(1) Arenal Volcano
In Costa Rica’s Central Volcano Mountain Range, the Arenal Volcano is one of the country’s most famous volcanoes. Its 1,633 m (5,358-foot) volcano cone forms an attractive figure on the landscape. Geologically, Arenal is considered the youngest volcano in Costa Rica. It is estimated to be under 7,500 years of age.
On July 29, 1968, at about 7:30 am on Monday, the dormant Arnell volcano erupted suddenly and with a tremendous explosion. When it finally came to an end, the blasts killed 87 people and affecting more than 232 square kilometers of land. For 42 years, the Arenal Volcano was Costa Rica’s most active volcano with flowing lava and pyroclastic surges.
Cities, hotels and public trails are located at a safe distance from the volcano. Spared from danger on a ridge across the deep valley of the Agua Caliente River, Arenal Observatory Lodge is 2.7 kilometers (1.7 mi) from the south side of the Arenal Volcano. Arenal Observatory Lodge is the only one Arenal Lodge, located within the Arenal Volcano National Park.
(2) Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio is the most popular national park with ticos. One reason for this is the beaches there which are located within easy walking distance of the entry station. In addition to the spectacular beaches, Manuel Antonio offers many well-maintained trails several kilometers across the Coastland, providing the easiest access to the lowest rainforest in Costa Rica.
Many Costa Rican school children go to Manuel Antonio on field trips. The park has a comprehensive education program for schools, organizations and independent visitors. From here you can reach the 1.2 km loop around Punta Catedral, which has many pre-sightings and pre-Columbian quipus turtle nets, built in the cliffs at the western end of Playa Manuel Antonio.
Along the beaches you will discover small tide pools in the reefs that catch dozens of species of sponges, corals, crabs and other crustaceans and over a hundred different types of fish. Manuel Antonio National Park is open from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm on Tuesdays through Sundays year round (including weekends and holidays).
(3) Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
At the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, you can embrace the mist environment, which serves as one of the most iconic ecological sites in Costa Rica. The reserve comprises a 26,000-acre biozone, with an amazing diversity of wildlife and plant life. There is no question that Monteverde Cloud Forest is actually a nature lover’s paradise.
Dipped in a unique mist cover, this biological reserve is distinct from other rainforests of Costa Rica. What we call a cloud is actually a mist created by high humidity at an altitude of 1,600 meters above sea level. Moisture catches around the branches of the tallest trees, damaging a thriving ecosystem below.
You can also catch a glimpse at the Golden Toad, a toad species that only exists in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which was spotted in 1989. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is located on the continental divide in the northern part of the province of Puntarenas. It is six kilometers before the city of Santa Elena and about 150 kilometers from San Jose.
Tamarindo is one of the most beautiful and modern beach destinations in Costa Rica. The area offers a lot of outdoor activities that everyone can enjoy. The weather is almost always ideal, so you can enjoy the blue water and white sand beaches almost all year round. The area offers a wide variety of beaches with different waves, which makes it great for swimming.
To the north, Playa Grande is a spectacular surfing beach and also a famous nesting area of leather turtles. During the months of October through mid February, these turtles will arrive to lay and lay their eggs. Playa Langosta to the south is a resort area with beautiful white sand beaches. There is a good swimming area and there are also many areas which are better for surfing.
Tamarindo is one of the more American destinations in Costa Rica, ideal for first-time visitors. The beachside village has modern amenities, condominiums, hotels, restaurants, shops and more. While in the area, one can enjoy beach activities like boating, windsurfing and surfing, all of which are ideal for this location. One can also enjoy snorkeling, horse riding, kayaking and fishing.
(5) Corcovado National Park
The park was built in 1975 to protect it from a modern day gold rush and logging area. The nearest cities are Drake Bay, Puerto Jimenez and Carat. Corcovado protects 4,178 hectares (10,324 acres). The park is at an elevation of 745 meters above sea level. It protects many major habitats, including mangroves, rainforests, rivers, beaches and even coral reefs.
