The Best Places to Travel in Costa Rica: From Adventure Capital to Breathtaking Beauty
When it comes to planning your next travel adventure, Costa Rica should be at the top of your list. With its breathtaking landscapes and diverse range of activities, this Central American gem offers something for everyone. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie seeking thrilling adventures, a beach lover in search of the perfect surf spot, or a nature enthusiast eager to explore biodiverse ecosystems, Costa Rica has it all. From the majestic Arenal Volcano to the tranquil shores of Tamarindo Beach, this article will guide you through the best places to visit in Costa Rica, ensuring an unforgettable experience. So pack your bags and get ready to embark on a journey like no other!
How to get to Costa Rica?
The main gateway to Costa Rica is Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose. However, in recent years, the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia has become a popular alternative, especially for those heading to the Pacific coast surf towns and beach resorts. The capital city offers the largest variety of air connections from the United States, Europe, and South America. Travelers can also choose to drive into Costa Rica, as it is located along the Pan-American Highway. Driving here is an adventure in itself, with the journey from the USA-Mexico border taking about 70 hours on rarely five-lane highways.
Getting Around Costa Rica
Airports in San Jose
Please note that the capital city of San Jose is the main point of entry and departure. There are two international airports in San Jose, Costa Rica:
- The main international airport is Juan Santamaria Airport in Alajuela.
- The secondary airport, Pavas (Tobías Bolaños), services flights to Panama and other destinations.
It is important to know which airport you will be flying into and out of, as they are not close to each other. Most flights from and to the USA will arrive and depart from Juan Santamaria.
Renting a Car in Costa Rica
During our trips to Costa Rica, we have rented cars for our transportation. Driving in the country used to be an adventurous experience, but now it has become relatively easy, although some routes can still be bumpy. We have had positive experiences renting from Solid Car Rental (pronounced "SO-lid").
On our most recent trip, we decided to rent from Budget Car Rental and were also satisfied with their service. Even when we encountered a flat tire in the cloud forest, we reported it to them for safety before the end of our trip, and their Customer Service was exceptional. They provided us with helpful advice on driving with the temporary spare tire and reassured us for our drive back to the airport.
If you arrive in Costa Rica later in the day or depart early in the morning, it might be convenient to stay near the airport for the first or last night of your trip.
Whether you are a first-time visitor or not, staying at a local hotel near the airport before venturing further into the country is a sensible choice for several reasons:
- Driving in the dark: If you are renting a car and driving yourself, it is better to navigate unfamiliar roads in daylight rather than in the dark.
- Traffic: Depending on the time of your arrival or departure, traffic around the airports in Costa Rica can be heavy. Staying in Alajuela or San Jose, especially on your last night in the country, allows you to reach the airport comfortably for early flights.
- Last-minute shopping: If you plan on doing some last-minute shopping at the Mercado Centrale downtown, it is advisable to allow extra time to return to the capital city. Staying overnight and catching your flight the next day will ensure a stress-free departure.
3 Outstanding Hotels Near the Airport in Costa Rica
We have been staying at this hotel since it was known as Las Orquideas Inn, with its famous Marilyn Monroe Bar. Everything that we previously enjoyed about the property has been further enhanced in Villa San Ignacio.
The entire property has undergone a complete renovation in 2020, resulting in a fresh, contemporary, and beautifully decorated space. The pool remains astounding, the included breakfast is delicious, and the value for a room under $100 per night is unbeatable.
Moreover, the hotel is conveniently located just 15 minutes from the airport, and they can assist in arranging a transfer. Check availability and rates here.
This hotel is our preferred choice for staying in San Jose, regardless of our destinations within the country. The historic property exudes elegance, and the restaurant is truly exceptional. It is an ideal place for a short stay or a longer duration. Check rates and availability here.
This fantastic resort is the perfect place to indulge yourself for a night, offering breathtaking views of the valley. It provides a luxurious experience with on-site amenities and serves as an excellent base for exploring the surrounding area of Alajuela. Check rates, availability, and more details here.
