One-Week Costa Rica Itinerary: Nature & Culture

A 7 day trip to Costa Rica 
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The charming wildlife and stunning jungle terrain have shaped a fascinating heritage that will be revealed during your customizable tour of the history and culture of Costa Rica. Whether viewing the splendor of the rainforest’s ancient life or finding artifacts of the pre-Columbian peoples, you will wander through a wide range of national preserves that protect the natural evolution of diverse flora and abundant fauna. Watch for turtles returning to the Caribbean shores, glide through the air on a zipline for views over the wild jungle canopy, and relax in soothing hot springs while experiencing Costa Rica’s important blend of natural and recorded histories.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

San Jose, Tortuguero, Arenal

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: San Jose – Arrive in Costa Rica’s Capital for a Cultural Introduction

Costa Rica’s capital of San Jose will embody the culture of the surrounding country while also showcasing a timeline of the heritage from inside the museums and along the distinctive neighborhoods. Your flight will land at Juan Santamaria International Airport, where your private transfer will greet you upon arrival and will escort you to the comforts of your luxury hotel. Arriving early in San Jose will provide ample time to explore the city’s fascinating history with the private company of a guide, beginning with the Plaza de la Cultura.

Locals will enjoy the public square at the heart of the city where vendors will also offer food and drinks to passersby. Children will enjoy the refreshing ice cream cones and impressive acts by jugglers. Underneath the concrete plaza stands the celebrated Museo de Oro Precolombino y Numismática, which hosts priceless artifacts, including pieces of pre-Columbian gold and contemporary art. The galleries are held within a vault and are owned by the Banco Central, who display a substantial collection of artifacts. Amulets, figurines, and earrings shine in the soft light of the museum, providing a glimpse into the historical importance of gold to the pre-Columbian peoples of Costa Rica. Your guide will bring you to the figure of El Guerrero, which is a life-sized, golden warrior that is embellished with lavish ornaments.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Tortuguero – Enjoy Scenic Travel to the Caribbean Town of Tortuguero

In the morning, the scents of sweet mango and pineapple will fill the dining room of your hotel before fading beneath the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. The Central Market will brim with activity as more than 200 shops open for the day featuring colorful fruits, delicious vegetables, and refreshing coffees. You can also buy many other crafts from vendors such as cowboy saddles, fragrant flowers, and many other trinkets and souvenirs one can imagine.

Your private transfer will greet you at the hotel after breakfast eager to escort you Eastward to the secluded Caribbean town of Tortuguero. The scenic drive will take you through a portion of Braulio Carrillo National Park, a protected area of 108,000 acres with an active volcanic peak. Traveling through the national park will offer insight into the marvelous biodiversity for which Costa Rica is known as you will see a small portion of the 6,000-plant species growing in the diverse terrain that also support over 500 different species of birds.

The banana plantations along the drive will give way to the mangrove forest and canals that block the roads from reaching Tortuguero. You will board the long, skinny boat along the edge of the mainland and snake through the rivers and canals alongside the verdant rainforest. The sounds of twittering birds will echo through the trees. The journey to Tortuguero will be almost as fascinating as the village itself. The village is nestled between the Caribbean sandbar and the dense rainforest. Coconut and cocoa plantations border the outskirts of the village streets and local fishers often return to the shore resting their boats along the beach.

In the evening, your guide will meet you at the hotel and lead you to the shoreline between the months of March and October to view the annual nesting season of sea turtles. You will have to wear dark clothes to avoid disrupting the turtles. The warm evening will fill with a refreshing sea breeze as you wander along one of the town’s beaches, which is considered the world’s most important turtle nesting site. The Green Turtle can weight more than 400 pounds and lay nearly 700 eggs per season.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Tortuguero – Traverse the Marvelous Protected Canals of Tortuguero

You will set out with your private guide in the morning onto the canals that lead away from the village to explore the 194 square miles of protected coastal park. The waterway spread inward from the Caribbean Sea and encompasses one of the wettest regions in all of Costa Rica. You will pass alongside the banana plantations before the dense jungle terrain envelopes the canal that supports more than 300 different bird species, including hawks, falcons, and cuckoos. Your guide will quickly point out a basilisk lizard as they are very common and unique to the region.

These lizards can grow up to two and a half feet long, including their tail. Traveling along the remote, watery landscape will offer a feeling of adventure and discovery as you search through the trees while you glide deeper beneath the canopy. Jaguars and pumas will hunt on the protected grounds at night, and peacocks will graze during the day. Along the shoreline, you will also find alligators cooling their bodies down in the water. They will stay away from the boat but possess a dominating presence.

You will then turn your eyes from the banks to the trees in order to find a troop of the endangered Geoffroy’s spider monkeys. They live in packs of up to 42 members and use their prehensile tails to balance as they travel through the forest canopy. They can grow up to 25 inches with their tail growing longer than their body. Viewing wildlife in its natural habitat has an enchanting effect that will allow you to witness ways in which the monkeys forage, travel, and even interact with their fellow white-headed capuchin monkey.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Arenal – Venture to the Historic Arenal for a Scenic Volcano Hike

In the morning, the aroma of fresh coffee will fade beneath the refreshing scent of the Caribbean Sea. The butterflies in the observational garden will flutter around the leaves and tree trunks as they feed on the nectar. Monarch butterflies will glow with iridescent blue hues along their wings that can stretch up to four inches wide. After breakfast, you will travel back along the water to meet your private transfer, who will escort you to the captivating region of Arenal.

