Top 10 places to visit in Costa Rica
Reading time: 15 minutes.
Hi, my name is Luis Piedra and among the many rolls I take on professionally, I also happen to be a proud Costa Rican who loves all the beautiful, exciting and nurturing destinations our country has to offer. I also have a lot of friends from around the globe who constantly ask me for recommendations on places to visit, so I finally put together this info for them and you now.
To start off, here’s a short intro on the Essentials of Costa Rica:
In this post you will also find:
Ok, before we get on with the list, know that I’m not a travel guide nor work in the tourism industry, I’m just sharing the places I love the most in my country from my personal experience. So, if you’re coming to Costa Rica, these recommendations will take you to my personal best picks of this awesome country.
North Region (La Fortuna Hot Springs)
In La Fortuna you will find a broad range of Hot Spring options, from rustic raw nature to premium boutique hotels. My favorite one is Baldi Hot Springs, it is by far the biggest, though why I love it it’s because of it’s minimalistic and tropical concept, it’s just amazing. Price wise, it is in the middle range. A la carte restaurant is good and you may consider dinner in close by restaurants, for a more exceptional gastro experience.
Tabacon is smaller high end resort, it is a bit fancier and exclusive, the design of the upper pools are made so that it seems that nature built them, surrounded by an exuberant tropical setting. You can enjoy an unforgettable relaxation:
1.5 hours north from La Fortuna is Río Celeste, extraordinary river inside the Tenorio Volcano National Park. You can hike up river up to where 2 clear water rivers unite, causing chemical reaction that causes the light blue color of Río Celeste. You can go and spend the day there and return to La Fortuna or you can stay at the Rio Celeste Hideaway Resort, which is the best spot in the area.
Another cool place is La Paz Waterfall Gardens. If you’re in for a 2 hour hike in a lush tropical setting, play with a few of Costa Rica’s exotic friends and view a triple set of amazing waterfalls. Then this is your place:
Central Mountain Range
Monte Verde is one of the most popular Cloud Forest locations in the country. It is famous spot for bird watching as it holds the 2nd place in the world for the most bird biodiversity. Additionally, you’ll find the longest and fastest zip line tours in the country along with Tree Top Suspension Bridges, Butterfly Gardens, Sloth Sanctuaries and much more.
Selvatura is my favorite place for adventure activities, Santa Elena Reserve for an immersive tropical forest experience. Hotel Belmar is a great option to stay if you like exquisite organic food straight from their own farm, all in a calm setting with extraordinary views of the Nicoya Gulf and the Forest.
A bit more to the north you’ll find Río Perdido, a great place for glamorous and adventurous activities. From canopy, to tubing, from relaxing hotsprings to professional trek biking. All in an amazing minimalistic space with great food. You don’t want to miss this spot!
West Pacific (Guanacaste)
As opose to most places in Latin America, I think our beaches in the pacific are way nicer that the ones in the Caribbean side. And Guanacaste encompasses a variety of beaches, adventure and beach towns that provides an ample playground to explore for weeks.
To start off, Playa Conchal for me is the most beautiful beach in Costa Rica, making it my #1 favorite beach in the country. The beach is made up of white sand and small ocean seashells, which gives the name to the beach. In addition it has 2 World Class Hotels, The Westin Golf Resort & Spa and the W Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal, where you can have all the luxurious amenities you could want.
Warning, you won’t want to leave. But no need to worry, there are properties inside the Reserve you can buy so you can make it your 2nd home.
Also near, Flamingo another great white sanded beach. It also has a world class Marina (currently under renovation), so you can cruise and go fishing from here.
Langosta beach is great to watch sunsets in a more private setting and is right next to Tamarindo, which can also serve as great base for this area, as it has great dinning options and is the #1 Surf Town in Costa Rica. Here you can stay at the Tamarindo Diria Hotel or the Wyndham Hotel, which are a couple of great hotels and you can find also great Airbnb options here, ideal for larger families and a more private setting.
