Rough Draft: One Week Itinerary for Costa Rica

December 2020

Due to the COVID quarantine, I am creating rough draft, “off the shelf” travel itineraries for when travel resumes normal operations so we do not waste any time getting out and exploring!

Costa Rica popped up on my “rough draft” list because this country has opened their boarders to international travelers. The first iteration required negative COVID testing within 72 hours of travel but when I checked the requirements recently, that has even been dropped. An online health assessment must be completed and provide proof of travel insurance what would cover COVID treatment or quarantine costs. Not too bad! (Update: As this year has gone, these have already changed and now the US requires a test upon arrival – make sure to always check the requirements in both destinations!)

I know quite a few people who have traveled to Costa Rica with overwhelmingly positive experiences so I was definitely looking forward to creating the itinerary. A week in Costa Rica is actually not a ton of time to see everything. There are popular places that travel bloggers seem to focus on and for good reason – I had no idea how much there was to see and do. Besides the active portions of hiking, rappelling, canyoning, rafting, and more – there is a ton of wildlife including the very popular sloths and all sorts of new birds for Kevin to find.

What is there to do?

Let’s break it down by the stops along the route I have mapped out. One thing that makes seeing a lot of places in a week here is the need to have a car. Many people recommend not driving at night or in the dark so long drives can consume valuable time. There are non-car options but it seems like a car is the best way to go.

San Jose – the location where you will most likely be traveling in and out of. Many itineraries I found spent little to no time here with a short itinerary due to how much there is to see outside the city. If you are choosing a longer trip and plan on staying in San Jose, here are some great places to visit:

  • Toucan Rescue Ranch
  • Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center
  • Doka Coffee Tour
  • Braulio Carrillo National Park
  • La Paz Waterfall 
  • Poas Volcano

La Fortuna – A very popular destination to explore the rain forest and volcano! There is really an endless amount of things to do here and can easily spend the entire week here.

  • Cavernas de Venado
  • Waterfall rapelling and canyoning
  • White water rafting
  • La Fortuna waterfall
  • Chato Volcano
  • Hot Springs 
  • Arenal Volcano National Park / Arenal Observatory 
  • Chocolate and coffee tours
  • Hanging Bridges
    • Arenal Sky Adventures park – 4 suspension bridges, 2 waterfalls
    • Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park – 6 suspension bridges, 1 waterfall, night walk option
    • Sky Walk Monteverde – 5 suspension brides, night walk option
    • Selvatura Park – 6 suspension bridges

Manuel Antonio – you cannot go to Costa Rica without some beach time and there are so many options. I picked Manuel Antonio due to the combination of activities that can be

  • Manuel Antonio National Park (closed Mondays)
  • Beaches – Manual Antonia Beach, Espadilla Beach, Biesanz Beach,
  • Isla Damas and the mangroves
  • White water rafting

Where to eat?

There seem to be no shortage of great food wherever you go in Costa Rica – just watch out for those tourist locations and you will be able to indulge in authentic, fresh cuisine. Here are the places I have marked to visit:

La FortunaMonteverdeManuel Antonio
Nanku
Don Rufino
Rain Forest
Tierra Mia
Chifa La Familia Feliz
Soda Mima
Rando Perla
Tipico La Yunta
Panaderia Jimenez
Tico y Rico
Taco Taco Taqueria
Baldi’s Fresh Restaurant
Agua Azul

Based on the above information and the proximity of each activity, here is how I would structure a week in Costa Rica!

Activity
Day 0MorningArrive / Rent car
Drive to La Fortuna
AfternoonLa Fortuna Waterfall
Evening Downtown / Sloth Watching Trail
Day 1Morning Day Adventure
– Cavernas de Venado
– Waterfall rappelling / canyoning
Afternoon
EveningHot springs
Day 2MorningChato Volcano Hike
AfternoonArenal Volcano National Park / Arenal Observatory
Evening
Day 3Morning Arenal Hanging Bridges
AfternoonDrive to Monteverde
EveningNight walk at Sky Adventure Park
Day 4MorningCloud Forest Hanging Bridges
AfternoonDrive to Manuel Antonio
Evening
Day 5MorningManuel Antonio National Park
AfternoonChocolate and Coffee Tour
Evening
Day 6MorningWhite water rafting
(location season dependent)
AfternoonBeach
Evening
Day 7MorningKayak Isla Damas Mangrove
AfternoonBeach
Evening
Day 8MorningDepart

If you have been to Costa Rica, let me know what I missed and what your favorites are!

Don’t forget to check out all DESKRIB itineraries here!

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