Costa Rica is the perfect country to visit if you are a nature lover. You can travel alone or with your family and you won’t be disappointed. Rent a car and discover this wonderful place. Here are the best places to go in Costa Rica:
Best Places to Go in Costa Rica
things to do San José
If you have sparee time, San José is home to dense culture and history, bustling nightlife and friendly locals. There are plenty of museums, art galleries, parks and dining options for visitors to choose form. San José is a starting point to go visit the rest of the country. Enjoy the experience and visit the city.
Since 1968, after more than 500 years of inactivity, the Arenal volcano began to expel lava and ashes to the great surprise of the « ticos ». It is considered one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica.
This majestic 1,600 meter high volcano is located in the Arenal Volcano National Park, in the northwest of the country. It is surrounded by a tropical forest of more than 12 000 hectares.
This cone-shaped volcano overlooks the town of La Fortuna de San Carlos, located 3 hours drive from the capital; San Jose, only 10 kilometers from the Arenal volcano.
The area is also famous for its hot springs. You can visit the river called Tabacón and bathe in its thermal waters, sipping a mojito with the view of the volcano. Take a tour to the Arenal area and enjoy your time and the experience !
things to do Guanacaste
The beaches of Guanacaste, which stretch across the Nicoya Peninsula in the northwest of the country, are the epitome of a tropical paradise. Think lush landscapes, soft sand and clear waters perfect for fishing, swimming, diving and surfing. The beaches of Flamingo, Conchal, Avellanas, Playa Negra or Bahia de los Piratas, are prime spots for all this, and Playa Grande is also one of the main nesting areas for leatherback turtles; these endangered creatures invade the beach from November to April, digging their nests up to 1 meter deep and laying their eggs before returning to the sea.
Besides the beaches, you can also go hiking a volcano if you are an adventurous explorer.
Tortuguero National Park
The small town of Tortuguero, on the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, attracts wildlife enthusiasts from around the world. It owes its name to the famous sea turtles that come here to nest. The maze of channels in the dense jungle of Tortuguero is the main attraction and it is well worth it! Navigating these beautiful waters is an incredible adventure, as you are sure to hear the howling of monkeys and the calls of birds along the way.
The village of Tortuguero is one of the most picturesque in the country: it is a small group of rustic wooden little houses on a narrow strip of land between the Caribbean Sea and a dense maze of jungle channels. That's why it's one of the most beautiful landscape and one of the must-sees in Costa Rica. If you take one of the boats that take you to explore the narrow canals, you will see a huge variety of aquatic birds, monkeys, sloths and caimans. If you come between June and October, you'll have the chance to witness the impressive spectacle of green turtle nesting - indeed, Tortuguero beach is one of the last great nesting sites of this endangered animal. Take a night tour with a guide and enjoy the experience !
Corcovado National Park
Are you a nature lover ? You like to walk ? Then you will love Corcovado !
Located south of Drake Bay and covering more than 42,000 hectares, this region is one of the richest in biodiversity in the world (yes, we promise). It is home to no less than 2.5% of the world's biodiversity. Nowhere else in the world can you find such a small area with such biological diversity. All this flora and fauna is distributed between rainforests and cloud forests, rivers, mangroves, lagoons, swamps and, of course, heavenly beaches that stretch for more than 45 kilometers. Here is what you can do: diving, hiking, horse back riding, swim at the beach and more. You experience will be better if you take a tour guide.
Manuel Antonio National Park
This national park is filled with all kinds of animals. If you love wildlife and white sand beaches surrounded by lush forest, this is the place to be! While walking the trails you will see capuchin monkeys and also titi monkeys, the smallest of the 4 species of monkeys found in Costa Rica. This endangered species can practically only be seen here. The monkeys and raccoons, very shy, will come and try to steal food from you, so be careful with your bags. But you will also find many things to see and do outside the park. The road to Manuel Antonio National Park has many lookouts that constantly offer postcard shots of the steep jungle hills meeting the sea. Uninhabited islands lie just off the coast, and the beaches are heavenly, housed within the park.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
One of the most beautiful landscapes in Costa Rica with its early morning mist, the song of birds hidden in towering trees, covered with large bromeliads, flowering orchids, mosses and vines. The Monteverde Nature Reserve has a well-maintained network of trails ; plus the community is truly engaged in nature conservation. In addition, near Monteverde and Santa Elena, you will find a variety of activities and attractions, including canopy tours that allow you to swing from one peak to another while hanging from a zip line. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful landscapes in Costa Rica, especially if you take a tour guide.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
You like colorful villages, lobster and reggae music? Puerto Viejo and Cahuita are perfect to be in contact with nature and the authenticity of its inhabitants: friendly villages, beautiful beaches within natural parks, a luxuriant fauna and flora, and a very "Pura Vida" way of life, that is to say, relaxed. The population, essentially made up of Jamaican descendants, speaks a mixture of Spanish and English (patois). The pace of life is decidedly slow and you should not be in a hurry! You will hear reggae music everywhere and Bob Marley is revered as a god.
