Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica

Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica

Explore the Top Attractions in Costa Rica

PUBLISHED ONNovember 20, 2023

Costa Rica might be small in land area, but it is a big home to various exotic wildlife, lush rainforests, and pristine beaches. With its natural beauty and spectacular landscapes, it is a haven for travelers seeking nature and adventure.

No worries, even if you're looking for a relaxing beach getaway, this Central American gem will fill your trip with unique experiences. Embrace the pura vida lifestyle and immerse yourself in this ecological wonderland!

What to Expect in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country full of surprises and natural wonders, and there are many things to expect when visiting this beautiful destination.

Incredible biodiversity

With its lush rainforests, cloud forests, and coastal habitats, Costa Rica is home to a staggering array of plant and animal species. Nature lovers can look forward to encountering iconic wildlife such as sloths, monkeys, toucans, and vibrant frogs. Whether exploring the national parks or simply strolling through town, you will encounter fascinating creatures.

Sustainability and eco-tourism

This is evident throughout the country, with many accommodations, tours, and activities focusing on minimizing environmental impact. From eco-lodges powered by renewable energy to responsible tour operators who prioritize conservation, you can explore this stunning country with a clear conscience.

Adventure seekers will not be disappointed in Costa Rica. The country offers many thrilling activities to get your adrenaline pumping.

Whether it's ziplining through the jungle canopy, whitewater rafting down raging rivers, or surfing the world-class waves on the Pacific coast, there's no shortage of adventure here. Costa Rica's diverse landscapes and natural beauty provide the perfect backdrop for unforgettable experiences.

Costa Rican cuisine

Costa Rican gastronomy is known for its simplicity, use of local ingredients, and bold flavors. Use this opportunity to try traditional dishes like casado (a plate with rice, beans, plantains, and a choice of meat), ceviche (a refreshing seafood dish), and Gallo pinto (a famous rice and beans dish). The country also offers a variety of plant-based dishes for vegans and vegetarians.

Warmth and hospitality

As Costa Ricans are fondly called, Ticos are known for their laid-back and peaceful way of life. The Tico culture will welcome and embrace you, whether you find yourself in a city or a remote village.

Ready to experience all of these in Costa Rica? Consider renting a car and check out our Costa Rica Driving Guide.

Costa Rica's Top Attractions

Manuel Antonio National Park

Along Costa Rica's breathtaking Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio National Park encompasses Costa Rica's best: stunning natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and a laid-back atmosphere for adventure and relaxation.

Key Highlights:

  • Biodiversity: It is home to an incredible array of plant and animal species, including howler monkeys, sloths, colorful toucans, and vibrant frogs. As you hike through the park's winding trails, be prepared to encounter these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat. Keep your camera handy because you never know when you might stumble upon a real-life wildlife photo opportunity.
  • Beaches: Experience paradise and a serene escape with Manuel Antonio's crystal-clear turquoise water and powder-soft sand. Remember that the beaches can get crowded due to the park's popularity, so it's best to arrive early to secure a prime spot.
  • Outdoor activities: Explore the park's extensive network of hiking trails, where you can witness breathtaking vistas and discover hidden waterfalls. Try zip-lining through the lush canopy for an adrenaline rush, giving you an unobstructed view of the park's stunning landscapes.
  • Local cuisine: In the nearby town of Quepos, you can indulge in fresh seafood dishes such as ceviche or grilled fish paired with a refreshing cocktail. You can also immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture by browsing through the colorful stalls of the Quepos Farmers Market for unique trinkets and souvenirs.

Location and Accessibility

Located on the southwestern coast of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park is easily accessible from the capital city of San Jose. With a driving distance of approximately three hours, visitors can reach this natural paradise quickly.

You can also take a domestic flight from San Jose to Quepos, followed by a short drive to the park. This is an alternative for those who prefer a more scenic route.

Public transportation options are also available.

