When it comes to places to visit in Costa Rica it’s difficult to know quite where to start.
Costa Rica, is such a diverse country and so much of the country is aimed at tourists that there are so many things to do and so many places to visit in Costa Rica that you couldn’t possibly do it all in six months.
I visited for a month the first time and barely managed to scrape the surface!
So the first thing you need to think about before you visit Costa Rica is in the ideal world — what would you like from your vacation ?
Costa Rican Nature
Do you want to lie by a pool or on the beach? Do you want the action and adventure of zip lines, rock climbing and surfing?
Do you want to see some Costa Rican nature — with all the plants and animals that comes with such a diverse place.
Do you want to experience culture? Or do you want to see some amazing views? You can accomplish all of these things and more and frankly entire guide books have been written on the places to visit in Costa Rica so I could never hope to cover everything.
But maybe I can just help draw your attention to a few particular highlights that will give you thought-provoking food and may help kick start your research before your trip.
Yes, Arenal and nearby La Fortuna are a tourist trap so be aware of that before you go, but seeing the largest active volcano in Costa Rica is an experience whatever your interests may be.
You can stay in hotels where your room looks out at the perfect dome and a guide takes you deep into the park at dusk where you can see lava and red-hot rocks rolling down the volcano’s outside.
The direction of the flow varies periodically, so check how it flows before booking if you want a hotel from where you can see lava.
One of a number of nature reserves, Manuel Antonio is not only the only place you’re likely to see squirrel monkeys in the whole of Costa Rica but it also has the most jaw droppingly beautiful beach.
Also, because you have to pay to enter the National Park, the beach isn’t over-run with tourists generally so you can really enjoy it.
Monte Verde Cloud Forest
Ignore the Lonely Planet guide and go for Monte Verde rather than the rather dull (and badly run) Santa Elena park.
Way up in the mountains Monte Verde is a challenge to get to, but is the most amazing experience to see clouds rolling though the forest infront of you.
Wildlife abounds and the facilities are good. Toilets, guides and a restaurant mean you can go wild in nature and then be back for a civilized lunch just a few hours later.
An inland river system best accessed by boat bring out a guide and you’ll possibly see such wildlife as manatees and the most impressive of them all-wild turtles coming ashore to lay eggs.
Different species next at different times of the year but this is one of the best places in the world if you want the heart-stoping experience of seeing a wild turtle.
Take the climb up to Costa Rica’s highest peak which will take a full day.
Hot and tiring yes, but because of its height the summit has all kinds of animals and plants you just won’t see anywhere else in Costa Rica.
What’s more, the time and effort it takes to get to the top means only the most hardy individuals make it — so enjoy being able to separate yourself from the “average” tourist who didn’t make it!
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