Costa Rica (Republic of Costa Rica)

Languages: Spanish

Currencies: CRC · Costa Rican colón (₡)

Capitol: San José

Continents: North America

Borders: Nicaragua, Panama

More useful information

Area: 51,100km2

Population: 5,094,114

Traffic/driving side: right

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +506

Timezones: UTC-06:00

Traveling to Costa Rica? Get everything you need with the best deals:

Last updated on August 8, 2023

COSTA RICA – a tropical paradise nestled in the heart of Central America, where vibrant hues of emerald green and sapphire blue paint a landscape teeming with adventure, wildlife, and breathtaking vistas.

From the mist-enshrouded cloud forests and national parks to Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast white-sand beaches that stretch for miles, this eco-friendly nation beckons travelers from all walks of life with its promise of unforgettable experiences and beautiful memories.

Boasting an impressive commitment to sustainability and conservation, Costa Rica offers a harmonious blend of natural beauty and responsible tourism. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker yearning for adrenaline-pumping escapades (take crocodile watching on Tarcoles river, for one!) or a laid-back wanderer searching for tranquility, this captivating country delivers an experience tailored to your desires.

The warmth of its people, coupled with the richness of its culture and history, only adds to the allure of this Central American gem.

So, set your sights on these must-see attractions as you embark on your journey through Costa Rica. Dive in a world where adventure and serenity coexist, and allow the rhythm of pura vida — the pure life — to guide your steps.

Key Takeaways:

  • Explore a rich tapestry of history, culture, and modernity in San Jose, Costa Rica’s vibrant capital city.
  • Discover Costa Rica’s stunning coastline with the serene Caribbean coast to the East and the rugged, adventure-packed Pacific coast to the West, each offering unique experiences for every traveler.
  • Experience La Fortuna, a premier destination for adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers, serving as the gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park and an array of thrilling activities.
  • Walk through enchanting cloud forests such as Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Central Highlands Cloud Forest, boasting otherworldly landscapes and a plethora of flora and fauna.
  • Immerse yourself in authentic Costa Rican culture by participating in Worldpackers programs or learning about coffee production from seed to cup at a local plantation.

Stroll Through San Jose.

I swear this was the nosiest square I have ever been to!! And all because of hundreds of parrots nesting in the surrounding trees.

As the vibrant capital of Costa Rica, San Jose serves as the perfect starting point for your Central American adventure. This bustling city offers a rich tapestry of history, culture, and modernity that invites exploration.

When visiting Costa Rica, stroll through the lively streets of downtown San Jose, where colorful murals and historic architecture catch your eye at every turn. Delve into the past with a visit to the neoclassical National Theater, a masterpiece that showcases the city’s artistic heritage.

Continue your cultural journey at the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and the Jade Museum, where you’ll discover ancient treasures and insights into the region’s indigenous peoples.

For a taste of local life, meander through the Central Market, savoring the scents and flavors of traditional Costa Rican cuisine. To experience the city’s thriving arts scene, take a leisurely walk down Barrio Escalante — a trendy neighborhood lined with hip cafes, art galleries, and boutiques.

The charm of San Jose lies in its blend of old and new — a place where history and progress converge to create a captivating urban experience.


Discover Poas Volcano!

You simply cannot miss this natural wonder – every visitor is heading toward Poas Volcano National Park, located in the cloud forest. It is 1-2h drive from San Jose – check here for complete information on How to get to Poas Volcano.

How to get to Poas Volcano, Costa Rica.

Discover Cartago: the Historical Capital.

Nestled at the foot of the majestic Irazú Volcano lies Cartago — Costa Rica’s first capital city and an illustrious treasure trove of history waiting to be explored. Founded in 1563 by Spanish conquistadors, Cartago beckons visitors with its rich heritage, stunning landscapes, and architectural masterpieces.

You can begin your journey through time with a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels. It is an awe-inspiring edifice that pays homage to the patron saint of Costa Rica. Marvel at its intricate Byzantine and Gothic architecture and witness the devout pilgrims who flock to this sacred site in search of miracles.

Alternatively, you could start by delving into Cartago’s history at the Ruins of Santiago Apóstol Parish — a hauntingly beautiful reminder of the city’s resilience in the face of countless earthquakes.

As you wander through Cartago’s storied streets and marvel at its natural wonders, you’ll be transported back in time, immersing yourself in a chapter of Costa Rican history that continues to shape the nation’s identity today.

Pacific Coast vs. Caribbean Coast: Explore Costa Rica’s Coastal Gems.

Costa Rica’s stunning coastline offers a tale of two marvels — the lush and serene Caribbean coast to the East and the rugged, adventure-packed Pacific coast to the West. The decision between the two can be daunting, but fear not, for both coasts possess unique charms that cater to every traveler’s taste.

