One Week in Costa Rica

One Week in Costa Rica

Pura Vida!  As the locals say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida means “pure life”.  This roughly translates to live life to the fullest, which one can certainly do when visiting Costa Rica.  Countless adventures await, whether it be in the alluring rainforest or on the beautiful beaches.  With one week in Costa Rica you can see and do many of the things that are bringing the tourists to this Central American country in droves.

About Costa Rica

Costa Rica is located in Central America, with Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, and bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.  Beach towns abound on both coasts, drawing both sunbathers and surfers.  In the middle of the country the rainforest captivates tourists.  The ever green jungle is home to the animals that many come to Costa Rica to see in their natural habitat – sloths, monkeys, iguanas, Coatis, snakes, and a variety of tropical birds.

Costa Rica is relatively new to tourism, however the country’s happy and kind people work hard to meet the demands of the burgeoning tourism economy.  Arenal Volcano is the most active volcano in Costa Rica, having erupted in 1968 and lasting until 2010.  Tourism was the unlikely result of this eruption as people came by the busload to see it for themselves.  The locals, initially confused by the interest in what was a devastating event for them, soon realized how happy and excited the tourists were and tourism in Costa Rica was born.  

Besides tourism, coffee exportation is a large contributor to Costa Rica’s economy.  The soil and sun is the perfect combination to grow coffee beans as well as cocoa beans, sugarcane, pineapple, and mango.

Costa Rica, located in Central America

When we visited

We visited in April 2022 for spring break.  This is still considered the dry season, even though the rainforest remained lush and green.  We had one evening that was rainy but it was warm rain and cozy in the jungle with the sound of the rain falling on the leaves so peaceful. 

On the Pacific Coast it was hot and humid, reaching into the 90s during the day.  You’ll notice the contrast between the beach area and the rainforest at this time of year.  Since the beach area goes months without rain, it is dry and brown during the dry season (December to April).  

We spent time in both the rainforest and the Pacific coast beach.  With splitting your time accordingly, you’ll get to see the best of Costa Rica.  Below, I’ll share a great way to organize your time with one week in Costa Rica.

Itinerary Overview

Day 1LA FORTUNA – Travel Day, arrive in Costa Rica. Prearranged transportation to the rainforest area of La Fortuna near Arenal Volcano.

Day 2LA FORTUNA – Relax at the hotel, enjoying the amenities.  In the afternoon, head to a coffee farm to learn all about Costa Rican coffee.

Day 3LA FORTUNA – Adventure bucket list day!  Hanging bridges, Arenal Volcano, and swimming in a waterfall are the highlights of this day with a knowledgeable guide.

Day 4LA FORTUNA/GUANACASTE – Ziplining and transport to the beach resort.

Day 5GUANACASTE – Fun in the sun day!  This is your day to relax , whether it be beach, pool, or both!

Day 6GUANACASTE – ATV tour in the morning followed by your last day of beach time.

Day 7 GUANACASTE – Travel home.

Exploring the Rainforest

Costa Rica’s rainforest are plentiful, covering 51% of Costa Rica’s land to be exact.  We chose to visit the rainforest closest to Arenal Volcano in the La Fortuna area.  It was also close to Liberia Guanacaste Airport, which is where we flew in and out of.  There was so much to see and do in this area so we highly recommend adding the La Fortuna/Arenal area to your Costa Rica itinerary.

Where we stayed

Amor Arenal | 3 nights | La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Our stay at Amor Arenal was magical.  An immersive resort, Amor Arenal is situated in the jungle and contains 21 villas.  Each villa is fully surrounded by the lush jungle so it feels as though you are alone in the rainforest.  The shower has a large window overlooking the jungle as well as a plunge hot tub on the deck.  

Room with a view

Amor Arenal has a hiking trail, meditation platform, gym, swimming pools, restaurant, and bars (one in the pool and one below the restaurant). 

The Meditation Platform overlooking the jungle

The beautiful hiking trail

The food was excellent and high quality and the drinks were perfection. 

The view from the restaurant

DAY 1

We arrived at Costa Rica’s Liberia Guanacaste Airport and met our transportation company.  We used Maleku Tours and were very happy with them.  The communication was excellent throughout our trip planning and our driver was always prompt and helpful.  During our drives he shared so much interesting information about the country that he was like a tour guide as well! 

The drive from the airport to our hotel in La Fortuna took about a 2.5 hours.  Our driver suggested a place for lunch along the way, Cafe & Macadamia, which was fabulous.  It was our first foray into Costa Rican food with beautiful views of Lake Arenal from above.  I enjoyed a delicious lemonade with fresh mint as well as rice and beans, chicken, and plantains.  Yum!  

The entrance to Cafe & Macadamia, a restaurant suggested by our driver (we loved it!)

An awesome lunch spot during our drive

Once we arrived at our hotel, we checked in at the reception and were taken in a golf cart to our room.  We settled in and then wandered the beautiful property.  It gets dark quite early at this time of year so after a wonderful dinner on property, we retired to our rooms for an early night due to a long travel day.