The park has several major hiking trails: Drake to San Pedrillo, San Pedrillo to La Sirena, Los Pato to La Sirena, Carat to La Lina and La Lina to La Sirena. There are also shortways at San Pedrillo Station and La Sirena Station, which make for a great day trip. Corcovado National Park is home to many flora and fauna.
Corcovado is a government-managed national park. The park is open daily from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. La Sirena station has basic, hostel facilities overnight. The easiest way to get to Corcovado is by plane from San Jose. Alternatively, from San Jose, take Rt. 27 west until you reach Rt. Exit 34.
(6) Tortuguero National Park
The small village of Tortuguero is located on the northeastern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, about 50 miles north of Limon’s major port. The park now covers 19,000 hectares (46,900 acres) and is 22 miles south of the Tortuguero River estuary to Perissimina. The park, and the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge to the north, encompass the largest remaining surrounding tract of lowland wet tropical forest.
Tourists pay a considerable fee to see sea turtle nests on Tortuguero beach. Tortuguero is hot and humid. Daily temperatures average 26 ° C (79 F) and annual average rainfall exceeds 5,000 mm (200+ in). Warm days are affected by trade winds and cool nights. Abundant wildlife live in Tortuguero, including 57 species of amphibians, 111 species of reptiles and 60 species of mammals.
Tortuguero has more than 300 species living all or part of the year. Birdwatchers commonly see key-build towers, slaty tailed trogon, montezuma oropendolas, and a variety of parrots. River rivulets, collar peckers, and bayard’s tap tracks are often seen along the banks of rivers and canals. Simon is commonly seen in waterways, which are also home to fish, mannets, crocodiles.
(7) Playa Jaco
Jaco is the nearest beach town to the capital city of Costa Rica, San Jose, a popular destination for locals and tourists. Jaco is a great beach town as a homebus or to stay for a few days. It is an excellent destination for first time visitors as it is not far from San Jose International Airport with easy access, a vibrant nightlife and close to many natural attractions.
Additionally, it also makes it one of the best beach cities in Costa Rica to get without a car. Jaco Beach is 2 miles (3.2 km) of pure surfing waves with deep sand. The surrounding landscape is lush green throughout the year due to the nearby Tarcoles River. As a result, you have forests, beaches and wildlife in Jaco. The weather in Jaco is hot and very humid due to being located on the coast.
The dry season is a rainy season from December to April and early May to December. March and April are the hottest months like the rest of the country. Go riding, canning and horse riding at Ocean Ranch Park or Rainforest Adventures. Rainforest Adventures also has a tram that leads to the forest for scenic views. The night in Jaco is always busy with lively bars and clubs.
(8) San Jose
San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is located in the Central Valley region of the country. It is considered a landing pad for most visitors to the country, who then depart towards the country’s picturesque beaches, mountains and national parks. But if you give the city a chance, you may be pleasantly surprised.
San Jose, at an elevation of 3,800 feet, has mild year-round temperatures at its core that are so prized in Costa Rica. Therefore, spending two or three days in pleasant weather is definitely not a burden. Located in the center of San Jose, the National Theater, built in the 1890s, is considered one of the city’s most notable structures.
A walk in Barrio amon is important if you want to soak up the color of San Jose’s history. This old residential area is made up of large, rich and fine historic houses dating from the late 19th century. Parque Nacional is located in East San Jose, the city’s largest inner city. At its center is the National Monument, which features Central Americans regularly driving filibuster William Walker.
(9) Mal Pais and Santa Teresa
Apart from an electric current of epic waves that attract surfers from all corners of the globe, Mal pais is famous for its vivid sunsets that illuminate the sky in all shades of orange, fiery red and pink. Mal pais means “badlands” in Spanish, but nothing bad can happen about this land except the frantic pace at which it is being developed.
A single dirt road stretching along the coast connects these locations, usually disturbed by activity and American-style development, based primarily on the surfer community. Although Mal pais is still light years away from changing to Jaco or Imlindo, some fear maybe its fate. There are backpacker hostels, bars and delightful restaurants on the main street of Mal pais.
