10 Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica

It may be a small country in land mass, but Costa Rica is one of the world’s biggest natural playgrounds. Bordered between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica boasts the world’s largest density of flora and fauna in addition to a varied terrain of mountains, valleys, forests, volcanoes, beaches, lakes and rivers. An overview of the best places to visit in Costa Rica:

10. Tamarindo [SEE MAP]

Tamarindo

Tamarindowiki / Wikipedia

Year-round sunshine, breathtaking views, laid-back atmosphere and close proximity to national parks all make Tamarindo a popular destination for family vacations and eco-adventures. Located on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, Tamarindo is one of the most developed and accessible beach towns in the region with paved roads and plenty of tourist facilities.

Less than an hour from the town of Liberia, Tamarindo is a small tropical paradise that can be easily explored by foot, taxis, rental cars and scooters. Tamarindo’s main attraction is its sprawling beach where visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities from swimming to surfing, kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing and boat cruises. With deep-sea waters teeming in snapper, marlin, grouper and tuna as well as other trophy fish, Tamarindo is a sport fishing mecca with first-rate fleets and ample operations. Golfers will delight in Tamarindo’s world-class golf courses.

With close proximity to the rainforest, visitors can enjoy adventures like jungle trekking, ATV tours, horseback riding and whitewater rafting. Home to one of the country’s most important sanctuaries for nesting leatherback sea turtles, the nearby Marino Las Baulas National Park is also a great place for hiking, bird watching and wildlife viewing.

9. San Jose [SEE MAP]

San Jose

Surrounded by lush green valleys and mountains, Costa Rica’s capital and largest city, San Jose, is a modern city, complete with accommodation, shopping, dining, nightlife, and arts and culture. Easily explored by walking, taxis and buses, the vibrant city occupies a plateau in the country’s geographical center, making it a great base for exploring other destinations in Costa Rica.

An attractive mix of historic Spanish and modern day architecture, the city’s busy downtown area is home to landmarks, government buildings, cultural venues and noisy traffic. San Jose is host to a number of museums that offer an introduction into the country’s history, culture, art and wildlife. San Jose also boasts a number of performing arts centers and theaters presenting concerts, dances and dramas year round, including the National Theater, which is admired as one of the country’s most impressive architectural attractions. Tourists may also enjoy browsing San Jose’s colorful markets for souvenirs as well as the San Pedro Mall, one of Central America’s largest malls.

Relaxation and outdoor recreation can be found among the city’s charming plazas, green spaces and public parks that feature gardens, lakes, sports areas and artistic works. A few of the most popular are the National Park, San Jose Central Park and the La Sabana Metropolitan Park. The Simon Bolivar Zoo is a good place for the whole family to see animal species from Costa Rica as well as from around the world.

8. Chirripo National Park [SEE MAP]

Chirripo National Park

amandicacom / Flickr

Spanning over the three provinces of Limón, Cartago and San Jose in southern Costa Rica, the Chirripo National Park protects a diversity of habitats and wildlife species, making it a treasure trove for ecotourists and nature lovers. Named after the country’s highest mountain, Cerro Chirripó, the national park features a combination of treeless mountain plateaus, fern groves, marshlands, lush rainforest and glacial lakes that are all home to an abundance of flora and fauna.

Some of the most notable attractions in the national park include the La Amistad International Park Cloudforest, Rabbit Valley, Monte Sin Fe and Cerro Terbi, all natural gems providing breathtaking views. Well-marked trails lead throughout the park, presenting opportunities to admire the diverse landscapes and spot the likes of monkeys, iguanas and rare birds such as the resplendent quetzal. Chilly night temperatures and a 3-day roundtrip should be expected by those wishing to climb to the mountain summit.

The national park is also one of the few places in Costa Rica that is agreeable for technical rock climbing. Ranger stations are available at different locations in the park, offering camping, rustic lodging and visitor information. Chirripo can be reached from the town of San Isidro de El General.

7. Rincon de la Vieja [SEE MAP]

Rincon de la Vieja

Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

Located in the North Pacific region of Costa Rica, the Rincon de la Vieja National Park is named after its main attraction, a large steaming volcano. Intriguing, natural features like craters, vapor vents, bubbling mud pits and hot springs as well as an extraordinary amount of plant and wildlife make this national park a popular destination.

Surrounding the volcano are numerous acres of hiking trails leading through wooded greenery and cloud forest to reveal spectacular scenes like stunning waterfalls, volcanic craters, mud cauldrons and plains riddled with purple orchids. The most popular trail, Las Pailas, is a short circuit trail ideal for all experience levels and leads to steaming fumaroles and boiling mud pots. Another trail, the Sendero Cangreja, brings hikers to the park’s most acclaimed cascades, the Hidden Waterfalls, which tumble into lovely lagoons and natural swimming pools. More experienced hikers looking for more of a challenge can take on the eight-hour roundtrip trek to the crater at the volcano’s summit.

