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 the time on the road. Get our car rental discount and extra freebies here!
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.
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 beginners and pros. 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 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, 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 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. 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 surf lesson which costs around $50 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 & 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. 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..
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 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 Route 34 and is 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 Catarata La Uvita and Cascada El Pavon. Both are small charming waterfalls 15 minutes from Uvita, a short walk and cheap.
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.
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. 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.
Where to stay in Uvita
Manoas, a glamping and villa resort in the mountains (get 10% off), Los Laureles Cabinas, La Cusinga Lodge, Cristal Ballena, Hotel Cuna del Angel and Oxygen Jungle Villas. 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 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
Today you’ll head back to San Jose. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from Uvita to San Jose. If your flight is early in the morning, we recommend to go to San Jose the day before so you’re not driving in the
If your flight is in the late afternoon, make sure you leave with plenty of time to get to the airport at least 2 hours before your flight and to account for traffic and returning the rental car.
Where to stay by SJO airport
Hotel El Aeropuerto, Adventure Inn (get 10% off here),Terida Airport B&B, Hamptonn Inn and Suites San Jose Airport. You can read more suggestions for best hotels by San Jose Airport here.
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.
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
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 and luckily it is just one main highway you’ll be driving on outside of San Jose.
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 and 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.
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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Laura Alexander says
Hi! Love your site – full of very useful information. We have rented a home later this year for a month near Bejuco beach (b/w Jaco and Quepos) (would have loved to have been on the pennisula, but better options for reasonably priced larger homes here). Do you think this will be ok for a ‘home base’ for the month? Enough to do in the area to occupy our time and get a feel for the local culture? Any recommendations for ‘off the beaten’ path types of things to do for visitors who will be there a longer amount of time?
Bejuco can work as a homebase but you have to rent a car, mandatory to get around.
We are travelling from Liberia airport to Manuel Antonio by rental vehicle, wondering where a good pit stop would be.
We are planning on doing the snorkeling tour at Cano island. Is there shuttle pick up or is it easy to drive and get parking in Uvita.
You can stop in Jaco, has a lot of good restaurants.
The company we work with doesn’t provide transportation, you have to meet them at their office in Uvita and there’s parking in town (street ).
We’re on our last night of our 9 day trip and we’ve been to Poas Volcano, Arenal, Manuel Antonio and a few nights in Ojochal. Lots of rain last night and wild thunder and lighting tonight but no rain yet. We’re already planning another trip down here for March 2022 if we don’t come back sooner. Pura Vida !!
Michele z says
Whats you thoughts on which areas are more pet friendly? Jaco, Manuel Antonio or Uvita? Also, suggestions for pet friendly accommodations (2B house or Air BNB?)
I would say Jaco and Manuel Antonio just because they have more options for accommodations and rentals, I know in Jaco that Oceano is pet friendly and in Manuel Antonio, Hotel Shana, posada & Jungle, San bada and mango moon are pet friendly.
I love this one week plan but we may have an additional week. We are traveling with our 13 and 15 year old teens (boy and girl). Where would you recommend extra time or what additional stop would you add to this plan? Is the turtle beach too far away and are they even out at the time we plan to visit (July 16-30th)? We are flexible kids want adventure, beaches and animals!
You could do a rainforest before Jaco like La Fortuna after San Jose. I would definitely stay more days in each place too since you have more time.
Hello! First & foremost, thank you for your site. It’s very informative & has been a great resource for me. My family & I (2 adults/2 teens) will be in CR in early March & I’m looking for a recommendation for places to stay in Jaco. I’d really like to stay in a nice hotel/resort-like property. There’s so many choices and I’m a bit overwhelmed by it. Thanks in advance and keep up the great work!
Hi, as for resorts, there is the all inclusive Croc’s which is nice. You can read more recommendations in our Jaco, Costa Rica. guide.
