Taylor-Tabacon1

A woman at La Fortuna Waterfall - what you must include on a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

Costa Rica is a magical country filled with towering volcanoes, luscious rainforests, breathtaking waterfalls, relaxing thermal springs, beautiful beaches, amazing hiking trails, memorable adventures and incredible wildlife all around. I had the opportunity to visit Costa Rica in April 2021 and am so excited to share the best 7 day itinerary with you.

During my one week in Costa Rica, Caitlin of My Darling Passport and myself had the opportunity to spend 3 days in the La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano area, 2 days in the cloud forest of Monteverde and another 2 days on the Pacific Coast at Peninsula Papagayo.

Two women having breakfast at Hotel Belmar in Monteverde

Traveling to Costa Rica was special for me because it is a very sacred country that lives off the “Pura Vida” mindset. During a trip to Costa Rica, you will be greeted with “Pura Vida” by most locals. This famous saying means “Pure Life” in Spanish. It is a Costa Rican philosophy that encourages the appreciation of life’s simple treasures. It also means slowing things down, celebrating good fortune, refusing to take anything for granted and enjoying a laid-back lifestyle.

Pura Vida also means living life to the fullest. In fact, it is more than just a saying, it’s a lifestyle! I am excited to show you all how Costa Ricans live the “Pure Life” in this 7 day Costa Rica itinerary.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


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7 day Costa Rica itinerary

Traveling to Costa Rica in 2021:

A woman ziplining in Monteverde's cloud forest - what you must include in a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

There is no testing requirement to travel to Costa Rica! However, you will need to fill out a Health Pass form within 48 hours prior to departure to Costa Rica. You will also need to purchase a recommended travel insurance. After I filled everything out on the Costa Rica Health Pass form, a QR code was sent to my email where I presented it upon arrival at airport customs.

In addition, with the USA CDC travel requirements for re-entry into the United States (as of January 26, 2021) everyone will need to submit either a negative rt-PCR test result within 72 hours prior to departure back to the U.S. or a rapid Antigen negative test result within 48 hours prior to arrival in the U.S. (You will still need to get tested to come back into the United States even if you have been fully vaccinated.)

Both Caitlin and I got the Antigen test done within 48 hours prior to our departure back to the United States at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo. It costs $75 USD per person and the test is done in your hotel room.

Getting to and from Costa Rica in One Week:

A woman at Rio Celeste Waterfall - a spot you should include in a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

From Newark Airport, Caitlin and I flew to Juan Santamaría International Airport in the capital, San Jose, with a layover at Miami International Airport. From San Jose, we rented a car and drove over three hours to the La Fortuna and Arenal area in the Alajuela province.

Since we ended our Costa Rica trip on the Pacific Coast of the country, we flew home from Daniel Oduber Quirós Airport in Liberia. You can find affordable flights through Skyscanner.

Please note that the best way to get around Costa Rica is by renting a car and you do not need an international driver’s license to rent a vehicle there. Also, the best GPS to use for directions is Google Maps. If you choose to take public transportation in Costa Rica, there are numerous bus companies that will take you around the country at an affordable cost. Uber is also available in certain cities in Costa Rica and there are also city taxis as well.

7 Day Costa Rica Itinerary

A woman enjoying a coconut drink at Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
Days 1-3: La Fortuna and Arenal

Discover in detail the best things to do with 3 days in La Fortuna and Arenal.

Day 1: Arrive in San Jose and Drive to La Fortuna

Arrive in: Juan Santamaría International Airport

Where to Stay: La Fortuna/Arenal

Hotel Recommendations:

A woman at Tabacon Thermal Springs in La Fortuna

During my time in the La Fortuna and Arenal area, I stayed at Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa, which is an amazing, luxury hot springs resort, but below are my other recommendations for places to stay based on budget.

Luxury: Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa and The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal

Boutique: Nayara Gardens

Mid-Budget: The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort and Hotel Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa

Budget: Casa Luna Hotel & Spa and Casa Torre Eco-Lodge

Traditional Costa Rican seafood

Where to Eat in La Fortuna/Arenal:

Both Caitlin and I arrived in La Fortuna in the evening, so the only things we did on that day was check into Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa and grab dinner at Restaurante Don Rufino, which is a Costa Rican restaurant that features local flavors mixed with international cuisine. Overall, Don Rufino was one of the best restaurants we ate at during our time in Arenal and I highly recommend adding it to your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary!

Day 2: Relax at Tabacón Thermal Springs

A woman spending a day at Tabacon Hot Springs - what you must include in a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

My favorite part of my 3 days in La Fortuna and Arenal was spending a full day at Tabacón’s thermal springs. They are absolutely lush and relaxing and should most definitely be included in your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary.

Tabacón hot springs features different pools for everyone to enjoy and there is even a private area for those only staying at the resort! Each overnight guest automatically receives complimentary access to all of the thermal pools and they also receive exclusive access to Tabacón’s Shangri-La Gardens, which is an adults-only area.