In addition to hiking, park visitors can enjoy other activities like camping, canopy tours, horseback riding, whitewater tubing, soaking in hot springs and spotting some of the many wildlife species that include parrots, toucans, two-toed sloths and howler monkeys. Another experience that may appeal to some is the opportunity to stay at one of the park’s several working cattle ranches where they can participate in daily chores such as herding cattle and tending to horses. Most visitors access the national park by rental cars, taxis and buses from the nearby town of Liberia.

6. Corcovado National Park [SEE MAP]

Corcovado National Park

Christian Haugen / Flickr

Regarded by many as the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s national park system, the Corcovado National Park is so overflowing in excellent wildlife opportunities, that it is one place that can guarantee plenty of sightings. Situated on the Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica, Corcovado National Park harbors several major ecosystems that include mangrove swamps, rainforest, palm forest and cloud forest in addition to beaches and coastal habitats.

With several hiking trails winding throughout the park, visitors stand a better chance here than anywhere else in the country of seeing some of Costa Rica’s more elusive and rare species such as red-backed squirrel monkeys, jaguars, harpy eagles, white-lipped peccaries, and Baird’s tapirs. It is also possible to see ocelots, pumas, sloths, coatis, monkeys (howler, spider and white-faced capuchin), poison dart frogs, glass frogs and numerous bird species. A stroll along the beach may award glimpses of sea turtles, hermit crabs, pelicans and scarlet macaws flying overhead. Besides the wealth of wildlife, hiking trails also give visitors the opportunities to check out interesting rock formations, exotic plants and beautiful waterfalls. Canoeing on the river is another fun way to experience the park’s biodiversity.

Access to Corcovado National Park is by way of the closest town, Puerto Jimenez, where visitors can arrange tours, rent bikes, horses, 4WD vehicles, or opt for a bus ride. Corcovado also has four ranger stations providing lodging, food and camping.

5. Tortuguero National Park [SEE MAP]

Tortuguero National Park

vincentraal / Flickr

Despite the fact that it is remotely located in northeastern Costa Rica and accessible only by boat or airplane, the Tortuguero National Park is one of the country’s most visited national parks. One of the most important turtle sanctuaries in the western Caribbean, the park’s main draw is the sea turtles that nest and hatch on the beach.

Because of its wet, tropical climate, the Tortuguero National Park fosters a rich environment of rainforest, wetlands, mangroves, beaches, canals and lagoons that are all teeming in plant and wildlife species, making it a nature lover’s paradise. The most popular activity here is a guided walk on the beach to spot mother turtles nesting and hatchlings racing to the sea. The best time to view green and hawksbill turtles is between July and October, while the nesting season for leatherback turtles is from February to April.

However, the turtles are not the park’s only attraction. Visitors can take boat rides or paddle canoes through the mangroves and canals to glimpse a wide array of wildlife that includes mammals like manatees, sloths, river otters, tapirs, monkeys (spider, howler and capuchin); birds like green macaws, toucans, parrots and herons as well as reptiles such as giant iguanas, basilisk lizards and crocodiles.

Getting to Tortuguero National Park is every bit as adventurous as the park itself. Visitors will need to arrange a boat tour or rent a boat from the village of Tortuguero, which can be reached by airplane from San Jose. Tortuguero village offers restaurants, lodging and tour operators.

4. Playa Jaco [SEE MAP]

Playa Jaco

wytze / Flickr

Less than two hours away from San Jose, Playa Jaco is a hugely popular destination because it offers the best of Costa Rica from gorgeous beaches to wildlife, outdoor activities and sizzling nightlife. Playa Jaco is a lively beach town well known for its laid-back, party atmosphere and excellent surfing waves.

Read Post  The Best Places to Go in Puerto Rico

While Playa Jaco attracts many tourists, it remains a clean, calm beach where people can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, surfing and sport fishing. There are also local surfing schools and classes available for those who want to learn to surf. Because it is nearby tropical jungles nature reserves and national parks, Playa Jaco also offers fantastic eco-tours where visitors can enjoy horseback riding, canopy tours, ATV expeditions, safaris, whitewater rafting and viewing wildlife such as monkeys and scarlet macaws.

Because it is highly tourist friendly, Playa Jaco offers a good variety of restaurants serving international cuisines as well as traditional Costa Rican fare. What’s more, Playa Jaco’s nightlife scene is one of the hottest in Costa Rica with dozens of choices ranging from casinos to bars, discos, nightclubs and dive bars.

3. Manuel Antonio National Park [SEE MAP]

Manuel Antonio National Park

It is Costa Rica’s smallest national park, but Manuel Antonio National Park is also the country’s most visited as it is easily accessible from San Jose. The park offers visitors exceptional beauty and variety of landscapes, wildlife and activities. Located on Costa Rica’s mid-Pacific coast nearby the city of Quepos, Manuel Antonio comprises a diverse array of ecosystems including lush rainforests, white sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs, making it a coveted destination among families, backpackers, surfers, snorkelers, birders and ecotourists alike.