Great travel guide! Can we do this trip in late April and early May 2019 without making reservations at hostels or low budget paces beforehand? We thought about just securing a place when we arrive. We maybe wanted to leave our schedule more flexible. If you think it is better to secure, we will. We will be traveling by bus for 9 days 4-22 through 5-2.
Hi Nita, I would book for at least the first part of your trip because Easter is on April 21 and the week before and after are pretty busy because all the locals are on vacation. You might be able to swing it at end of April/beginning of May and be more flexible, especially if you’re not going to the super popular coastal destinations like Tamarindo, Coco, Samara, Jaco or Manuel Antonio.
Hi there!! We are a group of 6 adults and we will be going to Costa Rica in April for 1 week. We will rent a car and we are thinking staying 4 nights near Jaco (Bejuco, Hermosa, Esterillos, or other) so we can easily access to Manuel Antonio and boat taxi for Montezuma. Then we would go for 2 nights near Monteverde. We would like to hike in the national park and if possible, we would like to go to hotsprings somewhere nearby. Last day, we’ll get back near the airport. Is this itinerary reasonable or it might be too much? Thank you so much for your help!!
Hi Jani, that is fine, just know you would have to spend one half day driving from Jaco to Monteverde as it’s around a 4-5 hour drive but you don’t really need a ton of time in Monteverde, you could even spend 2 nights and have 1 full day and that would be fine.
Hey quick question. What are the bus companies there? For 1 week would you recommend Arenal then Jaco then Manuel antonio? Or not?
Hi Danny, for 1 week, 3 destinations is a kind of a lot since you’ll only be able to stay like 1-2 nights in each place. I would stay in Jaco and then take a day trip to Manuel Antonio, or just skip Jaco (unless you want to surf or be in a more developed beach town) and stay in Manuel Antonio. There are many bus companies here since it is a private industry so there are various companies.
Very a-ma-zinggg! Costa Rica is on my bucket list for this year(2018) , i will definitely check back this itinerary to plan my trip! I want to come Central American one time
Angie Pike says
Hi! I love all the info on this page, thank you! I’m looking for somewhere to go as a family (2 girls, 16 & 8 yrs) that is totally different. Warm, beautiful, fun. CR seems perfect. I like the looks of your 1 week itinerary. There seems to be interesting things to do, little of everything. But I feel a trip to the La Fortuna is a must as well, wit the volcano. I really have no interest in sightseeing San Jose, but will need to be our travel in and out location. Here are some things I would love the girls to experience as well as us adults. Beach, rainfall seeing all the wild life, volcano, more of the things you can’t see. But yet kid friendly. I’m looking into February 7-10 days vacation, do you have any suggestions? Places? My other concern is traveling with my girls safety wise. Is there anything a parent should know first? Thanks!
Hi Miranda! I have written a post about things to do in Dominical and Uvita which is the South Pacific/Costa Ballena but since you have a car, you can easily drive around the area as there are a ton of things to do.Since you guys are staying in the beginning of Osa Peninsula, I definitely recommend visiting Corcovado. You can take a day trip, many tour companies run this and they normally go to San Pedrillo Station by boat or since you have a car and you’re more in the Osa than Costa Ballena, El Tigre is a trail you can get to by car. You do need to get permits and a guide for Corcovado National Park so for the holiday season, you will need to book in advance as it gets very busy and they only allow a certain number of permits a day.
Sierpe Mangrove is also a really cool place to do a boat ride/kayak/SUP and see wildlife. It’s one of the biggest mangroves in Central America and you can see a ton of wildlife. For food, Ojochal actually has some great international cuisine but is very expensive.
There is a really cool waterfall tour with Rancho Di’Andrew that goes around to hidden waterfalls in the South Pacific or you can visit some on your own like Casacada El Pavon or Uvita Waterfall.
If you like more cultural/off the beaten track things, there is a cool sphere museum called Finca 6 where you can learn about the ancient culture of indigenous people of Costa Rica and the stone spheres. You do need a guide though if you don’t speak Spanish since the tour and the entire museum is in Spanish.