What is also great about spending the day at Tabacón’s thermal springs are that one of the pools has a bar in it where you can enjoy tropical drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) as well as snacks and meals. Tabacón‘s springs also has another restaurant onsite that features traditional Costa Rican dishes along with international meals.

A woman relaxing at Tabacon Thermal Springs in Arenal

The springs are open to the public at 10am and closes at 10pm. As a hotel guest, you can enjoy the thermal springs before 10am each morning.

After an amazing day at Tabacón‘s hot springs, grab a delicious seafood dinner at Marisquerias Snapper’s House. This local hot spot in downtown La Fortuna is known for its fish and seafood pasta dishes. It definitely doesn’t disappoint.

Day 3: See La Fortuna Waterfall and Visit Arenal Volcano National Park

A woman at La Fortuna Waterfall

Two other must-see things in the La Fortuna and Arenal area that must be included in your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary is the La Fortuna Waterfall and Arenal Volcano National Park.

Also known as Catarata Río Fortuna, La Fortuna Waterfall is a 200-foot waterfall that is located just outside of the town of La Fortuna and it costs $18 USD to enter. (All of the proceeds go to local conservation efforts.)

To get to the waterfall, you will need to go down a 500-step staircase. It takes around 15 minutes to get down the stairs to the waterfall and around a half hour to trek back up. I highly recommend bringing a water bottle with you because the trek up the stairs can be tiring, especially if you are out of shape. (I also recommend bringing bug spray for all your outdoor adventures in Costa Rica!)

La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica

At the waterfall, you can sit along the rocks and admire the natural beauty and you can also go swimming! I highly recommend getting to La Fortuna Waterfall right when it opens (it opens anytime between 7am to 8am, depending on the day) because it does get crowded.

After your adventures at the waterfall, head back to Tabacón Resort to grab a delicious late breakfast or stop at a great place in the town of La Fortuna. A wonderful lunch spot for organic food is Organico Fortuna in downtown.

In the afternoon, head to Arenal Volcano National Park or Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal. This beautiful spot is a 29,692-acre conservation area that contains a large percentage of geologic and biological complexity. It features two volcanoes – Arenal Volcano and Chato Volcano.

A woman at Arenal Volcano National Park - a destination you must include in a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

La Fortuna is located on the eastern side of the volcano, but if you want to get a glimpse of the lava, you will need to drive to the western side. Please note though, that most of the time the top of the volcano is covered in clouds. Consider yourself lucky when you get a clear view of the entire volcano.

Some of the best things to do at Arenal Volcano National Park are to admire the views, go on a hike, zipline, enjoy horseback riding, learn about wildlife and more. Exotic animals that you can see in this area are different types of monkeys, sloths, toucans, macaws, jaguars, amphibians, crocodiles, hummingbirds, butterflies, cougars, iguanas, snakes, spiders and more.

Other great spots in Arenal Volcano National Park that you can include during your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary are the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, Venando Caves, Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge and more. You can even have fun on an ATV tour and go white-water rafting, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and even mountain biking.

It costs $15 USD to enter the National Park as an adult and depending on what adventures you decide to do, it will be an extra cost. (Costa Rica does accept U.S. Dollars and I recommend having cash on you. I also recommend using crisp dollar bills because if there is a rip in any form of cash payment, they may not be accepted.)

A woman hiking the lava trail in Arenal

If you are a hiker like myself, I recommend doing the 2.9-mile Arenal 1968 Volcano Trail, which is also known as the lava trail. It is a loop trail and is considered a moderate hike that is best to do from November through April. (I also recommend bringing a waterproof poncho in case it rains because it can at any time in Costa Rica.)

When you first start the hike, you will ascend into the tropical rainforest. Eventually, you’ll reach an area where there is all lava rock. Overall, there are so many great lookout spots and scenic views on this hike. I recommend downloading the AllTrails app to track your hike in Arenal!

After a day of adventure, savor delicious tacos and enjoy some margaritas at Spectacolar Cantina. They are, in fact, known to have the best tacos in town. Plus, this cantina features a fun ambiance!

Days 4-5: Rio Celeste and Monteverde

Discover all the best things to do with 2 days in Monteverde.

Day 4: Drive to Monteverde and Stop at Tenorio Volcano National Park

A woman at Hotel Belmar in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Where to Stay: Monteverde

Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Belmar

Where to Eat in La Fortuna/Arenal:

Another beautiful spot in Costa Rica that you must add to your 7 day itinerary is Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park, otherwise known as Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. This beautiful park is situated in the Guanacaste province in Costa Rica.

Rio Celeste Waterfall - a must visit spot during a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

Even though it is out of the way, it is worth it to visit Rio Celeste from La Fortuna to Monteverde. It costs $4 USD to park your car at Tenorio Volcano National Park and it costs $12 USD to enter the park as an adult. Not only is Rio Celeste situated in this National Park, it is also home to the dormant Tenorio Volcano itself, natural hot springs, epic hiking trails, amazing wildlife and more.

