The 11 best places to visit in Costa Rica
Coined as "the Switzerland of Central America" Costa Rica is a true defender of sustainable tourism. But this natural heaven is also one of the happiest country in the world, the land of "Pura Vida", as locals say. Costa Rica is the promise of a wild breakaway into the depths of a preserved and beautiful nature where the colours and the heat of the tropics will blow you away. From mountains to volcanos, to beaches and forests, the country offers a diversity of stunning natural landscapes to be discovered along the road, by hiking in the jungle or by diving into the Caribbean sea. We invite you to take a look at our selection of the best places to visit during your stay in Costa Rica.
Our selection of must-see places
National Park of Poas Volcano
The Poás volcano is one of the most active in Costa Rica. Towering at 2700m, its main crater is particularly impressive. 1,5km wide, it shelters an acid lake continuously rejecting fumaroles. In fine weather, you can enjoy a stunning view on the Caribbean coast on the east and on the Pacific Ocean on the west.
Visiting Poás National Park is very regulated as the volcano is still active and potentially dangerous. A marked trail allows visitors to discover the two biggest craters of the volcano and the surrounding forest. During your stay in the region, take the opportunity to visit a coffee plantation or to see the impressive falls of Paz which are close by.
Volcano | Natual reserve | Nature wonders
The village of Tortuguero
Facing the Caribbean sea, the village of Tortuguero is a lost paradise which is only accessible in loncha, after long navigation across the jungle. This wild sanctuary is known all around the world for its black sand beach on which the turtles lay their eggs. A lot of travellers are coming to the village for the sole purpose of this magnificent spectacle. The spawning season goes from June to October.
The National Park of Tortuguero offers countless activities to visitors. Embark on a kayak to roam across the multitude of canals to sink into the jungle. You can observe caimans, monkeys or sloths in their natural habitats. If you wish to learn more on the chelonian turtles, do not miss the conservation centre of sea turtles.
Fauna | River | Nature reserve
Samara and Nicoya Peninsula
Samara is a must-see beach in Costa Rica. In this peaceful little town tourists, surfers and locals enjoy this superb bay, perfect for swimming. Unlike many seaside resorts of Nicoya, Samara has managed to keep and protect its authenticity, even though at night you can still go out for a few drinks in town and by the beach.
Samara is the best place in Costa Rica if you wish to learn how to surf as its coast is protected by a coral reef. It is also a good starting point for an expedition of the Nicoya peninsula, to discover its numerous beaches, each more beautiful than the last. Heading southward, go to the village of Montezuma, which is a true delight.
Beach | Relaxation | Nautical sports
Cerro Chirripo National Park
The discovery of Cerro Chirripo National Park remains one of my favourite memories of Costa Rica. Culminating at 3820m, the highest peak of the country is often missing from the list of must-see places in Costa Rica due to its difficult accessibility. However, San Gerardo, a small village nestled at the feet of Chirripo, offers a beautiful and most refreshing break with very different setting from those in the valley.
The most courageous explorers will certainly want to go trekking on the Cerro Chirripo and spend the night at the Crestonnes refuge, 3400m high. You could also hike for the day in the Cloudbridge Reserve, before relaxing in the hot springs.
Natural wonders | Mountain | Hiking | Nature
Arenal Volcano National Park
With its almost perfect conical shape, the Arenal volcano offers a wild and unreal vision of Costa Rica. No wonder how it became of one the most visited place in the whole country. Always active, its last eruption dates back from 1968 and lasted 42 years. Even though today you will not see lava flowing down its flanks, the almighty volcano continues to astonish the visitors.
This national park is a paradise for hikers looking for adventure. Indeed, several marked paths allow you to enjoy the magnificent sightseeing points on Arenal and the surrounding tropical forest. Among all the activities of the region, I strongly recommend a swim into the hot springs of the Fortuna.
Volcano | Natural wonders | Hiking | Nature | Lake
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is a must see in Costa Rica. In the heart of the tropical rainforest, you will have the opportunity to encounter sloths, capuchin monkeys or pelicans before going for a swim in the Pacific ocean.
Manuel Antonio National Park is only about 16 km2 but it is home to astonishing biodiversity. You canhike through the jungle lalong the trails of the park, explore it on horseback or by rafting. Finally, do not miss the opportunity of a boat trip to admire whales and dolphins.
Beach | Natural wonders | Hiking | Sea
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
If you fancy a getaway into the depths of the tropical jungle, the Monteverde reserve is worth a visit. This gigantic cloud forest spreads on 105 km2 and shelters more than 3000 wild animals species and plants. The Monteverde forest is one of the best spots in Costa Rica to observe the resplendent quetzal.
It is possible to hike with or without a guide to take a closer look at the flora and fauna. But the flagship activity here is the discovery of the canopy by the use of zip lines across bridges. The region is also famous for its coffee plantations and its Quaker community.
Fauna | Natural reserve
Bahia Drake and Corcovado
If you enjoy secret places lost at the end of the world, Bahia Drake and the Corcovado will without any doubt meet your expectations. You will discover the superb bay of the Osa Peninsula, at the end of a lancha boat tour on the Sierpe river. Welcome to the gates of Corcovado, one of the most isolated and spectacular national parks of Costa Rica. Thanks to exceptional biodiversity, you will be able to encounter the screaming monkeys, capuchin monkeys, toucans or jaguars with the help of a local guide. Apart from hiking, you can also explore the tropical jungle on horseback or on a boat trip towards the splendid Isla Del Caño.
Natural reserve | Fauna | Beaches | Sea
Cahuita and the Carribean coast
It would be a shame to visit Costa Rica without stopping by the Carribean coast which shows a totally different image of this small central American gem. Shaped by the Afro-Caribbean and Amerindian cultures, the cities of this region have a peculiar charm. Cahuita, the most popular stop on the coast, would be a great starting point for your trip. Visiting Cahuita National Park is one of the main activities of the region. You can also enjoy the warm waters of the Caribbean sea and the many beaches in the area. And if you want to go off the beaten track, do not hesitate to go to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and on the Punta Uva beach.
Natural reserve | Beach | Nice village | Relaxation
Located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Uvita beach is a true wonder. This magnificent 4 kilometre-long sand beach unveils an idyllic setting. At low tide, the receding water reveals a sandspit shaped like a whale fluke. This natural curiosity is even more surprising given the fact that the beach is one of the best spots in the world for whale watching.
When visiting Uvita, you will most certainly want to go on a cruise to observe humpback whales. A number of agencies are organising observation cruises in Marino Ballena National Park. If you spend the night here and have a bit of time, do not hesitate to hike to the Uvita Waterfalls for a refreshing swim.
Fauna | Nature reserve | Beaches | Sea
On a land ten times smaller than France, Costa Rica has a staggering diversity of atmospheres, landscapes and experiences. In this Central American country, it is very easy to connect with people even more if you speak a few words of Spanish. Unlike other countries of this area, it is very easy to travel in Costa Rica. Ecotourism is flourishing and has been very popular for many years, offering visitors with lots of accommodations, facilities and activities.
I had a huge preference for Cerro Chirripo and Bahia Drake, two isolated regions. Beach wise, Samara remains my most beautiful memory. Here’s a useful tip: try to go off the beaten track when you can to discover the authenticity of Costa Rica.