Skip to Content

24 Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica & Things to Do

We take pride in providing authentic travel recommendations based on our own experiences. We may earn a commission when you purchase a product or book a reservation. Learn more ›

Costa Rica is a beautiful country nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This well-conserved country has sprawling landscapes and beautiful natural terrains. Here are the best places to visit in Costa Rica to make the most of your trip.

Costa Rica is a small country located in Central America, but it has a rich history, which can be traced back to the time of the ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations. Over the centuries, this country has been ruled by a number of different countries, including Spain, Portugal, and Mexico.

24 Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica & Things to Do

It’s home to lush rainforests, white-sand beaches, and fantastic wildlife. Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world. And in a changing climate, you must visit before it’s too late.

This country is gorgeous with its rainforests, volcanoes, and beaches, and it’s a popular destination for tourists worldwide. There are many options to do in Costa Rica, and any traveler can be catered for.

Here are our favorite destinations in Costa Rica.

Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica & Things to Do

1. Arenal Volcano National Park

Cloudy Arenal Volcano from The Springs Resort
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Arenal Volcano is a central landmark of Arenal, the self-declared adventure capital of Costa Rica. Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the most beautiful places that surrounds the Arenal Volcano.

The park is full of lush green forests and provides stunning views of the volcano. The park also has many hiking trails for nature lovers, which lead to waterfalls and other stunning areas.

This national park features one of the world’s most active volcanoes and heavenly scenery that will take your breath away! La Fortuna Waterfall is located in the National Park and is definitely worth a visit! You can hike to the top of the falls or relax in the pools below.

See Related: Best Travel Lightroom Presets

2. Manuel Antonio National Park

Small Monkey on a Tree at  Manuel Antonio National Park

Named after President Manuel A. Figueres Ferrer (the founder of democracy in Costa Rica), this park offers amazing hikes through jungles and waterfalls!

Manuel Antonio National Park is located on the Central Western Coast of Costa Rica, and it’s famous for its beautiful beaches and untamed rainforest.

There are many things to do in Manuel Antonio National Park, but some highlights include hiking, swimming, and spotting wildlife. The park is home to monkeys, sloths, and tropical birds, so keep your eyes peeled as you explore.

Be sure also to spend time relaxing on the beach – the perfect way to end a day of adventure in Manuel Antonio National Park.

See Related: Essential Travel Tips for Visiting Costa Rica

3. Tamarindo

Aerial View of Tamarindo Coast

If you’re looking for a great place to visit in Costa Rica, be sure to check out Tamarindo! This beach town is known for its incredible surfing conditions with its gentle waves along Tamarindo Beach, and it’s the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun.

You’ll also find plenty of great restaurants and bars in Tamarindo, so you won’t have to go far for a good time. The culture of Tamarindo is heavily influenced by its proximity to the beach.

Locals are known for being laid-back and friendly, and you’ll find that people here are always ready to have a good time.

We stayed at El Capitan Suizo and loved the experience of staying in a room on the beach. Tamarindo is also home to a diverse mix of cultures, and you’ll see evidence of this in the town’s architecture, food, and music. If you’re looking for an authentic Costa Rican experience, be sure to visit Tamarindo.

4. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a popular tourist destination in Costa Rica for a legitimate reason. This reserve is home to some of the most fascinating wildlife in the country, including howling monkeys, colorful frogs, and jaguars.

You’ll also find plenty of beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, so it’s the perfect place to get outdoors and explore.

Keep a watch on the local wildlife with an unmissable wildlife spotting tour, or take things up a notch and zip through the canopies to get the heart racing. And if you’re looking for a place to relax, be sure to check out one of the reserve’s many charming cafes.

See Related: Best Costa Rica Excursions to Book Today

5. Cocos Island National Park

Cocos Island is incredibly underrated and has marvels rivaling the Galapagos Islands’ wonders. This incredible national park is tough to reach.

Most people don’t even know about it, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a famed spot for incredible whale watching! Isla del Coco is world-famous for diving. It is appropriate for all divers, but most visitors are intermediate-level divers.

The waters are very cold, between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the time of year. There are white-tip reef sharks and humpback whales that reside here year-round.

This national park is one of the most pristine that you will find in Costa Rica. You might even see some dolphins on your trip. It’s a real-life Isla Nublar for the Jurassic Park fans out there.

No, seriously, there is a Jurassic Park on the island. If you want to see our beautiful planet Earth in its raw form, this is the place to do it. Come prepared!