Manuel Antonio National Park provides a wide range of outdoor activities and adventures that include swimming, surfing, snorkeling, diving, sea kayaking, whale-watching, sport fishing, whitewater rafting and mountain biking. A number of hiking trails offer scenic vistas, waterfalls and glimpses of wildlife such as howler monkeys, iguanas, parrots and possibly the endangered titi monkeys.

Visitors can reach Manuel Antonio National Park by one of the frequent buses that operate from the city of Quepos, which also offers accommodation, dining and nightlife choices.

2. Arenal Volcano [SEE MAP]

Arenal Volcano

Soaring high in a perfectly symmetrical shape over the green hills and pastures of Costa Rica’s northern lowlands, Arenal Volcano is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Until the past few years, Arenal was the most active volcano in Costa Rica, and it’s frequent, small explosions once provided incredible shows of spewing lava. However, in 2010, Arenal’s cycle entered into a resting phase, putting an indeterminate pause on the eruptions. Nevertheless, the area surrounding Arenal still offers plenty of outstanding sights and exciting activities.

The area surrounding Arenal Volcano, along with the dormant Chato volcano, is protected by the Arenal Volcano National Park. Within the national park are picturesque landscapes of lakes, rivers, mountains and rainforests all offering adventures like fishing, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, hiking, horseback riding, ziplining, canopy tours, caving and waterfall rappelling.

Nature and wildlife enthusiasts will find the Arenal Volcano area a paradise with its many species of exotic flowers, mammals like howler monkeys, deer and jaguar, and birds such as parrots and resplendent quetzals. What’s more, due to Arenal’s geothermal activity, tourists have the opportunity to luxuriate in a number of hot springs ranging in every style and budget, and all with beautiful views of the volcano. There are also several resorts in the area offering accommodation and tour operations.

The small town of La Fortuna de San Carlos is the gateway to the Arenal Volcano. It easily reached by bus from San Jose.

1. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve [SEE MAP]

#1 of Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica

celebdu / Flickr

Lush green mountains and tropical jungle, shrouded in clouds, resonate with nature’s concert of exotic bird, animal, reptile and insect calls. This is the enchanting setting of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Located along the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range in central Costa Rica, this reserve is one of the country’s most coveted tourist destinations due to its astonishing natural beauty, extraordinary biodiversity and abundance of activities.

Accessed by buses from the nearby town of Monteverde, the reserve has a small lodge, restaurant and gift shop. One of the most popular things to do here is hike amid the numerous trails and admire beautiful waterfalls and exotic flowers and plants, looking for a glimpse of wildlife species like tapirs, agoutis, frogs, wild pigs, monkeys, porcupines, butterflies and the rare resplendent quetzel, the bird that was once regarded sacred by the Mayans. Other ways to experience the cloud forest and its abundance of wildlife is by horseback riding, canopy tours over the tree tops, Sky Walks over suspension bridges, and zipline adventures through the jungle trees.

Additionally, there is a dairy farm on the reserve that was established by Quakers in the 1950s in which visitors can buy cheese and ice cream as well as participate in a tour to watch the cheese being made. There is also a nature center where visitors can walk through butterfly gardens and learn more about the rich biodiversity of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Map of Costa Rica

Costa Rica Map

© OpenStreetMap © MapTiler © Touropia

19 incredible places to visit in Costa Rica right now

Woman hiking the Arenal 1968 Trail, Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is famous for its lush coasts, biodiverse jungles, stunning waterfalls, and dramatic volcanoes – not to mention a mix of eco-resorts and urban attractions like museums and gardens.

If you aren’t sure where to begin tackling everything Costa Rica has to offer, here’s a list of 19 can’t-miss sites, from volcanic cascades to surf breaks for all skill levels.

1. Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal is approximately 17km (10.5 miles) west of La Fortuna. The main park entrance is on the road to El Castillo (turn off the main road 13km west of town). It’s easiest to reach the park by car or on a tour. Otherwise, take any bus to Tilarán and ask the driver to let you off at the turnoff.

In 2017 a new “sector peninsula” set of trails opened, comprising 1.2km (.75 miles) of trails, an observation tower and scenic lake overlook. Hikers routinely spot sloths, coatis, howler monkeys, white-faced capuchins and even anteaters. Although the last entrance to the national park is at 2:30pm, you may be allowed to enter and stay at the new sector later.

2. Viento Fresco

If you’re traveling between Monteverde and Arenal, there’s no good excuse for skipping this stop. Viento Fresco is a series of five cascades, including the spectacular Arco Iris (Rainbow Falls), which drops 75m (246ft) into a refreshing shallow pool that’s perfect for swimming. There are no crowds or commercialism to mar the natural beauty of this place. You’ll probably have the falls to yourself, especially if you go early in the day.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.

Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, San Jose, Costa Rica, Central America, America

The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, one of three museums owned by the Banco Central in San Jose, Costa Rica © Alamy Stock Photo

3. Museo de Oro Precolombino y Numismática

This three-in-one museum houses an extensive collection of Costa Rica’s most priceless pieces of pre-Columbian gold and other artifacts, including historical currency and some contemporary regional art. The museum, located underneath the Plaza de la Cultura, is owned by the Banco Central and its architecture brings to mind all the warmth and comfort of a bank vault. The interactive 360-degree videography display of Bribrí cultural hierarchy in the basement is worth the admission price alone.

4. Venado Caves

Two kilometers (1.2 miles) northeast of Venado (Spanish for “deer”) along a good dirt road, these caves are an adventurous excursion into an eight-chamber limestone labyrinth that extends for almost 3km (1.9 miles). A bilingual guide leads small groups (limit seven) on two-hour tours through the darkness, squeezing through narrow passes and pointing out the most interesting rock formations (an altar, a papaya) while dodging bugs and bats (12 species in all – the vampires have darker poop from their iron-rich blood diet). Rubber boots, headlamps and helmets – plus a shower afterwards – are provided. You’ll definitely want to bring a change of clothes.

TO GO WITH AFP STORY - Tourists look at

Jade objects at the exhibition of pre-Columbian objects in Costa Rica’s National Museum in San Jose © AFP via Getty Images

5. Museo del Jade

This museum houses the world’s largest collection of American jade (pronounced ‘ha-day’ in Spanish), with an ample exhibition space of five floors offering seven exhibits. There are nearly 7000 finely crafted, well-conserved pieces, from translucent jade carvings depicting fertility goddesses, shamans, frogs and snakes to incredible ceramics (some reflecting Maya influences), including a highly unusual ceramic head displaying a row of serrated teeth. Interesting indigenous history is on display, too. The museum cafe, Grano Verde, serves sandwiches, salads and smoothies.

6. Playa Cocles

Playa Cocles has waves for surfers who aren’t keen to break skin and bones at nearby Salsa Brava (Costa Rica’s biggest break). Instead, it has steep lefts and rights, which break (and often dump) on the steep sandy beach. During the right tide and swell, the best wave breaks are near the island offshore, producing a mellow left-hand longboarder’s ride over a deep reef. Conditions best from December to March, and early in the day before winds pick up.

Exotic beach, Manuel Antonio national park, Costa Rica

7. Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

Featuring lush jungle, picture-perfect beaches and craggy headlands, this tiny park (680 hectares/1680 acres) absolutely brims with wildlife (and often visiting humans). As you wander its lovely trails, you’ll catch a glimpse of dangling sloths, squawking toucans and playful monkeys, and stumble on breathtaking views of the sea and nearby islands. To beat the crowds and maximize wildlife sightings, arrive early or, better still, buy your tickets the afternoon before and walk straight in the following day.

8. Costa Rica Surf Camp

This fantastic locally owned surf school prides itself on a two-to-one student-teacher ratio, with teachers who have CPR and water-safety training and years of experience. The amiable owner, Cesar Valverde, runs a friendly, warm-hearted program including surf lessons and accommodation. Single lessons and board rental is also available, and boards are great quality.

500px Photo ID: 112492165 - A long exposure of a creek meeting the Caribbean sea taken with a 9-stop ND filter. Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limon, Costa Rica.

9. Playa Negra

At the northwestern end of Cahuita, Playa Negra is a long, black-sand beach flying the bandera azul ecológica, a flag that indicates that the beach is kept to the highest ecological standard. This is undoubtedly Cahuita’s top spot for swimming and is never crowded. When the swells are big, this place also has a good beach break for beginners.

This site, 4km (2.5 miles) north of Sierpe, offers the best opportunity to view the mysterious pre-Columbian spheres created by the Diquís civilization between 300 BCE and 1500 CE, in their originally discovered locale, near culturally significant mounds 30m (98ft) in diameter. In their original setting, one can really appreciate their size and perfect sphericity.

The onsite museum screens an informative video on the spheres’ significance and purpose, and there are other fascinating artifacts on display here, such as stone sculptures and metates (grain-grinding stones) unique to the Diquís.

Read Post  10 Most Amazing Destinations in Western Germany

10. Catarata Manantial de Agua Viva

This 200m-high (656ft) waterfall is claimed to be the highest in the country. From the entrance, it’s a steep 3km (1.9-mile) hike down into the valley (an hour back up); at the bottom, the river continues through a series of natural swimming holes. The falls are most dramatic during the rainy season, though the serene rainforest setting is beautiful any time of year. A 5km (3.1-mile) dirt road past Hotel Villa Lapas leads to the primary entrance to the falls.

