Costa Rica Travel Blog & Overview
Costa Rica is a beautiful country and contains thousands of species of plants and animals. The landscapes here will make you drool - we're talking volcanos, lush jungle, intense waterfalls, mountains, reefs, and sandy beaches. If you are planning a trip, the longer the better as there is too much to explore! We spent 10 days and it wasn't even close to enough. Read on to explore the best Costa Rica attractions!
Where to Stay - It really comes down to East Coast vs West Coast. The East Coast is super laid back, has a Caribbean vibe, less touristy, and much cheaper compared to western Costa Rica. The West coast is more touristy and slightly more expensive but has loads to do. The west side contains more shops, activities, restaurants, and resorts compared to the eastern side. If staying on the Caribbean side I recommend the Puerto Viejo area. On the Pacific side there are plenty of options, but we loved the Manuel Antonio area. Its really tough choice between the two because they each offer a unique experience; if you have the time, do both!
When to Go - Costa Rica is in the tropics and it rains almost everyday. Most people travel to Costa Rica from December - March. We tend to prefer going during the off season (rainy season) in late summer/early fall. The rainy season isn't as bad as some might think, for us it would rain everyday but it wouldn't start until around 5pm. This gave us enough time to complete all of our activities for the day before the rain started. Besides, off season travel is one way you can travel the world for much, much cheaper.
Getting Around - Costa Rica is a great place to get a rental car so you can explore everything the country has to offer. Be sure to get a SUV with 4 wheel drive as many of the roads are in rough shape and there are plenty of dirt roads (and even river crossings) in some locations as well. Be aware it can take quite a bit of time to travel small distances in Costa Rica. GPS is usually wrong. Be sure to download and use the Waze app for directions as it's the most accurate!
Cost - Costa Rica in general is not very expensive in comparison with the USA. The Caribbean side of the country is definitely the cheapest. A beer here is $1-2, meals are $5-8. The Pacific side is slightly more expensive.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Best Costa Rica Attractions on the East Coast
Puerto Viejo - A quaint town with a laid back Caribbean vibe and has some great restaurants and beaches. I would recommend a half day exploring the town and another half day to full day exploring the surrounding beaches.
Punta Uva Beach - Great beach that is usually not too crowded. Got some cool drone shots here! Pic Below!
Cahuita National Park - A gorgeous national park that runs along the ocean. There's a really cool beach trail where we saw tons of monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife. This park was not busy at all when we went, which is a huge plus for us!
Tortuguero National Park - A little further north, this is a wild park where you can see tons of sea turtles, snakes, alligators, sloths, and more.
Go Horseback Riding - There are a couple guides that give guided horseback tours through the jungle and on the beach. ITS AN INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE! DO IT! Our guide pointed out wildlife we wouldn't never seen on our own.
Cahuita National Park
Punta Uva Beach
Best Costa Rica Attractions on the West Coast...
Manuel Antonio National Park - Incredible beaches and beautiful wildlife. You will not regret it. Beware of the tourist traps just outside the park. Also, driving up to the park there may be people dressed as park rangers or police in the road telling you to pay obscene amounts for parking. Just drive past them. I believe we told them we were going to our hotel that was nearby.
Nauyaca Waterfalls - This double waterfall is massively stunning, the pictures below don't even do it justice. You have to pay a small entrance fee to get here and I highly recommend taking their truck to the falls as the hike is quite strenuous and long; you'd probably need at least 4 hours to hike it. Take the truck and you can have more time to enjoy the falls.
Take a Surfing Lesson - There are a ton of sleepy surfer towns along the Pacific Coast and plenty of opportunities to learn how to surf.
Go Parasailing - This was our first time parasailing and it was incredible. Nothing beats flying calmly in the air over some of the most beautiful beaches in Central America. We highly recommend Aquas Azueles - We had an unforgettable experience with them.
Monteverde Cloud Forest - Costa Rica cloud forests are some of the most biodiverse places on earth and you will see all kinds of beautiful birds and even some rare orchids. We didn't get to check this one off the list when we went because we BOTH got sick but we're already planning our trip back to see this.
Arenal Volcano - Costa Rica is home to several active volcanos. Arenal is one of the most visited due to its proximity to San Jose Airport and is an easy day trip from the capital.
Corcovado National Park - If you are looking for a truly wild experience, head to Corcovado National Park. The best way to get there is to fly using one of Costa Rica's budget airlines. This area is almost totally off the grid and home to many species such as the elusive jaguar! This would be a great place to do some backpacking in Costa Rica.
Honestly, these are just a few of the best Costa Rica attractions out there. Costa Rica is truly an amazing country and is in our top 3 countries in the world. If you haven't been, just go!