adventure lovers itinerary
Get a taste for all the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica has to offer in a short amount of time
Are you ready to soak up tons of Costa Rica Pacific beach vibes? We created this one week Costa Rica Pacific Coast itinerary to give you the best beach experience in a short amount of time. Get ready for snorkeling, sliding down waterfalls, stand up paddle boarding, and more!
Airport Area (day 1) → La Fortuna (day 2, 3, 4) → Monteverde (day 5,6) → Samara (day 7, 8, 9) → Nosara (day 10) → Tamarindo (day 11, 12, 13) → Airport area (day 14) → Leave paradise (day 15)
This Costa Rica tour needs to be done by rental car. Unlike our other itineraries, this itinerary does have some activities which will include transportation. Despite that, you will be traveling to multiple locations throughout the country. Having a car makes transportation a whole lot easier and more affordable.
For this itinerary, we suggest renting a car with 4 wheel drive. The roads around Monteverde, Samara, and Nosara are not paved. If you opt to not get four-wheel drive, at least rent an SUV so you have some clearance. You will especially need this in Monteverde.
We have partnered with our favorite rental car company in Costa Rica, Adobe, to give you a 10% discount, free extra drivers, a free cell phone to use, free roof racks, and more! We love how honest and transparent Adobe is in a country where other rental car companies can not always be trusted.
You can find out more and grab your discount here.
If you need more info about directions we have a full post about how to get around.
Yeay! You’ve arrived in Costa Rica. Now you’re probably wondering, “what’s next?” First off, we suggest reading our guide to landing in San Jose. This will tell you all you need to know about going through Customs and picking up your rental car.
Once you have exited the airport, taken the shuttle to Adobe, and picked up your rental car, it is time to do something fun. We suggest either checking out Irazu volcano (here’s our complete guide) or checking out the Britt coffee tour.
If your flight gets in early in the morning you will have plenty of time to explore Irazu and the surrounding area. If you get in around midday you can do the Britt coffee tour. If you arrive in the evening it is probably best to grab some dinner and rest up before your drive to La Fortuna in the morning. For some great dinner spots check out our Alajuela (airport area) guide.
We suggest spending the night near the airport. The airport is actually closer to Alajuela than downtown San Jose. We have a guide to Alajuela with hotel suggestions here.
After breakfast and checking out of your hotel, it’s time to head to La Fortuna and fully start your Costa Rica adventure. Yeay! The drive will take about four hours and it is absolutely beautiful. In fact, it’s my favorite drive in the whole country. Just be warned if you get motion sickness, it is really curvy at some points. There are tolls on this road near the start of your drive, so make sure you have colones or a few dollars with you (they do take dollars at the toll booths and will give you colones as change).
Once you arrive in La Fortuna, you will need to check in to your hotel and get changed into swimwear. It’s time to check out the amazing La Fortuna waterfall! We have a full guide to visiting the La Fortuna waterfall here.
After the waterfall, it’s time to relax at a hot spring! We like to get as much out of the hot springs as possible so we tend to stay until late (they are open until 9 or 10pm).
However, you probably want to eat as well. We usually grill (both hot springs that we recommend have free grills which you can use), but we also have the luxury of bringing paper plates, aluminum foil, etc from home. If you have to buy all of that stuff, it might be better to just eat at a restaurant or get takeout before going.
We suggest Organico Fortuna for a good healthy meal which you can get to go, but you may end up getting there and want to just eat there (it’s ridiculously cute).
After picking up your food, head to the hot springs. We have two hot springs which we love, so I’ll describe them both and you can pick which sounds better to you.
Termalitas de Arenal: This is where the locals go. It costs 4,500 colones to enter (so about $9). On the weekends it tends to get pretty crowded. We like this place because at night it is all lit up with different colored lights. The setup is also really nice and you have more privacy at the various picnic table areas.
Termales Los Laurales: This hot spring costs about 6,000 colones (so about $12) to enter. It is much more open than Termalitas de Arenal. We love it because it has an amazing view of Arenal volcano. It’s absolutely beautiful at sunset. It also has lights at night, but they are not multi-colored like Termalitas de Arenal.
If you’d like more info we have guides to the hot springs here.
I suggest going to one on this first night and trying the next one on the next evening. I (Sarah) like Los Laurales more, but Thomas likes Termalitas de Arenal more. We’d love if you report back on your favorite so we can continue to argue about the best one. Maybe I’ll start a tally.
Both hot springs have multiple hot and cold pools, bathrooms, lockers, changing rooms, and a snack bar (but the food is not the best and it’s expensive for what it is).
