The ten best places to go in Costa Rica in
no particular order
This is a subjective list—it's our opinions—so we can't
possibly be wrong. If your opinion differs and you'd like to contribute
let us know.
Park—One of the best places in the world to trek in the tropical
rainforest, Corcovado has everything visitors to Costa Rica are looking
for. The rise of small lodges means access is becoming easier for
those who don't want to slog through the sucking mud with a pack
back, but the interior will always pay dividends to those who travel
under their own power.
Palo Verde National
Park—is a relatively undiscovered jewel
in the Costa Rican park system. The bird population, both native
and migratory is spectacular. The trail system leaves something to
be desired, but this certainly means fewer crowds, and there are
a number of areas that can be explored by boat.
La Fortuna de Bagaces— Unlike its famous cousin to the east
that it replaces on our list, there is essentially no tourist infrastructure
in this sleepy hamlet between volcáns Miravalles and Rincón
de la Vieja. There is easy access to beautiful swimming holes at
the base of spectacular waterfalls, and incredible forests, the geysers
and mud pots of Las Hornillas reminiscent of Yellowstone, abundant
natural hotsprings, and a bull ring that still sees sabaneros meet
their match in the corridas de toros.
Caverns—Not everyone is interested in spelunking,
but those who are will appreciate the pristine condition of these
caves. The small vertical entrances have protected these limestone
caverns for millennia, first from discovery, then from entry by all
but the most intrepid explorers.
Santa Rosa National
Park—Daniel Janzen and his wife Winnie
Hallwachs initiated a crusade over two decades ago that resulted
in an incredible gift to the world. Santa Rosa National Park protects
and provides a mechanism for restoration of perhaps the only significant
tropical dry forest in the world that will survive our generation.
The main campsites at the headquarters and on playa naranjo serve
as jumping off points for extended explorations, La Casona is an
important historical landmark, and witches rock marks the location
of a surfer's paradise.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca—Reggae provides the backbeat along
the beaches and main street of this Caribbean village. Peppery fresh
fish dishes, coconut curries, and fragrant spiced breads fill your
plate. Sloths, monkeys, and birds abound in Cahuita National Park
and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge up and down the coast
Wilson Botanical Gardens—The gardens at Las Cruces Biological
station are only one of the rewards awaiting travelers who make the
effort to visit the southern most reaches of Costa Rica.
Caño Negro wildlife refuge—Nature cruises through these
wetlands are quite popular now, but don't worry there are thousands
of acres to explore. A boat trip here or in Tortuguero, or Damas
estuary is certainly the easiest and maybe the best way to see a
lot of wildlife on your visit to Costa Rica.
Cerro Chirripó—Quite possibly our favorite place. The
strenuous climb through seven distinct ecosystems allows you to experience
most of Costa Rica's inland natural history in a single day. There
are a growing number of visitors, but nearly all of them stick to
the main route to the refugio under the peak. If you want a true
Costa Rican wilderness experience there's still thousands of virgin
National Park—We hear complaints nearly every
day that Manuel Antonio has been ruined by development and overcrowding.
While it has changed significantly in the three decades since it
was established, it's still one of the best places to visit in Costa
Rica. Crowded is a relative term, Manuel Antonio is twice the size
of New York City's central park, but visitors are limited to 600
at a time. The development allows for easy access for those who might
not otherwise have the opportunity to explore one of the last patches
of tropical wet forest.
Monteverde—This private reserve provides the easiest access
to the cloud forests, and an infrastructure of guides and resources
to help you make the most of your visit. Like Manuel Antonio, it
has gained tremendously in popularity, but has much less chance of
being loved to death. Monteverde is much larger, the cool, wet, windy
weather means shorter visits, and as a private reserve it has better
funding than most of the National Parks. Despite the growth in tourism
in the surrounding community, a few hundred yards off the main loop
(el triangulo) you're unlikely to see anyone else on the trail.