The summit will soar above the landscape at 5,479 feet above sea level, and the lush greenery of the landscape will shimmer along the edges of Lake Arenal. Resorts, boutique shops, and charming Caféswill emerge from the beneath the rainforest canopy to offer marvelous views of emerald scenery and access to the celebrated natural thermal springs that decorate the region. You will enjoy the comforts of your hotel before meeting your guide for an easy hike along the trails of Arenal National Park.

The protected landscape surrounds 26,692 acres that overtake stunning lava fields, pristine forests, and volcanic peaks. You will wander along the Lava Flow Trail where the surrounding greenery opens to a clearing of lava rocks that will resemble a lunar landscape. The boulders will embody the history of the 1968 eruption when rocks shot into the air at speeds of up to 1,200 miles per hour. The trail will provide a panoramic view across the rugged black rocks and healthy forest that is crowned by the idyllic peak of the volcano for a perfect introduction to the region.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Arenal – Delight in a ZipLine and Rainforest Canopy Excursion

The day will begin with an adventure to uncover the life and history of the rainforest canopy during your exciting zipline excursion. You will soar through the sky as you fly along seven cables that reach a total of 2,460 feet in length. The wind will rush against your cheeks as you speed over the canyon and touch the edges of the mountain slopes. You will search the treetops for wildlife that rests between the leaves, hopefully noticing a resting sloth or two. Your guide will explain that the most common sloth in Costa Rica is the brown-throated sloth, which can grow up to 31 inches long. Their gray and brown fur helps them blend into the trees to avoid predation of circling harpy eagles or passing jaguars.

Your exploration of the canopy will continue with a tour along the famous hanging bridges that consist of a two-and-a-half-mile trail, offering unique views of the diverse rainforest ecosystem. The suspension bridges will connect to the mountainous trails for a distinc view of flora and fauna. Your guide will point out a colorful keel-billed toucan that perches in the trees and forages for nuts. Their beaks are famous for their marvelous yellow, orange, lime, and pale blue colors that are topped with a crimson tip that contrasts with their black plumage. A flock may call out with shrill chirps at altitudes of up to 3,937 feet above sea level.

In the afternoon, you will return to the cozy ambiance of your resort and indulge in the soothing waters of the natural thermal springs that are connected to the property. The geothermal activity beneath the landscape heats the springs that filter through the foothills and valleys, creating pools with temperatures reaching 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The rich minerals from the volcanic soil seep into the waters providing medicinal properties, moisturizing dry skin, and soothing aching muscles.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Arenal – Visit a Chocolate Plantation and Search for Nocturnal Wildlife

Your guide will meet you at the hotel after breakfast eager to introduce you to one of Latin America’s most important native species: the cocoa tree. During a fascinating chocolate tour on a plantation that hosts approximately 300 trees, you will follow your guide through the property to learn about the history of cacao in Latin America and its popular growth in Europe after the arrival of the Spanish in the sixteenth century. Wandering among the trees, you will find the large pods that contain the seeds that eventually become chocolate. The interior will have a white gelatinous coating, which you will taste and find a tart and sweet flavor that is similar to vanilla pudding.

Your guide will show you the fermentation and seed-drying processes before you help roast the beans. Roasting the cocoa will release the familiar aroma of dark chocolate, and grinding the beans will produce a fine, powdery texture. Cooking the powder will turn the cocoa into cajuli,or liquid chocolate. You will be delighted by your first taste of pure, hot chocolate before finding a slight, bitter quality that tends to bite through the richness. You will also personalize the drink with your preferred flavors, adding sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, or marshmallows to the mixture until the drink contains your perfect blend of spice and sweetness.

In the evening, your guide will lead you out of Arenal to reach a private reserve of secondary forest where nocturnal animals are seemingly restless. Your tour will focus on the amphibians of Costa Rica, while also searching for reptiles and mammals amid the nightly frog songs that echo throughout the trees. Nearby, you will find the bright coloration of a red-eyed tree frog, which are common at low elevations. The red-eyed tree frog is famous for its brilliant flashes of color with dark blue thighs and bright orange hands that contrast with their huge crimson eyes.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Arenal – Return to San Jose and Depart for Home

At breakfast, the radiant colors of the fresh fruit in the dining hall will remind you of the bright hues of the red-eyed tree frog that is seen clinging to the trees during your nocturnal hike the previous night. The aroma of Costa Rican coffee will drift through the air and highlight the renowned quality of the soil and crops. Outside of the resort, visitors will eagerly venture from activity to activity such as lounging in the hot springs, trekking to stunning waterfalls, searching for wildlife from hanging bridges, and angling over whitewater on a thrilling rafting tour. Your private transfer will meet you in the hotel lobby and escort you back to San Jose at Juan Santamaria International Airport for your flight home.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$1,255
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.