See Related: Best Whale Watching Places in the World

6. Montezuma

A popular beach town on the Central Pacific coast is home to some of Costa Rica’s best surf breaks! There’s plenty to do in Montezuma, whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or get out and explore the rainforest! If you’re looking for some of the top things to do in Montezuma, you could:

  • Go zip-lining through the trees.
  • Take a canopy tour.
  • Take a hike to the top of Montezuma Hill for stunning views of the area.
  • Go horseback riding on the beach.

There are a few ways to get to Montezuma from San Jose. You can take a bus, a taxi, or rent a car. The easiest way is to take a bus, which takes about 3 hours.

Taxis are also an option, but they can be expensive. If you want to rent a car, be sure to do your research first, as the roads can be tricky to navigate.

See Related: Best Activities in Costa Rica: Top Outdoor Adventures

7. Bay of Papagayo & Papagayo Peninsula

Aerial of the Ocean and Island in Papagayo Peninsula
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Papagayo Peninsula is a beautiful and secluded area in the North West region of Costa Rica. It’s well known for its amazing beaches and tropical rainforest. If you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing vacation, the Papagayo Peninsula is definitely a place you’ll want to check out.

This area is known for having some of the best resorts to stay in all of Costa Rica. There are a number of beautiful beaches near the Papagayo Peninsula, and each one offers its unique charm and attractions. Here are some of the best ones to check out:

  • Playa Hermosa: This beach is known for its stunning white sand and crystal clear waters. It’s definitely a paradise for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.
  • Playa Panama: This beach is great for surfing and bodyboarding. It’s also home to some of the best seafood in Costa Rica.
  • Playa Danta: This beach is perfect for those who want to relax and enjoy top-tier natural beauty. It’s also great for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.
  • Playa Ocotal: This beach is known for its perfect, soft sand stretching miles along the coastline. It’s an excellent place to relax or to take a morning walk.

See Related: Where to Stay in Costa Rica on the Beach – Best Places

8. Rincon de la Vieja

Rincon de la Vieja is a volcano in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, thanks to its stunning natural scenery and the variety of activities available.

Some things you can do at Rincon de la Vieja include hiking, zip-lining, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and swimming.

There are a number of great places to stay near Rincon de la Vieja, including the Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin, Hacienda Guachipelin Volcano Ranch Hotel & Hot Springs, and Hotel Casa Conde.

All of these resorts offer great amenities and views of the volcano. If you’re looking for a place to stay near Rincon de la Vieja, be sure to check out these resorts.

See Related: Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

9. Tortuguero National Park

Costa Rica is home to many beautiful places, but one of the most stunning is Tortuguero National Park. Most notable for its vast array of nesting leatherback sea turtles.

This park is known for its lush tropical rainforest and miles of unspoiled beaches. It’s also a great place to see wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, and crocodiles. If you’re looking for an unforgettable nature experience, be sure to visit Tortuguero National Park.

There are many great places to stay near Tortuguero National Park, but one of the best is the Mawamba Lodge. This lodge is in the park’s heart and offers guests a unique and unforgettable experience.

10. Nosara

Aerial View of the Boats and Beach in Nosara, Costa Rica

The Nicoya Peninsula is located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and is known for its beautiful beaches and lush rainforest. Some of the best places to visit on the Nicoya Peninsula include Nosara, Tamarindo, and Santa Teresa.

Nosara is a small town known for being an amazing beach destination with beautiful beaches and thriving rainforests. There are options to suit various interests in Nosara, from surfing and stand-up paddleboarding to ziplining and wildlife spotting.

So, if you’re looking for an adventure-filled tropical getaway, be sure to add Nosara to your list!

11. Irazu Volcan National Park

Lake Surrounded by Mountains in Irazu Volcan National Park

Irazú Volcano National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica. The park is named after Irazú, the country’s second most active volcano.

The volcano is located in the Cordillera Central mountain range and is a part of the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Irazú Volcano National Park was established in 1965 and covers an area of 58 square kilometers.

The park features various landscapes, including rainforest, cloud forest, paramo, and lava fields. Visitors can also enjoy hot springs, waterfalls, and crater lakes.

Irazú Volcano is known for its spectacular eruptions, which can be seen from great distances. The last major eruption took place just 20 years ago.

