There are so many beautiful places in Costa Rica that it’s hard to cover them all- but I’ve attempted to do just that!
After visiting this gorgeous country twice and doing extensive research, I’ve come up with a list of 41 of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica!
Of course, you’ll find more beautiful spots as you explore this gem of a country. But hopefully, you’ll find this list to be a great jumping-off point as you plan your trip to Costa Rica (or plan your bucket list!).
From beaches and volcanoes to wildlife refuges and waterfalls- Costa Rica has them all!
Here are what I have chosen as the best of the best. And if you see something I haven’t mentioned, please share it in the comments below!
Map of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica
With almost 800 miles of coastline- and 300 beaches!- Costa Rica has no shortage of sand and shore. Here are some of the prettiest beaches that have made my list of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica!
1. Bahia Ballena
This wild beach is located inside Ballena National Marine Park, a prime location to spot incredible animals that call Costa Rica home.
From December to March, the area is known to be one of the best places to watch the annual migration of humpback whales!
Of course, there are plenty of other creatures that call this beach home, from iguanas to blue-footed boobies, to tourists who arrive here year rounds to take in the exotic wildlife.
2. Del Coco Beach
Affectionately known as El Coco by locals, Del Coco Beach was always a top choice for rest and relaxation for Costa Ricans!
Over time, this long scenic beach has become a tourist hub. It draws countless visitors every year thanks to its proximity to Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport.
There is plenty to do at this Pacific beach from oceanfront dining to deep-sea diving and a little bit of sunbathing on the Costa Rican sand.
3. Playa Conchal
Like snowflakes, no two beaches in Costa Rica are alike, and Playa Conchal certainly stands out from its neighbors.
The special ingredient at this Gold Coast beach is the sand made up of fragments of seashells!
The middle of the beach is separated by a large rocky mound, music to the ears of snorkelers who will find the area teeming with tropical fish.
4. Mal Pais and Playa Santa Teresa
A miniature tale of two cities, Mal Pais (translates to Bad Land or Country) and Santa Teresa are neighboring towns with entirely different beach vibes!
While Mal Pais is popular with nature lovers for its jagged rocky shore and sleepy fishing village vibe, Santa Teresa has become a beacon to surfers and aspiring yogi.
5. Nosara and Playa Guiones
Nosara is considered one of the oldest expat communities in the country, and there are several reasons why foreigners have flocked here for decades.
It could be the pristine beaches along the coast or one of the most consistent surf breaks in the world!
You’ll notice a running theme to Costa Rica as a haven for surfers, and Nosara does not disappoint. Perfect surfing for all fitness levels can be had almost daily.
6. Drake Bay
Drake Bay is a bit of a challenge to get to. Until recently, it was only accessible by water, and it remains a very remote place with a small population of 1,000 people.
There are a few reasons one might come to Drake Bay, but the main one is tranquility!
As with other Costa Rican bays, you can spot humpback whales during their annual migration or charter a fishing boat for some great deep sea fishing far off the coast.
7. Playa Jaco
Halfway along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, Jaco invites you to come for the beach, but stay for the food and nightlife!
While Playa Jaco is not one of the best known or fondest, it is an excellent hub for water sports, nature excursions, and some of the best food.
8. Playa Ostional
Playa Ostional is more than sand and surf; it is also a nursery.
Every year, from July to December, Ridley turtles make the sand their nest and lay eggs all along the beach!
The area is protected by conservationists who oversee the limited legal turtle egg harvesting (they are a local delicacy) and make sure that the turtles make it to the ocean after hatching.
9. Playa Samara
The calm waters in the bay of Playa Samara are perfect for families traveling to Costa Rica.
Though it is one of the many semi-remote beaches along Costa Rica’s shoreline, Playa Samara is not quite wild, but that doesn’t mean wildlife won’t make an appearance. Monkeys and iguanas can be seen along the tree line from time to time!
10. Playa Uvita
You will know this beach when you see it. Playa Uvita has a distinct whale-tail shaped geographic feature made up of sand jutting out into the water.
You can walk down the sandbar straight into the water far from the shore. Capuchin monkeys roam the tree line at the edge of the beach while beginners learn to surf the bay’s calm waters.
In the photo above you can see the Uvita region along the Costanera highway.
11. Tamarindo, Playa Langosta and Playa Grande
Often lumped together, this area along Tamarindo Bay has everything you need for a perfect getaway along the country’s Gold Coast.
Tamarindo is the center of activity and where you can stay and stock up on supplies. To the north, Playa Grande is the nesting ground for massive leatherback turtles.
And to the south, Playa Langosta is an excellent location for surfing and spotting howler monkeys.
