If you are a nature lover and you want to be amazed, Costa Rica is for you! If you have an adventurous spirit and you want to be close to wildlife, then you must visit this small country that concentrates more than 6% of the world's biodiversity. Once you arrive, start by renting a car and go for an adventure on the roads and tracks of the country. Here are the top 10 most beautiful landscapes in Costa Rica:
1. The Osa Peninsula
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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.
2 The Tortuguero canals
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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 the second 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.
3. The sumptuous Arenal Volcano and its thermal waters
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It is impossible to remain indifferent in front of the magnificent spectacle of the Arenal Volcano with its conical shape that overhangs the small town of La Fortuna. Drive your car up the Arenal volcano and enjoy a thrilling spectacle, during the day but also at night, when the lava flows and you can perceive the red fluorescent rays going down the colossus. It seems that it follows you wherever you are, so much it imposes! You can even witness this spectacle while soaking in a natural hot spring and having a drink at the Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort bar. What more could you ask for? It is for all these reasons that this volcano is ranked third in this ranking of the most beautiful landscapes of Costa Rica.
4. Manuel Antonio National Park
This national park is filled with all kinds of wildlife. 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 (better have a 4WD to get there). Uninhabited islands lie just off the coast, and the beaches are heavenly, housed within the park.
5. Playa Santa Teresa, Malpaís and Playa Hermosa
Santa Teresa and Malpaís, in the south of the Nicoya Peninsula, are among the most beautiful small fishing villages of the country. The beach of Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa offer a sumptuous spectacle, especially at sunset, among the most beautiful and spectacular of the country. It is a destination of choice for thrill seekers, including surfers of all levels, hikers and those who want to try horseback riding. Want to go to the rainforest? Head to the nearby Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve. As the first protected area in the country, it is an integral part of Costa Rica's wildlife conservation programs and an important marine bird sanctuary.
6. Reserva biológica Monteverde
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 Natural 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.
7. Rincón 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.
8. Soak in mineral 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!
9. The beaches of 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.
10. Coco Island
In tenth position of the most beautiful landscapes of Costa Rica comes the sumptuous Coco Island, located at 550 km off the coast of Costa Rica, classified natural heritage of humanity by UNESCO. Jacques Cousteau loved to venture there with his Calypso. Its unique beauty greatly inspired the Jurassic Park film franchise. Today, it is a paradise for divers who come from all over the world to enjoy hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks, rays, moray eels and dolphins. Since no one is allowed to stay on this remote island (except Costa Rican rangers), and the trip is still a big one on its own (10 days minimum, 40 hours crossing and at least $4,000 catamaran ticket!) you may leave this landscape for another time, but if you have the means, time and desire, it is definitely the best experience of your life!