27 Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica (in 2023)
Costa Rica has made its name as a top travel destination for the astonishing diversity of ecosystems, wildlife, and activities that are contained within its small boundaries. The Central American country caters to wildlife and nature lovers, beachgoers, resort vacationers, and hikers alike.
Costa Rica is an easy decision to decide to visit the country, but it’s tough to choose which of its many incredible destinations to visit, which is where this guide comes in!
Table of Contents
- 27 Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica
- Tamarindo Beach
- Manuel Antonio National Park
- La Fortuna
- Santa Teresa
- Parque Nacional Tortuguero
- Corcovado National Park
- Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
- Playa Hermosa
- Drake Bay / Bahía Drake
- Matapalo, Osa
- Parque Nacional Cahuita
- Rincón de la Vieja National Park
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens
- Cerro Chirripó
- Río Celeste
- San José
- Playa Ostional
- Parque Nacional Los Quetzales
- Volcan Irazú
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. See our Advertising Policy for further explanation. Thank you!
27 Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica
A lively tourist town with beachside bars, great waves, and activities such as surf lessons and zip lining.
📍 Google Maps | Playa Tamarindo | 👉 Browse Tamarindo Hotels on Booking
There’s a reason that Tamarindo is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica. Located in the northern Nicoya Peninsula, the bustling beach town offers both budget and high-end hotels, lively nightlife, and gorgeous surfable, beaches.
While the town offers tons of restaurants, bars, and shops, the surrounding tropical dry forest and nearby wetlands are home to incredible wildlife, not to mention the well-known surf. All-in-all, Playa Tamarindo is the ideal spot for those who want a little bit of everything on their vacation!
👉 Pro Tip: Head to nearby Playa Grande to see nighttime sea turtle nesting!
One of Costa Rica’s most beautiful cloud forests is a must see for nature lovers!
📍 Google Maps | Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge | 👉 Browse Monteverde Hotels on Booking
Monteverde cloud forest is a paradise for nature lovers! Nestled in the hills of central Costa Rica. The high altitude, mountainous rainforest provides a unique habitat that teems with unique plants and animals.
I highly recommend touring Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve with one of the local guides who can identify birds just by a faint call and know exactly where to find the rarest species, such as the bellbird and the resplendent quetzal.
🧳 Packing Tip: Binoculars are a must in Monteverde! These are my favorite lightweight pair.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio has it all, from stunning white sand beaches, clear blue ocean, tropical forest, and a cute little town.
📍 Google Maps | Manuel Antonio National Park | 👉 Browse Manuel Antonio National Park Hotels on Booking
If you envision yourself lying on white-sand Costa Rica beaches with the turquoise water of the Pacific ocean before you and lush jungle behind, then Manuel Antonio is the place for you! Manuel Antonio National Park comprises both beach and forest home to white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, sloths, and much more.
The town of Manuel Antonio is a tourist hub with lots of hotel options and restaurants, making this one of Costa Rica’s most well-rounded destinations.
The best of beaches, surf, and nightlife!
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Jacó Hotels on Booking
Because of its proximity to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, Jacó is one of the country’s most visited coastal cities. If you’re hoping for hotels with full amenities, wild nights out, and days relaxing on a beautiful beach, then Jacó would be a great fit!
This tropical mountain town boasts cloud forest, volcanos, waterfalls, and hot springs.
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse La Fortuna Hotels on Booking
La Fortuna, a mountain town in northern Costa Rica lies at the base of the active Arenal Volcano, which creates natural hotsprings out of the surrounding rivers. The resulting natural hot springs meander through dense jungle and many hotels and resorts have harnessed these hot springs to create lavish spas.
The surrounding mountainous cloud forest, including Arenal Volcano National Park, also offers stunning hikes with views of towering waterfalls. My favorite hike is Cerro Chato, an inactive volcano with a blue lake in its crater, after which you can visit La Fortuna Waterfall, which is located at the base.
There’s no better place to connect with nature than in this stunning coastal jungle town.
📍 Google Maps | Playa Santa Teresa | 👉 Browse Santa Teresa Hotels on Booking
Santa Teresa, located in the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula is a stretch of coastal forest known for having some of the best surf in Costa Rica as well as the most beautiful beaches. The town is popular with surfers, yogis, and advenurers looking to enjoy the natural wonders of the area which include wide tracts of white sand beach, vibrant forest, and warm pacific waves.
Parque Nacional Tortuguero
Costa Rica’s destination for nesting sea turtles… and those who want to see them!
📍 Google Maps | Tortuguero National Park | 👉 Tortuguero Hotels on Booking
Tortuguero National Park lies on the northern part of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and is considered the birthplace of sea turtle conservation. Thanks to the conservation work that began in the 1950s, the population of green turtles that nest in Tortuguero has exploded to an astounding 50,000 nests laid each year.
Visit during nesting season, from May-October, and a local guide will take you to see nesting sea turtles complete their incredible egg-laying process. The surrounding canals and waterways are also incredible wildlife-viewing opportunities.
📅 Read Next: What is the best time of year to visit Costa Rica?
