11 Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica: Travel Guide 2022
Biodiverse and surrounded by beaches, Costa Rica must be one of the most adventurous places in the world. Spread across Central America, the country stretches from the aquamarine lagoons of the Caribbean Sea to the foaming waves of the Pacific Ocean. Read on to see my picks of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.
From tall volcanoes gushing through the clouds, primeval rainforests inhabited by howler monkeys and golden frogs, to roaring waterfalls that look like something out of Shangri La, there’s something for yogis, hikers, surfers, wildlife lovers, and more.
This guide to the 11 best places to visit in Costa Rica will only outline the surface of this fascinating nation. Jump from the lush cloud forests of Monteverde to the wave-showered shores of Guanacaste Province and join the bustling capital city of San José along with groups of long-lost islands that can only be reached by boat.
When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?
The Costa Rican season can be divided into two parts, the dry season and the rainy season. Both stations offer different kinds of fun when you are in Costa Rica. The months of May and June can be avoided because the sun’s rays become unpleasant in this part of the world.
Dry Season: The period between November and April can be considered the dry season of Costa Rica. This is when you can fully enjoy this place because the climate is not a bar, and the sun becomes pleasant during this phase.
Rainy season: Costa Rica has an incredible rainy season, it rains, but it never interrupts life for long. That is why during the rainy season you can enjoy this place considerably. The most important part of the deal is that you can get services at affordable prices during the rainy season.
11 Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica:
1. The Caribbean Coast
Costa Rica’s east coast is full of national parks, wildlife, and beautiful beaches. This side of the country is slightly less touristy and less developed than the Pacific coast.
For those who want to discover the natural world and see many wonderful animals while having the opportunity to sunbathe and dive in the ocean, the Caribbean coast is the perfect destination.
Tortuguero National Park, accessible only by boat or plane, is one of the best places to admire the natural beauty and see unique wildlife on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Here you can find many different species of animals while walking along beaches, rainforests, and mangroves. One of the most exciting things to see is the different species of sea turtles that nest on the beaches from February to October.
Another great place on the Caribbean coast is the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Nature Reserve. You will also find rainforests, beaches, mangroves and swamps, and many wildlife such as turtles, manatees, sloths, monkeys, dolphins, exotic birds, and more.
A final recommendation for animal lovers on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is the Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue Center in the province of Limón. Animals in mishaps are being phased out and brought in here for better life and health, so this is a moving project to look at.
In addition to national parks and wildlife refuges, the peaceful town of Puerto Viejo has plenty of hostels and fun events. It is a great place to meet fellow travelers and soak up the tranquil atmosphere of the Caribbean’s beachfront.
2. The Cloud Forests
The highlands of Costa Rica are dotted with cloud forests, areas of rich vegetation that are very humid and humid due to the constant cloud cover. Thick clouds somewhat mitigate warm tropical temperatures, and the humidity allows plants and animals to thrive.
Costa Rica has several cloud forests where travelers can go and explore biodiversity. Costa Rica’s most famous cloud forest is the Monteverde Rainforest. Visiting this part of the country is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica.
There are plenty of activities to do here, such as hiking, ziplining, and finding long suspension bridges with amazing views of the rainforest. There are also many small towns with eco-houses, museums, and restaurants for travelers in the area.
Other cloud forests in Costa Rica include Los Angeles Cloud Forest, Bajas del Toro Cloud Forest, and Central Highlands Cloud Forest. The latter houses the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, where you can admire the huge waterfalls and then visit the wildlife exhibition or the butterfly garden.
3. San José
San José is the capital of Costa Rica, located in the center of the country. San José Airport is the largest international airport in Costa Rica, so you will likely fly in and out of here.
Its convenient location makes it easy to go to the Caribbean coast, inland misty forests, or Pacific. If you’re more excited about the beaches, nature, and wildlife while in Costa Rica, there may not be much for you in San José, so you’d better leave town.
But for those who like history, art, museums, architecture, and learning about culture, San José is a great place to start your Costa Rica trip.
