Costa Rica has long been known as a top-rated vacation destination for holidaymakers worldwide, and the reasons for it are plenty. This small and peaceful country in Central America only covers 51,100 square kilometers (19,700 square miles). It has a population of around five million inhabitants, but it packs a punch in terms of tourist attractions.
With its dramatic landscape comprising pristine sun-drenched beaches, clear turquoise waters, lava fields, stunning coastal routes and lush rainforests with rich flora and fauna, Costa Rica is as close as it gets to an exotic paradise. The Pura Vida lifestyle that Costa Ricans are known for, can be described as a slower, simpler, and more laid-back way of life. The fascinating local Tico culture also contributes to the irresistible appeal of the country.
All in all, there’s a lot to see and do in Costa Rica, whether you’re a tourist or a local. So, if you want to discover the best spots in Costa Rica and enjoy unforgettable experiences, this short guide is here to help you make the most of your tropical adventure.
Costa Rica is mostly coveted for its breathtaking natural sceneries and less for its urban developments. But it would be a shame not to get a taste of the local culture and take the pulse of the place in the nation’s capital, San Jose. The city usually serves as a starting point for tourist explorations. It can give travelers an insight into the country’s captivating culture and history.
There are many iconic places worth visiting in San Jose, such as the National Museum, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, and the Melico Salazar Theater. And since you find yourself in the heart of Costa Rica, you must definitely try their famed traditional dishes, gallo pinto – a mixture of rice, black beans, spices, and other ingredients – casado and tamal, and wash it all down with a bit of guaro, the national alcoholic drink.
You should also step beyond the city borders and learn about the famous Costa Rican coffee’s journey from seed to cup by visiting one of the many coffee plantations in the region. Don’t forget to purchase an international SIM card before you leave if you want to enjoy great internet connectivity without spending a fortune, especially if you plan to travel to other parts of the world as well.
A trip to Costa Rica wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the country’s most stunning natural attractions: the majestic Arenal Volcano. This means you should plan for a stop in the small town of La Fortuna. This serves as a gateway to the Arenal Volcano National Park, located in the northwestern part of Costa Rica.
The park actually boasts two volcanoes: Arenal – which is still active and therefore can’t be climbed. But there are hiking trails that will take you close enough to admire its magnificent beauty – and Chato, a dormant volcano with challenging rainforest trails that lead to the natural emerald-green pool formed in its crater and the equally impressive La Fortuna Waterfall.
Other activities that you can enjoy in the area surrounding La Fortuna include horseback riding, ziplining, mountain biking, as well as kayaking, and windsurfing on Lake Arenal.
Once a small and inconspicuous fishing village, Tamarindo is now a lively coastal town and the unofficial surf capital of Costa Rica, where tourists come to enjoy adventure water sports by day and the music and party spots at night.
Although surfing is the main attraction in the area, there are plenty of other things to keep you busy if you’re not into these kinds of activities or you prefer a more relaxed beach vacation. You can visit the Las Baulas National Marine Park, where you can spot leatherback turtles called Baulas if you’re lucky, or go on an ATV tour to explore all the natural wonders that this region has to offer.
Since Tamarindo is extremely popular with tourists, prices here can be more expensive than in the rest of the country. So we suggest you eat and drink like the locals and use an esim to save on travel expenses.
For those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy a more secluded natural retreat, Manuel Antonio Natural Park is the perfect vacation destination. In this relatively small area, you will find some of the most gorgeous beaches in Costa Rica. These include Escondido Beach, Manuel Antonio Beach, and Espadilla Surmeet, sided by the lush greenery of the tropical rainforest.
Various hiking trails traverse the park for every level which helps visitors discover its rich biodiversity. You might be able to spot green iguanas, squirrel monkeys, sloths, and many other wild animals in their natural habitat.
For a truly remote rainforest experience, you should head down to Osa Peninsula. It is the wildest and most isolated destination in Costa Rica, located on the southwestern Pacific edge of the country. Here, you can learn about the Tico culture and experience the rural life in the former gold mining villages, or visit Isla del Cano for marine life adventures.
The peninsula is also home to the Corcovado National Park, one of the top attractions in Costa Rica. It is famous for its varied tropical ecosystem with a high concentration of flora and fauna and an unspoiled natural environment. Traveling to a largely off-the-grid location requires proper preparation. So make sure you have adequate equipment and hiking essentials with you.
These places can make anyone fall in love with Costa Rica. But you can be sure there are many other great locations for you to discover in this beautiful tropical country. So, feel free to run in-depth research if you want to plan your next travel adventure in Costa Rica.