After a nice evening at the hot springs, head back to your hotel and get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be filled with action!
Eat an early breakfast and then it’s time for some serious white water rafting.
We have rafted with Arenal Rafting and loved it. However, most local hotels partner with various rafting companies and may be able to get you a good discount. We suggest asking at your hotel when you check if they can recommend a rafting company to you. If they aren’t much help, definitely book with Arenal Rafting. You’ll 100% love it.
I wouldn’t stress too much about booking this ahead of time. often it is fine to arrange this the day before (and usually it’s cheaper). However, if you are planning to visit Costa Rica during the busiest months (December through April) it is probably a good idea to set up your rafting tour before visiting. You can always contact your hotel by email and ask if they have any discounts.
When you return from your adventure you will likely be exhausted. Grab some dinner at one of the places we suggest in the restaurant section of the La Fortuna guide (we like the vibe at Lava Lounge) and then either relax your muscles at the hot springs or head to bed.
Get up early and grab breakfast before heading out for some caving.
Caving is done at Venado Caves about 45 minutes from La Fortuna. We recently did this activity and it was such a unique experience. You will literally be slithering through tiny crevices in water while in these caves. I thought my anxiety would kick in, but I absolutely loved it and was extremely proud of myself for tackling this activity.
We suggest calling the day before to set up a time to visit the caves. They tend to not get very filled, but it is a tour and they can only take one group at a time. If you show up and another tour is already in the caves you will have to wait until they finish before you can go in.
Pro tip: If you rent your car with Adobe through us you get a free cell phone to use for local calls. This will make it easy for you to set a time to visit the caves.
Things to know: Venado Caves is located about 45 minutes from La Fortuna. They are open every day from 8:00 to 3:00 pm. The caves are really tight at some points but there is always an alternative route if this freaks you out. It costs $25 for a guided tour and you are welcome to swim at their nice pool after for free. There are restrooms, changing rooms, showers, and a snack bar on site. We suggest asking your hotel to call them in the morning just to see if they have a suggested time for you to visit. When we visited there was only one guide so other guests had to wait for our group to return before they could go out. You will likely spend about two to three hours here.
What to bring/ wear: Rubber boots are provided and you should wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet (you’ll be soaked by the end). I wore my bathing suit under gym shorts and a t-shirt. Also, sometimes things get caught on rocks (I ripped my shorts) so don’t wear anything you want to preserve.
After your adventure, you can head back to La Fortuna and grab some lunch in town (you can try out one of the places we suggest in the La Fortuna guide).
If you are not too tired from your caving adventure we suggest heading to El Salto for jumping off a rope swing into a cool river. Just type in “El Salto” into your GPS and it will come up.
When you arrive at the river you can pull your car off to the side of the road. Just don’t leave anything valuable inside. To access the river, walk down the path. You will likely see other people in the water as well.
At the river, there is a rope swing you can use to jump into the water below. It is not for the faint of heart, but hey, you are on the Costa Rica adventure itinerary after all! Please be careful though. The rocks can be slippery.
In the evening we suggest grabbing some dinner in town and then relaxing at your hotel. We suggest not making it too crazy of a night. You’ve got a bit of a drive in front of you for tomorrow morning!
Good morning! Monteverde is the next stop on your Costa Rica adventure! Although Monteverde and La Fortuna are close in distance it takes about three hours to drive between the two. The reason for that is big Lake Arenal. It’s a really nice drive though. We definitely suggest stopping along the way to take pictures. The view of Lake Arenal is really nice in spots.
Once you arrive in Monteverde you can check in to your hotel and grab some lunch if you haven’t already eaten. We have tons of good food suggestions in our Monteverde Guide.
After grabbing some food we suggest checking out the ficus tree. This is a large ficus tree in the woods that you can climb to the top of. It’s pretty cool and it’s free!
The easiest way to get here is by entering “Cloud Forest Lodge” into your GPS. When you arrive at the Cloud Forest Lodge just park your car on the side of the road. As always, don’t leave anything valuable in the car. Across from the lodge you will see dirt pathways going into the woods. Follow these paths and you will pass a few other ficus trees before finding the tree you really want. You’ll know you are in the correct spot when you see a tree that you can stand inside of and climb like a beautiful ladder from nature. Eventually, you will get to the top where you will have a really nice view.
Just be careful though. There is nobody around out there and you are climbing a tree. It is, of course, possible to slip.
After your ficus tree adventure, we suggest relaxing a bit before the evening. If you need a good dinner spot just check out our Monteverde guide.
