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Where To Vacation In Costa Rica


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Dorri Leland



Welcome to the enchanting country of Costa Rica, a land blessed with stunning natural beauty, diverse ecosystems, and warm, welcoming locals. Located in Central America, Costa Rica is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and beach lovers alike. With its pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and abundant wildlife, this tropical wonderland offers endless opportunities for unforgettable experiences.


Costa Rica is renowned for its commitment to conservation, with over 25% of its land protected as national parks, wildlife reserves, and biological corridors. This dedication to preserving its natural heritage has earned Costa Rica a reputation as a global leader in sustainable tourism. Visitors can explore remarkable landscapes, encounter unique flora and fauna, and contribute to the ongoing conservation efforts in this eco-friendly destination.


When it comes to beach destinations, Costa Rica offers a myriad of stunning options along its Pacific and Caribbean coasts. From vibrant surf towns like Tamarindo and Jaco to secluded, pristine stretches of sand like Playa Conchal and Manuel Antonio, there is something for everyone. Whether you’re a sun-worshipper, a thrill-seeker, or simply seeking tranquility, Costa Rica’s beaches provide the perfect backdrop for relaxation and adventure.


In addition to its coastal beauty, Costa Rica boasts an impressive collection of national parks and wildlife reserves. Corcovado National Park is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts, with its incredible biodiversity and untouched rainforests. Tortuguero National Park, on the other hand, is famous for its nesting sea turtles, while Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve offers a unique opportunity to walk among the clouds and witness a vast array of bird species.


For those seeking thrills and outdoor adventures, Costa Rica does not disappoint. Embark on an adrenaline-filled white-water rafting trip down the Pacuare River, zip-line through the rainforest canopy, or hike to the summit of Arenal Volcano. With its rugged terrain and diverse landscapes, this country is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.


Costa Rica is not just a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers; it is also rich in cultural heritage. Explore the charming colonial cities of San Jose and Cartago, discover the indigenous cultures of the Bri-Bri and Boruca tribes, or visit the pre-Columbian ruins of Guayabo. Immerse yourself in the vibrant traditions, art, and cuisine of Costa Rica and gain a deeper understanding of its fascinating history.


If relaxation and rejuvenation are what you seek, Costa Rica offers numerous spa retreats and wellness centers nestled in serene natural surroundings. Lose yourself in the tranquility of thermal hot springs, indulge in a soothing massage using local therapeutic ingredients, or practice yoga amidst breathtaking scenery. Experience the ultimate bliss and renewal in this tropical paradise.


While Costa Rica is home to well-known tourist destinations, it also boasts hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path locations waiting to be discovered. From the enchanting waterfalls of Nauyaca and the pristine beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula to the remote Osa Peninsula, where the raw beauty of nature reigns supreme, these hidden treasures offer a more intimate and authentic Costa Rican experience.


So, whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, cultural immersion, or a combination of it all, Costa Rica welcomes you with open arms. Pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey through this captivating country.


Best Beach Destinations in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is blessed with an abundance of stunning beaches along its Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. Whether you’re a surfer, a sunbather, or a nature lover, there is a beach for everyone in this tropical paradise. Here are some of the best beach destinations in Costa Rica:


1. Tamarindo: Located on the northwest Pacific coast, Tamarindo is a vibrant beach town known for its excellent surf breaks, bustling nightlife, and a wide range of accommodations and dining options.


2. Manuel Antonio: Nestled on the central Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio boasts breathtaking white-sand beaches, lush rainforests, and abundant wildlife. It is also home to the renowned Manuel Antonio National Park, where visitors can hike, spot monkeys and sloths, and enjoy stunning coastal views.


3. Playa Conchal: Located in Guanacaste province, this beach is famous for its unique sand made of crushed seashells. Playa Conchal offers crystal-clear turquoise waters perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking.


4. Santa Teresa: Situated on the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa is a paradise for surfers with its consistent waves and laid-back vibe. The long, sandy beaches are also ideal for sunbathing and enjoying epic sunsets.


5. Puerto Viejo: Found on the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo is known for its stunning beaches, vibrant reggae culture, and delicious Afro-Caribbean cuisine. The nearby Cahuita National Park offers excellent snorkeling opportunities along its coral reefs.


6. Playa Hermosa: Located near Jaco on the central Pacific coast, Playa Hermosa is a favorite among surfers due to its world-class waves. This tranquil beach also offers mesmerizing sunsets and a relaxing atmosphere.


7. Montezuma: Situated on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Montezuma is a bohemian beach town known for its beautiful waterfalls, lush jungles, and vibrant arts scene. Visitors can enjoy swimming in cascading freshwater pools and exploring nearby nature reserves.


