Best of Costa Rica
From Costa Rica Travel Guide: Vacation and Travel tips
Costa Rica Travel- Some of the Best A-Z
Don’t want to miss the BEST of Costa Rica? With the vast diversity Costa Rica has to offer it’s easy to be overwhelmed with what to do when visiting this beautiful country. We put together a little list to help you when planning your trip here- a sort of Costa Rica A-Z so to speak. Here we go.
Arenal – It would almost be sacrilegious to visit Costa Rica without visiting one of the most active volcanoes in the world- Volcan Arenal. Often clouded over, when this bad boy is seen it can be very impressive to say the least. Besides the volcano, the la Fortuna area has a lot to offer any tourist, from relaxing hot springs, to an extensive list of adventure tours. Around Arenal
Beaches - Costa Rica is famous for its beaches- and rightfully so. With over 700 miles of coastline, beaches here range from white to brown, desolate to downright frenetic. Check out our ‘Best Beaches,’ but it’s hard to beat Playa Conchal, Manuel Antonio and Malpais/Santa Teresa for their natural beauty, and Dominical and Samara for their lively social scene.
Canopy Tours - Viewing the scenic beauty of Costa Rican rainforest from above should be on everyones ‘Bucket List.’ There’s no experience necessary to enjoy this truly memorable adventure. Canopy tours can be found throughout Costa Rica and some are better than others- but if you have to pick one- then it’s hard to beat the Aventura Canopy Tour located in Monteverde.
Dominical – With the combination of natural beauty and a lively party scene, Dominical is one of our favorite destinations in Costa Rica. You might want to give yourself at least a couple of days here, because like a Dorito, one just isn’t enough. You'll see,
Easygoing Ticos – Ticos are friendly and very laid-back. The unofficial national slogan here is ‘Pura Vida,’ which literally means Pure Life and they are NOT kidding, as this laid-back attitude has permeated all facets of daily life here. If you’re expecting the prompt, fast paced life, like in the States, then you’ll be very disappointed, but after a few weeks their happy-go-lucky lifestyle starts to rub off and you’ll be thinking, Pura Vida in no time.
Fishing – With over 700 miles of coast line, Costa Rica is obviously an angler’s paradise and it’s no wonder so many fishermen keep coming back. Enough said. Some of the best spots are in Quepos, Zancudo, Playa Flamingo, and Golfito.
Gallo Pinto – This is Costa Rica's national dish and there’s nothing like starting off the day with a tico style meal of mixed rice and beans served with eggs and tortillas. It’s rather tasty if you add a little natilla (sour cream).
Howler Monkeys – You will see monkeys when visiting Costa Rica, and personally I never get tired of watching them, but one thing is certain, if at first you don’t see a howler monkey- you will hear them. Pound for pound they’re one of the loudest animals on the planet, no really. If you want to know more about howler monkey, check out this.
Islands – Not quite a secret, but few people realize the magnificent islands Costa Rica has to offer. Hell, some people think Costa Rica IS an island. For instance, the Catalinas, are just off shore, offering great opportunities to scuba dive, and Isla Tortuga is a great spot for a day trip of sand, surf and sun. But Costa Rica’s real island gem has to be Cocos Island (Isla del Coco) located 300 miles off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This is seriously one of the best scuba diving spots in the world.
Jaco – One of Costa Rica’s most developed beach resorts; Jaco has a sort of never ending spring break atmosphere going on. Jaco could easily be mistaken for a destination in Florida. If you want an endless nightlife and an infinite number of activities at your disposal, then Jaco might be the place for you, but aesthetically speaking, there’s much better beaches in Costa Rica, but if you’re looking for a party….
Kayaking – There’s kayaking in Costa Rica for just about everyone. Class IV rapids or a leisurely paddle through mangrove swamps, you’ll find it here. Some are even beginning to kayak the more popular breaks around the country, like Salsa Brava off Puerto Viejo. There’s some nice kayak trips that originate from Quepos, and you may want to consider mangrove exploration in Puerto Jimenez.
Lizards and Leatherbacks – One of life’s more memorable experiences has to be watching the king of all sea turtles, the leatherback, lay their eggs. Five species of sea turtles nest on Costa Rica’s beaches, including the olive ridley known for their mass egg-laying migrations. There are just too many reptiles for which Costa Rica is famous, but we have to mention the iguanas, which can be found just about everywhere around the country, including the beaches.
Nicoya Peninsula – We love the Nicoya Peninsula. Laid back vibe, spectacular coastline that goes on forever and great surf. And if you’re looking to party, you can find that as well. Check out the waterfalls in Montezum and if you're looking for a very relaxed but cool surf vibe, then you’ll want to visit the Malpais/Santa Teresa area. And since you’re close, Samara is also worth a stop.
Osa Peninsula – This is where you find the very essence that is Costa Rica. Diversity personified. Untamed and wild- nature at its finest, this is a true nature lovers paradise. Overstating? Definitely not. Nature is the star here, as a visit to Corcovado National Park will surly confirm. A stop along the rugged coast of Bahia Drake is a wonderful way to experience the desolation first hand. If you still want to hit the beach, there’s Playa Platanares next to Puerto Jimenez.
