Costa Rica is one of the planet’s most naturally splendid and biologically diverse regions. In Costa Rica the visitor can enjoy scintillating culture, the grandest adventures, lovely tropical beaches, the wonders of nature, all the necessary components of an ideal vacation. From the stunning beaches along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts that are the gateway to world-class surfing, diving and sportfishing; from the exuberant rainforests, smoldering volcanoes, rare wildlife and bird species to the charm of its quaint towns, Costa Rica has something to offer every visitor. Travelers seeking to explore and discover the natural wonders of Costa Rica, should check the list below, because it gathers the most spectacular destinations of this ecologically striking country.
1Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero, also known as the Costa Rica’s Amazon, is one of Costa Rica's most popular ecotourism destinations. It has a small population of around 500, no cars and is accessible only by boat or small aircraft. The beaches, lagoons, canals and rivers of Tortuguero National Park are a study of Rainforest, freshwater and marine biology. Tortuguero is one of the most important breeding grounds for the Green Sea Turtle. Every year, thousands of turtles come ashore along these world-famous beaches to lay their eggs. Another great feature in the area is the Tortuguero Canals, an extensive system of natural and man-made waterways used both for transportation and jungle exploration.
2Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio is the smallest of the 20 national parks of Costa Rica and the country’s second most visited conservation area, after the Arenal Volcano. One reason for this is the unspoiled beaches ideal for swimming. The overhanging palms are a refreshing break from the bars and hotels surrounding the park. Also here can be found several kilometers of very well maintained trails offering the easiest access in Costa Rica to the lowland rainforest. The area is one of the best places in the country for viewing wildlife. Among the 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds, some of the frequently viewed residents include white-faced and howler monkeys, two and three toed sloths and iguanas.
Tamarindo Beach, Guanacaste is the most accessible location along the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, with paved roads leading in and an airstrip serviced 7 days a week. Playa Tamarindo is a three and a half kilometer stretch of white sand and warm blue water. Nature is abundant, Leatherback Turtles lay their eggs in the northern part of the bay. Howler Monkeys are heard and seen swinging on branches throughout Tamarindo. But besides its crystal clear ocean, exquisite nature and stunning sunsets, Tamarindo Beach has much more to offer to its visitors. First class sport fishing, sailing, surfing, golfing, ATV tours, turtle watching, diving, horseback riding, canopy tours, jungle boat rides, beauty spa, restaurants, hotels and shopping, all can be found at Tamarindo Beach.
Puerto Viejo is the largest tourist destination in Costa Rica's small Caribbean coast. It is popular among tourists due to its cultural and natural richness, stunning white-sand beaches and the legendary Salsa Brava waves. Puerto Viejo has something to offer every visitor - from world-class surfing, snorkeling and diving among the many reefs in the blue waters, to mountain biking, horseback riding and cultural visits to indigenous people. The Puerto Viejo area has some of the most spectacular natural areas rich with wildlife in the country. Tourists with the opportunity to observe the area’s incredible wildlife nearby Cahuita National Park and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge.
Nosara Beach lies about 55 kilometers southwest of Nicoya and 266 kilometers west of the capital, San Jose in Guanacaste on the Nicoya Peninsula. Nosara Beach is part of Ostional Wildlife Refuge, where every year hundreds of thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles come here to lay their eggs. This beautiful black sand beach is backed by a mangrove swamp and offers visitors incredible sunsets and a fantastic variety of flora and fauna. All of these things make the Nosara Beach one of Costa Rica’s most diverse ecological environments.
Arenal Volcano is the youngest stratovolcano in Costa Rica and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The volcano has been producing strombolian eruptions, lava avalanches and pyroclastic flows almost continuously since 1968; these present a hazard to tourists and locals near the volcano. Nevertheless, the Arenal Volcano is the shining star of Costa Rica's northern zone. Both the incredible night view of incandescent lava descending from its cone and its awesome rumbles testify to nature's supreme power. The surrounding flora and fauna are so rich that the area was declared the Arenal National Park in 1991. The 2,920-hectare park encompasses tropical wet, pre-mountain and dry cloud forests, and is home to more than 100 mammal species.
The Monteverde Costa Rica Cloud Forest is one of the most famous conservation area in Central America. It is called so because of its altitude (1400 meters). Monteverde boasts two world famous Cloud Forest Reserves. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve with over 10 km of trails, and the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve with over 12. The reserves are unique, and offer the chance to see and hear a wide variety of bird and animal life as well as exploring an incredible virgin forest and multi-century old strangler fig trees. The reserve is also one of the few remaining homes of the endangered resplendent Quetzal.
8San José City & Surroundings
San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and sits right in the center of the country. The city enjoys a pleasant climate and temperate weather all year round, thus makes the San Jose province one of the most populated in Costa Rica and one of the most popular attractions among tourists. The capital is home to numerous restaurants, museums, parks, and many other forms of diversion that are typical of large population centers. North of the province lies the beautiful Parque Nacional Carara, to the south sits the lovely Reserva Forestal Los Santos and the amazing Parque Nacional Chirripó. Other cities worth visiting in the San Jose area include San Gerardo de Dota, San Ignacio, Santa Maria de Dota and San Isidro. Picturesque natural surroundings is the thing that have in common all these cities.
9Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park is one of the most complex fresh and saltwater ecosystems in the world and the most beautiful national park of Costa Rica. Due to its remoteness and the fact that it has suffered little disturbance by humans in the past, Corcovado has a wide biological diversity. It is home to 116 species of amphibians and reptiles, 700 species of trees, 10,000 species of insects of which 220 species of butterflies, almost 400 species of birds, 140 species of mammals and 40 species of fish. Some of the most frequently viewed wildlife includes four species of sea turtles which are known to lay their eggs along the sandy coastal shores. The park is very popular with tropical ecologist and eco-tourists that love the abundance of plant and wildlife. It offers 5 ranger stations which handle several services. The Park stations can assist with tent sites, food, helicopter services in emergencies and general information.
Jaco Beach is the most appreciated and closest beach town to San Jose (less than two hours). Jaco was once an archetypal sleepy beach town. But soon, beach’s excellent waves began to draw foreign surfers in exponential numbers, and Jaco became one of the most popular coastal resorts in Costa Rica. This region encompasses a diversity of areas including the white sand beaches of Punta Leona, the tropical rainforest park of Carara, the best surfing beaches including Jaco and Hermosa and the unique Los Suenos Golf Course Resort & Marina in Herradura. The nightlife is vibrant; it ranges from elegant bars, discos, to live music entertainment.