16 Amazing Places to Visit in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is renowned as being one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, with dense rainforests, towering waterfalls, steaming volcanoes, and pristine beaches. But with so many amazing spots to explore within its 19,700 square mile footprint, it’s hard to know where to spend your precious time in this lush paradise.

But fear not—whether you’re hoping to unplug and soak up the sun on a remote beach or partake in the country’s famed adrenaline-pumping activities, we’ve rounded up 16 incredible places to visit in Costa Rica so that you can plan your perfect tropical getaway. 

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Woman looking at Rio Celeste Falls in Costa Rica
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Places to Visit in Central Costa Rica

1. La Fortuna

One of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica is La Fortuna—and it’s no wonder why! Located in the country’s Central Valley,  this area offers steamy hot springs, lush rainforests, and plentiful waterfalls—and did I mention that the town is sitting in the shadow of an enormous volcano (don’t worry, guys, it’s dormant!)? 

One of the best things to do in La Fortuna is to chase all of the waterfalls in the surrounding area. If you stay in the town of La Fortuna, you can actually walk to La Fortuna Waterfall, a 246 foot cascade that dramatically plunges into a turquoise pool below. Alternatively, consider taking a day trip from La Fortuna to check out some other beautiful cascades. For example, Rio Celeste is arguably one of the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, with an eye-poppingly electric blue water that pours down a lush cliffside in the middle of the jungle. 

Couple holding hands in front of La Fortuna Waterfall in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

If you, instead, want to get up close and personal with the Arenal Volcano, there’s two parks that you can choose from—the Arenal Volcano National Park or Arenal 1968, a private ecological reserve. Both of these parks have hiking trails that wind through the lush rainforest (keep your eyes peeled for sloths!) and offer stellar vistas of the volcano, towering 5,000 feet overhead. 

After all that hiking and outdoor adventure, make sure to carve out time to enjoy some of La Fortuna’s geothermally heated hot springs. These can totally run the gamut in terms of experience, from a laidback (and totally free!) hot spring that’s frequented by locals, which you can find right outside the (very not free) Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa, to the extremely luxurious (and pricey!) hot springs at The Springs Resort and Spa. Regardless of which ones you choose, it’s hard to go wrong while relaxing in steamy water as howler monkeys swing through the trees overhead.

Woman walking down stairs to a waterfall hot spring in Ecotermales Hot Spring in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

How to get to La Fortuna

You can fly into the capital city of San Jose, which offers the largest and busiest airport in the country, and then drive a rental car or take a private shuttle or shared van three hours northwest. Alternatively, fly into Liberia and drive a rental car or take a private shuttle or shared van two and a half hours east.

Where to stay in La Fortuna

Hotel El Silencio del Campo offers many of the amenities of a resort, like onsite hot springs and a spa, but with a lot more charm. Guests actually stay in their very own bungalows, sitting right in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano.

Couple holding hands in front of the Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

When to visit La Fortuna

The best time to visit La Fortuna is during its dry season, from November through April.

2. Bajos del Toro

If you’re looking to get off the beaten path and experience some of the country’s famous natural beauty without the crowds of La Fortuna, one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica is Bajos del Toro!

Sitting in a cloud forest that’s nestled between two volcanoes, this region in the highlands north of San Jose is a waterfall wonderland. 

Blue Falls in Catarata del Toro in Costa Rica

This area is a favorite with Tico (Costa Rican) travelers, but is still relatively unknown by international visitors. That means you might have a waterfall all to yourself, which is totally unheard of in most of the more touristy areas of the country.

While the village has a blink-and-you-miss-it downtown to explore, the main attraction here is, of course, its waterfalls. In fact, you could spend a week here visiting a different one each day and still not see them all. 

That being said, there are a couple you shouldn’t miss!

Woman standing in front of Catarata del Toro in Bajos del Toro in Costa Rica

Catarata del Toro is the most well-known waterfall, with water pouring over 300 feet down the side of a vibrantly colored cliff. The waterfall is located in a lush bowl that’s been carved over centuries into the volcanic rock and is surrounded by impossibly green ENORMOUS ferns—it seriously looks like something straight out of Jurassic Park!

While you unfortunately can’t swim in Catarata del Toro due to its strong currents, the ecological park that it’s located in has even more stunning waterfalls to explore, including the Blue Falls of Costa Rica. This series of waterfalls has a stunning Gatorade blue color and is an excellent place to spot hummingbirds. 

Woman standing in turquoise water in Blue Falls in Costa Rica

If you’re up for a challenge, take on the hike to Catarata Vuelta del Cañon, a two-tier waterfall that drops dramatically into a canyon. The epic views are totally worth the hike—plus you can reward yourself with a chilly dip in its plunge pool! 

