Costa Rica is a wonderland of natural attractions, with volcanoes, beaches, cloud forests, and unique wildlife. This is a country that appeals as much to bird-watchers and luxury travelers as it does to surfers and backpackers.
Endless stretches of beach line the Pacific Coast, with small towns that cater to surfers and sun seekers. Inland, the forest-covered mountains offer their own adventures, from volcanoes and waterfalls to ziplining and extraordinary wildlife viewing. For something completely different, check out the Caribbean coast with its calm waters, abundant wildlife, and different cultural vibe.
1. Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio Park and the surrounding area are known for beautiful beaches, lush forest, and diverse wildlife that inhabits the area.
As soon as you venture into the park, you will have no trouble finding iridescent butterflies and colorful birds flitting about. Howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, sloths, and the hard-to-miss capuchins can be seen from the trails. For a more in-depth experience consider joining a Manuel Antonio Park Nature Guided Tour. Guides often know exactly where the animals are and carry tripods and telescopes, ideal for viewing and photography.
2. Arenal Volcano (Volcan Arenal)
The Arenal Volcano National Park, found in the rugged Cordillera de Tilarán, is one of the top volcano viewing areas in the country. The main attraction here is the Arenal Volcano, a cone-shaped mountain with huge ash columns frequently streaming from the crater.
The volcano is in a dormant state right now. But, it is still recognized as a potentially active volcano. Guides are available though out the park and many visit the top of the volcano for it's spectacular views.
3. Monteverde and the Cloud Forests
The Cloud Forests near Monteverde and Santa Elena are some of the best places to visit in Costa Rica for ecotourism. If you are itching to immerse yourself in nature and see unique plants and wildlife without venturing too far off the beaten path, this is definitely the place to come.
The clouds covering these forests provide the moisture necessary to sustain the area's unique habitats. While many people come simply for the bird watching, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve sustain various mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Keep an eye out for colorful frogs and howling monkeys. Jaguars and pumas are more elusive. Organized hikes are one of the best ways to see the forest.
Dominical is a tropical backpacker's haven, with dirt streets, beautiful beaches, cheap accommodation, casual open-air restaurants, and a great vibe. Domincal is one of the best places in Costa Rica for surfing. Surfers who come here find it hard to leave, and visits often turn into extended stays.
Dominical also attracts an upper-end crowd who can find small luxury inns and bed and breakfasts on the outskirts or in the hills overlooking the town. These places are often set off on their own and allow for close-up wildlife viewing, with howler monkeys waking guests in the morning and toucans flying by the pool.
Tamarindo is a town in the Guanacaste Province, on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. It’s known for beaches with strong surf, like Playa Tamarindo and Playa Langosta. To the north, Playa Grande beach is a major nesting site for huge leatherback turtles, and forms part of Las Baulas National Marine Park. The mangrove-lined estuary of Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge protects animals such as howler monkeys and crocodiles.
6. Mal Pais and Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is a small town in Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica. It is located about 150 kilometres west of the capital city of San José. Like other coastal villages on the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa started as a remote fishing village, relying on agriculture, cattle ranching and small-scale fishing.
Jacó is a town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, southwest of the capital city, San José. It's known for its surf beaches and nightlife, and as a gateway to national parks. Rocky, gray-sand Jacó Beach is west of town. Southeast, Hermosa Beach has big waves. To the north, Carara National Park has crocodiles at Tárcoles River and scarlet macaws. A path through rainforest in Pura Vida park leads to Bijagual Waterfall.
8. Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero is a village in Limón Province, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Part of Tortuguero National Park, it’s on a rainforest-covered sandbar whose beaches are a major nesting site for green turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy runs a research station and visitor center, with turtle-related exhibits. The park’s freshwater canals, wetlands and forests shelter wildlife like jaguars, tapirs and manatees.
9. Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park is a reserve on southwest Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula that protects varied tropical ecosystems. Considered one of the world's most biodiverse regions, its wildlife includes scarlet macaws, tapirs, jaguars and squirrel monkeys. Hiking trails follow coastal and inland routes through habitats ranging from Pacific beaches and mangrove swamps to lowland and montane rainforests.
10. The National Theater in San Jose
The National Theatre of Costa Rica is Costa Rica's national theatre, located in the central section of San José. Construction began in 1891, and it opened to the public on 21 October 1897 with a performance of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust.
11. Irazu Volcano National Park
Irazú Volcano National Park, or in Spanish the Parque Nacional Volcán Irazú, is a National Park in the Central Conservation Area of Costa Rica that encompasses the area around the Irazú Volcano in Cartago Province which incorporates what used to be the Ruben Torres Rojas Forest Reserve now called the Prusia Forest Reserve. The volcano is still active although the last major eruptions were between 1963 and 1965, with occasional minor eruptions and some small lava flows since that time.
The park is the site of a reforestation project to restore the area which was destroyed by the eruptions. The forest is made up of conifers and other exotic and native species and also a native forest consisting mainly of oaks and alder, protecting the watershed of the Reventado River.
12. Braulio Carrillo National Park
Braulio Carrillo National Park is a National Park in Heredia Province and San José Province, in central Costa Rica It is part of the Central Conservation Area.
The park is located on the volcanic Cordillera Central (Central mountain range) between San José city and Puerto Limón on the Caribbean.It is accessible from the Limon Highway, which bisects the park (northwest to southeast), and from Barva canton on the north.The park is separated into three main sectors — Zurquí, Quebrada Gonzales, and Barva.
13. Rincón de la Vieja National Park
Ecological diversity abounds at Rincón de la Vieja National Park, one of the parks in the Guanacaste Conservation Area.This park is a must-visit destination when you are in the Guanacaste Province.
At over 34,000 acres, Rincón de la Vieja has room for two volcanoes, 32 rivers and streams, and an incredible variety of flora and fauna.
When it comes to wildlife in Costa Rica, in the jungles or at the beach, you'll see tons of monkeys, sea turtles, the ever-present coatimundi (raccoon), humpback whales off the coast, colorful Scarlet Macaws in the almond trees, feathered friends of all kinds, and if you're lucky — you might even spot a puma or margay on the trail.
15. Vistas del Lago
Vistas del Lago is an exceptional property designed for people who want to escape to a higher level of peaceful living - the "pure life", on one of nature's most pristine lakes. Designed to be a safe, happy, healthy community, Vistas del Lago has a clubhouse like no other on the lake. Be as involved as you like in community social events or play a part in our growing effort towards Organic farming and healthy living.