In the evening you will be going on a wildlife night tour. You can read our complete post about it here.
Today is action packed! After eating some breakfast (there are some great little coffee shops in downtown Monteverde) it is time to head over to Selvatura Adventure Park.
This is something you could arrange ahead of time, but we don’t like to. On their website you, unfortunately, cannot just save a spot. You actually have to pay ahead of time. For us, we don’t like doing that because you never know if your plans will change.
Instead, we suggest going there in the morning and seeing when they have space for zip lining. They have all sorts of different packages you can choose from such as combo packages of zip lining, hanging bridges, and the butterfly garden. We have only done the zip lining but have heard the hanging bridges are nice as well.
Anyway, for the rest of the morning, you will be zip lining and hiking. It really depends on what time you were able to arrange the zip lining for, but up the street from Selvatura is the Santa Elena Reserve. This is the perfect cloud forest hiking spot. We have a full post about visiting here.
In the afternoon you will likely be tired. We suggest relaxing and grabbing a few early evening cocktails at Tree House restaurant. For dinner check out one of our suggested places in the Monteverde guide.
Wake up semi-early, eat breakfast, pack up your stuff and get ready for a four-hour drive to Samara.
Once you arrive in Samara it’s time to check into your hotel and grab some lunch. We suggest trying Bouticafe Bohemia if you want a filling but healthy meal.
After lunch head over to our favorite surf school. Pato’s Surf School is our top pick for surf schools in this whole country because they are a great company and have amazing package deals.
We suggest purchasing the Pura Vida package. It costs $130 per person, but that’s all you will pay for activities for the rest of the time you are in Samara.
This package includes a 60-minute massage, a 90-minute surf lesson, a three-hour kayak or SUP tour, and free usage of their surfboards for five days. You can divide this package up between the next few days.
Ask at Pato’s which part of the package you can begin now. It really all depends on the tides and availability.
After your fun at Pato’s, we suggest grabbing a few beers from the little store near the beach and watching the sunset while relaxing on the beach.
We suggest getting dinner at Soda La Perla for a tasty meal of typical Costa Rican food at an affordable price.
Today is going to be a full day of fun with Pato’s Surf School!
Hopefully, you set up a nice schedule of fun with Pato’s yesterday. Don’t forget that Pato’s will let you take out a surf board for free when you are not busy with your lesson, kayaking or SUP tour, and massage.
For lunch, we suggest heading to the Falafel Cafe. It is a short walk from Pato’s Surf School and they serve up some really amazing Mediterranean food!
Continue with your fun at Pato’s surf school in the afternoon.
For dinner with a sunset view, we suggest heading to LuvBurger. They provide high-quality food and you can enjoy your meal with a table on the beach for a great sunset view.
In the evening after dinner head to Microbar Samara for some amazing craft beers.
Last day of enjoying Patos surf school! Make the most of your surfing practice because tomorrow you will be heading to Nosara where the waves are bigger and a bit more crazy.
If you need some food suggestions for today check out our Samara guide for some more great options.
The drive from Samara to Nosara is an easy one so take your time leaving Samara. Once you leave you will be in Nosara in less than an hour.
We suggest staying in Nosara for a night just to get the feel for another spot and to break up your drive, but you could easily skip this stop and head straight to Tamarindo. Nosara is a super cute town though.
Also, throughout the year there are several times when a beach just north of Nosara called Ostional completely fills with sea turtles. You can see if these turtles will be there when you are visiting by staying up to date with the Ostional turtle Facebook page.
Just be warned, on your drive to Nosara, the road is unpaved. There are a few parts which can get flooded after heavy rains. You’ll just have to drive through them. After all, this is a Costa Rica Adventure Lovers Itinerary!
After checking into your hotel in Nosara, grab some lunch. We liked the places Burgers and Beers when we were there. It was a bit pricey, but with fresh organic ingredients, I felt like it was worth it.
After lunch, we suggest renting a surfboard at one of the many surf shops or just walking the beach. You can rent a board for the day for $10. There are several places that rent boards but we suggest walking as close to the beach as you can before renting a board so you don’t have to carry it as far to the beach.
If it looks as though there are sea turtles at Ostional, skip the surfing and head up there. It will take you about thirty minutes to drive to Ostional beach. Again, be warned that sometimes the roads can flood a bit.
In the evening, grab dinner at one of our suggested places in our Nosara guide and just enjoy the pura vida life you’re currently living.
