If you are in search of a tropical paradise with palm-fringed white sand beaches, lush rainforests, biodiverse wildlife, stunning landscapes, and a scintillating culture for your next vacation, look no further because Costa Rica is the perfect haven for you.
Despite its tiny land area, Costa Rica—which literally translates to “rich coast”— is indeed the land of plenty. It boasts extensive coastlines along the Caribbean and Pacific. It also has plenty of world-class beaches, and it is home to some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth. In fact, it is estimated that about five percent of the world’s species are found in Costa Rica. Hence, you do not need to be lucky to encounter wildlife here. You can even hike active volcanoes, zip line through the dense rainforests, and surf in its clear turquoise waters.
So, if you are a nature lover, avid beachgoer, or keen wildlife watcher, you will never regret booking tours to Costa Rica because it offers diverse experiences for all kinds of travelers. Here are the top destinations in Costa Rica that you must visit at all costs!
Most of the jewels of the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica can be found in the Guanacaste province. With a land area of about 6,000 square miles (or 10,000 sq km), Guanacaste occupies the northwest, spanning from the cloud-laden volcanoes of the Cordillera de Tilaran up to the Nicaragua border.
Guanacaste is among the top tourist destinations in Costa Rica—and for a good reason. For one, it has phenomenal surfing spots, such as Playa Caletas and Tamarindo—the capital of Pacific-coast surfing destination in Costa Rica—which offer year-round waves and breaks suitable for surfers of all levels. Not to mention, this is also where you will find the jaw-dropping forests of the Nicoya Peninsula with its magnificent waterfalls. Tourists will also find solace and relaxation in the beach of Samara with its boho vibes.
If you want to take a break from surfing, you can visit Diria National Park, a medium-elevation forest park where you can hike to get a glimpse of cuckoos and howler monkeys. There’s also the Santa Rosa National Park, filled with tropical oak forests. Meanwhile, if you’d like to snorkel, the Islas Murcielago is the best diving spot there is. Just beware of the lurking bull sharks in the area.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
If you don’t have much time to spend and can only make a quick day trip, make sure you spare two hours of your time and spend it at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This fairytale-like sanctuary is just an hour’s drive from San Jose. It features plenty of stunningly scenic waterfalls scattered around its lush cloud forest.
True to its moniker, there are also several beautiful gardens here, including an aviary, a ranarium (frog garden), a butterfly garden, a hummingbird garden, and even a reptile area. The admission ticket costs $50 for day trips. But if you would like to avail a full-day tour of all the Waterfall Gardens, including a visit to its coffee plantation and Poás Volcano, the ticket would cost around $159.
They also offer overnight accommodations wherein you’ll get to stay at their luxurious villas boasting majestic valley views, cackling fireplaces, private decks fitted with Jacuzzis, and spacious bathrooms with waterfall overhead showers.
From 1968, Volcán Arenal was an active volcano spewing ash columns, massive explosions, and glowing molten rocks almost daily, up until 2010, when it entered its dormancy. As of today, the fiery night views can be seen no more, but the perfect cone-shaped Arenal Volcano remains to be a noteworthy destination.
Visitors can look around the Area de Conservación Arenal, a park beloved for its rugged and varied terrain overlooking a stunning lake view, with no more than 15km of well-marked trails following the route where the lava from the volcano used to flow. Aside from seeing scenic views, hiking the Arenal 1968 Trail will also lead you to chance encounters with coatis, sloths, howler monkeys, white-faced capuchins, and even anteaters. And when you finally get tired of hiking and trekking, you can go to the famous Tabacon Hot Springs, which is just the perfect place to soothe your tired muscles after hiking the Arenal trails.
After all, there is no better way to pamper yourself other than soaking in its geothermally warmed waterfall pools.
There is no better place to find serenity and tranquility other than Costa Rica’s lush cloud forests. An example of this is Monteverde, which is home to about 2.5% of the world’s entire wildlife biodiversity. You can explore Monteverde by traversing its skywalks, taking a sky tram, or zip lining above the canopy of its trees.
There is plenty of unique wildlife to see here, including the ever-elusive three-wattled bellbird and the resplendent quetzal, which is best described as the iridescent green-and-gold-coated national bird sashaying around with its elegant plume of tail feathers. For an even more exciting experience, join in on night hikes for you to see the nocturnal animals emerge from their slumber.
Aside from wildlife, the plant species in this bioreserve are also noteworthy. Hiking its trails will reward you with a close-up view of towering strangler trees and orchid species that are straight-up otherworldly beautiful.
Costa Rica has plenty of National Parks you can visit to get a glimpse of wildlife in their natural habitats. If you would like to see some sloths, head over to the Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific Coast. If you are interested in seeing jaguars and toucans, the Corcovado National Park on the southern Osa Peninsula is your best bet. And if you want to see a whole array of animals you can’t see elsewhere, head over to the famed Tortuguero National Park, which earned the monicker “Little Amazon of Costa Rica,” given the abundance of different species here, including 442 species of birds, 38 mammals, and 118 reptiles.
Interestingly, they have green, leatherback, and hawksbill turtles here, and if you would like to see them nesting and hatching on black-sand beaches, be sure to visit around May to September.