Top 10 Costa Rica Destinations


 

Corcovado National Park

Located on the gorgeous Osa Peninsula, the Corcovado National Park has been called as one of the most biodiverse places on earth.


Arenal Volcano National Park

Located on the gorgeous Osa Peninsula, the Corcovado National Park has been called as one of the most biodiverse places on earth.


Tamarindo, Guanacaste

Picture a tropical paradise and you’re likely thinking of somewhere that resembles Tamarindo, which is situated in Costa Rica along the north Pacific Coast.


Manuel Antonio National Park

What this park lacks in size, it makes up for in the incredible wealth of attractions found here.


Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Shrouded in clouds, the stunning Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve has a unique air of mystery to it.


Tortuguero National Park

A key turtle breeding ground in the Caribbean, the Tortuguero National Park is the habitat and nesting ground of four of the eight species .


Santa Teresa, Puntarenas

A key turtle breeding ground in the Caribbean, the Tortuguero National Park is the habitat and nesting ground of four of the eight species .


Montezuma, Puntarenas

Nowadays a popular hangout for young foreign travelers, who enjoy the village’s laidback lifestyle, Montezuma is a carefree place with a mellow vibe.


Cahuita National Park

Lying on Costa Rica’s stunningly beautiful Caribbean coast and facing the Atlantic Ocean.


Nosara, Guanacaste

Nosara is a tranquil beach community, ideal for a surfer or nature lover's vacation. Located where the turtles meet the monkeys

Corcovado National Park, South Puntarenas


Ecologically varied, the Corcovado National Park is among the most biologically intense places on earth. Located on the wild and untamed Osa Peninsula, this national park is breathtakingly beautiful and is one of the remotest parks in the country. Home to the largest and only tropical primary lowland rainforest in the world, the Corcovado National Park is also the habitat of a plethora of endangered plant and animal species.

EcoTourism at its Best

Created in 1975 to protect this gorgeous region from illegal gold mining and logging, the Corcovado National Park is today, an extremely popular ecotourism destination. Mostly undisturbed because of its isolation and inaccessibility, it is home to the beautiful Scarlet Macaws as well as the Resplendent Quetzals, the Red-Eyed Tree Frog and the Tapir, the largest terrestrial mammal in Central and South America.

Variety of Ecosystems

Exotic and lush, the Corcovado National Park is home to thirteen major ecosystems that range from mangrove swamps and jolillo palm groves to montane forests, lagoons, beaches, freshwater herbaceous swamps and primary lowland rainforests. Encompassing over 41,000 hectares the park protects over 140 different mammal species; 400 bird species, 20 of which are endemic; 116 amphibian and reptile species, 40 species of fish and at least 500 species of trees. Habitat of the rare Harbor Squirrel Monkey and the Harpy Eagle, the Corcovado Park also is a great place to spot the poison arrow frog, indigenous wild cats, crocodiles, pumas and jaguars as well as four species of sea turtles.

Best Hiking in Costa Rica

Extremely hot and humid most of the year, this park has plenty of rainfall but is a joy to hike through with its dense forestation that opens up onto stunningly beautiful beaches. With its virgin beauty, visiting this park allows you to experience nature at its finest and promises an incredible adventure for those who dare to trail blaze their way through this amazing region. Hiking is very popular here, and there are four ranger stations found at strategic locations from each other. The best way to see this park is to take a guided tour, as there are plenty of wild animals that roam around. Hire a guide in Drake Bay or Puerto Jimenez to have the perfect adventure vacation.

Getting to Corcovado

You can get to the Corcovado National Park via Puerto Jimenez or Drake Bay. These two towns serve as the main entry points to the park. To get to Puerto Jimenez you can fly out directly from San Jose city, while to get to Drake Bay you can fly to Palomar Sur then take a taxi to Sierpe and then catch a boat ride to this small town.