Start your time in San José as you walk down Avenida Central, the city center. This central area is full of shops, restaurants, bars, and museums and is filled with musicians and street vendors at night.
San José, Costa Rica, The to-do list includes the National Theater, Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, San José Central Market, the Gold Museum, the Jade Museum, and the National Museum.
In all these places you can discover knowledge about the local culture. From learning about the country’s history, artifacts, art, and architecture in museums, to tasting local food at Mercado Central, you won’t be bored even for a moment while exploring San José.
You can also go on a city tour, a beer tour, a food tour, or a day trip outside the city. So if you are a city lover, you will be fascinated by all the things to do in San José, Costa Rica.
4. The Arenal Volcano Area
In the central/northern zone of Costa Rica is the Arenal volcano, one of the most famous natural monuments in the country. Arenal volcano is active at 1,633 meters high but hasn’t erupted since 2010.
The area around Arenal Volcano is rich in natural beauty and full of fun things to do. La Fortuna is one of the most popular cities in the area, with a beautiful little church, central park, and plenty of dining and lodging options for travelers. A popular day trip from here is to visit the mighty waterfall, La Fortuna.
Lake Arenal is the largest lake in Costa Rica and is a great place for water sports such as fishing, canoeing, and swimming.
Other tourist attractions of Costa Rica in the Arenal volcano area are the Venado Caves, which contain limestone rock formations and tunnels that are about 20 million years old, and the Caño Negro National Nature Reserve, which has many swamps. And rivers full of local wildlife.
5. The Pacific Coast
If you ever ask other travelers where to stay in Costa Rica, they’ll likely say it’s the Pacific coast. This is where most of the best beaches are located and where surfers often flock.
Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is divided into three sections: the North Pacific, the Central Pacific, and the South Pacific. In the North Pacific, you’ll find the Guanacaste region. Liberia, the capital of the region, is a lovely city to visit.
Some of the best things to do in Liberia, Costa Rica are visiting La Agonía Church, the Central Market, Central Park, and the Guanacaste Museum. Outside of Liberia, you will find pristine beaches and lush national parks.
The central Pacific coast is also home to beaches and national parks. Visit Manuel Antonio National Park and Carara National Park to discover the rainforest and see interesting tropical nature. Monkeys, macaws, and sloths are common finds in this region.
Puntarenas Marine Park is an amazing place to see marine fauna such as sharks, rays, and exotic fish. Jaco is the most popular city to visit here where you can surf, play and enjoy the beach.
Costa Rica’s South Pacific coast is as beautiful as the rest but much less touristy. Visit Ojochal town to sample some spectacular local cuisine or head to the Terraba Sierpe wetlands to kayak and sightseeing.
There are many amazing nature reserves to see whales and dolphins, including Corcovado National Park, Isla Cano Biological Reserve, and Marino Ballena National Park.
6. Manuel Antonio National Park
If you are looking for what to do in Costa Rica, one of the best plans you can enjoy is visiting the Manuel Antonio, National Park.
Known for its biodiversity, with white sand beaches and incredible hikes through the jungle, It’s one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica for a reason: it’s an earthly paradise. Although Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the smallest in the country, nothing compares to the flora and fauna that inhabit it.
Keep your eyes peeled for sloths, monkeys, howl deer, and all kinds of reptiles walking through nature. To fully enjoy Manuel Antonio National Park, I recommend you participate in a guided tour that will take you to the best places and help you find all its native inhabitants more easily.
7. Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
One of 12 in the world, visiting the Monteverde Fog Forest is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.
The reserve, which covers more than 10,500 hectares, is full of local flora and fauna that change depending on the landscape and climate: there are four different zones throughout the reserve, each with its small ecosystem.
When it comes to exploration, there are various tours that visitors can hike to admire the natural beauty of the foggy forest, meaning you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see monkeys, birds, and all kinds of reptiles.
Remember to bring a waterproof jacket, and the weather can be pretty humid at any time of the year! Hiring a guide is also recommended if you want to see all the wildlife along the way.
