Costa Rica, a nation that effortlessly blends breathtaking natural wonders with a vibrant cultural tapestry. Nestled in Central America, this enchanting gem has been enticing wanderlust-filled people from across the globe with its irresistible charm and diverse offerings. From lush rainforests and pristine beaches to exhilarating adventures and warm-hearted locals, Costa Rica is a land that beckons explorers and nature enthusiasts alike.
In this blog, I will take you on an unforgettable journey through the best reasons why Costa Rica should be at the top of your travel bucket list. Prepare to be spellbound as we uncover the mesmerizing landscapes, unique wildlife encounters, exhilarating activities, and the captivating allure of Costa Rica’s rich heritage. Costa Rica has a place in the hearts of many travelers.
Costa Rica is a Nature’s Lover’s Paradise:
Costa Rica’s unparalleled natural beauty is a veritable playground for those seeking an escape into the embrace of Mother Nature. Boasting an impressive array of national parks and reserves, the country shelters a staggering 5% of the world’s biodiversity. From the awe-inspiring Monteverde Cloud Forest to the mighty Arenal Volcano and the pristine Tortuguero National Park, every corner of Costa Rica is a sanctuary of ecological wonders waiting to be explored.
Costa Rica has enchanting beaches
Costa Rica is blessed with an extensive coastline that stretches along both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Picture yourself basking in the warm sun on the glistening sands of Manuel Antonio, indulging in exhilarating water sports in Tamarindo, or simply unwinding amidst the tranquil beauty of Santa Teresa. Whether you seek relaxation or adventure, the country’s diverse beach towns offer something for everyone. Now, this is a true story of what happened to a friend when she did the jet skis.
“Hey! Have you ever ignored the tour coordinator’s instructions not to go out too far? And if you did, did you wanna cry for your mother when you could see nothing but the ocean for miles in every direction? And then you imagined running out of gas and it got dark and you became a news story and a cautionary tale? Yeah – me, too! But then Jesus whispered, “That way, idiot!” And then you saw the shore from whence you came and you promised Him that you’d go to church more and stop eating animal flesh? Yeah, me, too! And then you immediately had a chicken fajita from the beach grill and danced to the ratchet music being played by the resort DJ? Yeah, me, too! First, chicken isn’t REAL meat and church music is getting ratchet these days. And Jesus forgives. And we don’t judge our new friends in this group, now do we? Anyway, it was a magnificent, if not a momentarily heart-stopping experience. Can’t wait to do it again — apart from the getting lost part.”
Costa Rica has the best thrilling adventures
For adrenaline junkies, Costa Rica is an adventure paradise. Zip-line through the dense rainforest canopy, go whitewater rafting along raging rivers, rappel down cascading waterfalls, or hike to hidden hot springs – the options for thrilling escapades are limitless. Whether you’re an avid hiker, surfer, diver, or wildlife enthusiast, Costa Rica’s natural playground is guaranteed to satiate your appetite for adventure. For my friends that missed out on some of the thrilling adventures, here is what they said…
“I was told to go see the volcano. But – not enough time. And the hot springs. But – not enough time. And a lot more stuff. Not enough time. So… guess who’s planning another trip to Costa Rica very soon! Nobody told any lies about anything! This is truly a great place to vacation – but AT LEAST a week is needed, I think. If you haven’t been to Costa Rica – even with my limited time and experiences here, I HIGHLY recommend it! “
” This was a spring break trip so my twins wanted to do beach and rainforest activities. Frank (not sure rules on giving his info, but his WhatsApp is +506 8871 2900) was the best driver and set up all the activities for a very good price. He drove us to La Fortuna to do the hanging bridges, horseback riding, ziplining, and to see the Volcano. We also did the Waterfalls and natural hot springs. Definitely put Costa Rica on your list, it was great weather, food, people and so many activities. Great for everyone, next time will have to head to the Caribbean side.”
