Off the Beaten Path Costa Rica: Uncovering Hidden Gems and Non-Touristy Things To Do

Last updated on November 17th, 2023 at 05:40 am

Are you planning a vacation to Costa Rica but are bored with the usual tourist spots and yearning for an authentic Costa Rican adventure? Discover the country’s hidden gems and experience the true pura vida by venturing off the beaten path in Costa Rica! Costa Rica is known for beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, and abundant wildlife.

Costa Rica, a popular destination for travelers, is a treasure trove of biodiversity, offering an array of gorgeous beaches, amazing cloud forests, plethora of luxury vacation rentals. The country’s laid-back pura vida lifestyle is complemented by a plethora of outdoor activities. From exhilarating zip lining and whitewater rafting for thrill-seekers, to hikes to hidden waterfalls for those who love to wander off the beaten track, this vibrant destination promises a unique adventure.

In this blog post, we’ll explore lesser-known national parks, remote beach towns, uncharted wildlife experiences, small towns for cultural immersion, adventure activities in undiscovered locations, hidden hot springs and volcanoes, sustainable travel, and unique culinary experiences of Costa Rica. Are you ready to uncover best-kept secrets in Costa Rica?

Short Summary

  • Explore the lesser-known national parks, remote beach towns, and uncharted wildlife experiences in Costa Rica.
  • Experience the unique cultures of small towns & adventure activities in undiscovered locations.
  • Discover hidden hot springs & volcanoes and practice sustainable travel to support local communities in Costa Rica!

Exploring the Lesser-Known National Parks in Costa Rica

Costa Rica off the beaten path
Costa Rica off the beaten path lesser-known national parks with lush green forests and mountains
Costa Rica is famous for its national parks, but have you ever wondered what lies beyond the popular tourist spots? Two lesser-known national parks worth exploring are Braulio Carrillo and Barra Honda, both offering seclusion and an opportunity to experience Costa Rica’s natural beauty in a more intimate setting.

In the following sections, we will dive deeper into what makes these parks a must-visit for nature lovers seeking to venture off the beaten path.

Braulio Carrillo National Park

Located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, Braulio Carrillo National Park is a lush, rainforest-covered gem often overshadowed by its famous counterparts like Tortuguero National Park and Corcovado National Parks. The park is home to La Selva Protected Zone, offering a water fall, tranquil hiking trails where you can spot diverse wildlife, such as monkeys, sloths, and an array of tropical birds.

What sets Braulio Carrillo apart from typical beach destinations in Costa Rica is its unspoiled beauty and the opportunity to immerse oneself in it’s rich biodiversity. Visit during the dry season, from December to April, for the best experience, and don’t forget to pack hiking boots, binoculars, and a sense of adventure.

Barra Honda National Park

A favorite among Costa Ricans seeking a less touristy destination, Barra Honda National Park is renowned for its fascinating limestone caves and unique rock formations. This park, located in the province of Puntarenas, offers a unique experience in Central America.

Adventure enthusiasts can explore the park’s complex of underground caves, go rock climbing, and spot wildlife such as howler monkeys, sloths, and iguanas. The best time to visit Barra Honda is during the dry season, from December to April, when you can fully appreciate its geological wonders and hidden treasures.

Remote Beach Towns: Escaping the Crowds

remote beaches in Costa Rica
One of the many remote beach towns in Costa Rica
If you’re craving some peace and tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica, look no further than Playa Negra, Playa Samara, Dominical, Pavones, Santa Teresa and Playa Avellanas. These remote beach towns offer pristine beaches, laid-back vibes, and a taste of local life far from the crowds.

In the next sections, we’ll explore what makes these beach towns the perfect beach destination for those seeking a more serene vacation experience in a beach town.

Playa Negra

Playa Negra, located just south of Tamarindo, is a tranquil beach renowned for its secluded atmosphere and world-class surfing opportunities. The black sand beach is also the perfect spot to enjoy mesmerizing sunsets and peaceful strolls along the shore.

Despite its remote location, Playa Negra offers a range of accommodations and dining options, ensuring a comfortable stay. So whether you’re a seasoned surfer or simply looking to unwind in a serene setting, Playa Negra is the ideal destination for an off-the-beaten-path beach retreat.

Playa Samara

For an authentic slice of Costa Rica, seek out the charming beach town of Samara in Guanacaste Province. This accessible tiny town offers an alluring blend of local vibes and essential amenities, a serene contrast to the bustling beach towns further north. A journey from Liberia International Airport ushers you into Samara’s heart where the downtown hums with boutique shops, a variety of restaurants, tour operators, and snug hotels.

