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TOP 10 - Best Hiking Trails in Costa Rica

Rica is a paradise for hiking lovers. Along the Coasts, in the middle of the tropical Forest or to reach volcanoes summits, hiking trails are all superbs and there is one for everyone’s taste. We give you the Top 10 of the best hiking trails in Costa Rica.

1. Manuel Antonio National Park


Manuel Antonio National Park is the smallest of the country with less than 20 km² but the most visited. You absolutely need to visit this park during your stay in Costa Rica. The Sloth Trail “Camino Perezoso” leads straight to the main beach : Playa Manuel Antonio. It is considered as the most beautiful beach of the country. There are 9 other trails that make you discover this wonder.

Why people love this park ? Because of its superb beaches and the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. While you take a nap on one of them, watch your bags as racoons are not shy and might try to steal your sandwiches. 

▷ Practical Information

Opening times : From Tuesday to Sunday from 7am to 4pm. You will have to pay $16 per person older than 12. If you want to visit the park with a guide, it will cost you $20 more. The parking spot costs you $6.

2. Monteverde Natural Reserve


Monteverde Private Reserve est a tropical forest situated at 1500 meters in altitude, in the clouds. Imagine the atmosphere here… We actually feel we are in a bubble or a cocoon.

To access the Reserve, you’ll have to drive through a village called Santa Elena. Once you arrived, you can visit the park in several ways :

  • Classic visit : Feet on earth with a classic hiking
  • Tubbing and rafting for a wet visit
  • Zip-Line and Accrobranche for a visit in the air

Anyway, fauna and flora are very rich in Monteverde. You will be able to observe hundrers of birds like parrots or hummingbirds. If you have luck, you might see the Resplendent Quetzal. This bird is rare, shy and difficult to see in the forest. Tell your children to keep both eyes open and they will have an incredible afternoon!

▷ Practical Information

You will have to pay $20 per adult and $10 per kid from 6 to 12 to access the Monteverde Reserve. There is no restaurant in the park, you will have to bring your own picnic.

3. Rio Celeste


Rio Celeste is a river that leads to a magnificent waterfall known for its unique and surprising blue color. It is located in the Volcano Tenorio National Park. The hiking, not so difficult, will take you 3 hours (round-trip) in the middle of the primary and secondary forest. The first stop is next to the 98-feet high waterfall that falls into this 55-feet deep beautiful  turquoise pool. Keep walking and you will see the wonderful “Laguna Azul”, a splendid lagoon with the same color as the pool.

Celso Alvarado, a famous local poet said this is where God would have washed His paint brushes after he painted the sky. We will keep this beautiful metaphor to explain the beauty of this water. 

▷ Practical Information

To rent a car in Costa Rica, it’s better to think about the long distances and the “broken” roads. Therefore, it is safer to rent an all terrain car or at least a SUV for more comfort. Especially during rainy season.

Volcan Tenorio National Park entrance costs $12 per person and is open everyday from 8am to 4pm (last entrance at 2pm).

4. Volcano Rincón de la Vieja

If you go to Guanacaste, we suggest you go to Volcano Rincon de la Vieja National Park. This volcano is still active. Nice hiking trails lead you to natural thermal pools. In this park, 
dry forest, humid forest and cloudy forest are next to each other. You can imagine how rich the wildlife is. The park is divided in 2 parts :

  • Las Pailas : A 1.8 miles trail leads you to fumaroles, mud holes but above all, to the beautiful Las Pailas Waterfall. If it is not enough, the Cataratas Escondidas trail leads you to 3 other waterfalls. You can even swim in one of them. Finally the last but not the least, Cangraja waterfall is at the end of “Catarat La Cangreja” Trail. there are many other small trails that take you to nature wonders. We let you discover them by yourself.
  • Santa Maria : The Hummingbird trail is perfectly named. You will see plenty of them here. The main attraction of this part of the ark is to go to thermal bath. It is natural, authentik and it feels so good !

▷ Practical Information

The access to the park cost $15 for adults  and $5 for children. It is open from tuesday to Sunday from 8am to 3pm. There are 2 ways in. One for each part. Choose wisely. It is better to rent an all-terrain car in Costa Rica so that you can be sure you can go everywhere. In this particular case, you have no choice and need this kind of vehicle.

5. Osa Peninsula


According to National Geographic, this is one of the places in the world the most biologically intense. Hiking trails in Corcovado National Park are breathtaking. You are going to walk in the biggest rainforest of Central America.
To visit the you have to go with a local ranger who know better than anyone the park and will be able to show you the wildlife living there:

  • Flaming Macaws
  • 4 monkey species
  • 2 sloth species
  • Jaguars and Pumas (it is more rare though)

Trips in Corcovado National Park are not very touristy and we do not see why. But it’s better for you. However, note that if you are not into adventures, this might not be the best place to go to.

