7 best places to visit in COSTA RICA

Curious about the best places to visit in Costa Rica? Costa Rica is a small Central American country with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific. Despite its size, there is no shortage of places to see and things to do in Costa Rica.

Known for its biodiversity, Costa Rica boasts an abundance of stunning natural wonders. Volcanoes, cloud forests, great national parks and stunning beaches. As well as rich flora and fauna. With plenty of places to explore it is the perfect getaway, be it a vacation or a long holiday.

Sounds like a place you would want a visit?

But what exactly to see in Costa Rica? 

To help you with the task of planning we’ve created this list of some of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

7 best places to visit in Costa Rica

San José

san jose costa rica

San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica.

As the country’s largest airport is located there, most probably you will be starting your trip from San José.

San José is not only a necessary stop during your journey but also an interesting place to explore.

Just like anywhere else in the world, some of the most fascinating places to see in San José are its markets.

San José Central Market is the largest market in San José. Established in 1880, it is one of the oldest landmarks in the city. This market is a complex of narrow alleys with over 200 shops and stalls.

The Municipal Arts and Crafts Market (Mercado de Artesania) is a place where to get handmade, high-quality souvenirs. There you’ll find bags, jewellery, leather items, paintings, handcrafted hammocks and other items.

San José also has a few good museums, so the city is a great place where to learn about the history and culture of Costa Rica. Our favourite museums are Museo del Oro Precolombino and The Museo del Jade.

Museo del Oro Precolombino (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum) has an impressive collection of Pre-Columbian gold from 500 A.D — over 1500 gold objects! 

The Museo del Jade is a fascinating museum which has an extensive collection of pre-Columbian artefacts. It also contains the world’s largest collection of ancient jade from the Americas.

Volcán Arenal

volcan arenal costa rica

Volcán Arenal (Arenal Volcano) is an active stratovolcano which has been dormant since 2010. Before 2010 it was the most active volcano in Costa Rica.

The volcano is located some 150 km northwest of San José. Looming over lush, green hillsides, Volcán Arenal is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

With an elevation of 1670 metres, Volcán Arenal is an asymmetrical cone-shaped volcano with a crater 140 metres in diameter.

While you cannot hike up the volcano, visiting the nearby Arenal Volcano National Park is a must. There are hiking trails that will take you through the area’s landscapes.

Do not miss Catarata Fortuna — one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica. This breathtaking waterfall is situated in the rainforest very close to Arenal Volcano National Park. It is 75 m high and plunges over the cliff into the lush rainforest.

Arenal Hanging bridges are worth a visit, too.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

monteverde cloud forest reserve costa rica

The cloud forests of Costa Rica are some of the most beautiful parts of the country. And by far the most popular cloud forest in Costa Rica is in Monteverde.

Founded in 1972, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve consists of over 10500 hectares of the cloud forest. The Reserve consists of 6 ecological zones, the majority of which are virgin forest.

The Reserve boasts rich flora and fauna. There are over 2500 plant species, 400 bird species and 100 species of mammals, as well as 120 reptilian and amphibian species.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is crisscrossed with trails from which visitors can admire the beauty of nature.

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio is the most visited national park in Costa Rica. 

Teeming with wildlife, it is one of the best places in Costa Rica to see sloths, white-faced monkeys, various birds, and butterflies.

To increase your wildlife sightings, get there early.

There are a few great beaches in the national park as well; trails in the national park are interconnected with beaches.

Manuel Antonio Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, borders Manuel Antonio, National Park.

Tortuguero National Park 

Tortuguero National Park costa rica

Tortuguero National Park is a remote national park, and it only could be reached by plane or boat. 

Despite its remoteness, it’s one of the most visited parks in Costa Rica.

Tortuguero National Park is known for its vast variety of biological diversity.

Eleven different habitats are present in the park, including rainforest, mangrove forests, swamps, beaches, and lagoons. The park boasts rich flora and fauna.

And the most fascinating fact is that Tortuguero National Park has over 20 miles of coastline where one could spot nesting turtles coming up out of the sea and hatchlings running for the water.

Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park costa rica

Corcovado National Park is the country’s largest national park and one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

Thanks to the stunning ecological variety, it is considered one of the world’s most biodiverse regions.

There you can spot scarlet macaws, tapirs, jaguars, squirrel monkeys and other unique animals. 

There’s an abundance of hiking trails which follow coastal and inland routes. The routes will take you through the park’s diverse landscapes — from beaches and mangrove swamps to cloud forests.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca costa rica

Thanks to its relaxed and alternative vibe, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a popular vacation spot among backpackers.

As Puerto Viejo de Talamanca boasts fast and powerful waves, it also is a great surfing destination. And surfing is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica.

Puerto Viejo is home to some of the greatest beaches in Costa Rica. One of them being Cocles. It is known for soft sand and beautiful palm tree-dotted shores. The waves there are perfect for beginner surfers.

Other popular beaches are: Playa Chiquita, Playa Negra and Punta Uva.

best places to visit in Costa Rica

Costa Rica travel tips

  1. You don’t need a visa to travel to Costa Rica. Citizens of the E.U. (and many other countries) may enter Costa Rica for a maximum stay of 90 days.
  2. Costa Rica is, in general, a safe country. But still, be a sensible traveller. Don’t flash your belongings and keep your wits about you. Don’t travel alone at night. 
  3. Do the research and find out which are the best/ safest areas to stay in.
  4. Keep an eye on your cash and credit cards, never let them leave your sight. Always keep your belongings close to you. Pickpockets and petty theft can be a problem at bus stations and other crowded places.
  5. If you are visiting during the high season (December-April), plan and book well in advance. Accommodation and buses can sell out weeks ahead.
  6. The most affordable way to travel around in Costa Rica is by taking a public bus. Another popular option is a shared shuttle.