchin, spider, and squirrel monkey sightings nearly guaranteed. If you're particularly fortunate though, you may catch a glimpse of the extremely endangered Baird's tapir wandering the riverbanks or crashing through the underbrush. Other rare wildlife includes harpy eagles, giant anteaters, and maybe even a reclusive jaguar if luck is really on your side.

Explore Corcovado National Park

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