12 Most Beautiful Places in Costa Rica to Visit

by Jen
Most Beautiful Places in Costa Rica to Visit
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Are you considering visiting Costa Rica this year? Here are some of the most beautiful places to visit in Costa Rica. These breathtaking sights and destinations will astound you.

Costa Rica, a jewel tucked away in the heart of Central America, is renowned for its staggering beauty and untouched nature. As a tourist destination brimming with adventure and tranquility, Costa Rica offers vibrant colors and unparalleled biodiversity.

The most beautiful places in Costa Rica are straight out of an artist’s canvas, painted with vivid greens of the tropical rainforests, the azure of the endless skies, and the gold of sun-kissed beaches. There are countless places to visit in Costa Rica, each unique in its splendor and capable of leaving you breathless.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or a history buff eager to explore the most beautiful cities in Costa Rica, the country’s diverse landscapes provide a scenic playground for every kind of explorer.

With a landmass smaller than West Virginia, Costa Rica is teeming with wonders well beyond its size. Each visit reveals another chapter of its captivating story. If you’re wondering where to go in Costa Rica or pondering the best places in Costa Rica, consider this your comprehensive guide to this slice of paradise.

From cloud-forests and volcanic hot springs to historic towns and dazzling coasts, we’ve curated a list of Costa Rica’s beautiful places that are a must-see. Prepare to be enthralled, because you’re about to embark on a virtual tour of the prettiest places in Costa Rica.

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Here’s your introduction to the beautiful places of Costa Rica that you should add to your itinerary.

The top places to visit in Costa Rica right now
This article on the most beautiful places in Costa Rica contains affiliate links where I may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Costa Rica

Ready to immerse yourself in all the most attractive locations in Costa Rica? As highlighted above, there’s something for everyone in this slice of Central America. So continue reading to discover the incredible scenery in Costa Rica.

Are you in search of picturesque city and cultural attractions? Or would you prefer a tranquil retreat in nature? Whatever your plans might be, Costa Rica can meet your needs. Here are all the best spots in Costa Rica you should be aware of:

1. Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna

One of the most pretty places in Costa Rica, the Arenal Volcano, towers majestically over the surrounding rainforest, creating a breathtaking backdrop. Its near-perfect conical shape and the surrounding lushness make it one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

Here, you can embark on a thrilling hike on the Arenal Volcano National Park’s trails or try the unforgettable experience of soaking in naturally heated hot springs, courtesy of the volcano’s geothermal activity. La Fortuna Waterfall, another gem of the area, adds to Arenal’s allure with its clear waters plunging into an emerald pool.

The nearby town of La Fortuna adds to the charm. It offers a gateway to this natural spectacle and a host of outdoor activities. White-water rafting, zip-lining, and wildlife spotting are just a few of the thrilling experiences awaiting you here. The welcoming locals and vibrant culture make it one of the must-see places when visiting Costa Rica.

This perfect blend of natural beauty, adventure, and culture truly makes the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna some of the most scenic places in Costa Rica and a must on every traveler’s itinerary.

Arenal Volcano is one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica.
Arenal Volcano: Costa Rica’s majestic centerpiece amid lush rainforests.

2. Manuel Antonio National Park

An undeniable paradise, Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica. Despite being the smallest national park in the country, it is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. It offers an abundance of wildlife and stunning natural beauty.

Manuel Antonio is a delight for nature enthusiasts. It hosts a vibrant ecosystem teeming with capuchin monkeys, three-toed sloths, iguanas, and countless bird species. Hiking trails wind through the lush rainforest, leading to breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The park is also home to some of the prettiest places in Costa Rica, with four picturesque, white-sand beaches framed by verdant jungles.

The nearby town of Quepos serves as a gateway to this natural haven. It offers plenty of options for accommodations, dining, and shopping.

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Manuel Antonio’s diverse beauty and abundant wildlife make it one of those beautiful places in Costa Rica you simply can’t afford to miss when visiting Costa Rica.

Manuel Antonio: Nature lover's paradise with diverse wildlife, scenic trails, and pristine Pacific beaches.
Manuel Antonio: Nature lover’s paradise with diverse wildlife, scenic trails, and pristine Pacific beaches.

3. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, nestled high in Costa Rica’s Tilaran Mountains, is an enchanting world shrouded in a persistent ethereal mist. It’s one of the most scenic places in Costa Rica, and its otherworldly beauty makes it an absolute must-see.

Renowned for its incredible biodiversity, the reserve is home to over 2,500 plant species, 400 bird species. This includes the resplendent quetzal, and a vast variety of other wildlife. Hike along well-marked trails, exploring this unique ecosystem where every step introduces a new marvel of nature.

