Say Buenos Dias to Costa Rica: the land of beautiful beaches, lush green rainforest and vibrant cities. If you’re ready for the adventure of a lifetime, Costa Rica is ready for you! With surfing, zip-lining and countless other activities to enjoy, not to mention the staggering wildlife on offer, it’s a country that can’t fail to impress. Plus, its inhabitants are officially some of the happiest on the planet.
Whether you’re here to relax, explore or adventure, or to do all three, we’ve pulled together our list of the best places to visit in Costa Rica that cover it all. And you can tick most of these off your list when you travel with Contiki!
The misty Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the most surreal sights to see in Costa Rica – and it’s considered one of the most sustainable tourism destinations in the world. The forest is home to 2,500 plant species, 400 varieties of birds and more than 100 types of mammals including sloths and howler monkeys. Take a stroll through the misty forest and suspension bridges on the Sky Walk, try out the Sky Trek zip-lining tour, or learn all about authentic Costa Rican coffee on our Don Juan Coffee tour. Monteverde’s got it all!
2. Playa Tamarindo
One of Costa Rica’s best surf and party destinations, Playa Tamarindo is known for its bohemian vibe and golden beaches. Spend a few days swimming and snorkelling in the town’s best beaches or embrace the beachy vibes with a few surf lessons out on the waves. Nature lovers can head to nearby Marino Las Baulas National Park to walk in the forests and scope out turtles. On Contiki’s Viva Costa Rica tour, one of the best Free Time Add Ons to enjoy in this beach town is the afternoon catamaran cruise on the turquoise waters in Playa Tamarindo.
3. Arenal Volcano (La Fortuna)
Visit famous Arenal Volcano, an active stratovolcano in a near-perfect symmetrical shape. This photogenic peak is surrounded by pastured green hills and the beautiful Lake Arenal, not to mention, geothermal hot springs with healing properties. From your Contiki base in the nearby La Fortuna, you can check out hiking trails around the volcano, canyoneering in Arenal or take a waterfall hike in La Fortuna. You’ll also get the chance to learn all about how chocolate is made when you visit mainland Arenal on our tour.
4. Manuel Antonio National Park
One of the most iconic spots along Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, Manuel Antonio is a national park with ancient rainforests, light sand beaches, crystal clear waters and beautiful coral reefs. Thanks to its handy location just outside of San Jose and Quepos, it’s a popular destination for keen adventurers looking to try out snorkelling, diving, sea-kayaking, mountain biking and more. It’s also a must-visit for animal lovers, with squirrel monkeys, sloths, birds and other cool creatures to spot.
Tortuguero is known as the best place in Costa Rica to see turtles – and in 2021 Contiki launched its very own Turtle Trek in Tortuguero. The village in Tortuguero National Park is known for its rainforest-covered beaches, which are home to green sea turtle nesting sites. On Contiki’s new trip, you’ll visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy, take a boat tour of the Tortuguero Canals, enjoy a guided night tour of the Tortuguero Beach and Turtle Breeding Area and more.
6. Cocos Island
Calling all Jurassic Park lovers! Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica is widely known as the inspiration for the famous Dinosaur flick. And the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Island, which is also a national park, is every bit as pretty in person as it is in the films.
The uninhabited island is perfect for nature lovers with scuba divers in particular loving the region thanks to its impressive locals (think: hammerhead sharks, rays and dolphins). Those who prefer to stay on dry land will keep entertained with hiking trails through gorgeous green forest. The island is a whopping 550km off the Costa Rican coastline though, so it takes about 36 hours to reach by boat from the Port of Puntarenas.
7. Playa Jaco
Another beachy town with a fun party atmosphere, Playa Jaco is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica for a relaxing vacation. With the picturesque Jaco Beach and proximity to pristine rainforest, adventurous travellers can try their hand at activities like surfing, white-water rating and ATV expeditions. You’ll get to stay here on Contiki’s tour and experience your very own taste of paradise.
8. Poas Volcano
Costa Rica’s home to more than one volcano and along with Arenal, this one’s another must-see for the list. Poas is an active stratovolcano with twin calderas and striking turquoise sulphur lakes. Secure the perfect travel photo from the viewing platforms where you can take in the enormity of the volcano and surrounding 14,000 acres of parkland, or take a walk on the wild side on one of the hiking trails to explore the geothermal landscape.
The largest national park in Costa Rica, Corcovado offers up tropical rainforest, mangrove swamps, beautiful beaches and – best of all – incredible wildlife. One of the most biodiverse regions in Costa Rica, Corcovado is home to animals including the endangered Baird’s tapir, American crocodile, bull sharks, sloths (we love them), all four Costa Rican monkey species and cats like jaguars, pumas and ocelots. It’s a real tropical safari! You can try out a number of hiking trails or guided tours to make the most of this wildlife extravaganza.
10. San José
Welcome to Costa Rica’s capital! This is one of the best places to visit for its sheer contrast to all the rich, immersive nature that surrounds it. All in balance, we say.
Come here to experience art, culture, colonial architecture, cool nightlife, a buzzing vibe and more. And of course, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to interact with the local ‘Ticos’ (men) and ‘Ticas’ (women). Check out the famous Gold Museum, or visit local vendors to try some traditional Costa Rican foods whilst you’re here.
11. Braulio Carrillo National Park
Northeast of San Jose, this stunning national park is a protected area within Costa Rica with dense, lush forest that will envelop you as you enter. It’s home to over 500 species of bird and over 150 species of mammal, including our fave howler-monkey, jaguars and raccoons, which you can try and spot on one of the many hiking trails on offer through the canopy layers. Bring a rain jacket because the rainforest stays wet all year round! And it’s worth it for the abundance of flowers, fauna and rich biodiversity that you’ll find when you visit, which is what makes it one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.
We drive through this enchanting side of Costa Rica on route to Tortuguero.
Sarapiqui is a location in the north-central part of Costa Rica, one that’s best known for its sustainability and fertile land. Here, you’ll find a community committed to eco-conscious living plus you get to breathe in some of the cleanest air around.
Sarapiqui also includes a massive river to go white-water rafting down. Yep, adrenaline junkies, this one’s for you! The fun activity is featured as an add-on in our Viva Costa Rica trip, but if that’s not your thing, you can soak up nature and simply enjoy serene moments of calm in this beautiful spot for a day.
Whatever the case, you’re sure to find something that takes your fancy when you visit Costa Rica. And this beautiful country is now open for visitors from all over the world, without the need to quarantine on arrival. Check out our Viva Costa Rica full itinerary for the low-down and start planning your trip today.
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