Costa Rica is such an amazing country that it can be difficult to know where to go first. To get you started, here's a list of the best places to go in Costa Rica. Explore popular destinations like Arenal Lake and Arenal Volcano, or Monteverde's cloud forests. By no means is this an exhaustive list of places to go in Costa Rica, but it is a great list of Costa Rica points of interest. Remember, adding popular destinations to your travel to-do list isn't a bad thing. When you're trying to decide where to go in Costa Rica, heading to at least one or two hot spots ensures that you're not missing any of the beauty or magic associated with legitimate 'must see' destinations.
Costa Rica's top destinations offer you a wide range of activities and accommodations that have attracted visitors from all over the world. In many of these destinations, you'll find yourself captivated by the unique natural landscape and habitat — like the breathtaking beaches of Manuel Antonio. For a cultural or outdoor getaway, in Puerto Viejo, you'll find well-established Native American traditions and excursions in the nearby Cahuita National Park. Seeking a cosmopolitan tropical getaway? You'll be drawn to Papagayo Gulf's luxury hotels, and the nightlife and restaurant options which accompany them. This is Costa Rica your way!
#1: Arenal Volcano, Hot Springs, Waterfalls, Rainforests & so much more!
You haven't truly been to Costa Rica until you've been to Arenal — it's everything you've heard and more, especially if you love outdoor adventure! From trekking around the massive Arenal Volcano National Park — home of the namesake Arenal Volcano, to zip lining through the rainforest, you'll have to go out of your way to find boredom in Arenal, which makes it a great destination if you're planning a family adventure vacation.
If this is a getaway for just the two of you, plan a trip of adventure, culture, and romance Get a rush of adrenaline when you careen over rapids or rappel down a waterfall. Sample delicious treats as you learn how chocolate goes 'from bean to bar' — you won't believe how fruity cacao beans turn into the decadent indulgence you know and love. Horseback riding leave you a little sore? Slip into one of Arenal's hot springs, and let your muscles relax as memories of stress fade away. Arenal hotels are some of the nicest in the country on the high end but
Home to an impressive assortment of plants and animals, the cool and mountainous region of Arenal will remind you of all of the amazing things you can do when you're free to explore the world at your own pace.
#2: Ocean Views, Pristine Beaches & Adventures Await in Manuel Antonio
Why is Manuel Antonio a 'can't miss' destination in Costa Rica? For starters, there is the Manuel Antonio National Park, which spans almost 1,700 acres of land (683 terrestrial ha) and 136,000 acres of ocean (55,000 marine ha). From the get go, you have pristine beaches and tranquil waters to look forward to. There will be plenty of opportunities to observe wildlife on land and in the sea — hello snorkeling excursion!
Romantic activities await you when you go horseback riding on the beach. Going on vacation with the family? Then you'll enjoy wholesome and exciting adventures such as kayaking and rappelling. One of the great things about Manuel Antonio is that it's easy to plan a vacation where activity and relaxation are easy to balance — one minute you're enjoying the great outdoors, and the next, you're reading a book whilst you dig your toes into warm sand.
What about when it's time to leave the beach? Eventually, that golden sunset is going to come to an end. When it does, you can start a whole new adventure. Enjoy dinner, drinks, and dancing when you explore the nightlife of this coastal destination, or stay in and indulge in a spa treatment at your hotel. Prefer more modest accommodations? Choose a more rustic setting, where you can easily access luscious green forests. Go hiking and listen to tropical birds, or make the voyage to a waterfall and feel the cool mist on your face.
Discover why Manuel Antonio is bound to be your new favorite coastal city on your Costa Rican getaway.
#3: For Good Reason Tamarindo Beach is One of Costa Rica's Premier Destinations
Take a closer look at Tamarindo, Costa Rica — situated along the beautiful Pacific Coast of Guanacaste, this town is an absolute must if sun, sand, adventure, and wildlife are on your agenda. Home to surf competitions, sport fishing, and other aquatic activities, there's plenty of fun to be had off the beach as well. After dark there is always a party at one of the dozen or so hot spots around town so you'll have plenty to explore, day or night.
Go on a Tamarindo ATV adventure to explore a wild region on a safe path. Take the family out on a catamaran and enjoy some snorkeling. As for accommodations, you can choose from charming economical options (with a complimentary breakfast), high-end resorts, and even private bungalows.
Eating options are plentiful in Tamarindo from local fare, quick street food or fine dining. The hardest decision will be which restaurant to go to for fresh caught red snapper, regional grass fed beef or authentic Italian cooking in one of the many international upscale eateries. Tamarindo isn't just a sophisticated beach town, it's a getaway waiting to happen!
#4: The International & Eco Chic Atmosphere of Santa Teresa
This area is well known for its surf, but there’s more than one reason these waters beckon to visitors from all over the world. People from dozens of countries pass through during their vacation while others have stayed to start businesses and make it home. The international hip vibe is reflected in all the yoga studios, hip juice bars, craft beer bars and of course all the types of restaurants!
If you’re not ready to take to the waves on your own, sign up for a surf lesson. Or, leave the beach behind altogether for a day of sport fishing. See tropical fish up close as you snorkel near Tortuga Island, on tours that include beach picnics. Take in the lush landscape at a higher speed on an ATV safari down dirt trails through the jungle.