To fully appreciate the awe-inspiring spectacle of this dense forest, don’t miss the Sky Walk, a series of hanging bridges that offer panoramic views from the treetops. The Sky Tram and Sky Trek, a thrilling zip-line tour through the canopy, are for those seeking a shot of adrenaline.

The nearby village of Santa Elena provides charming accommodations and acts as a gateway to the cloud forest. Its unique location, rich biodiversity, and opportunities for exploration make Monteverde one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica.

Enchanting misty realm in Costa Rica's Tilaran Mountains is an absolute must-see for its ethereal beauty.
Enchanting misty realm in Costa Rica’s Tilaran Mountains is an absolute must-see for its ethereal beauty.

4. Tamarindo

Sitting along the Pacific Coast, Tamarindo is a sun-soaked beach town that makes for one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica and one of the best places to visit for ocean lovers. Its wide sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and breathtaking sunsets create a postcard-perfect scene.

Famed for its excellent surf conditions, Tamarindo attracts wave-chasers from around the world. If you’re a novice surfer, several surf schools along the beach offer lessons. Beyond the surf, Tamarindo is an excellent base for sport fishing, snorkeling, and sea kayaking.

Tamarindo’s appeal extends beyond the beach. Visit the Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge, a mangrove ecosystem that you can explore by kayak or on a boat tour. Look out for crocodiles, monkeys, and a diverse range of bird species.

When the day’s adventures are over, the town comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. With an array of dining options and lively beach bars, Tamarindo is a pretty place in Costa Rica that combines natural beauty with an energetic spirit.

Tamarindo is Costa Rica's beach paradise with sun, sand, and stunning sunsets.
Tamarindo is Costa Rica’s beach paradise with sun, sand, and stunning sunsets.

5. Tortuguero National Park

Known as the “Amazon of Costa Rica,” Tortuguero National Park is a beautiful place in Costa Rica that is an absolute must on every nature lover’s list. This unique area, only accessible by boat or plane, is one of the most scenic places in Costa Rica. It offers a different perspective of the country’s diverse landscapes.

The park is a labyrinth of natural canals and lagoons, which you can explore on guided boat tours. Expect to see an array of wildlife including caimans, manatees, monkeys, and a dizzying variety of bird species. The dense, lush greenery surrounding the waterways is simply captivating.

However, what truly sets Tortuguero apart is its status as a crucial nesting site for sea turtles. Between July and October, visitors have the unique opportunity to witness green turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs—a truly unforgettable sight.

With its rich biodiversity, remote beauty, and the special experience it offers, Tortuguero National Park holds its own as one of the most beautiful places of Costa Rica.

Tortuguero National Park: Costa Rica's essential remote nature gem.
Tortuguero National Park: Costa Rica’s essential remote nature gem.

6. Corcovado National Park

Recognized as “the most biologically intense place on Earth” by National Geographic, Corcovado National Park is an absolute must-see when visiting Costa Rica. Covering much of the Osa Peninsula, this park is one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica and a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.

Its undisturbed ecosystems are home to over 400 species of birds, 140 species of mammals, and numerous reptiles and amphibians. This is one of the few places in Costa Rica where you can spot all four native monkey species and perhaps even catch a glimpse of an elusive jaguar or tapir.

Wander through the park’s well-maintained trails, which lead you through pristine beaches, cascading waterfalls, and dense jungle. You might find yourself sharing the path with coatis, macaws, or anteaters.

Whether you’re an amateur naturalist, a birdwatcher, or just an admirer of nature, Corcovado National Park is undeniably one of the best places in Costa Rica and a testament to the country’s astonishing biodiversity.

Corcovado National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica.
Corcovado National Park houses Costa Rica’s wildlife wonders, from elusive jaguars to native monkey species.

7. Puerto Viejo and the South Caribbean Coast

Immerse yourself in the relaxed Caribbean vibes at Puerto Viejo and the South Caribbean Coast. Both are undoubtedly some of the prettiest places in Costa Rica. This area is a charming blend of beautiful beaches, lush jungle, and a rich Afro-Caribbean culture.

Puerto Viejo is a vibrant seaside town known for its surf scene, especially the world-renowned Salsa Brava waves. But it’s not just for surfers; with its turquoise waters and white sand, Punta Uva Beach is one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica for a lazy beach day.

Further down the coast, the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is a nature lover’s paradise. Here, you can hike through tropical rainforests, explore the mangroves by canoe, or snorkel in the coral reefs. The refuge is home to an array of wildlife. This includes dolphins, manatees, and numerous tropical birds.

With their laid-back atmosphere, natural beauty, and unique cultural blend, Puerto Viejo and the South Caribbean Coast are undoubtedly beautiful places to visit in Costa Rica.

