If you have one week in Costa Rica, check out this 1 week Costa Rica itinerary to help you plan.
This sample one week Costa Rica itinerary flies into San Jose International Airport, and goes to Jaco, Manuel Antonio and Uvita. This Costa Rica 7 days itinerary is ideal for those who want to see beaches, rainforest and nature.
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 waiting time. Get our car rental discount and extra freebies here! You do not necessarily need a SUV/4wd/4×4 for this itinerary. This entire route goes down a major highway called the Costanera Sur, Route 34 and it is well paved. Pick hotels in town so a sedan will work perfectly fine.
Day 1: San Jose & Jaco
Land at San Jose International Airport, pick up your car rental and head to Jaco right away, about a 1.5 hour drive. Do note that traffic in San Jose is heavy so it may take you around 2 hours or more depending on the time of day you land.
Along the way, you can stop at the Crocodile Bridge or Peñon de Guacalillo. Make sure not to leave any valuables visible, put all luggage in the trunk and park where there are other tourist buses/people. We recommend that one person stay at the vehicle just in case.
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 and several breaks, perfect for all lvels. This town also has some of the best restaurants in Costa Rica and a very lively nightlife.
It’s not the most beautiful beach but it’s very easy to get to from San Jose. 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, and Beach Break Resort. 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. It’s much more laid back and relaxed than Jaco and only a ten minute drive south. Great for those looking for a less touristy and quieter beach.
Where to eat in Jaco
Some of our favorite restaurants in Jaco are Grafitti, Soda Rustico, Amancios, Tsunami Sushi, Pizza Shop, Orange Pub, Beer House, Soda Garabito, Isagar Bar and Restaurante, Taco Bar and Green Room. 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. Below are our recommendations.
What to Do in Jaco
There is so much to do in Jaco! You can take a surf lesson, explore waterfalls, ATV, SUP and much more. You can read more things to do in Jaco here.
For one full day in Jaco, we recommend to spend the day checking out town and the beach. If you feel up for it, you can take a group surf lesson which costs around $65 USD per person. For surf lessons, you can find instructors on the beach or you can go to one of the many schools.
Have lunch at Soda Rustico Jaco and dinner at Graffiti, El Manglar or Puddlefish Brewery. You can get ice cream at the El Barco or Pops in downtown.
Day 3: 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.
Along this drive, there are some nice stops. First, make sure to stop at the JACO sign right outside town before Playa Hermosa. You can see the beach town and its a photogenic spot. On Google Maps, it’s called “Mirador de Jaco.” Another nice lookout spot is Mirador Roca Loca. Sometimes there are Scarlet Macaws in the almond trees which is fun to see.
Once you arrive at Manuel Antonio, check into your hotel, relax and hang out by the pool. If you make it before 6 PM, head down to Playa Espadilla Norte to watch the sunset or just chill at the hotel. For dinner, we highly recommend Emilio’s Cafe, Raphael’s Terraza, or Cafe Agua Azul.
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. Remember to book your park tickets on the SINAC website (required).
You can hike the park by yourself, but if you really want to see lots of wildlife and learn about the flora and fauna, I recommend hiring a guide. 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 $250 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, 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 South Pacific, specifically in an area called the Costa Ballena made up of two other towns, Dominical and Ojochal. 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 Route 34 and is an easy drive. I do recommend getting there somewhat early so you have more time to explore. Hotels normally are OK to hold onto your luggage for you if early check in is not available.
Along the way, you can drive through Dominical to check out this beach town and the beach. If you’re hungry, stop by Fuego Brewing Company for beer and bites.
You can also take a short 15 detour right before Dominical and head to Nauyaca Waterfalls. These two amazing waterfalls in the rainforest are not to be missed! Book the 4×4 truck which offers a fun 15 minute 4×4 ride through the jungle to the falls.
Things to Do in Uvita
Make sure to visit 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.
This day is open for you whether you want to chill or do some activities.
As Uvita is located in the South Pacific, there is plenty of tropical rainforest, mountains and beaches to explore.