Bromeliad garden, Wilson Botanical Gardens, Las Cruces Biological Station near San Vito, Costa Rica

Robert and Catherine Wilson started this garden in 1963, but it’s been part of the Organization for Tropical Studies since the 1970s © Alamy Stock Photo

11. Wilson Botanical Garden

The world-class Wilson Botanical Garden is internationally known for its collection of more than 2000 native Costa Rican species. Species threatened with extinction are preserved here for possible reforestation in the future. A trail map is available for self-guided walks amid exotic species such as orchids, bromeliads and medicinal plants. Guided walks are at 7:30am and 1:30pm. The botanical garden is a choice spot for birders, as it draws hundreds of Costa Rican and migrating species, as well numerous butterfly species.

If you want to stay overnight at the botanical garden, make reservations well in advance: facilities often fill with researchers. Accommodations are in comfortable cabins (singles/doubles including meals and a tour US$105/180) in the midst of the gorgeous grounds. The rooms are simple, but they each have a balcony with an amazing view.

12. Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge

Consisting of pristine beaches, riverbanks, mangrove estuaries, wetlands, primary and secondary forests, tree plantations and pastures, this 330-hectare (815-acre) nature reserve forms a key link in a major biological corridor called the Path of the Tapir.

Explore the reserve by hiking five trails making 8km (5 miles) of marked and well-kept self-guided pathways. Monkeys, sloths and toucans are commonly spotted here. Experience the rainforest canopy by tree climbing or ziplining “Flight of the Toucan,” (US$49 per person) or join birdwatching and walking tours.

Keep an eye out for monkeys in the canopy above, plus brightly colored poison-dart frogs as well as the occasional pair of scarlet macaws.

aerial, view from above, Punta Catedral, Manuel Antonio National Park, south of Quepos, Quepos, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica, Central America

13. Punta Catedral

At its end, the isthmus widens into a rocky peninsula, with thick forest in the middle, encircled by Sendero Punta Catedral. There are good views of the Pacific Ocean and various rocky islets – nesting sites for brown boobies and pelicans.

Along this landbridge are the park’s two amazing beaches, Playa Manuel Antonio, on the ocean side, and the slightly less-visited (and occasionally rough) Playa Espadilla Sur, which faces Manuel Antonio village. With their turquoise waters, shaded hideouts and continual aerial show of brown pelicans, these beaches are dreamy.

14. Cataratas Nauyaca

Owned and operated by a Costa Rican family, this center is home to the coast’s most impressive waterfalls. Two falls cascade through a protected reserve of both primary and secondary forest, and are reached by hiking, 4WD or on horseback. Visitors can swim in the inviting natural pools at the lower falls, and the family runs horseback-riding tours and tours by pickup truck to the falls (reservations required; Dominical pick-up available).

Humpback whale breaching in Marino Ballena National Park, Costa Rica

15. Parque Nacional Marino Ballena

Famous for its wide, 4km-long (2.5-mile) beach, part of which is shaped like a whale’s tail at low tide, this small but important marine park protects coral and rock reefs surrounding several offshore islands, along with migrating humpback whales, dolphins and nesting sea turtles. The best times of year for whale spotting are from December to April and July to November. You can walk along the sandy ‘whale’s tail’ at low tide only; at high tide, much of the beach is covered.

Costa Rica, Catarata del Toro waterfall

At close to 300 feet, Catarata del Toro is one of the highest falls in Costa Rica © Francesco Riccardo Iacomino/Get

16. Catarata del Toro & the Blue Falls

Find a beautiful 90m-tall (295ft) waterfall that cascades into a volcanic crater (free for overnight guests) and two trail options through virgin forest (one 4.5km/2.8-mile out-and-back option, and one 6km/3.7-mile route) to turquoise swimming holes and the Blue Falls of Costa Rica. There’s also a restaurant where you can recharge after your hike while watching hummingbirds fly around. Or make a night of it in one of the wood-paneled rooms (from US$65 per night) tucked under A-frame-style eaves.

17. Eco Termales Hot Spring

Everything from the natural circulation systems in the pools to the soft lighting is understated, luxurious and romantic at this gated, reservations-only complex about 4.5km (2.8 miles) northwest of town. Lush greenery surrounds the walking paths that cut through these gorgeous grounds. Numbers are managed to maintain the serene, secluded ambiance.

Cocktails – served while you soak – come highly recommended (at an additional cost). The add-on lunch is a traditional Tico offering (rice, beans, meat) and includes dessert and coffee.

Mary Osborne gliding on a wave at sunset at Ollies Point in costa rica.

18. Ollie’s Point

Surfers make pilgrimages to this isolated beach, near Playa Portrero Grande, to find the best right in all of Costa Rica. This famous surf break offers a nice, long ride, especially with a southern swell. The bottom here is a mix of sand and rocks, and the year-round offshore is perfect for tight turns and slow closes.

Ollie’s Point is only accessible by boat from Playas del Coco or Tamarindo. Or you can do as Patrick and Wingnut did in Endless Summer II and crash-land your chartered plane on the beach (ahem, not actually recommended). Shortboarding is preferred.