Rio Celeste is a 98-foot waterfall that plunges into a pool of glistening aqua blue water. In order to get to the waterfall, you will need to hike to get there. (It is a fairly easy hike.) Just like at La Fortuna Waterfall, you will also need to go down 250 stairs. It is pretty challenging on your way back up, but just a tad easier than at La Fortuna.

Stairs at Rio Celeste Waterfall

Other awesome patches of water to see at Tenorio Volcano National Park are Laguna Azul and El Teñidero. There are also great hiking trails that go beyond Rio Celeste that take you deeper into the rainforest and the park also boasts hanging bridges too.

It takes around 2.5 hours to drive from Tenorio Volcano National Park to Hotel Belmar in Monteverde where you’d spend the next two nights.

A woman admiring Rio Celeste Waterfall

After checking into Hotel Belmar, enjoy a lovely farm-to-table dinner at Restaurante Celajes. They offer great garden salads, homemade pesto pasta, meat dishes and more. You won’t be disappointed!

When you’re finished with dinner, head into the town of Monteverde to enjoy some of the bars and party scene, if you’re looking to have a good time. Even though Costa Rica boasts a huge expat community all throughout the country, Monteverde is where you’ll find a lot of young digital nomads looking to make memories.

Day 5: Zipline and Visit the Hanging Bridges in Monteverde

A woman enjoying a zipline excursion at The Original Canopy Tour in Monteverde - a must-do activity during a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

Your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary should not exclude a fun zipline adventure since it is where this fun activity was invented.

After savoring a delicious breakfast at Hotel Belmar, overlooking the gorgeous cloud forest, have fun ziplining on the oldest zipline in the world at The Original Canopy Tour. For $50 USD per adult and $30 USD per child, The Original Canopy Tour will take you into the cloud forest where you will enjoy 2.5 hours of ziplining with a view, repelling down and climbing up a tree and swinging through the jungle like Tarzan.

There are also three tour schedules – 7:30am; 10:30am, which is what I did and recommend, and 2:30pm. The reason why I recommend booking your zipline excursion earlier in the morning is because Monteverde is known for its torrential downpours in the afternoon. The Original Canopy Tour also offers free transportation for those staying in Monteverde.

A woman at Selvatura Park hanging bridges in Monteverde - what you must include on a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

After enjoying the excitement on your zipline excursion, head over to Selvatura Park to walk along the Treetop Walkways Suspension Bridges.

Overall, it will take you around 2 hours to walk through these cool hanging bridges and you will also enjoy stunning views of the Costa Rica cloud forest and nearby mountains. Walking through these hanging bridges will also allow you to admire beautiful flora and fauna and observe fascinating biodiversity.

For around $40 USD, for an adult ticket, you will cross eight suspension bridges of various lengths that range from 170 feet to 560 feet. Each bridge is 5 feet in width and it can hold up to 80 people. Overall, the Treetop Walkways Suspension Bridges tour consists of 1.9 miles of trails. These hanging bridges are also considered the safest in the world and can be enjoyed by everyone! It should most definitely be included in your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary.

Hanging bridges at Selvatura Park in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Caitlin and I did a self-guided tour, but if you want to do an organized group or private tour, you can schedule it for 8:30am, 11:00am, 1:00pm and 2:30pm. I recommend bringing a waterproof poncho for this activity as well!

For dinner, enjoy the restaurant scene downtown. A great Mexican restaurant to eat at in Monteverde is Taco Taco. After dinner, head back to Hotel Belmar and enjoy beer tasting at the hotel’s brewery onsite.

Days 7-8: Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Read all about the top Peninsula Papagayo exclusive resort.

Day 6: Head to Peninsula Papagyo and Relax at Four Seasons

A woman in the hot tub at Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Where to Stay: Peninsula Papagyo

Hotel Recommendation: Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Where to Eat at Four Seasons on Peninsula Papagayo:

  • Añejo
  • La Reserva
  • Bahia
  • Pesce
  • Nemare

A 7 day Costa Rica itinerary would not be complete without some time spent at the beach! What is cool about Costa Rica is that it has two coastal regions – one on the Atlantic/Caribbean side and one on the Pacific side. If you plan to go to the beach, which you should, during your Costa Rica trip, I recommend going to the Pacific side since it is a lot safer!

A woman at the beach in Costa Rica - what you must include in a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

On our 6th day, we enjoyed another great breakfast at Hotel Belmar before hopping in our rental car and driving around 3 hours to Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo. What is nice about staying at a Four Seasons Resort is that you don’t even have to leave the hotel to have a good time.

After checking into Four Seasons Costa Rica, we spent the entire day relaxing at the beach. There was really nothing better than vegging out on the beach after five full days of adventure.

What is great about staying at Four Seasons on Peninsula Papagayo is that they have so many amazing restaurants! During our beach day, Caitlin and I enjoyed delicious poke with a tropical beverage. I highly recommend it because it’s light and refreshing!

A woman relaxing at the pool at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

There are two beaches to enjoy at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, which are called Playa Virador, which is known as the sunset beach, and Playa Blanca, which is the bay beach. The resort also has three pools called Serena Pool, which is an adults-only pool, Blanca Pool that overlooks Playa Blanca and Bahia Pool, which is near the restaurants and bar. There is also a hot tub for you to relax in.

