Destinations

Costa Rica is a beautifully diverse country with so much to see and do. In fact, many people decide to travel throughout the country, choosing 2 -3 destinations for a 7 – 10 day long vacation. Others decide to stay in one place and really get to know the area and culture. The choice is up to you!
When planning a vacation from scratch, we recommend reading through the Costa Rica Destinations section to figure out where to go in Costa Rica.

Alajuela and Airport (SJO)

Alajuela is a small city located just outside of Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. It is the home to Costa Rica’s largest airport and the starting point to many people’s vacations. While there are many nice hotels and restaurants to visit, many people choose to explore them on the days before or after their flights to shorten their travel times. For the rest of their vacations they visit the Arenal Volcano or the lovely beaches that Costa Rica has to offer!

Arenal Volcano & La Fortuna

The Arenal Volcano area is surrounded by lush rainforest, wild rivers, deep canyons, an impressively-large, freshwater lake, natural hot springs, swimming holes, waterfalls and a robust hospitality sector on par with any top-tourist destination elsewhere in the world.

The town of La Fortuna at the base of the Arenal Volcano is a lively, adventure town with fun, streetside coffee shops, delicious local cuisine and specialty souvenir stores.

Even if you are short on time, you can pack in a lot of action into your trip because the Arenal Volcano area has everything close-by. Try whitewater rafting, kayaking, canyoneering (rapelling tropical waterfalls), mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, hiking, stand up paddling and much more!

And the hotels in the area range from humble, family-owned cabins ideal for backpackers or adventurous travelers to the most, high-end, luxurious hotels imaginable with all-inclusive packages, spa treatments and soothing hot springs. The Arenal Volcano is a must-visit on your Costa Rica vacation!

Carrillo Beach

Known as the sister beach to Playa Samara, Playa Carillo is a small typical Costa Rica town that still remains somewhat untouched by tourism. The town itself does not have much to offer. There are some decent beachfront restaurants where you can eat at tables on the sand. The calm waters are ideal for stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling, as well as fishing. Also, horseback and ATV tours are popular here. This area is great for people who want a more relaxed peaceful beach experience, more suited for the older tourists and families who are not so concerned about a vibrant nightlife. For those looking for a more action packed vacation we recommend staying in Samara and visiting this gorgeous beach on day trips.

Guanacaste

Costa Rica is surrounded by some of the most-amazing coastlines in the world and Guanacaste is one of the jewels of the Pacific Coast. You’ll hear yourself saying: “Ahhhh… Life’s a Beach” while staying in Guanacaste. Every beach you go to along this golden coast is famous for some of the best sunsets in the world. And the climate on that part of the Costa Rican coast is like Southern California, very arid and sunny almost all-year long. You can’t go wrong in Guanacaste if you add it to your Costa Rica vacation itinerary! There has been a significant amount of investment into this region recently, especially large, chain hotels that offer all-inclusive packages at their resorts such as the RIU hotels, Barceló, J.W. Marriott, Four Seasons, Westin the Hyatt Andaz and more. And now the Dreams property, famous for its resorts throughout Mexico and the Caribbean, is building a large family-style, all-inclusive resort in the Northern Papagayo region of Guanacaste. These resorts are nice, but Costa Rica is more-famous for its comfortable, independent, small hotels with charming local flare. Some of the more-popular places to visit is Tamarindo, Flamigo, Playas del Coco, Hacienda Pinilla, Ocotal, Playa Negra, Avellanas and Papagayo.

Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio is located just two and a half hours away from the San Jose airport and sits in a beautiful area on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
The beautiful beaches, friendly local folk, and protected National Park are some things that have been captivating people’s attention from all over the world and bringing them here for many years.

The Manuel Antonio National Park is considered the gem of the area. With a small entrance fee you can explore the lush rainforest on well-maitained paths that wind their way through the National Park, leading you to different beautiful beaches. These pristine beaches are the ideal place to relax on the white sand or go for a dip in the ocean. You can also bring a picnic and spend the day; in fact, there are no commerical businesses or restaurants, which helps to maintain the natural beauty of the park and preserve it for future generations!