No matter if you’re traveling with family, on a solo mission, or looking for romance, accommodations here cater to all types of travelers, from cozy lodges to beachfront resorts.
#5: An Outdoor Adventure Awaits You in Monteverde
Get back to greenery when your Costa Rica getaway takes you to beautiful Monteverde. Situated within the central highlands, Monteverde is famous for its cloud forests, sustainable practices, and friendly community. This is the destination to head to if you want to be surrounded by tropical wildlife.
In Monteverde, you're spoiled by beauty and for choice — very good issues to have during a vacation. Walk through a hazy dream when you explore the region's legendary cloud forests. See every inch of the forests when you walk through them on treks and above them on suspension bridge canopy tours. Need an adrenaline fix? Zoom through an emerald jungle on a zip line, or climb the outside and inside of a tree. For even more excitement, rappel down six different waterfalls in the middle of a rainforest.
Throw out your alarm clock, because you're about to start each day being treated to the sounds of tropical birds and howler monkeys, all from the comfort of your eco-lodge. See sloths lazing about in trees. Visit Selvatura to learn all about nature from the experts — there are butterfly and hummingbird gardens full of flowers, an insect exhibit with over 1 million specimens, and reptile and amphibian exhibits. Then head to a working farm and learn how they play a vital role in the community's commitment to sustainability.
Spend your next vacation outdoors, and love every minute of it. In Monteverde, Costa Rica, it's easy being green!
#6: Drake Bay the Gateway to Corcovado
Follow the same watery route as explorer Sir Francis Drake on a visit to Drake Bay — accessible only by boat, and home to biodiversity unlike anywhere else on Earth.
Stay in comfortable accommodations right on the edge of Costa Rica’s vast, tropical wilderness — Corcovado National Park. This is a starting point for tours that take you deep into the jungle or out onto the bright blue waters of the bay.
You can see plenty of marine wildlife on boating tours, including whales, dolphins, rays, and sea turtles. Dive beneath the water near Caño Island to see some of the tropical fish that thrive in this area, and sandy beaches where sea turtles are known to come ashore.
Pick what view you want from your room — the jungle, the Pacific Ocean, or both. Lodges in the area emphasize the surroundings, with terraces, hammocks, and outdoor bars that let you spend as much time as possible making memories in this incredible scenery.
#7: The Best Mix of Tropical Beaches and Rainforests is Found in Puerto Viejo de Limon
While Puerto Viejo de Limon’s clear water beckons to travelers, its appeal goes way beyond the beach. This is one of the top destinations on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast, and offers lots of ways to experience the beach as well as the surrounding rainforest.
This is one of the few places you can experience distinctly Costa Rican culture — explore traditional villages with a guide and meet Talamanca natives.
The vibe here is made for hippies and free spirits. While you’re here, choose from cozy bungalows and nicely appointed eco lodges surrounded by tracts of jungle.
The Caribbean canopy is especially colorful — keep an eye out for toucans and hummingbirds on your explorations of the nearby Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. You’ll see lots of birds and monkeys on a zip-line adventure, or you might opt to move at a more observant pace on a nature walk over suspension bridges.
When you’re ready for the beach, Punta Uva awaits. The waves here are gentle enough for all surfers, making it idea, for introductory surf lessons.
#8: Bum Around The Beach Town of Jaco
Playa Jacó is a popular place to while away long, warm afternoons on the Puntarenas Coast. Come here for a variety of tours and hotels, as well as the fun vibe of a busy coastal destination.
See the canopy at a relaxed pace on a tram that glides through the trees. Paddle away from the shore and stop for some snorkeling in the clear, blue water.
It doesn’t take long to reach the other beaches in the area that offer compelling contrasts. Surfers should consider visiting the black sands of Playa Hermosa to the south. There’s also Playa Herradura to the north, where you can experience a more tranquil beach town.
The amount of visitors to this area guarantees that you’ll find the accommodations you want. Choose from comfy, affordable hotels that are perfect for families, or swanky resorts with giant swimming pools, and everything in between.
#9: Take It Easy With An Outdoor Adventure in The 'Region of Turtles'
Translated as 'region of turtles,' Tortuguero is a favorite national park for visitors of Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. More importantly, it’s a favorite destination for several different species of sea turtles — green, leatherback, loggerhead, and hawksbill have all been sighted in the area.
Hatching season starts in July and lasts until late September. Tour the beach at night for the chance to see green sea turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.
You’ll have the chance to spot more wildlife on a quiet tour of the marshlands in an expertly guided boat — look for crocodiles in the canals, and monkeys and birds in the trees. Other animals you can spot include super-rare manatees.
#10: The Rincon de La Vieja Highlands of Guanacaste are Quintessential Costa Rica
Rincón de la Vieja National Park percolates with the energy of an active volcano. Travelers come here looking for an outdoorsy vacation, in a part of Costa Rica that knows how to make you feel at home — jungle lodges and rainforest ranches offer a sense of coziness in the forest.
Hikes and nature tours lead the way to bubbling mud pools and cylindrical vents called fumaroles. Take paths that wander near waterfalls and peer over the edge of a smoking crater. Hop on a zip line for a view of the treetops, and drift through the greenery on an inner tube in a gentle river.
At the end of the day, soak in a geothermally heated pool that’s conveniently located in beautifully landscaped spas. And while you’re here, sign up for massages and other rejuvenating treatments.