Arenal Volcano—The Capital of Adventure
Known as the ultimate destination for thrill-seekers, the Arenal area offers an array of heart-pumping activities that are sure to get your adrenaline pumping. Some of the most popular options include zip lining, rappelling, and white water rafting, but there are also lesser-known adventures waiting to be discovered. Arenal is the perfect place to push your limits and embrace the spirit of adventure. And after a day full of excitement, nothing beats the relaxation of soaking in natural volcanic hot springs to soothe your tired muscles. Many hotels in the Arenal area have their own on-site thermal hot springs, providing convenient access to the healing powers of these rejuvenating waters.
Manuel Antonio National Park
With its stunning white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, lush tropical forests, and charming town, Manuel Antonio truly has it all. If you dream of lounging on picturesque Costa Rica beaches, with the turquoise Pacific Ocean in front of you and a backdrop of verdant jungles, then Manuel Antonio is the perfect destination for you. The national park encompasses both pristine beaches and dense forests, serving as a home to a variety of wildlife including white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, sloths, and much more. The town of Manuel Antonio offers a range of hotel options, making it a well-rounded destination that caters to all travelers.
Tamarindo Beach—Surfing and Sunset Paradise
Tamarindo is a vibrant beach destination that has something for everyone. As the surfing capital of Costa Rica, it attracts wave enthusiasts from around the world. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a beginner looking to catch your first waves, Tamarindo offers world-class surfing conditions. But there's more to Tamarindo than just surfing. The area is a water sports lover's paradise, with options such as kayaking, sailing, diving, snorkeling, and fishing. On land, you can explore the beauty of Tamarindo through ATV tours, horseback riding, zip lining, and more. And once the sun sets, you can enjoy the vibrant nightlife that Tamarindo is famous for, while sipping on a cocktail and watching the ocean waves.
Conchal Beach—A Unique Shelled Paradise
Conchal Beach, also known as Playa Conchal, is unlike any other beach in Costa Rica. Its crystal-clear blue waters are calm and inviting, perfect for swimming and relaxation. But what sets Conchal Beach apart is its sand, which is made up entirely of tiny shells. As you walk along the shore, you can feel the softness of the shells beneath your feet, giving the beach its name. For those seeking a luxurious experience, the Westin at Playa Conchal offers all-inclusive accommodations just steps away from the beach. With a variety of amenities, entertainment options, and nearby activities, it's the ultimate destination for travelers looking to indulge in a beachside paradise.
Gulf of Papagayo—A Haven of Tranquility
The Gulf of Papagayo is a top destination for luxury beach vacations in Costa Rica. The region is home to numerous all-inclusive resorts, offering a high-end experience for travelers. While there are more budget-friendly options available, there's something truly special about being pampered with five-star amenities while surrounded by the beauty of pristine beaches. The calm waters of the Gulf make it ideal for water sports and swimming, and there's a wide range of activities available to ensure a memorable stay. Whether you're looking for relaxation or adventure, the Gulf of Papagayo has it all.
Jaco Beach—Surfing and Sport Fishing Paradise
Jaco Beach, also known as Playa Jaco, is a popular beach destination conveniently located near San Jose and the Central Valley. It's a favorite spot among locals and tourists alike, known for its great waves and vibrant surf culture. But Jaco offers more than just surfing. The nearby Carara National Park provides opportunities for exploration and wildlife encounters. And when the sun sets, Jaco comes alive with its lively nightlife scene, offering a variety of bars, restaurants, and entertainment options. With its perfect combination of surf, nature, and vibrant atmosphere, Jaco is a must-visit destination in Costa Rica.
The Nicoya Peninsula—Where Surfing Meets Yoga
The Nicoya Peninsula is a laid-back paradise that attracts surfers, yogis, and backpackers seeking a relaxed and bohemian ambiance. The beach communities of Santa Teresa and Nosara dot the coastline, offering world-class surf breaks and a thriving yoga culture. Despite its relaxed facade, the Nicoya Peninsula offers plenty of opportunities for adventure and exploration. Whether you want to ride the waves, practice yoga on the beach, or simply immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area, the Nicoya Peninsula has something for everyone.
Coco Beach—Beaches and Vibrant Nightlife
Coco Beach, also known as Playas del Coco, is a lively beach town located just a short drive from Guanacaste International Airport in Liberia. Known for its bustling nightlife, Coco Beach is home to a variety of bars and restaurants that stay open late into the night. While the beach itself may not be the most impressive, the breathtaking sunsets more than make up for it. Coco Beach is also a great base for exploring the many picturesque beaches that surround the area. Whether you're looking to party, relax on the beach, or explore the natural beauty of the region, Coco Beach has it all.