I highly recommend watching the sunset at Four Seasons during your few days there on Playa Virador. It is absolutely beautiful! After admiring a sunset, savor dinner and drinks at Bahia restaurant, which features a wood-fired open kitchen that offers a locally sourced menu with mouthwatering meals.

Day 7: Enjoy Everything Four Seasons Costa Rica Offers

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Once you’re finished savoring a delicious breakfast overlooking Playa Blanca at Bahia restaurant, head over to the spa for a well-needed massage, facial or other service catering to your needs. (I think it’s important to include a spa service on your 7 day itinerary in Costa Rica. Don’t forget, the country is all about the “Pura Vida” life!)

There are also heated and cool pools to enjoy at the Four Seasons‘ spa that overlook the bay and jungle and there is also a sauna as well. After your spa service, staff members will provide you with a ginger drink, raw cacao and fresh water to enjoy while you relax.

A woman on the Trail of Giants Tour in Costa Rica - a must-do activity during a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

After your amazing spa morning, enjoy an afternoon on the Trail of Giants Tour, where you take a golf cart tour around the breathtaking Peninsula Papagayo.

During this fun tour, you will get to explore the dry jungle and learn about the biodiversity there. You will also see different trees, plant life and wildlife such as monkeys. On this tour, you will also ride around the famous Arnold Palmer golf course and admire breathtaking coastal and bay views of Peninsula Papagayo. It’s an educational experience for all!

Once the tour is over, relax at the Four Seasons‘ pools and beaches and then enjoy a lovely Italian dinner at Pesce!

Day 8: Head Home from Liberia

Monkeys in Costa Rica

On day 8, enjoy another great breakfast at Four Seasons on Peninsula Papagayo before driving to Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia to fly home. It will take you around 45 minutes to get from the resort to the airport.


A woman enjoying her 7 day itinerary in Costa Rica

I hope you all enjoyed discovering the best 7 day itinerary for Costa Rica. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

Click here to book a cooking class during your time in Costa Rica.

Basic Facts of Costa Rica:

Currency: Costa Rican Colón (The United States Dollar is accepted everywhere!), Capital: San José, Time Zone: Costa Rica does not follow Daylight Savings. During the summer months, Costa Rica is on Mountain Standard Time and then it is on Central Standard Time during the winter months.

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*Anything could happen during your travels. Always make sure you are insured in case there are unforeseen circumstances such as lost luggage/theft, natural disasters, personal liabilities and more. Click here to get insured for your next trip.

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12 Comments

  1. Kim Deer on June 11, 2021 at 12:07 am

    What an amazing guide to beautiful Costa Rica ~ love all the nature events it has to offer. The springs and waterfalls looked amazing ~ the color of that aqua water shouts out fabulous. The zip lining looked like a blast to do! So many great places to hike at. Lovely restaurants and much more. Looked like the perfect trip! Thank you for sharing this resourceful guide! Love all the breathtaking photos. You look amazing in every photo too~ love you, mom 👩♥️

    • Taylor Deer on June 11, 2021 at 10:23 am

      Thank you mom! It really was a great trip. Love you too! <3

  2. ANUKRATI DOSI on June 11, 2021 at 10:39 pm

    As always, you look incredible in all the photos. I love the way you have presented Costa Rica. The place is on the top of my bucket list.

    • Taylor Deer on June 12, 2021 at 9:58 am

      Thank you so much Anukrati! Costa Rica was definitely magical with its nature and people. 🙂

  3. Linda jane on June 12, 2021 at 1:20 am

    Costa Rica looks so beautiful! I love the laidback lifestyle and would love to visit one day! Thanks for sharing your experiences and tips!

    • Taylor Deer on June 12, 2021 at 9:58 am

      Thank you Linda! It is a great country to visit with so much to do. 🙂

  4. Neha on June 12, 2021 at 6:44 am

    What lovely place to relax. The waterfalls looked amazing, the turquoise waters and the lush greenery surrounding it. The zip line looks like so much fun. Loved your pics. Would love to visit someday.

    • Taylor Deer on June 12, 2021 at 9:58 am

      Yes, it was so magical there Neha! I loved all of the fun activities for everyone to enjoy. 🙂

  5. Sarah on June 12, 2021 at 10:58 am

    Well colour me jealous! This is so incredible. Your photos are everything and I can’t wait to get to Costa Rica! It looks absolutely magical!!!

  6. Tracy on June 12, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Incredible post and beautiful images. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Laurel | Bay Rosemary on June 12, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Great tips about driving out there. After reading this list, I have to stop at the thermal springs on my visit 😍

  8. Katie Diederichs on June 12, 2021 at 2:41 pm

    What a great itinerary! We’re obsessed with Costa Rica and can’t wait to get back (hopefully soon!). So much adventure as well as opportunities to relax and take in all the beauty. Loved seeing all your pictures too 🙂 You’ve got quite the collection of beautiful dresses!