19. Tiskita Jungle Lodge

Set on a verdant hillside between Pavones and Punta Banco, Tiskita Jungle Lodge consists of 100 hectares (247 acres) of virgin forest and a huge orchard, which produces more than 125 varieties of tropical fruit. Trails wind through the surrounding rainforest, which contains waterfalls and freshwater pools suitable for swimming. The combination of rainforest, fruit farm and coastline attracts a long list of birds (about 300 species have been recorded here). Hikes led by knowledgeable local guides are available with advance reservations.

This article was first published March 2021 and updated October 2021

Epic Surf Breaks of the World

Explore the world’s most thrilling waves with Epic Surf Breaks of the World. From Namibia’s wind-swept Skeleton Coast to Java’s G-Land, discover the best place to ‘hang ten’, whatever your surfing ability. Accompanied by a series of stunning photographs, as well as contributions from surf writers all across the globe, including Pulitzer Prize winner William Finnegan, this is the quintessential guide for surfers looking for their next epic break.

Epic Surf Breaks of the World

Explore the world’s most thrilling waves with Epic Surf Breaks of the World. From Namibia’s wind-swept Skeleton Coast to Java’s G-Land, discover the best place to ‘hang ten’, whatever your surfing ability. Accompanied by a series of stunning photographs, as well as contributions from surf writers all across the globe, including Pulitzer Prize winner William Finnegan, this is the quintessential guide for surfers looking for their next epic break.

10 Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica

It may be a small country in land mass, but Costa Rica is one of the world’s biggest natural playgrounds. Bordered between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica boasts the world’s largest density of flora and fauna in addition to a varied terrain of mountains, valleys, forests, volcanoes, beaches, lakes and rivers. An overview of the best places to visit in Costa Rica:

10. Tamarindo [SEE MAP]

Tamarindo

Tamarindowiki / Wikipedia

Year-round sunshine, breathtaking views, laid-back atmosphere and close proximity to national parks all make Tamarindo a popular destination for family vacations and eco-adventures. Located on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, Tamarindo is one of the most developed and accessible beach towns in the region with paved roads and plenty of tourist facilities.

Less than an hour from the town of Liberia, Tamarindo is a small tropical paradise that can be easily explored by foot, taxis, rental cars and scooters. Tamarindo’s main attraction is its sprawling beach where visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities from swimming to surfing, kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing and boat cruises. With deep-sea waters teeming in snapper, marlin, grouper and tuna as well as other trophy fish, Tamarindo is a sport fishing mecca with first-rate fleets and ample operations. Golfers will delight in Tamarindo’s world-class golf courses.

With close proximity to the rainforest, visitors can enjoy adventures like jungle trekking, ATV tours, horseback riding and whitewater rafting. Home to one of the country’s most important sanctuaries for nesting leatherback sea turtles, the nearby Marino Las Baulas National Park is also a great place for hiking, bird watching and wildlife viewing.

9. San Jose [SEE MAP]

San Jose

Surrounded by lush green valleys and mountains, Costa Rica’s capital and largest city, San Jose, is a modern city, complete with accommodation, shopping, dining, nightlife, and arts and culture. Easily explored by walking, taxis and buses, the vibrant city occupies a plateau in the country’s geographical center, making it a great base for exploring other destinations in Costa Rica.

An attractive mix of historic Spanish and modern day architecture, the city’s busy downtown area is home to landmarks, government buildings, cultural venues and noisy traffic. San Jose is host to a number of museums that offer an introduction into the country’s history, culture, art and wildlife. San Jose also boasts a number of performing arts centers and theaters presenting concerts, dances and dramas year round, including the National Theater, which is admired as one of the country’s most impressive architectural attractions. Tourists may also enjoy browsing San Jose’s colorful markets for souvenirs as well as the San Pedro Mall, one of Central America’s largest malls.

Relaxation and outdoor recreation can be found among the city’s charming plazas, green spaces and public parks that feature gardens, lakes, sports areas and artistic works. A few of the most popular are the National Park, San Jose Central Park and the La Sabana Metropolitan Park. The Simon Bolivar Zoo is a good place for the whole family to see animal species from Costa Rica as well as from around the world.

8. Chirripo National Park [SEE MAP]

Chirripo National Park

amandicacom / Flickr

Spanning over the three provinces of Limón, Cartago and San Jose in southern Costa Rica, the Chirripo National Park protects a diversity of habitats and wildlife species, making it a treasure trove for ecotourists and nature lovers. Named after the country’s highest mountain, Cerro Chirripó, the national park features a combination of treeless mountain plateaus, fern groves, marshlands, lush rainforest and glacial lakes that are all home to an abundance of flora and fauna.

Some of the most notable attractions in the national park include the La Amistad International Park Cloudforest, Rabbit Valley, Monte Sin Fe and Cerro Terbi, all natural gems providing breathtaking views. Well-marked trails lead throughout the park, presenting opportunities to admire the diverse landscapes and spot the likes of monkeys, iguanas and rare birds such as the resplendent quetzal. Chilly night temperatures and a 3-day roundtrip should be expected by those wishing to climb to the mountain summit.