Puerto Viejo – The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is an entirely different place than that of the Pacific. Known for one of the country’s best surfing spots, spicy cuisine, and Rastafarian culture, Puerto Viejo is the biggest tourist destination on the Atlantic. Puerto Viejo put the laid back in laid back and it’s that vibe people probably enjoy most about this town. And while you’re there, don’t forget about Cahuita it’s also worth a stop.
Quepos and Manuel Antonio - One can’t really visit Costa Rica without stopping by Manuel Antonio, or at least watching a video. This is top-shelf Costa Rica, and the national park here is a must see with its stunning beauty and active wildlife. Manuel Antonio is definitely touristy, and you won’t get much Tico culture here, but if you’re looking for it all- beaches, scenery, great hotels, good eats and a party- this is your place.
Rafting – A great way to experience Costa Rica’s natural ecosystems is shooting the rapids on one of its many rivers. There’s white-water rafting to suit anyone’s experience level, from the intensity of Class V rapids (experience needed) to leisurely safari floats enjoying all the river has to offer at your own pace. The Pacuare is worth mentioning as it passes through primary and secondary forests and a beautiful steep gorge, and you’re likely to see plenty of wildlife.
Surfing - The secrets been out for years- Costa Rica is a surfers paradise. If you’re a surfer than you probably already know some of the spots, but here’s just a few: Witch’s Rock at Playa Naranjo near the Nicaraguan border, Playa Nosara, Playa Grande, Punta Langosta, playas Negra, Avellanas, and Junquillal. Don’t be afraid to venture out and find your own secret spot.
Tortuguero – Parque Nacional Tortuguero is, without a doubt, one of Costa Rica’s top wildlife destinations with its vast array of bird species and nesting turtles. The experience of staying at a jungle lodge and exploring the area via boat is truly a naturalist’s dream. To get the best of Tortuguero, be on the water early or go out following rain. As soon as the clouds clear, mammals, birds and reptiles come out into the open to dry out.
Uvita – Located about 10 miles south of Dominical, Playa Uvita is a beautiful, remote beach you don’t want to miss. This place will give you an idea of what Costa Rica beach towns looked like before the tourist boom. The waters around Uvita are popular with dolphins and whales, but the beach here is well protected and great for swimming as well.
Volcanoes – Can you believe it? A small country like Costa Rica actually has 42 active volcanoes. This little country, about the size of West Virginia, is one of the most volcanically active places on the planet. As previously mentioned, don’t miss Volcan Arenal, as it can put on quite a display, but for waterfalls and fumaroles, a hike around Rincon de la Vieja is also worth a trip.
Waterfalls – Costa Rica has waterfalls. Big ones, little ones, and many of them are quite impressive. There’s too many to name, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the waterfalls in Montezuma- definitely worth a look, just be careful when jumping! There’s also a nice one in La Fortuna and the one found in Rio Celeste is extremely beautiful as it cascades into a magnificent pool of bright blue water. Rio Celeste Video with michael alan and DAngleo
Yoga – There’s no reason to miss your yoga class just because you’re vacationing in Costa Rica. Yoga can be found just about anywhere, in particular the beaches, but yoga retreats are popping up in numerous locations around the country, and most high end hotels also offer classes.
Zancudo – The beach here seems to go on forever, and fortunately tourism is fairly new to the area. Fishing and surfing are good here, but this is also a good place just to kick back and relax for a while. Pavones is just down the road and you’ll want to check that out as well.
Some of the BEST beaches in Costa Rica
A great thing about Costa Rica is that there’s a beach to fit any taste, with more than 750 miles of shoreline on its Pacific and Caribbean coasts, Costa Rica offers beach goers an abundance of riches. You name it, surfing, swimming, relaxing, seclusion, ambiance, snorkeling, sunsets etc; you can be assured that Costa Rica has a beach for you. Here are some of Travel Costa Rica Now's favorites for various reasons (in no particular order):
Manzanillo & Punta Uva': Just below Puerto Viejo, the beaches of Costa Rica’s eastern coast take on idyllic Caribbean brilliance, with turquoise waters, coral reefs, and palm-lined stretches of nearly deserted white-sand beach. The beaches of Manzanillo and Punta Uva this is the place along the Caribbean’s most scenic stretch of shoreline.
Manuel Antonio: Manuel Antonio has always been one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations and rightly so and although its popularity has increased tourism tremendously, it has managed to maintain its charm. The views across the bay are unforgettable and the entire area is absolutely stunning whether you’re sunning on the beach or gazing out from the hills. And if that’s not enough, throw into the mix iguanas, howlers, capuchins, sloths and squirrel monkeys (really, right there where beach meets forest) and you have the perfect setting that is, Manuel Antonio. Manuel Antonio Video
Santa Rosa National Park: The beaches here are great for a few reasons; they’re home to some of the most important nesting sites of several species of sea turtles, such as the olive ridley turtles which come by the thousands to nest in October. The beaches here in the northwest corner of Costa Rica are also a good bet if you really want to get away from it all. However, a vast number of travelers are here for one reason- the opportunity to surf the near-perfect break at Playa Naranjo, which is formed by the legendary offshore natural rock formation known as Witch’s Rock. Santa Rosa is also home to another break of arguable equal notoriety, namely Ollie’s Point, which was made famous by the film Endless Summer II. These beaches here are not easy to access so be ready to hike or have a 4-wheel drive vehicle at your disposal.
