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Where To Go In Costa Rica: 70+ Costa Rica Destinations (In Photos)

Where To Go In Costa Rica: 70+ Costa Rica Destinations (In Photos)

Our master list of places to visit in Costa Rica

If you’re planning your first trip to Costa Rica, you’re probably overwhelmed by the sheer volume of destinations there are to choose from. While our master list of places to visit in Costa Rica may add more destinations to your must-see list than you want (or can afford) to explore, it can also help you quickly identify Costa Rica’s top destinations and easily select your favorites according to the photos and descriptions that interest you the most. For your convenience, the following key is used to identify the region in Costa Rica where each destination is located:

  • (NI) Northern Inland Region
  • (CV) Central Valley & Highlands Region
  • (C) Caribbean Region
  • (G) Guanacaste / Northern Pacific Region
  • (NP) Nicoya Peninsula Region
  • (CP) Central Pacific Region
  • (OP) Osa Peninsula Region
  • (SP) Southern Pacific Region
  • (SI) Southern Inland Region

Have a question about one of the Costa Rica destinations listed below? We’ve visited each firsthand (many on several occasions) and are happy to answer your questions. Simply leave us a comment at the bottom of this page and we’ll get back to you. 🙂

Alajuela (CV)

Home to the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), Costa Rica’s largest airport, Alajuela is speckled with enough hotels to accommodate the hordes of travelers who enter and exit the city every day. If you fly into and/or out of the SJO airport, you’ll likely spend at least your first night or last night in the city, which you can spend wandering around a wildlife rescue center, learning about coffee, shopping, visiting a volcano, hiking to waterfalls, or participating in other activities. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our related blog post 5 Things To Do In And Around Alajuela and our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Alajuela.

Atenas (CV)

Up the hillside west of Alajuela and the SJO airport sits Atenas, a pleasant, small town known for its family-run coffee farms and resident expats, many of whom are retirees. A statute in town pays homage to boyeros who once used oxen and carts to haul coffee beans through the area and around Costa Rica. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Atenas.

Bagaces (G)

On the north side of Costa Rica’s principal highway (Highway 1; see our related blog post Costa Rica Highway Conditions By Route for details) is Bagaces, a small farming community that serves as a gateway to the Palo Verde National Park, a great place for bird-watching, and the Miravalles Volcano area, home to a volcano and a mud bath. Bagaces also nears Catarata Llanos del Cortes, a beautiful waterfall that’s easy to access. For more information about Catarata Llanos del Cortes and Bagaces don’t miss our related blog post Why (And Why Not) To Visit The Llanos Del Cortes Waterfall Near Liberia and our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Bagaces.

Bajos del Toro (CV)

Bajos del Toro, a tiny community sandwiched between high-altitude cloud forest and lowland plains, is home to a few beautiful waterfalls including Catarata del Toro and the twin waterfalls, Cataratas Las Gemelas, among others. The area’s unoccupied hiking trails explore one of Costa Rica’s few bright-blue rivers. For more information about Bajos del Toro’s waterfalls, don’t miss our related blog post 25+ Costa Rica Waterfalls & How To Visit Them During Your Trip. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Bajos del Toro.

Belen (G)

The small town of Belen, not typically visited as a destination on its own, is worth stopping at while traveling between Liberia and Santa Cruz along Highway 21 (see our related blog post Costa Rica Highway Conditions By Route for highway details). The town’s central park has a statue of a bull rider, which speaks to the province of Guanacaste’s rustic, rural roots.

Bijagua (NI)

Tucked between the Tenorio Volcano and the Miravalles Volcano is Bijagua, a small community most often visited during trips to the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Inside the park, you can hike to Costa Rica’s famous blue river, Rio Celeste. Outside the park, you can explore a frog garden, try your luck at spotting tapirs, and participate in rural tourism farming activities. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Bijagua.

Brasilito (G)

Though the northern Pacific beach town of Brasilito has its own beach (Playa Brasilito), the neighboring, crushed-shell beach of Playa Conchal is Brasilito’s primary draw. The area is also home to a pair of resort-quality accommodations, a golf course, and an entertaining chocolate tour, among other activities. For more information about Playa Conchal and Playa Brasilito, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Brasilito.

