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15 must see places where to go to Costa Rica this year

Where to go to Costa Rica and when to go are 2 of the most common questions everybody asks when planning a trip to this country.

Although a small country from Central America, Costa Rica has one of the richest biodiversity in the world, being home to more than 5% of the world fauna and flora.

The country is bordering Nicaragua and Panama as well as the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and has one of the most varied landforms in the whole world.

In this tiny country, you will find lush tropical forests, active volcanos, white sand beaches, lakes, rivers, and hot springs as well as mountains and valleys, perfect for banana and coffee plantations.

Costa Rica might be a small country but it is packed with many stunning attractions, so book a few weeks here if you want to explore the whole land.

I know you don’t have so much time that is why I prepared a list of the most popular and must see attractions which you have to see when visiting Costa Rica.

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Where to go to Costa Rica this year

1. Monteverde Cloud forest

One of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica is Monteverde, the most famous cloud forest in the country.

It is located in the central part of the country along the Cordillera de Tilaran mountains and is a biological reserve home for about 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity.

monteverde lodge and gardens aerial drone view Where to go to Costa Rica

monteverde lodge and gardens aerial drone view Where to go in Costa Rica

The place is stunning because of its rich biodiversity, lush vegetation, natural beauty, and a high number of outdoor activities you can try when you are in the area.

This beautiful forest is home to more than 2.600 species of plants, 100 species of mammals, 150 species of reptiles, and 410 species of birds including the elusive quetzal.

The area is visited by more than 270.000 people each year and guided tours that lead you deep into the forest are very popular among tourists from all over the world.

The natural reserve has a lodge, a restaurant, and a cozy gift shop from where you can buy souvenirs to remind you about this stunning place.

There are a lot of trails inside the protected area some of them leading to wonderful waterfalls, while others meander into the forest.

If you are lucky enough you will spot all kinds of birds and animals in their natural environments like frogs, wild pigs, monkeys, butterflies, tapirs, and porcupines.

The whole area is green and lush and there are zip-lining tours, sky bridge walkings, and many other exciting activities to try in the area.

Where to sleep

monteverde lodge and gardens hotel

Monteverde Lodge and Gardens Room

Monteverde Lodge and Gardens Room

Monteverde Lodge and Gardens dinner

Monteverde Lodge and Gardens dinner

Monteverde Lodge and Gardens Pool Jungle

Monteverde Lodge and Gardens Pool Jungle

Monteverde Lodge And Gardens Costa Rica from Santa Elena is our favorite lodge, located just 15 kilometers away from the entrance of the park, featuring spacious and clean rooms, amazing views of the cloud forest, and a tasty restaurant is the great choice for your overnight stay.

More information

For more useful information about this amazing Costa Rican place check our article DISCOVER THE UNIQUE MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST IN COSTA RICA.

2. Manuel Antonio National Park

My Costa Rica places to visit list continues with Manuel Antonio National Park, the most famous park where to go to Costa Rica holiday.

Once an archipelago of volcanic islands, Manuel Antonio is conveniently located close to the capital city of San Jose.

It is located on the Pacific Coast, close to the town of Quepos, and comprises a large number of ecosystems, out of which I would like to mention white sandy beaches, beautiful coral reefs.

It is a great destination for families with kids, couples, and also solo travelers no matter the travel budget you have.

The park offers an impressive number of options when we talk about outdoor activities: surfing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, humpback whale watching, whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and the list could continue.

On your hike along the trails located inside the national park, you might reach spectacular viewpoints, shy wild creatures, and powerful waterfalls.

You can reach the entrance to this national park by a rented car as there are plenty of parking lots where to park the car or with public transport as there are buses that go from Quepos to the park entrance a few times a day.

Get the best price for your car rental today

Where to sleep

 

Gaia Hotel Reserve Manuelanton Costa Rica Gaia Hotel Reserve Manuelanton Costa Rica is our favorite pick from the Manuel Antonio area, a beautiful 5-star resort surrounded by lush jungle and wildlife, featuring 17 luxurious suites with access to 3 stunning infinity pools.

Gaia hotel has a wonderful spa center and offers top services and amazing rooms, perfect to rest after a long day full of outdoor activities and hiking inside the national park.

More information

For more useful information about this amazing Costa Rican place check our article MANUEL ANTONIO COSTA RICA, LATIN AMERICAN’S HIDDEN PARADISE.

 

3. Arenal Volcano

The best place in Costa Rica to observe volcanic landforms is definitely Arenal Volcano, one of the most popular attractions for nature lovers from all over the world.