You can take the buses from San Jose to Manuel Antonio if you prefer not to drive. These are frequent, making reaching the park a convenient and affordable way. While it may take longer than driving, it offers a chance to immerse yourself in the scenic vistas.

Wildlife and Activities

One of the biggest draws to Manuel Antonio National Park is its incredible wildlife. The park is home to various species, making it a paradise for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. As you explore the park's trails, keep your eyes peeled for some of Costa Rica's most iconic animals.

For a truly unique experience, consider taking a guided park tour. They can provide valuable insights into the park's ecosystem, wildlife, and conservation efforts. They can also lead you to secret spots and hidden gems you might otherwise miss.

Wildlife Spotting

  • Spot monkeys in their natural habitat

The park is teeming with three different species of monkeys: the playful white-faced capuchins, the acrobatic spider monkeys, and the energetic squirrel monkeys. These curious creatures can often be seen swinging through the trees or foraging for food, providing endless entertainment for visitors.

  • A diverse range of other wildlife:

Apart from monkeys, you might encounter sloths lazily hanging from the trees, colorful toucans and parrots flying overhead, and even the elusive coatimundis scurrying through the undergrowth. The park is also a haven for reptiles, with iguanas, lizards, and even basilisks appearing.

Aside from wildlife spotting, there are plenty of activities to keep adventure seekers entertained in Manuel Antonio National Park:

  • Hiking: The park has well-maintained trails to immerse yourself in the lush rainforest and enjoy breathtaking coastline views. Pack plenty of water and sunscreen, as the tropical heat can be intense.
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving: The crystal-clear waters surrounding Manuel Antonio are teeming with marine life, including coral reefs, tropical fish, and even sea turtles. Snorkeling or diving in these pristine waters will reveal a new world beneath the surface.
  • Kayaking or paddleboarding: Feeling adventurous? Renting a kayak or paddleboard allows you to explore hidden coves and secluded beaches only accessible by water. It's a fantastic way to soak up the sun and appreciate the area's natural beauty.

Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is a gem located on the breathtaking Osa Peninsula. As one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, this park is home to an incredible array of wildlife and ecosystems.

As you venture through its rainforests, beaches, and dense mangroves, you'll encounter a variety of unique species, including jaguars, tapirs, and all four native species of monkeys - spider, capuchin, squirrel, and howler monkeys. The park is also a haven for birdwatchers, with over 370 species of birds, including the magnificent scarlet macaws and resplendent quetzals.

Overnight camping is also available in designated areas within the park. Waking up to the dawn chorus of tropical birds and falling asleep to the sound of monkeys is an experience that connects you with nature.

Location and Accessibility

Located on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park is a remote wilderness wonderland that showcases the country's natural beauty at its finest. Situated in the southwest region of the country, this park is an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Note that due to its remote location, Corcovado National Park requires careful planning and preparation. Visitors should ideally book their accommodations and tours in advance. Additionally, it is advisable to bring appropriate gear, such as sturdy hiking shoes, insect repellent, and lightweight, breathable clothing, for a comfortable stay.

How to reach Corcovado National Park:

  • From Costa Rica's capital city, San José, they can take a short domestic flight to Puerto Jiménez, the closest town to the park, or they can opt for a scenic road trip.
  • Driving: The drive from San José to Puerto Jiménez takes approximately seven hours and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific coast and the rugged mountains of central Costa Rica.
  • Once in Puerto Jiménez, various transportation options are available to access Corcovado National Park. Visitors can hire a local guide and travel by boat along the coast, which provides a unique opportunity to admire the turquoise waters and spot dolphins and other marine life.

Wildlife and Activities

Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and adventure seekers. This biodiverse wonderland has fascinating creatures, such as Baird's tapir and Scarlet macaw.

Guided tours are highly recommended for those visiting Corcovado National Park, as they can provide valuable insights into the park's ecosystem and help visitors navigate its vast trails and waterways. These guides are also skilled at spotting wildlife as well as the flora and fauna found in the park.

