Costa Rica is one of the world’s largest undeveloped playgrounds despite its relatively small size. Costa Rica, which is located between Nicaragua and Panama, has a diverse landscape consisting of mountains, valleys, forests, volcanoes, beaches, lakes, and rivers, and the highest concentration of flora and wildlife in the world.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Costa Rica
A rundown of the top tourist destinations in Costa Rica:
Tamarindo is a favourite among those seeking eco-tourism and family vacations thanks to its constant sunlight, stunning vistas, easygoing vibe, and closeness to national parks. Tamarindo, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, has paved roads and many tourist amenities, making it one of the most developed and easily accessible beach communities in the area.
Tamarindo, a little tropical paradise less than an hour from Liberia, is readily navigable on foot, via taxi, rental car, or scooter. In addition to swimming, surfing, kayaking, sailing, snorkelling, diving, windsurfing, and boat trips can all be enjoyed by guests at Tamarindo’s expansive beach.
Tamarindo is a sport fishing paradise with first-rate fleets and ample operations due to the abundance of trophy fish in the region’s deep-sea waters, including snapper, marlin, grouper, and tuna. Tamarindo is home to some of the best golf courses in the world.
Visitors can easily engage in activities such as jungle trekking, ATV tours, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting because to the proximity to the rainforest. Marino Las Baulas National Park is close by and is a fantastic spot to go trekking, bird watching, and wildlife viewing. It is also one of the most significant nesting places for leatherback sea turtles in the country.
2. San Jose
San Jose, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, is a modern metropolis with all the conveniences of a major metropolitan area, including a wide variety of hotels, restaurants, bars, and other entertainment options.
The city is located on a plateau in the geographic middle of Costa Rica, making it a convenient jumping off point for day trips to other parts of the country via foot, cab, or bus. The city’s lively downtown centre is home to landmarks, government buildings, cultural institutions, and noisy traffic, and it is an attractive combination of ancient Spanish and modern day architecture.
Several museums that provide an overview of the country’s past, present, and future may be found in San Jose. San Jose also has a variety of theatres and performing arts centres that put on shows all year long, including the National Theater, widely considered to be one of the most awe-inspiring examples of American architecture.
Visitors can shop for trinkets at one of Central America’s largest malls, the San Pedro Mall, or stroll through the city’s vibrant marketplaces. The city’s lovely plazas, green spaces, and public parks include gardens, lakes, sports areas, and artistic works, and are perfect places to unwind and enjoy the outdoors.
The National Park, San Jose Central Park, and La Sabana Metropolitan Park are three of the most visited. Animals from all over the world, including those native to Costa Rica, may be seen at the Simon Bolivar Zoo, making it a fun outing for the whole family.
3. Chirripo National Park
Chirripo National Park, located in southern Costa Rica, protects a wide variety of ecosystems and animal species in the provinces of Limón, Cartago, and San José. The park is named after the tallest mountain in the country, Cerro Chirripó, and contains a wide variety of ecosystems, including treeless mountain plateaus, fern groves, marshlands, lush rainforest, and glacial lakes.
The national park is home to a number of stunning natural wonders, including the La Amistad International Park Cloudforest, Rabbit Valley, Monte Sin Fe, and Cerro Terbi. The park’s well-marked trails allow visitors to explore its many habitats and perhaps spot wildlife like monkeys, iguanas, and the brilliantly coloured resplendent quetzal.
Those who aspire to reach the peak of the mountain should be prepared for cold overnight temperatures and a three-day round trip. There aren’t many areas in Costa Rica suitable for technical rock climbing, but that’s another perk of the national park.
Campsites, inexpensive lodges, and helpful information are all available at ranger stations spread around the park. From San Isidro de El General, you can travel to Chirripo.
4. Rincon de la Vieja
The enormous steaming volcano Rincon de la Vieja gives the park in Costa Rica’s North Pacific region its name, Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Craters, vapour vents, bubbling mud pits, and hot springs are just some of the fascinating natural features that draw visitors to this national park.
There are miles of trails all around the volcano that will take you through lush vegetation and cloud forest to sights like roaring waterfalls, steaming craters, bubbling mud pots, and purple orchid-studded grasslands. Las Pailas, the most popular path, is a short circular trail that leads to hot fumaroles and boiling mud pots and is suitable for hikers of all experience levels.
The Hidden Waterfalls are the most famous waterfalls in the park, and they flow into beautiful lagoons and natural swimming pools, which may be reached through the Sendero Cangreja route. The eight-hour round-trip walk to the volcano’s crater is a worthy challenge for experienced hikers.
Camping, canopy tours, horseback riding, whitewater tubing, relaxing in hot springs, and observing animals including parrots, toucans, two-toed sloths, and howler monkeys are just some of the various activities available to park visitors.
Some visitors may also be interested in staying at one of the park’s functioning cattle ranches and taking part in ranch life by helping with tasks like herding cattle and caring for horses. From the adjacent town of Liberia, most visitors drive, use cabs, or take buses to the national park.
5. Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park, often called the “jewel in the crown” of Costa Rica’s national park system, is so rich in wildlife that visitors may be sure to see plenty of animals there. Corcovado National Park, located on the Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica, is home to a wide variety of ecosystems, including mangrove swamps, rainforest, palm forest, cloud forest, and beaches and coastal habitats.
Visitors have a better chance of seeing red-backed squirrel monkeys, jaguars, harpy eagles, white-lipped peccaries, and Baird’s tapirs in this park than anywhere else in Costa Rica due to the park’s extensive network of hiking routes.
