Costa Rica Itinerary: How to spend 1 week in Costa Rica

If you only have one week to spend in Costa Rica, you can still get a taste of the beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and rainforest the country has to offer! Costa Rica may look small on a map, but due to poor road conditions it is best to try to limit travel days, and stick to visiting 1-3 towns if you are only there for a 1 week trip. This Costa Rica Itinerary includes a beautiful beach, rainforest, and waterfall. That way you can see 3 completely different aspects of Costa Rica, all in one week.

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Costa Rica Packing List

Destinations: Monteverde, Rio Celeste, Manuel Antonio

Time: 1 week

Day 1: Fly into San Jose

Most international flights to Costa Rica fly into San Jose, so this is likely where your journey will begin. Depending on the time that you arrive, you can either stay the night in San Jose or depart onwards to Monteverde as soon as you get into Costa Rica. It always takes longer to get around in Costa Rica than you think it will, so it’s probably best to get a hotel/hostel in San Jose, and plan to depart to Monteverde in the early morning.

Monteverde Forest

Day 2: Head to Monteverde

It’s about a 3 hour drive from San Jose to Monteverde, so it’s best to get an early start! Once you arrive and check into your hotel, get settled, you can wander around the town and enjoy all the little shops, and there are plenty of tasty options for dinner.

Day 3: Explore the Cloud Forest

On day 3, you should plan to wake up early and explore the cloud forest. There are two main forests you can visit in Monteverde, including the Monteverde Cloud Forest and the Santa Elena Nature Reserve. Each park will take approximately 3-4 hours to explore. This will leave you with plenty of time in the afternoon to go zip lining, take a coffee/chocolate tour, or do one of the many free hikes nearby Monteverde.

Rio Celeste Waterfall
Rio Celeste Waterfall

Day 4: Rio Celeste: The Turquoise Waterfall

On day 4, you should get a very early start and head over to Rio Celeste. The park is open until 4, but lets the last people in around 2 so try to get to the park around 1 to give yourself a solid 3 hours. After you complete the hike, you can head over to one of the free swimming holes along the river so you can enjoy a dip in the crystal blue waters. Visiting the Rio Celeste Waterfall just might be the best part of your Costa Rica Itinerary! For more information on visiting the Rio Celeste waterfall, check out this in depth guide.

Day 5: Manuel Antonio

Once you check in and get settled at your accommodations, you should head on over to the beach to catch the sunset. The beach at Manuel Antonio is perhaps one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve been to in Costa Rica. The water is incredibly clear, and nice to swim in. There are plenty of options for dinner along the hill, my personal favorite was the restaurant at Costa Linda Art Hostel.

Day 6:Manuel Antonio

On day 6 you can check out the Manuel Antiono park. Its full of monkeys, and you can also see sloths, frogs, butterflies, and various other types of birds here!

Day 7: Back to reality!

Plan to get back to the airport early enough to give yourself time to catch your flight. This itinerary is a whirlwind trip, but it really gives you the chance to see beautiful beaches, the cloud forest, and an incredible waterfall. If you prefer a slower pace of travel, then I recommend either cutting out Monteverde, or the Rio Celeste Waterfall to give yourself a little more time to relax and enjoy the beautiful country of Costa Rica!

Also! If you’re wondering what to pack for your trip, definitely check out my Costa Rica Packing Guide.

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  1. This is the perfect itinerary for a first-time visit to Costa Rica. This was my itinerary the first time I went and I always recommend it to others. It is the best way to get the feel of Costa Rica and experience everything it has to offer, right off the bat. When people skip Manuel Antonio, I’m like “what are you doing?!?!” Great post! – Linzey @thefamilyfuntour

  2. We love Costa Rica. We have been to Monteverde, but didn’t have a chance to venture to Rio Celeste. Based on your recommenation, will definitely put in on the list for next time.

  3. Costa Rica is high on my list! So beautiful I’ve been overwhelmed on how to narrow find my choices so this itinerary on how to spend one week in Costa Rica is perfect.

  4. We had only one day in Costa Rica on a cruise and it was not nearly enough. This one week itinerary looks great. But I am sure it would still not be enough. The waterfalls looks stunning. But I know we would want to do both a coffee and chocolate tour!

  5. I’ve been researching a Costa Rica trip and all of these spots were on my radar. I’m glad that they can all be visited in a week. I thought it might be too much. Thanks for all the great info!

  6. I’ve wanted to go to Costa Rica for the longest of times and I’m even more inspired now! This is such a great post for trip ideas and length of time.

  7. I did almost this exact same route when I traveled Costa Rica a few years ago! Was such a great trip. I didn’t make it to Rio Celeste though, and I’m bummed I didn’t because it looks so beautiful.

  8. Costa Rica has been on my bucket list for so long! It is simply stunning! I would love to explore Cloud Forest and visit the Rio Celeste and take a swim in one of the swimming holes.

  9. I only spent a day in Costa Rica (as a cruise port stop). I love your road trip and all the great natural beauty you found. I wanted to see the Cloud Forest but it wasn’t available on the day I went.

  10. This is an awesome itinerary! Thank you so much for sharing! I’m headed to Costa Rica in a few weeks and this is a great itinerary ❤️

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