“We experienced Chocolate making in Talamanca — this was cool and fun to make. Also met some cool people, then we kayaked in a clear bottom kayak — the experience was unique but we’ve learned that kayaking is NOT our thing. Afterwards, we did the Carribean Cooking — the most delicious meal I had there. We mostly watched and talked, but still no regrets because we learned a lot from the host. Finally, we did the Bri Bri indigenous tribe tour and waterfall— learned soooooo much about so many things and ate my second favorite meal.”
Costa Rica is a global leader in Sustainable Ecotourism
Costa Rica stands as a global leader in sustainable ecotourism. The country has made impressive strides in preserving its natural heritage through conservation efforts, eco-friendly accommodations, and responsible tourism practices. Immerse yourself in the local culture, interact with friendly communities, and contribute to the preservation of this magnificent ecosystem. All our travelers were in awe as they interacted with the local culture. Here is what they said.
“One day we decided to rent a shuttle to take us to Playa Negra. It was my first time going to a beach with black sand. We also went to a farm (hacienda) and had a cultural tour. They let us put sugar cane through the juicer and explained how it works. We saw the house where the cowboy’s lived and got a chance to have a tortilla-making class. It was fun and there’s nothing like a fresh tortilla right from the pan.
Some of the most popular dishes are gallo pinto, Chifrijo and Casado. If you go to Costa Rica, those are the best things to try. Gallo Pinto is a breakfast dish of rice and beans. Chifrijo is rice, pork rinds(chicharron), beans(frijoles), avocado, and tortilla chips sprinkled with lime juice and chili pepper sauce.”
Enjoy the Pura Vida Lifestyle in Costa Rica
“I have just returned from a Spring Break trip with the group to Costa Rica. It was such a great trip mostly in part to having an amazing tour guide Frank, and the country is so beautiful.Location – We stayed with the group at an Airbnb in Tamarindo but not in the busy downtown area we were 20 min away in Playa Grande. The Airbnb was great, a quiet 4 min walk to the beachFood – Everything was inexpensive and we grabbed food from local restaurants with plenty of leftovers. I used my card and only needed cash (Colones) when getting empanadas from local vendors (best empanadas ever). Food was delicious.
“Punta Uva was our favorite beach. So beautiful, not crowded and we could see and hear the howler monkeys.We rented a quad cycle on our 3rd day and wished we would’ve rented it sooner. We also did cabs and Tuktuk, but it was nice to be able to get up and go as we pleased.
The vibe was so chill and everyone was so friendly— it was nice not to feel like a minority. Honestly, we barely felt like tourists because people treated us like neighbors.”
Where to Stay in Costa Rica
When it comes to finding the perfect place to stay in Costa Rica, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The country offers a diverse range of accommodations, ranging from luxury resorts to charming eco-lodges and budget-friendly hostels. Your choice of location will depend on your preferred activities, budget, and the type of experience you’re seeking. Here are a few popular destinations that offer excellent options for accommodation:
Where to Stay in San Jose
San José: As the capital city, San José serves as the gateway to Costa Rica for many visitors. Here you’ll find a variety of hotels, from upscale international chains to boutique accommodations. It’s a convenient base for exploring the Central Valley region and is close to attractions like the Poás Volcano and coffee plantations. Here are some of the best hotels in San Jose, known for their quality service, amenities, and central locations:
- Hotel Grano de Oro: A boutique hotel housed in a beautifully restored Victorian mansion, Hotel Grano de Oro is renowned for its elegance and charm. Located in the heart of San Jose, it offers luxurious rooms, a renowned restaurant, a rooftop garden terrace, and a spa. The hotel seamlessly blends modern comforts with old-world charm. A night at Hotel Grano de Oro is about $165. If you want to have the generous breakfast, the cost per night will be $205. The Grano de Oro restaurant inside the Grano de Oro Hotel is beautiful but it is moreso for aesthetics so do not go on an empty stomach.
- Hotel Presidente: Situated in the bustling downtown area, Hotel Presidente is a contemporary hotel known for its convenient location and comfortable accommodations. The hotel features spacious rooms, a rooftop terrace with panoramic city views, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant serving Costa Rican cuisine.