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Taylor-Tabacon1

A woman at La Fortuna Waterfall - what you must include on a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

Costa Rica is a magical country filled with towering volcanoes, luscious rainforests, breathtaking waterfalls, relaxing thermal springs, beautiful beaches, amazing hiking trails, memorable adventures and incredible wildlife all around. I had the opportunity to visit Costa Rica in April 2021 and am so excited to share the best 7 day itinerary with you.

During my one week in Costa Rica, Caitlin of My Darling Passport and myself had the opportunity to spend 3 days in the La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano area, 2 days in the cloud forest of Monteverde and another 2 days on the Pacific Coast at Peninsula Papagayo.

Two women having breakfast at Hotel Belmar in Monteverde

Traveling to Costa Rica was special for me because it is a very sacred country that lives off the “Pura Vida” mindset. During a trip to Costa Rica, you will be greeted with “Pura Vida” by most locals. This famous saying means “Pure Life” in Spanish. It is a Costa Rican philosophy that encourages the appreciation of life’s simple treasures. It also means slowing things down, celebrating good fortune, refusing to take anything for granted and enjoying a laid-back lifestyle.

Pura Vida also means living life to the fullest. In fact, it is more than just a saying, it’s a lifestyle! I am excited to show you all how Costa Ricans live the “Pure Life” in this 7 day Costa Rica itinerary.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


Pin the Below Image to Keep Handy

7 day Costa Rica itinerary

Traveling to Costa Rica in 2021:

A woman ziplining in Monteverde's cloud forest - what you must include in a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

There is no testing requirement to travel to Costa Rica! However, you will need to fill out a Health Pass form within 48 hours prior to departure to Costa Rica. You will also need to purchase a recommended travel insurance. After I filled everything out on the Costa Rica Health Pass form, a QR code was sent to my email where I presented it upon arrival at airport customs.

In addition, with the USA CDC travel requirements for re-entry into the United States (as of January 26, 2021) everyone will need to submit either a negative rt-PCR test result within 72 hours prior to departure back to the U.S. or a rapid Antigen negative test result within 48 hours prior to arrival in the U.S. (You will still need to get tested to come back into the United States even if you have been fully vaccinated.)

Both Caitlin and I got the Antigen test done within 48 hours prior to our departure back to the United States at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo. It costs $75 USD per person and the test is done in your hotel room.

Getting to and from Costa Rica in One Week:

A woman at Rio Celeste Waterfall - a spot you should include in a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

From Newark Airport, Caitlin and I flew to Juan Santamaría International Airport in the capital, San Jose, with a layover at Miami International Airport. From San Jose, we rented a car and drove over three hours to the La Fortuna and Arenal area in the Alajuela province.

Since we ended our Costa Rica trip on the Pacific Coast of the country, we flew home from Daniel Oduber Quirós Airport in Liberia. You can find affordable flights through Skyscanner.

Please note that the best way to get around Costa Rica is by renting a car and you do not need an international driver’s license to rent a vehicle there. Also, the best GPS to use for directions is Google Maps. If you choose to take public transportation in Costa Rica, there are numerous bus companies that will take you around the country at an affordable cost. Uber is also available in certain cities in Costa Rica and there are also city taxis as well.

7 Day Costa Rica Itinerary

A woman enjoying a coconut drink at Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
Days 1-3: La Fortuna and Arenal

Discover in detail the best things to do with 3 days in La Fortuna and Arenal.

Day 1: Arrive in San Jose and Drive to La Fortuna

Arrive in: Juan Santamaría International Airport

Where to Stay: La Fortuna/Arenal

Hotel Recommendations:

A woman at Tabacon Thermal Springs in La Fortuna

During my time in the La Fortuna and Arenal area, I stayed at Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa, which is an amazing, luxury hot springs resort, but below are my other recommendations for places to stay based on budget.

Luxury: Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa and The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal

Boutique: Nayara Gardens

Mid-Budget: The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort and Hotel Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa

Budget: Casa Luna Hotel & Spa and Casa Torre Eco-Lodge

Traditional Costa Rican seafood

Where to Eat in La Fortuna/Arenal:

Both Caitlin and I arrived in La Fortuna in the evening, so the only things we did on that day was check into Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa and grab dinner at Restaurante Don Rufino, which is a Costa Rican restaurant that features local flavors mixed with international cuisine. Overall, Don Rufino was one of the best restaurants we ate at during our time in Arenal and I highly recommend adding it to your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary!

Day 2: Relax at Tabacón Thermal Springs

A woman spending a day at Tabacon Hot Springs - what you must include in a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

My favorite part of my 3 days in La Fortuna and Arenal was spending a full day at Tabacón’s thermal springs. They are absolutely lush and relaxing and should most definitely be included in your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary.

Tabacón hot springs features different pools for everyone to enjoy and there is even a private area for those only staying at the resort! Each overnight guest automatically receives complimentary access to all of the thermal pools and they also receive exclusive access to Tabacón’s Shangri-La Gardens, which is an adults-only area.