In addition to surfing, yoga and sampling its magnificent cuisine, visitors to Mal pais may be tempted to visit the Cabio Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, which is just a short distance between the beach town of Montezuma and Mal pais. This national park was built in the 1960s and has magnificent forest passages, an ancient beach.
(10) Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Rincon de la Vieja National Park is located in Guanacaste in the Pacific Northwest region of Costa Rica. The park was built in 1973 to protect and manage the volcanoes and the rare tropical forest surrounding it. Rincón de la Visa National Park protects 14,083 hectares or 34,800 acres of land. The elevation ranges from 393 – 1,916 meters or 1,299 – 6,286 feet to the base of the volcano.
Rincón de la Vieja is home to wildlife in the park. In mammals, there are three species of monkeys, including the white-faced, spider and howler monkey. The park is open from 8 am to 3 pm on Sundays (closed on Mondays). There are two main Ranger stations, Las Pelas Station and Santa Maria Station. Toilets and potable water are available in each.
The entry fee at any station is $ 15 per person. The park’s Las Pelas sector is located on the Pacific Slope. It is quite interesting with evidence of volcanic activity. Santa Maria Sector Park is located on the Caribbean Slope. The region receives a lot of rainfall and the green forests are different from the dry forests on the other side of the park.
(11) Playa Uvita
At a distance of 17 km to the south of the Dominical is Playa Uvita, a village which has increased in popularity. Located along the Costa Ballena beach, Playa Uvita has much to offer as a travel destination with its maritime reserve, Marino Ballina National Park, coastal mountains, beautiful beaches such as the ancient Playa Uvita and nearby waterfalls.
Costa Balena, (literally translated as Whale Coast), is located along southern Highway 34, in southern Costa Rica, about an hour south of Manuel Antonio’s popular destination. The rugged coastline extends from Playa Dominical to Ojokhal and has many miles of nature. Marino Ballena National Park is definitely one of the top things to do while staying in Punta Uvita Costa Rica.
This marine sanctuary protects more than 13,000 acres of ocean and 9 miles of coastline. With mangrove forests, coral reefs and wild beaches, it is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle. The park has four beaches, including Playa Uvita. It is also the perfect place to watch humpback whales in Marino Ballena National Park.
(12) Chirripo National Park
One of the highlights of this park is Cerro Chirripo Grande, the highest peak in all of Central America (3820 m / 12,533 ft). The nearest major city is San Isidro del General, which is 30 km from the park, and the small town of San Gerardo de Rivas is located near the park entrance. The area of Chirripo National Park is 50,150 hectares or 125,600 acres.
The altitude at the summit of Cerro Chirripo ranges from 900 m to 3820 m. The park has well-maintained hiking trails that take you through a variety of ecological zones. On the lower levels, you will find oak squares, mixed and cloudy forest squares with ferns and bamboo. Wildlife found within the Chirripo National Park include spider monkeys, bairds’ tappers, peckeri, jaguars and pumas.
Access to the park is usually on foot or by horse. The park does not have paved roads. The Ranger Station is just south of San Gerardo de Rivas is open daily from 5:00 am to 5:00 pm, and public restrooms are available. The entry fee is 18 USD per person. Crestones Base Camp is a rustic lodge with ~ 60 bunk beds and cold water showers.
Montezuma attracted bohemians and beach dwellers who put tents on the sand and lived for months, living in harmony with nature. Nowadays, the city is more built, with plenty of restaurant and hotel options and bars that lengthen its music at night. Montezuma beach is a heavenly stretch of white sand with volcanic rock outcropping and tide pool which is great for snorkeling.
If you are staying in a hotel near the beach, you will not need a rental car. Then, cabs are easily available from all hotels, allowing you to always roam. Renting a car in Montezuma is good if you are staying at one of the hotels on the hill. Like all of Costa Rica’s Northwest Pacific Region, Montezuma is one of Costa Rica’s most spectacular mountains.
