Costa Rica is one of the best destinations for solo female travelers. It has so much natural beauty, adventure, and great places to relax. The bad news is one week in Costa Rica isn’t enough to see the whole country. So if you only have 7 days in Costa Rica, you’ll need to choose whether you want beach time or a jungle adventure. This 7 day Costa Rica itinerary for solo female travelers focuses on the jungle with a few oft overlooked attractions of capital city San Jose.
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How to Get to Costa Rica
There are two airports in Costa Rica. For this 7 day Costa Rica itinerary, you’ll fly into the one at San Jose. The safest way for solo female travelers to get from the airport to the city is Uber, but be discreet. Uber isn’t 100% legal so sit in the front seat and if anyone asks, your driver is a friend picking you up.
Need-to-Knows for Solo Female Travel in Costa Rica
The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish, but English is widely spoken. If you’re not fluent in Spanish, at least learn my 5 basic words to know in any language!
Hello = hola
Thank you = gracias
Do you speak English? = habla ingles?
Help = ayuda
Delicious = delicioso
The currency in Costa Rica is the colon with an exchange rate of about 600 colons to 1 US dollar. For a quick mental shortcut on the go, move the decimal over two spaces and divide by 5, but know that this is a very rough estimate so you should tally up your actual expenses at the end of every day.
Costa Rica outlets typically use the same two-prong plugs as the US so Americans don’t need adapters.
Costa Rica doesn’t have a standard system for addresses. Instead of street names and numbers, everything is north, east, south, or west of a landmark. Be patient, don’t be afraid to ask directions (several times!), and don’t pack your days too full so you have a getting lost buffer.
Finally, as in all destinations, don’t skip travel insurance! You need travel insurance as a solo female traveler in Costa Rica.
How to Get Around Costa Rica
So many people swear you can’t get around Costa Rica without a rental car. Not true! There are tons of routes from the public bus station in downtown San Jose. For traveling between other Costa Rica attractions, there were way more direct routes than I was expecting from my research. The trick is you can’t book your travel around Costa Rica online. For getting from San Jose to La Fortuna or other destinations, go to the downtown bus station in person and buy your tickets there. For other travel arrangements, let the folks at your hostel help you.
What to Budget for One Week in Costa Rica
You can spend one week in Costa Rica on USD $1200. See my full budget for one week in Costa Rica here.
What to Pack for One Week in Costa Rica
You need comfortable clothes and shoes with good traction for hiking, and a great rain jacket. My fave rain jacket is from Columbia. See my full Costa Rica packing list for solo female travelers here.
Full 7 Day Costa Rica Itinerary for Solo Female Travelers
Day 1: San Jose
Arrive in San Jose
Is San Jose safe for solo female travelers? Many people will tell you no. While this isn’t a place you can throw caution to the wind, you can absolutely visit San Jose as a solo female traveler and stay safe. The main thing to be careful of is walking by yourself at night. Don’t be too alarmed by the sight of bars on windows – this is pretty common in all parts of the city and not always a reflection of rampant crime.
Get to know the craft beer scene
San Jose has a burgeoning craft beer scene and a guided tour is a great way to get your bearings in the city as a solo female traveler. This also gives you a bit of a safety net your first night in San Jose so you’re not walking alone. Your guide will happily point out which neighborhoods are safest.
Where to Stay in San Jose
I stayed at ¡Upe! Hostel in San Jose. The beds were pretty comfortable and each bunk has easy access to a power outlet. The bathrooms were a little dingy, so this is a good place to pack your flip flops. The hostel provides large lockers for bag storage and free breakfast. There is no key for the dorm or the front door – you have to be buzzed in and out of the building. There is a kitchen and a comfortable common area. Overall, ¡Upe! Hostel is a pretty basic hostel to stay in San Jose, but it serves the purposes of a short stay.
Day 2: San Jose
Wake up with a coffee tour
Costa Rica is home to some of the best coffee in the world. The Tres Rios region is even known as the “Bordeaux” of coffee and it really is uniquely fruity. There are a number of tours available from San Jose where you can visit a plantation to learn how coffee is grown and produced.
Check out local museums
Use the rest of your time in San Jose to check out some of the city’s museums. The National Museum of Costa Rica provides an overview of the country’s history with a few archaeological treasures in the hard-to-miss vibrant yellow of an early 20th century fortress. The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum holds one of the largest collections of artifacts in Latin America.
Day 3: bus to La Fortuna
How to get from San Jose to La Fortuna
You can book a nicer shuttle, but the most affordable way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna is via bus. Public buses go from San Jose to La Fortuna every morning. You’ll need to go to the Terminal 7-10 downtown bus station around 8am and buy your tickets in person for the 8:40am departure. There are a few buses every morning, but the 8:40am bus from San Jose to La Fortuna is a direct route that will take 4 hours instead of 6 hours.
Never count on transportation arriving exactly on time when you’re traveling though! On my itineraries, transit days are just for getting from point A to point B. Padding your itinerary this way ensures you don’t miss out on exciting experiences because of an emergency.
If you do arrive promptly in La Fortuna by 1pm, enjoy a leisurely afternoon and then head to the amazing La Fortuna waterfall around 3pm just before it closes. The hike is quick and mostly easy, but at one point does take you down a very steep, 500-step staircase. Your reward: a gorgeous jade green pool at the base of La Fortuna’s 200-foot cascade. The pool under the waterfall is too dangerous for swimming, but you can take a dip in one of the safer pools downstream.