One important thing to note is that Bajos del Toro is a teeny town, surrounded by farmland and with extremely limited tourist infrastructure. This is the perfect place to go if you’re looking to disconnect and see a more authentic Costa Rican town—but it’s decidedly not a good place if you’re hoping to find nightlife or a plethora of dining options.

Pink tropical flower in Costa Rica

How to get to Bajos del Toro

The town is an hour and 45 minutes north of San Jose. Unfortunately, there’s limited options of how to get to and around this remote town without your own rental car (see, we told you it was off-the-beaten-path!). 

Where to stay at Bajos del Toro

The Blue Morpho Lodge offers simple, yet comfortable lodging, with an onsite restaurant that dishes up traditional Costa Rican food. Alternatively, if you prefer more luxurious accommodations, El Silencio Lodge & Spa is located on its own 500 acre nature reserve, has a bougie spa, and onsite fine dining restaurant. 

Best time to visit Bajos del Toro

It’s best to visit during the dry season (December to April)—not only is the weather nicer, but the waterfalls can become dangerously strong and lose their beautiful blue colors during rainy periods.

Recommended by Sally of Sally Sees

3. Monte Verde

Monte Verde, located in the central part of Costa Rica, is known for its cloud forests and unique mountainous environment. In fact, don’t be surprised by the daytime temperatures here, which are refreshingly lower compared with the coastal and lowlands sections of the country.

Travelers have plenty of options of how to explore Monte Verde’s incredibly lush landscape. 

Woman ziplining  at 100% Aventura in Monteverde

For example, adventurous visitors can head to any number of adventure parks—although 100% Aventura reigns supreme in the area. This park not only boasts the highest AND longest zipline (over 1.5 km!!) in Central America, but also offers other activities, including a giant “tarzan swing”, where you’ll drop from almost 150 feet in the air. If you’re not quite that adventurous, there’s tamer activities, like lower zip lines and a suspension bridge, where you can still get a unique perspective of the cloud forest.

If you’re more interested in seeing wildlife than getting your heart racing, join a wildlife tour to see some of the country’s famed biodiversity. For example, during the day, join a bird-watching tour, where you can spot over 400(!!) species of tropical birds or a night tour, which is actually the best time to spot some of Costa Rica’s most beloved residents, like sloths and howler monkeys. 

Tropical bird sitting on a branch in Costa Rica

If you need some extra pep in your step after that night tour, there’s several coffee plantations in the area where you can see how coffee is made—and of course, taste some for yourself. For example, if you join a Don Juan tour, you’ll be able to enjoy unlimited coffee tastings—plus chocolate tastings as well! Coffee enthusiasts, rejoice!

How to get to Monteverde

Fly into San Jose and drive a rental car or take a private shuttle or shared van to Monteverde three hours northwest. Alternatively, you can fly into Liberia and take a rental car or a shared shuttle for a little over two hours southeast.

Pssst…. if you drive yourself, be sure to take Route 606, which is completely paved all the way to the main town in the area, whereas some of the other routes can be extremely muddy, pothole-y messes.

Where to stay at Monte Verde

Stay at Selina Monteverde, which has a variety of room choices, from dorm rooms to suites; a buzzing environment with karaoke nights and a lively hot tub; and beautiful views of the surrounding jungle. 

Woman standing on a suspension bridge at Mistico Hanging Bridges in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Best time to visit Monte Verde

If you want to maximize your time enjoying outdoor adventures, head here during the dry season, between December and March.

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Places to Visit Along the Pacific Coastline in Costa Rica

4. Santa Teresa 

One of the best places to visit in Costa Rica for a secluded beach getaway is Santa Teresa, a remote destination along the Pacific coastline on the Nicoya Peninsula. 

This tiny beach town is known for its relaxed tropical vibes and friendly locals. In fact, Santa Teresa is actually considered one of the Blue Zones on the planet, which are identified due to its residents having unusually long life spans. A lot of this is attributed to Santa Teresa’s laidback lifestyle, fresh food, and emphasis on community.

Palm trees on a beach at sunset in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

One of the most popular things to do in Santa Teresa is go surfing. If you’re a beginner, there’s plenty of surf shops that offer lessons, like this option, or, if you’ve dipped your toes (quite literally!) into surfing before, you can try out the gentle waves at Playa Hermosa or Playa Santa Teresa yourself. Alternatively, if you’re a more experienced surfer, head to the bigger swells at Playa Hermosa Point or Playa Carmen. 

Of course, if you’re not into surfing, you can still soak up the sun or swim at these laid back beaches. If you want to make a whole day of it, Playa Santa Teresa has tons of beach bars and restaurants where you can grab some food or cervezas when the mood strikes. 