Puerto Viejo—A Relaxing Caribbean Vibe
Puerto Viejo is a laid-back beach town on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, known for its relaxed atmosphere and stunning natural beauty. The Caribbean breeze and laid-back vibe make it the perfect place to slow down and immerse yourself in the local culture. Puerto Viejo is also a haven for surfers, with some of the best surf breaks in Costa Rica. And when you're not riding the waves, you can indulge in delicious Caribbean cuisine and explore the vibrant reggae music scene. Puerto Viejo truly offers a unique and memorable experience for travelers.
Drake Bay—A Biodiversity Hotspot
Located on the remote Osa Peninsula, Drake Bay is a paradise for nature lovers. With its dense rainforests and unparalleled biodiversity, the area is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Corcovado National Park, one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, is within reach from Drake Bay. Guided tours offered by local hotels provide the best chance of spotting a wide range of animals. Drake Bay is also a popular destination for scuba diving, with the opportunity to explore the vibrant marine life around Caño Island. The easiest way to reach Drake Bay is by flying into the nearby airstrip, allowing you to quickly immerse yourself in this natural wonderland.
Rincon de la Vieja—Where Nature and Adventure Await
Rincon de la Vieja, located in Guanacaste, offers a thrilling blend of natural wonders and outdoor adventures. Hiking through the tropical dry forests, exploring active volcanoes, and indulging in wellness-oriented mud baths are just a few of the incredible experiences awaiting you. Rincon de la Vieja also provides a glimpse into the authentic countryside of Costa Rica, where agriculture and cattle ranching thrive. You can ride alongside real Costa Rican cowboys and experience the rich culture of this rural area. Rincon de la Vieja promises an unforgettable adventure in a landscape of unparalleled beauty.
Tortuguero National Park: Preserving Endangered Sea Turtles
Tortuguero National Park, located on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, is a must-visit destination, especially if you're traveling between July and October. It is one of the most important nesting sites for sea turtles in the world, with several species returning to its shores to lay their eggs. Witnessing these majestic creatures nest and hatch is a truly awe-inspiring experience. For assistance in planning your trip to Tortuguero National Park, including accommodations, adventure tours, and more, you can reach out to Fora for expert guidance. They can ensure you have an unforgettable visit, complete with VIP upgrades and perks. Aside from its sea turtles, Tortuguero is also home to a dense rainforest, a network of canals and lagoons teeming with wildlife, and some of the best jungle resorts in Costa Rica.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: A Magical Encounter with Nature
As its name suggests, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve offers a truly enchanting experience. This unique ecosystem is a mist-shrouded jungle that seems straight out of a fairy tale. It is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, including the elusive and breathtaking quetzal bird. Exploring the misty trails, admiring massive waterfalls, and zip-lining through the canopy are just a few of the unforgettable activities that await you in Monteverde. Whether you're a nature enthusiast or a first-time visitor to Costa Rica, Monteverde is sure to leave you in awe.
Corcovado National Park: A World of Breathtaking Biodiversity
Corcovado National Park is a true gem and one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. This expansive park encompasses rainforests, cloud forests, pristine beaches, and vibrant coral reefs. It is home to all four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica, as well as tapirs, exotic birds, reptiles, and even jaguars. Exploring Corcovado is like stepping into a wildlife documentary, with every corner revealing new wonders of nature. Due to its remote location and rugged terrain, planning a trip to Corcovado requires careful consideration and knowledge. Fora can assist you in arranging your visit, recommending reputable tour companies and ensuring a smooth and unforgettable experience.
Samara: The Laid-Back Gem of the Nicoya Peninsula
Samara is a picturesque town nestled on the Nicoya Peninsula, offering a laid-back atmosphere and a chance to immerse yourself in Costa Rica's Pacific coast culture. Its pristine beaches, warm ocean waters, and gentle waves are perfect for relaxation and sunbathing. But Samara is more than just a beach destination. The town itself is a vibrant hub with a rich local culture, delicious cuisine, and lively nightlife. "Pura Vida", the national phrase of Costa Rica that represents the simple and pure life, is truly embraced in Samara. It's the ideal place to unwind, enjoy the beach life, and create lasting memories.