What is also great about spending the day at Tabacón’s thermal springs are that one of the pools has a bar in it where you can enjoy tropical drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) as well as snacks and meals. Tabacón‘s springs also has another restaurant onsite that features traditional Costa Rican dishes along with international meals.

A woman relaxing at Tabacon Thermal Springs in Arenal

The springs are open to the public at 10am and closes at 10pm. As a hotel guest, you can enjoy the thermal springs before 10am each morning.

After an amazing day at Tabacón‘s hot springs, grab a delicious seafood dinner at Marisquerias Snapper’s House. This local hot spot in downtown La Fortuna is known for its fish and seafood pasta dishes. It definitely doesn’t disappoint.

Day 3: See La Fortuna Waterfall and Visit Arenal Volcano National Park

A woman at La Fortuna Waterfall

Two other must-see things in the La Fortuna and Arenal area that must be included in your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary is the La Fortuna Waterfall and Arenal Volcano National Park.

Also known as Catarata Río Fortuna, La Fortuna Waterfall is a 200-foot waterfall that is located just outside of the town of La Fortuna and it costs $18 USD to enter. (All of the proceeds go to local conservation efforts.)

To get to the waterfall, you will need to go down a 500-step staircase. It takes around 15 minutes to get down the stairs to the waterfall and around a half hour to trek back up. I highly recommend bringing a water bottle with you because the trek up the stairs can be tiring, especially if you are out of shape. (I also recommend bringing bug spray for all your outdoor adventures in Costa Rica!)

La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica

At the waterfall, you can sit along the rocks and admire the natural beauty and you can also go swimming! I highly recommend getting to La Fortuna Waterfall right when it opens (it opens anytime between 7am to 8am, depending on the day) because it does get crowded.

After your adventures at the waterfall, head back to Tabacón Resort to grab a delicious late breakfast or stop at a great place in the town of La Fortuna. A wonderful lunch spot for organic food is Organico Fortuna in downtown.

In the afternoon, head to Arenal Volcano National Park or Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal. This beautiful spot is a 29,692-acre conservation area that contains a large percentage of geologic and biological complexity. It features two volcanoes – Arenal Volcano and Chato Volcano.

A woman at Arenal Volcano National Park - a destination you must include in a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

La Fortuna is located on the eastern side of the volcano, but if you want to get a glimpse of the lava, you will need to drive to the western side. Please note though, that most of the time the top of the volcano is covered in clouds. Consider yourself lucky when you get a clear view of the entire volcano.

Some of the best things to do at Arenal Volcano National Park are to admire the views, go on a hike, zipline, enjoy horseback riding, learn about wildlife and more. Exotic animals that you can see in this area are different types of monkeys, sloths, toucans, macaws, jaguars, amphibians, crocodiles, hummingbirds, butterflies, cougars, iguanas, snakes, spiders and more.

Other great spots in Arenal Volcano National Park that you can include during your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary are the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, Venando Caves, Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge and more. You can even have fun on an ATV tour and go white-water rafting, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and even mountain biking.

It costs $15 USD to enter the National Park as an adult and depending on what adventures you decide to do, it will be an extra cost. (Costa Rica does accept U.S. Dollars and I recommend having cash on you. I also recommend using crisp dollar bills because if there is a rip in any form of cash payment, they may not be accepted.)

A woman hiking the lava trail in Arenal

If you are a hiker like myself, I recommend doing the 2.9-mile Arenal 1968 Volcano Trail, which is also known as the lava trail. It is a loop trail and is considered a moderate hike that is best to do from November through April. (I also recommend bringing a waterproof poncho in case it rains because it can at any time in Costa Rica.)

When you first start the hike, you will ascend into the tropical rainforest. Eventually, you’ll reach an area where there is all lava rock. Overall, there are so many great lookout spots and scenic views on this hike. I recommend downloading the AllTrails app to track your hike in Arenal!

After a day of adventure, savor delicious tacos and enjoy some margaritas at Spectacolar Cantina. They are, in fact, known to have the best tacos in town. Plus, this cantina features a fun ambiance!

Days 4-5: Rio Celeste and Monteverde

Discover all the best things to do with 2 days in Monteverde.

Day 4: Drive to Monteverde and Stop at Tenorio Volcano National Park

A woman at Hotel Belmar in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Where to Stay: Monteverde

Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Belmar

Where to Eat in La Fortuna/Arenal:

Another beautiful spot in Costa Rica that you must add to your 7 day itinerary is Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park, otherwise known as Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. This beautiful park is situated in the Guanacaste province in Costa Rica.

Rio Celeste Waterfall - a must visit spot during a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

Even though it is out of the way, it is worth it to visit Rio Celeste from La Fortuna to Monteverde. It costs $4 USD to park your car at Tenorio Volcano National Park and it costs $12 USD to enter the park as an adult. Not only is Rio Celeste situated in this National Park, it is also home to the dormant Tenorio Volcano itself, natural hot springs, epic hiking trails, amazing wildlife and more.

