Costa Rica is a stunning destination offering biodiverse nature, adrenaline rush inducing activities and Pura Vida (the Pure Life) “Don’t Worry be Happy” vibes. This tourist-friendly country boasts some of the greatest surfing beaches, active volcanoes, rainforests and exotic wildlife.
So what are the top places to visit in this exquisite destination?
These are my recommendations for the best places to see in Costa Rica:
1. Poás Volcano
Peering into the top of an active volcano is undoubtedly an experience not to be missed when in Costa Rica. Considered as one of the most beautiful volcanoes in Central America, Poás has a huge green acid crater with some of the largest geysers in the world. Only a short trip from the capital of San Jose, it can be a fun day trip destination. Get ready for some overpowering sulfuric smoke fumes and a Jurassic Park like atmosphere.
2. Manuel Antonio
One of the places I enjoyed the most in Costa Rica was Manuel Antonio. As a nature lover, Manuel Antonio National Park was a definite highlight with its tropical plants and wildlife like Capuchin Monkeys, sloths and dragonflies.
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Since some of the wildlife is extremely difficult to spot to the untrained eye, I recommend taking one of the local guides at the park entrance. They bring powerful binoculars – point out the camouflaged animals and provide interesting explanations about them. My visit to the park ended in the beautiful sandy beach along which the reserve is located, with Capuchin Monkeys trying to steal my food. Other things to do in Manuel Antonio town include parasailing, chilling out at café’s and enjoying the vibrant nightlife.
3. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
The Cloud Forest Reserve of Montverde, is located on a mountainous ridge some 1,500 meters above sea level. Its dense evergreen rainforests contain hundreds of animal species. The best experience I had in Monteverde, was walking along the hanging bridges in the reserve. During the walk I was surrounded by the dense forest, hearing and seeing the wildlife, my head literally in the misty clouds. There are plenty of additional activities to take part in in Monteverde such as hiking, zip-lining and even coffee tours.
Renowned for its’ white sandy beaches, Tamarindo is a perfect place for surfing, SUP and kayaking. A tourist hotspot, the nightlife during peak season is bustling with live music, fiestas and great restaurants. For a unique conservation activity, you can take a turtle nesting tour and watch huge Leatherback or Green Turtles nest their eggs. In line with Costa Rica’s ecotourism policy, take note that you will not be allowed to take photos or other actions that might disturb the turtles during the tour.
5. La Fortuna and Arenal
La Fortuna is a town located at the foothills of the iconic Arenal Volcano. It has over a dozen volcanic hot spring resorts. I was lucky to relax at one of the pampering luxurious hot spring resorts, with its modern complex of natural pools.
La Fortuna and Arenal area have a range of other activities to enjoy like whitewater rafting and canopy tours. La Fortuna has a stunning 75-meter Waterfall worth visiting. Don’t miss going hiking through the lava fields surrounding Arenal Volcano. There is a selection of trails for every hiking difficulty level, so fitness levels shouldn’t be a concern if you are not big on intensive walks.
Useful information about Costa Rica:
- The best time to visit Costa Rica: if you want to avoid continuous rain, and prefer sunshine, the best time to visit Costa Rica is during the Dry Season. The Dry Season runs from mid-December to April. For a weather forecast by days and months.
- National currency: Costa Rican colón.
- Languages: The official language in Costa Rica is Spanish. English is taught at schools, and locals in major tourist destinations are fluent in English.
- How to get around Costa Rica: you can easily compare and book your transport options (bus, minivan, car and flights) with Bookaway.
Are you an animal and wildlife lover? If so, you may be interested reading about my volunteering at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center.