Must-see attractions in Costa Rica

  • SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA-MARCH 3, 2015:  The National Theater in Costa Rica first opened to the public in 1897.  It remains a top tourist destination today.; Shutterstock ID 265490903; Your name (First / Last): Lauren Gillmore; GL account no.: 56530; Netsuite department name: Online-Design; Full Product or Project name including edition: 65050/ Online Design /LaurenGillmore/POI

    Teatro Nacional

    San José

    On the southern side of the Plaza de la Cultura resides the Teatro Nacional, San José’s most revered building. Constructed in 1897, it features a columned…

  • Green Hummingbird on a feeder at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

    La Paz Waterfall Gardens

    Central Valley & Highlands

    This polished storybook garden complex just east of Volcán Poás offers the most easily digestible cultural experience in the Central Valley and is the…

  • Iguana in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

    Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

    Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio & Around

    Featuring lush jungle, picture-perfect beaches and craggy headlands, this tiny park (1680 acres/680 hectares) absolutely brims with wildlife (and often…

  • Sunset on beach with Ocean, Costa Rica

    Playa Negra


    At the northwestern end of Cahuita, Playa Negra is a long, black-sand beach flying the bandera azul ecológica, a flag that indicates that the beach is…

  • Costa Rica, Limon Province, Caribbean coast, Gandoca-Manzanillo national wildlife refuge, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Playa Punta Uva beach

    Punta Uva

    Southern Caribbean

    Off a dirt road marked by Punta Uva Dive Center is a quiet, idyllic cove that could double for a scene in the film The Beach. When the water is calm, it…

  • Eagle Ray swimming in the waters of Coco Island in Costa Rica; Shutterstock ID 127196843; your: Sloane Tucker; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI

    Parque Nacional Isla del Coco

    Southern Costa Rica & Península de Osa

    Around 500km southwest of the Costa Rica mainland, Isla del Coco is a natural wonder that teems with wildlife, including the largest schools of hammerhead…

  • Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

    Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

    From 1968 until 2010, Volcán Arenal was an ever-active and awe-striking natural wonder, producing menacing ash columns, massive explosions and streams of…

  • Costa Rica, Las Cruces, Wilson Botanical Garden, bromeliad bud, close-up

    Wilson Botanical Garden

    Southern Costa Rica & Península de Osa

    The world-class Wilson Botanical Garden is internationally known for its collection of more than 2000 native Costa Rican species. Species threatened with…

  • 500px Photo ID: 76842259 - Museo Del Jade, San Jose, Costa Rica

    Museo del Jade

    San José

    This museum houses the world’s largest collection of American jade (pronounced ‘ha-day’ in Spanish), with an ample exhibition space of five floors…

  • Viento Fresco

    Arenal & Around

    If you're travelling between Monteverde and Arenal, there's no good excuse for skipping this stop. Viento Fresco is a series of five cascades, including…

  • A drone shot of the National park Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
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    Punta Catedral

    Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio & Around

    Geography fun fact: this isthmus, which is the centerpiece of the park, is called a tombolo and was formed by the accumulation of sand between the…

  • Playa Dominical, Marino Ballena national park, Pacific coast, Costa Rica.

    Parque Nacional Marino Ballena

    Quepos to Uvita

    Famous for its wide, 4km-long beach, part of which is shaped like whale's tail at low tide, this small but important marine park protects coral and rock…

  • Iguana sitting on a trunk in Hacienda Baru, Costa Rica.

    Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge

    Quepos to Uvita

    Consisting of pristine beaches, riverbanks, mangrove estuaries, wetlands, primary and secondary forests, tree plantations and pastures, this 330-hectare…

  • Playa Espadilla Sur & Punta Catedral in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

    Playa Espadilla Sur

    Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio & Around

    A half-hour hike from the park entrance, the exposed Playa Espadilla Sur is to the north of Punta Catedral and gorgeous with pinch-me scenes of white sand…

  • Venado Caves

    Arenal & Northern Lowlands

    Two kilometers northeast of Venado (Spanish for ‘deer’) along a good dirt road, these caves are an adventurous excursion into an eight-chamber limestone…

  • Reserva Santa Elena

    Monteverde & Around

    The exquisitely misty 310-hectare Reserva Santa Elena offers a completely different cloud forest experience from Monteverde. Cutting through the veiled…