Uvita: A Whale-Watching Haven
Uvita, located on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, is renowned for its incredible whale-watching opportunities. Every year, humpback whales migrate to the area between July and October, and again from December to April, to mate, give birth, and nurse their young. Taking a boat or guided kayak tour allows you to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. It's important to choose a licensed operator that prioritizes the safety and well-being of the whales. Fora can assist you in finding the right tour operator for an ethical and unforgettable whale-watching experience. In addition to whale watching, Uvita offers beautiful beaches and opportunities for relaxation and exploration in the surrounding forests and hills.
San Gerardo de Dota: Coffee, Mountains, and Serenity
San Gerardo de Dota, located in the Talamanca Mountains, is a hidden gem known for its stunning cloud forest, abundant wildlife, and of course, coffee. The cool climate and rich soil provide the perfect conditions for growing Arabica beans, which are renowned for their exceptional flavor and aroma. Many coffee plantations in the area offer tours, allowing visitors to learn about the coffee-making process and indulge in tastings. Some plantations even offer on-site bed and breakfast accommodations, providing a unique and immersive experience. If you're interested in sustainable travel, a visit to San Gerardo de Dota is a must. The coffee farms in the region are committed to sustainable practices, ensuring the preservation of the area's natural beauty for generations to come.
Guanacaste: Sun, Surf, and So Much More
Guanacaste is a region that offers a perfect blend of sun, surf, and cultural experiences. Its white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and excellent surf conditions make it a dream destination for beach lovers. But Guanacaste is more than just a beach paradise. The region boasts a rich cultural heritage, with vibrant food, music, and dancing that showcase the influence of the indigenous Chorotega people. Luxury resorts and spas provide opportunities for relaxation and indulgence, while also offering access to a wide range of outdoor activities. Whether you're looking to bask in the sun, hit the waves, or immerse yourself in the local culture, Guanacaste has it all.
Cahuita: Food, Music, and Cultural Delights
Cahuita is a hidden gem that often goes unnoticed by many travelers, but it's a destination that shouldn't be missed. Located on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, Cahuita offers a unique cultural experience. Its laid-back vibes, delicious cuisine featuring fresh seafood, and vibrant reggae music create a truly unforgettable atmosphere. The town is surrounded by lush rainforests that are home to a diverse array of wildlife, providing ample opportunities for exploration and outdoor activities. Cahuita is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the Afro-Caribbean culture of Costa Rica and create lasting memories.
Poas Volcano is a captivating natural wonder and a popular day trip from San Jose. This active stratovolcano features twin calderas filled with sulfur lakes, offering a dramatic and awe-inspiring sight. It last erupted in 2019 and has erupted a total of 40 times since 1828. The lakes within the calderas are incredibly still, their vibrant colors appearing almost painted. To fully experience the beauty of Poas Volcano, it's best to arrive early in the morning before clouds obstruct the view. There are small trails in the area that allow for exploration, or you can take a guided tour that includes a visit to the La Paz Waterfall Garden and a local coffee plantation for a comprehensive experience.
WHERE TO STAY IN SAN JOSE:
- Stray Cat Hostel – This clean and conveniently located hostel near the bus station ensures a comfortable stay with staff willing to go the extra mile for their guests.
Santa Teresa is a true paradise bathed in the salty airs of the Pacific Ocean. As one of the last surf towns on the Nicoya Peninsula, it stands out as a must-visit destination. With over six miles of breathtaking beaches, Santa Teresa offers something for everyone. Playa Hermosa in the north is perfect for beginners, while Mal Pais in the south is known for its hollow point breaks. Intermediate surfers will find endless thrills with consistent A-frame waves throughout the summer months. But Santa Teresa isn't just for surfers. The town itself is buzzing with lively nightlife, with renowned DJs often making appearances during the holiday season. Beyond the town, the jungles envelop the area, offering hidden treasures like plunge pools and cascading waterfalls, such as the Montezuma Waterfall.
