Backpacking Costa Rica in 7 Days

Costa Rica has developed a TON since I went backpacking with 4 girlfriends back in 2007. Though massive resorts and communities have been built throughout the country, one can still easily travel inexpensively throughout Costa Rica. Backpacking Costa Rica Itinerary in 7 Days can cost you less then $600 if you budget wisely.

Day 1: Fly into San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital

Head to La Fortuna.

Stay at: Arenal’s Backpacker’s Resort

We went next door to Chelas at night to hear locals sing karaoke and eat nachos as we settled in.

Day 2: Zipline in La Fortuna

In La Fortuna, we went Ziplining at “Arenal Mundo Aventura“, or “Arenal Adventure World” in English. We went up to speeds of 55mph, and the longest zipline lasting for a whole minute. 50$ experience. We hiked up great heights to the ziplines, and spun from tree to tree, about 5 ziplines total. I was the most terrified one of all, as I am extremely scared of heights. But once I connected to the line and got going, it was definitely the MOST LIBERATING FEELING EVER! The best adrenaline rush I’ve ever felt! And in my head, I hummed, “In the jungle.. the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight…” in my head, which got me through it.

Afterward, we went to the volcano to see the lake and the actual volcano evolving.

Day 3: Bus to Monteverde

We caught a Microbus (minibus) to Monteverde. Most famously known for the “National Cloud Forest“, we hiked and admired plants only found in Costa Rica. It rained some while we were there but it was stunning regardless.

At night, we found the local “Discoteca” (dance club) and had a blast dancing salsa & dancing crazily with the locals. We befriended an incredibly fun, awesome gay man from Texas who kindly walked us home. On the walk back, some westerners needed a Spanish translater, so our friend Teresa volunteered. In the midst of it, she realized that she was translating a drug deal. Hey, it happens! *shrug*

Stay at: Monteverde Backpackers Hostel for $12 a night in a room of 4 people.

Day 4: Relax on the Beaches of Santa Teresa

We headed over to Mal Pais, in Santa Teresa on the Pacific side of Costa Rica in the southwest.

If you are looking for a low-key comfortable paradise, Santa Teresa is it. Untouched by mainstream tourists, only inhabited by backpackers and surfers who have decided to abandon it all and stay for good. This is the place to go.

Stay at: Tranquilo Hostel, ultimate Backpacker’s paradise.

Tranquilo Hostel in Santa Teresa was by far my favorite place to stay of all. Not only is the hostel on the beach, but the types of backpackers that come are also all so chill. Our group of backpacker friends all agreed that this hostel and area is THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH! The whole setup of this hostel was magnificent. Chill, young backpackers between the ages of 18-27, with the same o’ liberal, on the road, YOLO mentality. There are about 50 people living there. It easily seemed like a scene that we’d pull out of the movie, THE BEACH.

We comfortably stayed there for 2 nights. Communally watching old movies on the balcony with 30 people. Swinging around on the hammocks, sharing stories with our new friends, pre-partying to drinking card games before going out (which ended up being the funnest part of the night). The whole hostel family enjoyed cooking together, cleaning up together.

The backpacker friends we met at the hostel ranged from:

  • Pretty young men from Canada
  • A hot corrupted white boy from South Africa
  • Tomas – the sweet funny missionary from Holland, currently building refugee camps. He took jumping photos with us.
  • Our favorite: Young Israeli men who just finished serving the military were backpacking around for a few months. We learned new drinking games from them. Played strip poker (with the exception that the girls don’t need to take it off). We had a great time laughing at each other’s miscommunication due to the language barrier which is really of the beautiful essence of traveling.
    • For example, we jokingly asked our favorite, Nir, if he cross-stitched. He looked at us confused, “My crotch?!!?” Ok, maybe you just had to be there, but it was so incredibly funny. He also had a man bag we wanted to take home and posed in many pictures with, even when he wasn’t there. Nir asking Teresa if she was a cheerleader because she’s a blonde-American. Or making his friend dress up in our bikini’s and running around the hostel.
  • A good new friend named Chad who I would travel to Southeast Asia with (a year later). Raised in Maryland, he was then residing in Seattle for Graduate school in International Studies: Eastern Europe. He had just finished the Peace Corp in Ukraine when we met. And was backpacking around for 2 months until he started grad school. So much insight and knowledge to learn from him, I call him the human encyclopedia.

Us 5 traveling backpacker gals relaxed to the beach life. Fully embracing the most common Costa Rican saying, “Pura Vida” which translates to “the Pure Life”. It is so easy to just relax for days and forget about time in Mal Pais. Though it’s on the pacific side, there is still beautiful clear blue water. As recent graduates, we philosophized about life. And what we were about to embark on now for the rest of our lives. There, you can also rent bikes, walk around the chill beach vibes. Be careful of being chased by monkeys!


Day 6: Travel to the Caribbean Side of Costa Rica

Travel to “Puerto Viejo“, the Caribbean side of Costa Rica in the southeast, close to Jamaica. To get there: take a 10-hour ride (Bus for a few hours, then a ferry, then a bus). You will notice an immediate difference with the Jamaican influence. It’s a bit more wild than the rest of Costa Rica. But it’s worth the trek. The water is crystal clear green as it’s the Caribbean.

Stay at: Rockin J’s, a hostel that will only attract the rebels, the misfits. And those most drawn to music and creativity.

I absolutely loved this hostel as much as I loved Backpacker’s hostel in Santa Teresa but for different reasons. I cannot explain the craziness/creativity of this hostel, you will just have to see yourself. As if Puerto Viejo is not wild enough, you enter the hostel which is in a forest. Stroll in deeper and see that it sits on a humungous plot of land, which can easily fit 200 people. Choose to stay in shared rooms with bunk beds. Or sleep upstairs in Hammocks (this is very common). There is also a field in the back with lawn chairs.

The closest way to describe this place is that its an adult-circus in a corrupted artsy jungle. Lockers and walls are filled with traveler’s art. Or graffiti, whatever you want to call it. Messages left by backpackers for the next waves of wanderlusts passing by.

The next morning we rode a 1-hour bike ride to Manzanillo and went Kayaking.

We ate at “Bread and Chocolate”, very popular, recommended highly in Lonely Planet. They say, “You know a place is good if the oatmeal tastes good”.

Day 7: White Water Rafting in Costa Rica

Public bus to Heredia

The best way to end your trip is to go White Water Rafting with “Rios Tropicales” (Tropical Rivers Rafting Company). Their one-day tour starts at $96 per person. On a 1-5 scale, they rank the rafting intense level at a 4. It was about a 4-hour excursion. Halfway through our rafting experience, it started pouring rain. Half an hour later, it started to thunder. And within minutes, LIGHTENING! My emotions ranged in extremity from being terrified on one end to absolute adrenaline on midway through. And there was no place else I wished to be at that moment than in the heart of Costa Rica.

Stay at: Hotel America in Heredia

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