13 Vacation Spots in Costa Rica for All Travelers

Looking for vacation spots in Costa Rica? Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes, from its ethereal cloud forests and stunning coastline to its active volcanoes and lush jungle, evoke awe and a desire to discover more. It’s not easy to pick just a few of the best spots for a holiday in Costa Rica, but we’ve done our best to distill the views, sounds, and adventures of each into a streamlined tour. Take a virtual trip to some of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist spots with the aim that it inspires you to visit this beautiful country in person.

1. Arenal Volcano National Park

One of the best vacation spots to see a volcano in Costa Rica is in Arenal Volcano National Park, located in the mountainous region known as the Cordillera de Tilarán. The primary draw is the Arenal Volcano, a massive cone whose crater often spews out enormous ash columns.

About half of the avian, reptilian, amphibian, and mammalian species found in Costa Rica can be found within the park’s borders, adding to its reputation for its rich biodiversity.

You can see the volcano and Arenal Lake, oppositely, from the lodge. Waterfalls and both ancient and current lava flows can be reached via a network of hiking routes found in the region.

Best Places To Stay in Arenal Volcano National Park

2. Mal Pais 

Because its beaches consistently rank among the greatest in the world, Mal Pais is one of the favorite vacation spots in Costa Rica for sunbathers. Beautiful sunsets, crashing surf, powdery beaches, and swaying palm trees are just some of the perks of a tropical vacation.

Located at the very end of the Nicoya Peninsula, there is ample room to spread out on the many beautiful beaches. People refer to Mal Pais as a surfer’s paradise because of the reliable waves and predictable massive breaks.

Best Places To Stay in Mal Pais

3. La Paz Waterfall Gardens

When visiting Costa Rica, you must stop by this privately owned-nature park. This is a known vacation spot in Costa Rica with different kinds of monkeys, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other animals that call the park’s 70 acres their home.

La Paz waterfall is a must-see while visiting the park. Water from the cloud woods cascades down 37 meters of rock and into a pool below. 

Your ticket to the waterfall also grants you entry to the serpentarium, jungle cat display, butterfly observatory, and ranarium (frog exhibit).

Best Places To Stay in La Paz Waterfall Gardens

4. Osa Peninsula

If you want to observe a wide variety of animals and spend time in the great outdoors, the Osa Peninsula is one of the top vacation spots in Costa Rica. National Geographic called it “one of the most intensive biological places,” so you can imagine that there is a lot to see.   

Travelers to Costa Rica who want to see exotic animals and plant life that can’t be found anywhere else in the world should head to the Osa Peninsula. Due to its relative isolation and perceived difficulty of access, most visitors bypass this area. There is a remarkable harmony among the many species of jungle animals, freshwater animals, and marine life.

Best Places To Stay in Osa Peninsula

5. Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Visitors can explore the historic Rincón de la Vieja volcano in this park. 

Reaching the peak is a common pastime. The starting point of this 9.6-kilometer-long trail is Las Pailas, and it winds its way up through a wide range of ecosystems. Spectacular scenery may be seen from here. 

On a clear day, you can see all the way to Nicaragua from the Nicoya Peninsula.

Waterfalls and hot springs can be reached by less taxing hiking routes. Moreover, animals as diverse as tapirs, sloths, monkeys, and large cats like jaguars, pumas, and ocelots call the park home.

Best Places To Stay in Rincón de la Vieja National Park

6. Bahia Salinas 

You’ll find Bahia Salinas near the northeastern edge of Guanacaste Province, close to Nicaragua’s border. 

It’s a far-flung, frequently windy spot, but the bay views and lovely, undeveloped beaches more than makeup for it. Both the tranquility of its rural Costa Rica setting and the excitement of its windsurfing and kiteboarding opportunities make it a must-visit.

With the strongest winds between November and March, Bahia Salinas is constantly buffeted by the elements. Bahia Salinas is one of the best vacation spots in Costa Rica to learn wind or kite surfing because of the bay’s consistent wind and sandy beaches. 

The constant winds and rural setting of Bahia Salinas create a pleasant and peaceful atmosphere for other tourists.

Aside from windsurfing, kayaking, mountain biking, sunset boat trips, and fishing are also popular in the Bahia Salinas region. On the opposite side of the bay, away from the wind, are various crescent-shaped beaches where you may relax and soak up the rays. Bahia Salinas is convenient for day trips to colonial cities in Nicaragua, thanks to its location on the border.

Best Places To Stay in Bahia Salinas

7. Tamarindo

Tamarindo is one of the most popular vacation spots in Costa Rica, thanks to its abundance of diverse flora and fauna and its five-star lodging options. If you decide to stay here, you may take advantage of the conveniences of an all-inclusive resort without sacrificing the opportunity to explore Costa Rica’s natural beauty and wildlife.