Tortuga Island exudes an atmosphere reminiscent of the Thai islands. Located off the southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, this idyllic destination attracts urban dwellers from San Jose who seek the pristine beaches framed by jungle-covered rocks rising out of the Pacific. It's a true paradise. The surrounding ocean is teeming with life, making it a dream come true for scuba divers and snorkelers. El Aquario reef offers a spectacle of rainbowfish, angelfish, stingrays, and unique corals. The colossal volcanic rocks of Bye Bye Reef are a favorite hangout for sea turtles and manta rays. For adventure seekers, the Caroline Star shipwreck is a thrilling encounter with white-tipped reef sharks. When you're ready to leave the water, explore the forested hills, where you'll find ziplining courses and challenging hikes leading to lookout points with panoramic views. Tapirs, iguanas, and other fascinating creatures can be encountered in this lush wonderland.
The Islas Murciélagos, or Bat Islands, have earned a spot on this list thanks to the unparalleled diving experiences they offer. The scuba diving here is among the best in Costa Rica, and perhaps even the world. With visibility that can reach up to an impressive 98 feet (30 meters) on a clear day, and an abundance of dive sites, there's never a dull moment. The dive sites include the ominously named Big Scare, where you might have the chance to encounter bull sharks. Rugged Bajo Negro, a submerged wedge of lava stone, is another fantastic option, with an abundance of spadefish, moray eels, and massive octopi. The underwater safari begins as soon as you hop on the boat at Playa del Coco, as spinner dolphins and whales can often be seen in the straits between the mainland and the islands. The Islas Murciélagos are part of the Santa Rosa National Park and reward adventurous divers with empty coral gardens and volcanic reefs. Most visitors focus on the ocean, but a short hike on the Isla San José, the largest of the islands, leads to a ranger station and lookout point, offering panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Best Places to Go in NORTH Costa Rica
Bajos del Toro, La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano, and Monteverde Cloud Forest
During our first trip to Costa Rica, we rented a car at the airport and drove north towards La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano. It's an approximately 3-hour drive, and there are several interesting stops to visit in the craft town of Sarchi between Alajuela and La Fortuna.
Once you are in La Fortuna, you will discover a plethora of activities to indulge in, such as exploring active volcanoes, relaxing in hot springs, and enjoying various hiking, zip-lining, or spa experiences.
On your first morning in La Fortuna, get ready to wake up around 4:45am to the unique chorus of howler monkeys, which gradually rouses the rest of the surroundings. Take a moment to sit outside your cabin, quietly record the fascinating primal sounds of the howlers with your phone or video camera, and immerse yourself in this extraordinary experience.
Welcome to Costa Rica!
Bajos del Toro
How to Get to Bajos del Toro - You can either drive or arrange for private van transport with your hotel.
Things to Do in Bajos del Toro - If you are seeking a quiet, natural retreat with convenient access to the airport in San Jose/Alajuela, we highly recommend spending a few nights in Bajos del Toro.
Bajos del Toro, despite being just a short drive from Alajuela (approximately 20 km), feels like it exists in a completely different world. This small mountainous region boasts the proximity of Juan Casto Blanco National Park and the Poas Volcano (Vulcan Poas). It is truly an undiscovered paradise for nature enthusiasts.
Where to Stay in Bajos del Toro - El Silencio Lodge & Spa
Located amidst stunning cloud forests, this secluded luxury mountain resort and spa exemplify sustainable eco-lodging in Costa Rica. Their accommodations, whether rooms or houses, are perfect for both families and couples seeking a romantic getaway. The modern, organic design, complete with hardwood furnishings, luxurious linens, and elegant wood-burning stoves, creates a serene atmosphere. Don't miss out on their Balinese-style spa, situated in the forest, where you can enjoy a slow rain shower to enhance your treatment. Above all, the food stands out, from impeccably crafted cocktails to the creations of their inspired chef.
How to Get to La Fortuna - Driving or arranging a shuttle from San Jose.
Reaching La Fortuna from Alajuela or San Jose by car is a straightforward journey, but most hotels offer shuttle services for guests flying into San Jose.
Where to Stay in La Fortuna - Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa
The Arenal Observatory Lodge is one of the few hotels situated within the national park area, and it is the closest to the volcano. We were impressed by the comfortable rooms, the fantastic pool, and the gorgeous grounds filled with beautiful flowers and abundant birdlife.