Tamarindo, Guanacaste


Picture a tropical paradise and you’re likely thinking of somewhere that resembles Tamarindo, which is situated in Costa Rica along the north Pacific Coast. While some of Costa Rica’s beautiful beaches might be difficult to access, Tamarindo has made its roads tourist-friendly, so that all visitors can experience the beauty of this Guanacaste beach town. This destination is popular with tourists because of its modern development, like paved roads, but don’t worry about it being too crowded or too commercial. There are so many activities for all types of people, that you won’t see everyone heading to one place and causing overcrowding. Of course, beaches can sometimes be crowded in Costa Rica, but you’ll be too busy soaking in the bright sunshine and splashing around in the stunning turquoise water to care about sharing the beach with other happy visitors and laid-back Ticos. Tamarindo is easier to get to than ever before; with development that includes not only paved roads, but also a bridge over the river. There are several options, depending on which airport you are coming from. You can get to Tamarindo in about four hours if you drive from the San Jose International Airport. If you don’t have access to a vehicle, you can take a domestic flight from San Jose Airport right into Tamarindo's own airport. Flying is faster, of course, but driving can be an adventure that lets you experience the authentic countryside of Costa Rica. You can also fly into Liberia International Airport; it is even easier to reach Tamarindo through this route, in about 1 hour. Tamarindo isn’t a great spot to visit just because of its development. It is also a wonderland of adventure and has the serenity of a tropical getaway. This is a destination for anyone that is traveling through Costa Rica, from newlyweds to families.

Splash Around

Water is obviously the main feature of many coastal locations in Costa Rica, and in Tamarindo it certainly takes center stage. Whether you are looking to get into the water, or just skim the top of it, there is something for all types of aquatic lovers. Those looking to dive in the water can just head to the beach with a towel and have a day filled with fun swimming. Those that are more adventurous can rent scuba gear and spend the day exploring what is underneath the surface of the pristine water. Costa Rica is known for its diverse animal life so be prepared to see some amazing creatures! If you’re not looking to get down in the water, there is always surfing, kayaking, sailing, and sportfishing fun to be had. Surfing is very popular on the shores of Tamarindo, and you can either get in on the fun, or just watch from the beach. This area is a good place for even novice surfers – the waves and the wind are known to be consistent, and aren’t too harsh, so those with only some experience should still be able to navigate the waters. If you aren’t experienced, you can always just sign up for some surf lessons. Tamarindo would be an unforgettable spot to learn the basics of surfing. If you are more experienced, you can sign up to take a surf trip that is customized for you. There are always lots of sailing and kayaking tours available for tourists too. Those looking to get on a boat to fish are in luck as well. The offshore sportfishing in Tamarindo is known for its big pulls. The area is a hot spot for marlin, sailfish and many others.

Head Outdoors

While there is some amazing local food that may make you want to stay in and eat all day, or take a nap after a big meal, Costa Rica is a place where you have to get outdoors. In Tamarindo, visitors have their choice of activity, from horseback riding, bicycling and rafting, to hiking and golfing. One of the most popular outdoor experiences in Tamarindo is the Marino Las Baulas National Park. Costa Rica is a country that believes in preserving the natural beauty of the land and protecting endangered animals, and this park does just that. This National Park is a protected area that serves as a safe place for the leatherback sea turtle population. They are able to use this area as a nesting site, without fear of being captured or having their eggs stolen. You can also see many other animals in the park, including over 150 species of birds. Golfers have a different definition of paradise than some other travelers might, but Tamarindo can meet the expectations of golfers too. There are courses in this area that of course offer fairways that will stun, but also let golfers experience the local views and wildlife. That isn’t something that most golf courses can offer!

Food and Dancing

Food is always exciting in Costa Rica, and Tamarindo offers some of the best dining experiences, available in the local restaurants. For those that are staying at a vacation rental that allows them to cook, there are also traditional local markets where they can do their shopping to pick up authentic Costa Rican flavors. After a full, exciting day exploring the lands and waters of Tamarindo, you might be tempted to head in for the night as the sun sets. But the fun isn’t over in Tamarindo! There are still lots of bars and discos open for you to have a drink and get down on the dance floor.

Manuel Antonio National Park, North Puntarenas


The most popular national park in Costa Rica, the Manuel Antonio National Park is the most visited park in the country. Created in 1972 and encompassing an area of around 682 hectares, this park is among the most diverse and beautiful places in the region. Considered to be among the tiniest national parks in Costa Rica, what this park lacks in size, it makes up for in stunning natural beauty.