Wildlife population

Corcovado brings the chance for a thrilling wildlife encounter. It has abundant exotic species, including sloths, tapirs, jaguars, and the endangered scarlet macaws. With over 400 species of birds, this park is also a haven for birdwatching.

Outdoor Activities

Corcovado National Park offers many activities to get your adrenaline pumping.

  • Hiking: Whether you want short walks or multi-day treks, the park boasts a network of trails with varying difficulty levels, making it accessible to both seasoned and beginners.
  • Kayaking and canoeing: Paddling through the tranquil waters allows visitors to appreciate the park's pristine beauty while watching for marine life, such as dolphins, turtles, and even humpback whales during their migration season.
  • Snorkeling and diving: The park's vibrant coral reefs teem with colorful tropical fish, making it a haven for underwater exploration. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced diver, the pristine waters of Corcovado promise a truly unforgettable experience.

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park, named after the Spanish word for "turtle," is famous for its wildlife, beaches, and importance as a nesting ground for sea turtles.

The main attraction of Tortuguero National Park is undoubtedly the sea turtles. Thousands of turtles go to the park's beaches to lay their eggs from July to October annually. With luck, you might even see the baby turtles hatching and making their journey to the ocean.

Along with sea turtles, Tortuguero National Park is home to various wildlife. Monkeys swing through the trees, sloths slowly go from branch to branch, and colorful birds flutter overhead. With over 400 species of birds, this park offers the chance to spot species like toucans, herons, and kingfishers.

Location and Accessibility

Tortuguero National Park is located on the northeastern coast of Costa Rica, in the Limón Province. It is situated between the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Tortuguero River to the west. Due to its remote location, the park is only accessible by boat or plane.

Getting to Tortuguero is part of the experience and adds to the sense of seclusion and untouched natural beauty. From San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, there are several options for reaching the park:

Take a domestic flight from San Jose to Tortuguero

The airport is the most popular and convenient method, just outside the park. The flight offers scenic views of the lush rainforests and coastline, providing a sneak peek of the natural wonders that await visitors.

Travel by road and river

This option is for those who prefer a more adventurous journey.

  • From San Jose, you can take a picturesque drive through the countryside to reach the small town of La Pavona.
  • From there, you will board a boat that will take you through the intricate canal and waterway network leading to Tortuguero National Park. During the boat ride, you can immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the tropical rainforest, giving you a unique perspective on the region's biodiversity.

The park's remote location ensures it remains relatively untouched by mass tourism, preserving its natural beauty and tranquility. It also means that visitors can experience a true getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life, immersing themselves in the beauty of Costa Rica's tropical wilderness.

Wildlife and Activities

Once you arrive at Tortuguero National Park, you will find no shortage of activities and adventures. This makes the adventure of getting into the park's remote location worth it!

Sea turtle nesting sites

Between July and October, several species of sea turtles, including the endangered green sea turtle, come ashore to lay their eggs. Visitors to Tortuguero can witness this incredible natural phenomenon as they watch these gentle giants dig their nests and lay their eggs under the moonlight. If you're lucky, you may even see the tiny hatchlings reaching the ocean!


The park is a hotspot for birdwatchers, with over 300 bird species inhabiting the area. From colorful toucans and scarlet macaws to elegant herons and hummingbirds, bird enthusiasts will be delighted by the variety of feathered creatures that call Tortuguero their home.

For those fascinated by the region's aquatic life, a boat tour along the park's extensive network of canals is a must. Watch for caimans basking in the sun as you glide through the water, river otters playfully swimming, and perhaps even the elusive manatee surfacing for air.

Outdoor Activities

  • You can explore the park's trails, which wind through the lush rainforest. Along these trails, you may encounter troops of howler monkeys swinging from the treetops, capuchin monkeys foraging for food, and sloths leisurely lounging in the branches above.
  • You can try kayaking along the park's tranquil waterways. Paddle through the narrow canals, surrounded by towering trees and lush foliage, with the sounds of nature as your soundtrack.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a vibrant, bohemian beach town. This laid-back destination is a paradise for surfers, nature enthusiasts, and those looking to immerse themselves in the rich Afro-Caribbean culture.