Things to Do in La Fortuna
Make sure to visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens, located an hour north of Alajuela. During your drive, you will pass through the charming crafts town of Sarchi, where you can admire the brightly painted oxen carts. If you're lucky, you may stumble upon a local shop and witness craftsmen engaged in their painting process.
Furthermore, explore the magnificent Poas volcano, hike to the breathtaking La Fortuna waterfall, and unwind in the thermal hot springs. Nature enthusiasts could easily spend their entire trip exploring the rich biodiversity of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Whether you seek adventure or luxury, Costa Rica offers it all.
The highlight of the region is undoubtedly the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and there are various ways to explore it. While hiking allows you to immerse yourself in the forest, those seeking thrills can opt for ziplining high above the canopy along an extensive network of supporting wires that stretch for miles. Experience the cloud forest just like the monkeys do with the Monteverde zip line tour!
Places to Visit in North CARIBBEAN Costa Rica
Tortuguero, known as Costa Rica's "region of turtles," is the most important nesting site for the endangered green turtle in the Western Hemisphere. Other turtle species, including the Leatherback, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, and Olive Ridley turtles, also come here to nest.
To protect the turtles, Tortuguero National Park was established after years of intense hunting in the area. It now preserves 22 miles of nesting beach, starting from the mouth of the Tortuguero River.
The small town of Tortuguero has a charming character with only one dirt road, offering a remote and authentic experience.
How to Get to Tortuguero - You can choose between public transportation, driving your own vehicle, or arranging a transfer.
To reach the village of Tortuguero, you must travel by boat, which provides an excellent opportunity to encounter wildlife along the way. Many hotels offer shuttles directly from the airport in San Jose, which will meet you at the boat for transportation to your accommodation. If you prefer driving, you will need to arrange for parking in the town lot and a boat trip to your hotel.
Where to Stay in Tortuguero - Tortuga Lodge and Gardens, Laguna Lodge, or Turtle Beach Lodge are all located within Tortuguero National Park. Each of these options guarantees an exceptional experience.
Things to Do in Tortuguero
If you want to witness the nesting turtles, plan your visit for July, August, or September. Apart from that, you can enjoy activities such as hiking, river rafting, kayaking, and nature or sightseeing tours while immersing yourself in the breathtaking surroundings.
Do you need assistance in planning your trip to Costa Rica? Reach out to our local experts for guidance.
Where to Go in SOUTH CARIBBEAN Costa Rica
Limon, Cahuita, and Puerto Viejo
The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica offers a distinct and unique ambiance compared to the rest of the country. Once you set foot on this coast for the first time, you will immediately understand what sets it apart.
Given its West Indies heritage, it is no surprise that the region exudes a laid-back reggae vibe, which is also reflected in the delicious and vibrant local cuisine.
What to Do in Puerto Viejo
Renting a bike is a great way to explore the colorful town. Stop by a local produce market to savor the freshness of tropical fruits and head to the beautiful beaches at Playa Cocles or Punta Uva. Extend your drive further south to Manzanillo for an exciting day trip.
For intimate encounters with wildlife, don't miss Cahuita National Park. And if you share our love for monkeys, a visit to the Jaguar Rescue Centre, located just outside of Puerto Viejo, is a definite must-see!
How to Get to Puerto Viejo - Driving is the recommended option. The scenic drive through Braulio Carrillo National Park and along the coast is simply spectacular.
Where to Eat in Puerto Viejo - Bread & Chocolate serves amazing breakfast options, while Koki Beach Restaurant Bar Lounge is a fun place to visit at any time of the day.
Where to Stay in Puerto Viejo - Hotel Banana Azul
We have chosen Hotel Banana Azul multiple times, and we have fallen in love with the property, its friendly staff, the lush gardens, and its prime location on Playa Negra, one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. The food at this hotel is consistently scrumptious, and it is LGBTQ-friendly.
Do the Panama Combo
If you are up for an adventurous experience, consider combining your visit to Puerto Viejo with a few days in Bocas del Toro, Panama. This tropical archipelago is located just south of Caribbean Costa Rica and is easily accessible from Puerto Viejo. Arrange private transportation with a company like Caribe Tours to reach Bocas del Toro.
>> Search now for hotels in Bocas del Toro, Panama — it is just a short hop or drive from Puerto Viejo.