Cabuya (NP)

Near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula is the small coastal community of Cabuya. If you visit the Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve, you’ll pass through Cabuya along the way; a giant strangler fig tree welcomes you to the community. The town’s cemetery, which occupies an islet 500 meters off the coast of the community at Playa Cabuya, is accessible on foot at low tide. For more information about Playa Cabuya, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them.

Cahuita (C)

Cahuita, adored for its laidback pace of living and Reggae-inspired vibe, is a beach town positioned on the southern Caribbean coast. Top draws include delicious Caribbean meals and the Cahuita National Park, a place where you can hike leisurely, spot monkeys, snorkel around a coral reef, and lounge on Playa Blanca, the park’s main beach. For more information about Playa Blanca, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Cahuita.

Canas (G)

You probably won’t visit the non-touristy town of Canas on purpose, but you may spend some time there if you participate in a safari float tour or a white-water rafting tour on one of two rivers in the area: the Tenorio River and the Corobici River. Alternatively, you may cruise past Canas on Highway 1 (see our related blog post Costa Rica Highway Conditions By Route for highway details) while traveling between Liberia and destinations to the east. Visible from the highway is the town’s plaza de toros (bullring) that sometimes hosts lively fiestas civicas (civic festivals).

Cano Negro (NI)

Home to the Cano Negro Mixed Wildlife Refuge, the small, quiet community of Cano Negro is the preferred vacation spot of avid birders. The wetlands in and around this remote destination, which nears the border that Costa Rica shares with Nicaragua, are full of intriguing resident and migratory bird species, and a slew of other wildlife. To learn more about the refuge, don’t miss our related blog posts Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge: Know This Before You Visit. If you plan to spend time in this area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Cano Negro.

Carrillo (NP)

Peaceful Playa Carrillo, a beautiful beach on the Nicoya Peninsula that is void of development and glows each evening come sunset, is the main reason to visit the community of Carrillo. A small cluster of hotels and restaurants sit up a hill a few minutes’ drive from the beach. For more information about Playa Carrillo, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Carrillo.

Cartago (CV)

Oftentimes chilly and cloudy, the metropolis of Cartago, Costa Rica’s original capital city, sits just east of San Jose but at a higher elevation. Here, you’ll find unique sights of interest including a beautiful basilica, abandoned ruins, and the Irazu Volcano National Park, home to Costa Rica’s tallest volcano: the Irazu Volcano. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Cartago.

Dominical (CP)

You’ll find a decent amount of development in unembellished Dominical, a small beach town on the central Pacific coast just east of the Baru River, ranging from hostels and hotels to cafes, surf shops, and yoga centers. Not far from Dominical, the two-tiered Cataratas Nauyaca are a beautiful sight, as are the big waves that sometimes roll into Playa Dominical, the town’s principal beach. For more information about Playa Dominical, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Dominical Costa Rica (Central Pacific) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Dominical.

Drake Bay (OP)

On the northern half of the Osa Peninsula is Drake Bay, a destination typically only accessed by travelers via boat or small plane. This remote spot nears the Corcovado National Park and is the closest land to Cano Island, a popular spot for scuba diving and snorkeling. Visits are often arranged as two, three, or four-day all-inclusive Drake Bay packages that cover transportation to and from the area, accommodations, meals, and adventure/nature tours. Playa Agujitas, Drake Bay’s main beach, is named after the small community that overlooks the bay. For more information about Playa Agujitas, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Drake Bay.

El Castillo (NI)

Often grouped together with La Fortuna is El Castillo, a small, hillside community on the west side of the Arenal Volcano that delivers big adventure. The region contains both sectors of the Arenal Volcano National Park; Arenal 1968, a hiking trail that abuts the national park; the Arenal Observatory Lodge, a hotel with nature trails and a waterfall; and the Arenal Sky Adventures Park, an adventure center with aerial trams, hanging bridges, and ziplines. To learn more about the experiences you can have in El Castillo, even if you choose to base yourself in nearby La Fortuna, don’t miss our related blog posts Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Visit The Arenal Volcano National Park, Sky Adventures Arenal: Ziplining, Hanging Bridges, And Tram Rides In La Fortuna, Arenal Observatory Lodge: Nature Trails and Things To Do, or these other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to El Castillo.

