|Top destinations to visit in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is a perfect destination for travelers of all ages, offering amazing wildlife and natural beauty, a variety of different habitats including rainforests and cloud forest, stunning volcanoes and relaxing natural hot springs, soft adventure activities such as white-water rafting, kayaking, waterfall rappelling and mountain biking, along with opportunities to relax on a beach on either the Caribbean or the Pacific coasts.
A holiday in Costa Rica offers you the opportunity to experience a wide choice of different habitats, to see at close quarters some amazing flora and fauna, to swim off either Caribbean or Pacific coasts, to engage in adrenalin-inducing sports or simply to unwind in a lovely beach location.
Costa Rica is home to 5% of the world’s bio diversity with volcanoes, cloud forests, waterfalls and 500,000 species of flora and fauna – including amazing birds, mammals and insects.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in Costa Rica, is visiting the protected area of the Arenal Volcano National Park. Famous for its steaming hot springs and it’s perfectly symmetrical towering centerpiece - the Arenal Volcano. This adventure capital of Costa Rica has a bountiful selection of activities including hikes through the verdant rainforest, white-water rafting, fishing, horseback riding and caving.
A spectacular lake-side, live volcano in a scenic rainforest area, located next to the nearby La Fortuna town and waterfall. The region also offers popular naturally-occurring hot springs and luxury spas. This is probably Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destination. Great wildlife can be seen with day trips to Caño Negro or Rio Celeste.
A National Park up in the clouds with iconic hanging bridges and adrenalin-fuelled zip-lining. Other activities in this cloud forest area and the buzzing town of St Elena include coffee and sugar cane plantations, a cheese factory, forest steam train rides, horse-riding and spectacular birdlife and forest nature hikes.
Hiking the hazy mist of cloud forest in the Monteverde reserve listening to the exotic sounds of rare birds calling, is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. Walk along the famous suspension bridge with moisture-rich foliage encroaching on every side. One of the largest biological reserves on the planet has over 100 mammal species, 400 bird species and 1200 amphibians and reptiles which call this forest home. People come here to search for rare wildlife such as the resplendent quetzal, pumas, ocelots, margays and jaguarundis. Monteverde is also home to the longest zip wire in the world - one of the top highlights of Costa Rica.
Definitely among Costa Rica’s most postcard-perfect beaches, Playa Samara is the ideal family beach destination. Gently rolling waves lapping the soft, powdery beach whilst listening to the lively buzz of people is holiday perfection. Playa Samara is one of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica and with good reason too. The chilled yet buzzing vibe of the towns restaurants, trendy boutiques and beach side bars are a big draw, as well as the forever abundant wildlife in the tropical forest borders. The calm waters are perfect for swimming, paddle boarding and snorkeling right from the shore.
A National Park offering great bio diversity set in a series of canals and waterways on the Caribbean coast, and teeming with wildlife. You can stay in well-appointed eco-lodges and, depending on the season, Tortuguero also offers the visitor opportunities to see nesting sea turtles.
La Fortuna Waterfall.
One of the most popular things to do in Costa Rica is swimming in the La Fortuna Waterfall. Hike the wooden trails among the leafy jungle to uncover the 200 ft drop of the crashing waterfall, cascading into the emerald green pool below. Walk the labyrinth of precarious hanging bridges on foot or take the trail on horseback. Whilst walking through pasture and rainforest, keep an eye out for toucans and monkeys! It’s also the perfect spot to set up a picnic along the rocky shoreline or if you don’t fancy that, there's also a nice restaurant in the area.
A scenic, coastal based National Park area on the Pacific. Fantastic beaches and wonderful wildlife combine in close proximity to offer one of Costa Rica’s highlights. Apart from hiking the National Park and beach R&R activities in the region include a fun coastal kayak sea paddle or dolphin and whale watching at nearby Uvita. The busy resort town of Quepos offers further attraction.
Cahuita National Park.
Visiting Cahuita National Park is a highlight on many itinerary tours to Costa Rica, especially for sea life lovers. The coral reef close to the shore is an underwater tapestry of colour. The crystal blue waters reveal manta rays, sharks and sea urchins of every colour. Snorkeling in these waters must be done with a guide in a bid to preserve and protect the coral. And if the sea life doesn't hold your interest, explore the forgotten shipwrecks that lie on the shallow beds, cannons flanking either side protecting what could be long-forgotten treasure! And the land is just as spectacular! Watch out for sloths, pacas and northern tamanduas.
Parque Nacional Tortuguero.
Situated on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast, the highlight of this protected wilderness is undoubtedly experiencing the endangered turtles nesting along the secluded shoreline. Night-time guided walks are a popular activity, and if you’re lucky you might get the chance to watch newly hatched turtles scramble their way to sea. Weave your way through the dense jungle, kayaking through canals and searching for rare wildlife like the noisy howler-monkeys, green macaws and even the elusive jaguars.