See Related: Best Day Trips From San José, Costa Rica

12. Dominical

Waterfall in Dominical, Costa Rica

Dominical is an island retreat for tropical backpackers with rickety wooden houses, stunning beaches, budget lodgings, laid-back restaurants, and a decent ambiance. Costa Rica’s Dominical is one of Central America’s best surfing locations.

Surfers who visit the region are trapped, and visits frequently extend. Dominical also draws a wealthy crowd that prefers small luxury hotels located on hills or overlooking the town’s outskirts.

They’re commonly set apart from one another, giving guests a close-up view of species such as howler monkeys rousing them at sunrise and toucans flying by pools.

See Related: Best Beaches in Costa Rica (Top Spots Ranked!)

13. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Surfer Walking Along the Puerto Viejo de Talamanca Coast

If you want a truly unique Costa Rican experience, visit Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. This town is located in the Caribbean region of Costa Rica, and it has a vibe that’s very different from the rest of the country.

It has tiny cantinas and ramshackle eateries, with the scent of coconut curries and reggaeton music in the air. If you’re looking for an unforgettable vacation destination, be sure to add Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to your list.

14. San José

Mountain Range in San Jose, Costa Rica

San José is the capital of Costa Rica and is home to tons of fun things to do. The city is clean and friendly, with many century-old and modern buildings.

There are activities for every day of the year all over the city so it would be difficult not to find something you like. Some of the best things to see and do in San José include:

  • Visit the National Museum of Costa Rica, which contains exhibits on the history, culture, and natural history of Costa Rica.
  • Walk through Plaza de la Cultura, home to beautiful architecture and several museums.
  • Explore the botanical gardens at La Sabana Park.
  • Visit the Gold Museum, which displays Costa Rican treasures such as pre-Columbian gold.

The best places to stay in San José depend on your budget and what you’re looking for. Plenty of hostels and budget hotels are available if you’re on a tight budget.

However, some great options are also available if you’re looking for something more luxurious. Some of the best places to stay in San José include:

  • The Alta Hotel, which is a boutique hotel located in a quiet neighborhood and features beautiful gardens
  • The Marriott Costa Rica Hotel, which is one of the largest and most luxurious hotels in the city

15. Puntarenas

Trees and Beach in Puntarenas, Costa Rica

The delightful coastal city of Puntarenas is only about an hour and a half from San José. There’s no shortage of things to do in the entire Puntarenas Province, such as taking a boat tour, bird watching, or enjoying the fabulous food.

Some of the best things to do in Puntarenas include:

  • Go on a boat tour and enjoy the beautiful ocean views and abundant wildlife, such as dolphins, sea turtles, and colorful birds
  • Join a day trip to Tortuga Island, where you can hike, snorkel, swim, and dine with the added option to rent a paddle board or waverunner.

See Related: Costa Rica Packing List: What to Pack for Your Trip

16. Explore Playa Bonita Natural Reserve

Sample some of the country’s best cuisine in Puntarenas’ many restaurants, along with the great beaches this town has to offer at Playa Bonita Natural Reserve.

The best places to stay in Puntarenas also depend on your budget and what you’re looking for. The Hotel Las Brisas is a good choice if you’d like an affordable place to stay. The hotel offers basic amenities like hot water and Wi-Fi but has a fantastic beachfront view.

The Costa Rica Marriott Hotel is a great choice if you’re looking for luxury. The hotel offers everything you need for a luxurious vacation, including multiple restaurants and access to the beach.

See Related: Is Costa Rica Safe To Visit? (A Guide for Travelers)

17. Central Valley and Highlands

Overview of the Nature in Central Valley, Costa Rica
“hdr_00177_0” by Wayne L Harrison is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Central Valley is where most of the population lives. Here you’ll find some cities that are definitely worth a visit. The area features attractions like coffee plantations and delicious restaurants, so it’s a great place to experience culture and nature.

Some of the best things to see and do in the Central Valley include:

  • Visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens, where you can hike through trails, swim in natural pools, zip line over one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful waterfalls, or ride on the Sky Tram, which takes you dizzyingly close to the falls.
  • See if you can spot monkeys, toucans, sloths, and other exotic wildlife at Selva Verde, an animal rescue center that helps injured animals reintegrate into the wild.
  • Visit the Poás Volcano, a popular national park where you can hike around an active volcano and take in panoramic views from the observation points.
  • Learn about Costa Rican history at Casa Presidencial Museum or Museo de los Niños.