The closest town to the park entrance is La Fortuna, a place where to set your camp and a good starting point for exploring the area.

There are daily buses from San Jose to La Fortuna, and the bus ride lasts for about 4 and a half hours and the cost is around 8 USD per person.

Arenal is considered an active volcano that used to spit ash and gases from time to time, surrounded by lush forests, relaxing hot springs with mineral waters that have healing properties, and beautiful landscapes.

Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa Volcano View

Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa Volcano View

Until 2010, Arenal was the most active Costa Rican volcano, but since then it entered into a resting stage and today there is 0 risk of eruption.

The landscape around the volcano is incredibly diverse and offers outstanding views of the summit and the tropical forest.
You will find here lava fields, rainforests, rivers, and mountains and on your hike along the trails, you might spot monkeys, jaguars, birds, and insects.

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There are a plethora of outdoor activities to try in the area out of which the most popular ones are: fishing, waterfall rappelling, hiking, horseback riding, canopy tours, mountain climbing, caving, and ziplining.

Costa Rica Zipline Arenal

Costa Rica Zipline Arenal

Besides the unique and spectacular scenery, there is one more thing that attracts tourists in this part of the country and here I am talking about the hot spring.

The mineral waters of these springs have healing properties and are very good for those of you who have skin problems.

There are several resorts that offer direct access to the hot springs, but you can also find natural pools outside the resorts with no access fee.

Where to sleep

Nayara Springs Costa Rica is hidden inside the dense jungle and is considered by most tourists a truly hidden oasis with beautiful and colorful interiors and outstanding design.

The centerpiece of each villa is the private terrace that offers an amazing view of the volcano and the surrounding forest.

In the room rate of this Arenal volcano hotel, you have included a birdwatching tour twice a week, the open-air yoga pavilion with daily classes, a fancy piano bar with live music each night, and the beautiful Mediterranean restaurant Amor Loco.

More information

For more useful information about this amazing Costa Rican place check our article DISCOVER THE HIDDEN WORLD AROUND ARENAL VOLCANO COSTA RICA.

4. Tortuguero National Park

One of Costa Rica must see places is for sure Tortuguero National Park, a piece of heaven accessible only by boat or plane and is located on the Caribbean coast.

This isolated area is a nesting place for 3 species of sea turtles ( leatherbacks, green sea turtles, and hawksbills) and has more than 11 different habitats, out of which I want to mention swamps, mangroves, rainforests, lagoons, and beaches.

Costa Rica weather in August Tortuguero

Costa Rica weather in August Tortuguero

This national park is considered to be one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries from the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica and it keeps its wild side because of its inaccessibility.

This park is not suitable for those of you looking for outdoor activities as here the main activity is walking and observing the sea turtles and other wild creatures that call this protected area home.

The best time to visit this park for seeing turtles nesting is:

  • July to October for green sea turtles and hawksbills turtles
  • February to April for leatherback turtles

Besides these gentle creatures, inside the park, you can find a wide range of birds, monkeys, otters, sloths, toucans, parrots, and tapirs which can be spotted during your walking tours or boat rides on the canals.

The boats can be rented from Tortuguero village which is accessible by plane or boat from mainland of Costa Rica.

Where to sleep

Tortuguero Natural Costa Rica located on a riverbank right in the middle of the jungle, featuring an outdoor pool, clean and large rooms with a private bathroom, and a great restaurant where you can serve all the 3 meals must be your choice for this part of the country.

More information

For more useful information about this amazing Costa Rican place check our article TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK ONE OF THE BEST PARKS IN COSTA RICA.

5. Cahuita National Park

Where to go to Costa Rica if you want to relax and reconnect with nature if not in Cahuita National park?!

Everything starts from Cahuita town, a small beach town located right near the national park with the same name, a great place to set your camp.

The town of Cahuita is located about one hour from Puerto Viejo and is accessible by public transport or with a rented car.

The most popular activities from the area are swimming, surfing, hiking, and animal spotting inside the protected area.

The region is famous for its Afro Caribbean influences that can be extremely easy to spot in their food, culture, and traditions.

The park was established in 1970 with the main purpose of protecting the coral reef from the shallow waters near the shore.

Today here is one of the best places for snorkeling from the Caribbean coast but bear in mind that snorkeling in this area is prohibited unless you are accompanied by a certified guide.

