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Costa Rica Popular Places to Visit

Gandoca - Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge

The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is situated in one of the most stunningly beautiful regions of Costa Rica.

Located just a few kilometers north of the Panama border in Talamanca County, this wildlife refuge protects some the region’s most endangered flora and fauna.

Lying on the Caribbean coast of Limon province and bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the east, this refuge is classified as a humid tropical rainforest and also looks after the only natural mangrove oyster beds found along the reefs of the coast.

Encompassing several rare habitats like a lowland rainforest, a wetland and a mangrove swamp, the Refugio Gandoca Manzanillo also safeguards the only orey and jolillo palm swamps in Costa Rica.

This wildlife reserve is very important from an ecological point of view because it contains the only intact mangrove swamp in the Atlantic, and the primary lowland small rainforest found here is the only one of its kind in the region.

Limon, Costa Rica

Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is the backpacking experience of a lifetime. It encompasses the only remaining old growth wet forests on the Pacific coast of Central America, and 13 major ecosystems including lowland rain forest, highland cloud forest, jolillo palm forest, and mangrove swamps, as well as coastal marine and beach habitats.

There is a good chance of spotting some of Costa Rica’s shyest and most endangered inhabitants here; Baird’s Tapirs, Jaguars, Scarlet Macaws, Harpy Eagles, Red-backed squirrel monkeys and White-lipped Peccaries. It is wet, remote and rugged, but the trails are relatively good, and the camping areas near the ranger stations are grassy and well drained.

Caribbean, Costa Rica

Rincón De La Vieja National Park

The Rincón de la Vieja Volcano is the main attraction in this park. This active volcano last erupted in 2011 and as a result, hiking trails to the summit are no longer open, but there is still hiking in the area with trails leading to waterfalls and hot springs. This park is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, with tapirs, sloths, monkeys, and large cats such as the jaguar, puma, and ocelot still inhabiting the park.

Diferent Cities, Costa Rica

Braulio Carrillo National Park

Braulio Carrillo National Park, only a 30-minute drive from bustling San Jose, encompasses rugged mountains, waterfalls, canyons, dormant volcanoes, and virgin rainforest. The park's proximity to the country's main gateway means it is an easy way to see some of Costa Rica's unique plants and wildlife.

Many different habitats exist in the park due to the variety in elevation, which ranges from the top of the Barva Volcano (2,906 meters) to less than 50 meters in the Caribbean lowlands. The park is home to mammals such as jaguars, pumas, tapirs, sloths, and monkeys, but easier to see and hear are several species of birds including the Quetzal (national bird), toucans, and eagles.

San José, Costa Rica

Irazu Volcano National Park

The Irazú Volcano is the highest active volcano in Costa Rica at 3,342 meters. The national park protects a 2,309 hectare area of land around the base of the volcano. The summit of the volcano is a lunar-like landscape with craters. Irazú's Principal Crater is 1,050 meters in diameter and 300 meters deep, and the Diego de la Haya Crater is considerably smaller and contains a small lime-green lake that sometimes appears red.

From the summit, it's possible to look out to the Pacific and Caribbean on clear days.

Diferent Cities, Costa Rica

The National Theater

Costa Ricans take pride in the National Theater, which is considered to be the most impressive building in San José. In the 1890s, the ruling coffee barons voted for a tax on coffee exports in order to fund the construction of the theater, and European artisans were imported to design the building.

Completed in 1897, the building features a classical Renaissance columned façade topped by statues symbolizing Dance, Music, and Fame. Inside, the pink marble foyer features allegorical figures of Comedy and Tragedy, and painted murals depicting themes in Costa Rican life.

The most famous of the paintings is one showing coffee harvesting and export painted by Arturo Fontana in Milan in 1897. 

San José, Costa Rica

Osa Peninsula And Corcovado National Park

In the far south of Costa Rica, beyond the beautiful beaches of Dominical, is the remote Osa Peninsula. The Dulce Gulf separates the peninsula from the rest of the Puntarenas province. Some of Central America's best stretches of coastal rainforest are found on the Osa Peninsula, and protected in Corcovado National Park. Corcovado National Park was established in 1975 and protects what is considered to be the best remaining stretch of Pacific coastal rainforest in Central America. It has an extensive trail system and is popular with travelers who enjoy long-distance hikes.

In addition to surfing, which is one of the main highlights, other popular activities in the region are diving, snorkeling, and fishing. Puerto Jiménez is the area's largest town, and several fine lodges can be found in the Drake Bay area.

Diferent Cities, Costa Rica

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Coast is accessible only by boat or plane, is one of the wettest areas in the country and offers something different than the rest of Costa Rica. The park is an extremely important breeding ground for the green sea turtle and as a result, turtle watching is the main activity here.

While there are many beaches, the coastal area is not suitable for swimming as the surf and currents are rough and strong. Sharks are common. Hundreds and even thousands of green and leatherback turtles can be viewed (guides are necessary) nesting and laying eggs on the beaches overnight.

Conservation efforts have increased the number of turtles nesting in the area. From the hiking trails or boat rides along the canals, it's possible to spot monkeys, sloths, and kinkajous.

Limon, Costa Rica

Jaco

Jaco is a good choice for anyone looking to get out of San Jose but still wanting the comforts and amenities of a larger town or city. The beach here is spacious and pleasant, but average at best by Costa Rica standards. The surfing here is very good and the waves are less dramatic than other areas along the coast, meaning swimming is generally safe.

What Jaco does have that sets it apart from the numerous coastal towns along this stretch of the Pacific is modern apartments and stores, good restaurants and hotels, and other modern conveniences that have made it a popular choice with expats and retirees. Even travelers staying in nearby villages.

Jaco, Costa Rica

Mal Pais And Santa Teresa

Mal Pais on the Nicoya Peninsula, is an area along the coast known for great waves that attract surfers from all over. The town of Santa Teresa is the main hotspot in the area, but a chain of villages and beaches lie along the Mal Pais, including the villages of Mal Pais and Manzanillo.

Today, the area is a mix of backpackers, surfers who never managed to leave, and tourists who wish they had planned a longer vacation.

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica