With so many great outdoor and adventurous activities, Costa Rica is one of the best adventure travel destinations.
In fact, did you know that Costa Rica follows plenty of comprehensive conservation programs that protect over 25% of the country? Today, most of this percentage is part of the country's national parks.
Costa Rica is truly a heaven for nature and adventurer lovers, especially those solo traveling through Costa Rica! So, if you're already trying to figure out what a perfect 7-day trip to Costa Rica looks like, you're in the right place.
Once you arrive in Costa Rica, you'll find yourself in some of the planet's most heavenly and biologically diverse landscapes! You'll be surrounded by lush rainforests, astonishing crystal-clear waters, abundant wildlife, and spectacular mountain views.
There are too many things to do in Costa Rica to explore in just a few days. Still, I want to make sure you can make the most out of your trip to Costa Rica. Here is my guide for the best 7-day itinerary to the most incredible adventure destinations that satisfy your adventurous heart.
If you're planning a shorter and longer itinerary in Costa Rica, feel free to take bits and pieces of my itinerary for your trip!
Learn more from the rest of our Costa Rica series…
- Navigate Costa Rican airports like a local
- Find the best areas to stay
- Stay at a Costa Rica hostels that won’t disappoint
- Don’t miss out on these local spots—the best places to go in Costa Rica
- Add these exciting things to do to your trip plan
- Make time for a few guided tours during your adventure
- Spend the night out enjoying Costa Rica’s nightlife
- Want to simplify your planning? Follow this 5-day itinerary
- Get our tips on budget travel in Costa Rica
- Discover the best advice for backpackers going to Costa Rica
- Find more helpful information if you’re a solo traveler
- Remember, camping in Costa Rica is also a great option!
- Dive into our snorkeling guide—essential tips and advice before you go
Where to go in Costa Rica?
First things first, if you haven't figured out where to go in Costa Rica, that's an important decision. Costa Rica is a top destination for adventure travel.
With such diverse landscapes, I understand why it may be a tough decision. However, you'll love every second of your trip, no matter where you decide to go.
But to make things a little bit easier for you, the top destinations for adventure and outdoor activities would be Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio National Park. I'll explore these top areas here, but there are lots of other options on places to visit while in Costa Rica as well!
Located at an altitude of 1,670 meters, Arenal is one of the many volcanoes in Costa Rica. It still erupts from time to time, and if you're lucky, you may see lava flowing down the volcano.
There are many great things to do and see in this area, such as a beautiful waterfall, a national park with great hiking trails, sunset views of the lake, cave exploration, rafting options, and famous hot springs.
Monteverde is one of the country's leading cloud forests inhabited by the elusive quetzal birds. In fact, most people come to Monteverde to get a glimpse of this rare bird.
The region is one of the largest eco-tourism centers in the country and is visited by more than 250,000 people each year! Definitely a must-visit if you're an avid bird watcher or just enjoy nature.
Thanks to the vast white sandy beach and warm blue waters, Manuel Antonio is a popular beach destination. But that's not the only reason it's visited by flocks of tourists. Opened in 1972, the nearby national park attracts more than 150,000 visitors annually for its stunning hiking trails, many remote beaches, and diverse flora and fauna.
These three are the most popular destinations for adventure travelers. However, these are only the tip of Costa Rica's vast outdoor destinations.
Furthermore, there are so many activities you could choose from, from rafting to scuba diving to hiking to canyoning. So, if you're excited about all these options and places to experience, let's dive into how I would build a 7-day trip in Costa Rica.
Remember to grab your notebook and get ready to write down these memorable ideas!
Costa Rica's 7 day Itinerary: Top picks for the best adventures!
Day 1: From San Jose to La Fortuna
Every trip to Costa Rica probably begins in San Jose, the capital of the country. With one of the only two international airports in Costa Rica, it's safe to say you'll likely spend some time in San Jose.
San Jose definitely has its charm, but if you only got 7 days to spend in Costa Rica, the capital city itself might not be the best choice. Therefore, the best bet is to rent a car, book a shuttle or tour, or take a local bus directly to La Fortuna.
Spend your first day relaxing at your hotel and getting to know the area. I recommend trying out one of the many local restaurants to taste the best Costa Rican cuisine!
How to get to La Fortuna
By car: San Jose is about 3 hours from La Fortuna. There are paved roads between the two destinations, so you don't need a 4x4 vehicle. However, if you're going to rent a car, it's advisable to choose a car that is a little higher off the ground to avoid damage from potholes.
By bus or shuttle: The public bus to La Fortuna departs downtown San Jose once a day at 8:40 am and arrives at 1 pm and costs 3,000 kronor, about 5 USD. You can also book a shuttle directly from the airport.
Where to stay in La Fortuna
La Fortuna has plenty of excellent accommodation for every budget. However, the best lodging and campgrounds are just outside La Fortuna. If you are looking for unique accommodation, consider staying at a hot spring hotel where hot springs are included in the price per night.
For the best overall experience and budget for your accommodation, why not try out some the amazing hostels in Costa Rica?
Day 2: Rappelling and Canyoning at Arenal
Once you've settled and are ready for adventuring on day two, you should plan for the Arenal Volcano.