For more active adventures, head to the nearby Tortugas Island, like on this tour or this tour (which also stops at an island full of monkeys!). This remote island is only accessible by boat and is known for its soft white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and excellent snorkeling opportunities. Alternatively, if you’re looking to see wildlife on land, consider going on a hike in the nearby Cabo Blanco National Park. 

Macaw sitting on a palm tree in Tortugas Island in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

The Nicoya Peninsula is regarded as one of the best spots in the country to see a unique natural phenomena, bioluminescence, when a specific type of plankton emits a blue light at night when agitated. There’s several tours where you can head out and see this incredible natural occurrence, like this kayaking option or this boating option, with your very own eyes.

Recently, the Santa Teresa area has been going through revitalization, with more modern infrastructure, like paved roads, making its way to the town. So try to visit this town sooner versus later, before the increased accessibility blows up this underrated gem!

How to get to Santa Teresa

From San Jose International Airport, it’s about an hour and a half drive west, followed by an hour and a half long ferry ride, followed by another hour and half drive to Santa Teresa. Alternatively, you can grab a shuttle or a shared van from San Jose. 

From Liberia, it’s about a four hour drive south, whether you take a rental car, shuttle or shared van

Beach at sunset in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Where to stay in Santa Teresa

Hotel Nantipa is the perfect accommodations, with a convenient location near the heart of Santa Teresa and all of the bougie comforts of a beachfront eco-luxury stay. If you’d prefer to be more offgrid, check out Lua Villas, which has beach access, a stunning pool and hot tub, and its very own yoga deck.

When to visit Santa Teresa

The best time to visit Santa Teresa is in mid-July. While this is technically the rainy season, the weather is usually clear during this period of time. Plus, given that this is technically Costa Rica’s low tourism season, you’ll have an excellent chance of scoring a great deal on airfare and hotels AND you’ll get to enjoy the biggest swells if you’re a surfer. 

Recommended by Sarah of Costa Rica Vibes 

5. Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio, a small fishing village along the Pacific coastline, offers some of the best beaches in Costa Rica, dense rainforests, and endless wildlife spotting opportunities.

Capuchin monkeys in Manuel Antonio National Park in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

One of the most popular things to do in Manuel Antonio is visit its namesake national park. While it’s actually Costa Rica’s smallest national park, it’s still absolutely bursting with flora and fauna—in fact, over 350 species of birds and over 100 species of mammals live within its footprint. There’s plenty of trails that snake through the park’s jungles, which you can either hike yourself or join a guided Manuel Antonio tour, where a knowledgeable guide will help you spot wildlife in the impossibly dense canopy above you. 

Additionally, there’s several beautiful beaches in Manuel Antonio, both within and outside the national park’s boundaries. The most popular one is Playa Espadilla Norte, a long stretch of sugary white sand, surrounded by tall, floofy palm trees. There’s a ton of activities that you can choose from here, like surf lessons, riding jet skis, or paragliding. No matter what you do, be sure you stick around for sunset—Playa Espadilla seriously has the most beautiful sunsets we have EVER seen (and we’ve seen a LOT!). 

Couple holding hands in Playa Espadilla at sunset in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

If world-class wildlife and postcard worthy beaches aren’t enough for you, there’s plenty of day trips that you can take from Manuel Antonio. For example, join this tour to the nearby Nauyaca Waterfall, a 200-foot two-tiered waterfall, hidden in the jungle, with a plunge pool that’s perfect for cooling off in. Or if you want to get your adrenaline pumping, go on a rafting trip down Class II and III rapids along the Savegre River, as it snakes through the lush rainforest. 

How to get to Manuel Antonio

Fly into San Jose and then drive a rental car or take a private shuttle or shared van two hours and 45 minutes south. 

Where to stay in Manuel Antonio

The luxurious Tulemar Resort is the perfect place to make your homebase during your stay in Manuel Antonio, given you’ll have stellar views of the surrounding jungle from your very own bungalow and from the resort’s gorgeous infinity pool.

Howler monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

When to visit Manuel Antonio

The best time to visit is during its dry season, from November through April, when you’ll have plenty of warm and sunny days for your outdoor adventures.

6. Samara

For one of the most incredible and under-the-radar places to visit in Costa Rica, check out Samara along its Pacific coastline. This hidden gem offers a perfect blend of pristine beaches, lush landscapes, and a vibrant local culture that promises the perfect tropical getaway 

The best thing to do in Samara is spend your day on the town’s beautiful horseshoe-shaped beach. Whether you’re looking to relax or for more active adventures, like kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, there’s something on this beach for every type of traveler. You can even kayak out with a guide to the nearby Isla Chora, like on this tour, to snorkel through its colorful reefand explore its lively underwater world. 

