Costa Rica travel guide

Costa Rica travel guide – The best vacation spots and the top attractions

Costa Rica has piqued your interest. This Costa Rica travel guide will help your dream vacation take shape.

(Actually, this whole website is essentially a Costa Rica travel guide! But on this page, I’ll give you an overview of some of the best vacation spots to visit and top attractions to see and do.)

What sounds interesting to you?

How did you find Costa Rica? Were you looking for a Caribbean vacation that offered sandy beaches plus something a bit more? Perhaps you’re a nature lover and an avid photographer. A thrill seeker?

My wife is a big lover of birds and animals. I am too. Whenever we’d travel to another city in the US or Canada, we’d always search out the local zoo. We both love the water, although we’re not the type to lounge around on a beach all day.

White Capuchin Monkey
These guys are everywhere. Howler monkeys. They can make quite a racket when in a group.

We floated a couple of honeymoon destination possibilities — namely Hawaii and Costa Rica. My wife wanted something tropical, and visiting a rain forest was high up on her “bucket list.” I wanted something adventurous. Something different.

It didn’t take us long to zero in on Costa Rica vacations. I had picked up a Costa Rica travel guide or two and was immediately transfixed by the images of hot springs and rain forests.

We quickly learned how affordable it could be. Plane fares weren’t outrageous like they were to fly to Hawaii. Plus, Costa Rica offered something different… A different country, different culture, different geography. And lots of different things to do.

Not only does Costa Rica make for a fun, exotic, and romantic honeymoon, it can also be an amazing wedding destination!

Something else you might consider, which you might not have thought of. You can cruise Costa Rica too! You can visit ports on either the Pacific or Caribbean coast, depending on where your ship departs.

Click on the links within this Costa Rica travel guide for more in-depth, detailed information.

Where to go?

Any Costa Rica travel guide needs to answer this question! Costa Rica may be a small country, but there are lots of different locales to choose from.

If you’re looking for Costa Rica vacation spots, it’s best to research what each region has to offer, decide on what you want to do, and try to plan your trip logistics accordingly. You’ll want to spend more time experiencing less time traveling in a bus, car, or plane.

Most folks are coming into the Central Valley via the San José Airport, and since it’s centrally located within the country, it’s a perfect hub to start your trip.

A Costa Rica travel guide “cover photo.” On our way to Arenal, we stopped to take in the breathtaking La Paz waterfalls.

We started in San José and headed north to visit the Arenal volcano, the national park there, and Tabacón hot springs. Consider spending some extra time in San José if you’d like to soak in the local culture. The central market, along with the museums, art galleries, and nightlife can easily keep you occupied for a couple of days.

In between the Central Vally and the Northern plains is Monteverde. This area is famous for the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Hiking in the verdant forest was a feast for the eyes (and my camera!)

The Pacific coast is famous for its beaches all along the coast. As well, numerous national parks and wildlife refuges in this region will be happy to welcome you. Most famous is Manuel Antonio National Park on the central coast, which combines magnificent sandy beaches with a forest teeming with plant and animal life.

The Caribbean coast offers up Costa Rican culture with a reggae, “rasta” vibe. Many of its beaches are secluded, and to the north Tortuguero National Park is the nesting grounds for many species of sea turtles. If you’re lucky, you can watch the mama turtles come up on the beach and lay their eggs in the sand.

What to do?

There are so many Costa Rica attractions available to you, it’s hard to know where to start!

We enjoyed snorkeling in Costa Rica so much we did it twice. Sometimes the visibility is so-so close to the shore, but there are a number of great spots to jump in and be amazed at the abundant marine life.

Snorkeling off a small, deserted island in crystal clear waters.

No Costa Rica travel guide is complete without mentioning the zip line tours (aka canopy tours). Many make this high on the list of things to do when they travel to Costa Rica. Not much can compare to this kind of thrill ride. Zipping along amongst the trees, over 100 feet up off the forest floor…it’s an adventure everyone visiting Costa Rica should experience.

White water rafting in Costa Rica is another wild ride for thrill-seekers. Costa Rica has some of the best white water rafting in the world.

Activities such as hiking, sunbathing, sport fishing, scuba diving, and surfing are available in many parts of the country.

Costa Rica has some of the most secluded beaches you’ll find anywhere. Peaceful, calm, and romantic.

For sport fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving — there are many boat charters on the coasts to carry you out to sea. We did a combo sailing/snorkeling tour which took us out to a deserted island. The sailboat anchored just off shore and we snokeled our way over to a secluded, black sandy beach. The water was warm and clear, and the fish were everywhere!

Costa Rica has over 35 national parks to visit, hike, and explore. If you want to up your odds with repect to seeing wildlife, check out one of the many wildlife refuges.

There are parks dedicated to volcanoes, most notably Arenal, Poás, and Irazú. There are three other volcano parks as well.

If you’re going to be around Arenal, you MUST check out the hot springs. These crystal-clear mineral springs are warmed by the nearby volcano and trickle down the mountainside into idyllic waterfalls and pools to bathe and soak in. It’s an incredible physical sensation to sit under a hot waterfall.