Parks & Volcanoes
Between its many volcanoes and national parks, there is no shortage of rugged, natural beauty in Costa Rica. See which volcanoes and parks made it on my list of most beautiful places in Costa Rica!
12. Arenal Volcano
Arenal is one of Costa Rica’s five (though some say 6) active volcanoes!
Heavily photographed and much beloved by locals and visitors, the volcano won’t put on much of a show during your visit.
However, the volcanic activity at Arenal fuels the area’s expansive hot springs, which are perfect for a relaxing daytime soak.
Check the weather beforehand as clouds can often get in the way of seeing this majestic volcano!
13. Braulio Carrillo National Park
Moist, cloudy, and covered in lush vegetation, Braulio Carrillo National Park is located just north of San Jose and beckons nature lovers.
The park is teaming with wildlife, with hundreds of bird species and mammals big and small; monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, and more!
You can see in the photo above where the minerals in the Rio Sucio join a blue stream.
The park is perfect for leisurely hiking and guided nature tours!
14. Chirripo National Park
This national park is home to Costa Rica’s highest mountain peak and some of the country’s wildest hiking trails.
Mount Chirripo, in Chirripo National Park, is a popular climbing destination in addition to nearby Cerro Uran and Loma Larga.
On clear days, you’ll see both of Costa Rica’s coasts at the same time!
15. Gandoca Manzanillo
Gandoca Manzanillo is a massive wildlife refuge on the east coast of Costa Rica.
The hiking trails, jungle animals, and beaches in the 23,000-acre park are among the most diverse in the country!
Small secluded beaches dot the shoreline and offer an extra slice of tranquility within the park.
16. Irazu Volcano National Park
One factoid you might hear on your visit to the volcano is that it last erupted on the day former president John F. Kennedy visited Costa Rica!
If he had been able to visit the park, he would have been able to peer into the massive volcanic crater at its center. Irazu is the highest volcano in Costa Rica and the main reason for your visit to this national park.
17. Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonia is a beautiful national park replete with wildlife and some of the best beaches in Costa Rica.
The unique geography of the beach and dense rainforest make it highly Instagrammable in a country that is already excessively photographed!
Plenty of boutique hotels hide in the hills and offer spectacular views of the water.
18. Monteverde Cloud Reserve Forest
A hiker’s paradise, Monteverde is a rainforest reserve blanketed in thick clouds!
The clear trails and red suspension bridge in the middle of the reserve are most notable for their photo worthiness.
They offer visitors great vantage points to observe the area’s hundreds of plant species and wildlife.
19. Osa Peninsula & Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is a destination for birders and wildlife adventurers!
The hiking trails in the park are possibly the only place where you can see the endangered Central American squirrel monkey!
20. Palo Verde National Park
Take a guided boat tour along the Tempisque River at Palo Verde National Park.
Like all others in Costa Rica, this park is rich with wildlife. But it is just one of the few that is home to the Jabiru!
What’s a Jabiru? It’s a huge stork that any ornithologist would crave to see in person!
21. Poás Volcano National Park
At almost a mile across, Poás Volcano has the largest active crater in the world!
Since this is an active volcano, check the park website before visiting for updates; the park sometimes closes due to ash and emissions.
You also must purchase your ticket in advance. It’s usually better to visit as early in the morning as possible.
Why? Clouds typically shroud the volcano as the morning goes on. (And unfortunately, there are no ticket refunds due to clouds covering the volcano!).
22. Puerto Viejo & Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park is free to visit and much more of a marine park than rainforest park.
Visitors will see white-faced monkeys and dozens of butterfly varieties along its many hiking trails.
My favorite thing about this park: the sloths!!
23. Rincón de la Vieja National Park
Volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, and mammals galore: welcome to Rincón de la Vieja!
This national park in Guanacaste is home to three volcanoes. The namesake of the park, Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, erupted as recently as 2017!
Pictured above is La Cangreja waterfall, located in the park.
24. Tortuguero National Park
You’ve now entered the home of river turtles, caimans, and more bird species than you can count.
The park will be one of the wettest you visit in Costa Rica, but a little rain is worth the trip!
You’ll see the turtle nesting beaches along the coast with green sea turtles, hawksbills, and leatherbacks all laying eggs in the sands!
I fondly remember doing a boat tour of the Tortuguero Canal with my dad one summer when I was young. I was blown away by how easily the tour guide spotted monkeys and other animals!
See why these islands, cities, general areas, and points of interest made it on my list of most beautiful places in Costa Rica!
25. Cocos Island
Cocos Island is a national park and humid tropical rainforest in the Pacific Ocean.