- Hotel Alta Las Palomas: Offering breathtaking views of the city and surrounding mountains, Hotel Alta Las Palomas is an upscale boutique hotel nestled in the hills of Escazu. It boasts luxurious rooms, a gourmet restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, and a spa. The tranquil atmosphere and personalized service make it an ideal choice for a peaceful retreat.
- Real InterContinental Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall: Located in the exclusive Escazu neighborhood, this five-star hotel offers a luxurious and contemporary experience. It features elegantly appointed rooms, a variety of restaurants and bars, a large outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a spa. The hotel is connected to the upscale Multiplaza Mall, providing convenient access to shopping and dining options.
- Auténtico Hotel: (I needed a hotel for a few hours until my flight so I booked this hotel). I would recommend them for a few hours or an extended stay. The hotel gives boutique hotel vibes on a budget, its quite beautiful.
Where to stay in Manuel Antonio:
Famous for its stunning beaches and lush rainforests, Manuel Antonio is a popular destination on the Pacific coast. The area is home to luxurious resorts, charming boutique hotels, and eco-lodges that offer easy access to Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can spot a wide array of wildlife. When visiting Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica, you have a range of options for accommodations that cater to different budgets and preferences. Here are some recommended areas and hotels to consider for your stay in Manuel Antonio:
- Manuel Antonio National Park Area: Staying close to Manuel Antonio National Park allows you to be in proximity to the stunning beaches and abundant wildlife of the area. There are several hotels and resorts located near the park entrance, providing convenient access to the park’s trails and beaches. Some popular options include Hotel Costa Verde, Hotel San Bada, and Parador Resort & Spa.
- Quepos: Quepos is the neighboring town to Manuel Antonio and offers a wider range of accommodations, including budget-friendly options and vacation rentals. You’ll find various hotels, guesthouses, and vacation rentals that provide easy access to both the town’s amenities and the nearby national park. Look into options like Hotel La Mariposa, Tulemar Resort, and Hotel Sí Como No.
- Playa Espadilla: Playa Espadilla is a picturesque beach in Manuel Antonio, and staying in this area allows you to enjoy the coastal beauty. There are beachfront hotels and resorts that offer stunning views and direct access to the beach. Check out properties like Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort, La Mansion Inn, and Hotel Villa Roca.
- Punta Quepos: Located on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Punta Quepos offers breathtaking panoramic views. This area is known for its luxury accommodations and upscale resorts. Consider staying at properties like Makanda by the Sea, Gaia Hotel & Reserve, or Villa Caletas.
- Manuel Antonio Hill: For a tranquil and secluded experience, staying on Manuel Antonio Hill offers privacy and immersion in nature. You’ll find boutique hotels and jungle retreats with stunning views of the rainforest and ocean. Look into options such as Hotel Si Como No’s Vista Suites, The Falls Resort, or Shana by the Beach Hotel Residence & Spa. You can also visit Igloo Beach Hotel also in Manuel Antonio this is a quite different experience each villa is built like a igloo ideal for two nice laid back vibe. There is a restaurant on site and beach steps away. Heere is the Hotel information https://www.igloobeachlodge.com/
These are just a few suggestions for where to stay in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Remember to consider your budget, preferred location, and desired amenities when selecting your accommodation. It’s always advisable to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure your preferred choice and make the most of your stay in this beautiful coastal region.
Where to stay in La Fortuna and Arenal:
Located in the northern part of the country, La Fortuna is renowned for its majestic Arenal Volcano and hot springs. The area offers a range of accommodations, including resorts with volcano views, eco-lodges nestled in the rainforest, and budget-friendly options. It’s an ideal base for adventure activities like hiking, ziplining, and rafting. La Fortuna and Arenal, known for their stunning volcano and hot springs, offer a range of excellent hotels and resorts to enhance your experience. Here are some of the best options for accommodations in La Fortuna and Arenal:
- Nayara Springs: Nayara Springs is a luxurious and exclusive adults-only resort nestled in the rainforest. Each spacious villa comes with a private plunge pool fed by natural hot springs. The resort also offers exceptional dining experiences, a world-class spa, and breathtaking views of the Arenal Volcano.
- Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa: Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa is renowned for its natural hot springs and lush tropical grounds. This upscale resort features elegantly appointed rooms and suites, multiple thermal pools, a world-class spa, and fine dining options. It offers a serene and rejuvenating retreat immersed in the beauty of the rainforest.
- The Springs Resort & Spa: Perched on a mountainside with panoramic views of Arenal Volcano, The Springs Resort & Spa offers luxury accommodations and an array of amenities. The resort boasts multiple thermal pools, a wildlife sanctuary, adventure activities, a full-service spa, and several dining options. It’s an ideal choice for relaxation and adventure seekers alike.
- Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa: Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa provides spacious suites with stunning volcano views. The hotel features natural hot springs, a large outdoor swimming pool, a spa, and a restaurant serving local and international cuisine. Its prime location and comfortable accommodations make it a popular choice among travelers.
- Hotel Arenal Manoa: Hotel Arenal Manoa offers a tranquil setting with beautiful gardens and volcano views. The rooms and villas are well-appointed and surrounded by lush vegetation. The hotel features a large outdoor pool with a swim-up bar, hot springs, and a restaurant. It provides a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for your stay.
- Volcano Lodge & Springs: Volcano Lodge & Springs is a charming hotel situated near the Arenal Volcano. The spacious rooms offer volcano or garden views, and the property features hot springs, pools, and beautiful gardens. It provides a more affordable option without compromising on comfort and convenience.
These are just a few of the best hotels in La Fortuna and Arenal. Each property offers its own unique features and amenities, so consider your preferences and budget when making a choice. Whether you seek luxury, relaxation, or adventure, these accommodations will enhance your experience in this captivating region of Costa Rica.
Where to Stay in Monteverde:
For nature enthusiasts and bird lovers, Monteverde’s cloud forests are a must-visit. The area is known for its eco-lodges and rustic cabins that provide an immersive rainforest experience. Enjoy hiking trails, canopy tours, and wildlife spotting while staying close to the stunning Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
Monteverde, known for its cloud forests and rich biodiversity, offers a range of exceptional hotels and lodges that provide a unique experience in the heart of nature. Here are some of the best options for accommodations in Monteverde:
- Hotel Belmar: Hotel Belmar is a renowned eco-lodge that combines sustainability with comfort. Nestled in the cloud forest, it offers cozy rooms with stunning forest or ocean views. The hotel features beautiful gardens, a renowned farm-to-table restaurant, a spa, and yoga classes. It’s an ideal choice for those seeking an eco-friendly and tranquil retreat.
- Monteverde Lodge & Gardens: Monteverde Lodge & Gardens provides a serene escape surrounded by lush gardens and bird-filled forests. The lodge offers comfortable rooms, many with private balconies overlooking the gardens. Guests can enjoy nature walks, birdwatching, and dining at the on-site restaurant. The lodge’s peaceful ambiance and knowledgeable staff make it a favorite among nature enthusiasts.
- El Establo Mountain Hotel: Perched on a hilltop, El Establo Mountain Hotel offers panoramic views of the cloud forest and Gulf of Nicoya. The property features spacious rooms and suites, a heated indoor pool, tennis courts, and a spa. It also has its own private reserve for guests to explore. The hotel’s size and amenities make it suitable for families and those seeking a variety of activities.
- Senda Monteverde Hotel: Senda Monteverde Hotel provides a blend of luxury and sustainability in a stunning natural setting. The contemporary-designed rooms offer forest or garden views, and the hotel features an outdoor pool, a spa, and an on-site restaurant serving organic cuisine. The property also offers immersive experiences and guided tours, allowing guests to connect with the surrounding environment.
- Hidden Canopy Treehouses Boutique Hotel: For a unique experience, Hidden Canopy Treehouses Boutique Hotel offers private treehouse-style accommodations nestled in the forest canopy. Each treehouse is beautifully designed and provides a secluded and intimate setting. The hotel also features a pool, gardens, and a complimentary gourmet breakfast.
These are just a few of the best hotels in Monteverde, each offering its own charm and amenities. When choosing your accommodation, consider your preferences, budget, and desired proximity to attractions. No matter where you stay in Monteverde, you’ll be immersed in the enchanting beauty of the cloud forest and have ample opportunities to explore its unique ecosystem.
Where to stay in Tamarindo:
Tamarindo is a popular beach destination in Costa Rica, known for its vibrant atmosphere, beautiful coastline, and excellent surfing conditions. Here are some recommendations for where to stay in Tamarindo:
- Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort: Located right on the beach, Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort offers a prime location and a range of accommodation options. From standard rooms to spacious suites and beachfront bungalows, you’ll find something to suit your needs. The resort features multiple pools, restaurants, bars, and direct access to the beach.
- JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa: Situated just outside of Tamarindo, JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa offers a luxurious and secluded retreat. This five-star resort boasts elegant rooms, a golf course, a large infinity pool, a spa, and multiple dining options. It’s perfect for those seeking a high-end beachfront experience.
- Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas: Cala Luna is an upscale boutique hotel surrounded by lush tropical gardens. The hotel offers spacious villas with private pools, as well as elegant rooms and suites. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant, spa services, and access to a beautiful swimming pool. The hotel provides a tranquil and intimate atmosphere.
- Tamarindo Dreams: If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, Tamarindo Dreams offers comfortable and affordable accommodations. The hotel features clean and well-equipped rooms with access to a communal kitchen. It’s located within walking distance to the beach and the town center, making it a convenient choice for exploring Tamarindo.
- Hotel Capitán Suizo: Hotel Capitán Suizo is a charming boutique hotel nestled in a tropical garden, just steps away from the beach. The hotel offers spacious rooms and bungalows, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and direct access to the beach. It provides a peaceful and eco-friendly retreat.
These are just a few suggestions for where to stay in Tamarindo. The town offers a wide range of accommodations, including beachfront resorts, boutique hotels, and budget-friendly options. Consider your preferences, budget, and desired proximity to the beach and town center when choosing your accommodation. No matter where you stay, Tamarindo promises a lively beach experience with plenty of activities and amenities to enjoy.
If you’re seeking a vibrant beach destination with a lively atmosphere, Tamarindo on the Pacific coast is a great choice. This surf town offers a wide range of accommodations, from luxury beachfront resorts to budget-friendly hotels and backpacker hostels. You’ll find a variety of restaurants, shops, and surf schools within walking distance. Here is what our group traveler said about their Airbnb. “We stayed at an Airbnb in Tamarindo but not in the busy downtown area we were 20 min away in Playa Grande. The Airbnb was great, a quiet 4 minutes walk to the beach. Food- Everything was inexpensive and we grabbed food from local restaurants with plenty of leftovers. I used my card and only needed cash (Colones) when getting empanadas from local vendors (best empanadas ever). The food was delicious. ”
The other hotels you might wish to book includes Wyndham Hotel (It used to be called Hotel Esplendor and when you try to look it up in some places you will not see Wyndham, but Esplendor.) A top restaurant in Tamarindo is La Palapa. It is highly recommended and it will not disappoint, the food is absolutly amazing.
Activities: Sunset Cruise, there are alot of companies that go out daily so an online search or your hotel should help you book one.
Where to stay in Puerto Viejo:
On the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo offers a laid-back and bohemian vibe. This beach town attracts visitors with its beautiful coastline, reggae music, and Afro-Caribbean culture. Accommodations here range from eco-lodges to beachfront cabins, providing a tropical getaway amidst lush surroundings. When choosing where to stay in Puerto Viejo, consider the following areas:
- Playa Cocles: Playa Cocles is a beautiful beach just a short distance from Puerto Viejo town. Staying in this area offers a tranquil atmosphere while still being close to the town’s amenities. You’ll find a variety of accommodations ranging from boutique hotels to rustic beachfront cabins.