Home to Beautiful Beaches

Home to an amazing variety of birds and wildlife, the Manuel Antonio National Park also has some of the best beaches in the entire country that not only offer wonderful water sport activities, but also are lined with striking lush green forestation. The snorkeling here is terrific, while swimming conditions on some of the beaches in the park are fantastic. The four beaches here include; the Espadilla Sur, the Playita, the Manuel Antonio, and the Escondido. Of these the Playa Manuel Antonio is the prettiest beach with silky white sand and a stunning offshore coral reef.

Animals of Manuel Antonio National Park

Sloths, iguanas, peccaries, armadillos, coatimundis, and scarlet macaws are just a few of the many animals that can be seen roaming in the park. However, the Manuel Antonio National Park’s most popular residents are the different monkey species that live here. From the common White-Faced Monkeys to the rare Squirrel Monkeys, this park is also the habitat of roughly 350 bird species as well as a variety of lizards and other insects.

Hiking in Manuel Antonio

One of the best trails in the Manuel Antonio National Park is the Perezoso Trail, which offers some stunning views of the park’s off shore islands, or go to the Punta Cathedral and get some magnificent vistas of the beautiful Pacific Coast. When visiting the park do hire a guide as they can be very helpful and informative, and take a trip to the small open-air natural-history museum and information center of the park

Getting to the Park

Combining gorgeous beaches with dense lush rainforests, exotic animal and bird species and exquisite coral reefs, the Manual Antonio National Park lies in the lovely Puntarenas province along Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast. Easily accessible by bus or car from the capital city of San Jose, which lies only 140 km southwest of here, this park is also easy to get to from Jaco, which sits just 69 km to the south. Seven kilometers south of the town of Quepos and near an excellent selection of resorts, hotels, accommodations and restaurants, coming here promises a wonderful adventure vacation for the entire family. With as many as 150,000 visitors a year, you can also catch a short 20 minute flight here (to Quepos) via Sansa airlines or Nature Air.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, North Puntarenas


Imagine walking through the clouds thousands of feet above sea level. At the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, you can embrace the misty atmosphere, which serves as one of the most coveted ecotourism destinations in Costa Rica. The reserve encompasses a 26,000 acre biozone, brimming with a marvelous diversity of wildlife and plant life. There's no question that Monteverde Cloud Forest is truly a nature lover's paradise.The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is located in the northern part of the Puntarenas province on the Continental Divide. It is six kilometers east of the town of Santa Elena and around 150 kilometers from San Jose. Without a doubt, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is one of the most breathtaking nature reserves in the entire world.

A True Cloud Forest

Shrouded in a unique misty cover, this biological reserve sets itself apart from the other rainforests of Costa Rica. What we call clouds are actually mist produced by the high humidity at the elevation of 1,600 meters above sea level. The moisture catches around the branches of the tallest trees, harboring a thriving ecosystem below. As a matter of fact, while the entire country of Costa Rica represents 0.03 percent of landmass on the planet, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve alone houses 2.5 percent of the world's biodiversity.

Stunning Flora and Fauna

Extending across eight distinct biological zones, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is home to more than thousands of species of plants and animals. Look toward the top of the giant trees where more than 500 species of birds live. The most popular birds in this region are the elusive queztal and the three-wattled bellbird. Discover the flora and fauna, including jaguars, toucanets, pumas, monkeys and the red-eyed tree frogs that have come to serve as the poster-animal for Costa Rica! There are also 420 species of orchids and 200 species of ferns. When exploring the forest you will be sure to encounter a variety of these spectacular wildlife. You might even catch a glimpse at the golden toad, a toad species only known to exist here in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.Step foot on the Continental Divide, where one foot will be on the Caribbean side and other on the Pacific side. With views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, this reserve is filled with a huge array of lofty and soaring trees laden with remarkable epiphyte plants

Discovering the Forest

For visitors, there are a handful of ways to explore the reserve. First, you can take advantage of the network of trails in the reserve that stretch across 13 kilometers of the forest. The trails are well-maintained and perfect for day trips. Visitors also enjoy the scenic vistas from "La Ventana" overlook, boasting mountain peaks along the Continental Divide. Another great way to explore the forest is to take a skywalk or a zip-line tour or canopy tour, where visitors can experience the forest from a series of bridges and cables that offer a bird's eye view of the forest. This tour is offered at a nearby forest and not in the actual reserve. With such a lofty altitude, this region is not for the faint-hearted.

