Places To Visit In Costa Rica
Lying along the Central America Isthmus is one of the world’s most stunning natural destinations, Costa Rica. Perfect for a true adventure, Costa Rica offers incredible biodiversity, breathtaking rainforests, miles of untouched beaches and stunning active volcanoes. Here are our favourite places to visit in Costa Rica that we think you should check out.
Accessed via La Fortuna town, the Arenal National Park is shadowed by Costa Rica’s most famous volcano, Arenal. The area offers a wealth of outdoor activities such as rafting, hiking, zip-lining and horse-riding opportunities, and is home to natural attractions including hot springs, biodiverse forest and Arenal’s smaller sibling, Chato.
The national park hosts lava flow trails carved from the volcanoes previous eruptions, the scenic Lake Arenal and varied flora and fauna including birdlife, primates and deer. Its remote location and lack of accommodation within the protected zones mean that exploring the area can still feel wonderfully remote.
Gulf of Nicoya
One of Costa Rica's oldest towns is Nicoya, founded by the Spanish in the mid 16th century. The Nicoya Peninsula also features the Parque Barra Honda, which is the country's largest limestone cavern system.
This area is beautiful, framed by palm trees, white sand beaches and coral reefs offering some of the best diving in the North Pacific. Deep-sea fishing, surfing, windsurfing, white water rafting, scuba diving, horseback riding, mountain biking, volcano climbing, canopy tours and sea kayaking are just a handful of the adventures you can enjoy in this area!
No visit to the Gulf of Nicoya would be complete without visiting Santa Teresa. It is one of the country's most beautiful fishing villages. The village has managed to hold onto its tranquil charm, whilst catering for thrill seekers.
The small, lively coastal town of Jaco sits in the Central Pacific Region of Costa Rica. Just an hour and a half from San Jose on the Pan-American Highway, making it a favourite beach spot for 'Ticos' (Costa Ricans) from the capital. As well as lounging on Costa Rica’s ‘Gold Coast’, the area offers lots in the way of water-based activities, small protected parks and natural attractions within a short drive. The town itself is well developed and teeming with cafes, restaurants and shops.
One of the country’s highlights, Manuel Antonio National Park, is just over an hour away and can make for a great day trip whilst staying at Jaco.
La Fortuna is located in Alajuela province, at the base of the Arenal Volcano. It is a relaxing town dedicated to tourism where one can find a wide range of local activities.
La Fortuna is surrounded by acres of meadowland and the Tabacon Hot springs nestle in a lush central valley on the northern side of the volcano. The springs resort features a series of pools filled with thermal waters, beautifully landscaped grounds and a fantastic view of the volcano towering above. Here one can relax and observe the volcanic eruptions.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park is located about a 45-minute drive from the town of Liberia. The Park's active peak is worth visiting just to observe the fascinating and numerous geological features. You can see boiling streams, steaming vents called fumaroles, sulphur deposits, boiling mud cauldrons, clay deposits (which do wonders for your skin) and natural, warm mineral pools (ideal for soaking away stress and muscle aches). There are numerous trails through the cloud forest.
Manuel Antonio offers its visitors various options as far as activities go. If you need to relax then you have the beautiful beaches, but for those feeling more adventurous, there are excursions into the National Park and canopy tours available.
The park has more than one hundred mammal species and one hundred and eighty species of birds, including the rare white ibis. Squirrel monkeys (another endangered species) play in the trees above the trails in the Park. There are also two-toed sloths, raccoons, white-nosed coatis, howler and white-faced monkeys, and squirrels.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve contains six distinct ecological zones. There are wind-sculpted woodlands on the exposed ridges, protected cove rainforests of majestically tall trees festooned with orchids, bromeliads, ferns, vines, and mosses; poorly drained areas support swamp forests. While parts of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, dissected by deep gorges, have numerous crystal clear streams tumbling over rapids and waterfalls. The variable climate and altitude have helped produce extremely high biodiversity.
The Osa Peninsula is ideal for those who want to escape the beaten track and explore the natural beauty of the wildest, most diverse and unexplored region of Costa Rica. Here you can choose to hike and mountain bike through the lush river valleys and vast virgin rainforests of Corcovado National Park. You can also snorkel and sea-kayak around the brightly coloured reefs and deserted tropical beaches of Caño Island and Golfo Dulce.
Puerto Viejo is a typical Caribbean town with reggae bars and picturesque beaches. It is also the gateway to see the lush national parks of Cahuita and the wildlife refuge of Manzanillo, as well as the sloth sanctuary of Aviarios del Caribe.
San Gerardo de Dota
Located high in the mountains and centred around the Savegre River, considered one of the cleanest in the country, many areas of San Gerardo de Dota have been given protected and national park status due to the exotic flora and fauna found in the region.
The area is one of the best places to spot the quetzal which prefers higher, cooler climates: hence the name of the nearby Los Quetzales National Park. The town is scenic and fresh with a number of boutique hotels and independent restaurants and shops. Birdwatchers will feel right at home at one of the few select lodges in the area that have specialist naturalist guides on hand to identify the plethora of species found there.
San José is located in a deep bowl that lies amidst the mountains that divide the length of the country between its Pacific and Caribbean coasts and lowlands. The capital spreads out over a grid, its tin roofs glittering under the sun, spreading out to the suburbs and coffee plantations. The Poás and Irazú volcanoes can be seen from the city and one doesn't have to travel far to reach the forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park.
One of Costa Rica’s most famous beach towns situated on the pacific coast. Tamarindo offers a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the country’s ‘Gold Coast’. Home to some of the most exclusive and coastal properties, the area is perfect for a bit of ‘R & R’ during your trip and should you wish to explore the area a little more, excursions into the mangroves in search of the local wildlife is a must.
The town is well developed providing good access (unlike many of Costa Rica’s underdeveloped, remote coastal towns) and a good variety of restaurants, shops and other conveniences. There are many water-based activities (this coastline is particularly favoured by surfers) available including fishing, kayaking and sailing. The wider region offers some of the best spots to witness the leatherback turtle nesting season.
Situated on the Caribbean coast, the area of Tortuguero with its network of canals is famous for being the principal nesting site for green, hawksbill, loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles.
The turtles return to this same 22 mile stretch of beach every summer to lay their eggs. No-one is entirely sure why they prefer this sandy coastline but local people believe that a turtle-shaped volcanic hill at Tortuguero serves as some kind of beacon guiding the turtles back each year. In addition to the turtles, Tortuguero National Park is a haven for other creatures such as Indian manatees, crocodiles, howler monkeys and over 450 different species of birds.