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17 Best places to visit in Costa Rica

Discover the 17 best places to visit in Costa Rica, from pristine beaches and lush rainforests to vibrant cities. Uncover the top destinations and hidden gems of this Central American paradise.

When you think about the best places to visit in Costa Rica, a cascade of destinations might come to mind, each more enticing than the last.

Costa Rica offers a smorgasbord of sights and experiences that cater to every traveler’s whim, from its pristine beaches to its vibrant cities.

Wondering where to go in Costa Rica?

Whether you’re searching for the best cities to visit in Costa Rica, or seeking more secluded Costa Rica places to visit, this guide has got you covered.

Perhaps you’re keen on uncovering the best city in Costa Rica or want to experience the best of Costa Rica’s natural wonders.

Maybe you’re in the mood for the top places to visit or just looking for the must-see Costa Rica attractions.

Whatever your heart desires, our comprehensive list will ensure that deciding where to visit in Costa Rica becomes an adventure in itself.

Quick Facts about Costa Rica

Capital City: San José

Currency: Costa Rican Colón

Official languages: Spanish

Neighboring countries: Panama and Nicaragua

Interesting places to visit when you travel to Costa Rica: Tortuguero National Park, Poás Volcano, Corcovado National Park, Arenal Volcano, Puerto Viejo, Manuel Antonio National Park

Time Zone: Central Standard Time (UTC -6)

Largest City: San José

Some interesting and fun facts about Costa Ricans: Locals call themselves Ticos (for male) and Ticas (for female). As a foreigner, you are called Gringo (male) and Gringa (female).

What to pack for a trip to Costa Rica: While on tours, bring a dry bag, high SPF sunscreen, insect repellent, sun visor, closed hiking shoes, and an underwater camera.

We help you plan and book your Costa Rica Vacation

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With our local tourism agency partner onboard, organizing a customized Costa Rica vacation has never been this hassle-free!

Share your travel dates, places of interest, and other details that would make your travel to Costa Rica memorable.

After completing this form, one of our Costa Rica experts will contact you. Tours, transport, other travel services – you name it, we’ll arrange it!

Best places to visit in Costa Rica

1. Where to go in Costa Rica – Monteverde

Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica

Monteverde is situated in the Tilaran Mountain Range and is one of the most popular sites for nature when you travel to Costa Rica. Monteverde, which means ‘green mountain’ in Spanish, is a magnificent plethora of rolling hills and lush vegetation.

One of the best places to visit in Costa Rica, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, is located next to this rural village. The red-eyed tree frog, Costa Rica’s symbol, can be found in this protected jungle.

The constant cloud envelopes the Monteverde reserve due to the high humidity in the place. The forest does become quite packed with visitors at times, with everyone wanting to explore the diverse flora and fauna in the area.

Alternatively, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is located nearby.

Monteverde Lodge and Gardens and the Trapp Family Hotel are two of the best luxury hotels in Monteverde. Both offer exceptional amenities that bring comfort and pleasure to the rawness of the cloud forest’s surroundings.

Be sure to check out each hotel’s professionally curated nature tours. Having a nature guide when exploring Monteverde is the key to understanding why Costa Rica and its towns are highly regarded for biodiversity.

Read the full article: Best things to do in Monteverde

2. Best places to visit in Costa Rica – Puerto Viejo

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One of the best places to visit in Costa Rica for surfing is the coastal village of Puerto Viejo. Surfers travel far away to conquer the elusive Salsa Brava break.

Often regarded as the best surf spot in Costa Rica, the Salsa Brava may be calling the adventurer in you, but its waves are fit for masters in the art of riding waves. With love for surfing comes the Rasta lifestyle that naturally goes with it.

Puerto Viejo’s nightlife is painted with Jamaican influence – from music to food and everything else.

Aside from surfing, Puerto Viejo is known for its unique beaches with white and black sands. These beaches lie along the Caribbean Sea, making them perfect venues for snorkeling, scuba diving, and dolphin watching.

Alternatively, you can join cultural tours where locals take you on chocolate-making and birdwatching explorations.

Compared to other Costa Rica tourist spots, accommodations in Puerto Viejo are limited to rooms with necessities and local offerings. For luxury travelers, Hotel Le Cameleon is the only option for a high-range hotel in the village.

Resorts like those in Fortuna or Manuel Antonio are out of the question. This, though, does not make Puerto Viejo any less of an attraction. Its provincial charm and laidback atmosphere win the hearts of every visitor.

Read the full article: Best things to do in Puerto Viejo

3. La Fortuna & Arenal Volcano

Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica Arenal Volcano

Fancy sipping on your cocktail while bathing in natural hot springs and enjoying the view of an active volcano when visiting Costa Rica?

As you approach La Fortuna, you will be welcomed by the Arenal Volcano, standing tall amidst Fortuna and the nearby areas.