Tortuguero National Park, Limon


Frequented by tourists from all over the world, the Parque Nacional Tortuguero is another significant turtle nesting site in Costa Rica. Among the most important nesting areas in the Western Hemisphere of the endangered green turtle, the stunning Parque Nacional Tortuguero lies on Costa Rica’s beautiful Caribbean coast in the northeastern region of the country. Roughly 50 miles north of Puerto Limon and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to its east, the Tortuguero National Park sits adjacent to the Refugio Barra del Colorado to its north.Protecting over 22 miles of beach strip beginning from the mouth of the River Tortuguero south to Parisimina, this national park is 19,000 hectares and is a key nesting area for leatherback sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles and loggerhead sea turtles as well. Declared a national park in 1970 to protect the green turtle population of the world from extinction, this park is also a wildlife sanctuary for monkeys, jaguars, green macaws, tapirs, and a variety of other mammals, birds and reptiles. Home to around 170 species of reptiles and amphibians, this park is also the habitat of 60 species of mammals and 300 different species of birds as well. A great place for bird watching, both migratory and native birds can be seen throughout the park including herons, egrets, trogons, parrots, toucans, jacanas, kingfishers, anhingas, kites and hawks. Some other common animals here include; caimans, crocodiles, sloths, iguanas, frogs, bats, basilisk lizards, otters, peccaries and ocelots. A variety of crustaceans are also found here. Another endangered animal found in the park is the shy West Indian manatee. Researchers believe that only 100 manatees now inhabit the remote lagoons within Tortuguero National Park. Tortuguero which means ‘Region of Turtles’ in Spanish is nesting ground for sea turtles every year from March to mid-October. This nesting period known as the arribadas occurs when the moon is fading. Therefore, if you wish to see these turtles nest, it will be after 6:00 pm with a guide, as no one is allowed to explore the beach unaccompanied after this time. A great way to see the turtles nest is from a boat, canoe, or kayak off shore, so as not to disturb the turtles during their nesting or mating period. Warm, humid and rainy throughout the year, the best time to visit the Parque Nacional Tortuguero is February, April and November, which are the driest months. Primarily a rainforest, this park has 11 different and varied ecological habitats that include costal shrubs, swamps and evergreen forests. Mostly an alluvial plain, the flora and fauna found here are the most diverse in the country. To get here, fly in from San Jose Airport to the village of Tortuguero that lies within the park. Since there are no roads to this village, your only other option is to catch a boat from Moin near the Port of Limon.

Santa Teresa, North Puntarenas


Sitting on the western edge of the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa is a tiny beach village that draws in a lot of surfers and beach bodies. In the last several years, this laid-back town has blossomed into a booming travel destination. Despite its size, Santa Teresa has been hailed as world-class surfing spot in Costa Rica - with gorgeous white sandy beaches and swells that put a smile on surfers' faces year-round.

Surfing

With consistent off-shore winds, Santa Teresa boasts swells that have been known to attract surfers from all over the globe. Even with its amazing surf the waters here are not localized, welcoming surfers of any level. Bringing in the Pacific waters, waves range from moderate to strong. Although surfing conditions are top-notch through the year, the best time to visit Santa Teresa beach is from May to December, which is the tropical rainy season called the "green season." During this time, the waves are at their peak and there are many barrels to be ridden. Notably, it is important to point out the green season presents big waves which can be dangerous for beginners.

Activities

Besides surfing, Santa Teresa packs a variety of things to do. Many visitors enjoy horseback riding, hiking and canopy tours. This village couldn't be better for spending some R and R with the family on its cozy beaches. However, if you're looking for adventure, be sure to take a day trip to Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, 5 kilometers away. As the country's first protected area, this park encompasses 1,270 hectares of mixed forest filled with 150 species of birds, including brown pelicans, laughing gulls, ospreys and brown boobies. In fact, this tip of the peninsula is an important seabird sanctuary. Rest assured, there are forest trails and stunning ocean views awaiting your visit. To explore more tucked-away beaches and villages, you can rent a bicycle or an ATV in town. Less than 3 kilometers away is Mal Pais, another hotspot for surfing. If you should want a change in surf, this small costal community is perfect for beginners to expert surfers. Family-friendly activities such as sports fishing, scuba diving and kite surfing can also be found here.