Puerto Viejo and Cahuita are accessible by bus, or you can simply take your rental car.
Puerto Viejo, located in the Province of Limón, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, is a great place for a little adventure and relaxation. Surfing, hiking in the parks, biking, tours of indigenous reserves…
things to do Jacó
Jaco is a small city known for its popular beaches, sport fishing, excellent surfing spots and its unique location only 1.5 hours drive from San José. Between the natural beauty and the luxury accommodations, it's no surprise that Jaco is the most touristy beach in the country. Whether you're looking for a secluded hilltop retreat, a family-friendly resort, or a top surfing destination, the Central Pacific Coast can provide everything you're looking for. Grab your rental car and enjoy life in Jaco. You will be there in no time from the airport.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
If you're looking for an incredible excursion near the volcano on your next trip to Costa Rica, choose La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Surrounded by lush flora and fauna, beautiful hiking trails and a coffee plantation, La Paz is a private ecotourism attraction and the perfect place for a family visit. Only an hour from San Jose and Juan Santamaria International Airport, it is rich in biodiversity. One of the most popular attractions is the world's largest butterfly garden. You will also see an animal sanctuary, a hummingbird garden, a beautiful bromeliad garden, an orchid garden, a frog pond, a snake garden and five amazing waterfalls! Visit La Paz for one of the most memorable tours in Costa Rica and one of the most popular in the Central Valley.
La Paz is open from 8 to 5 all year round and there is no need to book your tour. Guided tours are available, but it is also possible to walk around the park on your own. It takes about 2 hours to walk through the entire park, so it is best to arrive before 3pm, especially considering that it usually rains in the afternoons during the rainy season.
Tabacón Hot Springs
Because of its large number of volcanoes, hot springs heated by volcanic activity can be found throughout Costa Rica. Two of the most popular hot spring locations are Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa and The Springs Resort & Spa, both located near the base of Arenal Volcano. If you're with your family, this is definitely one of the best activities to do with kids! You'll spend half a day relaxing while your toddlers play in the slides... and you'll join them, you bet!
Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
The refuge of Caño Negro, is of world importance for the conservation of wetlands. This protected area is home to a wide variety of bird and wildlife species. Nature lovers will be pleased with the presence of an exotic variety of birds, caiman and all kinds of insects. Very close to the Sarapiqui area as well.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park
This is an area of rugged beauty with high volcanic activity. The Rincón de la Vieja volcano rises to 1,848 m (6,061 ft), but thermal activity is spread along its flanks, where numerous geysers, vents and fumaroles spew out their heat and steam. If you're a hiking enthusiast, you've come to the right place. You will need a guide and if you are not in shape (the walks can be long) rent a horse for the day. You will cross pastures, scrub savannahs and secondary rainforests; bird watching is a must. The reward: waterfalls and mud baths, hot springs and jungle pools to explore. And for the more adventurous and experienced, you can climb to the top and enjoy the magnificent crater. Beware, it is not always allowed to climb: the winds can be extremely strong, so be sure to ask before you go.
things to do Nicoya Península
The Nicoya Peninsula is the largest peninsula in the country and is located on the other side of the Golfo de Nicoya.
Home to some of the most secluded and beautiful beaches, this rugged peninsula is one of Costa Rica's most popular tourist destinations.
You'll find everything from wonderful nature reserves, heavenly beaches, hotels and hostels to suit all tastes, as well as quaint rural towns and spectacular sunsets.
Playas del Coco Costa Rica
Playas del Coco is one of the most popular and frequented beaches in Costa Rica, located on a small bay with a beach village with bars and restaurants of all kinds.