Escazu (CV)

Swanky shops and trendy cafes fill the upscale shopping centers you’ll find in San Rafael de Escazu, a high-end suburb just west of San Jose on the south side of Highway 27 (see our related blog post Costa Rica Highway Conditions By Route for highway details). Lux chain hotels, a golf course, and some of Costa Rica’s best private hospitals are also found in Escazu. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Escazu.

Golfito (SP)

The heart of Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast is the colorful port town of Golfito. Few tourists come to stay in Golfito, but if you do, you can peer out over the town from a mirador (viewpoint), stroll around a sleepy marina, and shop at the locals’ beloved duty-free goods warehouse. (Golfito nears the border Costa Rica shares with Panama.) If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Golfito.

Grecia (CV)

Quaint Grecia, which sits northwest of Alajuela, is home to a growing number of expats. Though locals flock to the area to buy cars, foreigners are more intrigued by the town’s eye-catching red, metal church. For more information about Grecia, don’t miss our related blog post 5 Free Things To Do In Grecia, Sarchi, And Zarcero Costa Rica and our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Grecia.

Herradura (CP)

Mostly known for housing the Los Suenos complex which includes residences, a golf course, a popular resort, and a marina, Herradura is also home to Playa Herradura, a long beach that’s popular among locals who wish to avoid nearby Playa Jaco’s tourist crowd. For more information about Playa Herradura, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Herradura Costa Rica (Central Pacific) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in this area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Herradura.

Isla Tortuga (NP)

Lovely to escape to for a day is the uninhabited Isla Tortuga, which is a short boat ride off the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. Tours to Isla Tortuga depart from docks in Puntarenas (in the central Pacific region) and Playa Curu inside the Curu National Wildlife Refuge (on the Nicoya Peninsula). Once on the island, you can snorkel or dive around underwater sites, rent watersport equipment for exploring the island’s crystalline waters, or simply enjoy the beach. For more information about beaches at Isla Tortuga, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them.

Jaco (CP)

On the central Pacific coast, the busy beach town of Jaco is the place to be if you want to meet new people and spend a night (or every night) out on the town. It has a wide range of hotels, more restaurants than you could possibly eat at, loads of shops, and enough surf schools to help you conquer the waves that roll into Playa Jaco, the town’s main beach. For more information about Playa Jaco, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Jaco Costa Rica (Central Pacific) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Jaco.

La Fortuna (Arenal) (NI)

La Fortuna is one of Costa Rica’s most sought-after destinations, largely due to the long list of nature and adventure tours that run in and around town. From hikes to the La Fortuna Waterfall, exploration of hanging bridges, fun zip-line rides, wildlife exhibit visits, and so much more, there are enough activities to easily fill several days in the region. La Fortuna is also home to Costa Rica’s biggest and best collection of hot springs (12 and counting) thanks to its position at the base of the Arenal Volcano. To learn more about the experiences you can have in La Fortuna, don’t miss our related blog posts Must-Know Info About La Fortuna Costa Rica From Longtime Residents, La Fortuna Hotels: Where We Stay Around Arenal Costa Rica, or these other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to La Fortuna.

Las Catalinas (G)

The up-and-coming destination of Las Catalinas is Costa Rica’s first and only car-free community. Still a work in progress, Las Catalinas is currently home to a small-scale luxury resort, excellent bike trails, and a group of contiguous villas that serve as rentable vacation homes. The community fronts Playa Danta and is a short hike from the smaller but more lovely Playa Dantita. For more information about Playa Danta and Playa Dantita, don’t miss our related blog posts: Photos of Playa Danta Costa Rica (Guanacaste) From Our Personal Collection and Photos of Playa Dantita Costa Rica (Guanacaste) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Las Catalinas.

Liberia (G)

Most people who visit Liberia only graze the city’s outskirts, either on their way into or out of Costa Rica via the LIR airport (newly named the “Guanacaste Airport”) or while traveling along Highway 21 (see our related blog post Costa Rica Highway Conditions By Route for highway details), a popular thoroughfare that leads to beaches on the northern Pacific coast. In the downtown core, there are a few small museums, restaurants, and bars but they typically don’t warrant spending a night in the city. Just west of downtown Liberia, near the airport, there’s an impressive art gallery and a souvenir store that runs a coffee tour if you’re looking for ways to kill time before a flight. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Liberia.