The best time to visit this part of Costa Rica is in September and October when the rest of the country is under massive rains and floods, but here the sun is shining and the water is clear, perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Where to sleep

Hotel El Encanto Costa Rica is a small hotel with bungalows and classic rooms located close to the beach, only 5 minutes from the Cahuita National Park Costa Rica with a great on-site restaurant and amazing massage area.

For clean and spacious rooms, outstanding view of the surrounding,s and top notch services you definitely have to book your next Costa Rican adventure here.

More information

For more useful information about this amazing Costa Rican place check our article YOUR POCKET GUIDE ABOUT COSTA RICA CAHUITA NATIONAL PARK.

6. Poas Volcano

A must-see in Costa Rica is Poas Volcano, an active volcano located about 1.5 hours’ drive from the capital city of San Jose.

The volcano park is open each day from 7 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon but you’d better get to the park in the morning if you want to see the summit and have a clear sky.

It is located in the Central Valley and is one of the most visited parks in the country because of its beautiful scenery and closeness to the capital.

Prepare to see smoke, green rain, bubbling mud, and steam coming out from fumaroles and the largest crater in the world with more than a 1-mile diameter.

Actually, there are two craters inside the volcano: an active one and an extinct one, but everybody talks about the active one.

You can do day hikes in the park along the trails specially designed for nature lovers, trails that lead you through the rainforest, lava fields, and very close to the summit.

At the entrance of the park, there is a ranger station with knowledgeable rangers that can answer all your questions about the park, and a cafeteria where you can eat a sandwich and drink some water.

Where to sleep

Peace Lodge Poas Volcano Costa Rica view

Peace Lodge Poas Volcano Costa Rica view

 

Peace Lodge Costa Rica with an incredible outdoor and indoor pool, a fancy restaurant, and spacious rooms, located just one hour from San Jose in the vicinity of the national park is the right choice for your stay in the area.

More information

For more useful information about this amazing Costa Rican place check our article COMPLETE GUIDE FOR A TRIP TO POAS VOLCANO COSTA RICA.

7. Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is the next place where to go to Costa Rica, a place considered by many as the crown of Costa Rica’s national parks.

The park is located in the Osa Peninsula in the southwestern part of the country and comprises many ecosystems like mangroves, rainforest, swamps, cloud forests, and beaches.

Corcovado national park Costa Rica empty bench under tropical tree sunset

Corcovado national park Costa Rica empty bench under tropical tree sunset

Sunet on Pacific Coast Corcovado National Park Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Sunet on Pacific Coast Corcovado National Park Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

You can take a hike along the park trails to spot the elusive squirrel monkeys, harpy eagles, tapirs, or jaguars.

Female Jaguar Costa Rica Wildcats Animals

Female Jaguar Costa Rica Wildcats Animals

The list of the wild creatures that you can spot inside this protected area can continue with howler monkeys, white-faced capuchin, frogs, and a large number of species of birds.

Besides the hiking tours inside the park, you can also take a canoeing tour on the river to experience from the water the national park biodiversity.

Sun Rays Shine Through Jungle Rainforest in Corcovado National Park Costa Rica

Sun Rays Shine Through Jungle Rainforest in Corcovado National Park Costa Rica

The closest town to the national park is Puerto Jimenez which is connected by public transport with San Jose and other main cities from Costa Rica.

From Puerto Jimenez, you can book a guided tour of the national park, rent a bike or a vehicle and explore the area on your own.

Where to sleep

Drake Bay Greenleaf Costarica with new interiors and beautiful location, surrounded by jungle and one of the best food we’ve had in Costa Rica should not be missed on your next trip to Costa Rica.

More information

For more useful information about this amazing Costa Rican place check our article PLANNING THE PERFECT TRIP TO CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK.

8. Playa Jaco

Relatively close to San Jose, Playa Jaco or Jaco beach is only 2 hours drive from the capital city and is one of the most popular beach spots in the country.

The place is famous for its amazing beach, great location and vibrant nightlife, one of the best in the whole country.

Jaco is extremely popular among watersports lovers, especially surfers and those who want to perfect their tan during the daytime and party all night.

Right near the beach, there are many surf schools where you can book some surf lessons with an expert or simply rent your surfing board.

Being close to the jungle, the beach is also perfect for horseback riding tours, ATV, canopy tours, whitewater rafting, and wildlife observation as the place is packed with incredible species.

Playa Jaco offers a great option of restaurants and bars, where you can try the local cuisine but also international specialties and sip a cocktail or a glass of wine while watching the sun setting in the ocean.