Nosara is one of the places where celebrities and wealthier expats tend to settle, it has beautiful beaches, great dining options where no body knows your name, your title. Everyone is free to be with nature, surf or access many spiritual and yoga retreat offerings.
Playa Carrillo and Samara beach are also very nice. Usually I stay in Carrillo beach, for its tranquil and relaxed ambience.
You can stay in the Nammbú Hotel, the rooms are ample and almost all have amazing ocean views. The food and cocktails are great, so all of these make it my favorite place to stay here.
If you like Beach Clubs, check out Gusto Beach Bar/Restaurant in Samara. It offers a delightful blend of seafood and italian cuisine, usually have happy hour in the late afternoon and great music, all right in the beach.
Going to South Guanacaste you’ll find Santa Teresa and Mal País Beaches, they’re right next to each other. They have a strong international community of digital nomads and startup entrepreneurs, very diverse and high quality restaurants and cafes. Nantipa is a great beach front place to stay.
Central Pacific (Puntarenas)
One of the best activities in the Central is to take a Catamaran to Isla Tortuga or the Sunset Tours departing from Los Sueños Marina. There are many options departing from Puntarenas city, but by far the quality and service provided by Costa Cat Cruises, make them my #1 tour provided to visit this amazing location.
Additional to having the best service available, you go out from Los Sueños Marina, which is an amazing place it self. Great restaurants, impressive boats in a World Class Marina. So you can just come for the day tour or stay in the Marriot Los Sueños or the many high end property rentals available in this spot.
Punta Leona Beach Club is my 2nd favorite beach in Costa Rica, only 1.5 hours from San Jose. It has a family oriented environment, mostly visited by locals and 3 star hotel facilities. So not a fancy place to stay, but given the beauty of the beach, the family oriented environment, broad range of activities you can do here, its calmness and safety, makes it one of my favorite places in our country.
Manuel Antonio Beach is in my top beaches list ranking at #3. This beach is located in the Manuel Antonio National Park, which has several trails you can hike with extraordinarily views. The wildlife is amazing, including friendly monkeys and raccoons, though beware as they will take your food if you leave it unguarded (not kidding). When they do it to other people it will be very funny for everyone around, but trust me, not when it is your food that they take as you will need to take a long walk to get something new.
The park has several beaches, so make sure to get to Manual Antonio Beach as it is just paradisiac. Check it out:
Many hotel and villas options for every taste. If you’re traveling with a group, Villa Punto de Vista is an outstanding place to stay in, with a unique tropical high end architecture design and 220 degrees of unpaired ocean and forest views, it will be on your unforgettable memory list.
More about Costa Rica to share
If you want to know the facts about Costa Rica, from economy and education to health and environment, check out the following post:
Essential Costa Rica – Overview of our country and our people
You can use the following videos to get your people excited about visiting our amazing country:
Costa Rica Elevated – A show of our amazing landscapes
This is one of the most hilarious videos I’ve ever seen, if you feel related, it may be time for you to “Come to Costa Rica!” 😂
Save the Americans/Canadians Foundation – Our commitment to people like you
Discover Costa Rica – HD Travel Experience
In the following link you can find the destinations you can fly to within Costa Rica with Sansa. So if you want to avoid the hassle of a few hours drive, you can fly to the following to locations to reach many of the places we listed before:
- Quepos is the town near Manuel Antonio (one of the top nicest beaches)
- Tambor is the town near Santa Teresa & Mal País
- Tamarindo for all the nicest beaches of West Pacific (Guanacaste)
- La Fortuna for all the Hot Springs
Finally, you may have seen quite a few videos from the Costa Rican Vacations folks, though I’m not affiliated to them nor have I purchased their tour packages. But I do appreciate and acknowledge them for the fantastic videos they have crafted of my beautiful country. If their services are as good as their videos, I would definitively recommend them.
So thank you for your interest in Costa Rica, I hope you have an amazing experience here. If you liked the post please share it with anyone coming here and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me as I love to support people visiting our country. Pura Vida!
Costa Rica – Back to the Pura Vida