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13 Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica (Top Tourist Attractions)

Costa Rica is a country that is filled with lots of beautiful touristic places to explore. But there are so many great places to visit that it can get a bit confusing to choose from all of them. It is important to get as much info as you can to decide which are the best places to go in Costa Rica. The Republic of Costa Rica is a country in Central America, which is surrounded by Nicaragua in the north, Panama in the southeast, the Pacific Ocean in the west, the Caribbean Sea in the east, and Ecuador in the South. Because of the strict environmental policies of the government, Costa Rica has the highest population of plants and animals species on earth with 26 nature parks, 8 biological reserves, 32 protected zones, 11 forest reserves, 58 wildlife refuges, 15 wetlands in Costa Rica. No doubt you can find tons of places and natural wonders in Costa Rica.

Tons of people are doing Eco-tourism because the rich & diverse flora-fauna, beautiful beaches, volcanoes, and eco-friendly all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica are some of the major attraction which attracts a large number of tourists every year. Here is an overview of the best tourist attractions to visit in Costa Rica.

manuel antonio national park

Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica

Below is information about three of the favorite places to visit in Costa Rica among travelers and locals.

Tamarindo

Tamarindo is a town and district located on the Northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Year-round sunshine, scenic views, nature parks, beaches, a lovely atmosphere, and all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica makes it a popular place for family vacation and nature lovers.

The main attraction in Tamarindo is the long and rocky beach with excellent waves making it a perfect place for surfing, kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, and cruises. Tourists can also enjoy visiting “Marino Las Baulas National Park” which is a great place for hiking, bird watching, and wildlife adventure. Tamarindo is also an important sanctuary for nesting leatherback sea turtles. Other major attractions are sport fishing and golfing in Costa Rica.

Tamarindo boasts year-round sunshine, stunning views, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and it is also in close proximity to a number of popular national parks which makes it a very popular vacation destination in Costa Rica for those traveling with family and those looking to go on an Eco-adventure. Located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, Tamarindo is also one of the most developed and accessible beach towns in the area and has plenty of facilities for tourists.

places to visit in Costa Rica Beach Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Image Credits: Hqfrancis

San Jose

San Jose is the capital and the largest city of Costa Rica, located in the Central Valley surrounded by lush green valleys and mountains. San Jose is the seat of the national government, the center of political and economic activity, and the transportation hub of this Central American nation.

San Jose European Inspired Architecture and numerous cultural, musical, and artistic presentations and activities, which include traditional and modern Costa Rican and San José culture, are the main tourist attraction here. There are countless theaters, museums, parks, and zoos to visit here. Such as The National Theatre of Costa Rica, The Melico Salazar Theatre, The National Auditorium of The Children’s Museum of Costa Rica, The National Museum of Costa Rica, The Museum of Pre-Columbian Gold, The Museum of Costa Rican Art, The National Park, Morazán Park, La Sabana Metropolitan Park, Peace Park, and Simón Bolívar Zoo.

places to visit in Costa Rica - San Jose City in Costa Rica
Image Credits: Eric T Gunther

Chirripo National Park

Chirripo National Park is a national park of Costa Rica spanning over 3 provinces of San Jose, Limon and Cartago. It is established in 1975. It is named after Cerro Chirripó, the highest mountain in Costa Rica, which is also the main attraction among tourists who visit this national park. Summiting the peak starts with a hike starts with 16.5 kilometers from the town of San Gerardo de Rivas to the park ranger refuge, followed by 5 kilometers of walk to the peak.

