If you have one week in Costa Rica, you have to check out this 1 week Costa Rica itinerary to help you plan.
This sample one week Costa Rica itinerary focuses on the Central and South Pacific flying into San Jose International Airport, and visiting Jaco, Manuel Antonio and Uvita. The destinations are easy to get, has beautiful beaches and lots of fun things to do. This Costa Rica 7 days itinerary is especially great for first timers who love wildlife, beach and adventure!
Sample 1 Week Costa Rica Itinerary
You’ll land in San Jose International Airport and head to the Central and South Pacific to visit beaches, national parks and do some fun tours. Here is an interactive map where I’ve included our hotel and restaurant recommendations, driving routes and relevant guides. (Use the sidebar to find the filters and key map)
Important note: this itinerary requires renting a car. There are buses and shuttles but since you are there for only one week, you want to maximize your time and minimize the time on the road. A car will be especially useful for Uvita.
The destinations in this 1 week Costa Rica itinerary are not too far apart and luckily it is just one main highway you’ll be driving on outside of San Jose.
Day 1: San Jose & Jaco
Land at San Jose International Airport, pick up your car rental and head to Jaco, about a 1 hour drive away. Do note that traffic in San Jose is heavy so it may take you around 1.5 hours or more depending on the time of day you land.
Jaco is the closest beach town to San Jose so it’s full of locals and tourists and has tons of good restaurants, shops and other services. This beach is famous for surfing as it has constant waves, perfect for beginners and pros. This town also has some of the best restaurants in Costa Rica, a lively nightlife and you will find many locals and foreigners.
It’s not the most beautiful beach but it’s close and easy to get to so rest up, wander around downtown, watch the sunset on the beach and get ready for day 2!
Where to stay in Jaco
Tuanis Aparthotel, Budda Hostel, Selina Jaco, Croc’s Casino and Resort, Oceano Boutique Hotel, Beach Break Resort, Morgan’s Cove. You can find hostels for as little as $15 USD a bed, mid range hotels for around $80 USD or nicer places for $100 USD and more.
An alternative option for Jaco is Playa Hermosa. This is the ultimate surfing beach in Costa Rica with a few hotels and restaurants and it’s much more laid back and relaxed than Jaco. It’s just a ten minute drive south of Jaco. Great for those looking for a less touristy and quieter beach.
Where to eat in Jaco
Grafitti, Soda Rustico, Amancios, Tsunami Sushi, Pizza Shop, Orange Pub, Beer House, Soda Garabito. Read more of our favorite restaurants in Jaco here. Food in Jaco can run anywhere from $6-20 USD a meal depending on where you go. There are tons of happy hour and drink specials at the bars.
Day 2 of this 1 Week Costa Rica Itinerary: Jaco
Day 2 is open to whatever you want to do whether you want to take a surf lesson, hang out at the beach/pool or go on an adventure.
What to do in Jaco
There is so much to do in Jaco! You can take a surf lesson as it’s one of the best beaches for surfing, exploring waterfalls, ATV, SUP and much more. If you’re not keen on surfing, here are our favorite things to do in Jaco besides surfing.
We do recommend surfing but if that doesn’t sound like something you’re interested in, we love the waterfall tour with Costa Rica waterfall tours. You get beautiful views, it’s a fun way to enjoy the rain forest and jump off waterfalls. If you’re an adventure junkie, go on the pure adrenaline tour where you jump off super high waterfalls!
Since you have a car, you can also visit the attractions around Jaco such as the Miro Mountain viewpoint hike, go ziplining and take the aerial tram at Rainforest Adventures or do an ATV/zipline/horseback riding combo at Ocean Ranch Park.
A surf lesson costs around $50 USD per person and a zipline/canyoning/horseback riding tour is around $110 USD per person. For surf lessons, you can find instructors on the beach or you can go to one of the many schools. We recommend School of the World.
Day 3 & 4: Manuel Antonio
Today you’ll drive to Manuel Antonio, about a 1 hour drive south of Jaco.
About Manuel Antonio
This is a very popular area in Costa Rica because of the national park, stunning beaches, abundant wildlife and incredible views. Here is where you will have the best sloth spotting opportunities in this one week Costa Rica itinerary.
You don’t have to leave super early in the morning as it’s just one hour away, so take your time in the morning and enjoy the drive. Once you arrive at Manuel Antonio, relax, hang out by the pool and drive down to the beach to watch the sunset. You can even go parasailing!
Day 4: Manuel Antonio National Park
Once named by Forbes as one of the most beautiful national parks in the world, Manuel Antonio National Park has postcard perfect beaches with sparkling turquoise water, fluffy white sand and swaying palm trees.
At the national park you can hike the trails, swim, spot sloths, lay on the beach and hang out with monkeys. I recommend getting to the park early (it opens at 7 AM) to take advantage of the whole day. The national park entrance fee is $16 USD per adult..
You can hike the park by yourself without a naturalist guide, but if you really want to see lots of wildlife and learn about the flora and fauna, I recommend hiring one. You can hire one at the national park entrance if you rented a car or book one through a tour company.
We have discounts for guided Manuel Antonio National Park tours which you can read more about in our Manuel Antonio discount page here.
