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Destinations - Why Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a natural treasure in the middle of Central America that proudly shelters 5% of the existing biodiversity in the entire world.
Costa Rica’s territorial division includes 7 provinces, which are: San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limón. Together they offer an attractive tourist destination, of almost limitless possibilities, that include extensive rainforests, volcanoes, rivers, mountains, beaches and natural resources safeguarded by an important organization of national parks and forest reserves.
The annual average temperature is around 70 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
Due to its proximity to the equator, Costa Rica has no real winter period, and the weather can be classified as a dry and wet season. The dry season starts from mid- November to April and wet season from mid-May to November. The months the rain the most are September and October. The province of Guanacaste is the driest of the country, making it a recommended area to visit during the rainy season.
Even during raining season, travelers can expect sunny mornings with clear skies and afternoon showers that last about two hours before the sky clears again. Wet season is also called “Green Season” due to the rain making everything around look greener.
Typically travelers will find low season rates between September and mid-November and enjoy a lees crowed tours and hotels.
Although is a small country, Costa Rica is one of the most highly valued tourist destinations on this planet. Whether for a beach getaway in Tamarindo, a rainforest adventure in Arenal Volcano or a wildlife adventure in Manuel Antonio, travelers will find all the necessary components to have an unforgettable vacation in one single place.
Capital City: San Jose
Entry Requirements: valid passport
Weather: 78º year-round
Currency: Colon (CR)
Languages: Spanish, English
Costa Rica is located approximately ten degrees North of the Equator, on the isthmus of Central America. Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua on the North and by Panama on the South. To the East lies the Caribbean Sea and to the West, the Pacific Ocean.
• Juan Santamaria in San Jose (SJO)
• Daniel Oduber in Liberia (LIR)
Most visited places in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the top 20 richest countries in biodiversity on Earth in terms of species density. It means that it is possible to find more species in 1,000 km2 in Costa Rica that in the same area in countries like Brazil or Colombia.
Due to its incredible biodiversity and variable climate, Costa Rica offer travels a variety of destinations to explore and enjoy. With so much to see, deciding where to go can be challenging, but no worries!
Below you will find the most visited locations in Costa Rica that will let you experience the best of what the country has to offer.
A good start is choosing one or two destinations based on the time and interest. Many travelers choose between 2 destinations to visit in 7 days, usually a combination of Rainforest and Beach. For those who are looking to visit the best of Costa Rica, 8-10 days period allows them to visit between 3 and 4 destinations.
See what everybody is talking about! A unique country that offer visitors the opportunity to see different destinations and habitats on a single vacation. Pura Vida!
15-30 minutes from San Jose (SJO) airport to hotel in the city
San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica, head of the province of San Jose, and the nation’s largest city. Located in the Central Valley, San Jose is almost entirely culturally influenced by the Europeans, in part because of the Spanish immigration after Costa Rica was discovered by Christopher Columbus.
This can be seen in the architecture of the city, namely theatres, museums and houses in the city center.
Once in the city, visitors may choose among dozens of one-day tours to the most outstanding natural places, inside and out of the Central Valley. This includes national parks, forest reserves, and lands with an abundance of coffee plantations as well as the popular Poas and Irazu Volcano which are all not far from San Jose. Another day trip option from San Jose is the Pacuare River rafting, rated as one of the best in the world for white water rafting.
For the hotel accommodations, San Jose offer a wide variety of options for every budget. Most travelers spend the first night in San Jose downtown to explore the local fresh cuisine and depart the next day to their next destination. While others, prefer to stay two days to explore the surrounding of San Jose, like Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall.
3 hours from San Jose (SJO) airport/ 3 ½ hours from Liberia (LIR) airport.