Corcovado National Park
A globally recognized hotspot for rare wildlife and stunning jungle.
📍 Google Maps | Corcovado National Park Website
Located on the remote Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park is one of the most stunning places in the country.
Among the best national parks in Costa Rica, it protects the largest tract of primary forest on the American Pacific coast and has been described by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on earth” for its incredibly dense jungle diverse wildlife.
While it’s the most difficult place to get to, it’s worth making the trek, especially for wildlife lovers. While I lived near the border of the park, it was commonplace to see rare animals such as tapirs, anteaters, coatis, scarlet macaws, venomous snakes, squirrel monkeys, and sea turtles.
👉 Pro Tip: Take a day tour to the park or stay the night at the beautiful Sirena Ranger Station for a more in-depth experience.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
A laid-back, eclectic beach town that draws a bohemian crowd.
📍 Google Maps | Puerto Viejo | 👉 Browse Puerto Viejo Hotels on Booking
Located on the southeast coast of Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo is a small town that’s big on celebrating its Caribbean roots. Backpackers flock to Puerto Viejo for the never-ending reggae music, laid-back island culture, and the clear blue water typical of the Caribbean sea.
Besides plentiful nightlife options, the village is close to snorkeling spots, coastal jungle hikes, and is a hotspot for sloths!
👉 Pro Tip: Be sure to try the “rice and beans” (yes, it’s called that in Spanish), which is a coconut-based dish that blends the typical Costa Rican foods with Caribbean flavors.
The perfect destination for families hoping to enjoy the beach!
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Sámara Hotels on Booking
Sámara is a trendy tourist town located about halfway down the Nicoya Peninsula that boasts comfortable accommodations, long, white sandy beaches with good surf.
In my opinion, Sámara is one of Costa Rica’s most well-rounded beach destinations because of its natural beauty, variety of bars and restaurants, and its proximity to so many other awesome nearby destinations, such as Santa Rosa National Park, sea turtle nesting beaches, and Playa Carrillo.
A top destination for those seeking adventure activities!
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Dominical Hotels on Booking
Dominical lies in the center of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast where the northern tropical dry forest gives way to dense, lush rainforest. The surrounding area offers forested hiking trails, river kayaking, and amazing beaches. This is a perfect Costa Rica destination for those who want a taste of the intense nature of the Osa Peninsula, but with easier access!
Explore what’s considered the most beautiful coast in all of Costa Rica!
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Playa Hermosa Hotels on Booking
Playa Hermosa is located on the coast of the Golfo de Papagayo in the northwest region, an area that is widely recognized as one of the most picturesque and beautiful in Costa Rica. The area is well protected and has remained widely undeveloped thanks to the Santa Elena National Park. Playa Hermosa is a great place to stay to explore this gorgeous region!
Connect with yourself and with nature in theis yoga loving town!
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Nosara Hotels on Booking
Nosara is a small coastal haven for yogis seeking tranquility and surfers searching for perfect waves. Much of the town is dedicated to yoga studios and wellness shops that lie beneath a forest canopy and are within easy walking distance to the stunning Nosara beach.
Explore the jungle and the sea from this bohemian beach village!
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Montezuma Hotels on Booking
Montezuma is a small coastal town located on the southernmost tip of the Nicoya Peninsula where you could spend countless days exploring! A moderate hike through the nearby jungle leads to a cascading waterfall, and the waters offshore are home to turtles, dolphins, whales, and coral reefs.
One of the top places to spot go dolphin and whale waiting in Costa Rica.
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Uvita Hotels on Booking
Uvita lies on Costa Rica’s southern pacific coast where the rainforest is dense and the beaches are warm and blue. The town is known for Punta Uvita, the famous spit of land shaped like a whale tail, and is popular for whale and dolphin sightings. The town also hosts the yearly Envision Festival, a celebration of art, spirituality, and music.
Drake Bay / Bahía Drake
A great home base to explore the natural wonders of the Osa Peninsula.
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Drake Bay Hotels on Booking
Located on the stunningly beautiful Osa Peninsula, the small village of Drake Bay draws Costa Rica’s most adventurous visitors. While the town itself has little to offer, the surrounding area is some of the most beautiful in the country, with its vibrant jungle, gorgeous beaches, and underwater wonderland.
Isla del Caño, the second-best spot for diving and snorkeling in Costa Rica, sits a short boat ride offshore. The reef beneath the island draws sharks, hawksbill and green sea turtles, tons of reef fish, rays, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some whales on the way there!
🚗 How to Get There: You can either bus or drive to Sierpe where you will take a boat to Drake Bay, or you can fly from San Jose, which offers stunning views of the Pacific Coast!
An off-the-beaten path for those who enjoy exploring remote beaches and empty hiking trails.
Located at the southernmost point of the Osa Peninsula, Matapalo is well off the beaten path and is only really accessible with a rental car. Despite being difficult to get to, or maybe because of it, this remote destination is one of my favorites in all of the country!
Matapalo has few, if any, restaurants, but what it lacks in development it makes up for in nature and wildlife! The many hiking trails offer incredible bird watching opportunities and the beaches which receive only gentle waves, are usually empty.