The beaches around Playa Samara: Playa Samara is popular with vacationing Tico families, backpackers, wealthy tourists, snorkelers and cliffs on the far side of the bay make this an attractive destination. BUT, if you venture even slightly along the rugged coastal road in either direction from Samara, you’ll find some of the nicest and least developed beaches along the entire Guanacaste coast. A few such secluded little gems are Playa Carrillo, Playa Barrigona and Playa Buena Vista. Samara Video
Playa Montezuma: Located on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, this tiny beach town is a great spot if you’re looking for empty white sands, rocky coves and killer sunrises. Montezuma was one of the original destinations in Costa Rica, especially among artists, hippies and dreamers alike. Now, Montezuma attracts just about everybody, but still manages to retain a funky sense of individuality. The beach stretches for miles, with secluded spots in which to enjoy the surf and sand all along the way. And don’t forget to visit the waterfalls, they are a must see if you’re in the area. Montezuma Video
Malpais/Santa Teresa: Malpais used to be fairly well kept secret, but not anymore. The legendary waves here have been attracting serious surfers since the 1970’s. So, if huge, crashing surf for miles in every direction is your thing, then Malpais is for you. But make no mistake, this is a true surf town and if you’re not into surf ‘culture,’ then you should probably skip the area. If Malpais is too crowded for you, then head further down the road to Playa Hermosa and Manzanillo. Malpais Video
Playas San Miguel & Coyote: Arguably two of the most beautiful and least visited beaches in Costa Rica are Playas San Miguel and Coyote located just south of Playa Bejuco. These two wilderness beaches of fine silvery-grey sand are great for surfing, kayaking and just about anything else you care to do on a sandy stretch of paradise - and almost always abandoned. They also happen to be nesting sites for the Olive Ridley turtles.
Playa Matapalo: The beach here seems to go on forever and is usually abandoned, but that’s part of its allure. Surf the waves or get out your boogie-board, but be aware that strong riptides (Health and Safety) can often make Matapalo too rough for swimming. Foremost among Matapalo’s appeal is its tranquil atmosphere. Don’t forget to hike to the waterfalls.
Obviously, with 750 miles of shoreline this is a rather short list as there are plenty more beaches that will satisfy any traveler to Costa Rica. A few more notable beaches are - Playa Conchal, Playa Grande, Playa Negra, Playa Josecito, Playa Zancudo and Playa Pavones.
Let us know you’re favorite Costa Rican beach, as mentioned, this is just the short list.
Costa Rica Travel- Top Sunsets and Views in Costa Rica
The Summit of Mount Chirripo: This is the highest spot in Costa Rica and on a clear day you can see both the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans. That said, even if the day is not so clear, this spot still affords amazing views and scenery. Of course, getting up there is an entirely different matter.
From the lookout above the Mirador Lodge in Bahia Drake: Spectacular views overlooking Bahia Drake from a vantage point located just above the El Mirador Lodge. The view of Volcan Arenal (from a lot of different places): Most will say anywhere in La Fortuna when mentioning the best viewpoint of this very active volcano, but the truth is, there’s many great hotels, resorts and vantage points in which to watch the fireworks of the Arenal Volcano. So, if you’re lucky enough to see this amazing volcano without the clouds, then you’re in for a spectacular show. Arenal Volcano Videos
A sunset sail from Tamarindo: Not only known for its great surfing, Tamarindo also has some great sunsets. And there’s no better way to experience them than to be out on a majestic sunset cruise sipping that special cocktail as the sun bids farewell for the day. Just make sure the beach is open before going. The beach has been closed before because of too much illegal sewage dumping from the local hotels, restaurants, and tour companies.
Manuel Antonio Videos
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca- What could be better than listening to a little reggae, knocking back a few cervezas and watching the sunset while chill’in at the Sunset Bar in Puerto Viejo.
The Summit of Irazu Volcano: Like Mount Chirripo, on a clear day at the Summit of Irazu you can see both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Also like Chirripo, even when it’s not so clear, the summit offers a spectacular view of the volcano’s exceptional landscape, which includes the Meseta Central, and the Orosi Valley.
Playa Hermosa de Jaco: Villa Caletas outdoor amphitheater is a legendary setting to view not only the spectacular sunsets, but a view over the Golfo de Nicoya and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
Playa Junquillal: This wilderness beach is absolutely stunning in its own right and almost always deserted. Located on a high bluff overlooking the playa, is Iguanazul Hotel, which offers a magnificent view of the Pacific and the lonely shoreline in either direction. As you can imagine, the sunsets are spectacular.