Boats off a beach in Samara, Costa Rica

If you’re not quite up for kayaking to Isla Chora, there’s plenty of other wildlife-spotting cruises, like this one or this one, that will take you out to the island for some snorkeling, as well as around the coastline to spot dolphins, turtles, stingrays and even whales.

Beyond its beaches and abundant sea life, Samara has LOTS of laid back surfer vibes and plenty of colorful Instagrammable cafes and restaurants to prove it. For example, stop in Tika Frutika or Samara Organics for smoothies and bowls, made with fresh tropical fruits, or Kijongo Pub, for Costa Rican food at an amazing price.

Lights on palm trees at bars and restaurants in Samara, Costa Rica

How to get to Samara

From the Liberia International Airport, it’s a (beautiful!) two and a half hour drive to Samara. If you don’t have a rental car, you can also book your own transport, like this private shuttle or a shared van

Where to stay in Samara

If you really want to lean into Samara’s hippie vibes, stay at the Tico Adventure Lodge, which is both a lodge and a meditation and relaxation center. They offer yoga classes twice per week, and you can schedule a very affordable massage or acupuncture session.

Palm trees on a beach at Samara, Costa Rica

Best time to visit Samara

For the best beach weather, head here during the dry season, which runs from December to April. 

Recommended by Tara of Tour Guide Tara

7. Uvita

Uvita is a small surfer town along Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline. The town is primarily known for its Marino Ballena National Park, which boasts abundant wildlife both on land and in its waters—-but it has so much more to offer than the national park!

For example, Uvita is actually renowned as one of the best spots in the country to see humpback whales in season, from December to mid-March or mid-July to mid-October. You’ll generally need to go out on a boat to see them—but as an added bonus, you’ll almost certainly also get to see some dolphins swimming along the way. Check out this whale-watching tour or this option, which also has a snorkeling component to it! 

Humpback whale jumping out of the Pacific Ocean

Alternatively, this little town is one of the most popular spots along the country’s Pacific coastline for beginner and intermediate surfers to try their hand at riding waves. The town’s Playa Colonia is known for gentle waves, perfect for newbies, or alternatively, Playa Hermosa has slightly larger waves for intermediate surfers to try to hang ten on. Uvita is actually renowned as being one of the most affordable places in Costa Rica to learn how to surf, with plenty of lessons to choose from, like this option or this option.

There are many waterfalls around Uvita, but for the most stunning, head to the Nauyaca Waterfalls. If you have a rental car, It’s an easy 30-minute drive from Uvita to the ticket office. From there, you have the option to hike or, alternatively, hop in a jeep to reach the waterfalls, where you can first admire the view of the upper waterfall and then swim in a gorgeous natural pool under the lower waterfall.

Nauyuca Waterfall in Costa Rica

Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Uvita without visiting Marino Ballena National Park. Try to time your visit with low tide, so that you can walk to the Whale’s Tail, a unique rock and sand formation, which, from an aerial view, looks like the tail of a whale. Beyond this unique feature, there’s beautiful beaches, like Playa Uvita, that’s great for paddle boarding, snorkeling, or simply soaking up the sun. 

How to get to Uvita

Uvita is a three hour and 45 minute drive south from San Jose. If you don’t have a rental car, you can alternatively book this private shuttle or a shared van

Where to stay in Uvita

Located just a 20 minute walk from the beach, Ballena Rey Hotel offers small apartments that are perfect for cooking your own meals (you know we love to save money at Uprooted Traveler!), onsite parking, and a small but lovely swimming pool.

Beach at sunset in Uvita, Costa Rica

Best time to visit Uvita

While Costa Rica’s dry season runs from December to April, the best time to visit Uvita is when thousands of humpback whales hang out in its waters. Luckily, there are two whale seasons in Uvita – from December to mid-March or mid-July to mid-October.

Recommended by Claudia of My Adventures Across The World

8. Jaco 

Jaco is a small beach town in Costa Rica’s Puntarenas Province that’s known for its excellent surfing and lively nightlife. 

Many visitors stop here as it’s actually the closest beach town to San Jose, making it an ideal destination for travelers who are short on time but trying to squeeze in some time on the coast in their Costa Rica itinerary

Surfers waiting in the water at sunset in Jaco, Costa Rica

But Jaco isn’t just a stop of convenience. It’s also one of the most popular places to surf in Costa Rica, with consistent waves and plenty of shops that will teach you to hang ten. For example, consider this group surfing lesson, which includes roundtrip transportation from your accommodations, or this private class

Beyond surfing, there’s plenty of ways to get your heart pumping in the jungle that surrounds Jaco. For example, go ziplining, like with this option that provides incredible ocean views or this option, where you’ll zoom over 11(!!!) waterfalls. Alternatively, you can zoom through the rainforest on an ATV, like on this tour. If you’re looking for a free adventure, consider hiking up to the El Miro overlook on the outskirts of town, which provides spectacular views of Jaco from a (slightly spooky) abandoned hotel. 