Rio Celeste is a 98-foot waterfall that plunges into a pool of glistening aqua blue water. In order to get to the waterfall, you will need to hike to get there. (It is a fairly easy hike.) Just like at La Fortuna Waterfall, you will also need to go down 250 stairs. It is pretty challenging on your way back up, but just a tad easier than at La Fortuna.

Stairs at Rio Celeste Waterfall

Other awesome patches of water to see at Tenorio Volcano National Park are Laguna Azul and El Teñidero. There are also great hiking trails that go beyond Rio Celeste that take you deeper into the rainforest and the park also boasts hanging bridges too.

It takes around 2.5 hours to drive from Tenorio Volcano National Park to Hotel Belmar in Monteverde where you’d spend the next two nights.

A woman admiring Rio Celeste Waterfall

After checking into Hotel Belmar, enjoy a lovely farm-to-table dinner at Restaurante Celajes. They offer great garden salads, homemade pesto pasta, meat dishes and more. You won’t be disappointed!

When you’re finished with dinner, head into the town of Monteverde to enjoy some of the bars and party scene, if you’re looking to have a good time. Even though Costa Rica boasts a huge expat community all throughout the country, Monteverde is where you’ll find a lot of young digital nomads looking to make memories.

Day 5: Zipline and Visit the Hanging Bridges in Monteverde

A woman enjoying a zipline excursion at The Original Canopy Tour in Monteverde - a must-do activity during a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

Your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary should not exclude a fun zipline adventure since it is where this fun activity was invented.

After savoring a delicious breakfast at Hotel Belmar, overlooking the gorgeous cloud forest, have fun ziplining on the oldest zipline in the world at The Original Canopy Tour. For $50 USD per adult and $30 USD per child, The Original Canopy Tour will take you into the cloud forest where you will enjoy 2.5 hours of ziplining with a view, repelling down and climbing up a tree and swinging through the jungle like Tarzan.

There are also three tour schedules – 7:30am; 10:30am, which is what I did and recommend, and 2:30pm. The reason why I recommend booking your zipline excursion earlier in the morning is because Monteverde is known for its torrential downpours in the afternoon. The Original Canopy Tour also offers free transportation for those staying in Monteverde.

A woman at Selvatura Park hanging bridges in Monteverde - what you must include on a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

After enjoying the excitement on your zipline excursion, head over to Selvatura Park to walk along the Treetop Walkways Suspension Bridges.

Overall, it will take you around 2 hours to walk through these cool hanging bridges and you will also enjoy stunning views of the Costa Rica cloud forest and nearby mountains. Walking through these hanging bridges will also allow you to admire beautiful flora and fauna and observe fascinating biodiversity.

For around $40 USD, for an adult ticket, you will cross eight suspension bridges of various lengths that range from 170 feet to 560 feet. Each bridge is 5 feet in width and it can hold up to 80 people. Overall, the Treetop Walkways Suspension Bridges tour consists of 1.9 miles of trails. These hanging bridges are also considered the safest in the world and can be enjoyed by everyone! It should most definitely be included in your 7 day Costa Rica itinerary.

Hanging bridges at Selvatura Park in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Caitlin and I did a self-guided tour, but if you want to do an organized group or private tour, you can schedule it for 8:30am, 11:00am, 1:00pm and 2:30pm. I recommend bringing a waterproof poncho for this activity as well!

For dinner, enjoy the restaurant scene downtown. A great Mexican restaurant to eat at in Monteverde is Taco Taco. After dinner, head back to Hotel Belmar and enjoy beer tasting at the hotel’s brewery onsite.

Days 7-8: Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Read all about the top Peninsula Papagayo exclusive resort.

Day 6: Head to Peninsula Papagyo and Relax at Four Seasons

A woman in the hot tub at Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Where to Stay: Peninsula Papagyo

Hotel Recommendation: Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Where to Eat at Four Seasons on Peninsula Papagayo:

  • Añejo
  • La Reserva
  • Bahia
  • Pesce
  • Nemare

A 7 day Costa Rica itinerary would not be complete without some time spent at the beach! What is cool about Costa Rica is that it has two coastal regions – one on the Atlantic/Caribbean side and one on the Pacific side. If you plan to go to the beach, which you should, during your Costa Rica trip, I recommend going to the Pacific side since it is a lot safer!

A woman at the beach in Costa Rica - what you must include in a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

On our 6th day, we enjoyed another great breakfast at Hotel Belmar before hopping in our rental car and driving around 3 hours to Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo. What is nice about staying at a Four Seasons Resort is that you don’t even have to leave the hotel to have a good time.

After checking into Four Seasons Costa Rica, we spent the entire day relaxing at the beach. There was really nothing better than vegging out on the beach after five full days of adventure.

What is great about staying at Four Seasons on Peninsula Papagayo is that they have so many amazing restaurants! During our beach day, Caitlin and I enjoyed delicious poke with a tropical beverage. I highly recommend it because it’s light and refreshing!

A woman relaxing at the pool at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

There are two beaches to enjoy at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, which are called Playa Virador, which is known as the sunset beach, and Playa Blanca, which is the bay beach. The resort also has three pools called Serena Pool, which is an adults-only pool, Blanca Pool that overlooks Playa Blanca and Bahia Pool, which is near the restaurants and bar. There is also a hot tub for you to relax in.