Top Destinations in Northwest Costa Rica
The Nicoya Peninsula, located on the northwest coast of Costa Rica, exudes a laid-back and relaxed surfer vibe. While the weather here is drier compared to the southern Osa Peninsula, rain is still a part of the green season, contributing to lush landscapes. One of the main highlights of Nicoya is its stunning beaches, which are truly irresistible.
What sets the Nicoya Peninsula apart is its pleasant and moderate climate. Unlike other coastal areas in Costa Rica that can feel hot and humid, Nicoya strikes a perfect balance.
North Nicoya is home to the town of Tamarindo and the Guanacaste region, which is relatively more touristy. However, it is important to note that this is still a tranquil and peaceful destination compared to bustling hotspots like Disney World. Plus, there are plenty of activities and a wide range of accommodations available, making it an ideal choice for multigenerational travel in Costa Rica.
For nature enthusiasts, the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula offers abundant opportunities to immerse in wildlife and natural wonders.
How to Get to Nosara - You can reach Nosara by driving or taking a flight to the new international airport in Liberia.
Things to Do in Nosara
Relaxation is key! Grab a surfboard and head to the beach to catch some waves. Yoga is deeply ingrained in the lifestyle here, so don't miss the chance to take a class or practice on the beach. The small town of Ostional is a nature enthusiast's paradise, boasting a beach where thousands of sea turtles nest each year. Please remember to be respectful and ensure their nesting process is not disturbed.
Don't forget to explore Playa Carrillo, known as one of the most exquisite beaches in Costa Rica, located about an hour south of Nosara. On your way back, make sure to visit the town of Samara for shopping and a delightful lunch. Samara Beach is perfect for families, thanks to its sheltered bay and gentle waves.
Where to Stay in Nosara - Harmony Hotel
Located on Playa Guiones, one of the most remarkable beaches in Costa Rica and known for its long surf break, the Harmony Hotel is just a 2-minute walk from the beach. Situated in a quiet area of town, this accommodation offers a range of options, from luxurious to hostel-style, ensuring a perfect match for every traveler. Besides, Harmony Hotel is renowned for its yoga programs and inspired, healthy cuisine, allowing you to fully embrace tranquility during your stay.
The most well-known destination on the Nicoya Peninsula is Tamarindo, a highly popular beach town. However, if you seek more peace and serenity, head further south to experience the charms of Nosara, Samara, or the vibrant beach towns of Manzanillo, Santa Teresa, and Mal Pais at the southern tip of the peninsula.
(NOTE: During the green season, it is advisable to check road conditions as flooding and impassable roads may occur.)
Must-Visit Destinations in the Middle Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio and Jaco
During our first visit to Costa Rica, we spent the initial three days exploring Arenal, followed by six relaxing days along the stunning Pacific Coast, specifically Manuel Antonio and the Osa Peninsula. If you have ample time, driving along the entire southern coast offers breathtaking experiences, showcasing some of Costa Rica's finest sights.
To get to these destinations, you must cross the renowned Rio Tarcoles, aptly named the Crocodile River due to its monstrous American Crocodiles. Don't forget to bring your camera and make a stop on the road just before the bridge for the best view.
While you're there, enjoy a delicious casado (traditional lunch) or a refreshing drink at one of the local restaurants near the bridge.
I took this pic of the crocodiles in Rio Tarcoles with a zoom lens from a bridge a few hundred yards away!
How to Get to Manuel Antonio - You can reach Manuel Antonio by driving, taking private transport, or using the bus service. Several buses operate daily between San Jose and Manuel Antonio, but expect frequent stops along the way.
Things to Do in Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio, a charming coastal town, effortlessly blends tourist-centric offerings with a laid-back atmosphere. Its renowned Manuel Antonio National Park offers an extensive network of trails and serves as a haven for the endangered Mono Titi, or squirrel monkey.
The town's slogan of "Still more monkeys than people" couldn't be truer. Wildlife encounters are a common occurrence within the park, and even beneath your feet or nearby, you may spot a marvelous array of creatures.
Where to Eat in Manuel Antonio - Indulge in delightful meals at Barba Roja and Cafe Aqua Azul, two of our personal favorites offering consistently excellent food. For a unique setting with a fascinating historical connection, don't miss El Avion, a popular spot for drinks and cuisine that pays homage to the Wild West Iran Contra scandal of the 1980s.