Aerial view over a black sand beach in Jaco, Costa Rica

While there’s plenty to keep you busy in Jaco, there’s also a ton of cool stuff to see and do in the surrounding area. For example, if you happen to have a rental car, the Bijagual waterfall is an excellent day trip—and one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica at a whopping 600 feet tall! 

How to get to Jaco

Jaco is located an hour and 40 minutes southwest of the San Jose Airport. If you don’t have a rental car, you can book this private transport or a shared van.

Where to stay in Jaco

Selina Jaco is one of the most popular beachfront hotels in town that provides a buzzing social atmosphere, swimming pool and working space. 

Howler monkey hanging from his tail in a jungle in Costa Rica

Best time to visit Jaco

The best time to visit Jaco is November or May, which are shoulder months when you can enjoy the dry season, while still scoring cheaper prices on accommodations and tours. 

Recommended by Daria of The Discovery Nut

9. Nosara

Nosara, nestled into Costa Rica’s central Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean, strikes a perfect balance between a relaxed beach holiday and an adventure-filled getaway. With its pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, and a relaxed yet upscale atmosphere, the trendy American expat community is one of the most incredible places to visit in Costa Rica.

One of the best things to do in Nosara is to surf, with breaks that are suitable for all levels of surfers. The popular Guiones Beach is considered to have the best breaks in Nosara, thanks to its consistent waves, or, alternatively, Playa Nosara is an excellent place for newbie surfers to get their feet wet.

Man surfing at Nosara, Costa Rica

Alternatively, Nosara is renowned for its abundant wildlife, especially in the rainy season. Ostional Wildlife Refuge, a 20 minute drive north of Nosara’s town center, comes alive during the arribada (or a mass nesting event). This unique phenomenon is where THOUSANDS of Olive Ridley turtles waddle on to the refuge’s beach to lay their eggs, one of the most extraordinary wildlife experiences in the country. 

If you’d prefer to see land animals, there’s a variety of different ways to try to catch a glimpse of them in the dense jungle—for example, head out on this kayaking tour down the Nosara River, where you’ll get to see monkeys, tropical birds, and iguanas in the treetops overhead. 

Spider monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

To lean into Nosara’s laidback hippie vibes, yoga is a cornerstone of Nosara’s culture. The town is dotted with numerous yoga studios and retreats like the one at Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort, offering a variety of styles and classes. Surrounded by lush jungle and the sound of the ocean, it’s the perfect spot to begin or deepen your practice. 

How to get to Nosara

From San Jose International Airport, you can hop on a 45 minute regional flight to Nosara Airport or take a this private shuttle or shared van the five hours northwest to Nosara. Alternatively, land at Liberia’s International Airport (LIR) and drive a rental car or jump in a private shuttle or shared van for about two and a half hours south.

Palm tree at a beach in Nosara, Costa Rica

Where to stay in Nosara

The Nomatic is a mid-range boutique hotel, offering trendy suites, complimentary breakfast, and an Instagrammable pool area. Plus, you can join the daily yoga classes that the hotel offers—you are in Nosara, after all! 

Best time to visit Nosara

The dry season, between November to April, is ideal for sunny days to enjoy outdoor activities, like surfing and yoga.

Recommended by Haley of Haley Blackall

10. Drake Bay 

Drake Bay is a hidden gem, found on the Osa Peninsula, along the southwestern coastline of the country. Because it’s a bit off-the-beaten path, many travelers don’t make the effort to visit, but those who do are rewarded with an abundance of wildlife, gorgeous beaches, and lush rainforests.

River running through a jungle in Drake Bay in Costa Rica

 Drake Bay is definitely a small town, with basically one main road and a handful of rustic restaurants. So if you’re looking to unplug and escape the hustle and bustle of modern life, this might just be the perfect spot to disconnect. 

The biggest attraction in Drake Bay is Corcovado National Park, renowned for its pristine beaches and plentiful wildlife, including monkeys, tapirs, and sloths. The only way to get to Corcovado from Drake Bay is by boat, but, luckily, there’s plenty of tour options that will get you there, like this full-day adventure to the popular Sirena station or this option, which focuses on the park’s San Pedrillo ranger station.   