▷ Practical Information: It is important to book your trip and your guide before you arrive in the Park.

6. Mount Chirripo


Credit: Wikimedia

Let’s be clear : The ascent of Mount Chirripo is for very good hikers. It is a very difficult hike but it is so worth it as you arrive at the highest spot of Costa Rica !

The hike starts at 4986 feet of altitude. you’ll have to walk more than 12 miles on 7545 feet of difference in height that you will do in two days with a night in Base Crestones Shelter.
The higher you are, the rarer is the vegetation and the point of views are extraordinary. It helps to keep going.

Be careful, the way back can be tough for your knees. Take your time and if you feel that you need it, stay another night at the shelter.

▷ Practical Information

To ascend Cerro Chirripo, you first need to register online even though you want to go with no guide. Why is that ? Simply because the number of hikers is limited per day. You also need to book your night at the shelter.

Being physically prepared is essential. This hike is a true challenge that is 100% worth it but needs a great physical condition.

7. Carara National Park


Carara National Park is located 1h30 away from San Jose. If you rented your car at San Jose Airport, going to Carara National Park is ideal to start or end your stay in Costa Rica

In the park, you will find 4 very easy trails of about 0.6 miles that allow you to discover the very rich wildlife of the park. 3 of them follow one another. Good to know : One of them is accessible for persons with reduced mobility. 

This park is famous for the 400 birds species you can see as well as the 500 hundreds different kinds of trees. Why so much ? The park is a transition zone between dry forest and rainforest. You can therefore find wildlife from both environments. 

Si vous allez dans le parc très tôt le matin ou le soir vers 16h, vous aurez la chance de pouvoir observer les Aras Rouges qui sont l’attraction principale des lieux. 

▷ Practical Information

The access to the park is very easy as the entrance is directly on the main road. a big parking lot with a big statue of a Macaw you can’t miss it. To get in the park, you will need to pay $10 per person.

8. Turrialba Volcano

Did you know there are 116 volcanoes in Costa Rica ? You cannot travel to this country and go hiking on only one of them. let’s talk about Turrialba Volcano located 24 miles away from San Jose. It is 3340 meters high. 
Among its 3 craters, only one is highly watched because of a few alerts it gave in 2010. However, after checking the activity of the Volcano and make sure it’s all clear, you are allowed to go down the crater. Once you arrive on the summit, enjoy the beautiful views on Irazu, Brava and Poas volcanoes.

The main part of the hike is in the forest where you will hear (and maybe see) a hundred bird species as quetzal or hummingbird. You can also see coyotes and monkeys. The vegetation is very rich : Ferns, moss, bamboo, bushes etc. You will also go through fields of coffee and sugar cane. You got it, the fauna and flora are very various on the volcano.

Note that the volcano is located very closed to pre-colombians sites. Take the time to stop there for a while.

▷ Practical Information

The Park is never closed and accessing it will cost you $30 for the guide. You must take a ranger with you as the trails are not marked. As almost everywhere in the country the road to go there is not very good. It’s better to have an all-terrain car.

9. Las Catalinas McHenry

Closed to Santa Cruz, this small trail of 1.8 miles looks like a very nice and easy sunday walk. The path is well-marked with steps when necessary. Vegetation is made exclusively of wild flowers. This area is dry, there is no rainforest or big tropical trees. From the McHenry Summit, the view of Santa Cruz, the Pacific Coast and Guanacaste area is superb. 

Our piece of advice : The hike is wonderful and even more at the end of the day at Golden Hour. You need to bring a lot of water and cover your head.

10. Cloudbridge Reserve

Cloudbridge Reserve is avec small private natural Reserve right next to Count Chirripo. Just a few people know this reserve so… Hush!

About 20 years ago, a South-African couple went to Costa Rica for their vacation and were shocked by the deforestation in Cloudbridge. They bought the land and started to reforest the park, and it is a success ! Nowadays, they still manage the reserve helped by scientists and a few volunteers. The trails are marked and take you to beautiful waterfalls in the middle of palm trees and big bamboos.

Piece of information you will love : The entrance is completely free.

There are hundreds of hiking trail in Costa Rica and they are all amazing. We showed you the ones we love with different kind of landscapes and wildlife : Along the Ocean with the most beautiful beaches, rainforest, dyforest etc. You are going to find what you are looking for, that’s for sure. Anyway, going hiking is an essential thing to do in Costa Rica.