The highest point in Costa Rica is found in Chirripo Nacional Park, called Cerro Chirripa. The great height of Cerro Chirripa relative to its surroundings is also evidenced by its particularly high topographic prominence of 3,727 m (12,228 ft), which makes it the 38th most prominent peak in the world (Source: Wikipedia). Another interesting point about this natural Costa Rican wonder is that light snow actually falls here from time to time!

places to visit in Costa Rica - Chirripó National Park
Image Credit: Peter Andersen

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park is a national park situated in the northwestern part of Costa Rica in Guanacaste Province. It encompasses the Rincón de la Vieja and Santa María volcanoes, as well as the dormant Cerro Von Seebach which are the main attractions here. This national park also has a variety of plants and Costa Rican wildlife making it one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

places to visit in Costa Rica
Image Credit: cyph3r

Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is a national park situated in the southwestern part of Costa Rica in Osa Peninsula. It is the largest national park in Costa Rica. National Geographic has called it “the most intense place on earth in terms of biodiversity”. Corcovado is not only famous amount ecologists, but also among tourists who wanted to experience an abundance of wildlife.

This national park is open to the public and can be visited in a day and overnight (under professional guide supervision). Tourists can easily witness scarlet macaws, spider monkeys, Central American squirrel monkeys, mantled howler monkeys, sloths, anteaters, pumas, white-faced Capuchin monkeys, woodpeckers, hermit crabs, and pelicans just to name a few.

places to visit in Costa Rica
Image Credits: José R.

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park is a national park situated in the northeastern part of Costa Rica in Limón Province. It is the third most visited national park in Costa Rica, despite its remote location. Airplane and boat is the only transportation option available to reach this park.

The park is famous for its large variety of biological diversity which includes 11 different habitats from rainforests, mangrove forests, swamps, beaches, and lagoons. Tortuguero 35 kilometers long beach serves as a breeding ground which is also the main attraction here. This park is also home to around 400 species of trees and 2200 species of plants and fauna species like sea turtles (hawksbill, loggerheads, green, and leatherbacks), bull shark, eel, and 30 species of freshwater fish.

Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica
Image Credits: KTWL

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is a small national park in the Central Pacific Conservation Area located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It is famous for its beautiful white-sand beaches, scenic great mountains, and forests that reaches the beaches. It also has large land and marine biodiversity. Because of this, the park attracts surfers, swimmers, birders, and eco-tourists.

Every year, around 150,000 tourists visit this national park. It is also listed by Forbes among the world’s 12 beautiful national parks.

Manuel Antonio is the right place to visit if you want adventure, sun, crystal clear waters, restaurants to satiate all palates, luxury hotels, spas, and relaxation. Manuel Antonio has something for everyone. Today, the docks in Quepos are used for the sport-fishing industry, which is one of the major attractions of this area, but in the 1800’s this land was filled with banana plantations and docks to ship bananas worldwide.

Top things to do in the region:

places to visit in Costa Rica
Image Credits: Jackhynes

The Gold Coast Beaches

Costa Rica is a country that has over 800 miles of coastline so it is hard to go wrong with beach locations. However, on the top of the list are the Gold Coast beaches in the Guanacaste area: Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Flamingo, Conchal, and Ocotal are some of the best choices for fun!

This is where some of the most stunning beaches in the country are located.

Costa Rica Caribbean Beaches

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano is an active andesitic stratovolcano located in the northwestern part of Costa Rica, around 90m km from San Jose. 7500 years old, 1633 meters high with a crater of 140 meters in diameter. Since December 2010, there is no explosion in the Arenal. The Arenal volcano is located in the center of the Arenal Volcano Nation Park which is the major attraction here; also the surroundings of Arenal are quite scenic and outstanding.

This is the perfect place to take pleasure in one of its many hot springs at the base of Arenal Volcano while delighting yourself with an amazing lava show almost every night. All of these of course at a safe distance. The natural beauty of the Arenal area is perfect for relaxation and enjoyment. You will find a ton of facts about Arenal Volcano in the northern region of Costa Rica, in the province of Guanacaste.

Here is where you will find the famous Arenal Volcano, one of the top 10 most active volcanoes in the world and of the top 5 most active volcanos in Costa Rica that rise 1,633 meters above sea level. This beautiful volcano is situated at the end of La Fortuna town. It has been active since 1968. You will also find in Arenal the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge. There are a lot of tours available in the area for adventurous travelers, some are canopy tours, hiking, naturally heated thermal springs, canyoneering, caving, and plenty of wildlife spotting.

