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!
Jaco (day 1) → Manuel Antonio (day 2, 3) → Uvita (day 4, 5, 6) → Airport Area (day 7) → Leave paradise (day 8)
This Costa Rica tour needs to be done by rental car. The reason for this is many of the activities listed are a bit off the beaten path. It will be difficult to get to them without a car. Also, you will be traveling to multiple locations throughout the country. Having a car makes transportation a whole lot easier and more affordable.
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.
You have arrived! Welcome to Costa Rica! We have a guide to landing at the San Jose airport which will walk you through the whole Customs process and help you pick up your rental car.
Because you don’t have a ton of time in Costa Rica, we suggest driving straight to Jaco after you arrive. The drive will only take about 1.5 hours. Of course, if you arrive in the evening you may prefer to spend one night near the airport. We have a guide to this area here.
Once you arrive in Jaco and check in to your hotel, it’s time to have some fun, but first, change into your swimsuit and get some lunch if you’re hungry! We love Tacobar, but we have other great options in our Jaco guide if you’d like to try something different.
After lunch head to Carton Surf Boards. Here you can take surf lessons, rent a surfboard or a stand-up paddleboard. We suggest going the SUP route if you are not an experienced surfer and don’t want to spend the money for a surf lesson.
If you’d like to book ahead of time you can do so on their website, but we’ve never had a problem just walking in and getting a SUP board. They can direct you to the best places to go. I suggest only doing an hour if it is your first time on a SUP (it is a serious arm workout), but if you love it you can always extend for longer of you’re having fun.
After a fun day of SUP or surfing, it’s time to get changed and get some sunset cocktails.
We suggest heading to Amphitheater Restaurant for sunset drinks. This restaurant is located at the Villa Caletas hotel. It is a fancy hotel and the restaurant is not cheap, but for one drink and a sunset view it is worth it. Just ask at the front desk and they can direct you. You can sit in their outdoor Roman amphitheater on a cliff above Jaco and watch the sunset here. It doesn’t get better than this!
After a sunset cocktail head to one of our suggested dinner spots. We like Soda Jaco Rustico for traditional Costa Rican food at an affordable price. If you are up for a drink after head to Green Room Cafe. They have a good craft beer selection and usually have live music going on in the evenings.
After breakfast, we suggest relaxing on the beach a bit more before heading to Manuel Antonio. It will only take you about 1.5 hours to drive to Manuel Antonio. You probably won’t be able to check in to your next hotel until a bit later in the day.
When you arrive in Manuel Antonio you should check into your hotel and drop your stuff off before heading to the beach. If it is too early to check in you can ask if there is a place where you can safely store your belongings in the hotel. Costa Rica is pretty safe but petty crimes can be a problem sometimes. It’s best to never leave your belongings in the car unattended for more than a few minutes. After dropping your stuff off it’s time to grab lunch and head to our favorite beach in Manuel Antonio.
As you turn onto the road for Playa Biesanz you will see a restaurant on the corner called Falafel Bar. This place is really cute and has some of the best falafel I’ve ever eaten. You could also wait until you get to Playa Biesanz to get lunch. There are tons of locals selling things such as ceviche and barbeque on the beach. Although I’ve never actually eaten on Playa Biesanz I can tell you the barbeque smells amazing!
There is no a sign when you arrive at Playa Biesanz, but you will see cars lined up along the road as well as a parking attendant. If you get to a hotel called the Parador, you’ve gone too far. Just backtrack about thirty seconds down the road. Pay the parking attendant his fee for watching your car. It is about $4. The parking attendant will direct you to the path to the beach.
As you walk down to the beach look up in the trees, Every time we’ve visited there have been howler monkeys chilling out in the trees.
Playa Biesanz is not the most beautiful beach, but we like it because it is not filled with tourists, has a cool local feel, and the water is extremely calm. The locals working on the beach will rent anything you could ever want. We suggest doing some sea kayaking. They have very nice tandem kayaks which we were able to rent last time for $15 for one and a half hours. We also suggest bringing your own snorkel mask from home if you have one (Thomas recently bought this full faced mask and he loves it). Playa Biesanz is a great place to swim out and see some fishies. If you want to just relax there are people renting out lounge chairs as well.
In the late afternoon head back to your hotel and get ready for dinner. We try to typically eat around 5pm when we are in Manuel Antonio because there are so many great restaurants with wonderful sunset views. You can check out our guide to Manuel Antonio some good options, but our favorite sunset dinner spot is called Ronny’s Place. It’s good to make a reservation here ahead of time.
Note: Make sure to bring bug spray with you to dinner. The second the sun goes down it tends to get really buggy.
After a nice dinner, we suggest just relaxing at your hotel or grabbing a cocktail at El Avion. El Avion is a restaurant located in an old cargo plane. We think the food is just average, but the bar part of the restaurant is actually located in the plane. It’s a great spot to grab an evening drink.
Go to bed somewhat early because you should be at Manuel Antonio National Park when it opens at 7am. We suggest being there when it opens because it gets really crowded as the day goes on. Ask at your hotel before you plan to get there at 7am. Sometimes the change it to 8am during rainy season.
Time to check out Manuel Antonio National Park! We have a complete post about Manuel Antonio here which you should read to get a better idea of how to have a successful visit. Because you can not bring food to Manuel Antonio, we suggest staying until about 12.