🚗 How to Get There: A rental car is the only reasonable transportation to Matapalo due to it’s isolation.
Parque Nacional Cahuita
A stunning coastal park with coastal rainforest and awesome snorkeling
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Cahuita Hotels on Booking
The town of Cahuita, which is just a few miles north of Puerto Viejo offers similar island vibes but with less bustle and tourism. The national park protects the crystalline, turquoise waters beneath which live coral reefs. The water is awesome for snorkeling and an easy path leads through the forest along the picturesque Caribbean coast.
A volcano town rich on as rich in culture as it is in nature
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Turrialba Hotels on Booking
Turrialba is a mountainous town located in the Cartago Province of Costa Rica and home of Turrialba Volcano National Park, which offers awesome forested hikes to waterfalls and to the volcano summit.
The area is also the launching point for whitewater rafting on Pacuare River, which winds through dense jungle all the way to the Caribbean Sea. Turriaba is also produces some of the best coffee and cheese in Costa Rica, and many farms offer tasting experiences.
Rincón de la Vieja National Park
A unique destination to explore tropical dry forest, swim beneath waterfalls, and behold natural mud springs.
📍 Google Maps | Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park Website
Rincón de la Vieja National Park is located in Costa Rica’s northwestern Guanacaste Province and is possibly the most unique natural area in the country. The park features natural bubbling hotsprings, roaring waterfalls, miles of trails through tropical dry forest, and an active volcano that lasted erupted in June of 2021.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Hike through stunning forest to behold a collection of 5 stunning waterfalls.
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse La Paz Hotels on Booking
La Paz Waterfall Gardens is an eco park that contains a collection of five cascading waterfalls hidden within a verdant cloud forest in the central Alajuela Province. A hike connects the waterfalls with viewing platforms that allow visitors to take in the impressively tall and powerful falls. The whole park gives off a peaceful and awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Hike to the highest pint in Costa Rica for panoramic views that stretch from the Pacific to the Caribbean.
📍 Google Maps | Chirripó National Park Website
Costa Rica’s highest mountain offers a strenuous hike, usually completed over two days, that covers about 25 miles (~40km) and an elevation gain of about 12,500 feet. Hikers will begin the ascent beneath the canopy of a montane forest that will eventually give way to the unique Talamancan páramo (mountainous grassland) that provide habitat to some of the country’s most unique flora and fauna.
Those brave enough to complete the hike are, on a clear day, rewarded with views of both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
A river and waterfall that are so stunningly blue it seems unnatural!
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Río Celeste Hotels on Booking
True to its name, Río Celeste is is a river that, due to unique mineral deposits, is a light, electric blue color. A short hike leads along the riverbank, through the rainforest, to a waterfall that plunges into a bright turquoise pool.
The capital of Costa Rica is more than a layover before and after a trip.
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse San José Hotels on Booking
The capital of Costa Rica is usually looked over as a jumping off point for a trip but, since most visitors to the country spend a couple of days here, it’s worth highlighting it as a destination! The bustling city-scape has museums, historical sites, and tons of trendy bars and restaurants that ended up winning me over.
I like to stay in the quiet and upscale Los Yoses neighborhood and then get a ride to Barrio La Escalante for dinner and drinks and then head to La California for a night of dancing.
Witness one of nature’s greatest spectacles as hundreds of thousands of turtles nest at once.
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Playa Ostional Hotels on Booking
Ostional is a tiny coastal town that is unremarkable for 25 days of the month until an explosion of as many as 100,000 sea turtles come to nest over the span of a few days. What’s known as an “arribada” is truly a wonder of nature and scientists are still unclear as to why this occurs.
While the event is difficult to predict, the largest arribadas tend to happen in September, October and November and usually coincide with the waning quarter moon.
Parque Nacional Los Quetzales
The best spot to glimpse one of the most stunningly beautiful birds in Costa Rica.
📍 Google Maps | Los Quetzales National Park | 👉 Browse Quetzales Hotels on Booking
Parque Nacional los Quetzales,located south of San Jose, is named for the resplendent quetzal, one of Costa Rica’s most famous and flashy colorful birds. The quetzal has plenty of feathered company in the national park, however, which is one of the top destinations for bird watching in the country.
📚 Related Reading: Check out my go-to bird identification guide for Costa Rica!
Climb the highest active volcano in Costa Rica for some gorgeous views!
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Irazú Volcano Hotels on Booking
Located smack dab in the center of Costa Rica, Volcán Irazú is the tallest active volcano in the the country, but thanks to a road up to the summit, the peak is accessible to most. The view from the top is spectacular, as the volcano’s craters have filled with turquoise water, making a striking contrast with the black rock perimiter.
I spent five years living in and traveling through Costa Rica but it only took me a few days to fall in love with the country. And even after so much time exploring, I still know that there’s so much to see!
That’s the beauty of Costa Rica – you can return over and over and keep finding new, wonderful Costa Rica destinations!
I hope this guide helped you to find some of the best places to visit in Costa Rica for your vacation.
Help us help you travel better!
Your feedback really helps ...
What did you like about this post? Or how can we improve it to help you travel better?