Limon (C)

The port town of Limon, at the conjunction of Highway 32 and Highway 36 on the Caribbean coast (see our related blog post Costa Rica Highway Conditions By Route for highway details), isn’t a tourist town as much as it’s a gateway to beach destinations in the southern Caribbean region, namely Cahuita, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, and Manzanillo. You likely won’t spend much time in this city (which isn’t the safest place for tourists and is overrun with shipping containers), unless you arrive via a cruise ship that docks at the city’s port or you connect in Limon while using public transit or a domestic flight. The city does, however, have a few roadside stalls where you can pick up delicious Caribbean food, so those are worth a quick stop. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Limon.

Mal Pais (NP)

Often coupled with the nearby beach town of Santa Teresa, the quiet fishing community of Malpais (sometimes written as Mal Pais) is smaller and less developed than its neighbor. No more than a few establishments spread out over a winding road and a forested hill, Malpais hides in a secluded—almost deserted-feeling—corner of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. The best reason to visit the destination is to spend time at the tranquil Playa Los Suecos (also called Playa Cuevas). For more information about Playa Los Suecos, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Malpais.

Manuel Antonio (Quepos) (CP)

Manuel Antonio, just south of the port town of Quepos, is Costa Rica’s most adventure-filled beach town. Like La Fortuna/Arenal and Monteverde in the country’s inland region, Manuel Antonio delivers eye-opening nature experiences, wildlife sightings, and fun adventures, but along the central Pacific coast. Though the Manuel Antonio National Park (Costa Rica’s most visited national park) and its beautiful beaches are the destination’s biggest draw, visitors stay for days to experience zip-line courses, white-water rapids, mangrove ecosystems, surf breaks, dive sites, and more. You’ll also find some of the country’s best non-all-inclusive resort properties here. To learn more about the experiences you can have in Manuel Antonio, don’t miss our related blog posts Must-Know Info About Manuel Antonio Costa Rica From Frequent Visitors, Why The Manuel Antonio National Park Is Different Than Other National Parks In Costa Rica, Photos of Playa Manuel Antonio Costa Rica (Central Pacific) From Our Personal Collection, or these other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Manuel Antonio.

Manzanillo (C)

At the end of one of Costa Rica’s easternmost roads, near the border that Costa Rica shares with Panama, lies Manzanillo, a small, low-key Caribbean beach town. Here, locals snooze or kick soccer balls on Playa Manzanillo (also called Playa Grande) while foreigners stroll through the beachfront Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. The destination also has a great green macaw reintroduction center where macaws can be seen in the wild at close range. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Manzanillo.

Matapalo (G)

On the northern Pacific coast, south of Playas del Coco, is Matapalo, a small, unremarkable hamlet. Though there’s little in Matapalo to warrant a visit, the destination’s namesake beach—Playa Matapalo—is where you’ll find two of Costa Rica’s all-inclusive resorts. Atop the hill that overlooks the beach is an adventure park that’s equipped with ziplines, wildlife exhibits, and other attractions. For more information about Playa Matapalo, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Matapalo.

Monteverde (Santa Elena) (NI)

Costa Rica’s most famous cloud forest blankets the Monteverde region, where an abundance of attractions from hanging bridges and aerial trams to biological reserves and gardens invite gentle nature exploration, oftentimes among the clouds. The rustic cabins, lodges, and hotels in this area contribute to the destination’s cozy, welcoming feel. To learn more about the experiences you can have in Monteverde, don’t miss our related blog posts Must-Know Info About Monteverde Costa Rica From Seasoned VisitorsMonteverde Hotels: Where We Stay In Monteverde Costa Rica, or these other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Monteverde.

Montezuma (NP)

On the east side of the Nicoya Peninsula is Montezuma, a small community with a carefree vibe. Though most people come to Montezuma to revel in its hippiedom, others use the destination as a home base for day tours to the nearby Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve for a challenging hike, the Curu National Refuge for easy nature walks, Isla Tortuga for pristine waters, and/or the lovely Playas Las Manchas. For more information about Playa Las Manchas, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos Of Playa Las Manchas Costa Rica (Nicoya Peninsula) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Montezuma.