You can leave your car where you parked it and walk to the downtown area of Manuel Antonio. You have the option of walking the trail from right outside the entrance or walking down the road. If you decide to take the road and want a light lunch, check out Sol Frozen Yogurt on your walk. They have great smoothies, fro yo, and ice cream. It’s a super cute spot. If you want a bit more substance Backpacks Paradise Costa Linda serves good typical Costa Rican food at an affordable price. It is a hostel located down the street from Sol Frozen Yoghurt.
After you eat, enjoy some time on Playa Espadilla (the big beach in Manuel Antonio). If you want a quieter experience, walk to the far end of the beach. There are some cool large rocks down there and that area is almost always empty. After exploring the beach head back to your hotel to relax a bit or check out one of the Manuel Antonio activities we have listed in our Manuel Antonio guide.
In the evening enjoy dinner at one of our recommended places.
Once you arrive in Uvita and check into your hotel it is time to arrange your kayak tour for tomorrow. Head towards the beach and stop at Uvita 360. They do a mangrove kayaking tour at low tide for $55 per person for a three-hour tour. I know, it is not cheap, but the tour includes informative guides, fruits, and water. Plus, how cool is it that you can kayak through mangroves and see tons of wildlife? Anyway, it is best to book your tour the day before. They only do the mangrove tour at high tide when the water level is higher.
After stopping at Uvita 360 it’s time to grab some lunch and check out the coolest waterfall experience you will ever have. You can check out our Uvita guide for food suggestions, but we personally recommend Los Laurales. The food is amazing and the owners are the sweetest. Plus, it is a two-minute drive from the waterfall you are going to.
After lunch at Los Laurales drive a bit further along the street and you will see cars parked on the right side of the road. Pull your car off (make sure you leave nothing of value in your car because there is nobody watching them) and go to the little wooden stand. For about $2 you can purchase entry to the waterfall. If you need directions to get here just type in “Uvita waterfall” into your GPS and it will come up.
The path to the waterfall is fairly easy. It will only take you about five minutes to get there. When you arrive you will see a waterfall with people sliding down it. It’s so cool!
I suggest you try it, especially if you are traveling during rainy season when there is more water. I didn’t do it because I was not feeling the best that day, but Thomas slid down the Uvita waterfall twice. If you try it, let us know how it was.
If you want to swim in a more quiet spot you can walk back towards the way you came and hop in one of the Uvita waterfall pools there.
There is supposedly another waterfall you can drive to not too far from there through a bamboo forest, but we could not find it. If you go to Los Laurales for lunch you should ask them about it. I bet they can direct you where to go. We found the bamboo forest but got a bit lost after that.
If you find it, we’d love if you let it know where it is and how your experience was so we can pass that info on to other travelers.
After your waterfall adventure, we suggest relaxing at the beach and watching the sunset. We like to buy a few beers at one of the grocery stores (there is one right in the center of town) and having a sunset drink on the beach.
In the evening you can grab dinner at one of our suggested places in our Uvita Guide. A good option is the Flutterby House if you want a cool vibe, decent food, cocktails, and craft beer.
To get to the Marino Ballena National Park you can park at the parking lot next to Uvita 360 and walk down the beach to the park entrance. After paying admission you can walk on to the beach and walk out on to the whales tail.
In case you are wondering what I’m even talking about, on the beach in Uvita (Marino Ballena National Park) you can walk out to a point during low tide that looks like the tail of a whale. If you have a drone, you can get an amazingly cool picture from above the whale’s tail. Just make sure to get back from the whale’s tale before the tide comes in and you get stranded.
The beach in Uvita is actually one of our favorite Costa Rica beaches because we love how long it is and hoe you can look beyond it and see pure Costa Rica jungle.
After your adventures kayaking and exploring the whales tail we suggest relaxing. You can grab dinner at one of our suggested places. Just keep in mind, tomorrow’s hike will be intense so we suggest not going too crazy tonight.
After breakfast, it’s time to head to Nauyaca waterfall in nearby Dominical. We have a full guide to visiting the waterfall here.
After visiting Nauyaca we suggest checking out Dominical. You drive by the entrance to the downtown area when heading back to Uvita, so it is definitely worth stopping.
We suggest getting lunch at one of our suggested places in our Dominical guide. In all honesty, the food in Dominical is so good that we have a hard time picking one place for you to go.
After lunch, we suggest walking down to the Dominical beach and checking out the artists selling stuff. Usually, the entire road next to the beach is filled with artists. You can buy anything from clothes to jewelry, to artwork. Just be warned, it is difficult to leave without buying something.
You can then spend some time enjoying Dominical beach before heading back to Uvita.
You will likely be really tired from this day, so we suggest just chilling tonight. If you want a nice dinner Sabor Espanol has great Spanish food.
Don’t rush too much to leave Uvita. The drive back will only take you about four hours depending on traffic.
About thirty minutes after passing Jaco you will cross a bridge with a bunch of people standing on it. Pull your carr off on the side of the road and walk on to the bridge. Look below and you will see tons of big crocodiles relaxing in the sun. Just keep an eye on your car because all of your belongings will be left inside.
After checking out the crocodiles, continue to the airport area. We have a full guide to this area here so you can get a better idea of where to stay and good restaurants to eat at in the area.
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 I think it is a very doable itinerary.
– 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.
– Keep in mind that Manuel Antonio National Park is closed on Mondays. If it lines up that you would be there on a Monday you can always go to Uvita after Jaco and then go to Manuel Antonio.
– We spent A LOT of time creating this itinerary. We can’t always keep up with the latest in Costa Rica travel because things change so fast. If you follow this Costa Rica itinerary and discover any of the information is outdated or wrong, could you please let us know by leaving a comment below? It will help us make this itinerary better for future travelers like yourself.
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.