Toucan sitting in the rain in Costa Rica

Another popular activity is to go snorkeling or diving at the Cano Island Biological Reserve, where you can see sea turtles, manta rays, and reef sharks gliding through the water. Again, unless you happen to have a friend in Costa Rica with a boat (and if so, can you introduce me?!), you’ll need to go with a group tour, like this snorkeling option or this scuba diving tour

 If you’re looking to enjoy a free activity, the Drake Bay Hiking Trail is an easy walk that starts in the heart of the town and weaves along the coastline to San Josecito Beach. There’s a good chance you’ll see sloths in the treetops overhead, and you can take a dip at one of the many beaches along the way.

How to get to Drake Bay

The easiest way to get to Drake Bay is to book a connecting flight from San Jose to the Drake Bay Airport. Alternatively, from San Jose, it’s a six hour and 45 minute drive south with a rental car or private transfer

View out of a plane window flying over Drake Bay in Costa Rica

Where to stay at Drake Bay

Hotel Rancho Corcovado is a wonderful beachfront lodge, with in-room balconies overlooking the rainforest and ocean and a delicious breakfast.

Best time to visit Drake Bay

Try to time your visit with the dry season, from December through April, when you’ll have the most pleasant conditions for exploring Corcovado National Park. 

Recommended by Carryn of Torn Tackies

11. Tamarindo

One of the best places to visit in Costa Rica is the charming coastal town of Tamarindo. Visitors can enjoy relaxing on its pristine beaches, exploring the surrounding lush rainforests, or indulging in the vibrant nightlife to make their trip unforgettable.

Tamarindo is renowned for having some of the best beaches in Costa Rica, especially for surfers. The consistent waves make it an ideal spot for beginners looking to catch their first break, with plenty of surf shops offering lessons, like this option or this option. Alternatively, if you’re a more advanced surfer, you’ll have plenty of beaches with bigger waves to choose from, including Playa Negra or Langosta. 

Woman surfing in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Beyond catching waves, Tamarindo offers endless adventures to suit every taste. Explore the nearby Las Baulas National Marine Park, which is home to almost every species of sea turtle on the planet—you can even go on a night tour to see these adorable creatures lay their eggs

For something more relaxed, take a catamaran out into the Pacific to enjoy the sunset and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins swimming alongside your boat. If you’re looking to get your adrenaline pumping, ride an ATV through the jungle, as you zoom past sloths, tropical birds, and monkeys in the treetops overhead. 

Capuchin monkey walking on a tree limb in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

After your day’s adventures, the town of Tamarindo is perfect for winding down in, with tons of eclectic shops, local restaurants dishing up fresh food, and lively bars where you can dance the night away. 

How to get to Tamarindo

The easiest way to get to Tamarindo is to fly into Liberia International Airport and either drive a rental car or take a private shuttle or shared van about an hour and a half west.

Where to Stay in Tamarindo

For a bougie getaway, stay at the Hotel Tamarindo Diria, a four-star resort located right on the beach, with three pools overlooking the Pacific, an onsite spa, and multiple bars and restaurants to choose from. 

Palm tree at a beach in Tamarindo in Costa Rica

Best Time to Visit Tamarindo

Time your visit during the area’s dry season, from December through April. 

Recommended by Pamela of The Directionally Challenged Traveler

12. Montezuma

Montezuma is a beautiful coastal town on the tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, in the northwestern corner of the country. Despite being a little off-the-beaten path, this gem attracts visitors with its incredible scenery, unspoiled nature and postcard-worthy beaches.  

One of the most famous landmarks in the town is its namesake waterfalls. Montezuma Falls consists of several large cascades and natural pools that are perfect for cooling down in. 

Montezuma Falls in Montezuma, Costa Rica

Additionally, Montezuma is home to several beautiful beaches, including Playa Montezuma and Playa Grande. The latter is an excellent spot for beginner surfers to take on the waves, thanks to its year round consistent waves and minimal current. Consider taking a surf lesson for beginners, like this option or this option, where you can enjoy the warm waters of the Pacific and take in the views of the surrounding jungle—all while trying to catch a wave.

Designated in 1963, Cabo Blanco National Park is actually the first protected area in Costa Rica and is still considered to be one of the most biodiverse areas in the country. There are two trails that you can explore in the park, either on a self-guided tour or with a knowledgeable guide, who will help you spot wildlife, like monkeys, toucans and sloths, in the thick greenery.

Iguana in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Despite Montezuma’s teeny size and bohemian vibes, there’s still a decent amount of infrastructure for tourists here, like a surprising amount of restaurants and some lively bars. Therefore, if you’re looking to escape the crowds but still want to have some of the perks of visiting a more touristy city, Montezuma might just be the perfect sweet spot.

How to get to Montezuma

From San Jose, you can take a rental car, which will entail driving an hour and a half west, taking a ferry for an hour and a half to the Nicoya Peninsula, and then finishing up the drive an hour and a half to Montezuma. Alternatively, you can grab a private shuttle or shared van. From Liberia, you can either drive a rental car (no ferry!) or grab a private shuttle or shared van about an hour south.  

