Costa Rica is, like you probably already have seen, fuuuull of attractions, mostly natural attractions. Even though we live in a small country, we actually offer a lot in all different areas for every type of traveller, but it is important to know what we really want to visit... so let’s start.
Here I will show you the most popular places in Costa Rica and what you can do in each one of them. This is my guide to travel for the first time to Costa Rica...
San José and the Central Valley
San José is basically our city. It is neither a colonial city, nor a huge city, but where you will find the biggest part of the population and services of the country. It is always recommended to spend the first night in the country in or around San José, so you are close to the airport. More than a few nights are not necessary to get to know the capital.
Photo: Eloy Mora
From San José you can easily do many different activities, for example:
- Coffee Tour
- Visit the Central Market
- Visit the main attractionsof “Chepe” (this is how the Ticos, call San José)
- Visit the Turrialba. Poás and Irazú volcano
- Do a City Tour by day or by night, in a VIP bus, guided or alone.
- Visit museums and theaters
- Visit the La Paz Waterfalls
- Visit our gastronomic district: Barrio Escalante
- ...in the end the options depend on what you really want to see.
Photo: Eloy Mora
Some people say visiting Costa Rica and not coming to Tortuguero is a sin.. and I think it is a little bit true. The saddest thing is that even many ticos don’t know this natural jewel.
The truth is, that one night is not enough, I recommend 2 or 3. In the right season you can see the baby turtles hatch, approximately between October and November, or the nesting of the turtles between July and September. Furthermore it is a perfect destination for tourists that like birding or who like to see many animals.
The whole town is on water, on the shores of the channels of Tortuguero on the Caribbean side. For this reason the transportation is only possible by boat and getting there is not that easy like renting a car and going by yourself... a good plan is necessary. The lodges offer tours to the town and the national park and because of the difficulty of the transportation, almost all hotels are full board or all- inclusive.
There is something for everyone: From basic hotels to 4 or 5 star lodges for demanding clients.
La Fortuna, Arenal
This place is located in Alajuela, very popular for the majestic Arenal volcano.
This area has the most developed touristic infrastructure of the country; this is why there are many activities to do. I would recommend you to stay at least 2 nights, but actually there is so much to do, that you can stay longer with no problem.
Furthermore the volcano offers, besides the stunning views that you shouldn´t miss, thermal baths everywhere. Many hotels have their own thermal baths that are heated through the veins of the volcano and its minerals. There are also tours of every type:
- Hanging Bridges
- Waterfalls and Rivers (for example the Río Celeste and Río Fortuna are very close)
- VisitingCaño Negro
- Birding Tours
- Many more
Like in Tortuguero, there is an immense offer of hotels and you should take your time to find a hotel according to your budget and which one you like the most.
ADVICE: It is the best option the book a hotel with thermal baths, so you can use them as much as you want and you won´t have to pay extra.
Even tough Costa Rica is small, it is full of micro climates, which offers of everything from beaches to cloud forests. Monteverde is our best cloud forest.
It is popular for its variety of natural reserves, private ones as well as state- owned, full of flora and fauna and also for having the longest canopy cables of the country. It is a great place for birders and tourist who like adventure. I also recommend to visit a reserve by night! Its is incredible how many animals you can see!
If you stay 2 or 3 nights at this place, you will be able to do many activities and get other impressions besides the paradisaical beaches of Costa Rica. It is a wonderful place, full of rustic lodges, wood cabins, chimneys and peace everywhere.
Manuel Antonio, Central Pacific
Manuel Antonio is the most visited National Park of the country, by national and international tourists. The park is located at the central pacific coast and is full of species, mainly mammals and birds. Its white sands and forest by the seaside have made it so visited. Personally I recommend you to visit the park during the green season to see everything in peace and with less people.
Usually people stay here 3 days or more.. It’s never enough time at the beach! There are hotels and restaurants of every type; there are normal hotels and 5 star hotels or luxury houses for vacations. They also have there own marine, from which catamaran tours are starting.
Advice: If you want to visit the National Park, remember that the park is closed on Mondays, so it’s better to keep it in mind while you are in the area.
There are also many things to do:
- Visit the Manuel Antonio and Carara Park.
- Do a tour an a catamaran
- Tour en Catamaran
- Visita mangrove swamp
- Sport fishing
- Horseback riding
- Kayak &Snorkeling
- Rafting orSafari Floating Tours
It is suitable for children and adults, couples but most of all for beach lovers. :)
Tamarindo & Papagayo, North Pacific
This area is full of beaches, golf and many luxury hotels. The International Airport Daniel Oduber is close and there is also the biggest marine of the country.
Furthermore, this area is known for surfing all around the year in Tamarindo, Playa Roca Bruja (en: Witch Stone Beach), from December to march and at Playa Grande from March to November.
A typical stay would be about 3 nights to enjoy the beaches and landscapes, anyways, some are staying much longer.
Habitación Nesto en Hotel El Mangroove
The hotel offers are huge and you can find many hotels from popular brands here. It is a very beautiful touristic area, but a little restricted for national tourists because of the first class and luxury hotels. It´s normal to see many foreigner from North America living here or visiting the country often, because the flights land directly at the airport in Liberia.
Pool at the Hotel El Mangroove
.. and is there more information about Costa Rica missing?
Of course! Actually, this is just the first part of this guide. But for starter: What do you think about visiting the places mentioned? Do you already know them? Do you have more tips? Tell me about your experiences in the comments.
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