Costa Rica is a beautiful country located in Central America. From stunning beaches to lush forests, the country has so much to offer. I spent 7 days in Costa Rica exploring Nosara, Monteverde, and Arenal. If you want to follow in my footsteps or just looking for some ideas of what to do in Costa Rica, here’s my Costa Rica Itinerary.
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- Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica. If you’re visiting high tourism areas, many of the people will speak english. However, it’s good to know a little Spanish or have a translator on your phone.
- The currency in Costa Rica is the Colón. Most places take credit/debit cards, but it’s good to have some local currency on you for smaller vendors. You can exchange currency/get money from one of the local banks like Scotiabank.
- Costa Rica is a generally safe country. Like most places, use common sense and you’ll be fine.
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
If you’re looking to dodge the rain, the best time to visit Costa Rica is mid-December-April. We visited in November which is considered a shoulder season month, and we encountered rain nearly every day. Monteverde was the rainiest, followed by Arenal, and then Nosara. If I make it back, I would aim to visit in January or February.
About this Costa Rica Itinerary
This Costa Rica itinerary is go, go, go. There are bits of relaxation, but it’s very much an adventure.
Also, this Costa Rica itinerary involves quite a bit of moving, which means you’ll need a car. Having a car just makes it easier to get around and provides a level of flexibility that transfer services don’t.
So, if you’re down, continue reading for an adventure-filled one week Costa Rica itinerary.
One Week in Costa Rica Itinerary
Arriving in Costa Rica
There are two major airports in Costa Rica, SJO and LIB. Depending on what cities you want to visit, it may be more convenient to fly in Liberia. For this itinerary, we started and ended in San Jose, so we flew into SJO.
Once we arrived in San Jose, we were picked up from the airport by Adobe, our rental car company, and taken to the rental facility. Everyone loves Adobe because there are no hidden fees added to your bill upon arrival, a common occurrence in Costa Rica. You’ll think you got a great deal but once you go to pick up the car there’ll be hundreds of dollars added to the bill. Don’t get blindsided, book with Adobe.
If you’ve arrived early in the morning, you can make your way to Nosara, the first destination of this itinerary. Just make a brief stop in San Jose, to pick up a sim card from Kolbi and some snacks for your journey.
If you’ve arrived in the afternoon or at night, stay the night in San Jose. It’s not recommended for first timers to drive at night in Costa Rica, so you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of daylight when beginning a journey.
Day 1-2: Nosara
Nosara is a beach town located on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula about 150 miles from San Jose and 80 miles from Liberia.
A lot of yoga retreats are hosted in Nosara and many of the resorts offer classes, making Nosara a popular destination for yogis. Whether you’re into yoga or not, Nosara makes for a great stop on a Costa Rica itinerary.
You can enjoy some time on one of the many beautiful beaches, go zip lining, or take an ATV Tour. Also, if you enjoy stand-up paddle boarding or you want to try it, Nosara offers a SUP mangrove tour. You’ll learn about Costa Rican plants and wildlife, while paddling down a calm river. After some time on the water, you’ll make a pit stop at a small beach where you’ll enjoy some refreshments before making the return paddle. I highly recommend this tour because it’s relaxing, educational, and a good intro to Costa Rica.
We also took a sunset catamaran cruise which was really nice except for the microscopic jellyfish by where we stopped to swim. No, we didn’t jump in knowing they were there, we were told after getting in the water.
Where to Eat/Drink
For food, make sure to eat at La Luna, a beautiful beach front restaurant. If you’re staying at the Nosara Beach Hotel, the restaurant is pretty much on site and can be reached by a quick 5 minute walk.
Watch the Nosara Vlog
Day 3: Monteverde
Leave out early on day 3 to make your way to Monteverde. Monteverde is known for its cloud forests and zip lining. You’ll definitely want to book a tour at Selvatura Adventure Park to check out the hanging bridges and zip through the lush cloud forest. Just know tours operate rain or shine. We ended up zip lining through what felt like a hurricane, but it honestly made it more fun.
We only spent one night in Monteverde, because all we really wanted to do there was zip line and check out the bridges. If you’d rather spend 2 nights in Monteverde, you can use one of the Arenal/La Fortuna days.
Where to Eat/Drink
Cafe Zocara is a good place to grab coffee, and if you’re into steaks Toro Tinto is a good place to eat in Monteverde. On the other hand, many guides will tell you to eat at Taco Taco, but none of us enjoyed it. It took awhile for us to get our food, and the tacos certainly weren’t anything to write home about.
Watch the Monteverde Vlog
Day 4-6:Arenal/La Fortuna
Wrap up your week in Costa Rica in Arenal/La Fortuna. There’s plenty to see and do in this area, so I recommend spending 3 nights here but like I said above, if you want more time in Monteverde you can steal a night from here.
Arenal/La Fortuna is known for the Arenal Volcano and the surrounding natural hot springs. We stayed at the wonderful Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, and had daily access to the hot springs as part of our stay. If you can swing it, staying here is worth every penny. If not, you can still access the springs by purchasing a day pass.
While spending your time in Arenal relaxing and enjoying the springs would be totally acceptable, there’s some other awesome things to do in La Fortuna that shouldn’t be missed.
For instance, the La Fortuna waterfall is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Costa Rica and I can definitely see why. The waterfall is absolutely beautiful and worth climbing the 500+ steps it takes to get back up from it. If you’d rather not climb the stairs, there is a viewpoint that you can see the waterfall from but there’s nothing like being at the base of it. Plus, there are plenty of areas to rest on your way back up should you need it.
If you’re looking for some tours to do in La Fortuna, check out Desafio. We took a class 3 white water rafting tour down the Balsa River with them, and we all agree that it was one of the best things we did while in Costa Rica. We also went canyoning (waterfall rappelling) with PureTrek, and while it’s cool to say we’ve done it, it wasn’t as amazing as we thought it’d be.
Where to Eat/Drink
Breakfast was included with our stay at Tabacón (it was awesome!) and the tours we took fed us lunch. For dinner, we dined at the 2 restaurants on Tabacon’s property and an Italian place in La Fortuna. I recommend eating at Tucanes which is one of the restaurants at Tabacon. The ambience is incredible, and my lava stone steak and cocktail were both delicious.
Watch the La Fortuna Vlog
Day 7: Leave Costa Rica
After spending 3 nights in Arenal, head back to San Jose to complete your one week in Costa Rica itinerary. If you have time in San Jose, check out some of the markets for souvenirs.
How many days should you visit Costa Rica?
This one week itinerary is very ambitious and go, go, go, but it can be done. However, if I had the chance to go back I would spend a minimum of 10 days in Costa Rica. There’s just so much to see and do, and there’s a couple of other things we could have done given a little more time.
Is Costa Rica expensive?
I’d say you can make Costa Rica as budget friendly or splurgy as you want. There’s plenty of affordable accommodations and places to eat, but if you’re looking for a more luxe vacation there’s plenty of options for that as well. If you’re going for more budget than baller, spend less on food and accommodations and save your money for some tours!