Where to Stay in La Fortuna
I stayed at La Choza Inn in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. The dorms were a little tight, but clean with very comfortable beds. This isn’t a great place to stay for digital nomads, as the WiFi is pretty weak and there was only one working outlet in my dorm. But the included breakfast is banging – toast, fruit, gallo pinto and eggs, juice, and coffee. The staff are also super friendly and helpful. You can book a very reasonably priced shuttle service to visit La Fortuna waterfall, the lava fields park, and a free hot springs river.
Day 4: Hiking and Hot Springs
Explore Arenal Volcano’s lava fields
La Fortuna is well known for two great outdoor adventures. The town is the gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park with transportation arranged from your hostel. Arenal is still an active volcano, though today it only smokes. In 1968, its eruption destroyed two towns in a terrible natural disaster. Today, a walk around the lava fields makes an easy, leisurely hike along two short trails – just a mile or two apiece. One trail will take you to a large ceiba tree, but the piece de resistance is the Coladas de Lava trail to a lava rock clearing granting views of Lake Arenal and Arenal Volcano… provided it’s a clear day. Clouds and fog really obscured my view. Be patient and willing to wait in case the weather clears up, but know that it might not.
You can swap the lava fields with yesterday’s waterfall hike if that one is a higher priority for you.
Find the free hot springs in Costa Rica
Arenal’s 1968 eruption was catastrophic, but left behind what is now one of Costa Rica’s greatest attractions: hot springs! There are dozens of hot springs around Arenal and La Fortuna. Most Arenal hot springs are attached to resorts and hotels. You can usually purchase a day pass to the private hotels’ hot springs, but these run between $30 and $85. There are also free hot springs near La Fortuna, just upstream from the super pricey hot springs of Tabacon resort.
You’re not on your own to find the free hot springs – La Choza Inn and I imagine other hostels as well can arrange transportation and a guide. I’m not sure the free hot springs access is 100% legal, as we all ducked through a hole in the fence. But there was plenty of activity with a mix of backpackers and locals enjoying the warm waters.
Day 5: bus to Monteverde
How to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde
I wasn’t sure I would be able to get directly from La Fortuna to Monteverde, so I was excited and relieved to see a huge board of local transportation options at my hostel. There were even other guests getting shuttles all the way from La Fortuna to Uvita and other beach towns!
The best way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde is the Jeep-Boat-Jeep tour. You’ll take a Jeep or shuttle van to Lake Arenal and then boat across the lake. This is an experience unto itself, enjoying more of Costa Rica’s natural beauty. The foliage has absolutely every shade of green you can imagine, and the surface of the lake looks like it was carved out of jade. Once you reach the opposite shore of Lake Arenal, you’ll get in another Jeep or shuttle to take you the rest of the way to Monteverde.
Once again, it’s best to pad your itinerary and just focus on getting from point A to point B on your transit day.
If you have extra time, check out the Orchid Garden. Costa Rica orchids are completely different from the orchids you think you know. Those big pink varieties are an Asian species of orchid. Latin American orchids have a huge variety of colors and unique features, but are much smaller – some almost microscopic! The Monteverde Orchid Garden has over 450 species.
Where to Stay in Monteverde
I stayed at Hostel La Suerte in Monteverde. It was very secure with dorm doors that lock automatically. Provided lockers are small though – just for valuables, not bags. Beds are a little on the thin side, but not bad, and the included breakfast is good. The staff was also incredible and did so much to walk me through the area’s tour offerings.
Day 6: Monteverde cloud forest
Walk the hanging bridges through the cloud forest
Monteverde’s big claim to fame is its cloud forest – a special type of rainforest at higher altitude. This is an incredibly special ecosystem, making up less than 1% of the remaining forests on the planet. Some of the best ways to enjoy this unique natural environment are on wildlife tours, canopy tours or ziplining, and leisurely hikes among hanging bridges.
There are a few adventure parks around the Monteverde cloud forest, and while they all offer a variety of packages that would allow you to experience both hanging bridges and ziplining in one park, you should actually split up your day between two parks for the best experiences. The best hanging bridges in Monteverde aren’t in the same place as the best zipline tour in Costa Rica.
For the cloud forest hanging bridges, go to Selvatura Park for its 8:30am tour. You’ll walk about two miles and cross eight hanging bridges. What makes Selvatura Park the best hanging bridge tour in Monteverde is the scenery. You might see more wildlife on other tours, but Selvatura’s views can’t be beat. The tour takes about 60 to 90 minutes, giving you just enough time to get to another park for the next part of your cloud forest adventure.
Take the longest zipline in Latin America
While the best hanging bridges in Costa Rica are at Selvatura Park, the best canopy tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest is at 100% Aventura Park. If you take the first hanging bridges entry time at 8:30am at Selvatura, you should have enough time to make it to the 11am canopy tour at 100% Aventura.
Why is this the best canopy tour in Costa Rica? 100% Aventura has the longest zipline in Latin America! It’s well over a full mile long and the view is literally breathtaking. The tour lasts three hours with almost a dozen zip lines and a few other adventures in the mix. It’s super beginner friendly and very safe for solo female travelers. Ziplining in Costa Rica was one of those things that had been on my bucket list forever and completely lived up to expectations!
Day 7: fly home
Your week in Costa Rica is coming to a close. Take the bus from Monteverde to San Jose and taxi or Uber to the San Jose airport to return home!
Is 7 Days in Costa Rica Enough?
Heck no. This itinerary was only able to cover a sliver of San Jose and the Costa Rica rainforest – none of the amazing beaches and hardly any wildlife. Costa Rica is an incredible destination for digital nomads and round-the-world trips. Start planning a bigger Costa Rica adventure with the Ultimate Bucket List Planner.
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