Besides, some of the best diving in Costa Rica takes place off the Nicoya Peninsula, and Playas del Coco is the perfect town to use as a base if you intend to explore the underwater world. Many dive clubs offer dive and stay packages here, and whether you are a beginner or an experienced diver, there is something for everyone. Whether you just want to do a first dive or become a Dive Master, it's possible here.
things to do Osa Peninsula
Are you a nature lover? You like to walk? Then you will love Corcovado!
Located south of Drake Bay and covering more than 42,000 hectares, this region is one of the richest in biodiversity in the world (yes, we promise). It is home to no less than 2.5% of the world's biodiversity. Nowhere else in the world can you find such a small area with such biological diversity. All this flora and fauna is distributed between rainforests and cloud forests, rivers, mangroves, lagoons, swamps and, of course, heavenly beaches that stretch for more than 45 kilometers. It is the most remote and biologically rich region of Costa Rica. Corcovado National Park, the largest tract of pristine rainforest in Central America, occupies a large portion of the Osa Peninsula. Jaguars, crocodiles and scarlet macaws make their home here. Whether you stay at a luxury nature lodge in Bahía Drake or around Puerto Jiménez, or choose to camp in the park itself, you will be surrounded by one of the most lush jungles this country has to offer. Without a doubt the number one landscape to visit. Beware, the trip can be long from San Jose, so it is strongly recommended to rent a 4x4 to have more autonomy. Definetely a great experience, take your time !
things to do Puntarenas
Puntarenas is a very local and humble city. It’s nickname is El Puerto because fishing is the main activity there.
The town and has one road going through the middle, called the Paseo de los Turistas. You will find a nice boardwalk running parallel to the shore and there are restaurants, hotels, shops and food stands up and down this road. If you’re travelling to any of these places in Costa Rica: Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, Jaco or Montezuma, you’ll be visiting the Puntarenas province. Indeed, here is where the ferry is located.
Hanging bridges Costa Rica
Near Monteverde and Santa Elena, you will find a variety of activities and attractions, including canopy tours that allow you to swing from one peak to another while hanging from a zip line. The biggest attraction are the hanging bridges in Monteverde where you will have the impression of flying among the tres. Take a tour and you will enjoy the experience.
Itinerary Costa Rica
Itinerary : What to see in Costa Rica in 10 days ?
Costa Rica is a country that offers a lot of adventures between the discovery of howler monkeys, the meeting of tropical forests or the trip to the volcanoes, it’s essential to prepare in time your 10 days in Costa Rica. Because we often lack time during the vacations, Jumbo car to prepare your itinerary of things not to miss in 10 days in Costa Rica.
Surfing, visits of the canopy, scuba diving, discover our article: “What to see in Costa Rica in 10 days ?”
Itinerary : What can you see in Costa Rica in 14 days ?
14 days is the perfect amount of time to enjoy Costa Rica, home to epic national parks, must-see surf spots, beautiful beaches and exotic wildlife around every corner. We've got you covered with an incredible 14-day itinerary to visit Costa Rica. All the best waterfalls, hot springs and volcanoes can be found in our article "What can you see in Costa Rica in 14 days”. San, Jose, La Fortuna, Monteverde and many others are waiting for you on the spot!
What are things to do in costa rica
Costa Rica is located between 2 Oceans: The eastern part faces the Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean Sea) and the Western Part faces the Pacific Ocean. You can now understand why sea-based activities are famous and various in this country.
Best beaches for swimming
We cannot count the exact number of Heavenly beaches in Costa Rica. Moreover, landscapes never look the same and each beach is unique. The 3 best beaches to go for swimming are:
- Playa Flamingo - North Pacific: This beach is ideal for a swim with your kids as currents are low. You can also go snorkeling or water skiing (so much fun). If you go to Playa Flamingo, you must stay here until the sunset. It is breathtaking ! Try to see the green light, this last ray of sun that becomes green for less than a second, right before the sun disappears behind the horizon line.
- Playa Samara - Nicoya Péninsula: Families like to meet up there during weekends for a picnic under a palm tree. In the evening you can even go horse riding on the beach, at sunset time… What else do you need ?
- Punta Uva - Caribbean Coast: It is one of the most quiet beaches of Costa Rica and therefore the best for swimming, especially if you come with your children. What is it like ? Coconut trees, white sand, crystal clear water, mangrove… Perfect !