25 minutes from San Jose
The impressive Arenal Volcano is located in the northern Costa Rica in the province of Alajuela. Alajuela’s territory spreads to the north, reaching the boundary with Nicaragua. This province has an enviable natural richness and is close to many of the spectacular sightseeing’s of the country like the world-famous Arenal Volcano. This 7,000 years old volcano has a beautiful perfect cone shaped silhouette and is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Most of the hotels in the area offer panoramic views of the volcano from the property and guests rooms. Thanks to the Arenal Volcano’s geothermal activity, there is a number of natural hot springs in the area that offer visitors an ideal way to relax after a day of adventure.
The area is also filled with wildlife, waterfalls and rivers making Arenal an obliged stop for those who love adventure and Costa Rica’s natural richness.
Activities like zip lining, rappelling, rafting, safari boats, hiking, waterfalls, hot springs and even fishing in Lake Arenal are among the most popular things to do in the area.
Travelers have also the option of exploring the outside surroundings of Alajuela and visit Rio Celeste and Tenorio Volcano. A challenging hike of 4.5 miles that takes you to the Rio Celeste Waterfall, known for its bright color blue river.
The wide range variety of hotel accommodations in Arenal is extensive. The area is noted for its European style spas offering mud baths, body massages and healing waters. Travelers have the option of choosing eco lodges accommodations to luxury resorts.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
3 1/2 hours from San Jose (SJO) airport/ 3 hours from Liberia (LIR) airport.
Monteverde, located north of Puntarenas province, has earned its name as one of the most outstanding wildlife sanctuaries in the New World tropics. Nowadays, Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve are among one of the most popular touristic destinations in Costa Rica.
There are over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 120 species of amphibians and reptiles, and over 2,500 species of plants among them 420 species of orchids, as well as tens of thousands of insect species.
The Cloud Forest of Costa Rica is visited by scientists, bird watchers and wildlife lovers from all parts of the world that enjoy ecotourism.
This true paradise for nature lovers and eco-travelers, also offers other activities that include hanging bridges, superman zip lining, horseback riding, coffee and cheese tours and butterfly, hummingbird and frog exhibits.
Due to the conservation efforts and life style centered on nature, most of the hotel accommodations in Monteverde are eco lodges located on luscious green mountains.
The rooms are designed to bring guests close to nature in a rustic, comfortable and elegant atmosphere overlooking the forest and Nicoya Gulf.
1 1/2 hours from San Jose (SJO) airport.
Located on the largest province of Costa Rica, Puntarenas known as the “Pearl of the Pacific”, Playa Jaco is the closest beach to San Jose.
Approximately 1 ½ hours away from the SJO airport, Jaco offers world renowned surfing and nightly entertainment.
Due to its metropolitan area, travelers will find comfortable accommodations, casino resorts and condo rentals as well as most common services such heath center, major banks, and an abundance of surf shops and restaurants.
With all there is to offer it is no wonder Jaco is as popular as ever.
3 hours from San Jose (SJO) airport.
25 minutes from San Jose to Quepos.
Manuel Antonio National Park boast some of the country’s most varied and breathtaking scenery. Surrounded by lush, very wet tropical forest, the park’s trails offer sightings of white-faced monkeys, sloths, coatis, raccoons, iguanas and many bird species, as well as the Costa Rican squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedii citrinellus), which is endemic to Manuel Antonio, it is found only in this part of the world.
The park also protects 12 islands that serve as excellent refuges for several seabird species, as well as several stunning beaches (Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio and Puerto Escondido), a 14-hectare lagoon and a mangrove swamp.
With its impressive white-sand beaches, blue waters of the Pacific and hundreds of hectares of rainforest, this park is one of the smallest in Costa Rica, but at the same time, one of the most highly visited.
In 2011, Manuel Antonio was listed by Forbes among the world’s 12 most beautiful national parks.
Besides the Manuel Antonio National Park, this area also offers great sports fishing, rafting, ATV, boat safaris, hike through the Carara National Park, horseback riding and more.
For the accommodation, Manuel Antonio offers unique boutique hotel that range from 3* to 5*. Most of the properties offer stunning views of the Pacific surrounded by the magical tropical forest.
