The tiny Central American country of Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Unlike larger, more homogenous countries, its relatively small size and striking geographic diversity make it possible for visitors to experience an impressive array of life zones in a well-planned Costa Rica one week itinerary. With the right itinerary, you can easily visit destinations as diverse as tropical beaches, impressive volcanoes, and misty cloud forests, savoring the best of Costa Rica in 7 days.
Ecotourism for Any Budget
You need at least 7 days in Costa Rica to be able to experience a satisfying taste of its eco-systems, adventure activities, and “Pura Vida” style of relaxation. A Costa Rican 7-day itinerary can accommodate a range of budgets from a family eco-adventure to a romantic luxury get-away.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls to Plan the Perfect Itinerary
There are immeasurable ways to experience 7 days in Costa Rica. Our experienced in-country itinerary specialists can curate the ideal mix of destinations, accommodations, activities, and R&R for your travel style and needs. Before you begin, it is important to thoughtfully consider your trip priorities, define the type of experience you wish to have, and be mindful of the interests and physical condition of each traveler in your group.
Although it is tempting to want to visit all corners of this amazing country, squeezing too many destinations into a one-week itinerary is a recipe for exhaustion and disaster. Common pitfalls of planning your own itinerary include scheduling too many activities in too many locations, resulting in a grueling trip spent mostly on the road rather than actually enjoying each location and its unique attractions. Don’t be fooled by what looks like inches on a map. They can actually translate to unexpected hours of travel time due to local road conditions and seasonal weather patterns.
The Best of Costa Rica: What to See and Do
An ideal Costa Rica itinerary for 7 days with family, honeymooners, or adventure-seekers combines beach, rainforest, ecotourism, wildlife, culture, and relaxation in a seamless flow from one unique location to the next. There are so many tourism activities and destinations to choose from, that the challenge is actually narrowing down which ones are the best fit for you.
In a 7-day Costa Rica itinerary, eco-tourists will often skip the major cities and head straight for the country’s main attraction–nature. Whether you decide to fly into Juan Santamaría airport in Costa Rica’s central valley or Liberia in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, it is important to have ground transportation arranged to whisk you towards your first destination or a comfortable jumping-off point such as a boutique B&B on the foothills of Poás Volcano.
Costa Rica is renowned worldwide for its network of national parks and private reserves, which are the perfect backdrop for viewing wildlife in their natural habitat. You can see exotic species such as morpho butterflies, white-faced capuchin monkeys, tree sloths, poison dart frogs, iguanas, and scarlet macaws. The best way to learn about these amazing creatures is by including a tour with a naturalist guide who can answer all of your questions and provide a professional scope for wildlife viewing and photography.
Tiquicia, as Costa Rica is known by locals, has a hearty spread of food and agricultural tours that each explore the ins-and-outs of major exports such as coffee, chocolate, pineapples, and bananas. Consider whether you will include a tour that allows you to learn first-hand how your cup of joe made its journey from a Central American plantation to your palate.
From the Mountain to the Sea
The unique geographical features, microclimates, elevations, species, and scenery in each of Costa Rica’s 11 “life zones” create a delightful contrast as you make your way through the country. Make sure to enjoy the view at elevation, whether you prefer to journey through to the Talamanca mountains of the Caribbean slope, the world-famous cloud forest reserves at Monteverde, or the lush rainforests at the foothills of Arenal Volcano.
Costa Rica boasts two coasts, with both the Pacific and Caribbean both offering postcard-worthy sandy beaches, palm trees, mischievous monkeys and local cultural flavor. For a 7-day trip, it is advisable to choose which coast you wish to take your rays on, which can also depend on the season. Experience the Afro-Caribbean culture in Cahuita, or on the Pacific side, the wildlife National Park at Manuel Antonio or the wild frontier of Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula.
Exploring by Land, Water, and Air
A well-balanced Costa Rica one-week itinerary combines activities on land, water and even in the air. To explore Costa Rica with both feet on the ground there are hiking trails through tropical ecosystems, bird-watching tours, night tours, and many volcanoes, some with walking access to the crater.
Be sure your itinerary includes some of Costa Rica’s aquatic attractions such as therapeutic geothermal hot springs, majestic waterfalls, and oceans the temperature of bath water. You can include boat and snorkeling at coral reefs or surfing at the beach or windsurfing at Lake Arenal. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, white water rafting on the Pacuare River, which flows through virgin tropical rainforest and magnificent stone canyons, is a must.
A great way to get a birds-eye view of the rainforest canopy is by including a zip line canopy tour or hanging bridges hike. Although there are canopy tours and hanging bridges available throughout the country, Arenal and Monteverde provide some of the most biologically diverse rainforest and cloud forests environments in which to do so.
Making it Happen
The quality of your 7-day itinerary can make or break your experience in Costa Rica. For a short trip, you want to maximize the diversity of destinations and activities, while minimizing travel time from point A to point B. The best way to do this is to consult with our itinerary specialists who can hone in on the ideal experiences and pace for you and your group to successfully plan an unforgettable adventure in paradise. Please feel free to contact us using the form below!
John Rabenau has been working in the eco-tourism & adventure travel industry in Costa Rica since 2002. He has worked in a variety of capacities from Outdoor Educator & Principle Guide to Itinerary Design Manager & Business Owner for numerous organizations. He has grown Costa Rica Escapes into one of the most reputable Costa Rica travel agencies since its creation in 2006, hosting more than 5,000 people with custom vacation itineraries.