Nestled amidst lush dry forest, Samara’s wildlife and natural beauty are at your doorstep, with monkeys, iguanas, and birds aplenty. Playa Samara, the star attraction, with its palm-lined sandy shores and tranquil waters, is a haven for families, casual strollers, and water sports enthusiasts who love swimming and enjoy to snorkel. For a quieter chillout experience, explore the locals’ favorite, Playa Carrillo, showcasing serene waves, and quintessential Costa Rican charm.


Just a 45 minute drive south of the popular destination of Manuel Antonio, Dominical, a rapidly popular beach town in Costa Rica, boasts exceptional surfing waves, a laid-back lifestyle, and captivating landscapes. It’s a tropical haven, where jungle meets beach, offering an ideal escape for tourists. Dominical exudes a charmingly non-commercial, laid-back ambiance; a bustling hub for surfers, backpackers, and families alike, all co-existing amidst roaming dogs and scenic beauty.

Playa Dominical, with its constant waves and lengthy, rocky shoreline, is not a good beach for swimming but is a paradise for seasoned surfers. The surrounding tropical rainforest stays lush year-round, contributing to the breathtaking sunsets. Dominical’s unique hippie atmosphere is evident in its vibrant, hammock-studded parking areas on the sand, and camper vans housing long-term visitors. With several surf schools at nearby beginner-friendly beaches of Playa Linda and Playa Dominicalito, Dominical truly is a surfer’s delight. For craft beer lovers, be sure to stop by the renown Fruego Brewery.


Nestled far down the Pacific coast in southwestern Costa Rica, near the Panama border and south of the Osa Peninsula, lies the secluded beach town of Pavones. Famed for its left break, Pavones lures surfers globally, but its appeal goes beyond just the waves. Raw jungle, untouched terrain, and miles of secluded beaches make Pavones an ideal retreat to disconnect.

Set near the Gulfo Dulce’s mouth, Pavones boasts untamed wilderness, with sparse agricultural patches disrupting the expansive jungle. While reaching Pavones involves a lengthy drive or a small plane ride, the journey offers the chance to explore other charming towns. Despite its remoteness, Pavones hosts a range of activities like sport fishing, horseback riding, and wildlife spotting. Its surfing conditions are reputedly excellent for over 150 days a year, offering one of the world’s longest left breaks. Playa Pavones, backed by dense rainforest and lofty palms, emanates a wild charm, with abundant wildlife to discover, making this beach town a hidden Costa Rican gem.

Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa, nestled on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, is a haven for those seeking a tranquil retreat from modern buzz. One of the more popular destinations on our list, this small town in the Nicoya Peninsula enthralls with its mix of friendly locals, ex-pats, and eco-conscious travelers. Recognized as a Blue Zone, Santa Teresa is a wellness hotspot, offering yoga, nourishing local cuisine, and chances for a digital detox.

Surf culture thrives in Santa Teresa, with gorgeous beaches like Playa Carmen and La Lora hosting surfers eager to ride the fantastic breaks. Wildlife enthusiasts will love the abundant sea turtles and local fauna. Adventures also beckon, from horseback riding along remote beaches to snorkeling. Wrap up your day at one of Santa Teresa’s many restaurants, savoring a sunset view, and you’ll truly experience Costa Rica’s magic.

Playa Avellanas

Located in the Guanacaste region of Cost Rica, Playa Avellanas is a lesser-known gem on the Pacific coast. A half-hour drive from Tamarindo, through quaint local towns, transports you to this stunning destination in Costa Rica. This beautiful playa is famed for its white sand, turquoise waves, and amazing sunsets offers a serene experience away from crowded tourist spots.

Surfing is a must-try at Playa Avellanas, with seven distinct points catering to all skill levels. Little Hawaii, known for its soaring waves, is a local favorite. For beginners, areas near Lola’s restaurant provide perfect small waves. Additionally, low tide unveils a world of intricate rock formations and pools to explore. Discover the true essence of the Nicoya Peninsula at Playa Avellanas, one of Costa Rica’s most gorgeous, remote beaches.

Uncharted Wildlife Experiences

Costa Rica is a haven for nature lovers, and two of its most biodiverse and uncharted destinations are Drake Bay and Boca Tapada. These remote locations offer unparalleled wildlife encounters and unique animal sightings, making them the perfect destinations for those seeking a more authentic connection with nature.

Let’s explore what makes these areas so special and why they should be on every wildlife enthusiast’s bucket list.

