Costa Rica Itinerary: Planning Your 7-Day Trip
Costa Rica may be small, but it’s one of the biggest small counties you’ll ever visit: Spectacularly diverse, breathtakingly beautiful, and everything you imagine paradise to be.
Planning your dream vacation is no small task. Because when it comes to Costa Rica, time is always short. You could spend a lifetime here. Costa Rica’s beauty unrolls over 19,730 square miles – a tiny yet diverse nation, packed with plenty of gems throughout a diverse landscape. From towering volcanoes to pristine shorelines, from open grasslands to dense rainforest, and from serene waterfalls to mirror-smooth sea, Costa Rica never ceases to amaze. This richness of culture and natural wonders is precisely what places Costa Rica so high on so many people’s bucket lists. So, if you long for a getaway to paradise – to rich jungle, cerulean waters and enchanting culture – and have seven days to spare, then we have the perfect trip: Just long enough to see the highlights of Costa Rica and live the can’t-miss adventure, with just enough downtime to keep you rested and recharged for all your explorations.
Day 0: Arrival
Even before touchdown – before you officially land on Costa Rican soil – you’ll know you’re here, in paradise. As the clouds part and the plane noses into blue skies, you catch your first glimpse of Costa Rica: emerald green mountaintops and volcanic crater lakes, sprawling green valleys and skinny coconut palms, their fronds waving a hello. There’s already something special happening, and you’re not even here.
And then, with just a small bump of the plane’s wheels, you are. You’re here! And, if you’re on most flights landing from North America, your “here” is the newly constructed Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), just outside San José.
Once you’re through immigration, you’re free. Step out into the fresh, Costa Rican breeze. Your bilingual, professional chauffeur will make arrival easy and makes for a great addition to your vacation. Simply look for your name as you enter the arrivals area and they’ll whisk you away to one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful and biodiverse areas: Manuel Antonio.
More like a scenic 2 ½ hour tour than a drive, enjoy a few stops and attractions along the way on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast Highway. Only an hour and fifteen minutes into the drive stop at the world-famous crocodile bridge. Don’t worry. They are way down there! Only 20 minutes later enjoy a fresh catch lunch and cocktail or cold beer right on the ocean’s edge in Playa Hermosa. Now THIS is paradise…
A short hour later, you have arrived. To greet you: The colorful welcome sign to Quepos and its magnificent new Marina Pez Vela. The gateway to supernatural Manuel Antonio, in the hills beyond. The spectacular Villa Punto de Vista.
Upon arrival at Villa Punto de Vista, we suggest nothing. And by nothing, we mean just that – nothing on your schedule. No responsibilities. No worries. No stress. The roof-top Jacuzzi will be waiting for you and take a dip in our private, double infinity ocean-view pool. Set up the perfect photo of visiting squirrel monkeys. Arrange a welcome dinner with our private chef.
Whatever you do, don’t worry. We’ve stocked the pantry and refrigerator with provisions. Our driver is at your disposal. We’ve arranged for your every need. All you need do is unwind, sip our signature cocktails, and watch the sun go down.
“Spectacular” hardly begins to cover Manuel Antonio. This seaside town – technically, Quepos is the town and Manuel Antonio is the area surrounding the national park – is known for its three gorgeous beaches and eponymous national park, where lush rainforest quite literally tumbles onto white-sand beach and aquamarine sea.
It is here that serpentine coast wends and winds, carving out quiet nooks and secluded crannies, and building natural tide pools into the scenery. It is here that Manuel Antonio National Park stands as the best place start to your seven-day vacation in Costa Rica. At just under three square miles, it is one of the smallest national parks you are ever likely to see. And yet, it is one of Costa Rica’s most-visited national parks. It’s worth the superlative.
Day 1: Manuel Antonio Beaches
After a long flight, you deserve a day on the incredible beaches of Manuel Antonio. The most popular beach in the park is Playa Espadilla. It stretches more than a mile, starting at Villa Punto de Vista and ending where the national Park jungle begins. This location offers a lot of ways to incorporate different activities into your beach fun. For instance, rent some surfboards or boogie boards and catch some of the beach’s impressive waves, you can even ask the concierge to organize a Beach BBQ (Have a chef come down and cook delicious food for you right on the beach and some delicious cocktails)
The south of Playa Espadilla is Playa Espadilla Sur – just as magical as its sibling, but for a different reason. At its southernmost extremity, Espadilla Sur Beach melts into a tiny spit of land leading out to Punta Catedral: a wonderful spot for looking out over this famous outcropping of land, as well as to many small islands.
Playa Manuel Antonio is located just across this spit of land. No hyperbole – this is one of the world’s most beautiful beaches (by Trip Advisor). It’s breathtaking, in the literal sense. With fine coral sand that never scorches your feet, it is perfect for sunbathing and playing in the calm water. It is also an incredible spot to snorkel, as there are tidal pools full of beautiful sea life on its southern end.
The most secluded beach in Manuel Antonio is Playa Gemelas. You may even have this beach all to yourself, if you’re lucky. Ahead of you rises the stunning view of Punta Catedral.
