Top 7 Must-See Places in Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s name, “Rich Coast”, quickly becomes obvious in its gorgeous Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, as well as the enchanting landscapes shaped by the numerous active volcanoes. Within the eco-friendly foundations, Costa Rica offers you warm culture rich with animated wildlife leading from rainforest to idyllic beaches. Life is quickly summed up in the motto of Pura Vida, meaning “Pure Life,” with stunning microclimates endlessly absorbing you into the likes of wilderness trails and lively animal life, coffee plantations and chocolate tastings.

1. Arenal

La Fortuna waterfall, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica

La Fortuna waterfall, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica

Arenal embodies the wonders of Costa Rica pulling the beauty, charm, wildlife, and adventure of the entire country into a single place crowned by the iconic volcano cone. Hot springs bubble at the edge of the thriving rainforest and horses graze on the plains bordering thriving plantations wedged between the base of the volcano and the glistening waters of Arenal Lake. Arenal feels like the perfect place for an exciting immersion into Costa Rica famous for giving you access to hikes, ziplining, hanging bridges, and the dramatic views of the renowned dormant peak.

Highlights: La Fortuna Waterfall | Hot Springs | Arenal Volcano National Park | Lake Arenal | Venado Caves | Cano Negro Wildlife RefugeRecommended Length of Stay: 3-4 days

Best Time to Visit: May | July | August | September | October | November

2. Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio is a haven for visitors and Ticos, a place where you can escape to whitesand beaches and the Pacific Ocean’s indigo waters that shimmer crystal-clear. While the borders protect the country’s smallest national park, the trails, trees, and coastline offer undeniable treasures with accessible visions of wildlife to marvelous scuba diving hotspots, kayaking excursions, and night tours in search of red-eyed tree frogs. Even as one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations, Manuel Antonio, feels completely unspoiled.

Highlights: Playa Manuel Antonio | Manuel Antonio National Park | Manuel Antonio Hot Springs | Rainmaker Conservation Park | Los Campesinos | Playa BiesanzRecommended Length of Stay: 2-3 days

Best Time to Visit: December | January | February | March

3. Monteverde

Sun and clouds filter through the rainforest treetops in Costa Rica

Sun and clouds filter through the rainforest treetops in Costa Rica

Monteverde is an escape from the tropical heat and an excursion that takes you into the Central Highlands famous as a slim corridor of preserved cloud forests. Cultural history is brief but welcoming, while the natural history looms large, quickly enveloping you with the possibility of spotting a quetzal or the complex microclimate that creates a unique vision of clouds passing through the forest canopy. Trekking to horseback riding, ziplining to butterfly farms, each specific possibility only deeper defines one of the world’s most unique ecosystems as a Costa Rican jewel.

Highlights: Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve | Curi Cancha Reserve |  Children’s Eternal Rainforest | Cloud Forest Reserve Santa Elena | Monteverde Butterfly Garden

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

Best Time to Visit: December | January | February | March | April | May

4. Tortuguero

Tortuguero River, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Tortuguero River, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Tortuguero is truly a majestic destination and even in a country full of treasures stands out as a surprising and delightful place. Wildlife is the main focus, whether looking for sea turtles in the ocean or by traveling the canals of the national park to discover a huge variety of species. The sounds of howling monkeys and noisy exotic birds create an ambiance of untamed adventure in the remote northeast, reachable only by plane or boat. Tortuguero will immediately show you it is not your average beach trip as it reveals one of the country’s most rewarding experiences.

Highlights: Tortuguero National Park | Sea Turtle Conservancy Visitor’s Center | Tortuguero Village | Tortuguero Canals | Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 days

Best Time to Visit: July | August | September | October

5. Osa Peninsula

Beach on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, inside Corcovado National Park in the Osa Peninsula

Beach on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, inside Corcovado National Park in the Osa Peninsula

The Osa Peninsula is renowned for its rainforest and often cited as one of the world’s most biologically dense destinations. Secluded eco-friendly luxury accommodations hide among the abundant wildlife and lush rainforest where contemporary ingenuity meets unspoiled nature. Secluded beaches and a complex system of fresh and saltwater branches support the likes of jaguars and tapirs, mangrove estuaries and dense jungle terrain. Visiting the Osa Peninsula makes you feel like an explorer glimpsing at rural life, pre-Columbian heritage, former mining villages, and the thrills of stepping off the beaten path.

Highlights: Drake Bay | Corcovado National Park | Cano Island Biological Reserve | Osa Wildlife Sanctuary | Piedras Blancas National ParkRecommended Length of Stay: 3-4 days

Best Time to Visit: December | January | February | March | April

6. San Jose

National Theater in San Jose, Costa Rica

National Theater in San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose represents the modern culture of Costa Rica but offers so much more than what initially meets the eye. Coffee plantations, volcanic ridges, historic monuments, grand parks, and a burgeoning cafe scene speak volumes about the natural history and cultural influence that have shaped the city. Museums, plazas, and colonial architecture only add to an air of elegance found only in the capital city crowned with a pleasant climate and profound sense of local style. Its central location also makes it an easy center from which you can venture into the natural wonders outside of the Central Valley.

Highlights: National Theater | Pre-Columbian Gold Museum | Feria Verde de Aranjuez | House of Mariano Alvarez Mengar | Jade Museum

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

Best Time to Visit: December | January | February | March | April

7. Cahuita

Sloth hanging in a tree

Sloth hanging in a tree

Cahuita is an authentic corner of Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast that has held tightly to its calm ambiance steeped in Afro-Carribean culture. The town sits beside the borders of Cahuita National Park, which glows with dramatic coral reefs and enticing waves attracting scuba divers, surfers, and beachgoers looking for a place to relax. Hiking trails can lead you around the point to where wonderful birdlife and wildlife thrive to further support the region’s indelible and unforgettable charm.

Highlights: Cahuita National Park | Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica | Tree of Life WIldlife Rescue and Botanical Gardens | Mirador las Mercedes |  Playa NegraRecommended Length of Stay: 2-3 nights

Best Time to Visit: February | March | April | September | October

How many days is enough to see Costa Rica?

Coffee plantation in Costa Rica

Coffee plantation in Costa Rica

14 days is a great amount of time to visit Costa Rica but 21 days is perfect. You could easily visit Costa Rica for seven to nine days and find time to enjoy the highlights as an introductory experience but two weeks will immerse you in Costa Rica’s Pura Vida spirit. While most people don’t have three weeks vacation time, 21 days gives you a truly immersive experience into the natural treasures and vibrant culture opening you up to coffee or whitewater rafting, chocolate tastings or traveling off the beaten path to a secluded reserve.

More Travel Informations & Tips

Palms at the beach in Puerto Carrillo, Costa Rica

Palms at the beach in Puerto Carrillo, Costa Rica

Costa Rica embodies the meaning of Pura Vida with a cultural commitment to sustainability in order to preserve its captivating must-see destinations. The different regions give you unique opportunities to experience unforgettable things to do, like ziplining through the rainforest or enjoying a chocolate tour, searching for endangered monkeys or kayaking on the Pacific. For helpful tips and information, you can visit Zicasso’s Costa Rica Travel Guide. If you would like to plan a trip, you can speak with a Costa Rica travel specialist for free by filling out a Trip Request Form or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.