Nicoya (NP)

Though the closest most travelers come to the town of Nicoya is Highway 21 (see our related blog post Costa Rica Highway Conditions By Route for highway details), a main road on the Nicoya Peninsula that grazes the north end of the destination, if you happen to take a detour into town, there’s a picturesque Colonial church that’s worth laying your eyes on. Northeast of Nicoya is the Barra Honda National Park, where you can descend into and explore an underground cave.

Nosara (NP)

Home to a ton of expats, the close-knit community of Nosara also has some of Costa Rica’s best surf and yoga studios, and a collection of premium boutique hotels. Though stays here don’t usually come cheap, they provide an opportunity to spend time in a service-minded, comfortable, quiet community. An ideal destination for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free travelers, several of Nosara’s restaurants are health conscious. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Nosara.

Nuevo Arenal (NI)

Positioned on the northeast side of Lago Arenal, Costa Rica’s largest lake, is Nuevo Arenal, a small community where a large number of expats (mainly retirees) enjoy quiet days spent overlooking the water. Lake-friendly watersports and bird-watching are the area’s best activities, though most people who visit want nothing more than to kick back and relax. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Nuevo Arenal.

Orosi (CV)

The lovely Orosi Valley, comprised of the town of Orosi and the villages of Cachi and Ujarras, is one of the more picturesque places you can visit in Costa Rica’s Central Valley and Highlands region, especially on the region’s east side. A few lookout places that showcase pretty landscapes appease day visitors, but if you stay for a few days, you can experience the destination’s national park, ruins, and (basic) hot springs. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Orosi.

Ostional (NP)

Though rare, the turtle nesting events that take place on Playa Ostional are the largest of their kind in Costa Rica. If you’d like to position yourself near the beach to witness the natural phenomenon, you can hole up in the tiny community of Ostional on the Nicoya Peninsula. For more information about Playa Ostional, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them.

Papagayo (G)

The most concentrated collection of resorts (both all-inclusive and non-all-inclusive) fan out over the Papagayo Peninsula, which occupies an elevated landmass that divides the tranquil Culebra Bay from the open water of the Gulf of Papagayo and the Pacific Ocean. Combined with luxury rental properties and an immaculate golf course, Papagayo is a prime spot to have an exclusive, high-end vacation. For more information about beaches on the Papagayo Peninsula, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Papagayo.

Paquera (NP)

The small village of Paquera is best known for being one of two villages on the Nicoya Peninsula that welcome ferries from Puntarenas (the other is Playa Naranjo), making travel between the central Pacific region and the Nicoya Peninsula region quick and easy. Though it’s unlikely you’ll station yourself in Paquera directly, if you plan to stay at another beach town on the peninsula you may find yourself on a day tour to Paquera where hiking trails and beaches await inside the nearby Curu National Wildlife Refuge.

Playa Avellanas (G)

South of the many popular beaches that line the northern Pacific coast is Playa Avellanas, the gathering spot of surfers in search of great waves outside of bustling beach towns. Though a well-liked restaurant on the beach draws in plenty of day visitors, the destination is largely void of development and doesn’t receive many overnight guests. For more information about Playa Avellanas, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them.

Playa Flamingo (G)

One of the softest and most beautiful beaches to rest along the northern Pacific coast is Playa Flamingo, which sits on the west side of a town with the same name (on the east side of town is a marina). In and around the small but surprisingly developed town, you’ll find a resort, a shopping center, and fine residences and vacation homes. For more information about Playa Flamingo, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Playa Flamingo.

Playa Grande (G)

Once Costa Rica’s go-to place to see leatherback sea turtles bury their eggs in the sand, today’s Playa Grande is celebrated for its beloved surf break. The gentle yin to next-door Tamarindo’s more active yang, Playa Grande is also where you’ll find the peaceful estuary that weaves throughout the Marino Las Baulas National Park. For more information about Playa Grande, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Playa Grande.

Playa Hermosa (CP)

Diehard surfers enjoy spending time in the community of Playa Hermosa on the central Pacific coast, which has gnarly waves and rough waters. The tiny community hosts lively surf competitions on occasion. For more information about Playa Hermosa, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Playa Hermosa.