Day 1 Bonus: Manuel Antonio’s Hidden Beaches or Beach BBQ
Looking for the ultimate in seclusion and beauty? Then, try venturing to these hidden beaches in Manuel Antonio.
The first is Playa Biesanz, which involves a slight trek but is well worth it. Mind that, when we say a trek, we’re talking about a 15-minute walk on a trail. Down at the beach, you’ll find vendors with food and beverage, including fresh coconut water and delicious blackberry margaritas, as well as beach services, including rentals for kayaks, chairs, umbrellas and paddleboards. Keep your eyes peeled for monkeys in the trees and colorful crabs on the sand.
Another beach is Playa la Macha, remarkable in that you’ll almost certainly have it all to yourself. If utter tranquility is what you’re after, then la Macha is the beach for you. When you stretch out on the sand, the only sound you’ll hear is of crashing waves the singsong of nature. Meditate. Pack a picnic. Note that this beach does require a more arduous hike (around 40 minutes), so make sure you wear shoes that are up to the task.
Day 2: Jungle Richness in Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
Now that you’re full of vitamin D, a little tanner than you were yesterday, and a lot more relaxed, you’re ready to explore more of Manuel Antonio. And what better way, than to experience the diverse wonders of its jungle landscape?
While it’s true that Manuel Antonio is known for its beaches, its trails are a definite diamond-in-the-rough: not what you came for, but one of the most standout memories you’ll take home. Here, sandy beach trails wind through dense rainforest. Look around and into the trees, and you could spot:
- Endangered squirrel monkeys, and additionally white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, and spider monkeys
- Two- and three-toed sloths
- Many bird species, including toucans, tanagers, motmots, hawks, and more
- Many amphibian species, including adorable tree frogs and brilliantly colored dart frogs
- Several reptiles, for example green iguanas
Manuel Antonio’s Waterfall and Sloth Trails offer two short hikes, each taking several minutes. They lead you to a waterfall and over a wooden platform, where you can spy some sleepy sloths. You’ll love the sounds of hummingbirds and monkey calls from the canopy!
The Punta Catedral hike takes about an hour and encircles a gorgeous piece of land. One of the best parts about these “hikes” is that they can be done in sandals, as the terrain of Manuel Antonio is not terribly rugged.
If you’re a serious nature lover, birder, or wildlife enthusiast, hire an experienced guide to show you the jungle. You may see toucans, anteaters, monkeys, scarlet macaws, and other animals, while also learning about rainforest’s fauna and how it complements this busy ecosystem. Note that you can see the jungle by foot, boat, jet ski, ATV or rappelling. Whatever you pick, it promises to be a memorable experience.
If a day of hiking doesn’t suit your needs, there are many other options to choose from in Manuel Antonio. You can explore standup paddle-boarding, night hikes and tours of the jungle, boat trips to Damas Island Estuary, and more. Villa Punto de Vista’s knowledgeable concierge is full of excellent and customized-to-you recommendations in and around the village.
Tip: If you’re looking for a thrill, check out Mid World zip line tours, which fly through the unbelievable canopy. Central America’s longest zip line is in Manuel Antonio, and at nearly a mile long, it allows you to become one with the wilderness around you.
Day 3: Horseback Riding at Rancho Tipico Don Juan
What is the most memorable way to navigate a tropical paradise? For many, the answer is by horseback. Manuel Antonio offers some of the most stunning terrestrial wonders you’re likely to see in a lifetime. So, why not experience them on the back of nature’s most elegant form of transport?
Located close to Villa Punto de Vista, Rancho Tipico Don Juan is a family-run ranch of more than 300 acres. From grassy fields to lush forest, the ranch unfolds over uniquely Costa Rican landscapes, accessible only via off-road paths. It’s no wonder the family uses horses as their main mode of transportation! You, too, will soon understand why they view it as the best way to see Manuel Antonio’s natural splendor.
The adventure begins by riding through green pastures, where cows graze freely. Then, you’ll dip into the woods on a series of old-world trails that wind through hectares of lush forest and cross crystal-clear streams. And all along the way, your guide will point out the magnificent wildlife that surrounds.
And, if you’re looking for something unforgettable, you can’t miss the Finca’s preposterously enormous trees. Standing beside them makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – except in a tropical paradise. The roots of these giant trees can be twice as tall as a full-grown adult. This is truly a forest that rivals the Redwoods and Sequoias of California, at least in their circumference.
You’ll also marvel at picturesque waterfalls tumbling down fern-covered cliffs. Go on, jump in for an impromptu swim — a favorite pastime for guests of Rancho Tipico Don Juan. Through it all, your horse is with you, ferrying you through an enchanted landscape, as untouched as it would have been in centuries past.
Day 4: Embrace “Pura Vida” and Relax!
There’s no better way to indulge in Costa Rican tradition than to embrace the local pura vida – the pure life.
You’re lucky enough to be here in paradise. You’re lucky enough to be here with friends and family. And you’re lucky enough to have your own, private villa.