Manuel Antonio white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and fresh ocean breeze, attracts as many as 150,000 visitors annually. Travelers will experience a combination of rainforest and beach in a single location.
1 hour from Liberia (LIR) airport.
45 minutes from San Jose to Tamarindo.
With a total of 5,921 sq. miles and more than 400 miles of coast line, the Guanacaste tourism area comprises the Pacific Coast area from the border of Nicaragua to the Bongo River estuary in the Nicoya Peninsula.
Tamarindo, one of the main spots in the province of Guanacaste, is a beautiful beach lined with lush vegetation like, savannah oak, tamarind trees, and coconut trees.
It offer visitors a chance to experience the regions pristine beaches, varied international gourmet restaurants, boutiques and all-inclusive hotels as well as vacation rentals.
As one of the most accessible tourist towns in Costa Rica, Tamarindo offers a wide range of activities like surfing, sports fishing, snorkeling, golf, zip line, rafting and national parks
Its variety of high quality services allow travelers to enjoy the ocean during the day and party at night. Despite the town’s recent and ongoing development, it retains the laidback vibe that is so characteristic of the region.
40 minutes from Liberia (LIR) airport.
45 minutes from San Jose to Liberia.
Located in the northern of Guanacaste, Papagayo Gulf is the location for Costa Rica’s premier luxury resorts.
Rest and relaxation always go hand in hand in the Gulf of Papagayo, with mesmerizing ocean views and intimate settings and activities, as well as lush tropical greenery at every turn.
This area is perfect for watersports, swimming and sport fishing. Being Guanacaste the driest part of the country, Papagayo always have warm weather and calm waters throughout the year, so visitor can come and enjoy this area of Costa Rica any season they prefer.
2 ½ hours from Liberia (LIR) airport to Nosara.
15 minutes from Liberia to Nosara / 35 minutes from San Jose to Nosara.
The Nicoya Peninsula offers pristine beaches, great surfing and a laid back atmosphere filled with relaxation.
The Nicoya Peninsula is divided into the provinces of Guanacaste which occupies the larger part in the north, and the province of Puntarenas in the south.
Nosara, Samara, Santa Teresa, and Montezuma are great beach location for visitors who are looking for yoga, surfing and boutique beach front properties.
A dreamy island called Tortuga Island, located on the Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, is one of the Gulf’s most visited location. Snorkeling, scuba diving, sugary white sand beaches and emerald waters make this destination ideal for visitors searching for a unique exclusive beach area.
A day cruise tour is offered from the port town of Puntarenas or by ferry from Nicoya Peninsula.
Travelers staying in San Jose can also have access to this tour. There is a 2 hour ride from the city to the port of Puntarenas.
Besides the watersport activities, Nicoya is also full of natural beauty with mountainous terrains, mangrove forests as well as national parks and reserves like Barra Honda, Marino Las Baulas, Vida Silvestre Curu, and Cabo Blanco.
Almost all destinations in Nicoya are accessible by ground transportation. Local flights from Liberia to Nosara are also available.
Santa Teresa, Tambor and Montezuma, located on the Gulf of Nicoya in Puntarenas, can be accessible via ground transportation from Liberia airport or San Jose airport. The travel distance is approximately 5 hours.
6 hours from San Jose (SJO) airport.
35 minutes from San Jose to Tortuguero.
Explore Tortuguero, land of incredible biological diversity; where at night from July to September, impressive Green Sea Turtles nest on the beach.
Tortuguero is a tropical sanctuary for more than 300 different species of birds and a natural habitat for an amazing array of wildlife. This includes monkeys, crocodiles and iguanas, among many others.
Tortuguero is located in the Northeast area of the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica and is often compared to as the "Amazon of Costa Rica" for its rich vegetation, fauna and the navigable network of lagoons and canals that cross the National Park from Southeast to the Northwest.
Weather is characterized by warm, breezy days. November through June are the cooler months. From the middle of July to the end of October is considered the dry season of the area, however you can experience regular rains.
