From the cloud forests to the beautiful sandy beaches to the active volcanoes and hot springs – Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders. It’s also home to more than 500,000 animal species, making it one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet.
With dozens of daily direct flights from the US and being ranked as one of the safest countries in Latin America, Costa Rica is one of the best places for tourists to come on vacation.
Whether you’re looking to surf the best beaches, spot the wildest of wildlife or hike active volcanoes, Costa Rica offers adventures for every type of traveler, whatever your vibe might be.
Here are the some of best place to visit in Costa Rica:
1. Corcovado National Park
Located on the southwest coast in the remote Osa Peninsula lies Corcovado National Park, the largest national park in Costa Rica. Whilst the peninsula is hard to get to, you will be rewarded with deserted beaches, great hikes and tons of wildlife.
National Geographic famously called Corcovado National Park “the most biologically intense place on Earth.” Endangered animals rarely seen in much of the country — scarlet macaws, squirrel monkeys, tapirs — are common in Corcovado.
Most travellers choose to enter Corcovado via Drakes Bay, a beautiful lush bay offering unprecedented coastal views – an excellent place to relax before exploring the National Park.
And no trip to Corcovado would be complete without spending the night at Sirena Ranger Lodge, one of Costa Rica’s top eco-experiences.
2. Playa Grande
If you’re looking for the authentic Costa Rican beach life but don’t want to be surrounded by tourists, then Playa Grande is the place to come. A hidden gem in Costa Rica, often overlooked in favor of nearby Tamarindo, Playa Grande is the locals’ favorite beach and home to some of the best surfing in the world. Surfers flock here to ride the huge waves, which crash onto white sands backed by thick jungle. You’ll also have the chance to see leatherback turtles nesting between October and February in the Las Baulas National Marine Park.
3. Manuel Antonio
Offering a combination of rainforests, coral reefs and beautiful beaches, Manuel Antonio is often regarded as one of the most beautiful places to visit in Costa Rica.
Most people visit Manuel Antonio for the National Park, selected by Forbes magazine in 2011 as one of the world’s 12 most beautiful parks and you can see why.
Whilst Manuel Antonio National Park is the most touristy of all the parks, it does give visitors the opportunity to get up and close with wildlife, without having to trek deep into the jungles. And once you are done spotting the sloths and monkeys, you can relax on one of the many secluded beaches.
High in the mountains lies Monteverde, home to the nation’s premier cloud forest and one of the largest eco-tourism hubs in the country.
Monteverde has a more relaxed vibe than the coastal towns – offering visitors the chance to spot wildlife and breathe in the mountain air whilst walking along hanging bridges or zip lining through the trees.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve prides itself on being one of the best examples of sustainable tourism in the world, its forest being home to more than 2,500 plant species, 100 mammal species, 400 bird species (including the famous quetzal) and 120 reptilian species.
5. Arenal Volcano
Costa Rica is famous for its many volcanoes but Arenal is by far the most popular and impressive. Dormant since 2010, the volcano draws thousands of visitors each year.
Located near the town of La Fortuna, the area is home to geothermal springs, a beautiful lake, caves, waterfalls and impressive hikes filled with wildlife – the most stunning being the walk through the humid rainforest of the Arenal Volcano National Park, observing the old lava trails.
Arenal and La Fortuna make our list due to the vast number of things you can do in the area – you could spend a week here and still not run out of fun excursions or things to do.
And if you are lucky, you might even get to experience an Arenal show. Whilst the volcano has seen little activity in the last 50 years, during the day you can witness smoke billowing from the peak while at night basaltic lava streams down from an active vent on the western side.