The Best Surf spots
Talking about Costa Rica without mentioning Surfing spots would be a bad mistake. If you are willing to surf for your entire stay in Costa Rica you will need to rent a car big enough to carry your surfing boards. Think about it ;-)
Here are the best surfing spots. Once you reach one of them, follow local people who love to share their culture. This is PURA VIDA.
Spots for Beginners
You want to try surfing ? Let us show you some spots where waves are easy to catch. Perfect for learning.
Tamarindo Beach: Don’t go to the mouth of the river at the beach entrance, there are crocodiles. Anyway, you can’t miss the signs when you arrive.
- Punta Morales – Jaco: Jaco is a very long beach with several surfing spots. Look for Punta Morales, perfect to learn how to catch a wave.
- Avellanas – South of Tamarindo: See for yourself: the ocean with beautiful waves awaits you. Ideal for beginners.
Spots for mid-level surfers
The next 5 spots have beautiful waves really nice to surf on and not dangerous at all:
- Playa Grande - North Pacific: 15 minutes away from Tamarindo by car (or by boat from Estero).
- Playa Avellanas - North Pacific: 10.5 miles South from Tamarindo
- Playa Guiones – Nosara: Nicoya Peninsula
- Playa Jaco
- Cocle - Caribbean Coast: Surfers often stay on the Pacific Coast. Cocle is therefore calmer than the other surfing spots.
Spots for high-level surfers
- Witches Rock – North Pacific: You will need 4x4 to go to this wonderful spot (3 to 4 hours drive from Tamarindo). The journey to get there is spectacular. Note that you will not find any shop in the area. Bring your own food and water.
- Santa Teresa: The entire village lives at the pace of surf, tide, and parties… We love it !
- Pavones - South Pacific: Only 2 hours drive on Uvita Road. Pavones Beach is famous for its long waves
- Playa Hermosa - Jaco: It is THE perfect surfing beach. Actually, there are quite often national and local surfing competitions.
- Playa Dominical: Caution, waves can be strong
- Salsa Brava - Caribbean Coast: Salsa Brava’s wave is very famous for being dangerous. Before you go there, be sure to be ready and check the weather before you leave.
This surfing website gives you the weather conditions for each surfing spot of the country. Otherwise you can download 2 apps: Magicsweed or Surfline.
Best spots for scuba diving / Snorkeling
In Costa Rica there are many natural reserves that protect an amazing wildlife. If snorkelling is a not to be missed activity, scuba diving is wonderful and you can be sure you will see big fishes like tunas, barracudas, rays, morays but also sea turtles and if you are lucky, Dolphins and white tip sharks. Our favorite spots are:
- Isla Del Cano – South Pacific: It is on the Osa Peninsula. Diving there means swimming in clear water where the visibility is excellent. You will see giant corals (more than 13 feet high) growing on beautiful rocky fallings.
- Santa Teresa – Nicoya Peninsula: in Santa Teresa, you might see with near certainty, manta rays, turtles and barracudas among many other fishes and corals.
Costa Rica is one of the most famous countries in the world for fishing. Many big fishes come close to the coasts : Mackerels, pikes, groupers, jacks…
Most used fishing techniques are Jig fishing and throw fishing. You can also see surfcasting which is basically fishing from the seaside, on foot.
Finally rivers and lakes are full of fish. It is the case of Lake Arenal. You will not be disappointed, we promise you !
When and Where to go fishing ?
- From May to November: In Papagayo Bay (North Pacific)
- From December to April: Bahia Drake and Golfito (South Pacific)
Which company to choose to go fishing ?
Many private companies offer full day excursions on different interesting spots
- Golfito and Puerto Jimenez - South Pacific
- Manuel Antonio and Punta Leona - Center Pacific
- Tambor Malpais: Nicoya Peninsula
- Barra del Colorado: Caribbean Coast
Fishing in Costa Rica is mainly based on the “catch and release” principle, in order to preserve the species.
Every year, for several months, whales come close to the Costa Rica coast to give birth in warmer waters.
What kind of whales can we observe ?
You can see 3 different whale species in Costa Rica. They do not come exactly at the same time:
- Humpback whale (Ballen Jorobada): From July to October
- False killer whale: From November to April
- Pilot Whale: From December to April
Where to observe whales ?