Playa Hermosa (G)

On the northern Pacific coast, the beach town of Playa Hermosa feels like it has two beaches instead of one because the town is divided into two sections: the north section and the south section. While you’ll find more development in the north section, the destination’s best accommodations are found in the south. For more information about Playa Hermosa, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Hermosa Costa Rica (Guanacaste) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Playa Hermosa.

Playa Junquillal (G)

Tucked away in an unfrequented and largely undeveloped area of the northern Pacific coast is Playa Junquillal, a sparse community that happens to have a turtle hatchery, a turtle sculpture, and an unoccupied beach. For more information about Playa Junquillal, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Junquillal Costa Rica (Guanacaste) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in this area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Playa Junquillal.

Playa Negra (G)

A quaint surf community that remains off the beaten path is Playa Negra. This destination has its own revered surf break and others are only a short drive away. For more information about Playa Negra, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Playa Negra.

Playa Naranjo (NP)

Playa Naranjo is one of two villages on the Nicoya Peninsula that welcome ferries from Puntarenas (the other is Paquera). You’re likely to only step foot in Playa Naranjo if you’re driving yourself to destinations in the north half of the Nicoya Peninsula (such as Carrillo, Samara, Nosara, or Ostional) or destinations further up the Pacific coast, and you opted to take a ferry for part of the journey to reduce your overall drive time.

Playas del Coco (G)

If you want to station yourself in a coastal town that has plenty of people, restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops, plus a bustling beachfront (on Playa del Coco) that always has something going on, Playas del Coco may be the right destination for you. The town also serves as a jumping-off place where tours to adventure parks, dive and snorkel sites, and other attractions depart. For more information about Playa del Coco, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Playas del Coco.

Poasito / Vara Blanca (CV)

Poasito and Vera Blanca, two small, neighboring, high-elevation communities that sit north of Alajuela, reel in travelers with worthwhile attractions, including coffee farms, waterfalls, and wildlife exhibits. Most sought after are visits to the Poas Volcano’s active crater within the Poas Volcano National Park. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Poasito/Vera Blanca.

Potrero / Surfside (G)

Sandwiched between two upper-end beach communities (Las Catalinas and Playa Flamingo), the village of Potrero provides a more humble stay. Though there’s little to do directly in Potrero, day tours to activities operated in nearby towns are easy to arrange. A handful of expats reside in Surfside, a community that’s adjacent to Potrero’s south end at Playa Potrero. For more information about Playa Potrero, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Potrero/Surfside.

Puerto Jimenez (OP)

One of Costa Rica’s southernmost destinations is the down-to-earth fishing town of Puerto Jimenez, which sits on the Osa Peninsula between the Golfo Dulce and the Corcovado National Park. Though most visitors arrive with plans to hike the national park, the destination provides a few unique experiences such as panning for gold. Playa Preciosa (also named Playa Platanares) is the town’s principal beach. For more information about Playa Preciosa, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Preciosa Costa Rica (Osa Peninsula) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in this area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Puerto Jimenez.

Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui (C)

The humid, lowland region that contains Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui is a great place to explore rainforest reserves, go bird-watching, and raft the Sarapiqui River. Though the destination is named after its largest town (Puerto Viejo), the Sarapiqui area encompasses two other communities: La Virgin and Chilamate. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (C)

The most developed and lively destination you’ll find along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, a laidback beach town that provides a plethora of accommodations, restaurants, activities, and surf breaks. Though you won’t find a nature reserve directly in Puerto Viejo, a national park and a wildlife refuge sit a short drive up and down the coast from the town. Vibrant Afro-Costa Rican culture is on full display here; delicious Caribbean food is widely available and Reggae beats play on repeat. To learn more about the experiences you can have in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, don’t miss our related blog posts Must-Know Info About Puerto Viejo Costa Rica And The Southern Caribbean CoastPhotos of Playa Puerto Viejo Costa Rica (Caribbean) From Our Personal Collection, or these other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

Puntarenas (CP)

Puntarenas serves as a sending-off point to a few popular Costa Rica destinations. Multiday dive tours on liveaboard boats depart to Coco Island (also called Cocos Island), and ferries depart for the villages of Paquera and Naranjo on the Nicoya Peninsula where onward travel to beach towns like Samara, Nosara, Tambor, Montezuma, Santa Teresa, and Malpais is common. In Puntarenas proper, a pedestrian boulevard catches most travelers’ attention, especially those who arrive at the port city via cruise ship. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Puntarenas.