The park is the home to 100 species of mammals and over 200 species of birds. If you are a birder, bring your binoculars as this is truly paradise. Many people often are also able to spot different types of monkeys, coatlicues, iguanas and sloths. Be sure to watch your belongings as the white-faced monkeys are known to snatch your stuff when you aren’t looking!

Monteverde

Monteverde, which means “green mountain” in English, is the ideal name for this peaceful, hilltop community and a very different kind of destination from anywhere else you will visit in Costa Rica.
Monteverde is a great place for families, groups of friends, wandering travelers, or couples in search of a romantic getaway because there is plethora of activities to suit all interests and budgets: Ziplining above the treetops, hikes on the hanging bridges, chocolate and coffee farm tours, horseback riding, birdwatching tours, and visits to the breathtaking waterfalls are some of the many tours available, all with one thing in common: nature, nature and more nature!

The cloud forest reserve encompasses an area of over 50,000 acres of rainforest land in conservation, making it the largest private reserve in all of Central America. It sits at an altitude of 4,662-ft above sea level, in fact, at certain points you are so high up in the mountains that you can actually see the Pacific ocean even though its miles away!

Monteverde is the home to an amazing amount of biodiversity with over 400 different types of bird species, 2 types of the sloths, white-faced monkeys, agoutis, pizotes, kinkajous, and interesting frogs and snakes.

Montezuma

Is a town in Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica which began as a remote fishing village and has gained popularity since the 1980s among tourists on a budget.
Montezuma is located near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, 41 km (25 mi) southwest of Paquera and 8 km (5 mi) south of the town of Cóbano. Most services are in Cóbano.
The town features a mix of local residents as well as foreign backpackers and eco-tourists who come for the beaches, rivers, and scenic waterfalls that surround the village. The nearby Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve draws a large number of visitors to the area. Montezuma has well-known healing arts and yoga communities and is known by filmmakers and artists from across the world for the annual Costa Rica International Film Festival in May. Costa Rica International Film Festival – Montezuma.
The center of Montezuma consists almost entirely of accommodations, restaurants, and souvenir shops. For those who are looking for something to do at night, Chico’s Bar offers different music and dancing nightly. The crowd is a great mix of the beautiful locals and visitors from all over the world. There is no bank and no post office in Montezuma (although there is an automated teller machine that works at certain times when there is not a huge crowd in town).

Osa Peninsula

Named the most biologically diverse place in the world, the Osa Peninsula is quite possibly the most unique place to visit in Costa Rica and the most remote. The dense tropical rainforest and flowing rivers are untouched by tourism or industry, which is why it’s nature is so robust. People even still pan for gold and cash in their treasures or trade it for food!
It is situated about a 5-hour drive from San Jose, the country’s capital, or a quick flight with a chartered airplane. Most people decide to fly right into Puerto Jiminez or Carate and then rent a car or take public transit to other areas in the peninsula. Be careful planning your vacation in the rainy season in Costa Rica (May to November) as sometimes the rivers flood the roads making driving impossible to get to certain areas.
The Osa Peninsula is surrounded by the Golfo Dulce to the east and the Pacific Coast to the west, offering many amazing places to see and things to do.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a coastal town in Talamanca in Limón Province in southeastern Costa Rica, known simply as Puerto Viejo to locals. The town was originally called Old Harbor until the Spanish central Costa Rican government institutionalized Spanish as the new local language and changed the names of the towns and landmarks in the area from English to Spanish. Fields became Bri Bri. Bluff became Cahuita. The Afro-Caribbean English speaking culture was actively dismantled. There is another town commonly known as Puerto Viejo in northeastern Costa Rica, which can confuse visitors. Buses leaving the same San José station for either of the Puerto Viejos display the same destination, “Puerto Viejo”.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a popular tourist destination. It is known in the surfing community for the biggest and most powerful wave in Costa Rica, known as Salsa Brava. It is also home to beautiful beaches, such as Playa Chiquita, Playa Negra, and Punta Uva, which are a few of Costa Rica’s most spectacular beaches which can be found between Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo. Manzanillo is a popular location for kayaking and is 13 km (8 mi) south along the beach. The popular Jaguar Rescue Centre is nearby.

