Costa Rica Sightseeing: 10 Must-Visit Places - Caravan Tours (2024)

Costa Rica is a traveler’s paradise, home to an incredible range of natural and cultural attractions. Majestic volcanoes, lush cloud forests, stunning beaches, abundant wildlife—it’s all there.

Whether you’re an adventurous explorer, a nature enthusiast, or a history buff, Costa Rica’s remarkable landscapes and intriguing heritage are sure to impress. If you’re planning a trip to the area, there are a few must-visit places for sightseeing in Costa Rica, from the captivating symmetry of the Arenal Volcano to the surreal blue waters of the Rio Celeste.

1. Arenal Volcano

The Arenal Volcano, one of Costa Rica’s most iconic natural landmarks, is a must-see while in the area. It stands at approximately 5,353 feet or 1,633 meters, towering over the surrounding land as an imposing guard. This symmetrical volcano roared back to life after decades of dormancy in 2010, creating multiple new craters. However, since then, it’s been lying dormant, although it’s not uncommon to see columns of ash and lava flows.

Today, the volcano draws countless tourists to its slopes every year, many of whom come to witness the breathtaking views from hiking trails around it or soak in the hot springs heated by its geothermal activity.

If you’re in the area, it’s well worth a stop. And, if you’re up for a stroll, there are plenty of hikes in the area that give stunning views of the volcano. Or, if you prefer a relaxing approach to your vacations, stop for a soothing soak in the nearby hot springs (some even have great views of the volcano!).

2. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is another must-visit when in Costa Rica. It’s a perfect place for sightseers, especially if you’re up for a stroll through the reserve’s many trails. The forest, often shrouded in mist, offers an enthralling, almost mystical feel.

It’s teeming with dense vegetation and is home to all sorts of plants and animal species, including over 400 species of birds. Given its abundant bird population, Monteverde is a great spot for birdwatching.

We think it’s a great addition to a sightseeing itinerary, especially if you want to capture some magical pictures. The contrast of the mist filtering through the rich, green canopy makes for a striking photo. You can even get some Insta-worthy snapshots on the hanging bridge, which is surrounded by dense vegetation.

3. Manuel Antonio National Park

If you want to get a splash of everything in one stop, the Manuel Antonio National Park is a worthwhile stop. It’s home to dense rainforests, pristine beaches, and abundant wildlife. The park is situated on the central Pacific coast, and while it’s not as large as other national parks, it’s one of the most-visited parks in Costa Rica.

In the rainforest, you’ll find all sorts of accessible trails suitable for all fitness levels. The main trails are well-marked, providing easy access to the park’s beaches and viewpoints. For example, the trail to Punta Catedral is a top pick for its panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean (this was one of our favorites).

While you stroll, keep an eye out for wildlife. The park is known for its remarkable biodiversity. You might see capuchin monkeys, iguanas, sloths, and all sorts of bird species in the greenery around the trails, so keep your eyes peeled!

Beyond the rainforest, you’ll find marvelous white-sand beaches flanked by stunning turquoise waters. The beaches are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. We always appreciate a relaxing afternoon nap on the beach, and this park was the perfect setting for it.

4. Cartago

Cartago, Costa Rica’s former capital, is a must-visit for history buffs. It boasts a rich history, home to some of the country’s most significant historical sites. For example, it’s home to the Basilica of Our Lady of Angels, a beautiful pilgrimage site with captivating Byzantine architecture. It stands as a testament to Cartago’s religious importance, both past and present.

In the surrounding area, you’ll find more must-see sights, such as the Irazu Volcano and the Orosi Valley. The Irazu Volcano is the highest volcano in Costa Rica, boasting a lunar-like landscape, complete with beautiful crater lakes. On clear days, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans from the summit.

The Orosi Valley offers a combination of colonial-era churches and lush green hills, perfect for scenic drives. It’s a picture-perfect spot, especially with the varied terrain blanketed in rich greens.

5. Tortuguero National Park

If you’re up for an adventure, take a trip to the Amazon of Costa Rica, Tortuguero National Park. It’s remote, and you can only access it by boat or plane, but it’s well worth visiting. It’s a network of canals, rivers, and lagoons, all flanked by dense rainforest.

It’s world-famous for its sea turtle nesting sites. Between July and October, green turtles make their way ashore to lay their eggs. If your timing is right and you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the turtles laying their eggs.