The Arenal Volcano towers over La Fortuna and is the top destination for adventure travel lovers looking for an adrenaline rush. In fact, La Fortuna is also proclaimed as the heart of adventure activities in all of Costa Rica.
While exploring the volcanic area, you will find many canyoning and rappelling tours combined with horseback riding, canopy tours, or white-water rafting. All can be an exciting addition to your favorite adventure activities.
Furthermore, you don't need any experience rappelling down the roaring waterfall, so if you feel impulsive and ready to try something new, don't hesitate to try it out.
Day 3: Drive to Monteverde
After exploring the beautiful city of La Fortuna and their volcano, follow the road to the next town called Monteverde. Prepare to make stops along the way since there are lots of great things to see before you get to Monteverde!
One stop you can't miss is the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges. These unique bridges hang between the rainforest canopies, where you can find amazing animals such as sloths, tarantulas, and frogs. Cross the bridge and look down on stunning forests, rivers, and even waterfalls from an incredible height of 45 meters!
How to get to Monteverde
By car: There is a national park between La Fortuna and Monteverde. Therefore, even though the town is nearby, you'll need to drive around Lake Arenal to get there. Fortunately, it's a breathtaking drive of three hours, so you will surely enjoy it.
All the roads around the lake are well paved, but it is best to have a slightly stronger car for minimum damage from potholes or steep hills.
By bus or shuttle: Buses directly from La Fortuna to Monteverde take about 7 to 8 hours. However, you won't be able to go to Mistico if you go by bus, and that's why alternatively, you can take a shared shuttle van.
Where to stay in Monteverde
Monteverde offers a variety of accommodation options, from cabins in the woods to hostels in Santa Elena.
Day 4: Zip Lining in Monteverde Cloud Forest
Once you arrive at Monteverde, you'll have lots of adventure awaiting you! Although you can take a simple tour of this biological reserve, there's lots of others way to experience it.
Monteverde is at the tip of the country's continental divide, towering above the iconic seaside towns on the Costa Rican coast. Known for its abundant biodiversity, you will find a cloud forest blooming with every drop of rain and warm sunlight.
To get a glimpse into the region's unique microclimate, you should try ziplining! Choose a canopy tour to fly high over the top of the trees or walk along the hanging bridges suspended in the rainforest for miles.
Day 5: Drive to Manuel Antonio
Head from the cloud forests of Monteverde to the beaches of Manuel Antonio. This coastal village surrounded by lush jungles and pristine white sandy beaches, as already mentioned, is most famous for Manuel Antonio National Park.
Arrive at Manuel Antonio around noon, relax at Playa Espadilla Norte, or opt for a chocolate and coffee tour.
How to get to Manuel Antonio
By car: The drive from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio is four hours. It's the longest drive on this 7-day Costa Rica itinerary, but it is the easiest. All the roads are good, and you don't need a 4x4 car.
You'll have the chance to stop by the famous Crocodile Bridge and see the crocodiles. But remember, do not buy meat from vendors as animal feeding is a bad example of wildlife tourism.
By bus or shuttle: Unfortunately, there is no direct bus from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio. Instead, you take the Santa Elena bus to Puntarenas and change to the bus to Quepos. When you reach Quepos, change to the bus for Manuel Antonio.
The entire trip takes about 6 to 8 hours and costs about 10 USD. If you prefer less trouble, you can also book a direct shuttle between the two destinations.
Where to stay in Manuel Antonio
The closer the accommodation is to Manuel Antonio National Park, the higher the cost. Therefore, especially if you are on a budget, staying in a hostel between Quepos and the national park might be better.
Day 6: Sea Kayaking at Manuel Antonio National Park
On day six of your Costa Rican adventure, set aside the entire day to explore Manuel Antonio National Park.
As one of Costa Rica's most popular beach destinations, many explore the Manuel Antonio coastline, including mangrove swamps, lagoons, beach vegetation, striking jagged cliffs, and unique rock formations. But what makes it even better is that this marine adventure is suitable for everyone, from beginners to intermediate adventure travelers.
The national park offers impressive views of islands and bays, lush rainforests, and unique seabirds such as frigates and pelicans. Flying fish and sea turtles dominate the water, and vibrant coral reef fish color the water.
Some half-day kayak tours also include snorkeling, which is an excellent opportunity to explore the underwater world.
Day 7: Drive back to San Jose
All adventures eventually end, and unfortunately, this is the final day of your 7 days in Costa Rica. Make your way again to SJO airport.
If you have a late flight, why not go to one more waterfall to say goodbye to Costa Rica's mesmerizing nature. After arriving in San Jose, if you need accommodation for one last night before your flight, choose a motel in the district of Alajuela near the airport.
And if you're hoping to celebrate the end of your adventurous trip with a bang, you can try and catch some of the amazing nightlife in Costa Rica. Just make sure to keep an eye on your watch and to get to the airport in time to catch your flight!
Plan your Costa Rica Itinerary with Pilot!
Costa Rica is undoubtedly the destination for the best, craziest, and most unforgettable adventure trip you'll ever go to. There are many things to do with so many captivating tropical beaches, jungles, stunning landscapes, and fun outdoor activities.
Now that you know all of the best places to go in Costa Rica, make sure you start planning your trip with Pilot!