The Volcano lets you enjoy nature-heated thermal pools, cascading waterfalls, and thick jungles.

Make sure to visit the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park and allot time to explore Lake Arenal. Within these places, you have several adventures to conquer. That includes rappelling, horseback riding, and extreme white water rafting.

Accommodations such as the Tabacon Grand Thermal Resort take pride in their strategic locations at the foot of the Arenal Volcano and entice guests not only to purchase day passes for their thermal pools but also to book a room and stay in one of their lodges that promote serenity at its purest.

Read the full article: Best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

4. Where to go in Costa Rica – Tamarindo

Where To Go In Costa Rica Tamarindo

Seventy-seven kilometers from the Liberia Airport is one of the top destinations when visiting Costa Rica: Tamarindo.

It is popular with travelers who want to explore nature without necessarily leaving the comfort of modern amenities, familiar food, and other daily conveniences.

Surfing the waves in Tamarindo must be on your list of things to do in Costa Rica. Many beaches in the area can satisfy beginners and experts alike.

Playa Grande, located inside the Las Baulas National Park, has many surf schools offering surfing lessons and surfboard rentals. Experienced surfers flock to this spot, hoping to play with some of Costa Rica’s giant waves.

Playa Tamarindo and Playa Langosta are friendlier to the inexperienced. The latter beaches do not tend to get crowded, making them suitable venues for those wanting to try the sport for the first time.

As Tamarindo is a famous Costa Rican vacation spot, businesses geared towards tourists are plentiful. There is no shortage of hotels in the area, with even luxurious options dominating the scene.

Read the full article: Best things to do in Tamarindo

5. Best places to visit in Costa Rica – San Jose

Best Places To Go In Costa Rica San Jose

San José is the capital city of Costa Rica. There are many places to see in Costa Rica in this metropolis, but travelers tend to skip this city altogether while rushing to move forward to their adventure destination.

I’d say stay for two days, no less, and see all the historical sights and inviting delicacies that await you in San Jose. The weather is almost always temperate, and public transport is efficient, enabling this historic city to be far more than just a pitstop.

Feast your curious eyes on the stylistic buildings and green parks that are conveniently a stroll away from each other. Head towards La Sabana Park and start your cultural exploration within its bounds.

You’ll find the Costa Rica Art Museum and National Stadium here alone. The Central Market is also unmissable, with eateries serving authentic Costa Rican cuisine and stalls selling cheap travel souvenirs.

There are plenty of accommodations to choose from in San Jose. One of the best luxury hotels in Costa Rica is the iconic Gran Hotel, which is only three to five minutes away from the National Theatre and the Museum of Precolumbian Gold.

Read the full article: Best things to do in San Jose

6. Where to go in Costa Rica – Manuel Antonio

Best Cities To Visit In Costa Rica Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is a short 3-hour drive from San José and, undoubtedly, one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

The most famous attraction is the Manuel Antonio National Park, a vast forest reserve home to numerous animal species and thick green vegetation.

You can access two of Manuel Antonio’s stunning beaches from the park – the Playa Espadilla Sur and the Playa Manuel Antonio. These waters are perfect venues for swimming, snorkeling, and paddling.

Hotels in Manuel Antonio are some of the best in the country. A perfect example of luxury combined with care for nature is the Gaia Hotel and Reserve. Scarlet macaws consider the bounds of this hotel their secured habitat.

Villas with roof terraces and an ocean view offer a VIP seat to Costa Rica’s magnificent sunset. Expect many guests here at Gaia and in Manuel Antonio from December to April.

Read the full article: Best things to do in Manuel Antonio

7. Where to go in Costa Rica – Corcovado National Park

Costa Rica Places To Visit Corcovado National Park

The Osa Peninsula, where Corcovado is located, is part of the province of Puntarenas. This region is known for being remote and biodiverse.

Many species that live in Corcovado are unique to the area, prompting National Geographic to declare the Osa Peninsula as ‘the most biologically intense place on earth.

Among the famous places in Costa Rica that can be found in this region is the Corcovado National Park. This remote sanctuary has been a thriving home to many endangered species since 1975.

Go diving in this area, and you will have the chance to see bull sharks, moray eels, and sea turtles in their natural habitats. Alternatively, you can relax on the white beaches along Corcovado. Beware, though, as this place is infamously known to have powerful riptides.

If you plan camping in Corcovado, it is best to do so between January and April. If you opt for a luxury hotel, there is the dreamy Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge.

Its suites offer incomparable views of the rainforest. They even have a honeymoon Suite that promises only the most intimate stay amidst the green environment. Activities within the lodge include horseback riding and scuba diving.