So, enjoy paradise. Enjoy your loved ones. Enjoy your villa. Spend the day lounging by the double-edge infinity pool. Schedule a photo shoot with local wildlife. Take a dip in your private roof-top Jacuzzi. Read a book in the hammock. Wander through our private reserve. Get playful in the game room. Or even, ferry (or walk) down to the nearest secluded, golden-sand beach.
And whenever you need it, go ahead and press that “Luis button” – your direct line to private butler service, a cool cocktail, a fine meal, or to order off the spa/massage menu. Welcome to the pura vida. The pure life is a good life.
Day 5: Tortuga Island Catamaran Tour
Allow yourself, for just a moment, to imagine your fantasy version of what Costa Rica will be like. Don’t hold back.
Have you conjured up images of a pristine deserted island, golden sand beaches, ocean waves lapping at the shore, swaying palms and sea almonds, and an ice-cold drink sweating in your hand? Don’t worry, there’s no rude awakening on the lovely horizon — that very fantasy is a reality on the Tortuga Island Catamaran Tour.
Tortuga Island is the stuff of dreams: The iconic picture of tropical tranquility, this island is home to unlimited swimming and snorkeling, shady beaches for sunbathing, beach volleyball, and lots of hiking trails.
The island is heavily forested and offers lush, cool shade for exploring the landscape. If adventure is more your speed, try out the rush of the canopy zip line tour, which is both thrilling and allows you aerial views of the sea and jungle. However you choose to enjoy Tortuga Island, getting there on a catamaran allows you a smooth ride, the utmost luxury, and an atmosphere of festivity. Plus, lunch and drinks, if you so desire. (Tip: This tour is best enjoyed during the high season.)
Day 6: Relax or Go Big – Nauyaca Waterfalls!
Many might like to take this last full day as another day of rest at your private villa. But for those with an additional thirst for adventure – how about a waterfall?
Enjoy Nauyaca Waterfalls, some of the most gorgeous falls in Costa Rica and, arguably, the world. Renowned for their remote location and natural beauty, the cascades are best known for their 200-foot waterfall and invitingly clear water. Your first glimpse may just take your breath away: In a canyon several hundred feet wide, multiple falls feed into a large pool. Several separate pools invite you to explore and swim.
The fun also includes horseback riding and guided tours, climbing, cliff jumping and swimming. All of this, surrounded by the profound serenity of the Costa Rica rainforest. This is truly the spot for nature lovers and those who want to experience the landscape — not just view it.
Day 7: The Way to San José
On your final day in paradise, Sleep in, Enjoy the incredible 180 degree views from our Dinning Terrace with your signature Artisan Coffee one last time.
TIP: If you have a late afternoon flight and would like to head out early. We can recommend combining your travel day with a visit to downtown San José, Costa Rica’s capital city. If you’re new to Central America, you’ll be amazed at the wealth of history — both pre- and post-Columbian.
One must-visit spot is the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. Situated in an underground building beneath the Plaza de la Cultura, the museum invites you to get up close and personal with pre-Columbian gold, from the millennia leading up to Columbus’ landing in the Americas. The oldest specimens in this museum date back to 500 A.D.
Or, if you’d prefer a more well-rounded view of Costa Rican history, head down the road to the National Museum. A former military barracks – side note: Costa Rica abolished its military in 1949 – the museum is recognizable for its yellow paint. Inside, you’ll find pre-Columbian gold, jade, tools and sculptures, plus exhibits on modern Costa Rican culture and the ecosystem.
For architecture buffs (And right next door), your next stop should be the National Theater, or Teatro Nacional. Opened in 1897 and funded by coffee exports, the historic building promises some of the most beautiful architecture in the country. The Museo de los Niños, or Children’s Museum, is another great stop for families. It has been open since 1994 and hosts lots of interactive displays for children on topics including astronomy, the natural sciences, the humanities, and more.
Don’t leave San José without experiencing the food. From fresh fruit to grilled delights, Costa Rica displays a penchant for delicious treats on full display downtown.
Choose Villa Punto de Vista for Your 7 Days in Paradise
Now that you know what to do in Costa Rica, let’s discuss where to stay. If you are a group of 10 to 25+ persons and looking for something luxurious, intimate, fully-staffed and with the best reviews you have ever seen, Villa Punto de Vista fits the bill.
Featured in Architectural Digest, Villa Punto de Vista, Spanish for “Point of View,” is a luxury villa with unparalleled access to the wonders of Manuel Antonio and its beaches. Enjoy amazing panoramic views of everything from the rainforest to the Pacific Ocean from high in the canopy, then travel down the hill to explore the quiet and spectacular tropical beaches.
You’ll have this breath-stealing, jaw-dropping view from almost every room in the villa. Immerse yourself in the world outside, while enjoying the utmost of luxury, indoors and throughout your stay.
While at the villa, enjoy the ease and delicious luxury of hiring a private chef for lunches and dinners as desired. With a big group it’s best to stay put and no waiting for big-table setups. The villa is always ready for you and enjoy the best view in town from that dining terrace!
Get in touch to make a reservation at Costa Rica’s premier luxury villa and to organize an incredible trip through the country. You can use our main contact form to reach us or try phoning or using our live chat. We can’t wait to meet you.