What are Popular Tourist Attractions in Costa Rica? A Comprehensive Guide

Last updated on January 5th, 2024 at 09:18 am

What are popular tourist spots in Costa Rica?” may be one of your deciding factors when planning a getaway to Central America.

Costa Rica, a country bordered by the Caribbean and Pacific seas, is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, brimming with rainforests, national parks, waterfalls, and even volcanoes. If you prefer relaxation over adventuring, the country has plenty of opulent spas, private villas, and powder-white beaches to enjoy.

Read on to learn about the popular tourist attractions of Costa Rica.

Tourist Attractions: What To Do In Costa Rica?

For the intrepid traveler, Costa Rica offers a medley of adventurous tourist hot spots. Nestled between the Caribbean and the Pacific, this paradise boasts an array of Costa Rica attractions you simply can’t miss. The tropical rainforest teems with colorful birds – making bird watching an essential experience. The white sand beaches aren’t just for relaxing; they’re a hub for surfing lessons and observing vibrant marine life.

For nature lovers, the lush landscape offers zip line tours, while those keen on exploring can visit San Jose, the country’s capital, known for its beautiful architecture. Coffee plantations, a treat for the senses, can be explored year-round, though the rainy season offers a unique charm. One of Costa Rica’s popular activities is walking the hanging bridges – a thrilling way to keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife.

Whether it’s bird species, cultural attractions, or simply deciding the best places to visit during the peak tourist season or Costa Rica’s off season, this popular destination ensures every visitor leaves with cherished memories. Remember, every corner you explore unveils another slice of paradise. With so many things to do in Costa Rica, strap on those hiking boots and venture into the heart of one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world!

Costa Rica's Amazing Beaches

Costa Rica is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world. Each stretch of sand tells a unique story, inviting travelers to explore its hidden treasures. Whether you’re a surfer chasing the next big wave or a sun-seeker yearning for pristine shores, this Central American paradise promises an unmatched beach experience. Dive in, let the waves whisper tales of adventure, and discover the essence of Pura Vida!

If beach activities are a priority on your Costa Rica itinerary, consider a luxury villa overlooking some of the best beaches. Your private villa puts you just steps from the sandy beaches and beautiful blue ocean waters.

best places to visit in Costa Rica
The beautiful Playa Espadilla in Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio, perched on a stunning hillside on the Pacific coast, is home to many beautiful beaches that rank among the best places to visit in Costa Rica. From the famed Playa Espadilla and secluded Playitas Beach to the gentle waves of Playa Biesanz, you’re in for a beach-hopping treat. Manuel Antonio National Park Beaches, especially Playa Manuel Antonio, are the crowning jewels, boasting crystal clear waters and amazing vistas.

While many rave about Tamarindo Beach, Santa Teresa, or Jaco Beach on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, the beaches of Manuel Antonio remain a famous attraction for visitors. Looking for more than just sunbathing? Manuel Antonio is teeming with wildlife and is a haven for water sport enthusiasts. With such stunning beaches, it’s no wonder Manuel Antonio is an essential stop for beach lovers.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Located on the lush eastern coast of Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo is a gem for beach enthusiasts. Beyond its secluded and pristine beaches, Puerto Viejo is especially famous for its clear turquoise water, making it the perfect place for swimming and snorkeling. Dive in, and you might find yourself swimming alongside enchanting sea turtles. With great beaches teeming with coral reefs, it’s no wonder this spot is one of the most popular beaches in the region. Whether you’re in the mood to swim with turtles or relax on the sands, Puerto Viejo offers an experience that’s hard to beat.

Just a short 20-minute drive south are some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, Playa Manzanillo and Punta Uva. In the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, Manzanillo boasts warm and clear waters and verdant rainforests. Beachgoers flock to Playa Manzanillo’s coral reef and Punta Uva’s golden sands, ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Scuba diving, swimming, or boating, this Caribbean coast destination is perfect for travelers seeking a beach-filled vacation.

Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa, a hidden gem on Costa Rica’s coastline in the Puntarenas province, is truly the best place for those looking to escape the usual tourist crowds. This slice of paradise is dotted with secluded beaches, fringed by whispering palm trees. While the waves beckon surfers, the serene landscape makes it a great place for horseback riding along the shore. If you’re charting out places to visit in Costa Rica, Santa Teresa should be on your list. Amidst its natural beauty, you’ll find a tranquility that’s both rare and rewarding. Dive into this untouched haven!

Tamarindo

If you enjoy surfing, then Tamarindo is your slice of paradise. As a coastal destination on the Pacific Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, it beckons travelers to immerse in its vibrant wave culture. With its golden sands and consistent breaks, Tamarindo isn’t just a beach – it’s an invitation. An invitation to feel the rhythm of the ocean and to dance atop its waves. The town itself hums with surf energy, making it a must-visit for anyone yearning for that perfect wave and a taste of the iconic Costa Rican surf spirit. Dive in and ride!

Montezuma

Nestled on the Nicoya Peninsula, the tiny town of Montezuma with beautiful beaches is a must-visit in Costa Rica. While it might be small in size, its nature and charm are boundless. Located amidst amazing beaches and nearby villages, Montezuma stands out with its raw beauty. The town itself buzzes with life, but the real magic lies on its shores, where leatherback turtles often make their majestic appearance. Whether you’re drawn by the allure of village life or the call of nature, Montezuma encapsulates the essence of a truly remarkable Costa Rican beach experience.

National Parks of Costa Rica

There are an abundant amount of national parks in Costa Rica. The Manual Antonio National Park is a bird watcher’s dream. You’ll also spot or hear your fair share of howler monkeys in the many national parks, including Manual Antonio.

Many people consider Cocos Island National Park the Galapagos Islands of Costa Rica. A boat ride off the coast of Costa Rica, Cocos Island has incredible biodiversity both on land and under the sea, making it an excellent place for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Head down to southern Costa Rica for long-distance hiking in the national parks. This is also an excellent location for fishing, surfing, and wildlife viewing. The Braulio Carillo National Park is just a short drive from San Jose but surrounded by native plants and wildlife.

The Tortuguero National Park is also a . If you’re lucky, you may even spot the national bird of the country, the clay-colored robin.

Arenal Volcano National Park Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano National Park

Nestled near the town of La Fortuna, Arenal stands tall as the most iconic volcano in Costa Rica. It’s not just about the volcanos, though. The region around Arenal boasts lush botanical gardens and a diverse reserve teeming with animals. Hiking here is a dream. While most people are drawn to its towering presence, the organized tours offer deeper dives into its hidden gems. For many, Arenal Volcano National Park is not just one of the best places to witness nature’s power, but also to understand why Costa Rica’s parks are the talk of adventurers everywhere. 

The Arenal volcano / La Fortuna region is perhaps the most famous when it comes to hot springs. The area surrounding the Arenal Volcano is dotted with a multitude of hot springs, ranging from luxury resorts to more rustic, natural settings.

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park is more than just a reserve; it’s a testament to nature’s miracles. Renowned as a popular sea turtle breeding area, it’s where life begins amidst the whisper of waves. But beyond the beaches, the park beckons explorers to delve deeper. Set out on a hike through its dense trails, and you’ll soon discover a world where every footstep narrates a tale of the wild. In a place teeming with nature’s wonders, Tortuguero reminds us why Costa Rica remains an adventurer’s dream destination. Be sure to visit and witness the circle of life!

Manual Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is one of those rare gems where the lush tropical rainforest meets the sea. Situated in the vibrant town of Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast, this forest reserve isn’t just about the verdant canopy; it’s a symphony of many different habitats harmoniously existing together. The lush forests teem with life. Squirrel monkeys playfully swing from branches while scarlet macaws paint the sky with their vivid hues. It’s not uncommon for visitors to spot monkeys, sloths, and even the elusive Morpho butterfly that find refuge in this habitat.

Manuel Antonio National Park with its stunning diversity, beckons tourists outdoors, promising access to some of the best things the country offers. From guided tours unveiling the mysteries of the rainforest to the simple joy of spotting animals in their natural state, Manuel Antonio National Park is a testament to Costa Rica’s commitment to preserving its wild heart. 