Top things to do in the region:

  • Hiking around the volcano
  • Water sports on the lake
  • Hot springs and spas
  • Canopy tours
  • Hiking
  • Canyoneering

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Poas Volcano

If you don’t have a chance to visit Arenal, no worries. Less than 1 hour from San Jose City is another active volcano – Poas Volcano. What’s so cool about this place? For starters, you can walk up to the crater and look down on its boiling crater full of sulfur!

The hike is amazing and allows you to enjoy the local fauna, but the absolute best part of this adventure is seeing the turquoise lagoon that is in the middle of the volcano’s crater.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is located in central, Costa Rica. This forest reserve consists of 10,000 hectares of cloud forest, which is visited by 70,000 visitors every year. This forest reserve consists of 2,500 plant species, 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian, and amphibian species, and thousands of insects that have drawn scientists and tourists since. Apart from breathtaking wildlife spotting experiences, this forest reserve also offers zip-lining and canopy tours for tourists.

Monteverde is located in the Puntarenas province. Here you will be able to experience the rich biodiversity of the cloud forests, living museums, canopy tours, and Spanish schools. In Monteverde you will find more than 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds including 30 species of hummingbirds, 2500 species of plants, and over 500 species of orchids. If you want to see them you can visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve which is the largest privately-owned reserve or the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve.

Monteverde is the only place in Costa Rica where all the parks are privately endorsed and protected. This place is full of nature, education, and living museums such as butterfly gardens, frog ponds, and serpentaruims.

Top things to do in the region:

  • Canopy tours
  • Walking over huge hanging bridges
  • Bird watching
Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Image Credit: Haakon S. Krohn

Rio Celeste

Located in Tenorio Volcano National Park, this light blue river is surrounded by gorgeous rainforest, waterfalls, and natural hot springs. The amazing feature of Rio Celeste is its unique but natural light blue color. The sulfur emitted from the volcano combines with calcium carbonate to form the translucent light blue color, also making it one of Costa Rica’s natural wonders.

Cocos Island

As one of Costa Rica’s national parks, Cocos Island is extremely protected, and for a good reason. Its underwater climate is extremely wet, and when combined with its oceanic characters this island has characteristics that differ from any other island, including the Galapagos Archipelago.

Bonus fact: In the 1998 film Jurassic Par – Trespasser, the producers obtained special permission from the Costa Rican government to film most of the movie on Cocos Island. In 1997 Cocos Island was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO and it has also been named one of the world’s best scuba diving spots by PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). The island has over 235 known species of plants, almost 30% are endemic, it has over 400 known types of insects and over 90 known bird species. Its marine life is exquisite, with more than 30 species of coral, 600 species of mollusks, and over 300 species of fish. Other types of marine life include many types of sharks, stingrays, dolphins, humpback whales, pilot whales, and a few different types of endangered turtles.

Conclusion

Although when it comes to landmass Costa Rica is relatively small, it is one of the world’s largest natural playgrounds. Situated between the borders of Panama and Nicaragua, Costa Rica is home to the world’s largest density of fauna and flora and has a varied terrain of mountains, forests, volcanoes, valleys, beaches, rivers, and lakes. Although there is no one best place to visit in Costa Rica, some areas are much more popular than others when it comes to tourism, and it’s easy to see why this is the case. Although the areas listed above may not be the best areas in Costa Rica, they are definitely the most popular. If you’re planning on visiting Costa Rica on vacation, these are some of the areas that you may wish to consider visiting.

Now that you have all the info and know about the top places to visit in Costa Rica you can start planning where to stay and looking for fun activities in Costa Rica.

What are your favorite places to visit in Costa Rica?

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Top 3 Places To Visit In Costa Rica | Travel Experta

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