I highly recommend watching the sunset at Four Seasons during your few days there on Playa Virador. It is absolutely beautiful! After admiring a sunset, savor dinner and drinks at Bahia restaurant, which features a wood-fired open kitchen that offers a locally sourced menu with mouthwatering meals.

Day 7: Enjoy Everything Four Seasons Costa Rica Offers

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Once you’re finished savoring a delicious breakfast overlooking Playa Blanca at Bahia restaurant, head over to the spa for a well-needed massage, facial or other service catering to your needs. (I think it’s important to include a spa service on your 7 day itinerary in Costa Rica. Don’t forget, the country is all about the “Pura Vida” life!)

There are also heated and cool pools to enjoy at the Four Seasons‘ spa that overlook the bay and jungle and there is also a sauna as well. After your spa service, staff members will provide you with a ginger drink, raw cacao and fresh water to enjoy while you relax.

A woman on the Trail of Giants Tour in Costa Rica - a must-do activity during a 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

After your amazing spa morning, enjoy an afternoon on the Trail of Giants Tour, where you take a golf cart tour around the breathtaking Peninsula Papagayo.

During this fun tour, you will get to explore the dry jungle and learn about the biodiversity there. You will also see different trees, plant life and wildlife such as monkeys. On this tour, you will also ride around the famous Arnold Palmer golf course and admire breathtaking coastal and bay views of Peninsula Papagayo. It’s an educational experience for all!

Once the tour is over, relax at the Four Seasons‘ pools and beaches and then enjoy a lovely Italian dinner at Pesce!

Day 8: Head Home from Liberia

Monkeys in Costa Rica

On day 8, enjoy another great breakfast at Four Seasons on Peninsula Papagayo before driving to Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia to fly home. It will take you around 45 minutes to get from the resort to the airport.


A woman enjoying her 7 day itinerary in Costa Rica

I hope you all enjoyed discovering the best 7 day itinerary for Costa Rica. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

Click here to book a cooking class during your time in Costa Rica.

Basic Facts of Costa Rica:

Currency: Costa Rican Colón (The United States Dollar is accepted everywhere!), Capital: San José, Time Zone: Costa Rica does not follow Daylight Savings. During the summer months, Costa Rica is on Mountain Standard Time and then it is on Central Standard Time during the winter months.

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*Anything could happen during your travels. Always make sure you are insured in case there are unforeseen circumstances such as lost luggage/theft, natural disasters, personal liabilities and more. Click here to get insured for your next trip.

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12 Comments

  1. Kim Deer on June 11, 2021 at 12:07 am

    What an amazing guide to beautiful Costa Rica ~ love all the nature events it has to offer. The springs and waterfalls looked amazing ~ the color of that aqua water shouts out fabulous. The zip lining looked like a blast to do! So many great places to hike at. Lovely restaurants and much more. Looked like the perfect trip! Thank you for sharing this resourceful guide! Love all the breathtaking photos. You look amazing in every photo too~ love you, mom 👩♥️

    • Taylor Deer on June 11, 2021 at 10:23 am

      Thank you mom! It really was a great trip. Love you too! <3

  2. ANUKRATI DOSI on June 11, 2021 at 10:39 pm

    As always, you look incredible in all the photos. I love the way you have presented Costa Rica. The place is on the top of my bucket list.

    • Taylor Deer on June 12, 2021 at 9:58 am

      Thank you so much Anukrati! Costa Rica was definitely magical with its nature and people. 🙂

  3. Linda jane on June 12, 2021 at 1:20 am

    Costa Rica looks so beautiful! I love the laidback lifestyle and would love to visit one day! Thanks for sharing your experiences and tips!

    • Taylor Deer on June 12, 2021 at 9:58 am

      Thank you Linda! It is a great country to visit with so much to do. 🙂

  4. Neha on June 12, 2021 at 6:44 am

    What lovely place to relax. The waterfalls looked amazing, the turquoise waters and the lush greenery surrounding it. The zip line looks like so much fun. Loved your pics. Would love to visit someday.

    • Taylor Deer on June 12, 2021 at 9:58 am

      Yes, it was so magical there Neha! I loved all of the fun activities for everyone to enjoy. 🙂

  5. Sarah on June 12, 2021 at 10:58 am

    Well colour me jealous! This is so incredible. Your photos are everything and I can’t wait to get to Costa Rica! It looks absolutely magical!!!

  6. Tracy on June 12, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Incredible post and beautiful images. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Laurel | Bay Rosemary on June 12, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Great tips about driving out there. After reading this list, I have to stop at the thermal springs on my visit 😍

  8. Katie Diederichs on June 12, 2021 at 2:41 pm

    What a great itinerary! We’re obsessed with Costa Rica and can’t wait to get back (hopefully soon!). So much adventure as well as opportunities to relax and take in all the beauty. Loved seeing all your pictures too 🙂 You’ve got quite the collection of beautiful dresses!

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