Where to sleep

Hotel Club Del Mar Oceanfront Jaco Costa Rica located in the southern part of Jaco Beach right between the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean is the best choice for your stay in Playa Jaco, not only because of its incredible location but also great amenities and great services.

More information

For more useful information about this amazing Costa Rican place check our article THESE ARE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES IN JACO COSTA RICA.

9. Santa Teresa

Located on the edge of the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa is definitely a place where to go to Costa Rica is classified as one of the most beautiful and picturesque fishing villages in the country.

It is the perfect holiday destination for those who are looking for simple things, want to reconnect with nature, and are not interested in luxury and high-end amenities.

Playa Santa Teresa Beach Costa Rica

Playa Santa Teresa Beach Costa Rica

The place is ideal for surfers, hikers, and thrill-seekers because of its simplicity and seclusion, but also a very popular place among young expats and those looking for simple things in life.

The place is quite remote, being far from any other Costa Rican tourist destination and about 5.5 hours’ drive from San Jose including the ferry ride.

The area is famous for its surf waves, beautiful beaches, and stunning sunsets from the beach photographed by tourists from all over the world.

Playa Santa Teresa Beach of Costa Rica

Playa Santa Teresa Beach of Costa Rica

The most famous beaches from the area are Playa Carmen, Playa Hermosa to the north, and of course, Playa Santa Teresa.

All around the country, there are plenty of beaches called Playa Hermosa or Beautiful Beach, but this one is known as Playa Hermosa from the Santa Teresa area.

If you get enough of surfing and sunbathing we recommend you book a snorkeling tour to Tortuga Island, an exploration tour in Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, or a day trip to Montezuma, a beautiful beach town from the nearby area.

10. Poas Volcano National Park

Poas Volcano National Park is the right place where to go to Costa Rica to observe the fascinating volcanic landforms.

The volcano is located close to San Jose city, about 1.5 hours, and is an active volcano with many beautiful Sulphur lakes and breathtaking views.

Poas erupted for the last time in 2019 when the volcano spew asks and smoke into the atmosphere.

This volcano is definitely one of the major attractions of the Central Valleys, a symbol of natural forces that created this magnificent country from Latin America.

There are many hiking trails and viewpoints over the area that offer amazing views of the lava fields, lush vegetation, and wildlife.
Besides the volcanic landscape, you will pass through a cloud forest and a beautiful lake crater called Lake Botos.

On your hike to the summit, you will meet hummingbirds, toucanets, tanagers, and a wide range of frogs and insects.

Where to sleep

Peace Lodge Costa Rica with an incredible outdoor and indoor pool, a fancy restaurant, and spacious rooms, located just one hour from San Jose in the vicinity of the national park is the right choice for your stay in the area.

More information

For more useful information about this amazing Costa Rican place check our article COMPLETE GUIDE FOR A TRIP TO POAS VOLCANO COSTA RICA.

11. Tamarindo

A popular destination for families and couples all over the world, Tamarindo is located on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.

The closest airport from the area is Liberia International Airport, located 1 hour away from Tamarindo beach town.

The main attraction of the area is the beaches with their turquoise waters, perfect for watersports activities and sunbathing.

Occidental Tamarindo All inclusive Resort in Costa Rica

Occidental Tamarindo All inclusive Resort in Costa Rica

You can walk, rent a scooter or a bike and explore this small corner of paradise and be on a different beach each day of your stay in Costa Rica.

You can swim, surf, snorkel, dive, or sail on the turquoise waters around the beaches while an abundance of marine creatures is waiting to be discovered.

Marlins, snappers, tuna, or trophy fish are just some of the species that can be observed in the waters around Tamarindo.

Tamarindo Beach Tropical Costa Rica

Tamarindo Beach Tropical Costa Rica

Tamarindo Beach Costa Rica Surf

Tamarindo Beach Costa Rica Surf

Besides the water-related activities, while in the area you can plan a golf match as there are many outstanding golf courses around.

Horseback riding, hiking in the jungle, whitewater rafting or ATV tours are other examples of outdoor activities that can be done while in Tamarindo.

In the nearby area, you can find Marino Las Baulas National Park, a natural sanctuary for leatherback sea turtles and a great place for bird watching tours, and wildlife observation.

Where to sleep

Cala Luna Boutique Hotel Tamarindo is one of the most beautiful boutique hotels in the Tamarindo area with a great spa, luxury rooms, and a tasty restaurant.

Cala Luna is the perfect place to stay for those of you looking for quieter places and a relaxing vibe, a hidden retreat in the middle of nature, perfect to reconnect with nature and enjoy all the 21st century lux.