Discover Puerto Viejo and the South Caribbean's allure with stunning beaches, lush jungle, and vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture.
Discover Puerto Viejo and the South Caribbean’s allure with stunning beaches, lush jungle, and vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture.

8. Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Famed for its unique landscapes, Rincon de la Vieja National Park stands as one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica for nature and adventure lovers. Home to the active Rincon de la Vieja Volcano and a number of dormant craters, this park offers a different flavor of natural beauty.

The park’s diverse topography includes cloud forests, tropical dry forests, waterfalls, and hot springs. Embark on the Las Pailas trail to explore the park’s volcanic features. This includes bubbling mud pots, steam vents, and hot springs. Or take the more challenging path to the volcano summit for a view you won’t forget.

Adding to its allure, the park is home to a variety of wildlife. This includes howler monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, and over 300 species of birds. Don’t miss the beautiful Oropendola Waterfall, which plunges into a bright blue pool. This makes it a unique place to visit in Costa Rica.

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For its geological wonders, diverse flora and fauna, and adventure opportunities, Rincon de la Vieja is undoubtedly a must-see when visiting Costa Rica.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park is Costa Rica's adventure and nature gem, with unique landscapes and an active volcano.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park is Costa Rica’s adventure and nature gem, with unique landscapes and an active volcano.

9. Guanacaste Province

For beach lovers and surf enthusiasts, Guanacaste Province stands as a unique place to visit in Costa Rica. It’s home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the country, stretching over 200 kilometers along the Pacific Coast.

The area’s dry tropical climate and long stretches of sand attract sun worshippers and those in search of the perfect wave. Popular beach towns like Tamarindo, Playas del Coco, and Playa Flamingo offer a lively atmosphere with plenty of entertainment, dining, and accommodation options.

Further inland, Rincon de la Vieja National Park presents an entirely different but equally captivating side of Guanacaste. Here, you can witness volcanic activity, hike through the forest, and discover a stunning variety of wildlife.

Guanacaste Province is a haven for beach lovers and surfers along Costa Rica's stunning Pacific Coast.
Guanacaste Province is a haven for beach lovers and surfers along Costa Rica’s stunning Pacific Coast.

10. Ballena Marine National Park

The Ballena Marine National Park is a beautiful place in Costa Rica, especially if you’re a fan of marine life. Located on the South Pacific coast, this marine park was established to protect the coral reefs and marine ecosystems.

In the shape of a whale’s tail at low tide, Uvita Beach is the park’s most famous feature. The park gets its name from the humpback whales that migrate here each year from both North and South America.

Aside from the whale watching, the park is also a great spot for snorkeling and diving, with many colorful reef fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and other marine creatures to see.

Ballena Marine National Park is a haven for marine enthusiasts, dedicated to safeguarding coral reefs and ocean ecosystems.
Ballena Marine National Park is a haven for marine enthusiasts, dedicated to safeguarding coral reefs and ocean ecosystems.

12. Irazú Volcano National Park

Costa Rica is known for its volcanoes, and one of the most impressive is the Irazú Volcano in Irazú Volcano National Park. Standing as the tallest active volcano in Costa Rica, its summit offers breathtaking views that stretch all the way to both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea on clear days.

The landscape in the park is a stark contrast to the typical tropical scenery found in Costa Rica. Instead of lush greenery, you’ll find moon-like craters and stark, barren landscapes due to the volcanic activity.

A visit to the Irazú Volcano National Park provides a unique and memorable experience. This makes it a must-see in Costa Rica.

The towering Irazú Volcano provides stunning views to both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea from its summit.
The towering Irazú Volcano provides stunning views to both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea from its summit.

12. San José

San José, the capital of Costa Rica, is often overlooked by travelers but is a beautiful city in Costa Rica that’s worth exploring. It truly offers an interesting mix of modernity and tradition, with a burgeoning art scene, historic architecture, and vibrant nightlife.

Start your exploration at the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. It’s a home to an impressive collection of gold artifacts that tell the story of Costa Rica’s indigenous cultures. Nearby, the National Theatre of Costa Rica is an architectural marvel and a symbol of the city’s cultural heritage.

Don’t miss the vibrant Central Market, where you can sample local cuisine and shop for unique souvenirs. For a breath of fresh air, head to La Sabana Metropolitan Park, a large urban park considered the “lungs of San José”.

San José might not have the beaches and jungles, but its lively culture and history make it one of the prettiest places in Costa Rica to visit.

San José, Costa Rica's capital, combines modernity and tradition with art, architecture, and vibrant nightlife.
San José, Costa Rica’s capital, combines modernity and tradition with art, architecture, and vibrant nightlife.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Visiting the Beautiful Places in Costa Rica

Looking to broaden your understanding of the most scenic spots in Costa Rica? Here are some common questions I frequently receive about the best Costa Rican attractions and activities.