DAY 2

  • Sleep in and enjoy the resort’s amenities.
  • North Field’s Coffee for a tour of their coffee, cacao, and sugarcane farm followed by a tasting.

After our travel day the day before, we enjoyed a slow moving morning.  However, this is the rainforest where the sounds of nature are loud and will wake you up around 5:30 am!  We didn’t mind as it just set the tone for where we were.  On this leisurely morning we enjoyed time at the gym, hiking the trail, and swimming.  

In the afternoon we visited a nearby coffee farm at North Fields Coffee Farm in La Fortuna.

We were picked up in a van from North Fields Coffee and transported about 10 minutes away to the farm.  Our guide took us on the paths checking out the red berries that contain coffee beans as well as the large cacao pods with white fruit inside that contain the cacao beans which will eventually be chocolate!

Cacao pods

We were then taken to a few different areas where our fabulous guide continued to teach us about the harvest process.  

Freshly harvested coffee beans

Finally, we watched the roasting of beans in action.

The coffee beans being roasted using a manual crank

The tasting was of course our favorite part.  We tried both dark and light roasts of coffee and many different types of chocolate.  We started with milk chocolate and worked our way up to 100% dark.  This was an educational and scrumptious tour!

Nothing like freshly roasted coffee beans!

And fresh chocolate!

What an awesome tour!

Did you know?

  • While Costa Rica exports some of the world’s best coffee beans, Costa Ricans themselves aren’t big coffee drinkers.  Why?  Because the best is exported and the rest is left behind, usually poor in quality.
  • The darker the roast the less caffeine, the lighter the roast more caffeine!
  • Only Arabica coffee is legally allowed to be grown in Costa Rica.
  • Coffee berries are handpicked from the plant to avoid a machine picking less than desirable berries.
  • Costa Rica exports over 1.5 million bags of coffee a year!
  • To get the freshest and best tasting coffee, get beans that were roasted at a coffee shop.  They are good for about 2 months after roasting date.  
  • Do not put your coffee in the fridge or freezer!  The moisture will ruin the flavor.

After the tour, we wanted to try a local restaurant.  So, instead of taking us back to our resort, the van from North Fields Coffee took us just around the corner to Casa Fortuna.  We loved our meal here!  Not only was the food great but the staff friendly and the owners made us feel very welcomed.  The scene at night was beautiful, with Arenal Volcano in the background of the purple night sky.  We took a taxi back to our hotel and ended the day with some drinks and good company at the bar.

A great dinner at a local restaurant, Casa Fortuna

DAY 3

  • Guided tour of Mistico Hanging Bridges, hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park, and swimming in the Fortuna Waterfall.

Today was an epic day!  This day checked a lot of the boxes of what we came to Costa Rica for.  Not only did we get to adventure but we also saw a lot of Costa Rican wildlife, thanks to our awesome guide!

We used Green Vacations and had an incredible day.  We were picked up in a van at our hotel and then we picked up another family of three at a nearby hotel.  From there we were on our way for a day full of adventure.

To start, our guide stopped outside the other family’s hotel and pointed out a sloth that had been in a tree for a few days.  We each had a chance to peer at it via the guide’s telescope and she even took pictures and videos for us!  

An exciting start to the day – seeing a sloth in a tree!

We started off at Mistico Hanging Bridges Park.  We hiked along the paved trails, experienced the famous hanging bridges high above the trees, and of course watched in awe at the amazing creatures that call the rainforest home. 

The trails looked like this in the beginning, before getting to the hanging bridges

Our guide pointed out various flora and fauna along the way that we surely would have missed had we not had her expert eye leading the way.  And walking on the wobbly, hanging bridges was such a fun experience!

We loved walking these hanging bridges

Mom & baby monkey; colorful bird

After our tour here, we could use the bathrooms, take a snack break, and refill water bottles.  Mistico Hanging Bridges Park was incredible!

Next we rode in the van to Arenal Volcano National Park.  Here, we took in the views up close of the volcano that shaped the future of tourism for Costa Rica. 

During our hike, we walked on and around volcanic rock and learned so much from our guide.  This hike was in the afternoon sun and mostly uphill so it was not easy!  However, we were looking forward to cooling off at our next stop, the Fortuna Waterfall.  But first, we stopped for lunch a great restaurant, Coloso Arenal Restaurant.  It was a great spot to eat a delicious lunch and relax for a bit after our busy hikes thus far.

After arriving at Fortuna Waterfall, we checked in, changed in the bathrooms, and proceeded down over 500 stairs to the waterfall.  It took our breath away!  Situated at the base of the waterfalls were large, slick rock that you had to amble over to get in to the waterfall.  The trek was worth it as it felt amazing to swim in the cold water, especially after our hot day of hiking.

Fortuna Waterfall from the viewing platform above

We made it!  Now it’s swim time!

To the left of the waterfall was a much more calm experience with water slowly flowing through large rocks.  