5 hours from San Jose (SJO) airport.
Costa Rica's Caribbean province of Limon cover 125 miles of coastline from the northern Nicaraguan border to the southern border with Panama. The city of Limón is located in the center of the tourist sector with a port and many tourism areas.
The area exhibits a unique mix of beach, natural resources and Afro-Caribbean culture in the surrounding areas like Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Gandoca-Manzanillo, which are located in the southern sector of the tourism area.
In this area travelers will find high-quality beaches where you can find a mix of activities involving adventure and natural history, which uniquely complement the local culture, gastronomy, and music. The area is also known for its coral reefs, multi-colored sand beaches (black, yellow, and grey), costal vegetation, and medium-high forests.
Puerto Viejo is well known for its beautiful beaches and for having the best surfing spot on the Caribbean and Cahuita National Park, with its translucent blue-green water, hosts a great coral reef for those interested in snorkeling or scuba diving.
Besides the beautiful coastline beaches, the Caribbean also offers one of the best white water rafting in the world, Pacuare River. It is a level III and IV river. While rafting, visitors can admire the waterfalls and tributaries of the Pacuare, which is complemented by lush green vegetation that adds an incredible value to the experience.
In regards of the weather, it’s recommended to travel between the months of September and October, where no rain is expected in contrary with the Pacific side.
Although, there is no a broad selection of hotels in this remote area, visitors can find boutique beach front properties and the popular Pacuare Lodge by the river.
7 hours from San Jose (SJO) airport.
35 minutes from San Jose to Drake Bay.
Considered as the largest rainforest along the Central American Pacific, Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula is one of the most biologically diverse locations on the planet. This jewel of Costa Rica has miles of uninhabited beaches and the huge Corcovado National Park that has 41,788 protected hectares of shallow lagoons, marsh, mangrove swamps, rivers, wet forest and low-altitude cloud forest.
Corcovado National Park is one of Central America’s most unique ecosystems—which is why naturalists from all over the world come to study its riches.
Within its extensive territory, visitors can observe the rich biodiversity of the last virgin natural area in all of Central America. Some 6,000 insect, 500 tree, 367 bird, 140 mammal, 117 amphibian and reptile, and 40 freshwater fish species live here in coexistence. The park has numerous hiking trails and rustic camping refuges. A guide is recommended.
Another park that attracts visitors is Ballena National Marine Park, home to the southernmost migration point of the humpback whale, an endangered mammal 15 to 16 meters long, of which only around 5,000 remain in the world.
Ballena was created in order to protect Bahía Coronado’s coral reefs and rocks, as well as the migrating whales, which can be observed from December to April and from August to November. The coastal environment attracts colorful birds, and its rich waters are enticing to divers.
For the experienced divers who wish to see manta rays, whale sharks, and hammerheads, the South Pacific offers Coco Island Preserve. This preserve protects very important marine environments, particularly large coral reefs rich with life. The reefs are home to a variety of fish species, invertebrates, algae and mammals such as dolphins and whales.
Excursions to the island can be taken by boat or plane from various launch points on the Osa Peninsula.
Travelers can reach the South Pacific via ground or air. Many of the main destinations around the Osa Peninsula also have airports to make the trip faster and more convenient. Drive time from San Jose to Osa can take approx. 7 hours. For travelers who which to take day trips to Osa, there is the option of lodging in Dominical Beach located in Puntarenas for a 3 ½ hour ride to Corcovado or 30 minutes ride to Marino Ballena National Park.
Hotel accommodation in Osa are settled among lands of unspoiled rainforest reserves along the South Pacific coastline. Most of the properties in Drake Bay offer full pension, which means breakfast lunch and dinner due to its remote location.
Hotel accommodations in Uvita and Dominical offer miles of white sandy beaches with crystal water surrounded by exuberant tropical forest. This hotels offer daily breakfast and with restaurants on site.