A large number of leatherback turtles and monkeys make the beaches in the area well-known. The Las Baulas National Marine Park is great for seeing some of the most exotic and uncommon marine life in Costa Rica.

The lengthy, pristine lengths of beach along the Pacific coast are a significant draw for visitors and residents alike. There is plenty of room for everyone, so the beaches are rarely crowded.

Best Places To Stay in Tamarindo

8. Irazu Volcano National Park

Irazu, a gorgeous active volcano, can be found close to Cartago. It is the highest and largest volcano in Costa Rica and makes for a spectacular sight.

The mountain is appropriately named Irazu, which translates to “peak of thunder” because its peak is so high that it can be seen even from miles away. It is known to be one of the best vacation spots in Costa Rica because of the volcano’s unparalleled beauty. An insane landscape surrounds this volcano.

However, there is hardly much fauna in the area because the volcano emits toxic gasses at its core, and you cannot safely approach it. You can dodge the noxious fumes by following any number of trekking trails or guided tours.

Best Places To Stay in Irazu Volcano National Park

9. Nosara Beach

Nosara Beach is a large Guanacaste beach. It is most notable for its spectacular coral reefs, rocky rocks, and lush mangrove forests. Still, it is undeniable that the beauty of its waters is what makes it one of the top vacation spots in Costa Rica, namely the great waves that provide the ideal setting for practicing water sports like surfing.

Playa Pelada and Playa Guiones are two of Nosara’s quieter beaches where visitors can relax for a few days. If you’re visiting Guanacaste, you should spend some time in this place to experience some of the best surfing in the world and learn about the local culture.

Best Places To Stay in Nosara Beach

10. Gulf of Papagayo

With its breathtaking ocean views, secluded settings and activities, and abundant tropical vegetation, the Gulf of Papagayo is the ideal place to unwind and take it easy. This is one of the best vacation spots in Costa Rica if you seek bright skies.

Some national parks, including Santa Rosa National Park and Rincón de la Vieja National Park, are located nearby, making this an ideal vacation spot for all travelers. Moreover, the gulf is full of natural wonders yet to be fully explored. This part of Costa Rica is perfect if you’re looking for a place to escape civilization and reconnect with nature.

Best Places To Stay in the Gulf of Papagayo

11. Diamante Eco Adventure Park

To avoid the heat and humidity of the rainforest, you can opt to visit Diamante Eco Adventure Park. It is one of the best vacation spots in Costa Rica. Monkeys, jaguars, sloths, and pumas, among others, can all be seen freely in their natural environment. These non-releasable animals are cared for by on-site biologists and are available for queries. In addition to the large creatures, guests can also stroll through a butterfly habitat. 

Without zip lines, Costa Rica wouldn’t be Costa Rica, and here is one of the most fantastic spots to attempt it. The Diamante Eco Park’s Superman route is the most well-liked of its ziplines. You take a running jump from a mountaintop and then race one mile straight down to the water. You may explore Diamante Eco Park with a Day Pass, including lunch.

Best Places To Stay in Diamante Eco Adventure Park

12. Playas del Coco

Playas del Coco is a relaxed beach town with a lot of character, and it’s only a half-hour drive from Liberia International Airport. Famous for its late-night restaurants and bars, it has a vibrant nightlife scene. Moreover, the region is perfect for exploring the many beautiful beaches in the vicinity, especially after sunset.

The place has all of the conveniences of a real town. Guests can choose from trendy apartments, online amenities, and restaurants serving worldwide cuisines. 

Playas del Coco, one of the most popular vacation spots in Costa Rica, features tan sand and calmer water than the surrounding areas because of its protected position within a deep bay. While there are waves, they aren’t suitable for surfing. Fishermen, sailors, and nearby community residents often use this place to anchor their boats and enjoy the calmer waters.

Best Places To Stay in Playas del Coco

13. San Jose

Costa Rica’s capital city, San José, is a vibrant metropolis and is one of the best vacation spots in Costa Rica. Even if you plan to spend your whole holiday lounging on the beach, you shouldn’t miss this attraction while in Costa Rica.

Spending at least half a day here, you’ll get all the incredible sights and activities. The Children’s Museum and Parque Diversiones, a mission-focused amusement park, are great places for youngsters to have a good time in the city. The Costa Rica National Zoo and Central Park in San José house unique species that can’t be seen elsewhere.

Best Places To Stay in San Jose

Final Thoughts

Vacationing in Costa Rica is more than just seeing a beautiful country; it’s a multi-sensory adventure. Magnificent volcanoes, ethereal cloud forests, scenic river basins, and countless sandy beaches dot this South American nation’s Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. There are lots of vacation spots in Costa Rica you can visit. Even the most discerning visitors can find something to their liking.

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