Where to stay in Manuel Antonio
Hotel San Bada, Selina Hostel, El Faro Hotel, Vista Serena Hostel, Hotel Costa Verde, Plaza Yara, Tico Tico Villas, Jungle Beach Hotel, Tres Banderas. There are many hostels in Manuel Antonio or you can splurge for a luxury hotel. Hostels are around $10 -15 USD a bed and upscale hotels run a minimum of $200 USD a night.
If you want to splurge on a hotel for this 7 days Costa Rica itinerary, I highly recommend doing it in Manuel Antonio. Many luxury hotels have a spectacular view of the national park, infinity pools, spas and some even have private hot tubs on the balconies. Some high end hotels are Si Como No, Gaia, Makanda by the Sea, La Mansion Inn, Tulemar, the Falls Resort, Arenas del Mar, Parador and Hotel La Mariposa.
Days 5 & 6 of this 1 week Costa Rica itinerary: Uvita
On day 5, you’ll drive to your next destination: Uvita.
Uvita is a small town in the Costa Ballena, perfect for a peaceful jungle getaway. This area doesn’t see as many tourists at Jaco or Manuel Antonio so you will have the opportunity to enjoy beaches and the rain forest without crowds.
Manuel Antonio to Uvita is roughly one hour south on the Costanera Sur, an easy drive. I do recommend getting there somewhat early so you have more time to explore. Hotels will hold onto your luggage for you if early check in is not available.
Things to do in Uvita
You can visit a couple of waterfalls nearby such as Uvita waterfall and Cascada El Pavon. Both are small charming waterfalls 15 minutes from Uvita, a short walk and cheap.
Or you can go into Marino Ballena National Park and hang out there for the rest of the afternoon. You can walk on the beach, swim, visit the Whale’s Tail if it’s low tide and watch the sunset. Make sure you enter the park before 4 PM to see the sunset.
This day is open for you whether you want to chill or do some activities.
What to do in Uvita
Some of our favorite things to do in Uvita are the Nauyaca waterfalls, humpback whale watching and Cano Island snorkeling. Other top tour choices are a waterfall tour with Rancho DiAndrew, horseback riding in Ojochal, Sierpe mangrove kayaking/boat ride and Corcovado National Park hiking.
If you want to go ziplining, there is a fun zipline at Hacienda Baru near Dominical.
Where to stay in Uvita
Manoas, a glamping and villa resort in the mountains (get 10% off), Flutterby House, La Cusinga Lodge, Cristal Ballena, Hotel Cuna del Angel, Oxygen Jungle Villas, an adult only romantic hotel (get 15% off here). If you’re looking for a luxury boutique hotel experience, Rancho Pacifico is an amazing hotel (one of the most amazing hotels we’ve stayed at in Costa Rica) with a stunning ocean view, boutique, intimate rooms, a pool, spa and restaurant. Get 10% off using our promo code “MyTanFeet” in this link.
As most of the hotels are outside of Uvita up in the mountains, a 4×4 may be required.
**You can also choose to stay in Dominical. Dominical is about 20 minutes driving from Uvita and is a surfing beach town, but not as big as Jaco. It has more of a hippie feel and the beach is very different. Most people who stay in Dominical are those who like surfing or want to camp on the beach.**
Day 6: Back to San Jose
Today you’ll head back to San Jose. It’s about a 3 hour drive from Uvita to San Jose with some traffic. If you have enough time and energy when you get to the city, you can visit some museums, the National Theater or the local market to get some last minute souvenir shopping in.
Where to stay by SJO airport
Many airport hotels offer free airport shuttles so you can return your rental car on this day. If you stay more in downtown San Jose, you can take an Uber to the airport. Uber works well in San Jose. Read our tips on using Uber in San Jose, Costa Rica.
From San Jose downtown to the airport, it costs around $15 USD one way for an UberX.
If your flight on day 7 is later in the afternoon, you can leave early in the morning from Uvita so you can enjoy one more day. Remember you must be at San Jose Airport 2 hours early and give yourself plenty of time to drive back to San Jose and return your rental car.
Day 7: Fly Home!
And your Costa Rica has come to an end as you fly home on day 7. This 1 week Costa Rica itinerary gives you a good amount of time to explore 3 different places. You actually get an excellent idea of the Central and South Pacific in one week!
If this itinerary seems a bit quick and you’d rather spend more time in one place, you can skip take out Uvita and add a day to Jaco and Manuel Antonio so you don’t have to be moving hotels every couple nights and feel less rushed. If Jaco doesn’t sound like your kind of place, you can skip Jaco, and go straight to Manuel Antonio and Uvita instead.
Estimated 1 Week Costa Rica Itinerary Cost
For this 7 day Costa Rica itinerary, if you’re staying in hotels that cost about $80 USD a night, spending about $40 USD a day on meals and drinks, doing 2 tours around $100 USD each, you’re looking at spending roughly $1100 USD for the week per person. This doesn’t include the car rental which can be $400 USD a week depending on the model, time of year, insurances and extras.
You can do it cheaper by staying in hostels/budget places and taking the bus. You can also skip costly tours. However, we do recommend doing at least one tour since they take you to places you can’t go on your own.
For more of an idea, check out this one week Costa Rica travel budget to see how much we spent in Jaco and Playas del Coco.
Check out other Costa Rica itineraries!
2 week Costa Rica itinerary: Arenal, Monteverde, Santa Teresa and Playas del Coco
14 day itinerary: Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, Guanacaste
10 day itinerary: San Jose, Puerto Viejo and Arenal
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