7 Day Itinerary in Costa Rica | Traveling with 6 Friends
Updated: May 14, 2020
Planning a Group Trip to Costa Rica
Where to begin? There are so many beautiful places to explore and you just have to ask yourself, what kind of vacation are you looking for? For us, we wanted a budget-friendly trip filled with both relaxation and adventure. Although there were probably 25 areas of interest between the six of us, we could only choose a few as it is not as easy to travel with a larger group of people. We decided on two main destinations in the central region, San Jose and Jaco Beach. See how we mapped out our seven days in Costa Rica below.
First things First: Fly into San Jose
Get comfortable in our beautiful Airbnb, open our bottles of wine and fight over who gets what bed. We arrived at night, so the best way for us to spend the first evening was with much-needed girl time! At the time of our travels, there was the unfortunate news of tainted alcohol sources. So we each brought as much alcohol with us from home as we could. Did you know you could bring up to five liters of alcohol with you on your checked bag? We purchased inflatable wine bottle protectors and they were a success! Our wine was safe and ready to drink right off the plane.
Day 1: Drive to La Paz Waterfalls
Get dumped on by the rain and explore some amazing waterfalls! If you're planning a trip to Costa Rica then you already know that you need to be prepared for rain any day. We each had brought a water proof jacket with us and a couple of us had water resistant pants which were well worth it. On our first rainy day experience, half of us discovered that our water proof jackets were not so waterproof. (And I actually forgot to pack my water resistant pants in my bag this day and was so upset with myself!) So we purchased ponchos from the gift shop. Totally worth the money as we were able to re-use these throughout our entire trip.
I highly recommend visiting the La Paz Waterfalls if you are staying in San Jose, it was about a one hour drive and so worth it, rain or not. It is full of beautiful hiking trails, the most Instagrammable waterfalls, and an animal sanctuary with over 100 species! They also have an amazing gift shop where I discovered my new favorite coffee company, Café Britt.
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We originally planned to spend our first day exploring the ever so popular San Jose Market, but being on vacation and not paying attention to days of the week, we were unaware that the market is closed on Sundays, so unfortunately we missed out on our plans to explore the market and city itself.
Day 2: Explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest
We decided on a day trip to Monteverde and booked our experience through Costa Rica Sky Adventures. It took about three hours by shuttle. On the way up we stopped at a restaurant called Dandy Sandy for breakfast, they had a classic Costa Rican buffet-style set up for breakfast and it was delicious. Once we arrived, our experience started with a beautiful and informative hike as we crossed several hanging bridges that put you right in the middle of Mother Nature's beauty. After becoming one with the forest, we then took on the thrilling adventure of Ziplining! The entire experience, from the location, staff, views and duration of it all was everything that I had dreamed of and more!
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We just did a day trip, if you are looking for lodging near Monteverde for an extended stay, I would recommend Selina Monteverde. We met several people who worked there and did a small tour on the way up and it seemed very welcoming and fun to stay at.
On the way down we stopped at Sabor Tico. A classic Costa Rican restaurant which offered authentic family style meals. LOVED IT.
Day 3: Drive to Jaco Beach We packed our bags and headed to Jaco via our new favorite shuttle driver, Tio Felipe. We stopped along the way to see the alligators under the bridge at Rio Tarcoles. Talk about a river full of alligators!
Unfortunately, our next Airbnb was not as glamorous as our first. But it did have this enormous pool to make up for it! We were also within walking distance to the town of Jaco so it was easy to walk somewhere to eat or shop. We only walked during the day and always took a cab or shuttle back home in the evening, I would not recommend walking alone at night. Plus the ride back for us was never more than $1-2 USD.
Day 4: Explore Jaco Beach
The hunt for breakfast! It was so hot and humid by the time we were walking the streets looking for the top recommended restaurants to try in Jaco, that we were almost melting to the ground. We saw a sign for a restaurant connected to a hotel and we went for it. I am so happy we came across this place, Rancho Bar Tangeri, because it was so peaceful and delicious. We loved it so much that it became our morning routine every day! On the walk in, there were a variety of iguanas just roaming around, which were so fun to watch and photograph! We also had the occasional visit from alligators that hung out around a body of water that led into the ocean. The views were the best breakfast views I have ever had and the staff were so friendly and happy to welcome us back each day.
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The rest of the day we explored the town of Jaco, walked the beach, and searched for tour companies to help plan our daily adventures. We met this guy, David, that worked with Sunshine Tours and Travel. He set us up for a two day adventure. Day one would be an ATV ride along with a hike to a waterfall, day two would be horseback riding at sunset on the beach. Perfect! The rest of the day we spent lounging by the enormous pool at our Airbnb.