The beautiful, calm part to the left of the falls

And soon it was time to start the trek up over 500 stairs back to the top.  My suggestion is give yourself ample time to do so as you may want to take a few breaks along the way.

Our epic adventure day was done!  We were driven back to our hotel where we all decided to order pizza in as our guide had suggested a local place, Que Rico.  It was a great end to a great day!

It’s Beach Time

DAY 4

  • Ziplining 
  • Transportation to the beach resort

Our awesome transportation company, Maleku Tours, was so kind to pick us up bright and early from our hotel and bring us to a zipline park, Arenal Ecoglide Park, located just 10 minutes from our hotel in La Fortuna.

We got suited up and did a practice run on a low zipline to make sure we understood the mechanics.  We then boarded a truck fitted with bench seating in the truck bed to head high up into the jungle to the start of the ziplines.

Suited up and ready for ziplining!

This was such a fun adventure and one that all the teens especially loved.  Zipping through the jungle and taking in the views while soaring high above the trees was a bucket list experience for sure!

There goes Ava!

There goes Braden!

From here, it was time to head to the beach resort on the Pacific Coast, the Westin Playa Conchal.  But first, we stopped at the yummy lunch spot where we had our first Costa Rican lunch a few days before, Cafe & Macadamia.

The ride took about 2.5 hours total on very windy roads and even some gravel roads.  If you get motion sickness definitely come prepared!

We checked in at the resort, settled in, and headed down to the beach.  The beach was mostly made up of crushed, eroded shells, hence the name Playa Conchal (conchal means shell in Spanish).  

We were a bit surprised to have locals come up to us trying to sell their wares including beach side massages.  The beach is public here which means they are allowed to do so.  One day we did get a few souvenirs, happy to support the locals as well as getting some neat things for cousins.

Massive iguanas and nimble coatis were roaming around the resort.  We even had monkeys swinging through the trees right outside our room! 

Monkeying around outside our room 

These guys were everywhere!

A funny moment happened while at the pool – one of the iguanas jumped into the pool and people screamed darting in either direction!  I didn’t witness this but Mike did and said it was like the parting of the Red Sea 😀

DAY 5

  • Fun in the sun – relax, eat, drink, and be merry!

I always find it important to plan down days in any vacation itinerary.  As much as exploring and adventuring is fun, one needs time to reset and recharge and sometimes just sleep in a bit!  This is the day for that.  We opted to just enjoy the amenities of the resort with a little beach time and a lot of pool time.

Beautiful sunset

DAY 6

  • ATV Tour
  • Final day of fun in the sun

We fit in one last adventure while in Costa Rica, an ATV tour!  We had the choice between individual 4-wheelers or two side-by-side cars that each fit 4 people, we chose two cars.  Each of the kids of driving age took turns at the wheel and had a great time! 

The teens loved driving the ATVs!

We cruised along, led by our guide, saw some howler monkeys, and had a great view of the beach up close.  This was fun, especially for the teens who got to drive their vehicles.  However, being the dry season, the scenery was mostly brown and the paths very dusty save for a few mud puddles.  We did stop at the beach for a short bit and the view was beautiful!

View of the beach during our ATV tour

A local caught a lobster and showed us!

Back at the resort, we had a great last day of fun in the sun.

DAY 7

  • Travel day home

What an adventure!  Costa Rica is a fabulous country to experience with teens.  We filled our time with a lot of adventures and some down time at the beach.   The Costa Rican people were so happy and friendly and the country so beautiful.  We were excited to view the native animals up close, taste the freshest coffee and delicious chocolate, and zip our way through the jungle.  If you want a place that ticks a lot of boxes especially for older kids and teens, look no further than Costa Rica!

Read More!

Our article on Eight Amazing Adventures to Have in Costa Rica highlights some of the country’s best activities.

Dietary Notes

As always, everyone’s needs are different.  At press time my husband is grain-free and two of our kids are allergic to nuts and eggs.  Although we seem to encompass a large amount of dietary restrictions, we can only offer advice as to what pertains to our own family, as that is where our expertise lies!

Dining in Costa Rica was very easy with dietary restrictions.  The food is fresh yet simple.  Seafood is prevalent here due to Costa Rica’s proximity to both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and other proteins such as chicken, beef, and pork were on every menu.  Casado is a very common menu item and it’s delicous!  It consists of a mixture of rice and beans, a protein of your choice, plantains, and a small green salad.  

We ate at the following restaurants.  All were fabulous and we highly recommend them:

  • Casa Fortuna, La Fortuna
  • Cafe & Macadamia, Guanacaste
  • Coloso Arenal Restaurant, La Fortuna
  • Que Rico Arenal Restaurante, La Fortuna
  • Amor Arenal – our hotel in La Fortuna
  • The Westin Playa Conchal – our hotel on the Pacific beach Playa Conchal

For more on traveling with dietary restrictions, be sure to check out our guide:  On the Go with Allergies.

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