February 8th 2020
A real-time Garden of Eden, Costa Rica is a paradise for nature lovers and anyone who loves the great outdoors.
From national parks and active volcanoes to surf beaches, beautiful beaches and coffee plantations, there are so many things to do and see in Costa Rica that one visit is simply not enough.
Whether you want to jump into hot springs, ride the rapids in a white-water rafting adventure, experience a jungle trek above the clouds, see howler monkeys, hummingbirds and scarlet macaws up close or you want to simply chill and relax on sun-soaked sands, we’re here to guide you through some of the best places to go in Costa Rica to ensure you have a trip of a lifetime.
Surf the Waves at Tamarindo
Looking for some adventure travel? Whether you’re a total novice or a seasoned surf pro, Tamarindo provides the perfect waters for surfers. A tropical paradise, there’s so much to do here from surfing and swimming to fishing, kayaking, all kinds of water sports and, of course, simply relaxing in the sunshine.
From humble beginnings as a quiet fishing village, Tamarindo has grown into a busy beach destination with all the trappings of a modern resort including waterfront bars, cafés, restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, nightclubs and discos.
From morning to night, there’s always something going on here to keep you entertained. It’s also a great base for exploring the wider area of Guanacaste, an area where dry, flat plains merge into tropical dry forests to create landscapes that resemble the savannas of Africa and the American ‘Wild West’.
Spend Some Time at Arenal Volcano National Park
One area that should definitely be on your list of the best places to visit in Costa Rica is Arenal Volcano National Park.
The famous volcano is perfectly conical in shape and, until 2010; it spewed out streams of molten hot lava. Even though it is no longer active you can enjoy all the thrills and spills this magnificent volcanic and tropical landscape has to offer in the adventure playground that has been built within the Arenal National Park. A visit to the famous “Hanging Bridges Park” is a must and you can also spend time watching the abundant birdlife, walk on fields of cooled lava or hike one of the many trails in the area.
Enjoy the Steam at La Fortuna
Situated between Costa Rica’s two coastlines and surrounded by steaming springs and fertile valleys, La Fortuna is a small town located at the base of the Arenal Volcano and is the ideal location for a mini spa break.
Most visitors come here to enjoy the thermal hot springs hidden within the dense vegetation, negotiate the 16 hanging bridges that lead up towards the foothills of the volcano, fly through the forest canopy on exhilarating zip wires and hike up to the La Fortuna waterfall.
Get Back to Nature in Manuel Antonio National Park
Imagine a scene where the lush verdant rainforest meets pristine white sands and sparkling blue surf, where monkeys play in the treetops while sloths look on lazily watching their antics and where iguanas enjoy the feeling of the sun on their scaly backs and you’ve imagined the Manuel Antonio National Park.
Here you can enjoy swimming and snorkelling off the unspoiled beaches of the Pacific Ocean and hiking trails through the rainforest in search of the abundant wildlife that thrives in the foliage.
One of the most bio-diverse areas in the world, the Manuel Antonio National Park is wild and untamed and home to over 100 species of mammals and 200 species of birds, together with a whole assortment of reptiles.
Outside of the park, there are many opportunities to take part in a wide range of exciting activities from river rafting and kayaking to horseback riding and zip-lining while the beach area offers all kinds of water sports from snorkelling and surfing to sports fishing for grouper, snapper, marlin and sailfish. And, after the sun goes down, there are plenty of bars, cafés and restaurants to sample, which makes it a great place to visit for both the young and young-at-heart.
Walk Among the Clouds at Monteverde
With its steamy volcanoes, misty cloud forests and gushing waterfalls, it’s hard not to be awestruck by the natural beauty of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Here you’ll find trees with electric green foliage whose tops are hidden from view by the water droplets of the Montverde cloud forest and an extraordinary assortment of wildlife.
Home to 100 species of mammals, over 400 species of birds, more than a thousand species of reptiles and amphibians and 450 different kinds of orchids, you can see why this area really is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica and why it attracts approximately 250,000 visitors annually.
People come to Monteverde cloud forest reserve to see the wildlife, and it’s an extremely popular destination for birdwatchers hoping to catch a glimpse of the lovely quetzal.