8. Playa Avellanas: Located in Guanacaste province, Playa Avellanas is a hidden gem known for its pristine, uncrowded beaches and excellent surf breaks. Surrounded by mangroves and a peaceful atmosphere, it is the perfect place to unwind and connect with nature.


9. Punta Uva: Situated near Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, Punta Uva offers tranquil, secluded beaches fringed by lush jungle. It is a haven for snorkelers and scuba divers, with its colorful coral reefs teeming with marine life.


10. Samara: Found on the Nicoya Peninsula, Samara boasts a picturesque bay with a wide, palm-fringed beach. Its calm, shallow waters make it ideal for swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding, while the surrounding area offers opportunities for horseback riding and hiking.


These are just a few of the many breathtaking beach destinations that Costa Rica has to offer. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply the joy of basking in the sun, Costa Rica’s beaches are sure to leave you awe-inspired and rejuvenated.


Popular National Parks and Wildlife Reserves

Costa Rica is a nature lover’s paradise, and its extensive network of national parks and wildlife reserves showcases the country’s incredible biodiversity. From lush rainforests to misty cloud forests, these protected areas provide a glimpse into Costa Rica’s rich natural heritage. Here are some of the most popular national parks and wildlife reserves to explore:


1. Corcovado National Park: Located on the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado is often hailed as one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. This expansive park is home to an array of wildlife, including jaguars, tapirs, monkeys, and scarlet macaws. Hiking through its dense rainforest trails leads to secluded beaches and towering waterfalls.


2. Manuel Antonio National Park: Situated on the central Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio is renowned for its picturesque beaches and abundant wildlife. Visitors can spot capuchin monkeys, sloths, and colorful tropical birds as they explore the park’s well-maintained trails.


3. Tortuguero National Park: Known as the “Land of Turtles,” Tortuguero National Park is located on the Caribbean coast. It is a nesting ground for several species of sea turtles, including green turtles and leatherbacks. Take a boat tour through the park’s intricate network of canals to observe wildlife such as caimans, river otters, and various bird species.


4. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: Nestled in the misty mountains of the Cordillera de Tilarán, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a haven for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers. With its hanging bridges and well-marked trails, visitors can observe rare orchids, vibrant butterflies, and elusive mammal species like the resplendent quetzal.


5. Arenal Volcano National Park: Dominated by the majestic Arenal Volcano, this national park offers a unique opportunity to witness a live volcano. Visitors can hike through lava fields, soak in natural hot springs, and participate in thrilling adventure activities like zip-lining and waterfall rappelling.


6. Rincon de la Vieja National Park: Located in the Guanacaste province, Rincon de la Vieja National Park fascinatingly combines volcanic landscapes, bubbling mud pots, and lush rainforest. Hike to the summit of the volcano, cool off in refreshing waterfalls, and keep an eye out for howler monkeys, coatis, and colorful birds.


7. Cahuita National Park: Situated on the Caribbean coast near Puerto Viejo, Cahuita National Park offers a unique blend of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Snorkel or dive along the colorful coral reefs, explore the park’s rainforest trails, and observe species like sloths, monkeys, and poison dart frogs.


8. Palo Verde National Park: Located in the Guanacaste province, Palo Verde National Park is a wetland sanctuary teeming with wildlife. Take a boat tour along the Tempisque River to spot crocodiles, monkeys, and a variety of bird species, including the elusive resplendent quetzal.


9. Tenorio Volcano National Park: Known for its stunning Rio Celeste, Tenorio Volcano National Park offers a unique natural phenomenon. The river’s striking blue hue, caused by volcanic minerals, is truly awe-inspiring. Visitors can also hike through the park’s lush rainforest and soak in hot springs.


These national parks and wildlife reserves offer a glimpse into the extraordinary natural beauty and biodiversity of Costa Rica. Whether you’re exploring dense rainforests, observing rare wildlife, or marveling at volcanic landscapes, these protected areas provide unforgettable experiences for nature enthusiasts from around the world.


Adventure and Outdoor Activities

Costa Rica is a playground for adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of thrilling activities amidst its breathtaking natural landscapes. From heart-pumping water sports to adrenaline-fueled jungle expeditions, there is no shortage of adventurous experiences to be had. Here are some of the top adventure and outdoor activities in Costa Rica:


1. White-Water Rafting: Costa Rica’s rivers provide the perfect setting for exhilarating white-water rafting adventures. Descend the rushing rapids of the Pacuare, Sarapiqui, or Savegre rivers, navigating through stunning canyons and lush rainforests.