Read the full article: Best things to do in Corcovado

8. Best places to visit in Costa Rica – Santa Teresa

Costa Rica Best Places To Visit Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica and is one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. Another great surf spot, Mal Pais, is just three kilometers away.

Other adventure activities that you can do in Santa Teresa are, amongst others, Canopy tours, horseback riding, and hiking. The Curu Wildlife Reserve is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica and is situated in Santa Teresa. It was the country’s first private wildlife refuge.

The Pranamar Villas and Yoga Retreat is a luxury resort right next to Santa Teresa Beach. The villas are built with bamboo and wood and are surrounded by a green garden.

If you want to try yoga for the first time, there is no better place. It’s a perfect way to relax your tense muscles after a full day of adventures in Costa Rica.

While looking for luxurious places to stay in Santa Teresa when visiting Costa Rica, consider the Canaima Chill House.

Read the full article: Best things to do in Santa Teresa

9. Where to go in Costa Rica – Jaco Beach

Best City In Costa Rica Jaco

To outsiders, Jaco is known for three things: surfing, sport fishing, and nightlife. To Ticos, it is their piece of paradise.

Located on the Central Pacific coast of the Puntarenas province of Costa Rica, Jaco is blessed with warm temperatures, diverse wildlife, and calming ocean waters.

Just two hours from bustling San Jose, Jaco is a favored getaway for tourists and locals alike.

Despite its busyness, this beach town has successfully preserved its rustic appeal. Jaco has numerous waterfalls, national parks, and excellent local food.

When in Jaco, make sure to visit Jaco Beach. Grab a surfboard and finally check surfing off your bucket list.

Watch as the sun sets and colors the Jaco skyline orange. Then, find yourself on the main street partying like there’s no tomorrow!

Read the full article: Best things to do in Jaco.

10. Tortuguero

Best Of Costa Rica Tortuguero

Tortuguero is called the Central American Amazon, and you will know why once you arrive.

Most places are only accessible by boat. This makes the place difficult to reach, but it also makes every visit to this destination intentional.

I am sure you won’t mind going around by boat. Monkeys, birds, sloths, and other wild creatures are always around to make your cruise exciting and fun.

Most people visit Tortuguero to explore the Tortuguero National Park. Established in 1980 to create a protected habitat for nesting sea turtles in Costa Rica, the park continues to be one of the wildest and most important of all the massive national parks in the country.

You can see green sea turtles here, leatherbacks, and hawksbills here. The government runs this 19,000-hectare property and enjoys high visitor turnover from July to October.

There is a high chance of seeing the beloved nesting turtles within this time.

Most lodges are only accessible by boat. This includes the Manatus Hotel. With its beautiful ecolodges and exceptional amenities, the Manatus Hotel is a luxurious relief within the jungle of Tortuguero.

Read the full article: Best things to do in Tortuguero

11. Central Valley Costa Rica

Many Costa Ricans reside in the Central Valley, or “Meseta Central.” With its naturally stunning backdrop and bountiful lands, it is no wonder people choose to build their lives here.

It is home to the Irazu and Poas Volcanoes, both active, thus providing richness to the soils around the area. This makes farming thrive in the plateau – and yes, strictly speaking, it is not a valley.

The Braulio Carillo National Park is one of the main attractions in the Central Valley. Just by driving along the roads, your eyes and lungs are definitely in for a nature retreat.

Into the jungle, hiking trails lead you to breathtaking waterfalls, diverse flora, and fauna. An aerial tram takes you through treetops and sloth habitats into the forest.

The Central Valley offers luxury accommodations like the Best Western Irazu Hotel and Casino, the Grano de Oro, and the Bougainvillea Hotels.

Read the full article: Best things to do in Central Valley

12. Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Where To Visit In Costa Rica Tortuga Island

Tortuga Island is among the best places to visit in Costa Rica when you’re looking for a respite from everyday life.

This island in the southeastern part of the Nicoya Peninsula is most known for its superb diving and snorkeling sites. It may be small, but Tortuga Island is an authentic marine lovers’ playground.

The name Tortuga translates to “turtle.” The place is part of the Negritos Islands Biological Reserve. It is only accessible by boat and is usually treated as a day tour destination.

When in Tortuga, be ready to swim your heart out as you explore shipwrecks such as the Franklin Chang and the Caroline Star Wrecks.

Feeling nervous about diving? Snorkel your way to a fun adventure and spot marine animals such as parrotfish and angelfish.

Read the full article: Best things to do on Tortuga Island

13. Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park

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Rincon de la Vieja belongs to the province of Guanacaste and has a 34,000-acre conservation area.

The Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is an active volcano. You can explore natural hot springs, bubbling mud pools, explorable volcanic craters, and cascading waterfalls in a lush rainforest.

You will be spoiled with choices regarding accommodations in the region. One of the many recommended places to stay in Rincon de la Vieja is the Borinquen Mountain Resort and Spa.