It also attracts visitors with a sense of adventure who plan to fly along zip lines, climb waterfalls, cross hanging suspension bridges and hike the trails.
It’s also becoming a very popular destination for eco-tourists who come to see high-altitude coffee farms.
Take an Excursion into the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve
The first area to be designated as a national park back in 1963, the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is well deserved of the title. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.
A mixture of secluded beaches that are home to brown pelicans, gulls, ospreys, terns and the largest community of brown boobies in Costa Rica together with forests filled with armadillos, anteaters, deer, coyotes, monkeys, raccoons and porcupines to name a few, it’s an area that shouldn’t be missed off your itinerary.
Named after an island located about a mile off the reserve’s southern tip, it has been known as the ‘White Cape’ since the times of the Conquistadors due to the encrustations of white guano (deposited by seabirds) which covered the rocks.
The Reserve also extends into the sea where large numbers of lobsters and giant conches live alongside numerous species of fish in an area that covers 1.788 hectares. Along the coastline, as the sun sets, large numbers of pelicans retire to the trees which grow along the beaches of Santa Teresa and Mal Pais – it’s a sight that shouldn’t be missed.
Discover Tortuguero National Park
Over on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica lays the coastal village of Tortuguero which is located in one of the most bio-intense regions in the country. Situated within the Tortuguero National Park, it’s only accessible by light aircraft or boat. It’s well worth the trip if only to catch a glimpse of Loggerhead, Leatherhead and Hawksbill turtles who come to the beach to lay their eggs each year.
If you are really lucky, you may get to see the endangered green turtle or see the tiny hatchlings emerge from their eggs and make their way down to the sea for the first time. One of the highlights of a visit to Tortuguero is to take a canoe tour of the waterways and mangrove canals and get as close as you can to the natural inhabitants of this area – be sure to add it to your list of things to do.
Uncover the Secrets of San José
Visiting San José is oven overlooked in favour of exploring the wilder areas of the country; however, as the capital of Costa Rica, it really does have plenty to discover. From its historic neighbourhoods filled with art galleries housed in colonial mansions to areas such as Barrio Escalante where some of the best food in the country can be found, San José offers everything you would expect in a Central American capital city.
There are shops galore, farmers markets and museums of history, art and natural history to explore by day and a vibrant assortment of cafés, bars, restaurants and nightclubs to explore by night.
Learn More about Coffee at the Central Valley Coffee Plantations
San José is surrounded by cool green mountains that are the ideal location for growing coffee. Many pretty traditional towns are perched on the peaks together with a number of beautiful coffee plantations that spread out across the hillsides in a patchwork of green and brown.
Coffee has played a pivotal role in the development of the country and is still one of Costa Rica’s major agricultural exports to make it the world’s thirteenth largest coffee producer. Organized tours of the plantations are readily available, which enable you to learn everything about coffee cultivation and how the coffee beans are processed and roasted.
Enjoy the Sleepy Charm of Manzanillo
Surrounded by tropical forests, Manzanillo is a beach town imbued with typical Caribbean charm. Imagine unspoiled beaches, turquoise waters hiding a spectacular coral reef, seaside shacks, brightly coloured stilt homes and dusty dirt roads and you’ll have an idea of what’s in store for you here.
As part of the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, the whole area is protected and is a haven for nesting leatherback sea turtles and all kinds of other wildlife. There’s not much nightlife here in Manzanillo; visitors come to swim, surf, snorkel and kayak and to take the opportunity to see the wildlife up close.
Want to visit the Caribbean side of Costa Rica? Why not join our 16 Day “Tico Panameno” Trip?
Discover the Real Costa Rica
People come to Costa Rica to have fun on some of the best beaches in the world, to explore the cloud forests and rain forests and to take part in outdoor activities that leave you with a sense of exhilaration. Here you’ll find opportunities for adventure, exploration, relaxation and a little romance too.
Are you looking for the trip of a lifetime? Do you want to get off the beaten path? We hope the above info has given you all of the travel inspiration you need to explore the national parks and the coasts of Costa Rica!
February 8th 2020
Something else to take a look at…
After exploring historic Granada, take an adventurous detour
November 4th 2018