What to do in Uvita
Some of our favorite things to do in Uvita are humpback whale watching (half day) and Cano Island snorkeling tour (full day). If you want to go ziplining, there is a fun zipline at Hacienda Baru near Dominical.
For those visiting January – March or July – September, definitely take a whale watching tour. Uvita is the best place to see humpback whales and those are great months to see them.
Our recommendation if you don’t want to book a tour is to visit the Uvita Waterfall in the morning, have lunch at Mosaic Wine Bar right outside the waterfall and then spend the rest of the day at Marino Ballena National Park to walk the long shores, nap and watch the sunset.
Where to stay in Uvita
**You can also choose to stay in Dominical or Ojochal. 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.** Ojochal is about 20 minutes south of Uvita and has lots of luxury vacation rentals.
Day 6: Back to San Jose (or Uvita depending on when your flight departs on Day 7)
Today you’ll head back to San Jose as it’s about a 3.5 hour drive from Uvita to the SJO International Airport. If you want to do some city sightseeing, you can leave Uvita in the morning, drop your luggage off at your hotel and explore downtown San Jose to see the Central Market, National Theater or a museum. Just keep in mind that downtown San Jose to SJO International Airport is about a 30 minute drive.
However, if your flight is in the evening on Day 7, you can stay your last night in Uvita and then leave the next morning. Just make sure you leave with PLENTY of time to drive to the airport area, return your car, account for traffic and get to the airport at least 2-3 hours before your flight. Even though it’s about a 3.5 hour drive from Uvita to SJO Airport, we recommend to give yourself at least 4.5-5 hours in case of traffic.
Where to stay by SJO airport
Returning your rental car on Day 6: Many airport hotels offer free airport shuttles so you can return your rental car on this day. You can either drop it off directly at your car rental office or ask them to see if they can arrange car pick up from your hotel.
If you’re staying in San Jose downtown, you can call an Uber to get to your flight on Day 7.
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.
Sample 1 Week Costa Rica Itinerary Map
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)
The destinations in this 1 week Costa Rica itinerary are not too far apart. The drive to all three destinations are incredibly easy as it’s just one well paved highway.
This itinerary is a bit quick. If you don’t want to move around as much, you can skip Uvita and add a day to Jaco and Manuel Antonio. If Jaco doesn’t sound like your kind of place, you can skip Jaco, and go straight to Manuel Antonio, Dominical or Uvita instead.
Another idea is to just pick one destination to use as a home base and take day trips. This is less stressful since you won’t have to move or drive every couple days. You can perfectly stay in Jaco, Manuel Antonio or the Costa Ballena and use it as your home base.
Estimated 1 Week Costa Rica Itinerary Cost
For this 7 day Costa Rica itinerary, the cost for 2 people can be on average $2000-2500. Let’s say you’re staying in hotels that cost about $150 USD a night, spending about $100 USD a day on meals and drinks, doing 2 tours around $100 USD each. This doesn’t include the car rental which can be around $500-600 USD a week depending on the model, time of year, insurances, gas, tolls and extras you get. Nor does this price include flights, souvenirs or any other things you buy.
You can do it much cheaper by staying in hostels/budget places, not eating out as much or drinking many cocktails and skipping all tours. However, we do recommend going ziplining, white water rafting, wildlife watching or doing at least one fun adventurous activity during your time in Costa Rica. You can save even more money by visiting in the off season like September or October as flights, hotels and car rentals are usually cheaper at that time.
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
Costa Rica Vacation Checklist
- First time to Costa Rica? Read our First Time in Costa Rica guide.
- Not sure how to move around Costa Rica? Read our How to Get Around Costa Rica guide to find the best transportation method for you.
- Click the link to get our detailed Costa Rica Packing List so you know what essential items to bring.
- Do not forget to purchase Travel Insurance for your trip to Costa Rica.
- Stay connected by purchasing a prepaid SIM Card in Costa Rica.
- Save money with Mytanfeet Deals for tours and hotels. Save more money with our Costa Rica Car Rental Discount.
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