I recommend bringing a rain jacket as that area can still rain even in the dry season and December is our transition month. When we visited in February once it poured for 5 days straight! And bring a ton of bug repellent as that area is suuuuuper humid. If you’re bringing heavy camera gear like DSLR’s or video equipment, bring some micro-fiber towels to protect them from the humidity and make sure to have water proof equipment.
Have a wonderful time, we love that area and there’s so much to see and do. Just keep in mind that that area is more rugged and undeveloped so go to the supermarket early and stock up, make sure to exchange some money into colones (though US are widely accepted it will be better for colones in small towns for taxis, souvenirs, etc.).
Hello! My family and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica over Christmas and New Years this year and will be staying on the neck of the Osa Peninsula (very South Pacific). We have our rental car and villa, but are wondering if you have any tips about staying in the South. We would love to visit Boruca for the Fiesta de Diablitos and snorkel Cano Island, but we aren’t sure about other excursions. DO you have any tips for the very South Pacific? Thanks in advance! Love your blog – it has been super helpful planning our trip!
Thank you for all the detailed info! We are taking a trip to Costa Rica in July and mainly following your itinerary here for the Central and South Pacific, but we are wondering whether Utiva is a must. We’d prefer not to have to be on the road so much, but I don’t want to miss out on a great experience especially since this is our first visit to Costa Rica.
Hi Vanessa, Uvita is pretty amazing to be honest and you will get to experience a beach/jungle area in CR that is not super touristic because Jaco and Manuel Antonio are very touristy. Uvita also has the Marino Ballena NP so if you like whales or water activities without crowds, that is the place to go. Cano Island, which is about 45 minutes boat ride from Uvita is also the best place for snorkeling down in that area – the snorkeling around Jaco and Manuel Antonio isn’t good. So it’s up to you but I would definitely make the drive down if you have time- it’s worth it! So many hidden waterfalls to enjoy as well 🙂
Hi Helen, we like June because there isn’t quite as many people and it’s the beginning of rainy season so everything turns green and is cooler. You can read more about best times to visit Costa RIca here: Best time to visit Costa Rica
Thank you for all your great information.
Is June an ok time to visit CR?
Bruno B @ Geeky Explorer says
This is a-ma-zinggg! Costa Rica is on my bucket list for next year, will definitely check back this itinerary to plan my trip!
Awesome! Hope you get to visit one day 🙂
Hi Crystal, May is not bad as it’s the transition or shoulder month from dry to rainy season. You can read more about Costa Rica weather here: Costa Rica weather
We personally love traveling in rainy season! THere are less tourists, it starts getting a lot greener from the rains and it’s cheaper. You just need to make sure you pack appropriately for rainy season because it is a tropical country. Here are our tips: Rainy season packing list Costa Rica
I would contact the hotel how the bus system works to their place, they usually have a “how to get here” section on their website. They may also offer shared shuttles if you don’t want to drive.
As for driving… it is crazy in the city. Outside the city, it’s fairly easy (just gotta go slow for the bumps).
Hi there! Great blog on Costa Rica. Really enjoying all your content. I was trying to plan a trip to Costa Rica end of May, but I’m seeing that it’s the start of the rainy season. Is the rainy season in Costa Rica pretty bad? Is it on and off rain or all day rain? Also, I wanted to stay at the Tree House hotel in San Carlos, but I’ve heard that driving conditions are pretty crazy there and not sure if I’m able to handle that. Are there buses of some sort that go that way that you know of? If not, is it pretty crazy to drive out there for a first-time traveler to Costa Rica? Thanks so much for your help!
Great guide! Now I just need the time to get going!
Mai Nomura says
Great Costa Rican itinerary! I’m loving how inexpensive it is to do these things! Great guide!
Thank you 🙂
Rosemarie Driscoll says
Amazing trip! I’d love to follow the itinerary you laid out. Great article guide!