The 13 best places to visit in Costa Rica


On the countries southern coast to the south of the capital, San Jose, is the Nauyaca Falls, a series of tiered waterfalls and shallow pools in beautiful rainforest surroundings. With its combined drop of 60 metres (200 ft) it is also one of the largest waterfalls in Costa Rica.

13. Cataratas Nauyaca


In the north west of the country, covering an area of some 220 square kilometres (85 square miles) is the Las Baulas National Marine Park, supporting the largest nesting colony of leather back Turtles on the Pacific coast. Between October and May visitors have an excellent chance of spotting these wonderful creatures in this protected area of coastal forest and white sandy beaches.

12. Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas


In the extreme north west of the country close to the border with Nicaragua is the 387 square kilometre (149 square mile) Santa Rosa National Park, the first to be established in Costa Rica. Home to ten unique natural habitats including savannas, forests, marshlands and jungle coastline that support a number of animal species, the park was also the location for the famous Battle Of Santa Rosa that took place in 1856 AD. Because of this historical importance the park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

11. Parque Nacional Santa Rosa


In the northern centre of the country, covering some 129 square kilometres (50 square miles) is the Tenorio Volcano National Park, centred around the 1,913 metre (6,276 ft) high volcano from which it is named. Consisting of four volcanic peaks and two craters, thermal springs, waterfalls, lagoons, a cloud forest and a low lying rainforest, the parks major highlights can be easily accessed along the Crater Hike. Taking approximately 9 hours to complete, this trail it takes visitors through the rainforest surroundings to the peak of the Tenorio Volcano.


Pictured is the Rio Celeste Waterfall.

10. Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio


In the Diquis Delta region of southern Costa Rica are a collection of over 300 stone spheres attributed to the extinct Diquis culture. The stones, which date from 500 to 1500 AD and range from a few centimetres in diameter up to 2 metres, have been measured to weigh up to as much as 15 tons. The mysterious stones, of which their original function remains unknown, have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Diquis Spheres


In the western centre of the country, covering an area of 105 square kilometres (40 square miles) is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, an almost untouched area of virgin rainforest within a region of extremely high biodiversity. Visitors can follow the easily marked trails and cross the sky bridges which allow for a very good chance of spotting any of the 2,500 plant species, 100 mammal species, 400 bird species and 120 reptile species that live within the forest reserve.

8. Monteverde Cloud Forest


North west of the capital, San Jose, on a private reserve inside an old volcanic crater is the picturesque Del Toro Waterfall, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in Costa Rica. In wonderful rainforest surroundings, its single drop of 82 metres (270 ft) makes it the single highest free falling waterfall in the country, and one of the most spectacular in the Central American region. 

7. Catarata Del Toro


East from the capital, San Jose, covering a very small 23 square kilometres (9 square miles) is the Irazu Volcano National Park, taking its name from the 3,432 metre (11,260 ft) high Irazu Volcano, the highest active volcano in Costa Rica. From the easily accessible summit, visitors have unhindered views of the four separate craters, the crater lakes and beyond to the beautiful mountainous landscape that surrounds. On a clear day it is also possible to see both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.

6. Parque Nacional Volcan Irazu


In the north west of the country, covering some 142 square kilometre (55 square miles) is the Rincon De La Vieja Volcano National Park, named after the 1,916 metre ( 6,286 ft) high active Rincon De La Vieja Volcano whose name translates as 'The Old Woman's Corner'. Home to sloths, tapirs and howler monkeys among a number of other animal species, the landscape is one of cloud forests, low lying jungles, hot springs, volcanoes and waterfalls. Situated within the Guanacaste Conservation Area, the entire park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


*At the time of writing guided tours to the crater itself have been stopped due to ongoing eruptions.

5. Parque Nacional Rincon De La Vieja


Directly east from the capital, San Jose, covering a small area of 16 square kilometres (6 square miles) within the Central Volcanic Conservation Area is the Turrialba Volcano National Park, focused around the enormous 3,340 metre (10,958 ft) Turrialba Volcano.


*Major eruptions in recent times, including early 2017 have meant that at the time of writing the park has been closed to tourists.

4. Parque Nacional Volcan Turrialba


To the south east of the capital, San Jose, covering an area of 508 square kilometres (196 square miles) is Chirripo National Park, home to the Cerro Chirripo, reaching 3,829 metres (12,562 ft) above sea level it is the highest peak in Costa Rica. Most of the park consists of tropical forests and cloud forests until around 2,740 metres (9,000 ft) above sea level where the terrain changes and becomes wet desert. The undoubted highlight of the park is the tough 15 kilometre (9 mile) hike to the top of the Cerro Chirripó Grande, its high vantage point offering amazing views over the surrounding rainforest, the deep valleys, distant mountains and on a clear day the opportunity of seeing both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

3. Parque Nacional Chirripo


North west from the capital, San Jose, close to the well trodden tourist town of La Fortuna is the 121 square kilometre (47 square mile) Arenal Volcano National Park, named after the 1,670 metre (5,479 ft) Arenal Volcano. Accessible via a number of trails, the volcanoes easy accessibility from the cute little town of La Fortuna has made it one of the countries most visited attractions. Also within the park is the extinct and slightly smaller Chato Volcano, which also offers walking trails to the rim of its green crater lake. Animal species within the park include the extremely rare and wonderfully named resplendent quetzal, white faced capuchins, a number of monkey species, jaguars, snakes as well as many other animal species.

2. Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal


North west from the capital, San Jose, covering an area of some 65 square kilometres (25 square miles) in the Central Volcanic Conservation Area is the Poas Volcano National Park, named after the 2,700 metre (8,858 ft) active volcano at its heart. Until recently easy hiking trails took visitors to the edge of the main crater, though unfortunately since 2017 explosive eruptions and sulphuric gas emissions has lead to park closures until further notice. When open, the views of the crater with its frequent small geysers and lava eruptions among this dark and rugged landscape makes for one of the best experiences in the country.

1. Parque Nacional Volcan Poas

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