Beyond the turtles, Tortuguero is home to diverse wildlife, including jaguars, manatees, monkeys, and over 300 species of birds. If you want to observe the wildlife in their natural habitat, take a boat tour along the park’s waterways. It’s a great way to spot the creatures as they go about their daily business without bothering them.

6. Corcovado National Park

Located on the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park is another must-see. It’s another remote and wild park, covering a whopping 164 square miles of rainforest, mangroves, and beaches. It’s often described as one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, making it a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts.

While there, you might spot all four of Costa Rica’s monkey species, plus tapirs, pumas, and scarlet macaws. Some animals are more elusive than others, so if you want the best chances of spotting them, a guided tour led by an experienced naturalist is your best bet. We’ve done a few of these tours and highly recommend them—they’re a great way to learn about the animals while improving your chances of actually seeing them.

The park is home to an extensive trail system, ranging from short walks to multi-day treks that span many miles. Each trail offers something different.

7. Uvita

Uvita, a small town situated on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, is known for its stunning beaches and laid-back atmosphere. It’s best known for the Whale’s Tail, a natural sandbar formation that looks a lot like a whale’s tail at low tide and is a perfect place for stunning photos.

It’s a great place to spend a day or two, especially if you appreciate the great outdoors. The town is part of Marino Ballena National Park, which safeguards marine habitats. If you visit between December and April or July and October, go on a whale-watching tour. The whales migrate during these times of year, so you’ll have a good chance of seeing them.

Aside from whale watching, Uvita is the perfect place for snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. The crystal clear waters are easy to see in, so you can get a good view of the sea life below the surface while snorkeling or scuba diving.

Or, if you want to go exploring, meander to the nearby Uvita Waterfall, which offers both refreshing swimming and plenty of exploration opportunities in the surrounding rainforest.

8. The Rio Celeste

The Rio Celeste is well-visited for its strikingly blue waters. It’s located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, situated at the top of a trail winding through lush rainforest. At the top of that trail, you’ll find waters that look absolutely unreal.

The striking blue hue is courtesy of a unique chemical reaction involving volcanic minerals, creating a body of water that looks almost otherworldly. While there’s a scientific explanation for the color, local legend has it that God dipped his paintbrush in its depths after painting the sky, causing the surreal hue.

The star of the show is the waterfall, which cascades into a pool below. While pictures don’t quite do the waterfall and river justice, it’s a great place for photos (you might even capture a few Insta-worthy shots).

9. Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, located on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, offers an intriguing blend of Afro-Caribbean culture, reggae music, and a laid-back lifestyle. It’s a vibrant destination featuring colorful buildings and a lively, welcoming atmosphere.

While the town and its melting pot of cultures are well worth the visit, the beaches in the area steal the spotlight. The town is surrounded by stunning beaches, including Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita, and Punta Uva, each with its own charm. Each one boasts a pristine, sandy beach with crystal clear waters, perfect for snorkeling, surfing, or good ‘ol sunbathing.

10. Poas Volcano National Park

Last but not least, we have the Poas Volcano National Park. This park is home to one of Costa Rica’s most accessible and active volcanoes. The main crater has a bubbling sulfuric lake, complete with steam floating skyward. It’s an awe-inspiring, picture-worthy sight.

You can get a good look at the crater via the various trails around the crater, which offer good views of the surrounding area, too. If you want to learn more about the volcano and its eruptions, stop by the park’s visitor center, which provides educational exhibits teaching all about it.

Make the Most of Your Costa Rican Vacation With Caravan

Costa Rica is a haven of tranquility, offering a perfect blend of stunning sights and rich culture. It’s an excellent place for a vacation, whether you’re a nature enthusiast seeking an immersive experience or simply looking for a laid-back destination to unwind and rejuvenate. Costa Rica has something to offer for everyone, promising a serene and peaceful getaway.

Unfortunately, planning a vacation, especially one to a foreign country, can be daunting at best. That’s where our team at Caravan comes in. We offer fully guided sightseeing tours in Costa Rica that take you on a journey through the country’s wonders. Our Costa Rica Natural Paradise and tours take you on an adventure through the natural beauty of the land, giving you an immersive, unforgettable vacation.

Costa Rica Sightseeing: 10 Must-Visit Places - Caravan Tours (2024)
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