Costa Rica is one of the best places to visit in the whole world. What turns a trip to Costa Rica into a memory that makes all of us who visit it fall in love? The answer is a cocktail of nature, climate, and local character impossible to find anywhere else in the world. Selecting a few places is almost sacrilege because there are countless incredible places to see in Costa Rica. But, in this post, I am going to present my list of places that no one should miss on a trip to this little Central American paradise. A trip to Costa Rica Rich is pure life!
The “Tico” country is synonymous with nature. What for some countries could be a phrase without much more meaning, in the small Central American country it is a reality due it’s the country with the largest number of protected areas on the planet; representing 25% of the total surface of the country. It is estimated that there is at least 5% of the world’s biodiversity.
Costa Rica has 27 national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, and 15 protected wetlands among many other things. Altogether, more than 160 protected spaces that, along with its paradisiacal beaches in the two oceans that bathe it, or its volcanoes, make the country the result of an explosive mixture. So, if what you’re looking for is a trip, in which you would like to mix with nature, don’t hesitate, Costa Rica is probably one of the best destinations for it; and I propose these places that will make you fall in love with this small lung in the middle of America.
Tortuguero National Park
They say of him that he is the happiest town on the planet. This is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. Completely isolated, it is only accessed through the boats that leave from some of the ports that connect with the Tortuguero National Park. The most famous is possibly the La Pavona dock, as it is the closest to the capital, San José.
Its canals form a labyrinth that mixes with a dense jungle that shelters hundreds of incredible species. There it is easy to see alligators a few meters away, river turtles, sloths, and various types of monkeys, especially howlers and spiders.
Also, if you go during the season, you can witness the impressive spawning of turtles on its beaches. They come in groups of hundreds of specimens. With a little luck, it will allow you to see the leatherback turtle: the largest in the world. To speak of Tortuguero is to speak of some of the richest places in fauna and flora in the world; and that, I assure you, is saying a lot.
Manuel Antonio National Park
It is the ecotourism destination par excellence and the place where the most and most crowded visitors go. But, I must say that it compensates as soon as you set foot in the protected area of the Manuel Antonio National Park. It has paradisiacal beaches and trails.
The water is crystal clear and the sand is guarded behind it by dense vegetation, home to raccoons and several species of monkey; most of which are marmosets that will closely monitor your belongings and make them their own at the slightest carelessness. This is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most visited.
Arenal Volcano is among the best places to visit in Costa Rica
One of the places that amazed me the most since I saw it for the first time until we left it behind on the road. Seeing some lava flows from afar at night was an experience that I still remember with great emotion. It was the first time I saw lava! The volcano is still active, and its conical shape is almost perfect, fulfilling almost perfectly what one expects when going to see a volcano.
In the vicinity of the volcano, there are countless activities that you can do, from the canopy or hot springs to a visit to the beautiful La Fortuna waterfalls or some trekking. And if we talk about trekking in the area, the most famous is possibly the ascent to Cerro Chato; an intense climb that will take you to an impressive volcanic lake. Undoubtedly, it is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.
It is not as spectacular as the Arenal, but it allows you to climb to its crater, which emanates fumaroles from time to time, and reach the Laguna Botos. For the experience to be good, you only have to meet one condition: go early (the accesses open at 8 in the morning), since the fog covers it almost completely in the middle of the morning and only lets you see the lake in some of its parts.
The best thing about the Poás volcano is undoubtedly its views and the vegetation that surrounds the area, a picture that makes this national park, very close to San José and Alajuela, one of the most visited in the country.
Nature in its purest form. Monteverde is like going back to Eden. Its impressive cloud forest (don’t forget your raincoat!) offers the possibility of taking walks and discovering the flora and fauna of the place in a majestic natural environment.
This town makes the most of its leafy landscape, offering the traveler the possibility of walking through a network of suspension bridges over the green carpet that takes your breath away or jumping canopy on some of the longest and highest ropes in the world.
Monteverde is one of the best places to visit in if you are looking for entertainment par excellence in Costa Rica. And pay attention, with a bit of luck you will be able to hear or see a specimen of the elusive Quetzal, one of the most symbolic birds in Central America.
Cahuíta National Park
In the heart of the Caribbean and very close to the border with Panama, you will find this natural paradise with a Rastafarian air. Its beaches and vegetation are fascinating, and it is a perfect place (there are several in the country) to see sloths.
In addition, you can rent a bike and ride the road that goes along the coast and take a swim in paradisiacal beaches such as Playa Cocles (famous among surfers) or Playa Blanca and finish the route eating in the picturesque town of Manzanillo.
Puerto Viejo of Talamanca
This small town located between Cahuíta and Manzanillo fascinated me to the point that I decided to extend my stay there. Perhaps not everyone who came to it ended up equally amazed. After all, it is a small town, with unpaved streets and half dead during the day. But, which becomes active to the rhythm of reggae in their gambling dens as the hours go by.
That leisurely rhythm at which everything moves in Puerto Viejo took hold of me. Well, that and its dream beaches are bathed by the Caribbean and its wild nature.
Lose yourself on some of its beaches. Take a sit in a bar overlooking the ocean, and enjoy rice & beans with a good Imperial beer, ends up hooking anyone. And Puerto Viejo is Pura Vida!
Corcovado National Park
One of the places where it is more complicated to get to (and even more so in the rainy season) and that prevents many visitors to the country from overlooking it, but it is important to know that this reserve is the one with the most biodiversity on the entire planet (a 3% of the world’s biodiversity is concentrated here), even more than the Amazon itself.
Here you have countless trails to walk through a dense jungle accompanied by macaws that almost dye the sky red. But Corcovado is even more, and you can find kilometers of virgin beaches where the palm trees almost reach the shore and where it is possible (in season) to see whales, really close to the coast.
Another great attraction can be to go in search of wild animals as elusive as the puma, the jaguar, or the ocelot, which live in its jungle.
Did you know that Corcovado is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet?
More than 150 species of mammals live in this reserved space and among them, you can find felines such as the jaguar, the puma, and the ocelot.
San Jose and Alajuela among the best places to visit in Costa Rica
As it is usual to start and finish every trip to Costa Rica in these cities, you have to at least get something out of them.
It is evident that, if you have already traveled to other countries in the area, San José isn’t as attractive as it doesn’t have a colonial old town as others have; but, you can find some places here such as the Plaza de la Abolición del Ejército, or the Metropolitan Cathedral. Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have an army.
In Alajuela, the Central Park and the Agony Church offer a beautiful setting for those who are going to spend a few hours in the city. That’s why those cities are on the list of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.
Celeste River is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica
One of the places that, surprisingly, fewer people visit is the Celeste River, on the slopes of the Tenorio volcano. It’s a protected space through which you can walk following the course of the river with a turquoise color, so intense that it seems to be painted.
At some point along the way you will reach some impressive waterfalls in which, unfortunately, and although the heat suggests otherwise, bathing is prohibited. The color of the river is due to a type of mineral compound responsible for reflecting the blue tones of the sunlight that reaches the river.