Costa Rica – Ten Essential places to visit

Ready for ten essential places to visit in Costa Rica?  Last week, we featured an introduction to Costa Rica’s geography and how to get around.  Now we will review what you can do and where whether you want to experience anything from active adventure to just relaxation.  Once again, actual travel guest photos are provided.

1) San Jose is the capital of Cost Rica where most flights arrive. Due to the early departure from San Jose of many flights, you will notice that lots of itineraries will have either a pre or post night in San Jose. What do you do there? How about a city tour and visits to the museums or visiting a nearby spa or coffee plantation?  Some of my travel guests visited the convenient mall to pick up last minute souvenirs.

2) Caribbean Coast – Puerto Limon is the big port of call for many Panama Canal cruises.  The big draw in Puerto Limon is the Tortugerro canals to see the wildlife.  Tortugerro has kayaking and turtle nesting from July through February.  Some land tours include a trip to Tortugerro and depart from San Jose  (around 7am with a stop for breakfast.)  You’ll normally stay in a small Eco-resort/lodge for a couple of nights and return back to San Jose to pick-up the rest of your tour.

3) Central Valley cloud forest is around a one-hour ride  from San Jose.  This area has an elevation of 4-5,000 feet.  The El Silencio Lodge & Spa offers a resort for yoga and healthy dining.  You can also visit the Poas Volcano or enjoy river rafting.

4) Arenal Volcano is near the town of La Fortuna.

Arenal Sky Tram

Arenal Sky Tram

Arenal is the one of the biggest attractions in the country.  This is the place for Zip lines, thermal springs, waterfalls, horseback riding, and most of the things you’ve heard about  in Costa Rica.


Do not forget about Lake Arenal for boating and more.  This area is about a three hour ride whether coming from Liberia or San Jose.  La Fortuna is good for local cuisine and shopping while about a ten minute taxi ride from most hotels.


Monteverde Trapp Family Lodge

Monteverde Trapp Family Lodge


5) Monteverde, the big cloud forest.

The area  features the largest zip line in Costa Rica which is ¾ mile long in Selvatura Park.  There is also a great canopy tour.  For those who want to stay on the ground level of the cloud forest, there is a butterfly garden and hummingbird exhibit. Please note: Monteverde will have some of the country’s more basic/rustic hotels (read in-between the lines if you want luxury and AC.)


6) Quepos/Manual Antonio features beautiful beaches and a national park.  This area is about 3-4 hours from San Jose.   Manuel Antonio National Parkwas established in 1972 by Costa Rica to preserve the biodiversity of one of the most beautiful areas in the world.

Manuel Antonio Park

Manuel Antonio Park

This area features several luxury boutique hotels.  The nearby forest features lots of wildlife including little crabs.  Visit the trail around Punta Catedral for some spectacular views.

Further, you can experience a wide variety of tours and activities with canopies and waterfalls  Visit Quepos for some  nightlife.




7) Punta Arenas is a  popular cruise stop on Panama Canal transit itineraries.  This area has the closest beach from San Jose, about 1.5 hours.  Punta Arenas is about 2.5 hours from Liberia in the Northwest.  This area has a good combination of beach hotels with activities.

8 ) Nicoya peninsula is a peaceful/eco-location with small villages, fishing, snorkeling ,and “turtle beaches.”  There are resorts along the beach and opportunities for eco-tourism.  This area is popular with ex-pats and has some of the best surfing in the world.  This area has some of the most rustic highway systems, so patience is the word when traveling in this region.  Tamarindo in the extreme Northwestern edge of Nicoya Peninsula, is where you will find many hotels in Guanacaste Provence.

9) Guanacaste Province is the place for the larger beach resorts both All-Inclusive or European Plan (no included meals).  If All-Inclusive is mandatory, then base your trip at a beach resort in Guanacaste.  As mentioned above, part of the Nicoya Peninsula lies in the Guanacaste Province  The weather is warm and dry (Tropical dry forest) through the North American Winter making this area a great choice for your Costa Rica vacation.  This area is very close to Liberia Airport but also accessible from San Jose.  You can also do day excursions to experience volcanoes and river rafting.

10) Jaco, I have two things to say about Jaco: surfing and fishing.  Jaco is a great place for surfing and there are lots of fishing boats/charters right there.  Jaco is also due west of San Jose which makes it quite accessible.  If you crave a familiar US brand, Jaco  is home to a Marriott resort and golf facility. Note that the The beaches are not the best in the Country.  For the best beaches, go up to the towns of Guanacaste Province or further South down the West Coast.

So, there you have it.  What are the places that you want to experience?  Start filling out your planning survey to get a better idea and we’ll get your custom Costa Rica trip ready.