2. Zip-lining: Soar through the treetops on an exhilarating zip-line adventure. Costa Rica offers numerous zip-line tours that allow you to fly over verdant canopies, enjoying breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and forests.


3. Surfing: With its world-class waves and consistent breaks, Costa Rica is a surfer’s paradise. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, you’ll find ideal spots along the Pacific coast, such as Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, and Jaco.


4. Hiking and Trekking: Lace up your hiking boots and explore the country’s network of picturesque trails. From the challenging ascent of Cerro Chirripo, the highest peak in Costa Rica, to the scenic hikes in Manuel Antonio National Park, there are options for all fitness levels.


5. Canopy Tours: Experience the thrill of gliding through the rainforest on a canopy tour. Suspended from sturdy cables, you’ll have a unique perspective of the vibrant flora and fauna that make up the lush Costa Rican jungle.


6. Wildlife Spotting: Costa Rica is home to an incredible array of wildlife, and going on a wildlife spotting tour is a must-do activity. Embark on a guided tour in search of sloths, monkeys, toucans, and other fascinating creatures that call the country’s forests and national parks home.


7. Scuba Diving and Snorkeling: Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Costa Rica and discover the colorful underwater world. Explore vibrant coral reefs, encounter sea turtles, and swim alongside tropical fish. The Pacific coast and the Caribbean offer excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities.


8. Mountain Biking: Grab a mountain bike and hit the trails that wind through Costa Rica’s diverse terrain. From rugged off-road paths to scenic coastal routes, there are options for all cycling enthusiasts. The Arenal and Monteverde regions are particularly popular for mountain biking.


9. Canyoning: Immerse yourself in the beauty of Costa Rica’s canyons by descending their sheer walls through canyoning. Rappel down majestic waterfalls, slide down natural rock slides, and take refreshing dips in pristine pools.


10. Stand-up Paddleboarding: Try your balance and core strength with stand-up paddleboarding, a popular water activity in Costa Rica. Glide along calm rivers, lakes, or the ocean’s surface, enjoying a unique perspective of the surrounding natural beauty.


These are just a few of the many adventure and outdoor activities that await you in Costa Rica. Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush or a peaceful connection with nature, this vibrant country offers a multitude of experiences that will satisfy your adventurous spirit.


Cultural and Historical Sites

While Costa Rica is renowned for its natural beauty, the country also has a rich cultural and historical heritage waiting to be explored. From enchanting colonial cities to ancient archaeological sites, Costa Rica offers a fascinating blend of traditions, art, and history. Here are some of the top cultural and historical sites in Costa Rica:


1. San Jose: As the capital city, San Jose is a hub of cultural activity. Explore its historic center, Barrio Amón, and marvel at the beautifully preserved colonial architecture. Visit the Gold Museum and National Museum to learn about the country’s indigenous cultures and pre-Columbian history.


2. Cartago: Once the capital city of Costa Rica, Cartago is home to several important historical sites. Explore the ruins of the Santiago Apostol Parish Ruins, which serve as a reminder of Cartago’s devastating earthquakes. Visit the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, a revered pilgrimage site.


3. Guayabo National Monument: Located near Turrialba, the Guayabo National Monument is an ancient archaeological site. Explore the well-preserved ruins of this pre-Columbian city and discover stone sculptures, petroglyphs, and mysterious monoliths.


4. Boruca Indigenous Reserve: Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of the Boruca indigenous community. Witness traditional mask making, learn about their fascinating folklore, and experience their vibrant celebrations, such as the Juego de los Diablitos festival.


5. Orosi Valley: Visit the picturesque Orosi Valley, known for its charming colonial churches. Explore the beautiful Iglesia de San José de Orosi, the oldest church in Costa Rica, and the nearby Ujarras Ruins, the remnants of a 16th-century church.


6. Nicoya Peninsula: Discover the rich cultural heritage of the Nicoya Peninsula, which is deeply influenced by its indigenous Chorotega roots. Explore pottery studios, visit the indigenous villages and experience cultural festivals like the Pueblo Antiguo Ox-Cart Parade.


7. National Theater of Costa Rica: Located in the heart of San Jose, the National Theater is a stunning architectural gem and a cultural landmark. Attend a performance or take a guided tour to admire its exquisite décor and learn about its important role in Costa Rican arts and history.


8. Sarchi: Known as the birthplace of Costa Rican craftsmanship, Sarchi is famous for its intricate woodwork and vibrant ox-cart paintings. Visit the workshops and witness artisans create beautiful handmade souvenirs.