Ocelots, pumas, sloths, coatis, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, poison dart frogs, glass frogs, and a plethora of bird species can all be spotted here. Wildlife including sea turtles, hermit crabs, pelicans, and scarlet macaws can be spotted when strolling along the beach.
Hikers can also see unique rock formations, rare vegetation, and stunning waterfalls while exploring the area’s abundant animals. Canoeing down the river is a great way to see the wildlife in the park.
Visitors can take a bus, rent bikes, horses, or 4WD vehicles, or book guided trips in Puerto Jiménez, the nearest town to Corcovado National Park. There are four ranger stations in Corcovado that offer beds, meals, and camping facilities.
6. Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero National Park is one of the most visited in Costa Rica, despite its isolated location in the country’s northeast and its accessibility via boat or aeroplane. The park’s main feature is the sea turtles that nest and hatch on the beach, making it one of the most significant turtle sanctuaries in the western Caribbean.
Tortuguero National Park is a paradise for ecotourists due to the abundance of plant and animal life that thrives in the park’s humid tropical climate, which includes rainforest, wetlands, mangroves, beaches, canals, and lagoons.
Tours down the beach in search of nesting turtles and sprinting baby turtles are the most popular things to do here. The months of July and October are prime time to see green and hawksbill turtles, while the months of February and April are leatherback nesting season.
But the turtles aren’t the only cool thing about this park. Animals like manatees, sloths, river otters, tapirs, monkeys (spider, howler, and capuchin), birds like green macaws, toucans, parrots, and herons, and reptiles like giant iguanas, basilisk lizards, and crocodiles can all be seen by visitors on boat tours or in canoes paddling through the mangroves and canals.
7. Playa Jaco
Playa Jaco, located less than two hours from San Jose, is a popular holiday spot due to its proximity to the country’s top beaches, wildlife, outdoor activities, and exciting nightlife. Playa Jaco is a fun-loving beach community renowned for its exceptional surfing waves and chill vibe.
Playa Jaco is a popular tourist destination because it is a clean, quiet beach where visitors may swim, surf, and even go sport fishing. If you want to learn how to surf, there are local surfing schools and lessons you may enrol in.
Playa Jaco has amazing eco-trips where guests may go horseback riding, canopy tours, ATV expeditions, safaris, whitewater rafting, and witness wildlife like monkeys and scarlet macaws in their natural habitats because of its proximity to tropical jungle nature reserves and national parks.
Playa Jaco’s popularity as a tourist destination has resulted in a wide selection of restaurants serving both foreign taste and authentic Costa Rican cooking. In addition, Playa Jaco has a lively nightlife with a wide variety of options including casinos, bars, discos, nightclubs, and even dive bars.
8. Manuel Antonio National Park
Although Manuel Antonio National Park is the smallest of Costa Rica’s national parks, it attracts the most tourists because of its proximity to the capital city of San Jose. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of landscapes, fauna, and recreational opportunities in this park of unparalleled natural beauty.
Manuel Antonio, a national park in central Costa Rica, is a popular holiday spot for families, travellers, surfers, snorkelers, avian enthusiasts, and ecotourists thanks to its different ecosystems, including lush jungles, white sand beaches, and spectacular coral reefs.
Swimming, surfing, snorkelling, diving, sea kayaking, whale-watching, sport-fishing, white-water rafting, and mountain-biking are just a few of the many outdoor activities and adventures available at Manuel Antonio National Park.
Many trails provide opportunities to see wildlife like howler monkeys, iguanas, parrots, and even the critically endangered titi monkeys. Quepos, where lodging, food, and nightlife options are available, is where most visitors will board a bus to travel to Manuel Antonio National Park.
9. Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano, one of Costa Rica’s most visited attractions, rises symmetrically above the rolling green hills and grazing meadows of the country’s northern lowlands. Arenal used to produce amazing displays of lava spouting with its frequent, tiny explosions, but in recent years it has been less active.
However, Arenal’s cycle reached a resting phase in 2010, halting the eruptions for the time being. Yet, there are still many amazing attractions and thrilling things to do in the Arenal region. Arenal Volcano National Park safeguards the area around Arenal Volcano and the dormant Chato Volcano.
You can go fishing, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, hiking, horseback riding, ziplining, canopy tours, caving, and waterfall rappelling among the park’s stunning sceneries of lakes, rivers, mountains, and rainforests.
The Arenal Volcano region is a haven for those interested in nature and wildlife, thanks to its abundance of unique plant life, as well as mammals like howler monkeys, deer, and jaguar, and birds like parrots and dazzling quetzals.
Furthermore, thanks to Arenal’s geothermal activity, visitors may relax in a variety of high-end and budget-friendly hot springs, all of which offer stunning panoramas of the volcano. Also, the area is home to a number of resorts that serve as both places to stay and tour operators.
10. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Nature’s chorus of exotic bird, animal, reptile, and insect voices resounds over the misty highlands and tropical jungle. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is located in this beautiful area.
This reserve, which runs along the Cordillera de Tilarán in central Costa Rica, is a popular holiday spot thanks to its stunning scenery, rich wildlife, and variety of exciting activities. The reserve features a modest lodge, café, and gift shop, all of which may be reached through buses from the nearby town of Monteverde.
Hiking through the park’s many trails, admiring its many waterfalls and exotic flowers and plants, and keeping an eye out for wildlife like tapirs, agoutis, frogs, wild pigs, monkeys, porcupines, butterflies, and the rare resplendent quetzel, the bird once considered sacred by the Mayans, is a popular pastime.
Horseback riding, canopy tours above the treetops, Sky Walks on suspension bridges, and zipline adventures above the jungle trees are other opportunities to enjoy the cloud forest and its abundant animals.