Conveniently situated in the heart of Manuel Antonio and within walking distance to numerous restaurants, Hotel Villas Nicolas offers spacious and tranquil rooms and suites. With open-air settings and expansive verandas boasting breathtaking ocean views, you can truly unwind and relax in your own hammock.
Villa Perezoso Luxury Apartment, another exceptional option in Manuel Antonio, is perfect for families or groups of friends. The spacious accommodation features two large bedrooms with king beds and private bathrooms, as well as a generous shared living area, gourmet kitchen, private parking, and a beautiful wrap-around terrace. The apartment is conveniently located within a 5-10 minute walk from Espadilla Beach and Playitas Beach, and just 2 miles from Manuel Antonio National Park.
Unmissable Destinations in the Middle Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
Dominical and Uvita
Venturing further south, you will encounter the notorious "bumpy road" (which is truly an understatement) leading to the charming surf towns of Dominical, Uvita, as well as the emerging areas of Palmer Norte and Palmer Sur. Expect beautiful beaches and warm, welcoming locals along the way.
In the funky surf town of Dominical, make sure to visit the surfer bar located right on the beach, where you can exchange your broken surfboard and bruised ego for a free beer, as their playful sign declares: "You break 'em, we hang 'em."
Interestingly, you'll even come across a unique shrine dedicated to a king on the beach. However, it's not a Costa Rican monarch but the legendary Elvis Presley! If you're a fan, this is an opportunity you shouldn't miss. After all, how often do you find an Elvis shrine on a Costa Rican beach?
How to Get to Uvita - You can easily reach Uvita by driving.
Things to Do in Uvita
Hiking and surfing are popular activities in the area. Explore the multitude of quirky beach shops that line the streets, offering a delightful experience of strolling and shopping.
Where to Stay in Uvita - The Lookout at Playa Tortuga
At The Lookout at Playa Tortuga, you can revel in the comfort of individual spacious and clean cabinas surrounding the main hotel, pool, and common terrace. The location is perfect for bird-watching enthusiasts, offering a fantastic opportunity to observe various bird species. The hotel also offers easy access to amazing nearby beaches, with Playa Ventanas being a personal favorite.
No matter what type of adventure you're seeking, Costa Rica has a destination that will satisfy your wanderlust. From the awe-inspiring Arenal Volcano to the tranquil shores of Tamarindo Beach, the vibrant culture of Cahuita to the breathtaking biodiversity of Corcovado National Park, this Central American gem offers something for every traveler. So pack your bags, grab your surfboard, and prepare to be captivated by the natural wonders and vibrant charm of Costa Rica. The best places to travel in this diverse country await your arrival.
Finding the Perfect Time to Travel to Tulum: Exploring the Seasons and Unveiling the Ultimate Recommendation 2023-09-23 00:07:40
Discover the enchanting allure of Tulum as we unravel the secret to finding the ideal time for your visit. Delve into the mesmerizing seasons of this tropical paradise and unlock our ultimate recommendation for an unforgettable experience.
Discover the Perfect Time to Experience Portugal's Charm 2023-09-23 00:07:08
Explore the enchanting and irresistible allure of Portugal at its prime! Uncover the ideal moment to immerse yourself in the rich culture, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant atmosphere that this captivating country offers. Plan your journey and seize the perfect time to experience Portugal's incomparable charm, ensuring an unforgettable adventure awaits.
The Best Time to Travel to the Caribbean: Ideal Seasons for Smaller Crowds, Low Prices, and Unforgettable Experiences 2023-09-22 00:04:35
Discover the ultimate guide to the best time to travel to the Caribbean and unlock a paradise without the masses. Find out when to go for serene moments, budget-friendly options, and life-changing adventures. Plan your escape wisely and savor the smaller crowds, unbeatable prices, and memories that will last a lifetime.
Exploring the Ideal Time to Travel Egypt: Unveiling Seasons, Festivals, and Activities 2023-09-20 00:15:21
Discover the ultimate guide to navigating Egypt's best travel times, as we unveil the enchanting seasons, exhilarating festivals, and captivating activities that will make your trip unforgettable. Plan your adventure today and immerse yourself in the wonders of Egypt's diverse cultural calendar!