After breakfast, say goodbye to Nosara and start heading north towards Tamarindo. The drive to Tamarindo will usually only take you about 1.5 hours, but there are plenty of nice beaches to stop at along the way. Most are not marked but just look for side roads heading to the ocean. It is perfectly OK to just pull your car off at the end of these roads to check out the beaches. Just keep in mind that these beaches are fairly remote so don’t go too far from your car since all of your luggage will be in the car.
When you arrive in Tamarindo, check into your hotel and explore the downtown area. There are tons of restaurants, bars, and cute stores to explore. I’d suggest keeping this as a relaxing day to explore the downtown area and chill on the beach. If you feel like you need to do something you can rent a surfboard all along the beach.
Check out our Tamarindo guide for food suggestions.
Today you’re going diving or snorkeling! Yeay! We have not personally gone on a diving or snorkeling tour in Tamarindo so I, unfortunately, can’t give you the insight on the best companies. Instead, I did a lot of searching online and narrowed it down to a list of a few companies that have really good reputations and are fair priced. All of these companies do combined tours. So, if one person in your group would like to go diving and another would like to snorkel you can both go on the same tour.
I’d suggest arranging this ahead of time so you can have it all set.
In the afternoon we suggest driving to nearby Playa Grande to relax on the beach. We like this beach because there are far less people than Tamarindo beach. It is a nice place to walk and just relax.
In the evening grab dinner at one of our suggested places. The nightlife goes strong in Tamarindo if you’d like to go out after.
As with snorkeling, we have not actually rented ATV’s in Tamarindo, but we have done a lot of research into this for you. So, in Tamarindo, you will see ATV and UTV rental places everywhere! As always, it is best to ask at your hotel if they have a company they can recommend. They may be able to get you a discount.
If not, there are a two companies that sounded really good to us. Let’s go through each one….
ATV Tamarindo: They are a really reputable company and if you book your tour through their website you will get a $10 discount per person. They offer ATV and UTV tours from two hours up to six hours. Their website is great and has detailed info about where each tour would go.
Tamarindo Active: Tamarindo Active is great because they allow you to actually rent an ATV or UTV and do your own thing. They are of course happy to give you suggestions on where to go. If you opt to do this, I suggest using at least part of your time to go Playa Avellana (the afternoon activity for today). The road to get there is unpaved and could be fun with your ATV.
In the afternoon we suggest heading to Playa Avellana for some afternoon beach chilling. You can grab lunch at Lola’s (the beach bar there) and just relax. We have a full guide to Playa Avellana for you.
In the evening grab dinner at one of our suggested places and prepare yourself for the drive back to the airport area tomorrow.
The drive from Tamarindo back to San Jose airport area will take you about five hours. It’s not a bad drive. The roads are well-paved roads the whole way. Just don’t start too late because reaching the San Jose area during rush hour can be a nightmare.
We suggest returning your car tonight if you have a semi-early flight. This will save you from paying for an extra day of car rentals. If you stay within 12 miles of the airport, Adobe will pick the car up from you there free of charge. We suggest staying at a place with a free airport shuttle so you can easily get to the airport in the morning.
Unfortunately it is time to go back to reality. We hope you had a great visit and come back soon!
In every destination guide, we list our favorite accommodations. Recently we have had really good luck with Airbnb and have gotten some really good deals. We have a guide to using Airbnb in Costa Rica here. Our guide to budget accommodations in Costa Rica will also help you out.
If you plan on booking a hotel, we’d appreciate it if you booked by clicking this link to booking.com. It doesn’t cost you anything but we get a percentage of their profits which allows us to keep making these Costa Rica trip plans available to you for free.
Also, if you are new to Airbnb we have $20 off for your first stay. Just click here to sign up for an account.
As I mentioned earlier, we tried to keep things mostly on budget, but there are for sure some activities in this itinerary that are not as cheap. We tried to only pick more expensive activities which we feel are worth splurging for and support wonderful local businesses.
If you would like some alternative activity ideas, check out our destinations guides for the places you are visiting.
– This itinerary does involve a lot of driving, but we tried to space it enough that it becomes doable.
– Check out our Must Know page for more tips for preparing for your travel including packing lists, gear suggestions, using your cell phone here etc.
– We created this Costa Rica two week itinerary with the idea that you would be flying in and out of the San Jose airport, but you will actually save yourself a lot of driving time if you are able to fly into Liberia. Usually, the flights in and out of Liberia are more expensive, but recently I’ve seen some really great deals so it’s definitely worth checking it out.
Does this itinerary sound good, but you would like a more customized Costa Rica experience? Just fill in our Costa Rica Trip Planner form! One of our favorite Costa Rica experts will contact you and help with the entire Costa Rica planning process.