- Puerto Viejo Town Center: Staying in the heart of Puerto Viejo town allows you to immerse yourself in the local culture and vibrant atmosphere. Here, you’ll find a mix of accommodations, including guesthouses, small hotels, and hostels. You’ll also be within walking distance of restaurants, bars, shops, and the town’s famous nightlife.
- Playa Chiquita: Playa Chiquita is a quieter and more secluded beach area located a few kilometers south of Puerto Viejo. This area offers a serene and peaceful environment, with accommodations ranging from eco-lodges to beachfront resorts. Playa Chiquita is perfect for those seeking a more relaxed and off-the-beaten-path experience.
- Punta Uva: Punta Uva, located a few kilometers south of Playa Chiquita, is a paradise for nature lovers. It offers pristine beaches, calm waters for swimming, and lush rainforests. Accommodations in Punta Uva include beachfront resorts, eco-lodges, and vacation rentals. This area is ideal for those seeking tranquility and being immersed in nature.
- Manzanillo: For a true escape from the crowds, consider staying in Manzanillo, a small village located about 12 kilometers south of Puerto Viejo. This area offers a more secluded and serene atmosphere with beautiful beaches and excellent snorkeling opportunities. Accommodations in Manzanillo range from small guesthouses to rustic cabin rentals.
When choosing where to stay in Puerto Viejo, consider the proximity to the beach, your preferred atmosphere, and the type of experience you desire. Whether you’re seeking a vibrant beach town experience or a tranquil retreat in nature, Puerto Viejo and its surrounding areas offer a variety of options to suit your preferences.
Remember, Costa Rica offers countless other destinations, each with its own unique charm and accommodation options. Whether you’re looking for luxury, eco-friendly stays, or budget-friendly accommodations, you’re sure to find something that suits your preferences. It’s always a good idea to research and book in advance, especially during the peak tourist seasons, to secure your desired accommodation and make the most of your stay in Costa Rica.
Top Tips for What to visit in Costa Rica:
Is driving Safe in Costa Rica?
Driving in Costa Rica is safe. I recommend driving in Costa Rica because the roads are very well maintained, as compared to some other countries that I have visited. It even compares better than roads here in the US as I rarely saw potholes even though it was the rainy season. They drive a little on the aggressive side which was perfect for me since I drive offensively rather than defensively. I know a little Spanish so I understood the road signs, something a quick google search will help you with ( https://www.grittyspanish.com/2019/05/25/traffic-signs-in-spanish/ ).
The roads in San Jose were great, however, an inexperienced or timid driver may have some trouble with the road to Arenal/La Fortuna. The La Fortuna roads were windy and narrow as to be expected since you are in a mountainous region. The drive from Arenal/La Fortuna to Liberia was windy around Lake Arenal then you eventually hit straight roads. My recommendation for a timid driver would be to drive to La Fortuna early in the day rather than late evening/night so you have maximum visibility. A member of my online travel group said that she was told not to drive to La Fortuna during the rainy season due to mudslides and slippery roads. September is said to be the worst when it comes to rain so I would avoid the country during that month or avoid driving to La Fortuna if you do go.
What is the allergies level like in Costa Rica?
What is the best way to travel from San Jose?
I researched the best way to travel from San Jose to other parts of the country and shuttles came up on the searches. They had two types of shuttles: shared shuttles or private shuttles. The shared shuttles were $50+ one way but they were rigid in terms of scheduling. Most shuttles mandated that you leave around 8 am or 2 pm. The other option was private shuttles which gave you freedom but charged you $200+ one way. This is likely to add up if you stay for more than two days. If you think that these shuttles would work for you then look up Tropical Tour Shuttles: https://tropicaltourshuttles.com/
Travel to Costa Rica for nature, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by everything from jungle-backed beaches to simmering volcanoes. This is a country that is home to 5% of all species on the planet. Costa Rica was christened “the Rich Coast” by Christopher Columbus in 1502, and its wealth is still visible in its biodiversity.