9. Guanacaste Province: Journey to the Guanacaste province and explore the cowboy culture of this region. Attend a traditional bullfighting event, participate in a rodeo, and savor the flavors of Costa Rican cowboy cuisine.


10. Pre-Columbian Gold Museum: Located in San Jose, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum houses an impressive collection of gold artifacts created by Costa Rica’s indigenous cultures. Learn about the symbolism and craftsmanship behind these ancient treasures.


These cultural and historical sites offer a glimpse into Costa Rica’s rich heritage and provide a deeper understanding of the country’s traditions and history. Whether you’re exploring ancient ruins, admiring colonial architecture, or immersing yourself in indigenous culture, these sites highlight the diversity and richness of Costa Rica’s cultural tapestry.


Relaxation and Spa Retreats

Costa Rica not only offers thrilling adventures and incredible natural beauty but also provides the perfect setting for relaxation and rejuvenation. From luxurious spa resorts to tranquil wellness retreats, this tropical paradise offers a variety of options for those seeking a blissful escape. Here are some of the top relaxation and spa retreats in Costa Rica:


1. Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa: Nestled at the base of the majestic Arenal Volcano, Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa is a haven of tranquility. Immerse yourself in the soothing thermal waters, surrounded by lush rainforest. Indulge in a range of spa treatments, including volcanic mud wraps and specialized massages.


2. Nayara Springs: Located in the Arenal Volcano area, Nayara Springs offers exclusive and luxurious accommodations in a secluded rainforest setting. Enjoy private plunge pools fed by natural hot springs, rejuvenate your senses with spa treatments inspired by local ingredients, and unwind in the lap of luxury.


3. El Mangroove: Situated on the Papagayo Peninsula in Guanacaste, El Mangroove is a stylish beachfront resort with a focus on relaxation and wellness. Escape to the tranquil spa and choose from an array of treatments, including soothing massages, facials, and body scrubs.


4. Blue Osa Yoga Retreat & Spa: Located on the Osa Peninsula, surrounded by pristine tropical rainforest and just steps away from the beach, Blue Osa offers a serene retreat for yoga enthusiasts and those seeking inner peace. Take part in daily yoga classes, indulge in holistic spa treatments, and nourish your body with organic cuisine.


5. Rio Perdido: This hidden gem in Guanacaste is a nature lover’s paradise. Relax in secluded bungalows overlooking the Rio Perdido canyon, soak in natural hot springs, and rejuvenate your body and mind with invigorating volcanic mud treatments at their spa.


6. Florblanca Resort: Located in Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula, Florblanca Resort offers a luxurious escape amidst white-sand beaches and lush gardens. Recharge your body with yoga and surf classes, pamper yourself with rejuvenating spa treatments, and indulge in farm-to-table gourmet dining.


7. The Retreat Costa Rica: Situated in Atenas, The Retreat Costa Rica is a serene wellness center focused on holistic healing. Unwind with yoga and meditation classes, participate in wellness workshops, and enjoy organic spa treatments that incorporate natural and indigenous ingredients.


8. Harmony Hotel: Found in Nosara, Harmony Hotel is a boutique eco-resort that embraces sustainable practices and a laid-back atmosphere. Relax in spacious bungalows surrounded by tropical gardens, pamper yourself with therapeutic massages, and connect with your inner self through daily yoga classes.


9. Los Altos de Eros: Set in the hills of Guanacaste, Los Altos de Eros is an adult-only boutique hotel that offers ultimate relaxation and privacy. Indulge in luxurious spa treatments, lounge by the infinity pool with stunning panoramic views, and enjoy the personalized service tailored to your needs.


10. Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort: Located in Nosara, Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort provides a serene oasis for yoga and wellness enthusiasts. Join yoga classes in open-air studios, unwind with rejuvenating spa treatments, and immerse yourself in the Costa Rican jungle setting.


These relaxation and spa retreats in Costa Rica provide the perfect blend of serenity, natural beauty, and rejuvenation. Whether you prefer therapeutic massages, indulgent hot springs, or holistic wellness practices, these tranquil havens will leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized.


Hidden Gems and Off-the-Beaten-Path Locations

While Costa Rica is known for its popular tourist destinations, the country is also home to many hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path locations that offer a more intimate and authentic experience. These hidden treasures allow you to escape the crowds and discover unique landscapes, cultural treasures, and untouched natural beauty. Here are some of the top hidden gems in Costa Rica:


1. Nauyaca Waterfalls: Located near Dominical, the Nauyaca Waterfalls are a breathtaking natural wonder. Hike through the lush rainforest and be rewarded with the sight of cascading waterfalls flowing into turquoise pools. Take a refreshing swim and immerse yourself in the unspoiled beauty of this hidden gem.