Whether you are a surfer looking to catch waves or want to relax and soak up the sun, Puerto Viejo' has beautiful white sand like Playa Cocles and Playa Chiquita.

But Puerto Viejo is not just about the beaches. The town's life and character are evident through its vibrant streets, and you'll be greeted by colorful Caribbean-style buildings, reggae music floating through the air, and the aroma of Afro-Caribbean cuisine.


Puerto Viejo is known for its delicious and exotic dishes. Indulge in the fresh and succulent seafood, sample the spicy flavors of jerk chicken, or try the traditional rice and beans dish called "Gallo Pinto." The local cuisine is a fusion of African, Indigenous, and Latin American flavors, creating a unique and mouthwatering culinary experience.


You can take a jungle hike through Cahuita National Park, where lush rainforests meet pristine beaches. Encounter exotic wildlife such as the strawberry poison arrow frog. Snorkel or dive in the crystal-clear waters of the Cahuita National Park's coral reef and meet the marine life.


You can join a guided tour and go kayaking through the mangroves, zip line through the canopy of the rainforest, or take a horseback ride along the beach at sunset. With its stunning natural beauty and diverse activities, Puerto Viejo offers endless opportunities for adventure and adrenaline.


At night, Puerto Viejo comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. Enjoy live reggae music, dance the night away, or relax with a cocktail at one of the many beachfront bars. The locals are friendly, welcoming, and known for their laid-back attitude, adding to the overall charm and atmosphere of this beach town.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a haven for nature lovers and bird enthusiasts. With its misty cloud forests, hanging bridges, and diverse wildlife, visitors can embark on thrilling hikes and guided tours to spot elusive creatures like the resplendent quetzal.

Arenal Volcano National Park

Marvel at the majestic Arenal Volcano, an iconic landmark of Costa Rica. This active volcano is located within Arenal Volcano National Park and provides a dramatic backdrop for outdoor adventures. Hike through lava fields, soak in natural hot springs, and witness the fiery glow of lava flows at night, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

The Arenal Volcano, located in Arenal Volcano National Park, is another popular attraction in Costa Rica. Visitors can hike through lush forests, soak in natural hot springs, or even go ziplining for a thrilling adventure. The area is also famous for outdoor activities such as horseback riding and whitewater rafting.

Papagayo Peninsula

Bask in the sun and indulge in luxury at the Papagayo Peninsula, a premier beach destination. This idyllic coastline offers crystal-clear waters, secluded beaches, and world-class resorts. Engage in water sports, enjoy outdoor activities, or unwind in the lap of luxury while soaking up the stunning coastal views.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Venture to Rincon de la Vieja National Park, home to the majestic Rincon de la Vieja volcano. Hike through volcanic trails encounter bubbling mud pots and steaming geysers, and dip in natural hot springs. A blend of geological wonders and lush tropical landscapes await you in this park.


Experience the vibrant beach town of Tamarindo, a popular surf spot on Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Hit the waves, participate in snorkeling or diving adventures, or relax on sandy beaches. Tamarindo also boasts a lively nightlife scene with various restaurants, bars, and shops to explore.

Cahuita National Park

Delve into the Caribbean beauty at Cahuita National Park, famous for its coral reef and abundant marine life. Snorkel or dive in the clear waters, where you'll encounter colorful tropical fish and vibrant coral formations. Explore the park's trails amidst the rainforests and watch for monkeys, sloths, and toucans.

Seek the Paradise of Costa Rica

Costa Rica might be small in land area, but it goes big on lush rainforests and pristine beaches with crystal-clear waters, home to various exotic wildlife.

Costa Rica offers a variety of outdoor experiences, from thrilling adventures to tranquil wilderness, allowing visitors to relax and connect with nature.

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