Day 5: ATV Adventures in Jaco
This was a lot of fun, we enjoyed our tour guides with Rider Adventures very much and hiked to this beautiful waterfall that we all got to swim in. Now, this experience is definitely for those looking for adventure because you go through a lot of trails and across water and get extremely dirty and covered in mud. But it was so much fun! And once you make it up to the waterfall you can jump in the water and rinse off.
Once we made it back into town we decided to explore Jaco. We walked the beach, shopped around for our souvenirs and gifts to bring home to family and checked out the night life. There were several unique little bars and small clubs all within walking distance from each other. Jaco does have a lot of prostitutes hanging around especially at night. Many people warned us of Jaco being a dangerous town to hang out in, but honestly any location you visit has it's dangerous areas. As long as you stay alert and are always aware of your surroundings, you will be just fine.
Day 6: Horseback Riding in Jaco
What better way to complete our trip than with a relaxing horseback ride on the beach while watching the sunset? Ahh... we couldn't wait. Some of my friends may argue otherwise, but in my opinion, this turned out to be more of a disaster than planned! What the tour guides didn't mention was that we would have to drive farther away from our beach town, ride the horses through a sketchy remote area, and after getting eaten alive by mosquitos you would end up on a deserted beach and ride in peace for maybe 10 minutes. It was also pouring rain in the beginning, which delayed our start time by over an hour. Let's just say this wasn't my favorite experience during our trip, but still an experience to remember!
Day 7: Drive back to San Jose Airport
We were each headed back to different locations in the U.S. but planned to make it to the airport together regardless of flight times. Unfortunately, the first passenger of our group had the first flight of the day! So we left Jaco at around 2:30 a.m. and made it to SJO at 4:30 a.m. I encourage anyone to arrange your flight to leave later in the day so you have more time to explore San Jose before heading back home.
Overall, I really enjoyed our seven days in Costa Rica and could not have asked for a better way to celebrate our 30th birthday together. Six fearless women, friends since high school and college, exploring a new country together. Six different work schedules, arranged sitters for the kids, and left the boyfriends and husbands at home. We made it happen! And I encourage any of you to do the same. Life's too short to keep saying one day, start planning it now. Pura Vida!
If you would like to learn more about the transportation, lodging and tour guides we used during our trip read my tips and recommendations below. If you're looking for the ultimate guide to traveling in Costa Rica, check out My Tan Feet, I found a lot of helpful information on this blog.
Our trip was pre COVID-19, note that many of the recommended locations or activities mentioned in this blog may be unavailable during this time or be operating under strict guidelines.
We planned to get sim cards immediately at the airport once we arrived but unfortunately, the network or server was down the evening we arrived and we were unable to purchase a sim card from any provider at the airport. So one person in our group decided to get the international plan through Verizon. That way there would be one of us with service at all times. The rest of us relied heavily on wifi, which we always had at our Airbnb's but not always when we were out and about.
Airbnb: San Jose House
Monteverde Ziplining: Costa Rica Sky Adventures
ATV adventure in Jaco: Riders Adventures
Payments and Money Exchange: While in San Jose and Jaco, we had no issues paying with either USD or Colones, most credit cards were accepted almost everywhere we went. Although we did exchange some money at the airport upon arrival, we found that it was not needed.
Tips on checks: Make sure to read the details of your check at each restaurant, your tip may or may not be included and if it is not clear don't be afraid to ask your server.
Food & Water: All of the food we had was delicious, authentic cooking and never anything too fancy. I have to live on a pretty annoying gluten free and dairy free diet and it was easy for me to find something to eat anywhere we went. As far as the water, we played it safe by sticking to bottled water - just remember not to get ice in your iced tea or order a margarita and forget it's made with ice!
Mobile Passport App: Definitely download this app! It saved us time during our international travel.
Our first shuttle driver from the airport became our personal chauffeur during our entire Costa Rica trip! He made it easy for us to travel with a group all at once and not worry about ordering two separate Uber or taxi cars. He even added to each experience by showing us some hot spots along the routes to our destinations that we would have not been able to find on our own. We miss you Tio Felipe!
If you are traveling in a smaller group, a rental car may be more beneficial to you.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our experience as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you! If you have any additional questions or comments please leave a friendly reply below. Explore more highlights and videos from our Costa Rica adventures on my Instagram @BrittanyReneePhoto.