12. Cocos Island

Located in the Pacific Ocean, about 545 kilometers (340 miles) away from the mainland, Cocos Island is famous for its tropical forests and rich waters.

The area was an inspiring place for the Jurassic Park movie and today is on top of the list to scuba divers from all over the world.

Cocos Island Costa Rica Island

Cocos Island Costa Rica Island

There are more than 20 sites around the islands for scuba diving, places abundant in marine creatures like dolphins, moray reefs, sharks, and rays.

There are no sleeping facilities on the island as spending the night on this protected island is forbidden, only some Costa Rican park rangers are allowed to stay.

Cocos Island became a national park in 1978 and starting with1997 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On the island can be found about 250 species of flowering plants out of which 75 are endemic species.

Where to sleep

Cocos Islands Costa Rica does not have any accommodation facilities but you can sleep on a liveaboard that transports people to this island.

The closest hotel is located 36 hours boat ride from the island so sleeping on a boat is the only option you have.

Isla Chiquita Glamping Hotel Costa Rica is a unique hotel in Puntarenas, a glamping hotel with private bathrooms and amazing sun terraces with a view.

The staff, the services, and the glamping itself are amazing, so you definitely have to stay here when in Puntarenas.

More information

For more information and data about Cocos Island check our article COCOS ISLANDS COSTA RICA A HIDDEN GEM IN THE MIDDLE OF OCEAN.

13. Rincon de la Vieja

Located in the northern part of the Pacific coast, Rincon de la Vieja is the perfect getaway for those of you looking to reconnect with nature.

The name of the national park comes from the main attraction of the area, a steaming volcano located in the middle of the area.

There are plenty of hiking trails along the lush jungle and the volcanic landforms revealing spectacular views of waterfalls, mud pots, volcanic craters, and beautiful plains.

The most popular and spectacular trail in Las Pailas is a short trail that leads you to volcanic crates and mud pots.

For those of you with more experience in hiking, we strongly recommend following the trail that leads up to the summit, and it lasts for about 8 or 9 hours.

Besides hiking, visitors can enjoy horseback riding tours, canopy tours, and whitewater rafting, while hot spring pools and waterfall lagoons are perfect for bathing and cooling off.

Where to sleep

La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica[/caption]

The waterfall is open between 7.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and the price for an adult is around 18 USD, while tickets for kids are 5 USD.

On your way to the waterfall, you have to descend 500 stairs that will take you about 15 minutes to go down and about 30 minutes to go back up.

You are allowed to swim in the lagoon from the bottom of the waterfall so pack with you a swimsuit and a towel; the lockers and bathrooms are located at the entrance of the park.

Where to sleep

If the idea of having a whole villa just for yourself with a private pool sounds good, then book your stay at Nayara Springs Costa Rica one of the best resorts in the area.

More information

For more information and data about Cocos Island check our article YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE FOR LA FORTUNA WATERFALL IN COSTA RICA.

15. San Jose

Nestled in the middle of nature and surrounded by mountains and green valleys, San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica and the largest city in the country.

The city is a very interesting mixture of modern art architecture and Spanish colonial buildings and is home to many museums, restaurants, nightlife clubs, and shopping streets.

Let yourself lost on the beautiful streets of the city, go to a movie or theatre, dance till morning on Latin music vibes, and try the Costa Rican reinvented cuisine.

Book about 2 days to explore the whole city and get a walking tour with a knowledgeable guide to learn new things about this country and its rich history.

Where to sleep

Gran Hotel Costa Rica Curio Collection By Hilton a wonderful hotel located close to San Jose downtown, the only hotel declared historical and architectural monument from the whole country.

The hotel is surrounded by museums, plazas, restaurants, and bars and has one of the most beautiful interiors in the country

Conclusion

There are plenty of beautiful places where to go to Costa Rica and only you know better which of these places suits you best.

What I can tell you from my experience is that all of these places are worth to be visit and should be included on your travel list.

Costa Rica Map San Jose

From popular attractions with lots of outdoor activities to hidden treasures known only by locals, Costa Rica is a surprising country that definitely has to be on your bucket list.

 

Logistical tips and tricks for your trip

Book your accommodation

We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.

You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.

Don't forget travel insurance

We never leave home without HeyMondo Insurance or Safety Wings Insurance as they offer the best services and a good value for money, plus COVID coverage.

Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.

We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.

Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.

We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.

Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.

We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.

Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.

Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.