Restaurants

The welcoming of newcomers has spurred an array of restaurants and bars - not to mention hotels and vacation rentals for all budgets. For good eats, Santa Teresa has everything from sushi to beachside international cuisines to beef burger gems. Meandering in town center, you'll be sure to find something for even the pickiest of palates.

How to Get There

The fastest way to arrive in Santa Teresa is by catching a ferry from Paquera. The boat ride lasts about 65 minutes, curving around the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Another option is taking a domestic flight from the Juan Santa Maria International Airport near San Jose to the Tambor Domestic Airport, which is a 25-minute flight. From here, you can find a bus or taxi that will head southwest approximately 35 kilometers

Montezuma, North Puntarenas


The Montezuma Waterfalls are one of the most iconic waterfalls in Costa Rica. They consist of three separate cascades not far from the small town of Montezuma. At the falls, you'll find scenic rain forest, cliffs ideal for diving and a rope swing. Whether out with an appetite for adventure or looking for a slice of serenity, you'll be able to find it at this top fresh water spot. Many visitors even rank the it as the highlight of the Montezuma area.

The Town of Montezuma

Located on the Nicoya Peninsula, Montezuma is a small beach village known for its bohemian attitude and artistic residents. It sits within high cliffs and a jungle where the small rivers pour out into perfect arcs to create these picturesque waterfalls. In the town's center, vacationers explore the charming wood houses and vibrant street life. The restaurants, hotels and beaches are all within walking distance of one another.

Getting to Montezuma Waterfall

The beginning of the hike to Montezuma Falls is a only short distance from town. However, since there are not many signs, be sure to keep an eye out and ask a local Tico if you get lost. Start at the main beach road by Hotel Amor de Mar, and walk south until you cross a bridge over the river. Once you pass the bridge, you'll notice a trail off to the right, which you'll follow upriver. Along the way through the jungle, many people spot families of monkeys and colorful birds that accompany their hike. After about 20 minutes, you'll reach the first and tallest waterfall. If you're driving, you can park the car at the fall's parking lot for around $2.

The Three Waterfalls

The first waterfall is a haven for tourists. It is the tallest out of the three, and for the brave, there are plenty of rocks to jump off. The locals leap effortlessly, but that is only because they have had years of practice. If you wish to follow suit, be careful and wear sturdy shoes as the rocks can be very slippery. There is also great swimming holes here, where visitors cool off, relax and enjoy the day.The second waterfall sits roughly 13 meters high, and has a lower spot for cliff jumping. To get there from the first waterfall, you'll have to climb up a trail using tree roots and a rope, but rest assured, it's well worth it. At only 3 meters tall, the third pool is better known for its swimming hole than its cliffs. There is a rope swing that is sure to entertain for hours. From the second fall, walk along the paved road next to the parking lot, past the Butterfly Garden, and head on the dirt road until you come across the old jungle gym. Then make a left on the only trail to get to the third set of falls. The Montezuma Waterfalls makes for a great day adventure for the whole family, as it is one of best the country has to offer.