  • Cataratas Nauyaca

    Quepos to Uvita

    Owned and operated by a Costa Rican family, this center is home to the coast's most impressive waterfalls. Two falls cascade through a protected reserve…

  • Montezuma Waterfalls


    A 40-minute river hike leads to a waterfall with a delicious swimming hole. Further along, a second set of falls offers a good 12m leap into deep water…

  • Cloudbridge Nature Reserve

    The Road to Chirripó

    About 2km past the trailhead to Cerro Chirripó you will find the entrance to the mystical, magical Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. Covering 283 hectares on…

  • Cascada Verde


    Around 2.5km inland and uphill (toward Cascada Verde hostel), this waterfall plunges into an inviting deep pool, perfect for a refreshing dip. Visitors…

  • Playa Cocles

    Southern Caribbean

    Playa Cocles has waves for surfers who aren't keen to break skin and bones at nearby Salsa Brava (Costa Rica's biggest break). Instead, it has steep lefts…

  • Mercado Central

    San José

    Though josefinos mainly do their shopping at chain supermarkets, San José’s crowded indoor markets retain an old-world, authentic feel. This main market,…

  • Catarata Manantial de Agua Viva

    Central Pacific Coast

    This 200m-high waterfall is claimed to be the highest in the country. From the entrance, it’s a steep 3km (45-minute) hike down into the valley (an hour…

  • Sitio Arqueológico Finca 6

    Southern Costa Rica & Península de Osa

    This site, 4km north of Sierpe, offers the best opportunity to view the mysterious pre-Columbian spheres created by the Diquís civilization between 300…

  • Catarata del Toro & the Blue Falls

    Central Valley & Highlands

    Find a beautiful 90m-tall waterfall that cascades into a volcanic crater (free for overnight guests) and two trail options through virgin forest (one 4…

  • Tiskita Jungle Lodge

    Southern Costa Rica & Península de Osa

    Set on a verdant hillside between Pavones and Punta Banco, Tiskita Jungle Lodge consists of 100 hectares of virgin forest and a huge orchard, which…

  • Parque Francisco Alvarado

    Central Valley & Highlands

    In front of the Church of San Rafael, this park was a normal plaza until the 1960s, when a gardener named Evangelisto Blanco became inspired to shave the…

  • Parque Nacional Chirripó

    Southern Costa Rica & Península de Osa

    While much of the Cordillera de Talamanca is difficult to access, Costa Rica’s highest peak, Cerro Chirripó (3820m), is the focus of popular two-day…

  • Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

    Quepos to Uvita

    Around 1.5km east and uphill from Dominical, this wildlife sanctuary takes in injured and orphaned animals as well as illegal pets. Its mission is to…

  • Playa Santa Teresa

    Mal País & Santa Teresa

    Playa Santa Teresa is a long, stunning beach that's famous for its fast and powerful beach break. The waves are pretty consistent and can be surfed at…

  • Black-bellied whistling ducks at Palo Verde National Park.

    Parque Nacional Palo Verde

    Northwestern Costa Rica

    At the head of the Golfo de Nicoya, the 198 sq km Parque Nacional Palo Verde is a wetland sanctuary in Costa Rica’s driest province. The park’s shallow,…

  • Spanish colonial era tower with battlements and multiple bullet holes, National Museum of Costa Rica.

    Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

    San José

    Entered via a beautiful glassed-in atrium housing an exotic butterfly garden, this museum provides a quick survey of Costa Rican history. Exhibits of pre…

  • Parque Nacional Tortuguero

    Caribbean Coast

    This misty, green coastal park sits on a broad floodplain parted by a jigsaw of canals. Referred to as the ‘mini-Amazon,’ Parque Nacional Tortuguero is a…

  • Toucan in Zoo, Costa Rica

    Zoo Ave

    Central Valley & Highlands

    About 10km west of Alajuela is this well-designed animal park with more than 115 species of bird on colorful, squawking display. The tranquil 14-hectare…

  • Playa Ventanas, Costa Rica.

    Playa Ventanas


    Tucked behind a grove of coco palms, this crescent-shaped, black-sand-and-pebble beach has elaborate rock formations at either end, and is called …

  • Rustic wooden bridge on the trails of the Curu Wildlife Reserve in Costa Rica.

    Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Curú

    Península de Nicoya

    Situated at the eastern end of the peninsula, this tiny 84-hectare wildlife refuge holds a great variety of landscapes, including dry tropical forest,…

Not Costa Rica... but still worth the visit