Read Post  Travelling from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

The national park is also one of the few places in Costa Rica that is agreeable for technical rock climbing. Ranger stations are available at different locations in the park, offering camping, rustic lodging and visitor information. Chirripo can be reached from the town of San Isidro de El General.

7. Rincon de la Vieja [SEE MAP]

Rincon de la Vieja

Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

Located in the North Pacific region of Costa Rica, the Rincon de la Vieja National Park is named after its main attraction, a large steaming volcano. Intriguing, natural features like craters, vapor vents, bubbling mud pits and hot springs as well as an extraordinary amount of plant and wildlife make this national park a popular destination.

Surrounding the volcano are numerous acres of hiking trails leading through wooded greenery and cloud forest to reveal spectacular scenes like stunning waterfalls, volcanic craters, mud cauldrons and plains riddled with purple orchids. The most popular trail, Las Pailas, is a short circuit trail ideal for all experience levels and leads to steaming fumaroles and boiling mud pots. Another trail, the Sendero Cangreja, brings hikers to the park’s most acclaimed cascades, the Hidden Waterfalls, which tumble into lovely lagoons and natural swimming pools. More experienced hikers looking for more of a challenge can take on the eight-hour roundtrip trek to the crater at the volcano’s summit.

In addition to hiking, park visitors can enjoy other activities like camping, canopy tours, horseback riding, whitewater tubing, soaking in hot springs and spotting some of the many wildlife species that include parrots, toucans, two-toed sloths and howler monkeys. Another experience that may appeal to some is the opportunity to stay at one of the park’s several working cattle ranches where they can participate in daily chores such as herding cattle and tending to horses. Most visitors access the national park by rental cars, taxis and buses from the nearby town of Liberia.

6. Corcovado National Park [SEE MAP]

Corcovado National Park

Christian Haugen / Flickr

Regarded by many as the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s national park system, the Corcovado National Park is so overflowing in excellent wildlife opportunities, that it is one place that can guarantee plenty of sightings. Situated on the Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica, Corcovado National Park harbors several major ecosystems that include mangrove swamps, rainforest, palm forest and cloud forest in addition to beaches and coastal habitats.

With several hiking trails winding throughout the park, visitors stand a better chance here than anywhere else in the country of seeing some of Costa Rica’s more elusive and rare species such as red-backed squirrel monkeys, jaguars, harpy eagles, white-lipped peccaries, and Baird’s tapirs. It is also possible to see ocelots, pumas, sloths, coatis, monkeys (howler, spider and white-faced capuchin), poison dart frogs, glass frogs and numerous bird species. A stroll along the beach may award glimpses of sea turtles, hermit crabs, pelicans and scarlet macaws flying overhead. Besides the wealth of wildlife, hiking trails also give visitors the opportunities to check out interesting rock formations, exotic plants and beautiful waterfalls. Canoeing on the river is another fun way to experience the park’s biodiversity.

Access to Corcovado National Park is by way of the closest town, Puerto Jimenez, where visitors can arrange tours, rent bikes, horses, 4WD vehicles, or opt for a bus ride. Corcovado also has four ranger stations providing lodging, food and camping.

5. Tortuguero National Park [SEE MAP]

Tortuguero National Park

vincentraal / Flickr

Despite the fact that it is remotely located in northeastern Costa Rica and accessible only by boat or airplane, the Tortuguero National Park is one of the country’s most visited national parks. One of the most important turtle sanctuaries in the western Caribbean, the park’s main draw is the sea turtles that nest and hatch on the beach.

Because of its wet, tropical climate, the Tortuguero National Park fosters a rich environment of rainforest, wetlands, mangroves, beaches, canals and lagoons that are all teeming in plant and wildlife species, making it a nature lover’s paradise. The most popular activity here is a guided walk on the beach to spot mother turtles nesting and hatchlings racing to the sea. The best time to view green and hawksbill turtles is between July and October, while the nesting season for leatherback turtles is from February to April.

However, the turtles are not the park’s only attraction. Visitors can take boat rides or paddle canoes through the mangroves and canals to glimpse a wide array of wildlife that includes mammals like manatees, sloths, river otters, tapirs, monkeys (spider, howler and capuchin); birds like green macaws, toucans, parrots and herons as well as reptiles such as giant iguanas, basilisk lizards and crocodiles.

Getting to Tortuguero National Park is every bit as adventurous as the park itself. Visitors will need to arrange a boat tour or rent a boat from the village of Tortuguero, which can be reached by airplane from San Jose. Tortuguero village offers restaurants, lodging and tour operators.

4. Playa Jaco [SEE MAP]

Playa Jaco

wytze / Flickr

Less than two hours away from San Jose, Playa Jaco is a hugely popular destination because it offers the best of Costa Rica from gorgeous beaches to wildlife, outdoor activities and sizzling nightlife. Playa Jaco is a lively beach town well known for its laid-back, party atmosphere and excellent surfing waves.