Braulio Carrillo National Park

Located just a few miles north of San Jose, Carrillo National Park remains one of the lesser-known treasures in Costa Rica, a haven for those wanting an authentic experience away from the crowds. Situated amidst rolling hills, the park boasts trails suitable for all skill levels. What sets Carrillo apart? Its unparalleled biodiversity. Here, you’ll discover species not commonly seen in more touristy locales. Key fact: Unlike other parks, Carrillo remains open year-round, even during the rainy season, making it a flexible choice for visitors. Additionally, the park’s proximity to local villages allows tourists to blend nature with culture seamlessly. If raw, unfiltered Costa Rica calls to you, Carrillo awaits.

Carara National Park

Carara National Park is a mecca for bird enthusiasts. Strategically located between the tropical rainforest and dry forest, this park hosts a transition zone that’s rare, creating a biodiversity hotspot. Carara is home to one of the largest populations of scarlet macaws in Costa Rica, a sight that leaves visitors mesmerized. The trails are well-maintained and suitable for families. Plus, its proximity to San José makes it an accessible detour for those on a tight schedule. If you’re keen on filling your trip with vibrant colors and sounds of nature, make sure Carara is on your list.

Corcovado National Park

If you’re chasing the soul of Costa Rica, the heart beats loudest in Corcovado National Park. Located on the remote Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica, this forest reserve is a showcase of raw nature. The Osa Peninsula is among the country’s most isolated destinations, making it a good choice for adventurers seeking untamed beauty.

Corcovado National Park is a haven of rainforest, teeming with a large number of sloths, toucans, and other animals. On any visit, hundreds of birds fill the soundscape, each echoing the magic of the Osa Peninsula. For those who travel with an insatiable thirst for the uncharted, Corcovado promises the essence of the wild and is one of the best places to visit. Explore an area of the Osa that stands as a testament to nature’s amazing grandeur. 

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Enjoy the eco-diversity of Costa Rica with a visit to one of the cloud forests. Cloud forest are one of the most-visited tourist destinations in Costa Rica. While they’re all worth visiting, a few of the top are Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Braulio Carillo.

When you visit a cloud forest, you can expect an immersion in natural beauty surrounded by unique plants and birds. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a few native wildlife or amphibian species.

Hike among the waterfalls and spot the many colorful frogs. You can also quickly refuel by stopping at one of the tasty restaurants within the forest.

The forests are abundant with wildlife including howler monkeys, frogs, jaguars, and pumas. Consider horseback riding and zip lining through this oasis known as the Monteverde cloud forest for an unforgettable trip to the lush rainforests.

Volcanoes of Costa Rica

Another one of the top Costa Rica attractions is exploring the volcanoes. Central America is home to some of the most active volcanoes, making volcano spotting one of the top attractions.

If you only have time for one, the Poas Volcano, an active volcano just north of San Jose, is a must-see.

The last time the volcano erupted was in 2019, and it remains one of the most active volcanoes in the country. If you have time for multiple, check out Arenal Volcano, Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, and Irazu Volcano National Park.

Numerous hiking trails wind through the volcanoes, promising you and your family an exciting outdoor adventure.

Hot springs are another exceptional reason to visit Costa Rica. You’ll find refreshing hot springs located near the Tenorio and Miravalles volcanoes. The central valley of Costa Rica is also a great area to find active volcanoes.

Lake Arenal

Located at the base of the Arenal Volcano, the 85-kilometer man-made Lake Arenal is one of the top attractions in the entire country. The lake generates hydroelectric power for much of the country.

It’s stocked with machaca and rainbow bass, making it a popular fishing destination. You’ll also find paddleboarders, kayakers, and windsurfers enjoying the almost 33 square miles of landlocked lake.

Diamante Eco Adventure Park

Looking for an adrenaline-filled adventure in Costa Rica that you’ll talk about for years to come? Look no further than the Diamante Eco Adventure Park, where you’ll find sloth monkeys, chimpanzees, and even a jaguar.

The adventure park also has an on-site butterfly garden. Of course, one of the best ways to explore the adventure park is via zip-line. Strap in and fly through the Costa Rican jungles, as this will surely be a highlight of your trip.

Peurto Viejo de Talamanca

Explore away from the beaten path in Costa Rica with a visit to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. You’ll find authentic restaurants, reggae musicians, and a few quaint beaches here. During the day, the region is quiet and laid back, and by night, it takes on a trendy, hip party vibe.