Not only do its rooms give you a scenic view of Mother Nature, but it also provides you with a strategic and convenient location to jump-off points of adventure tours in the area.

While in Rincon de la Vieja, you can join horseback riding, canopy, and 4×4 jeep tours. Hiking, biking, and rafting are popular activities in Rincon.

From February to April, visitors travel to this Costa Rica vacation destination to enjoy the place amidst favorable weather.

Read the full article: Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park.

14. Puerto Limón Costa Rica

Best Things To Do In Puerto Limon Costa Rica2

Puerto Limón is a traveler’s welcoming break from crowded beaches and lively nightlife. The city is the capital of the province of Limón and is located on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

People come to Puerto Limón for its cultural stories to tell, not to mention the famous cashew wine, which is a must-try!

Regarded as Limón for short, this port city is one of the most essential ports in Costa Rica. It is said that Christopher Columbus landed at this port while exploring the New World.

When in Limón, add a quick visit to Parque Vargas to your itinerary. This unassuming place teems with bits and pieces of the city’s history.

Drop by the Museo Etnohistórico de Limón for a more profound tour and see snippets of the locals’ daily lives through well-preserved documentation.

Read the full article: Best things to do in Puerto Limón

15. Cerro Chirripó

Must See Costa Rica Cerro Chirripo

The highest mountain in Costa Rica is Cerro Chirripo, making the place an ideal hiking destination for people excited to reach the topmost part of the country.

Several provinces serve as an entrance to this Costa Rican tourist spot, and these include Cartago and San Jose.

The 25-kilometer hike to the summit may be physically daunting, but the top views of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean are mesmerizing.

Only 60 visitors are allowed per day to explore the park. Here, you will find trails that have hardly been modified so that even hiking enthusiasts find it exhilaratingly challenging to traverse.

While there, visit the San Gerardo de Rivas village and let the locals take you on a unique coffee exploration. Before you leave, relax in the natural hot spring in Rio Chirripo.

Crestones Base Lodge is the only accommodation inside the Chirripo National Park. It offers basic amenities to hikers and a resting place for the ones wanting to see the captivating sunrise from the mountains the next day.

16. Playa Sámara

Best Place To Go In Costa Rica Playa Samara

Playa Samara in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. Samara’s good reputation as a small, safe town makes it a popular choice. The beach itself is a 5-kilometer haven for ocean lovers.

Aside from the beach, Samara hosts yoga practices, horseback riding, and stand-up paddle boarding. As a form of livelihood, locals go for farming and fishing.

Sámara has an airstrip for small planes, and Liberia International Airport & the Nosara Domestic Airport are close to the town.

Hotel Punta Islita is hard to miss when in Samara. This luxury hotel allows guests to do popular Costa Rican adventures in the comfort and splendor of its 3,000-acre property.

Another town gem is the Villas Playa Samara Beach Front Resort. One hundred sixteen rooms and villas make up this wedding-ready tropical destination.

We help you plan and book your Costa Rica Vacation

Image 14

With our local tourism agency partner onboard, organizing a customized Costa Rica vacation has never been this hassle-free!

Share your travel dates, places of interest, and other details that would make your travel to Costa Rica memorable.

After completing this form, one of our Costa Rica experts will contact you. Tours, transport, other travel services – you name it, we’ll arrange it!

17. Montezuma

Places To Go In Costa Rica Montezuma

Here is yet another beach destination in Costa Rica – it’s a good thing they’re all too beautiful to get tired of.

Montezuma is proud of its white sand beaches, majestic waterfalls, and snorkeling sites that attract adventurers wanting to experience the natural wonders that Costa Rica is widely known for.

Montezuma’s temperate weather is best enjoyed anytime between December and August.

Going to Montezuma means visiting one of the top destinations in Costa Rica, the Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve. It is located in the south of the Nicoya Peninsula and can be reached through Mal Pais.

Inside the reserve, you can go hiking and spot different animals, such as armadillos, howler monkeys, and raccoons.

There are also beautiful beaches where you can enjoy the diverse marine ecosystem. These beaches are the Playa Cabo Blanco and Playa Balsitas.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica.

Protect your trip: With all our travel experience, we highly recommend you hit the road with travel insurance! SafetyWing offers flexible & reliable Digital Nomads Travel Medical Insurance at just a third of the price of similar competitor plans.

What are the most popular national parks in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica boasts many national parks, each unique in its biodiversity and landscapes. The three most popular ones include Manuel Antonio National Park, Tortuguero National Park, and Arenal Volcano National Park.

Which beaches are must-visit in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica’s coastline, sprinkled with stunning beaches, is one of its primary attractions. Three of the most sought-after beaches are Tamarindo Beach, Playa Conchal, and Santa Teresa Beach.

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