With fairly stable temperatures, daytime highs reach the low 90s, while nighttime temperatures drop to the upper 70s. The worst experiences of wet weather occur here, from September to early November, while December to August usually sees the best weather. Visitors to Montezuma should not forget to pack beach clothes such as swimmers, flip flops, beach towels and surrogans to sunbathe.
(14) Irazu Volcano National Park
The park protects the Colossal Irazu, which is the longest volcano in Costa Rica, at 3,432 meters above sea level. Active volcanoes have a long history of eruptions. Many of the geological features of this protected area include Hermosa Beach, the Principal, and the Diego de la Haya crater, as well as the Sapper Formation from which both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts can be seen.
Irazu Volcano National Park is the highest volcano in Costa Rica at an altitude of 11,260 feet. Situated in Cartago province, the Irazu Volcano National Park consists of 5,000 acres of land. The entire park is located above the frost line, while most of the peak area is above the tree line due to elevation. Once on the summit, visitors will see a green crater lake and fumigation.
Spectacular views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, as well as mountains on each side, can be seen when the weather permits. When coming to the pit, you will see the unusual color of rain, due to the amount of minerals in the atmosphere. You can not camp in the park, but travel is shorter than anywhere in the Central Valley.
(15) Rio de Celeste
Flaming around with spectacular turquoise blue waters and Milan Morpho butterflies, natural hot springs and jungle trails that lead to one of Central America’s most stunning waterfalls, Rio Celeste. Rio Celeste received its distinctive color after painting the sky of God and dipping its paint brush into the river. A more scientific explanation is that volcanic minerals produce striking colors.
The river originated at a place called Los Ténideros, where two streams merge, causing a chemical reaction that is visible to visitors as the water clears with a strong shade of blue. Despite the unique beauty of Rio Celeste and the various options for accommodation in the area, including a luxurious resort, this destination welcomes some visitors.
The Tenorio Volcano, located within the park, has been dormant for years and a thick cloud forest covers its top. The area is home to many species of wildlife including tapers, monkeys, theaters, sloths, wild cat species and a variety of exotic bird species, such as bell birds. The entry fee is $ 10 USD for foreigners and $ 1.50 USD for Costa Ricans and residents.
(16) Braulio Carrillo National Park
The nearest city is San Jose, although there are several cities around the perimeter of the park. Most visitors to the park visit San Jose within a short time to see the ancient rainforest and cloud forest. Braulio Carrillo is a large park, protecting some 47,500 hectares or 117,375 acres of land. The park protects many habitats, including cloud forests, rainforest, and riverine habitats.
There are several hiking trails, although the primary trails are located at the entrance to the main park. Several species of wildlife inhabit Braulio Carrillo Park. Monkeys inhabiting the park include spider, capuchin and howler monkey. Big feline species include jaguars, pumas, ocelots, and routes.
Species found within the park include the resident quetzal, emerald taunet, bellbird, key-billed toon, chestnut-manballed tow, king vulture, silky-flycatcher, trogons, parrots, parrots, eagles, and several hummingbirds. There are three ranger stations with public restrooms and basic facilities. Most visitors live in Heredia, San Jose or Serpiki.
(17) Poas Volcano
Located in the province of Alajuela, Poas Volcano is one of the most popular active volcanoes in Costa Rica. Located at an elevation of about 8,900 feet above sea level, Volcanic Poas National Park is actually home to two craters. At the bottom of this hole, there is a medium-sized blue-green lagoon that emits boiling sulfur gases.
While the Poas volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica, do not expect to see lava flows. The last major explosion occurred in 1910. However, you are likely to see steam and gases coming from the crater and sometimes even geyser-like explosions have reached 820 feet. The main pit is easily accessible by a paved road.
The best time to visit the volcano is in the morning, when the clouds come in and cover it. Going to the park is a scenic, scenic drive, rolling into coffee plantations and flower fields. Many people enjoy visiting the Pose volcano in the morning and stopping at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. The combination of the two attractions makes for an amazing day without traveling far from San Jose.