Every year thousands of tourists from all over the world head to Costa Rica to experience some of the most beautiful parks, beaches, and natural wonders in the world. For such a small country Costa Rica has been blessed with more than it’s fair share of natural beauty and is dotted with sublime beaches and tropical national parks – great for visitors, but it can make choosing an itinerary challenging. Josh Linnes, an American expat living in Costa Rica who writes for Viva Tropical chooses his favourite most beautiful places to visit in Costa Rica…
The Rio de Celeste
With glowing milky blue waters it’s easy to understand why the Rio de Celeste is considered one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica. Inside of the Tenorio Volcano National Park, the Rio de Celeste gets its opalescent hue from the mix of sulfur and calcium carbonate from the volcano. Enjoy the river by playing in the waterfall or soaking in the hot springs.
Playa Conchal is consistently rated one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. The white sand beach is made of millions of crushed seashells and the water is perfectly clear for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. It may be on the Pacific Coast, but the water and sand will fool you into thinking you’re on the Caribbean. The nearby towns of Playa Brasilito and Playa Flamingo have hotels and accommodations.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
There is a reason why Monteverde is one of the most tourist-frequented places in all of Costa Rica: it is unbelievably beautiful. Beautiful national parks with undisturbed cloud forest, hundreds of species of birds, epic views, and volcanoes make it an eco lovers dream. The outdoor activities here are truly endless including hikes through the cloud forest, bird watching where you can spot the endangered Quetzal, canopy tours, walking across a suspension bridge, touring butterfly gardens, horseback riding, and simply relaxing and enjoying nature from the quaint town of Santa Elena.
Playa Uvita’s Whale Tail
Just south of the Marino Ballena National Park which has regular whale sightings, is the stunning sandbar known as the Whale’s Tail at Playa Uvita. When the tide is low a sandbar emerges that extends out into the ocean like a whale tail shaped peninsula. The town has plenty of bars and restaurants and is a great place for whale watching during mating season.
Across the country on the Caribbean is the mangrove forest and turtle nesting site of Tortuguero. This is one of the most diverse parks in the country with canals, beaches, and marshland. You can rent kayaks or canoes and explore the wetlands, spotting all kinds of wildlife like caymans, birds, even crocodiles. This part is most famous for its turtle hatching which happens on the beach at night.
Corcovado National Park
National Geographic named the Osa Peninsula the most intense place on earth in terms of biodiversity. Corcovado National Park, and particularly the area surrounding the La Sirena River is truly undisturbed Costa Rican wilderness. The beaches are wild and stunning with sharks and crocodiles swimming at the river mouth. Animals like pumas, peccary, monkeys, and tapirs live in the jungle and are sighted often. Old growth trees and gorgeous flowers are everywhere. This park truly embodies the pure jungle beauty of Costa Rica.
Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
On the far south Caribbean coast next to Panama is the Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Its gorgeous hidden beaches are perfect for snorkeling when the sun shines and the sea becomes flat and loved by surfers during the storms and big swells. The golden sand and turquoise ocean is distinctly Caribbean. The jungle is filled with all kinds of incredible animals including howler monkeys, sloths, and if you go deep enough, jaguars.
Arenal may be the most popular active volcano in Costa Rica, but Poas just an hour outside of San Jose is one of the most beautiful places in the entire country. In the center of the main volcano crater is a blue green lake that emits bubbles and smoke. The park surrounding the volcano is dense with wildlife, cloud forest, and rain forest. On a clear day you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts from the top of the volcano.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio is consistently listed as the top wilderness beach in Costa Rica. The undeveloped, jungle-surrounded beaches are stunning with white sand and blue green water. Wildlife spotting is easy here, the monkeys and lizards often cover the beach and during mating season you can see dolphins and whales offshore.
One of the most incredible sights in Costa Rica, if not in the world, is the arribada of hundreds of thousands of leatherback turtles on the beaches of the Ostional Wildlife Refuge. The week before the new moon hundreds to hundreds of thousands of female turtles come onto the shore at night to lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch several weeks later participants come down to the beach to protect them from dogs and vultures as they make their way back out to the sea.
Costa Rica is an unbelievably beautiful country with many wonders to explore. While this list is our favorite, you really can’t go wrong with the gorgeous beaches, wildlife parks, and incredible mountains and volcanoes. Enjoy!
Written by Josh Linnes, an American expat living in Costa Rica. He writes for Viva Tropical and is the founder of property investment company Emerging Terrains. You can reach him on Google+. Park Wilson – founder of VivaTropcial – shares the experience he’s gained as an American Expat living in Panama. Read his 6 Tips for Expats to find our more about the Tropical Life.