The Crocodile Bridge

Costa Rica is well-known for its large population of crocodiles. The Crocodile Bridge, located on the Tarcoles River, is a quick trip worth the experience. The bridge extends over a large crocodile population. Here, you’ll find tourists parked out over the bridge capturing photographs of the crocodiles, some of which reach as long as 12 feet in size.

Costa Rica Waterfalls

Costa Rica must-see spots
Botanical Gardens

Costa Rica is home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, each tucked away in its diverse ecosystems, from dense rainforests to cloud-shrouded mountains. For tourists, these spectacular waterfalls aren’t just sights to behold; they offer refreshing swims, exhilarating hikes, and rich biodiversity at every turn. As we journey deeper into Costa Rica’s heart, remember to pack a sense of adventure—these cascading wonders are an essential part of the quintessential Costa Rican experience. Wander, explore, and revel in their majestic allure.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz Waterfall, tucked within the verdant rainforests of Costa Rica, offers travelers an ethereal experience. Just an hour’s drive from San José, this cascade is part of a larger eco-park that boasts five distinct waterfalls, a butterfly observatory, and hummingbird gardens. Wander through cloud forests, snap photos of the mesmerizing falls, and immerse yourself in the serenity. La Paz is a sanctuary for both nature lovers and wandering souls.

Rio Celeste Waterfall

Rio Celeste Waterfall, hidden within Tenorio Volcano National Park, is a Costa Rican secret waiting to be unraveled. Its ethereal blue waters, a result of volcanic minerals, mesmerize travelers from across the globe. The hike to this cascade is a journey through dense rainforests, teeming with wildlife. Visiting Rio Celeste is more than sightseeing; it’s stepping into a vivid painting where nature’s magic is undeniably real.

La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica, plunges a staggering 70 meters into a pristine pool below. Located near the town of La Fortuna and surrounded by springs and suspended bridges, it’s a must-visit for travelers. Wander the well-maintained trails, take a refreshing dip, and marvel at the surrounding rainforest. It’s not just a waterfall; it’s an authentic Costa Rican experience waiting for every adventurer.

Nauyaca waterfalls Costa Rica waterfalls
Nauyaca waterfalls

Nauyaca Waterfalls

Nestled just a short 20-minute journey from Dominical, Nauyaca Waterfalls stands as a testament to the unrivaled natural beauty of Costa Rica. Here, you’re not just treated to one, but two majestic waterfalls. The first, a dramatic plunge of about 45 meters, takes your breath away, while the second, cascading from around 20 meters, flows gracefully into a serene pool. This isn’t just a sight for the eyes; it’s a haven for the soul. Dip into the invigorating pool below, feeling the fresh water rejuvenate every fiber of your being. Adventure enthusiasts might find joy in a unique horseback ride, winding through the lush landscapes to these falls. And as you trek, keep your senses alert – the vibrant ecosystem around Nauyaca is teeming with diverse birds, insects, and wildlife. Truly, this place epitomizes the allure of off-the-beaten-path destinations that travelers like us endlessly chase.

Museums of Costa Rica

The National Museum of Costa Rica is a top attraction and ideal for science, history, and local culture enthusiasts. Here, you’ll find over 800 artifacts that date back as far as 12,000 BCE in Costa Rica.

The Jade Museum of Costa Rica is another exceptional destination to learn more about the natural wonders and early inhabitants that made up the country.

The National Theater of Costa Rica

Some of the best Costa Rica attractions are indoors, perfect for rainy seasons. Stop at the National Theater in San Jose to enjoy a live performance. The history of the National Theater is one of its main selling points, dating back to the 19th century.

Today, the theater hosts ballets, orchestras, and operas.

Visit Costa Rica Today

From photo-worthy beaches to stunning cloud forests, Costa Rica has something for everyone. With surfing, shopping, dining, history, and hot springs, you’ll always have Costa Rica attractions to enjoy.

A luxury villa is an excellent way to experience the best Costa Rica attractions. Renting a private villa deep in the Costa Rican jungle allows you to experience the beautiful ecosystem and adventure firsthand.

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