Palm trees on a beach in Montezuma, Costa Rica

Where to stay in Montezuma

The luxurious Casitas Sollevante Boutique Hotel offers stunning views of the ocean, an infinity pool, and unique in-room touches, like indoor/outdoor showers. 

When to visit Montezuma

If you want the best chances for sunny beach weather, head here during the dry season of December through April. Alternatively, if you want to witness baby turtles hatching on Montezuma’s beaches, schedule your getaway from August through November. 

Recommended by Emily of Journey by Backpack

13. Dominical

Nestled in the middle of Costa Rica’s west coast, Dominical is a small surfer town and one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

Playa Dominical is the town’s shining attraction. Featuring a long expanse of golden sand, this public beach is perfect for body boarding or soaking up the sun. It’s also a popular spot for surfers, with consistent waves that are no more than waist high. If you want to take lessons, there are plenty of options, like this one, or, if you’re already a pro, you’ll find a variety of shops to rent a board. Alternatively, Playa Domicalito is a smaller and quieter beach, lined with a lush rainforest that’s perfect for spotting wildlife.  

Sign in front of a beach in Dominical, Costa Rica

There’s plenty to keep you busy in Dominical from scuba diving at the nearby Cano Island and Ballena National Marine Park to attending a yoga retreat, like at the Danyasa Eco-Retreat. There’s a beachfront market every day where you can peruse local handmade crafts and a farmers market every Friday morning, where you can try tropical fruits you’ve never heard of before! 

If you want to see wildlife in Dominical, head to Hacienda Baru, which is an eco-lodge with 815 acres of tropical rainforest, mangroves, wetlands, rivers, and coastline, with several miles of hiking trails that snake through the park. Whether you do a self-guided tour or hire a guide from the lodge, this is a great place to ethically see sloths, birds (there’s over 330 species that call the reserve home!), and monkeys. If you prefer to see marine life, you can also find some dolphin or even whale watching tours, when it’s the right season!

Humpback whale diving into the Pacific Ocean

How to get to Dominical

Fly into San Jose and then drive a rental car or take a private shuttle or shared van three and a half hours south. 

Where to stay in Dominical

Tribe Boutique Hotel is a great adults-only option with a stunning property, including a pool and hammocks to relax in. For family-friendly accommodations, consider Hotel Villas Rio Mar, which is about a ten minute walk from Playa Dominical; has a pool to relax in; and is surrounded by the impossibly green jungle, filled with monkeys, toucans, and sloths.

Sloth hanging on a tree in Costa Rica

When to visit Dominical

For the best weather, head to Dominical during the dry season, from December through April. Alternatively, if you want to see humpback whales in the surrounding waters, head here from December to mid March and July to October.

Recommended by Lucy and Dan of Thoroughly Travel

14. Puerto Jiménez

Puerto Jimenez is the gateway town to access the magnificent natural wonders of the Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce. It strikes the perfect balance between being a bit more off-the-beaten path than some of the more popular destinations around Costa Rica, while still having some tourist infrastructure, like plenty of hotels and restaurants.

This sleepy tropical town is close to several stunning beaches, including Playa Matapalo, an excellent beach for surfing to the south, or, if you’re up for a bit of a drive, Playa Carate, one of the only black sand beaches in Costa Rica. 

Scarlet macaw in a jungle at Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica

Puerto Jimenez is an excellent springboard for Corcovado National Park, which is said to contain a whopping 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity in just  0.001% of its land area, from scarlet macaws to the elusive jaguars. There’s several tour operators that will take you to this incredible sliver of the planet, ranging from this day trip that takes a boat to the popular Sirena ranger station to a two night adventure that stops at three different stations in the park (guests have even reported seeing a puma on this tour!).

Alternatively, Golfo Dulce is the bay between the Osa Peninsula and the mainland. It’s not unusual to see dolphins or, during the right season, even whales swimming through the waters here. If you want to get up close and personal with Puerto Jimenez’s marine life, you can join a kayaking tour, like this one, which includes snorkeling in a beautiful coral reef or, for a real adventure, this option, which is a two-night kayaking and camping adventure along the Osa Peninsula’s pristine coastline.

Dolphins swimming in the Pacific Ocean

For a slightly less adventurous activity, head to Rancho Raices de Puerto Jiminez, an organic farm that makes some very tasty chocolate. During this educational tour, you’ll not only get to see how it gets made, but also get to taste plenty of chocolate and tropical fruits that are grown on the farm. 

How to get to Puerto Jimenez

Puerto Jimenez actually has its own regional airport, so you can catch a connecting flight here from San Jose. Alternatively, you can drive a rental car or take a shuttle six and a half hours south. 