Nicoya & Guanacaste:
The Nicoya Peninsula offers a laid-back bohemian surfing vibe and great beaches for holiday relaxation. Further up the same Pacific coast is the Guanacaste region with some great resort towns, and some of Costa Rica’s best stretches of sand and most luxurious hotels.
Mal Pais and Santa Teresa.
Visit the surfers paradise of Santa Teresa to soak up some rays and hit the waves! The impeccable and consistent swells attract surfers all year round, eager to catch that perfect break. And whilst you’re not riding the waves, it’s the ideal location to try out some yoga or taste lip-smacking, Costa Rican food from the myriad of restaurants lining the beach. The nearby sleepy fishing town of Malpais offers an entirely different vibe with rocky coves and monkey-laden dense forests encroaching onto the white, sandy beaches. This area offers up the perfect opportunity to relax and get back to basics on your adventurous tour to Costa Rica. Santa Teresa didn’t even get electricity until the mid 1990s!
Puerto Viejo & Cahuita:
The laid back beach town of Puerto Viejo on the southeastern coast, is one of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica. This small spot is the quintessential Caribbean town, brimming with culture. Picture reggae beats, vibrantly coloured buildings and coconut everything! Even though this is a small destination, it’s definitely not one to be sniffed at. With some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, a booming beach-side nightlife and a relaxed vibe, it’s becoming more and more popular every year. For the perfect beach break, check out the calm and quiet Playa Negra, the impeccable surf breaks of Playa Cocles, and the palm-fringed paradise of Playa Punta Uva.
Rainforest, wildlife and beach combine here in this rustic Costa Rican area on the Caribbean coast. Excellent snorkeling and diving is available in the adjacent protected Cahuita Marine Reserve National Park. The region is also a gateway to connect with a 2-country trip, where you hop round the coast to nearby Bocas del Toro to enter Panama.
An unspoiled jungle rainforest rich in wildlife and full of amazing birdlife in a traditional Tico area, offering an authentic biodiverse Costa Rica experience. The region offers a fascinating historical interactive artisan chocolate-making and plantation tour, as well as world-class white-river rafting.
One the best day trips from San Jose is seeing the active volcano with its bright blue sulphur lakes. Located in one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica, this is definitely not one to be missed. When the pressure reaches just the right amount of force, you can see the geysers rocket steam up to 820 feet high! At almost a mile across, this is the largest crater in the world, so don’t worry, you won’t get sprayed too heavily! The trek to Poas Volcano is an experience in itself. Work your way through the twists and turns of the unforgiving forest, listening to hummingbirds, flycatchers and if you’re lucky the mythical quetzal.
San Jose & the Central Valley:
San José, Costa Rica’s capital, is most people’s entry point to the country. Among the main attractions are the famous Jade and Gold Museums and the National Theatre building. Other areas of interest close by are Sarchí known for artisan crafts; Poas and Irazu Volcanoes; La Paz Waterfall Gardens; ancient archaeological ruins at Guayabo; and the Spanish colonial Cartago Basilica.
Manuel Antonio National Park.
Consistently voted as one of the must-see places in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park encompasses rugged, lush green rainforests, vibrant coral reefs and palm-fringed beaches. Famous for its vast array of flora and fauna, this national park is home to rare species like the three-toed sloths and white-faced monkeys. It is also home to some of the top beaches in the world - Espadilla Sur Beach and Manuel Antonio Beach are about a 30 minute walk from the main entrance to the park, providing the perfect paradise pit-stop.
Climbing Cerro Chirripo, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica will give you some of the best views of the country. Making the arduous journey to the top will be met with an incredible panoramic shot of both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean sea. The trek is around 20 km and passes through a variety of cloud forests and paramos. Upon reaching the top, you can see the incredible landscape of the country, green valleys and sparkling lakes. There are many hikes to choose from depending on your level of expertise and fitness, and can take anything from 1 day to 4 days to reach the summit.
White water rafting in Turrialba.
Turrialba is arguably one of the best places in the world for white water rafting. Drifting along the mighty Pacuare River with steep canyon waterfalls plunging into the water below, dense jungle flanking the river on either side. Adrenaline pumping, hearts racing, you’re thrashing your way through 11 sections of intense rapids before reaching the calm waters at the end where you can finally take in and appreciate the natural beauty of the area after your unforgettable white water rafting experience.
Osa Peninsula & Corcovado:
A remote area of natural beauty containing the Corcovado National Park set in a lesser-visited peninsula off the South West corner of Costa Rica. This region offers perhaps the most unspoiled and best area to see Costa Rica’s wildlife and biodiversity at its finest. Wonderful scenic hiking and the added attraction of some of Central America’s best snorkeling and diving at Caño Island make this a jewel in Costa Rica’s tourism crown.