You have 2 options to observe whales. If you want to see them from the land here a 3 great spots:
- Marino Ballena Park – South Pacific
- Papagayo – North Pacific
- National Parc of Corcovado and Drake Bay – South Pacific
Otherwise, if you want to see them from closer, companies offer to approach them by boat. Please, check before you choose one that they are CST certified: it is an eco-friendly label that makes you sure they respect rules to respect the mammals.
The best hiking trails
Many people go to Costa Rica only for hiking. There are hundreds of nice trails and they are all amazing. We selected 3 hiking trails for you:
- Monteverde – North, 3 hours drive from San Jose: Once you arrive in Monteverde Reserve, you can either go hiking or go horse riding. In any case, it will be gorgeous. But that’s not all… People know Monteverde for its zip lines, hanging bridges and accrobranche. Monteverde is a cloudy and humid forest with a peaceful atmosphere. Don’t forget to bring good trail shoes, an waterproof jacket and changing clothes.
- Mont Chirripo – South, 3 hours from San Jose : Reaching the highest point of Costa Rica (3820 meters) is not an easy task. But it is definitely worth it ! If you want to go up there, you need to be physically and mentally prepared. At the top of the mountain, you will enjoy a 360° panoramic view.
- Osa Peninsula – South Pacific: You want to go to Corcovado National Park. Be aware that you can only visit this park with a local ranger. This hiking is for adventurers. There, you will see: monkeys, sloths, parrots and toucans. You might also see jaguars and pumas (but it is rare). Your guide will show them to you, do not worry.
Waterfalls & Rivers
Costa Rica offers wonderful waterfalls. Let us show you our 3 favorites. It was hard to pick !
- Rio Celeste – North San Jose: Rio Celeste is located in Tenorio Volcano National Park. It is well known for its unique blue color due to volcanic minerals. A 3-hours hike is necessary to reach this beauty of nature.
- Nauyaca Waterfalls – South Pacific: They are often considered as the most beautiful waterfalls of the country. Let us picture you the scenery : Tropical forest, 262-feet large canyon, Barucito river and right in the middle of that, 2 wonderful waterfalls you can reach either by walking, horse riding or with a 4wd.
- Del Toro Waterfall - Volcano Area, North San Jose: this beautiful waterfall is a natural wonder. 590 feet high can you imagine ? Plus, it is in the heart of an old volcano crater… You will love it, for sure ! you can even go down the waterfall rappelling… Will you dare ?
Wellness, a religion in Costa Rica
Tired of your everyday working routine ? You will love doing a wellness trip in Costa Rica. Nature is in the center of everything. Wellness is the most important thing for People in Costa Rica.
Beach Yoga or Paddle Board Yoga
Let’s start with activities in nature. Yoga is very popular in Costa Rica. You will find many classes on the beach at sunrise or sunset for a great relaxing time. Bikram, Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga or Iygengar, none of them are missing.
Nicoya Peninsula is very attractive for Yoga as is Dominical and Uvita. On the beach or in a hotel, there are many classes for all levels. Some even offer yoga classes on Paddle Board… you will find them in the area of Laguna Rio Cuarto (Sarapiqui). No need to be an expert in yoga or have a great balance to do it. Everyone is welcome.
Relaxing and Wellness Center – Costa Rica
There are plenty of spas and therapy centers in Costa Rica. They offer care, treatments, massages, baths, yoga classes… We leave the choixe to you. Those centers use only what nature has to offer: mud, thermal water, medicine plants oils, etc. One thing for sure, you will leave the place relaxed, happy and with a soft skin ;-)
We advise you to go relax in the warm waters of Arenal Volcano.
2 options: Go to Tabacon Hot Spring and its 17 baths. You will have to pay to get in. The second option is free. Outside of the Tabacon Hot Spring, the river continues and you can stay in it, for free.
Chamans - Costa Rica
If you are looking for a spiritual experience or a retreat, you are at the right place. Chamans are everywhere and easy to reach in Costa Rica. The Bribri, an indigenos ethnia, organize touristic experiences. You will easily find travel companies specialized in this kind of holidays.
Costa Rica offers a lot of various activities. You can mix them up, go hiking, then rest for a while on a wonderful beach and relax your muscles in a spa after a good surfing session. That is what we call perfect, ideal, resourcing holidays !