Best places to go in Costa Rica

Oh Costa Rica, you eco-focused, happy-go-lucky gem. Despite being small in size, it’s packed with potential places to go. With that in mind, our Costa Rica boffins have selected the very best places to visit while on your holiday to this central-American star. From volcanoes to beaches and everything in between, read on for more…

1. San Jose


Situated centrally, the capital city of San Jose is the largest city in Costa Rica and will likely be your entry point. San Jose is often overlooked as a place not worthy of spending more than a day or two, but things are certainly changing and it’s quickly becoming a vibrant and exciting city. Discover an emerging craft beer trend, a cutting-edge street art scene and some of the country’s best cuisine in San Jose.
Being the home of the political system and location for the majority of industry in Costa Rica, it’s certainly more developed than other cities. You’ll find yourself in the midst of the hustle and bustle – a stark contrast to much of the rest of Costa Rica – but it’s truly worth exploring and finding some hidden gems. To get your cultural fix, visit one of the many museums, and in the ‘Plaza de la Cultura’ you’ll discover the National Theatre ‘Teatro Nacional’ which boasts beautiful architecture.

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2. Early morning canoe trip in Tortuguero

Placed beautifully on the Carribean coast, Tortuguero is a must-visit, especially for those passionate about conservation and nature. There’s a reason why it’s the destination for turtle lovers too, as it’s a major nesting site for a variety of breeds. The conservancy has an outstanding research centre and is open to the public for visits to get close and learn more about turtles. You’ll also find a huge variety of other animals which thrive in the forests, wetlands and corals that exist within the national park. Only accessible by boat or plane, there are no cars here. In fact, the rivers are the roads in these parts. Why not get out on a kayak tour with one of our local guides before the wildlife has been disturbed? It’s truly magical.

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3. Boca Tapada

Off the beaten track and relatively unknown to the masses, Boca Tapada really is something special. Located close to the border of neighbouring Nicaragua, you’ll pass through beautiful rural lands to arrive there, getting a real taste of country life in Costa Rica. Boca Tapada is a protected wildlife refuge due to the fact it’s a nesting spot for the green great macaw, which is presently endangered. You’ll find hundreds of other bird species in this stunning area, including the toucan, so be sure to pack your binoculars and a good waterproof day pack so you can go exploring! Relax in your tree-house lodge set in the jungle, take a kayak out on the water or take a guided wildlife walk through the forest after dark.

4. Corcovado National Park

Considered one of the most remote and highly bio-diverse regions in the world, Corcovado has tropical ecosystems with an abundance of Pacific beaches, mangrove swamps, and rain-forests across the lowlands and mountains. Corcovado is in the South Western Osa Peninsula on the Pacific coast, around a day’s drive from San Jose. It’s home to thousands of species of wildlife; see if you can spot as many of the 100 beautiful butterfly species as they flutter around you, or one of the six feline species, as well as tapirs, anteaters, peccaries and monkeys to name a few.

5. Samara Beach

Relax and unwind in this secluded ocean-side paradise situated in the north west of Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast. Sea kayak over to beautiful white sand coves and snorkel and dive in shallow waters on protected beaches. The closest airport to Samara is Liberia, and you can travel to the area by car or bus. Samara beach is extra safe for families as the water is fairly shallow, the waves are small enough to learn to surf and it’s much quieter than other beaches.

6. Monteverde

Zip line through a cloud forest in this location that is action-packed and full of adventure. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, along the Cordillera de Tilarán, is found within the Alajuela and Puntarenas provinces. Delve into the humid misty fog, exposing suspension bridges and rainforest clearings filled with vividly colourful epiphytes like orchids, bromeliads and lichen. This cloud forest is like one giant terrarium, however, it’s in jeopardy as rising solar temperatures are slowly burning through the layer, which could eventually dry this ecosystem up. Yes, it’s fair to say we’re worried about this too… but it’s all the more reason to try and travel as sustainably and ethically as possible through Costa Rica (and the rest of the planet). We do everything we can to ensure this is the case on our Rickshaw Travel tours.

7. Ricon de Vieja

Around 15 miles from Liberia and 2,000m above sea level, this active andesitic volcano in the Guanacaste province is one of the best places to see in Costa Rica if you want your jaw dropped. Stay on a working cattle and horse farm, ride out into the countryside and experience the local community. Get up close to the Geo-thermic activity, bubbling mud pools and a wide variety of plant and animal species. Like the rest of Costa Rica, it’s also an amazing spot for bird watching, so get your binoculars at the ready!

8. Arenal Volcano

Panoramic views of the Arenal Volcano from the observatory lodge in La Fortuna will blow your socks (and sandals) right off! Standing tall at nearly 1,700m above sea level, the Arenal Volcano is quite a sight to behold. It’s what’s called a ‘dormant andesitic stratovolcano’ with the last eruption in 2010. The Arenal Volcano is located in northwestern Costa Rica, roughly 90km from the capital city of San José, in the Alajuela province. Stay within the national park grounds in the famous observatory or opt for dwellings in the town of La Fortuna for a different experience. After a hike on the lava trails, immerse yourself in the natural hot springs with a cocktail, under the stars. The sight and story of Arenal is unique, unforgettable and unbelievable – just let our travel specialists tell you why it’s worth the visit.

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