Rincon de La Vieja

Costa Rica is famous for being a part of the Ring of Fire and is truly a volcanic paradise with hundreds of volcanoes – from active to dormant – dotting the landscape. There are 6 active volcanoes in Costa Rica: Irazu, Poas, Turrialba, Tenorio, Miravalles and Rincon de la Vieja. The Rincon de la Vieja area encompasses a large region of Costa Rica’s western Guanacaste province about 30 minutes northwest of Liberia and 30 minutes northeast of Papagayo.
The Rincn de la Vieja National Park became a protected area in 1973 and actually has 9 eruptive craters along its ridge.

San Jose & Central Valley

San Jose is the main city located near the international airport just 30 minutes from the city’s center at Alajuela (SJO.) There are many hotel options near the airport, but you may want to try something closer to the center of San Jose for more nightlife and shopping opportunities. There are interesting day tours you can do with local providers who take you to the more-authentic parts of town, so be sure to ask us how to sign up for these off-the-beaten path tours. I have to say I did not have much appreciation for the bustling, economic center of Costa Rica. San Jose was unappealing with heavy traffic and not much to see and do. Times have changed and San Jose is going through an inspirational revival of sorts and you will likely find something fun to do if you stay in this under-appreciated capitol city!

Tortuguero

Tortugero, Costa Rica is one of the most popular eco-tourism destinations and one of the most biologically diverse places to visit in Costa Rica because of the diverse landscape and waterways. It is only possible to get there by boat or small airplane from the San Jose airport. The town of Tortuguero has a small population of 500 people with a small amount of hotels, restaurants and souvenir stores. But that’s not why people visit…they visit for the abundance of nature and wildlife that exists in the Tortuguero National Park.

The meeting of freshwater canals and the Caribbean sea has created an immense amount of biodiversity. There are over 300 species of birds, 60 species of mammals, over 100 species of reptiles, 57 species of amphibians and two types of monkeys. Rent a kayak or canoe and paddle through the canals to witness crocodiles, tropical birds, white faced monkeys, iguanas, poison dart frogs, two toed sloths and more.

Turrialba

Costa Rica has seven volcanoes that are declared active and the Turrialba Volcano is the most recent volcano to put on an impressive show. It began to smoke on May third 2016 and in the early hours of May eleventh a single but very strong eruption was recorded. The eruption reached 3 kilometers above the volcano’s summit and spread ash across the central valley. You will love the sightseeing tour of the Turrialba Volcano. You can smell of sulfur in the air and see a light dusting of sparkly grey ash floating around the charred remains of trees. You can feel the power of the volcano in the foreground. For volcano chasers and pretty much all tourists, the Turrialba area has a lot to offer, including interesting farm tours to learn about organic and sustainable processes and even participate in the making of some of the most delicious artisanal cheese made by dedicated, young cheese artists.

Poas Volcano

Poas Volcano National Park is one of the most visited attractions in Costa Rica and the La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a must see destination for anyone visiting Costa Rica. It is such a great attraction because of its overwhelming beauty and charm as well as its  convenient location just 28 Kilometers from Juan Santamaria Airport. The splendid gardens of La Paz are located on the slopes of the Poas Volcano, less than a hour from San Jose in the central highlands. This area is rich in bio diversity thanks to an altitude that varies between 4,000 and 5,000 feet, allowing both cloud forest and rain forest to co-exist. Prepare for a magical experience. Here, visitors will find the largest butterfly observatory in the world, hummingbird and bromeliad gardens, a serpentarium, frog pond and 5 breathtaking waterfalls.

Jaco

Jaco is one of the most visited beaches in Costa Rica. It is also the closest beach from the capitol, San Jose. This beach town is very developed with many hotels, restaurants, surf shops, and a vibrant night life. This beach also offers some great surfing, fishing tours, ATV tours, horseback tours, crocodile adventures, and much more. Jaco can be enjoyed by families and has activities for families but it also has everything the more wild crowd is looking for.