The Pacific coast is a hub of activity, boasting a myriad of adventure opportunities, rich biodiversity, and world-class surf spots. From the surfer’s paradise of Tamarindo and Playa Grande to the beautiful beaches of Marino Ballena National Park, where the famous Whale’s Tail sandbar formation awaits your awe-struck gaze — the Pacific coast promises exhilarating experiences for thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts alike.

For a more off-the-beaten-path experience, venture to the Osa Peninsula and the remote Corcovado National Park, where you can immerse yourself in one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth. This coast is home to Costa Rica’s famous Nicoya Peninsula — a haven for wellness retreats and eco-adventures set amidst enchanting landscapes.

Whether you’re seeking exhilarating water sports, wildlife encounters, or simply the tranquil embrace of nature, the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica offers countless unforgettable experiences that will leave you longing for more.

On the other hand, the Caribbean coast offers a more laid-back atmosphere with its palm-fringed beaches, vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture, and lush rainforests.

The idyllic towns of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita are perfect for those seeking tranquility while indulging in reggae beats and mouthwatering cuisine. For wildlife lovers, Tortuguero National Park is a must-visit destination on this coast, renowned for its unparalleled turtle nesting sites and lush waterways teeming with flora and fauna.

This protected labyrinth of waterways and jungle offers an unparalleled opportunity to encounter Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity. Navigate the park’s canals on a boat tour, keeping your eyes peeled for monkeys, sloths, caimans, and countless bird species.

The real stars of the show, however, are the sea turtles that nest on Tortuguero’s beaches between July and October. You can witness these magnificent creatures lay their eggs under the moonlight — a truly unforgettable spectacle.

Ultimately, whether you choose to bask in the sun-soaked Pacific or sway to the rhythmic heartbeat of the Caribbean, both coasts promise unforgettable experiences that encapsulate the essence of pura vida.

Unwind on Gorgeous Beaches.

Things to do in Costa Rica? Swimming and soaking up the sun! The photo is taken from a small plane on the way to Little Corn Island. Corn Island and Little Corn Island are known for pure nature and paradise beaches, and they really are. However – getting there was an adventure of a lifetime!! Check my post on How to get to Little Corn Island?

Costa Rica’s stunning coastline offers a beach for everyone, from sun-bathing beauties to seasoned surfers. Sink your toes into the golden sands of the abovementioned Manuel Antonio National Park, where palm-fringed shores meet crystal-clear waters teeming with marine life.

If riding the waves is more your style, head to the surfer’s paradise of Tamarindo Beach, with its vibrant nightlife and perfect swells. Or, escape to the remote and tranquil shores of Santa Teresa, where you can reconnect with nature and yourself.

La Fortuna: A Gateway to Adventure and Natural Wonders.

Nestled amidst the lush landscapes of Costa Rica’s Northern Plains, La Fortuna reigns as a premier destination for adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

For one, this enchanting town serves as the gateway to the awe-inspiring Arenal Volcano National Park — a testament to Mother Nature’s fiery prowess and an iconic symbol of the region’s geological splendor. And, believe us, hiking Cerro Chato should definitely land on your Things to Do in Costa Rica list. Check my guide on Hiking Cerro Chato without a tour guide. Fabulous adventure!!

The allure of La Fortuna extends beyond its volcanic vistas, offering a treasure trove of natural attractions and thrilling activities to discover.


Plunge into the rejuvenating waters of the Tabacon Hot Springs or take a serene stroll through the lush gardens of the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. Either way, you will be satisfied with your choice.

Or, if you are looking for another type of experience, embark on an adrenaline-pumping adventure with whitewater rafting or zip-lining through the verdant rainforest canopy.

La Fortuna’s vibrant streets teem with lively restaurants, charming shops, and an array of accommodations that cater to every traveler’s needs. Whether your heart yearns for relaxation or exhilaration, La Fortuna promises an unforgettable experience that will leave you longing for more of Costa Rica’s enchanting allure. Check Things to do in La Fortuna – amazing wildlife and volcano hiking.

Explore the Enchanting Cloud Forests.

Elevate your Costa Rican experience by walking through the ethereal cloud forests, where otherworldly landscapes and a plethora of flora and fauna await. These high-altitude forests are characterized by their persistent mist, which shrouds the region in a surreal veil.

For adrenaline junkies, soar through the treetops on a thrilling zip-line tour while soaking up unparalleled vistas. Spend the night in an eco-lodge and breathe in the pure, misty air as you immerse yourself in this enchanting slice of heaven on Earth.

As if walking among the clouds isn’t magical enough, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve boasts a treasure trove of biodiversity that will leave nature enthusiasts spellbound. Traverse the lush, green canopy on hanging bridges, and marvel at the symphony of over 400 bird species, including the elusive resplendent quetzal. Bird-watching has never sounded that exciting!