Greenery at Golfo Dulce in Puerto Jimenez in Costa Rica

Where to stay in Puerto Jimenez

Cabinas Jimenez has comfortable rooms right on the ocean, plus some really nice perks, like free bicycles and kayaks for its guests.

Best time to visit Puerto Jimenez

Visit during Puerto Jiminez’s dry season, from mid-December through April.

Recommended by Karen of Outdoor Adventure Sampler

Places to Visit on the Caribbean Coast in Costa Rica

15. Cahuita

On Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, Cahuita is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica for a tropical getaway. The tiny town has a unique Afro-Caribbean atmosphere to it, where you can wander between brightly colored homesteads on dirt track lanes and into local bars to dance the night away to reggae and calypso music. 

Cahuita National Park is a protected stretch of rainforest that follows the coast south of this small town. Walk the coastal path through the park, past the beach and creeks to Puerto Vargas, the most beautiful beach in the park. Along the way, you may see coatis, sloths, capuchin monkeys, and vibrantly colored birds and butterflies. 

Aerial view over the jungle and beach in Cahuita in Costa Rica

Outside of the national park, there’s plenty of other stunning beaches near Cahuita. For example, Playa Negra is a black sand beach that’s fringed with palm trees to the north of the town or Playa Grande is a secluded stretch of impossibly soft white sand.

If you get bored of soaking up all that Carribean sun, you’ll find plenty of tours on offer in town, including snorkeling amongst its colorful coral reefs, scuba diving into sunken shipwrecks, wildlife spotting in the rainforest, and exploring a local chocolate farm. 

Spider monkey in the jungle at Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

How to get to Cahuita

You can fly into San Jose and drive a rental car or take a shared van about three hours and 45 minutes east to Cahuita. Alternatively, you can fly into the nearby Limón International Airport and take a taxi less than 40 minutes north to Cahuita. 

Where to stay in Cahuita

La Shamana Ecolodge is located on 15 hectares of untouched rainforest—it’s not unusual to spot howler monkeys or toucans from your window. Besides its beautiful setting there’s lots to love about this hotel, with complimentary breakfast, a stunning natural pool, and suites with a terrace overlooking the jungle. 

Capuchin monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Best time to visit Cahuita

For the best beach weather, you should aim to visit Cahuita between September through October or February through March, the dry season in this area. Alternatively, the nearby city of Limón holds Carnival in mid-October, which is an awesome way to experience this area’s unique Caribbean culture. 

Recommended by Kali of KaliTravel

16. Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero, located on the country’s Caribbean coastline, is considered a crown jewel of Costa Rica’s national park system and a must-visit for any wildlife lover. 

Its name might give away why it’s so famous—every year, from July through October, THOUSANDS of nesting leatherback sea turtles swim from all over the Caribbean Sea to lay their eggs on its pristine beaches. 

Baby turtle hatchlings on a beach in Central America

There’s several tours that you can join, like this one or this one, that will take you to the park after sunset to give you a front row seat of the turtles nesting, whilst not disturbing these beautiful creatures. 

If you don’t happen to be visiting during turtle season, there’s still plenty of wildlife that you can see in the national park, from monkeys and crocodiles to iguanas and sloths. There’s a number of tours that you can take to explore different areas of the national park, like this kayaking tour that weaves through its mangrove canals or this night hike, where you’ll have an excellent chance of spotting Costa Rica’s famed red-eyed tree frogs, snakes, and other elusive creatures. 

Red-eyed tree frog in Costa Rica

If you want to get your heart racing even more, there’s a handful of other activities in the area, like a zipline, with a Tarzan swing, four suspension bridges, and a scaling wall.

How to get to Tortuguero National Park

Given that Tortuguero has its own regional airport, Barra de Tortuguero Airport, you can take a connecting flight from San Jose. Alternatively, you can take a scenic boat trip through mangroves and jungle from La Pavona or Moin, both of which are about a two and a half hour drive from San Jose. 

Canal surrounded by jungle in Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica

Where to stay in Tortuguero National Park

Miss Junies Lodge offers attentive staff and affordable rooms, with comfortable beds and a free breakfast. The pool is an added bonus, even if you might be competing with the cane toads! 

Best time to visit Tortuguero National Park

Turtle nesting season runs from July through October, with July and August seeing the highest numbers of turtles. Just be forewarned that this also happens to coincide with the rainy season, so make sure to include a rain jacket on your Costa Rica packing list

Recommended by Tom and Katie of Trekking the Dream

There are so many incredible places to visit in Costa Rica—I know it’s hard to choose! Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of where to head on your next tropical getaway but let us know if you have any questions about these destinations in the comments below!

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