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What Is Costa Rica Known For? Best Beaches, Volcanoes, and Animals

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Sea turtle at Playa Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Playa Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Tropical coastline, elaborate micro-climates, and remarkable wildlife are part of the endless charms of Costa Rica, and when exploring the best of its beaches, volcanoes, and animals, you can further discover why the country is an exceptional destination for any occasion.

Whether you are interested in a romantic getaway along a remote coastline or eager for an active adventure on the rim of an active crater, looking for a wildlife safari closer to home or delighted by the opportunity to blend travel styles, Costa Rica has it all.

The following information shares our list of the top beaches to visit, the best volcano hikes to experience, and the most popular wildlife to view during your Costa Rica vacation.

  1. Top Beaches in Costa Rica and Where to Find Them
  2. Top Volcanoes to Hike in Costa Rica
  3. Top Animals to See in Costa Rica and Where to Find Them
  4. Experience the Best of What Costa Rica Is Known For

Top Beaches in Costa Rica and Where to Find Them

Dominical Beach, Costa Rica

Dominical Beach, Costa Rica

Playa Conchal, Guanacaste • Best Beach for Water Activities

Costa Rica is known for its gorgeous coastline on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, but Playa Conchal is the embodiment of a perfect beach, capturing the dream-like quality of the Guanacaste region. The variety of coral and underwater gardens have created a stretch of white sands fading into crystal-clear waters.

Tiny seashells are scattered across the beach, creating a treasure trove when visiting with family. The mixture of calm shoreline, shallow waters, and tropical fish make it a great place for snorkeling or swimming, having a picnic or relaxing under the golden Pacific sun.

Dominical Beach, South Pacific • Best Beach for Surfing

Dominical Beach is celebrated as much for its laid-back ambiance as for its surf. The long stretch of sand covers more than two miles, transitioning between a rocky shore and dark water against the backdrop of tropical rainforest.

The year-round surf attracts visitors from around the world, the fiery red sunsets speak to couples looking for a romantic getaway, and the nearby beaches make it easy for beginners to learn how to properly catch a wave.

The beach can act as a jumping-off point to visit Caño Island for a snorkeling excursion, explore Marino Ballena National Park to enjoy whale watching, or become the gateway to the Baru River for a standup paddle boarding adventure.

Playa Tortuguero, Tortuguero • Best Beach for Sea Turtles

Tortuguero is an exciting beach, blanketed with soft golden sands and nestled between turquoise water and emerald rainforest. While the beach can feel like the perfect remote place for a romantic weekend or a family-friendly seaside picnic, the sands are better known for turtle nesting.

Instead of only basking in typical beach activities, the experience becomes one of fascination, with travelers eager to enjoy the turtle-viewing paradise, whether during nesting season from March to October or hatching season, which can take place year-round depending on the species of turtle.

Learn more: Top Things to Do in Costa Rica

Top Volcanoes to Hike in Costa Rica

Hiker at Poas Volcano Crater Lagoon in Costa Rica

Poás Volcano Crater Lagoon in Costa Rica

Cerro Chirripo, San Jose • Best Volcano for a Challenging Hike

Cerro Chirripo is Costa Rica’s tallest mountain, standing more than 12,530 feet above sea level, making it a haven for hikers eager to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views.

The trail is nearly 12.5 miles long, ending at the dramatic peak for an exceptional view sweeping across the valleys and shimmering lakes, the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.

The average hiker can reach the summit and return on a multi-day excursion ranging from two to three days, providing opportunities to wander through coffee plantations and cloud forests, or trek steep slopes for a sunset experience unlike anywhere else in the world.

Poás, Alajuela • Best Volcano for a Crater Lake

The Poas summit is one of the few in Costa Rica that allows you to drive nearly to the rim of the crater, but the hike to get there, almost 9,000 feet above sea level, is a test of commitment and tenacity. The reward? Spectacular views of the landscape.

Wander through the lush trees of the cloud forest, listen for signs of wildlife like birds or monkeys, and enjoy the view of the crater lake as it steams amidst a dissipating layer of mist.

Arenal Volcano, Arenal • Best Volcano for Lava Flow and Wildlife

Arenal Volcano is considered the most recognizable of all the peaks in Costa Rica due to its conical shape. With a history of consistent mild eruptions between 1968 and 2010, Arenal remains the most popular volcano in Costa Rica, offering stunning immersion into a microclimate where wildlife thrives and lava flow blankets the mountain base.

Hiking trails weave through Arenal Volcano National Park, with options for short walks through secondary forests and the black boulders of lava fields. The cloud cover may disappear for a perfect view of the volcano’s peak standing tall against the shimmering waters of Arenal Lake on the opposite side of the park. Look for toucans, visit the observatory, or hike the waterfall trails to enjoy Arenal’s variety.

Top Animals to See in Costa Rica and Where to Find Them

Keel-billed toucan on a branch in Costa Rica

Keel-billed toucan


Toucans are exciting birds to see in real life, immediately conjuring images of large colorful beaks against mostly black plumage. Toucans in Costa Rica take on many iterations, resulting in up to six species found across the country.

The most famous is the keel-billed toucan found in many provinces across Costa Rica, including the Caribbean, Pacific coast mountains, Monteverde, and around the Central Valley, including Arenal.

Toucans mostly inhabit the lower branches of canopies, but can nest in low and high elevations. The diverse species are colorful, enjoyable to watch, and have very different nesting habits.


Costa Rica has 53 hummingbird species distributed around the country, giving you a good chance of spotting at least one during your trip. They not only flutter around the backdrop of trees cast in the dense rainforest and cloud forests, but can quickly become the main event as you spot them zipping around flapping their winds up to 60 times per second.

They are often seen in greater numbers in tropical dry forests and the Caribbean’s wet forests, making it easy to spot a wide variety of species in places like Monteverde, Cahuita National Park, and around the Poas Volcano.

Spider Monkeys

Spider monkeys are endangered, living across Costa Rica’s rainforests, cloud forests, tropical dry forests, and woodlands. They use their prehensile tails for balancing and can swing between the branches of tall trees with ease.

Spider monkeys are often considered the smartest monkeys in Costa Rica and are also celebrated for their gracefulness. Within the population, scientists argue there are between four and five different species.

Scarlet Macaws

The distinctive squawk and vibrant plumage of the scarlet macaw make it unmistakable when visiting Costa Rica. Found mainly around Corcovado, Carara, and Palo Verde National Parks, the scarlet macaw often lives in a small group, with an occasional flock growing up to 30 members.

They forage on palms, fruits, nuts, seeds, flowers, and small bugs, mainly in humid lowland forests and tropical evergreen trees near the Pacific coast. When looking for scarlet macaws, you can most often hear them in the wild before you spot them.

Experience the Best of What Costa Rica Is Known For

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

From the Caribbean coast to the highest peak in Costa Rica, the warm Pacific waters to the calls of scarlet macaws, you can enjoy the diversity of Costa Rica when you are ready to indulge in a romantic tour for couples, plan your perfect Costa Rica family vacation, or search for the best senior tours.

As you start to plan your trip, you can discover more information about the exciting possibilities or find helpful advice with our Costa Rica travel guide.

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