Punta Uva (C)

On the outskirts of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is quiet Punta Uva, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of community formed around two beaches: Playa Punta Uva and Playa Arrecife. This destination has a calm river that’s great for paddling and a reef that encourages snorkeling. For more information about Playa Arrecife, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Arrecife Costa Rica (Caribbean) From Our Personal Collection. For more information about Playa Punta Uva, don’t miss our related blog post: 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Punta Uva.

Rincon de la Vieja (G)

Named after the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano that anchors the area, the Rincon de la Vieja region is home to rustic accommodations that double as adventure centers. Here, on the slopes of the volcano, you can ride horses, zipline through the dry forest, and soak in off-the-beaten-path hot springs. Since each accommodation is located in its own area, visits to any one feel like escapes to Costa Rica’s remote, bucolic backcountry. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Rincon de la Vieja.

Samara (NP)

The easiest beach town to reach on the Nicoya Peninsula is Samara, a small, concentrated town where you’ll find a beautiful beach (Playa Samara), loads of activities, and a decent selection of hotels and restaurants all within walking distance of one another. For more information about Playa Samara, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Samara Costa Rica (Nicoya Peninsula) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in this area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Samara.  

San Gerardo de Dota (SI)

Birders in search of high-elevation bird species flock to the San Gerardo de Dota area, which stretches out down a mountain in a region that houses Costa Rica’s highest peaks. Oftentimes chilly and cloudy thanks to its position among the cloud forest, this destination has humble, cozy lodges. It’s also where you’ll find some of the best trout fishing and trout-based meals in the country. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to San Gerardo de Dota.

San Jose (CV)

Costa Rica’s current capital city, San Jose, is steeped in culture, architecture, and history. The destination is a perfect choice if you want to explore museums, stroll along pedestrian boulevards, or simply take in the sights of a buzzing metropolis. The city is also home to unique hotels, an eclectic assortment of restaurants, and several bars that range in style from pubs to clubs. For more information about San Jose, don’t miss our related blog post 10 Things To Do In San Jose Costa Rica and our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to San Jose.

San Ramon (CV)

Travelers have a tendency to zip past the city of San Ramon on their way to La Fortuna/Arenal from San Jose or Alajuela (or vice versa) but there’s a lot that’s worth seeing in and around town, including an ornate church in the downtown core and botanical gardens on the outskirts of town amid cloud forest. Southeast of San Ramon, the small town of Pavones hosts Costa Rica’s largest fair in January of each year. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to San Ramon.

Santa Cruz (G)

Santa Cruz, the quintessential Costa Rican town you may pass through if you travel the Nicoya Peninsula’s popular Highway 21, has a monument that pays tribute to Costa Rica’s national musical instrument: the marimba. The town also nears Guaitil, a community that’s rich in indigenous culture and pottery handicrafts.

Santa Teresa (NP)

Yogis and surfers gravitate toward Santa Teresa, a developed but low-key beach community near the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Surf and/or yoga-based vacation packages draw in most visitors but others come to practice either or both activities on their own or to simply lounge around on the destination’s silky beach (Playa Santa Teresa). For more information about Playa Santa Teresa, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Santa Teresa Costa Rica (Nicoya Peninsula) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in this area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Santa Teresa.

Sarchi (CV)

The many handpainted, brightly colored oxcarts you’ll see in Costa Rica are manufactured in Sarchi, the artisan capital of Costa Rica. Here, you can visit old factories that produce the wooden oxcarts, and watch artists paint the carts with bold designs. Shops that sell replica oxcart handicrafts are open for browsing. For more information about Sarchi, don’t miss our related blog post 5 Free Things To Do In Grecia, Sarchi, And Zarcero Costa Rica and our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Sarchi.

Sierpe (OP)

At the edge of the Terraba Sierpe National Wetlands sits the tiny community of Sierpe. This destination serves as a jumping-off place where hiking tours in the Corcovado National Park and dive and snorkel sites around Cano Island depart. Sierpe is also where you’ll find archaeological spheres that belonged to pre-Columbian indigenous groups. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Sierpe.