18. Las Catalinas

Aerial View of the Las Catalinas Island

If you’re looking for a stunning beach town to visit in Costa Rica, be sure to check out Las Catalinas. This picturesque town is located on the Pacific coast and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country.

There’s plenty to do in Las Catalinas, Costa Rica, from swimming and sunbathing on the beach to hiking and exploring the area’s lush green forests. On a scuba-diving tour, you could even plunge and see what marvels lie beneath the waves.

In addition, the town is home to a variety of restaurants and bars, as well as a few small shops. So whether you’re looking for a quiet place to relax or an action-packed vacation destination, Las Catalinas is definitely worth considering!

Getting to Las Catalinas is easy but adventurous – fly into the Liberia Airport, and we recommend taking a private shuttle or renting a car. You’ll drive on the Monkey Trail near the Congo Trail, where you’ll get to drive through your first river. Welcome to Costa Rica!

19. Catarate Del Toro Waterfall

Tall Waterfall in Catarate Del Toro
“Jurassic Cataracts” by jurvetson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Catarate Del Toro Waterfall is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica and maybe even Central America. It’s located in the province of Cartago, and it’s well worth a visit!

An amazing volcanic landscape with a dramatic waterfall in the crater, surrounded by lush green forest and tropical plants. The waterfall is within the crater of an extinct volcano and is best viewed at sunrise. It’s worth waking up that early for. This is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

While technically just outside of San Jose, this small beach town has some amazing hotels and resorts. Getting to Catarate Del Toro Waterfall is easy. Just take the highway from San Jose to Cartago and follow the signs. It’s next to the highway, so you can’t miss it.

20. Corcovado National Park

Brown Monkey on a Tree Branch  in Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. This park is located on the remote Osa Peninsula of southwestern Costa Rica and is known for its amazing wildlife.

You can see classic Costa Rican animals like jaguars, tapirs, and monkeys in the park, and it’s also a great place to go birdwatching.

There are a few different places to stay near Corcovado National Park. One of the best is the Osa Canopy Lodge, located just outside the park. This lodge offers amazing views of the rainforest and has a variety of activities available, including hiking, birdwatching, and zip-lining.

Another great option is the Lapa Rios Eco Lodge. This lodge is just outside the park and offers cabins with views of the rainforest and river below. It also has a variety of activities available, such as hikes, birdwatching, and yoga classes.

If you want something more luxurious, you can stay at the Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge. This lodge is located right on the beach and has luxury cabins. It also offers surfing lessons, yoga classes, and massages. Corcovado National Park is the ideal spot for nature lovers and for adventure.

21. Jaco

Jaco is a town located on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Thanks to its beaches, which offer excellent surfing and swimming conditions, it’s a popular tourist destination.

Jaco is also home to a variety of restaurants and hotels, as well as many convenience stores and other businesses. If you’re looking for a place to stay while visiting Jaco, there are a variety of accommodation options available, including apartments, hotels, and hostels.

If you’re looking for a place to stay while visiting Jaco, there are a variety of accommodation options available, including apartments, hotels, and hostels.

Here are some of the best places to stay in Jaco:

  • Apartotel Flamboyant – This apartment complex offers spacious and comfortable apartments, as well as a variety of amenities, including a swimming pool and a gym.
  • Hotel Cocal and Casino – This hotel offers excellent facilities, including a casino, a spa, and several restaurants.
  • Hostel Pura Vida – This hostel offers comfortable and affordable accommodation in a great location.

22. Playa Conchal

Aerial View of the Ocean and Island in Playa Conchal
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Playa Conchal is a beautiful beach located in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The beach is known for its white sand and crystal-clear water. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting Costa Rica.

There are plenty of things to do in Playa Conchal, Costa Rica. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or explore the surrounding area and its natural beauty, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. Some of the best things to do in Playa Conchal include:

  • Relax on the beach or take a dip in the crystal-clear water.
  • Visit the nearby villages and learn about local culture.
  • Take a boat tour of the area’s beautiful coastline and maybe fit in some snorkeling along the way.

There are plenty of places to stay in Playa Conchal, Costa Rica. From luxury resorts to budget-friendly hostels, you’ll find something to fit your needs and budget.

Here are some of the best places to stay in Playa Conchal:

  • Luxury resorts: If you’re looking for a luxurious and relaxing experience, then be sure to check out one of the many luxury resorts in Playa Conchal. These resorts offer everything from private beaches to world-class restaurants, and they will make your vacation unforgettable.
  • Budget-friendly hostels: If you’re on a tight budget, don’t worry! There are plenty of affordable hostels in Playa Conchal as well. These hostels provide clean and comfortable beds and are a great option for solo travelers and backpackers.