Drake Bay

Situated on the remote Osa Peninsula, Drake Bay is a remote destination that offers access to the astounding biodiversity of Corcovado National Park and the nearby Marino Ballena National Park. The bay’s pristine waters are home to a variety of marine life, such as dolphins, manta rays, and marine turtles, making it a prime spot for snorkeling and diving adventures in the Cao Island Biological Reserve.

Aside from its underwater wonders, Drake Bay offers ample opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and exploring secluded beaches. Whether you’re an avid hiker or a wildlife enthusiast, Drake Bay’s unspoiled beauty and unique animal encounters make it a must-visit destination in Costa Rica.

Boca Tapada

Hidden in Northern Costa Rica, Boca Tapada is a lesser-known gem that offers an incredible opportunity for bird watching and wildlife spotting. The area is home to a vast array of flora and fauna, including sloths, white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, and an impressive variety of bird species.

For a truly immersive experience, take a guided nature walk through the lush forests or explore the area by kayak or boat tour. Boca Tapada’s remote location and abundant wildlife make it a must-visit for those seeking an authentic connection with nature away from the tourist crowds.

Cultural Immersion in Small Towns

If you’re yearning to experience the true essence of Costa Rica beyond its stunning landscapes, immersing yourself in the local culture is the way to go. Small towns like Ciudad Colón and Nuevo Arenal offer the perfect opportunity to connect with locals, learn about their traditions, and gain a deeper understanding of the Costa Rican way of life.

Here, we’ll explore what makes these towns unique and how they can enrich your travel experience.

Ciudad Colón

Located just outside of San José, Ciudad Colón is a charming town with an international flair thanks to the presence of the United Nations’ University for Peace. The town’s vibrant atmosphere and welcoming locals make it an ideal destination for cultural immersion.

Ciudad Colón offers various things to do for visitors, from hiking and exploring the surrounding countryside to visiting the unique Hotel Villa Colón, owned by a German immigrant. With its blend of local charm and global influences, Ciudad Colón is a wonderful place to experience Costa Rican culture and understand the true meaning of pura vida.

Nuevo Arenal

Situated near the Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest, Nuevo Arenal is a quaint town that provides a quieter alternative to popular tourist destinations like Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna and Tilaran. The town boasts stunning views of Lake Arenal and offers a range of activities, from hiking and bird watching to kayaking and fishing.

Visiting nearby towns such as Tilaran and La Fortuna allows you to explore local culture, indulge in delicious cuisine, and browse art galleries and craft shops. With its peaceful atmosphere and authentic experiences, Nuevo Arenal is a hidden gem for those seeking cultural immersion in Costa Rica.

Adventure Activities in Undiscovered Locations

Looking to add a little excitement to your Costa Rican adventure? Undiscovered locations like Turrialba and Rivas de Pérez Zeledón offer a range of thrilling activities, from rafting and canyoning to caving and hiking. These lesser-known spots provide adrenaline-pumping experiences in stunning natural settings, allowing you to explore the wild side of Costa Rica.

Whether you’re looking for a heart-pounding adventure or a peaceful escape, we have you covered.


Turrialba is a lesser-known destination with an active volcano, historical monuments, and an array of exciting outdoor activities. The town is home to the Guayabo National Monument, a fascinating archaeological site that offers a glimpse into Costa Rica’s ancient past.

Adventure-seekers will love the variety of things to do in Turrialba, such as biking, hiking, and canyoning, all set against the backdrop of the majestic Turrialba Volcano. For an unforgettable experience, embark on a thrilling rafting trip down the Pacuare River, one of the world’s top whitewater rafting destinations.

Rivas de Pérez Zeledón

Nestled in the province of San José, Rivas de Pérez Zeledón offers a unique blend of adventure and cultural experiences. Hike to the summit of Mount Chirripo, the highest peak in Costa Rica, for breathtaking views of the Pacific and Caribbean seas on a clear day.

In addition to hiking, Rivas de Pérez Zeledón offers an array of activities such as bird watching, kayaking, and fishing, as well as coffee tasting at local plantations. This hidden gem provides a perfect balance of adventure and cultural experiences, allowing you to create unforgettable memories in Costa Rica.

Hidden Hot Springs and Volcanoes

For a truly unique and relaxing experience, be sure to explore Costa Rica’s hidden hot springs and volcanoes. Miravalles Volcano and Tenorio Volcano National Parks. Park offers lesser-known alternatives to the country’s popular hot spring resorts, allowing you to unwind in a more secluded and intimate setting.