Cahuita National Park, Limon


Lying on Costa Rica’s stunningly beautiful Caribbean coast and facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Cahuita National Park is one of the most amazing national parks in the country. Created in 1970 to protect Costa Rica’s biggest coral reef, this national park is located in Limon province, 42 km south of Puerto Limon. Some 211 km east of the capital city of San Jose, the best way to get to this park is to take the Guapiles Highway to Limon, and from here head south to the village of Cahuita. From the village head a further 6 km south along the road to Puerto Viejo to the town of Puerto Vargas, where the main entrance of the park is located. The best time to visit Cahuita National Park is during the months of March, April, September and October, as it rains less during these months. Mostly wet all of the year, the Cahuita National Park is a humid tropical zone forest. Encompassing a land area of just 1,067 hectares, this national park protects over 22,400 hectares of ocean and marine life, and is one of the most gorgeous regions in the entire country. The main attraction of the park is not so much its land, but rather its underwater world, which is home to a fantastic array of marine life and the largest coral reef in Costa Rica. Tourists from all over the world flock to this national park because the fantastic snorkeling and underwater diving opportunities, as well as because of the park’s white sand palm tree lined beaches and crystal clear blue waters, which are ideal for swimming. Derived from the word ‘kawe’ which means mahogany and ‘ta’ which means point, the Cahuita National Park is the habitat of several ecological zones, including a swamp forest, rainforest, littoral woodlands and costal flora. Home huge variety of marine life, some common underwater inhabitants here include; sea urchins, angel queen fish, blue parrot fish, green turtles, eels, barracudas, sea cucumbers, shrimps, lobsters, sponges, manta rays, remoras, 3 species of sharks and Carey turtles. Among the many mammals found on land are sloths, possums, monkeys, coatimundis, frogs, pacas, iguanas, basilisks, porcupines and several bird species including ibises, herons, gulls and kingfishers. Although the Cahuita coral reef was badly damaged during an earthquake in 1991, it still includes over 35 species of coral including brain, elkhorn and fan coral, and is a must see when in the area. Another popular attraction of this park is an 18th century shipwreck that lies at the mouth of the River Perezoso. This national park is great as it provides plenty of camping opportunities, with many resorts, hotels and accommodations nearby as well.

Nosara, Guanacaste


Defined by its worries-by-the-wayside attitude and shorelines untainted by commercialism, Nosara is a small town famous for its yoga and surf. Many people know it as "No shoes, no shirt, Nosara," which aptly sums things up. Located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste region, the traditional village of Nosara sits six kilometers inland, although the beaches attract the biggest draw. For decades, Nosara has been protected by the national park system, in addition to longstanding efforts of local citizens to ensure that this unspoiled forest and beach destination remains as such. Thanks to local restrictions that only allow small-scale developments, this skyline is dominated by gorgeous sunsets that drift ceaselessly into the ocean. Nosara has three different beaches: Playa Guiones, Playa Nosara and Playa Pelada. It goes without saying, but sunsets are a must.

Playa Guiones

As the main beach of Nosara, Playa Guiones is a six-kilometer stretch of sparkling white sand. It runs southbound from Punta Pelada to Punta Guiones. This shore is considered a hotspot for surfers, packed with long left and right breakers and consistent swells. At low tide, beginners can try out their luck, but during strong swells and higher tides, this spot is best left for intermediate to experienced surfers. Between January and March, the crowds can grow pretty intense, but the length of the beach offers more isolated niches to relax and hit the waves in.

Playa Nosara

Playa Nosara is the least crowded of all Nosara's beaches. Characterized by its peaks and shallow rock reef lefts, Playa Nosara is a great beach break where you can catch some excellent barrels during strong southwesterly and southern swells. This long, dark beach runs from the Ostional Wildlife Refuge to Punta Nosara, all the way to the Boca Nosara rivermouth.Playa Nosara is ideal for intermediate to experienced surfers.

Playa Pelada

Located between Playa Guiones and Playa Nosara, Playa Pelada is a quiet shell-strewn beach with a rocky reef on the north side. The waves here aren't as consistent as Nosara's two other breaks, but when the surf is good, it can get pretty crowded. Be sure to check out the blow hole in the rocks here you can take a natural shower. Sheltered by an offshore reef, swimming is a popular option here. As far as surfing goes, conditions at Playa Pelada offers inconsistent barrels, best during northern swells at incoming high tides. If you're looking for some serious shredding, head to either Guiones or Nosara.

Other Attractions

For a Pura Vida time, visitors rave about the ATV and horseback riding tours. Along the way, you can marvel at the roaring waterfall and try coconut water on the beach. Try boogie boarding or family-friendly paddle boarding. Feel the real culture and support the locals at nearby restaurants. Within the area, you can find a wide variety of restaurants, including romantic hotspots meant for couples as well as kid-friendly locales serving up sandwiches and beverages.