8. The Beaches Of Nosara
One of the best ways to spend your vacation in Costa Rica is to go to the beach and surf with fellow travelers in Nosara.
The best thing about surfing in Nosarais is that the waves in places like Playa Guiones are suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers, meaning you don’t have to feel intimidated if you surf your first surfboard.
With clean waves on the left and right and waves all year round, Nosara is one of the best-hiking destinations in Costa Rica to enjoy perfect surfing conditions whatever the season.
In addition, Playa Guiones is also protected by the residents from any discharge of gray and black water, which makes the water extremely clean; And with no buildings in sight, surfing in Nosara is genuinely unique and natural.
9. The crocodiles of the Tárcoles River
San José and Jaco is a very prominent part of the Tárcoles River, which has become popular with locals who like to sunbathe along the coast.
One of the best things to do in Costa Rica, a quick stop at the bridge over the Tárcoles River is a must for any crocodile lover. Some of them lounged by the water, while others hover in secret, so these crocodiles have become one of the region’s most famous inhabitants.
When traveling from San José, it is best to look to the left of the bridge, so park your car and cross the road carefully. But whatever you do, make sure you don’t feed the crocodiles! Better to look afar and let them go about their business.
10. Poás Volcano National Park
One of the best tourist destinations in Costa Rica to visit in a day and easily accessible from San José, Poás Volcano National Park is one of the best national parks in Costa Rica to see if you are short on time or your Costa Rica vacation is about to end.
Home to the world’s most acidic crater lake, which gives the highly toxic water an unreal turquoise color, Poás Volcano National Park is perfect for travelers looking to spend time in nature away from the hustle and bustle of San José.
The park also houses the famous Poás volcano, one of the most visited in the country. Considered the giant active crater globally, the volcano is known among citizens and travelers who come to Costa Rica searching for biodiversity and impressive landscapes.
It is essential to note that tickets must be reserved in advance if you visit the park alone. Or, if you want to take the hassle out of the way, you can take a trip and let someone else handle the process for you.
Frequently Asked Questions: Places To Visit In Costa Rica
What is the most visited place in Costa Rica?
San José is the most popular destination in Costa Rica – More people are taking advantage of the international airport in Liberia and most people that arrive in San José don’t stick around too long but it still gets more visitors than any other place in Costa Rica.
Is Costa Rica expensive or cheap?
Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful and naturally-diverse countries in Central America. Unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive. Due to its natural beautiful, amazing outdoor activities, safety, friendly locals, and well-established expat community, prices in Costa Rica have been rising higher year after year.
Where is Rio Celeste Waterfall located?
Located in the northern lowlands of the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica, Tenorio Volcano National Park is known for Tenorio Volcano, natural hot springs, hiking trails, wildlife, and most notably, Rio Celeste Waterfall.
When should I visit Costa Rica?
The best time to visit Costa Rica is from mid-December to April (the dry season). This peak tourist season boasts plenty of sunshine making it an ideal time for exploring rainforests and lounging on beaches. That said, the dry season is the most popular (and expensive) time to visit.
Do Costa Ricans like tourists?
Since tourism is such an important part of the country’s economy, many Costa Ricans are very hospitable. Ticos are also extremely polite, and will often go to great lengths to avoid directly saying no to people, which can be a little confusing for some tourists!
What Costa Rica is known for?
Costa Rica is known for its incredible national parks, where tourists can enjoy some thrilling activities like river rafting, canyoning, cave tubing, and zip lining. It’s also one of the best places for animal lovers to discover some interesting wildlife like macaws, sea turtles, and adorable sloths.
Is English spoken in Costa Rica?
Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica: it’s also the most widely spoken language throughout the country. Other languages spoken are English, Creole, and some Indian languages.
Can you drink the water in Costa Rica?
Tap water in Costa Rica is generally clean and safe to drink. In some areas of the country, though, mainly on the Caribbean side and in non-touristy pockets around the country, it’s best to stick to bottled water. If you have any doubt, bottled water is widely available to purchase.
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