As far from the shoreline of Costa Rica as Los Angeles is from Las Vegas (far!), the island has one of the best-preserved marine ecosystems and coral reefs in the Pacific. As such, it is a coveted diving destination!
Dominical is an overlap of rainforest and beach with a sprinkling of watering holes and restaurants further from the shore.
The beach is undeveloped and sandy, with patches of rockiness along the coast. It’s a perfect place for surfers to come and enjoy the consistent waves.
27. Isla Tortuga
An hour from the shore, the secluded island is an excellent spot for snorkeling and canopy tours.
When I say canopy tours, I mean ziplining.
You can fly high above the trees and, later, swim in the crystal clear waters with a snorkel in hand. Under its waters, you’ll see some of the most diverse tropical fish in the area.
Though not secluded, the Matapalo area is far removed from the bustling tourist trafficked beaches of Costa Rica.
An excellent spot for bodyboarding and horseback riding on the beach, the beach here is vital for seasonal turtle nesting.
Described as a bohemian beach village, the crowd is thin and leans towards young backpackers.
Montezuma is a little harder to access than other similar areas in Costa Rica, but worth the visit for the tight-knit community and Montezuma Waterfalls!
30. San Gerardo de Dota
San Gerardo is a sliver of a town in San Jose Province that not many tourists know about, yet.
Its valley location between national parks and nature reserves make it a great spot for birding and exploring the area’s plant life.
31. National Theater in San Jose
The Teatro Nacional and its expansive plaza are central to culture in Costa Rica.
The building’s focal piece is the pair of statues planking the theatre—one of Calderon de la Barca and the other of Ludwig van Beethoven.
32. Papagayo Peninsula
Formed by volcanic activity, the tiny peninsula of Papagayo on the Gold Coast of Costa Rica is one of the premier golfing destinations in the country.
The Arnold Palmer Golf Course and area resorts take up a large portion of the land. They offer scenic views of beaches and the blue waters of Culebra Bay.
33. Las Catalinas
Las Catalinas is a paradise for New Urbanists and fans of walkability.
The town was created to be pedestrian-friendly and car exclusionary! The resort town boasts dozens of homes, walking streets, and little shops and restaurants with beautiful views of the coast.
Rivers & Waterfalls
Of course, rivers and waterfalls are some of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica! But there are so many waterfalls in Costa Rica that it would be almost impossible to list them all. Here are the rivers and waterfalls that I think are the best of the best.
34. La Fortuna Waterfall
Test your fortune on the 500-step staircase leading to La Fortuna waterfall!
The walk can be a bit steep, but it’s relatively short and worth the sweat to see this beautiful waterfall in the Arenal mountains. Swimming in the emerald water below the waterfall is a must!
This powerful waterfall is by far one of the prettiest places in Costa Rica!
35. Catarata del Toro
A medium-intensity hike down a forest trail and up steep steps will lead you to a towering waterfall.
Catarata del Toro is a 270-foot waterfall that empties into a volcanic crater! Many birders visit this location for the many tropical birds that call it home, from hummingbirds to the elusive quetzal.
36. Rio Celeste
The hiking trails near the Rio Celeste are the slice of heaven that was promised in its name!
Located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, the waterfall is quickly accessible on the main hiking trail, leading to a suspension bridge and Laguna Azul.
37. La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Why see one waterfall when you can see five together on one trail?
La Paz is an absolute treat with waters descending from a height as low as 15 feet to as high as 120 feet at Magia Blanca.
38. Pacuare River
The best place for whitewater rafting and kayaking in all of Costa Rica!
The Pacuare River flows into the Caribbean Sea, but higher up on the pristine river is world-class rafting cutting through lush tropical rainforest.
39. Hot Springs in La Fortuna
Costa Rica’s five active volcanoes have created some of the most relaxing hot springs in Central America.
The hot and cold pools at the base of Arenal are popular with nature seekers and those who need a bit of extra R & R after hiking the trails!
40. Nauyaca Waterfalls
One of the most spectacular waterfalls in Costa Rica due to its multi-tier formation, the Nauyaca Waterfalls are easy to get to and perfect for swimming!
The upper and lower falls cascade into a massive pool of crystal blue water surrounded by beautiful green trees and rocky cliff walls.
41. Diamante Waterfall
The not-so-secret secret of the Diamante Waterfall is the hidden cave behind the water where you can spend the night and watch the sunset.
Three hours south of San Jose, trips to the waterfall require booking a guided tour. Visit the giant cave carved into the side of a cliff and look out over the falls and lush rainforest beyond.
I hope you can see just how magical this country is!
And if you know of any more beautiful places in Costa Rica that deserve a spot on this list, let me know in the comments!
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