As you meander along winding trails, breathe in the crisp air and marvel at the vibrant greenery draped in wisps of fog. Discover unique plants such as bromeliads, orchids, and mosses that thrive in this moist environment. A guided tour will ensure you don’t miss any of the hidden gems these mystical forests have to offer.

The great news is that there is more than just one cloud forest in Costa Rica.

For instance, the Central Highlands Cloud Forest is home to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, offering a spectacular display of enormous cascades for visitors to admire. Following this awe-inspiring experience, you can explore a wildlife showcase or delight in the captivating beauty of a butterfly sanctuary.

Dive Into a World of Adventure in Corcovado National Park.

Hailed as “the most biologically intense place on Earth,” Corcovado National Park is not for the faint of heart. Still, those who venture into this remote wilderness will be rewarded with pristine rainforests, deserted beaches, and an abundance of wildlife.

Trek along rugged hiking trails, spotting tapirs, jaguars, and scarlet macaws that call this park home. Embrace your inner explorer by camping under the stars or staying in an eco-lodge deep within the jungle.

There’s no better way to experience the raw beauty of Costa Rica than this!

Experience Authentic Costa Rican Culture.

If you visit Costa Rica for a taste of local life, ensure to allocate enough time to explore its many charming towns and villages.

Stroll through bustling markets in San José or immerse yourself in the Afro-Caribbean vibes of Puerto Limón. Savor traditional dishes like gallo pinto and casado, washed down with a refreshing agua de sapo.

Don’t forget to bring home a piece of Costa Rican culture by shopping for handcrafted souvenirs, such as painted oxcarts, pottery, and traditional masks. They will serve as a tangible reminder of your unforgettable journey.

Go Whitewater Rafting on the Pacuare River.

Thrill-seekers, rejoice!

Whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River near the Central Pacific coastpromises an adrenaline-pumping ride through lush tropical rainforests and deep gorges. Navigate Class III and IV rapids as you race downstream, surrounded by the chorus of howler monkeys and colorful toucans.

Combine your rafting adventure with a stay at a riverside eco-lodge or an exhilarating zip-line tour for the ultimate Costa Rican experience.

Soak in Natural Hot Springs.

After days filled with adventure, reward yourself by unwinding in one of Costa Rica‘s many geothermal hot springs. The mineral-rich waters, heated by underground volcanic activity, provide a soothing and rejuvenating experience for weary travelers.

The Arenal and Rincon de la Vieja regions boast some of the country’s most popular hot springs, ranging from luxurious, resort-style pools to more rustic, natural settings. For one, Tabacon Hot Springs, near the Arenal Volcano and the La Fortuna Waterfall, is one of the most beloved destinations there.

Besides relaxation, these thermal waters are believed to offer therapeutic benefits for various ailments. Soak your cares away and let the healing powers of nature restore your body and spirit!

Do a Worldpackers Experience in Costa Rica.

For a truly immersive Costa Rican experience, consider joining a Worldpackers program, where you can volunteer your time and skills in exchange for accommodation, food, and authentic cultural exchanges.

From helping out at eco-lodges and wildlife rescue centers to teaching English or working on organic farms, there’s a project that aligns with your passions and values.

A Worldpackers experience allows you to form deep connections with locals, contribute to sustainable initiatives, and gain invaluable insights into the Costa Rican way of life. It’s an enriching and transformative journey that will leave a lasting impact on both you and the communities you support.

Learning How to Make Coffee

As one of the world’s leading coffee producers, Costa Rica takes great pride in its beans and brewing techniques.

Delve into the fascinating world of coffee by visiting a local plantation, where you can learn about the entire process — from seed to cup. Embark on guided tours through lush fields, observe traditional harvesting methods, and discover the art of roasting beans to perfection.

But the real highlight is learning how to brew the perfect cup of Costa Rican coffee yourself. Participate in tastings and workshops that teach essential brewing techniques, such as using a chorreador or sifting coffee grounds through a cloth filter.

Armed with your newfound knowledge, you’ll be able to recreate a taste of Costa Rica back home and savor the memories of your incredible journey.

Costa Rica – extraordinary Central America gem!

With so many places to see and things to do in Costa Rica, it’s no wonder this country has captured the hearts of travelers worldwide.

Whether you’re exploring the depths of the jungle, joining a surf camp to ride waves on sun-soaked shores, trying horseback riding in the volcano area, or simply savoring the flavors of local cuisine, Costa Rica offers a little something for everyone.

So, pack your bags, grab your passport, and get ready to experience pura vida in this extraordinary Central American gem!

Wondering where this exploration of the North Pacific Coast will take you next? How about a cheap local bus that will take you from Costa Rica straight to Nicaragua?

Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!