Costa Rica Pura Vida blog

7-day Costa Rica Road Trip to See Mountains and Pacific Ocean!

I don’t know about you, but Costa Rica has always been one of my ‘one-day’ destinations. There was never a plan or a goal, so I’m so glad that I decided to finally visit this amazing country on a whim. Crazy hair-brained ideas are literally my fave thing.

Recently, a friend of mine and I decided to take her week vacation and see as much of Costa Rica as possible. This is how we did a seven day road trip in Costa Rica for a total of $1850 between the two of us.

We even splurged on some really fun things like Zip Lining through the cloud forest and renting jet skis on the ocean at sunset…

a 7 day itinerary for Costa Rica's Pacific coast

Our Costa Rica road trip began when I received an email from Southwest Airlines about their Cyber Monday sale fares. I was looking at using my frequent flyer miles to visit my parents in Austin for Christmas when I noticed that the sale fares also had international flights listed.


where does Southwest fly that I would want to visit?” I thought to myself.

Immediately, I noticed that Costa Rica was on the list. So, I looked to see how cheap the flights were and if they would let me use my rewards points.

Wow, the flights were cheap.

The crazy hair-brained idea center was chugging along gleefully. I was checking out the cheapest dates to fly, the rules, how many miles I would need and then I thought “who would want to go with me on this kind of an adventure??”

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How I picked a 7-day road trip around Costa Rica

My gal pal Kristina immediately came to mind. She and I had just been to Mexico together and so I knew she was:

  1. a good travel companion [aside from her almond and apple debacle during airport security] 
  2. up for anything
  3. a great trip planner

So, naturally I texted her while she was at work….

texting screenshot for a travel adventure to Costa Rica using Southwest Airlines texting screenshot for a travel adventure to Costa Rica using Southwest Airlines

And so our six day trip to Costa Rica was launched. Her birthday is in February, so I ended up using a credit card sign up bonus for both of our flights on Southwest.

I’m a really good friend. The best, really.

My Southwest Airlines 50,000 mile sign up bonus covered us both and all we had to do was pay the taxes.

Check out these related articles on getting cheap flights:


She was an asshole and slept on the flight:

Southwest Airlines flight routes to Central America with Rewards points and miles

But seriously, Kristina did a killer job of planning our epic 7-day Costa Rica road trip and deserved the break. Plus, it was an early flight.

Southwest Airlines flight routes to Central America with Rewards points and miles
Southwest Airlines flight routes to Central America with Rewards points and miles
Southwest Airlines flight routes to Central America with Rewards points and miles
Costa Rica passport stamp
San Jose Costa Rica hostel and airbnb with free yoga in Spanish
San Jose Costa Rica hostel and airbnb with free yoga in Spanish
how to use miles to visit Costa Rica
seven day road trip around Costa Rica
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Our 7-day Costa Rica Road Trip Itinerary:

Since Kristina did so much work planning our little Costa Rican adventure, I thought I’d save you the trouble. We went back and forth on the Pacific or Carribian side of Costa Rica and which one was best for us.

She found so much information online and we concluded that the Pacific side would be way more fun for what we wanted to see and do in Costa Rica.

All I cared about was doing a coffee plantation tour and seeing a volcano.

She knows me really well and was nervous to plan it all, but I was for reals when I told her to just do it. I trusted her judgement completely. 

It was a blast and I LOVED driving in Costa Rica. It was the adventure I was seeking when I went to Africa the year prior.

Here’s what we did and what we spent:
  • 6 nights / 7 days
  • 500+ miles of driving
  • drove through two streams
  • crossed five sketchy bridges
  • 5 cities visited + stops
  • zip line tour: $50 ea.
  • 1 jet ski rental ea: $110 (included a margarita and an umbrella on the beach)
  • 1 cat entering a window to wake us up
  • yoga class in Spanish: free!
  • 1 2GB data SIM card: $20
  • 50,000 frequent flier miles used + $160 in taxes/fees
  • Lodging $ total: $398.75
  • Rental car: $302.60
  • 3 gallons of Kombucha ingested by Kristina
  • 4 AirBnB rentals
  • 2 volcanoes
  • One Chocolate/Coffee/Sugar tour: $35 ea.
  • 25 Hot Springs & cocktails: $35 + $17.50

the scenic off road driving tour of Costa Rica

driving a rental car in Costa Rica on a 7 day road trip

Our fun 7-day road trip in Costa Rica:

After doing extensive research on driving in Costa Rica, thanks to the My Tan Feet blog, I decided to rent an SUV instead of riding the bus. With such a short trip, we did not want to waste every day that way and at least with our own car we could stop whenever we wanted to.

like for ice cream and coconuts:

seven day road trip around Costa Rica

and to feed horses our apples:

Heather McKay and Kristina Kaiser take a seven day road trip in Costa Rica for a driving adventure complete with zip lines in the Cloud Forest and jet ski rentals on the beach of Manuel Antonio.

and to get lost on super local backroads through a rain forest and avocado plantation:

driving a seven day road trip in Costa Rica

and stop for Kristina’s weird food allergies and requests (Kombucha!):

Komucha and healthy food in Costa Rica

Here are the cities & towns we visited in Costa Rica on our whirl wind road trip: 

driving a rental car in Costa Rica on a 7 day road trip

Kristina and I absolutely loved Monteverde. We could have spent the entire time there just relaxing. It’s mountainous and completely off the beaten path, whereas the other locations were very touristy.

She just stood outside staring at the sky after dusk because there were SO MANY FREAKING STARS in the sky. 

We had this peaceful moment on the Ocean:

On the beach day near Manuel Antonio, we rented a chair under an umbrella and just vegged out under the sun. At the end of the day, we rented a jet ski and after a very short tutorial on how to use one, we went off into the sunset searching for dolphins.

I ended up just doing donuts on the water around Kristina instead.

Have you been to Costa Rica yet?

What did we miss? Where should we go next??

Kristina and I returned to the US reluctantly and have a new 5 year plan to move there to open an AirBnB that has Kombucha and other fermented foods on site. How cool would that be?? It is all we dream of….

Share your comments and meet us on our next adventure!

seven day road trip around Costa Rica

3 thoughts on “7-day Costa Rica Road Trip to See Mountains and Pacific Ocean!”

  1. This is so exciting!! I just finished the final iteration of my itinerary for CR in December!! Do you have any pointers? We’re basically traveling the same route you two took. San Jose, Monteverde, La Fortuna, Poás, Grecia, Atenas, Manuel Antonio, Cartago, and back to San Jose or Alajuela.

    1. Hi Brandon! Yes, the only thing we would have changed would have been less time at the beach and more time in the cloud forest. We both LOVED Monteverde, where we stayed and the climate there. It was a lot of driving for such a short trip, which I didn’t mind since we saw so much more of the country that way. If you want to shave off a lot of time driving, definitely do not go the crazy route that we went from San Jose to Quepos. That took about 5-6 hours of driving and was tough driving. Waze got us lost on that route (it just ended!). Luckily, Google Maps picked up the difference. That being said, that’s where we saw the ‘real Costa Rica’. San Jose is super crazy driving! Your navigator needs to be on the ball. Mine was amazing, so I could just drive.

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