While Playa Jaco attracts many tourists, it remains a clean, calm beach where people can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, surfing and sport fishing. There are also local surfing schools and classes available for those who want to learn to surf. Because it is nearby tropical jungles nature reserves and national parks, Playa Jaco also offers fantastic eco-tours where visitors can enjoy horseback riding, canopy tours, ATV expeditions, safaris, whitewater rafting and viewing wildlife such as monkeys and scarlet macaws.

Because it is highly tourist friendly, Playa Jaco offers a good variety of restaurants serving international cuisines as well as traditional Costa Rican fare. What’s more, Playa Jaco’s nightlife scene is one of the hottest in Costa Rica with dozens of choices ranging from casinos to bars, discos, nightclubs and dive bars.

3. Manuel Antonio National Park [SEE MAP]

Manuel Antonio National Park

It is Costa Rica’s smallest national park, but Manuel Antonio National Park is also the country’s most visited as it is easily accessible from San Jose. The park offers visitors exceptional beauty and variety of landscapes, wildlife and activities. Located on Costa Rica’s mid-Pacific coast nearby the city of Quepos, Manuel Antonio comprises a diverse array of ecosystems including lush rainforests, white sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs, making it a coveted destination among families, backpackers, surfers, snorkelers, birders and ecotourists alike.

Manuel Antonio National Park provides a wide range of outdoor activities and adventures that include swimming, surfing, snorkeling, diving, sea kayaking, whale-watching, sport fishing, whitewater rafting and mountain biking. A number of hiking trails offer scenic vistas, waterfalls and glimpses of wildlife such as howler monkeys, iguanas, parrots and possibly the endangered titi monkeys.

Visitors can reach Manuel Antonio National Park by one of the frequent buses that operate from the city of Quepos, which also offers accommodation, dining and nightlife choices.

2. Arenal Volcano [SEE MAP]

Arenal Volcano

Soaring high in a perfectly symmetrical shape over the green hills and pastures of Costa Rica’s northern lowlands, Arenal Volcano is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Until the past few years, Arenal was the most active volcano in Costa Rica, and it’s frequent, small explosions once provided incredible shows of spewing lava. However, in 2010, Arenal’s cycle entered into a resting phase, putting an indeterminate pause on the eruptions. Nevertheless, the area surrounding Arenal still offers plenty of outstanding sights and exciting activities.

The area surrounding Arenal Volcano, along with the dormant Chato volcano, is protected by the Arenal Volcano National Park. Within the national park are picturesque landscapes of lakes, rivers, mountains and rainforests all offering adventures like fishing, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, hiking, horseback riding, ziplining, canopy tours, caving and waterfall rappelling.

Nature and wildlife enthusiasts will find the Arenal Volcano area a paradise with its many species of exotic flowers, mammals like howler monkeys, deer and jaguar, and birds such as parrots and resplendent quetzals. What’s more, due to Arenal’s geothermal activity, tourists have the opportunity to luxuriate in a number of hot springs ranging in every style and budget, and all with beautiful views of the volcano. There are also several resorts in the area offering accommodation and tour operations.

The small town of La Fortuna de San Carlos is the gateway to the Arenal Volcano. It easily reached by bus from San Jose.

1. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve [SEE MAP]

#1 of Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica

celebdu / Flickr

Lush green mountains and tropical jungle, shrouded in clouds, resonate with nature’s concert of exotic bird, animal, reptile and insect calls. This is the enchanting setting of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Located along the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range in central Costa Rica, this reserve is one of the country’s most coveted tourist destinations due to its astonishing natural beauty, extraordinary biodiversity and abundance of activities.

Accessed by buses from the nearby town of Monteverde, the reserve has a small lodge, restaurant and gift shop. One of the most popular things to do here is hike amid the numerous trails and admire beautiful waterfalls and exotic flowers and plants, looking for a glimpse of wildlife species like tapirs, agoutis, frogs, wild pigs, monkeys, porcupines, butterflies and the rare resplendent quetzel, the bird that was once regarded sacred by the Mayans. Other ways to experience the cloud forest and its abundance of wildlife is by horseback riding, canopy tours over the tree tops, Sky Walks over suspension bridges, and zipline adventures through the jungle trees.

Additionally, there is a dairy farm on the reserve that was established by Quakers in the 1950s in which visitors can buy cheese and ice cream as well as participate in a tour to watch the cheese being made. There is also a nature center where visitors can walk through butterfly gardens and learn more about the rich biodiversity of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Map of Costa Rica

Costa Rica Map

© OpenStreetMap © MapTiler © Touropia

Source https://www.touropia.com/best-places-to-visit-in-costa-rica/

Source https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/costa-rica-best-places-to-visit

Source https://www.touropia.com/best-places-to-visit-in-costa-rica/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *