Revivalist is a reader-supported endeavor and our posts may contain affiliate links. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Bags are packed, your passport is updated, and you’re ready to hand in that travel voucher for a holiday by the beach. The question is where to go in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world. The country invests heavily in its tourism industry, which hosted 1.3 million international visitors in 2021 following the pandemic. From zip-lining to long strolls on the beach, you’ll never run out of things to see or do while vacationing in Costa Rica. Here are nine places you don’t want to miss.
1. Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
You can’t travel to Costa Rica without stopping at Parque Nacional Manual Antonio — a preserved 1,950-hectare ecosystem of lush forests, coastlines and reefs rich with biodiversity. Here you’ll feast your eyes on sloths, squirrel monkeys and iguanas.
Of course, like anywhere, travelers must be on the lookout for imposters pretending to be park officials. Many can be found throughout Manuel Antonio, impersonating rangers and offering fake services and guided tours.
It’s best to research the park and plan ahead by booking excursions online — this will prevent you from falling victim to scams when you’re there.
2. Monteverde Cloud Forest
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is another popular nature adventure for tourists. Monteverde Cloud Forest is where to go in Costa Rica for zip-lining above the forest canopy. However, there’s plenty more to see.
Many visitors enjoy hiking with a naturalist guide, learning about coffee production among the higher elevation or looking for one of the rarest birds — the Resplendent Quetzal — a species that the Aztecs considered a god. Monteverde has over 420 types of flora that serve as habitats for diverse wildlife.
3. La Fortuna
Upon first glance, La Fortuna is a quiet town lined with little shops and a unique backdrop of a dormant volcano. Yet, despite its sleepy nature, it provides plenty of outdoor activities and fun for adventure-seeking tourists.
Dip in a hot spring or hike the Arenal Volcano when visiting La Fortuna. Visitors also enjoy horseback riding, walking across rope bridges, seeing underground caves and whitewater rafting while passing through.
4. Playa Tamarindo
As a long-time famous tourist spot in Costa Rica’s northern Pacific Coast, Playa Tamarindo has become known as a renowned surfing destination.
Playa Tamarindo is marked by a breathtaking environment — a saltwater estuary surrounding the north and south and a unique land formation suitable for water sports. With a mere 2,000 people living in Tamarindo today, the town has undergone extreme development with higher property values to meet the rise in tourism.
You can expect a laid-back beach town during the day when visiting this beach town. However, Playa Tamarindo comes alive during the evening with a vibrant nightlife and club scene.
Playa Tamarindo’s nightlife is impressive, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Jacó’s. Once a sleepy town, Jacó has become the epicenter of fun, music and dance.
Whether you’re on a budget or have money to burn, tourists can enjoy drinks at local beach dives or party at swanky penthouse-style apartments. There are even a couple of places to hit the slot machines if you’re feeling lucky.
Jacó also attracts sun worshippers worldwide, with many coming from the United States, Europe and other South American countries. Locals account for about 10,000 people, but weekends see that number soar.
6. La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Some people like lying on the beach, while others enjoy zip-lining across forest canopies. Then you have those who want to check out waterfalls during their vacations. For those who prefer the latter, La Paz Waterfall Gardens in central Alajuela Province has five.
Many tourists stop to see the waterfalls as they head to La Fortuna to see the Arenal Volcano — the five waterfalls range from 15–120 feet tall.
Safety is of the utmost importance at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, and tourists rely on paved trails and stairs with railings to gain access to the falls. Some couples even hold marriage ceremonies in front of them — the ultimate location for wedding pictures.
7. San José
If nature getaways aren’t your thing, a trip to the capital city of San José could be in the cards. With over 1.2 million residents — 334,895 people between 15 and 29 — this bustling city offers plenty of things to do.
Spend the day walking the halls of museums and taking social media-worthy photos at historic sites. There are also endless restaurants, bars and shops to take advantage of.
Unlike some of the more remote locations, you’ll have your pick of hotels and nightlife in San José, with the ability to stay in more upscale neighborhoods if you prefer.
8. Parque Nacional Tortuguero
The little village of Tortuguero — translated to “Region of Turtles” — is nestled among 46,900 acres of protected land and 22 miles of coastline. According to Sea Turtle Conservancy, Tortuguero and the Parque Nacional Tortuguero are the most important nesting locations for the green, loggerhead, hawksbill and giant leatherback turtles.
The green turtle is listed as endangered, but fortunately, Tortuguero provides a safe space for 30,000 females to nest annually.
Try to book your trip to Costa Rica between May and October for a local guide to show you the sea turtle nesting grounds in Tortuguero.
9. Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste
Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste is as stunning as its name suggests. Not to be confused with three other beaches in the country named Playa Hermosa, this particular Hermosa in the northern province is an upscale vacation hotspot for families.
Take advantage of all the usual excursions Costa Rica offers — zip-lining, guided tours and horseback riding — while staying at one of the many beachside rental properties.
Unlike the more vibrant Hermosa Beach near the bustling town of Jacó, Guanacaste’s Hermosa Beach is a tranquil environment for rest and relaxation in the sun.
Decide Where to Go in Costa Rico for a Trip of a Lifetime
With so much to explore, deciding where to go in Costa Rica will be your greatest challenge. Of course, you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. If you can’t fit everything into your itinerary, don’t worry — you can always come back for another adventure.
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter
We would love to connect deeper with you!