The Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica

Explore the Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica

Please note these destinations cannot be pigeonholed as good for only one type of vacation, since all types of travelers will be able to find something for them at each location. Contact us to help you narrow down which places are best for you and build your ideal Costa Rica Vacation package.

Arenal Volcano: Adventure Capital

Commonly known as the adventure capital of the country, the Arenal area has some of the most adrenaline-inducing activities you can try.  Some always-popular options include zip lining, rappelling, and white water rafting, but there are other adventures you may not have heard of. Arenal is the place to push the limits! After all that excitement, there’s nothing like bathing in natural, volcanic hot springs to ease those sore muscles. Many Arenal area hotels have their own on-site thermal hot springs to make it easy to relax and enjoy those healing waters.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Hidden beach at the Manuel Antonio National Rainforest Shoreline
Manuel Antonio is a wonderful destination. With tons of beach and rainforest activities while being surrounded by so much nature, there's so much to see and do here.  Visitors will love discovering and learning about the rainforest. You’ll spot wildlife everywhere, from inside the national park and the beaches to poolside and your own hotel room. 

Tamarindo Beach: Surf & Sunsets

Tamarindo is a beach hot spot with much to offer. The area is Costa Rica's surf capital, and catching waves - or learning how to catch waves -  is at the top of most people’s agendas. But Tamarindo offers much more than just world-class surfing. Kayaking, sailing, rafting, diving, snorkeling, and fishing round out the water sports. Ashore you have ATV tours, horseback riding, zip lining, and more.
Whatever you're doing, you can reflect on your adventure-filled day with a cocktail as you watch the sun go down over the ocean. Oh yes - save some energy for the nightlife. Tamarindo is one location that doesn’t quit!

Monteverde: A Birdwatching Paradise

Fog coming through the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica
Monteverde is a mystical-feeling place. Located in the cloud forest, the home of eco-tourism in Costa Rica will leave you filled with wonder. Nature lovers will be in paradise in Monteverde as the region has the highest number of orchids in the world, and is a stop for many migratory birds. Families will love visiting the Frog Pond and Butterfly Garden. Guided hikes through the cloud forests will amaze you, and there are also hanging bridges, zip line tours, and horseback riding to enjoy.  

Conchal Beach: Shell Beach

Ocean meeting the shoreline at the Conchal white sand beach
Conchal Beach (Playa Conchal) is one of the most unique beaches in Costa Rica. Here the crystal-clear blue water is calm, and kids and adults alike will love picking through all the shells that make up the white “sand” that give the beach its name. For luxury accommodations, no one can compare to the all-inclusive Westin at Playa Conchal. Just steps from the beach, no-one does all-inclusive luxury like this place. With on-site amenities, entertainment, and plenty to see and do nearby, this is the one and only stop for many travelers.

Gulf of Papagayo: Calm Waters

Most all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica are located around Papagayo, making it a top luxury beach destination. While more budget-friendly accommodations can be found, there's something attractive about being pampered with five-star amenities while surrounded by beautiful beaches. With calm waters and a laundry list of activities available, this area is ideal for water sports, swimming, and a general good time.

Jaco Beach: Surf & Sport Fishing Hotspot

Jaco Beach (Playa Jaco) is one of the easiest beaches to access from San Jose and the Central Valley, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Famous for great waves, it’s a funky surf town with plenty of ex-pats, eateries, and  nightlife. With attractions like the Carara National Park nearby, there's more to Jaco than meets the eye.

The Nicoya Peninsula: Surf & Yoga

Nicoya offers a laid-back vibe, great surf, and a range of accommodation types from camping to luxury. Beach communities like Santa Teresa and Nosara dot the coastline and are a hub for yogis, surfers, and backpackers. Don’t let the relaxed facade deceive you – there's plenty to do and explore if you’re looking.

Tortuguero: A Wildlife Wonder

Tortuguero is a unique and special part of Costa Rica that not all tourists get the chance to visit. Just getting there is an adventure in itself. As you wind through natural canals on the way there, you'll likely see some of the many animals that call the area home. 
It doesn’t end there, though. With turtle nesting, jungle tours, hiking, and more, the opportunities for enjoying nature go on and on.

Coco Beach: Beaches & Nightlife

Conveniently located just a short 30-minute drive from Guanacaste International Airport in Liberia, Coco Beach—(Playas del Coco) is a funky beach town with a lot of spirit. It’s well known for its nightlife with bars and restaurants that open late. While the beach itself may not be the most impressive, the sunsets are breathtaking, and this area is great for exploring the many surrounding picturesque beaches.

Puerto Viejo: Laid-Back Vibe

They say time moves slower in Puerto Viejo. It’s something about the Caribbean breeze and laid-back vibe that makes even the most stressed traveler slow down and chill out. Puerto Viejo is also home to some of the best surfing in Costa Rica, and some great restaurants as well.

Drake Bay: Most Biodiverse

The remote Osa Peninsula is home to some 5% of the world’s biodiversity so there is a lot to see here, including the famous Corcovado National Park. Most hotels offer guided national park tours to give you the best chance of spotting animals. This is also a great jumping-off point for scuba diving at Caño Island. Flying into Drake Bay is the easiest way to get here.

Rincon de la Vieja: Country Living

Rincon de la Vieja in Guanacaste offers outstanding natural adventures like hiking through the tropical dry forests and experiencing active volcanoes, as well as wellness-oriented mud baths. It also provides insight into the “real” Costa Rica, a rural Costa Rica of agriculture and cattle ranches. Ride with real Costa Rican cowboys and experience the authentic countryside of this country.

San Jose: Culture Capital

San Jose is often skipped over as visitors rush to get to more nature-oriented destinations. Those looking for a vibrant city experience, however, can enjoy museums, theaters, and great dining if they stick around for a while.  

Related Pages: Learn More about Costa Rica

FAQs about the Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica

Where is the best place to visit in Costa Rica for the first time?

It depends on your interests, but we recommend at least two locations: one in the mountains and another at the beach. Arenal Volcano and Manuel Antonio or Arenal Volcano and Guanacaste are our two most popular combos for first-timers. 

What are the best hotels in Costa Rica?

Our stance is that the best hotel is always the hotel that's best for you, specifically. Cookie-cutter answers are never going to work for everyone. There are many world-class hotels in the country to suit every kind of traveler, you can check them out here

What is Costa Rica best known for?

Coffee, nature, and friendliness. Costa Rica is known as a very welcoming country with astonishing sights and some of the best coffee in the world. 
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