Let’s delve into these hidden gems and discover why they should be on every traveler’s itinerary.

Miravalles Volcano

Located in the Guanacaste province, the Miravalles Volcano is an active volcano known for its hot springs and volcanic baths. The area offers a range of thermal experiences, from natural hot springs to luxurious spa facilities, all set against the backdrop of the stunning Miravalles Volcano.

One of the main advantages of visiting the Miravalles Volcano is its affordability compared to more popular hot spring destinations. Soak in the healing waters, marvel at the unique volcanic landscapes, and experience the soothing benefits of a hidden gem in Costa Rica’s volcanic region.

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Home to the breathtaking Celeste River, Tenorio Volcano National Park is a must-visit destination for those seeking a unique hot spring and volcanic experience. The park’s stunning hiking trails offer unparalleled views of the Tenorio Volcano and the surrounding lush forests.

During the slightly less wet season, visit the vibrant Celeste River, famous for its fluorescent blue color, and marvel at the natural beauty of this unique destination. With its captivating landscapes and soothing hot springs, Tenorio Volcano National Park is the perfect spot to relax and rejuvenate while exploring the hidden wonders of Costa Rica.

Sustainable Travel: Supporting Local Communities

As you embark on your off-the-beaten-path Costa Rican adventure, it’s important to remember the impact of tourism on local communities and the environment. Practicing sustainable travel and supporting local businesses not only enriches your travel experience, but also ensures that your journey leaves a positive and lasting impact on this beautiful country.

In this section, we’ll provide some tips on how to travel responsibly and support local communities while exploring Costa Rica’s hidden gems.

Unique Culinary Experiences

As you venture off the beaten path in Costa Rica, it’s crucial to be prepared and make the most of your journey. From transportation options and language learning to responsible travel practices, we’ll provide some essential tips to help you navigate your way through this stunning country and create unforgettable memories.

Keep these tips in mind as you embark on your Costa Rican adventure, and you’ll be well on your way to a truly enriching and immersive experience.


In conclusion, Costa Rica is a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. From lesser-known national parks and remote beach towns to uncharted wildlife experiences, cultural immersion in small towns, adventure activities in undiscovered locations, hidden hot springs and volcanoes, sustainable travel, and unique culinary experiences, there’s something for everyone in this breathtaking country. So pack your bags, venture off the beaten path, and uncover the true essence of pura vida!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some lesser-known national parks in Costa Rica?

Braulio Carrillo and Barra Honda are two of Costa Rica’s lesser-known national parks, giving nature-lovers a chance to explore its secluded beauty.

These parks are located in the northern part of the country, and offer a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. Hiking, bird-watching, and camping are all popular activities in these parks. Visitors can also take advantage of the many waterfalls and rivers.

Can you recommend any remote beach towns in Costa Rica?

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path escape, Playa Negra, Samara, Santa Teresa, and Pavones should be top of your list. These remote beach towns offer beautiful scenery and a relaxed-chill atmosphere.

Other honorable mention beach towns that did not make our list are Puerto Jimenez, Playa San Juanillo, Puerto Viejo, Playa Conchal, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Brasilito.

Not so remote beach towns but you might want to consider because of their beautiful beaches are Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo.

What are some unique wildlife experiences in Costa Rica?

You can experience the incredible biodiversity everywhere in Costa Rica but Drake Bay and Boca Tapada are stand out locations where you can easily get a chance to spot rare wildlife – Costa Rica is an ideal destination for wildlife lovers!

Costa Rica is home to a wide variety of species, from monkeys and sloths to toucans and macaws. It’s a great place to observe wildlife in its natural habitat such as migrating humpback whales and take in the beauty of the rainforest.

How can I support local communities while traveling in Costa Rica?

Support local communities while traveling in Costa Rica by practicing sustainable travel, supporting local businesses, and engaging with locals.

Sustainable travel means reducing your environmental impact by using public transportation, avoiding single-use plastics, and staying in eco-friendly accommodations. Supporting local businesses helps to keep money in the local economy.

What are some tips for traveling off the beaten path in Costa Rica?

Do your research about Costa Rica and prepare beforehand to make the most of your off-the-beaten-path travels in Costa Rica – learn some Spanish, look into transportation options, and remember to practice responsible tourism.

Before you go, make sure you have a good understanding of the local culture and customs. Research the best places to visit, and plan your itinerary accordingly. Consider the type of activities you want to do, and the type of accommodation you want to stay in. While Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in Central America, be mindful of your surroundings.


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