To get there, take a bus from San Jose to Liberia and then flag down a bus towards Playa Pan de Azucar. Playa Conchal is about an hour and a half away from Liberia. The best way to get there is by car, but if you don’t have one, be sure to take the bus directly there.

23. Braulio Carrillo National Park

Braulio Carrillo National Park is known for its lush vegetation and its many different habitats, which make it a great spot for observing a variety of wildlife.

Some of the animals you can expect to see in the park include monkeys, jaguars, and pumas, as well as a wide variety of birds.

If you want to stay close to Braulio Carrillo National Park, there are a few great options. The best place to stay is the Hotel Cabinas El Parque inside the park. Other great options include the Posada El Quetzal and the Hotel Don Carlos, located just outside the park.

24. Islas Murcielagos

Aerial View of Islas Murcielagos, Costa Rica
Paul Urena Mora / Shutterstock

The Islas Murcielagos, or Bat Islands, are a group of uninhabited islands off the northwest coast of Costa Rica. These islands are best known for their excellent diving and snorkeling conditions, as well as their populations of marine animals, including dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles.

If you’re looking for a fantastic diving experience, be sure to add the Islas Murcielagos to your list. This is one of the best places to scuba dive in Central America… But only if you dare enter the waters.

When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?

Bridge in Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Ideally, you’ll want to visit Costa Rica in the dry season, from December to April. Just remember that the high season runs around Christmas time, so be prepared for potentially higher costs, larger crowds, and fewer options for accommodation and activities if you don’t book ahead.

If you want lower costs, the shoulder months of November and May are also brilliant options. The weather is still agreeable, and the crowds even more so! You might even manage to get some cheaper accommodation options around this time if you’re after saving some money.

Costa Rica has many notable attractions, including its many national parks, which allow most visitors to see some of the country’s most beautiful and pristine landscapes. Some popular parks include Manuel Antonio National Park, Corcovado National Park, and Santa Rosa National Park.

Each park has its unique features and attractions that make it worth a visit. Manuel Antonio National Park is known for its beaches and lush jungles, while Corcovado National Park is home to some of Central America’s most diverse wildlife. And Santa Rosa National Park is famous for its miles of unspoiled coastline.

Costa Rice Video Travel Guide

But be sure to watch the ViaTravelers YouTube video about what it’s like visiting Costa Rica below. If you love to travel, consider subscribing to the YouTube channel.

Top 10 Places to Visit in Costa Rica & Things to Do [4K UHD]

We’re posting travel vlogs and guides about destinations we love worldwide, so if you love to travel as much as us, you won’t want to miss the next update.

Costa Rica is a popular destination for anyone looking to experience natural beauty. I hope you enjoyed our thoughts on the best places to visit in Costa Rica. Check out our other Costa Rica articles to learn more about this fantastic country.

In the meantime, Pura Vida.


What is the prettiest city in Costa Rica?

San José is the capital and largest city in Costa Rica. It is also the country’s artistic and cultural center, home to many theaters, museums, and galleries.

The city features pleasant weather year-round, with an average temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond that, the Guanacaste Province is exceptional with its gorgeous beaches and Pacific Coast waves.

What should you not miss in Costa Rica?

There are a lot of things to see and do in Costa Rica, but here are some of the most popular, including the beaches on the Pacific Coast, the vast rainforest, the coffee plantations, visit the volcanoes in Fortuna and Arenal, and check out the wildlife at Manuel Antonio National Park.

What places should you visit in Costa Rica?

This is a difficult question because it all depends on what you like. There are tons of national parks, volcanoes, plantations, waterfalls, and beaches. Beyond this, there are several outstanding resorts and hotels to visit, as well as great beach towns like Nosara, Tamarindo, and Playa Conchal.

Where is the best place to go in Costa Rica for the first time?

For your first time visiting Costa Rica, consider visiting the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna region. This area is bursting at the seams with outdoor activities options providing an effortless blend of adventure and natural beauty.

One day, you could be hiking through the rainforest; the next, you’re testing your nerves on the rapids! Then, for some rest, bite in between and relax in a natural hot spring!

If you’re after packing in as many things to do in Costa Rica in one trip as possible, the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna region are calling your name.

Related Resources