Which side of Costa Rica is the most beautiful?

Costa Rica’s beauty is widespread, and both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country offer distinct and stunning landscapes. It often depends on personal preferences and what kind of experience you’re looking for:

  • Pacific Coast: Known for its dramatic cliffs, extensive coastline, surfing spots, and popular tourist destinations like Manuel Antonio National Park and Guanacaste. This side offers a variety of activities and beautiful beaches, some with unique dark volcanic sand.
  • Caribbean Coast: Known for its laid-back vibe, lush rainforests, exotic wildlife, and beautiful white-sand beaches like Puerto Viejo and Tortuguero. This side of Costa Rica has a rich Afro-Caribbean influence, and its coral reefs are fantastic for snorkeling and diving.

Both sides offer opportunities to explore rich biodiversity, from witnessing sea turtles nesting to hiking in the cloud forests. Your preference between the two might depend on factors like the type of beaches you prefer, cultural interests, desired activities (surfing vs snorkeling), or even the time of year, as the weather can differ between the two coasts.

For a well-rounded experience, many travelers choose to explore both sides to fully appreciate the diverse beauty Costa Rica has to offer.

What is the best time to visit Costa Rica?

Costa Rica can be visited year-round, but the best time for a visit depends on what you want to do. For the best weather, the dry season from mid-December to April, known as verano (summer), is ideal. However, the green season, from May to November, is less crowded and more affordable.

Do I need a visa to visit Costa Rica?

Visitors from the U.S., Canada, and most European countries do not require a visa for stays up to 90 days. However, your passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of entry into Costa Rica.

What currency is used in Costa Rica?

The official currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón. However, U.S. dollars and credit cards are widely accepted in most tourist areas.

Is Costa Rica safe for tourists?

Yes, Costa Rica is generally considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s recommended to take standard safety precautions.

Aerial shot of San José, Costa Rica, with cityscape blending into surrounding mountains and tropical landscape.
Aerial shot of San José, Costa Rica, with cityscape blending into surrounding mountains and tropical landscape.

What is the #1 tourist attraction in Costa Rica?

It’s difficult to pinpoint a single #1 tourist attraction in Costa Rica, as the country is famous for its diverse ecosystems and wide variety of activities. However, one of the most renowned and often-visited locations is the Arenal Volcano.

The Arenal Volcano National Park is home to the impressive Arenal Volcano, a nearly perfect cone-shaped volcano that stands at 5,357 feet. Visitors can explore the lush rainforest through hiking trails, go on bird-watching tours, enjoy hot springs fueled by the volcano’s geothermal energy, and partake in adventure sports like zip-lining and white-water rafting nearby.

This region provides a blend of natural beauty and exciting activities that attract tourists from all over the world, making it one of Costa Rica’s must-see destinations.

What language is spoken in Costa Rica?

The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish. However, English is widely spoken in many tourist areas.

What is the prettiest area in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica’s beauty is diverse and spread across the country, so the “prettiest” area can vary depending on individual preferences. However, popular choices often include the cloud forests of Monteverde, the stunning Arenal Volcano area, and the pristine beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park.

Is Costa Rica one of the most beautiful places in the world?

Costa Rica’s stunning biodiversity, varied landscapes, and commitment to conservation certainly make it one of the most beautiful places in the world. With its rainforests, volcanoes, beautiful beaches, and diverse wildlife, it offers a slice of paradise for every type of traveler.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Beautiful Places in Costa Rica

From its vibrant cities to its stunning natural beauty, Costa Rica truly is a jewel in the heart of Central America. Each destination on our list of most beautiful places in Costa Rica offers a unique slice of the country’s abundant charm and biodiversity. Whether it’s the untamed wilderness of Corcovado National Park, the surf-worthy waves of Tamarindo, the ethereal beauty of Monteverde’s cloud forests, or the lively culture of San José, each location is a testament to Costa Rica’s breathtaking allure.

But these beautiful places of Costa Rica represent just the tip of the iceberg. The real magic of Costa Rica lies in the warmth of its people, its Pura Vida philosophy, and the adventures waiting to be discovered around every corner. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a culture vulture, an adrenaline junkie, or simply looking to unwind, you’ll find your paradise here.

Costa Rica is a place that will not just satisfy your wanderlust but inspire it. After all, isn’t that the true spirit of travel? So pack your bags, book that ticket, and experience first-hand why Costa Rica is often touted as one of the most beautiful places in the world.

The most beautiful places in Costa Rica for all types of travelers
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