2. Nicoya Peninsula: Explore the unspoiled beauty of the Nicoya Peninsula, known for its pristine beaches, charming coastal towns, and laid-back vibe. Discover secluded beaches like San Juanillo and Playa Guiones, where you can enjoy the serene beauty of the Pacific coast away from the crowds.


3. Osa Peninsula: Located on the southern Pacific coast, the Osa Peninsula is a remote and wild region known for its untouched rainforests and abundant wildlife. Explore Corcovado National Park, hike through dense jungle trails, and encounter rare species such as jaguars, tapirs, and scarlet macaws.


4. Rio Celeste: Tucked away in the northern part of Costa Rica, Rio Celeste is a hidden gem known for its enchanting blue river. Take a hike through Tenorio Volcano National Park and witness the mystical merging of two rivers, creating the astonishingly vibrant blue hue that gives Rio Celeste its name.


5. Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui: This small town in the Sarapiqui region offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural charm. Explore the Sarapiqui River on a kayak or rafting trip, visit the Tirimbina Biological Reserve, and immerse yourself in the rural Costa Rican way of life.


6. Turrialba: Nestled in the Central Valley, Turrialba is known for its coffee plantations, rolling green hills, and outdoor adventures. Explore the rugged terrains of the surrounding area on a mountain biking or hiking excursion and enjoy the stunning views of the Turrialba Volcano.


7. Playa Conchal: Situated on the northern Pacific coast, Playa Conchal is a hidden gem known for its pristine beaches and clear turquoise waters. The beach gets its name from its unique crushed seashell sand and offers a tranquil and uncrowded atmosphere, perfect for relaxation and snorkeling.


8. Carara National Park: Located between Jaco and Manuel Antonio, Carara National Park is often overlooked but rich in biodiversity. Explore its trails and spot scarlet macaws, monkeys, and unique bird species. The park is also known for its spectacular crocodile sightings along the Tarcoles River.


9. Chirripo National Park: For the adventurous souls, Chirripo National Park is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Home to Costa Rica’s highest peak, Cerro Chirripo, this park offers challenging hikes that reward with breathtaking vistas and a sense of accomplishment.


10. Cahuita National Park: Situated on the Caribbean coast, Cahuita National Park offers a serene and less crowded alternative to its popular counterparts. Hike the idyllic coastal trails, snorkel over vibrant coral reefs, and spot colorful marine life in this hidden paradise.


These hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path locations offer a chance to explore Costa Rica beyond its well-known destinations. Whether you’re seeking untouched natural beauty, secluded beaches, or unique cultural experiences, these hidden treasures will provide an authentic and unforgettable Costa Rican adventure.



Costa Rica is a captivating country that offers a wealth of experiences for travelers seeking adventure, relaxation, and cultural immersion. From its stunning beaches and diverse national parks to its rich cultural heritage and hidden gems, Costa Rica has something to offer everyone.


For beach lovers, the country’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts boast a range of beautiful destinations, from vibrant surfing towns like Tamarindo to secluded stretches of sand like Playa Conchal. Meanwhile, nature enthusiasts will be in awe of the country’s national parks and wildlife reserves, such as the incredible biodiversity of Corcovado National Park and the mystical cloud forests of Monteverde.


Thrill-seekers will be spoilt for choice with the wide array of adventure activities available, including whitewater rafting, zip-lining, and hiking up volcanoes such as Arenal. For those looking to relax and rejuvenate, Costa Rica’s spa retreats and wellness centers offer a haven of tranquility amidst stunning natural surroundings.


Delving into Costa Rica’s rich cultural and historical sites will provide a deeper understanding of the country’s heritage. Explore the colonial charm of San Jose and Cartago, visit the indigenous communities of Boruca, and discover ancient ruins like Guayabo National Monument.


Don’t forget to venture off the beaten path and uncover the hidden gems that Costa Rica has to offer. Nauyaca Waterfalls, the Nicoya Peninsula, and the Osa Peninsula are just a few examples of the lesser-known places that offer pristine natural beauty and a true sense of adventure.


As you conclude your journey through Costa Rica, you’ll be left with memories of breathtaking landscapes, encounters with incredible wildlife, and a deeper appreciation for the country’s commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism.


So pack your bags, embrace the Pura Vida spirit, and embark on an unforgettable adventure in Costa Rica, a tropical paradise waiting to be explored.