Siquirres (C)

Siquirres isn’t a tourist destination per se but it’s a frequented destination nonetheless since the Pacuare River, a popular river for white-water rafting, flows alongside the town. Since rafting tours on the Pacuare River depart from other cities in Costa Rica and provide transportation to and from the river, you likely won’t spend much time in Siquirres proper, which isn’t the safest place for tourists. But if you want to experience the country’s best rafting tour, visiting Siquirres—even on a day trip from a different town—is a must. To learn more about white-water rafting the Pacuare River, don’t miss our related blog post: Pacuare River Rafting Tour: Must-Know Info From A Former River Guide.

Tamarindo (G)

One of Costa Rica’s most social beach towns is the northern Pacific coast’s Tamarindo. This surf town is much more than its beloved break; it has a store-lined main drag that’s great for shopping, lots of restaurants (including plenty on the beach), an active nightlife, and an upbeat vibe. Nearly everything you might want in a coastal community (save for solitude) can be found in Tamarindo. For more information about Playa Tamarindo, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Tamarindo Costa Rica (Guanacaste) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in this area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Tamarindo.

Tambor (NP)

Unfrequented Tambor, a small village on the Nicoya Peninsula, is a good option if you want to enjoy a beach community that’s void of crowds. Though there isn’t much to see or do at this destination except golf and visit a non-swimmable waterfall, the Curu National Wildlife Refuge and the Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve exist in the region and are accessible via day tours from Tambor. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Tambor.

Tarcoles (CP)

Across a busy highway from the Carara National Park sits the hamlet of Tarcoles. This destination typically hosts visitors on day tours from nearby towns who come to take boat tours around the Tarcoles River for the purpose of bird-watching or to see the large number of crocodiles that reside in the area. Individuals who prefer to gaze at the crocodiles at a distance do so from the road bridge on Highway 34 that crosses the river. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Tarcoles.

Tortuguero (C)

Accessible only by boat or small plane, the community of Tortuguero sits along Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. Nature lovers come to boat around calm canals; spot birds, sea turtles, and other wildlife inside the Tortuguero National Park; and bask in the tranquility that the remote destination provides. For more information about Tortuguero don’t miss our related blog post Is Tortuguero Worth Visiting? and our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Tortuguero.

Turrialba (CV)

Off most tourists’ radar is the valley city of Turrialba, which is home to a volcano, a waterfall, an archaeological site, and gardens. Avid bikers love riding the mountainous roads that descend into and climb out of the city; they provide beautiful views of coffee and sugarcane plantations. If you plan to spend time in the area, don’t miss our Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Turrialba.

Uvita (CP)

On the central Pacific coast, the inland community of Uvita and the adjacent waterfront village of Bahia are where you’ll find the Marino Ballena National Park. Here, snorkel and dive trips to local sites and sites around Cano Island await, as do coastal boat trips for the purpose of whale- and dolphin-watching. This destination is also home to a whale-tail-shaped tombolo (at Playa Uvita) you can visit during low tide. For more information about Playa Uvita, don’t miss our related blog post: Photos of Playa Uvita Costa Rica (Central Pacific) From Our Personal Collection. If you plan to spend time in this area, don’t miss our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Uvita/Bahia.

Zarcero (CV)

Tucked among cloud forest northwest of Alajuela is Zarcero (also called Alfaro Ruiz), a small town with a stately church; a pretty park with pastel hydrangea blossoms; and unique, large-scale topiary art. Zarcero is also known for selling balls of palmito cheese (learn more about palmito cheese by reading our Costa Rica Food Guide: 30 Things To Eat In Costa Rica And When To Eat Them) and has a lovely sweet smell thanks to the baked-goods factory that sits up the road. For more information about Zarcero, don’t miss our related blog post 5 Free Things To Do In Grecia, Sarchi, And Zarcero Costa Rica and our other Costa Rica blog articles that can support your visit to Zarcero.

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Where To Go In Costa Rica: 70+
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Where To Go In Costa Rica: 70+
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See our master list of Costa Rica destinations for photos of 70+ places to consider when narrowing down where to go in Costa Rica.
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The Official Costa Rica Travel Blog
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