8 Stunning Places in Costa Rica You Won't Believe Are Real

© Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock
© Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock
Photo of Jenn Parker
5 May 2017

Costa Rica is a country full of awe-inspiring natural wonders seemingly around every corner. From the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, north to south, and everything in between, there are plenty of magical places brimming with majestic surprises. Costa Rica is a country that you can return to over and over again and find something new and captivating every time. Some places are so stunning they don’t even feel real.

Magical water

Rio Celeste is located within the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Visitors can access this dreamy 14-mile river by foot. The hike can be a bit challenging, but it’s most definitely worth it. The opaque light-blue/turquoise color of the water is quite special. It is said that Rio Celeste’s truly unique color comes from the reflection of sunlight off a combination of minerals within the river. The rainforest surrounding Rio Celeste is dense, vibrant, and full of life. This is a place that should not be missed.

This is truly the color of the water here | © zero.the.hero/Flickr

Don’t go swimming here!

Rio Tarcoles is quite the opposite of the dreamy Rio Celeste… this is a river of nightmares. It has been suggested that the Rio Tarcoles has the largest population of American crocodiles in the world. There are roughly 25 crocodiles per square kilometer here. Many of these crocodiles are mammoth in size. There is a famous bridge where you can stop to see some of these humongous reptiles. This is a sight that will surely drop your jaw.

© Eduardo Rivero / Shutterstock

Whale tail shaped beach

Playa Uvita is a whale-tail shaped beach coincidentally located within the Marino Ballena (whale) National Park. This two-mile white-sand beach is surrounded by crystal clear waters and juts out into the sea taking the shape of a whale’s tail at the end. Between the months of December and April, humpback whales spend time in this area to mate before migrating north. What’s surreal is that you can stand on the whale-tail shaped beach and actually have a great chance of seeing a whale.

A lot of humpback whales swim past this beach | © James Kaiser

Bull shark kingdom

The Bat Islands are home to an impressive population of massive bull sharks. Located at the tip of the Santa Rosa National Park, the Bat Islands have remained free of human life and development, which has kept it a pristine and perfect habitat for large bull sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, devil rays, and every once and a while a visiting whale shark. Between the months of May and November, visibility is best and bull shark encounters most frequent. Don’t worry though, there have been no reported shark attacks here in the past thirty years. For an experienced diver, this dive will top the charts as one of the most unreal.

A peaceful bull shark passing by | © Sylke Rohrlach/Flickr

Baby turtles galore

Between the months of August and December, a great natural phenomenon called an arribada takes place on the shores of Playa Ostional one to two times during each month of the rainy season. Typically occurring for three to seven nights a week before the new moon, thousands upon thousands of olive ridley sea turtles emerge onto the sand at the darkest hours of the night to lay their eggs. Over the course of one arribada, up to 10 million turtle eggs can be laid. Around 50 days later, baby turtles will surface and make their way to the sea. Both the nesting and the hatchings are two of the most beautiful sights to see in Costa Rica.

Sweet sea turtle babies | © Brad Flickinger/Flickr

Play in the clouds

The Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the most mystical places in Costa Rica. This dense rainforest is home to an immense diversity of birds, butterflies, insects, monkeys, reptiles, amphibians, flowers, plants, and trees. It is possible to fulfil that childhood dream of playing amongst the clouds here, as they literally roll through the forest. On a cloudless day, you can actually see both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts from an elevated viewpoint. The endangered, but spectacular quetzal lives in these magical forests too.

© Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock

Valley of the Waterfalls

Just a few kilometers inland from Playa Dominical, there is a relatively secret valley that’s home to a dozen spectacular waterfalls and beautiful primary rainforest. It is called the Valley of the Waterfalls. There are hiking trails that lead to all of the different waterfalls, where adventurers are free to climb up, jump off, swim beneath, and gaze up in wonderment. The Nauyaca Waterfall is part of this collection, as well as the Diamante Waterfall.

One of many | © Steven Lam

Underwater national park

The Cahuita National Park is famous for its stunning coral reefs close to the shore. During the drier months (February–April), the water visibility is great and ideal for snorkeling. There are over 125 species of fish that make their home on the reefs of Cahuita. There are 35 species of coral, including huge sea fans, brain corals, and blue staghorn coral. What’s so special about this park is that the land portion is equally as impressive as the underwater portion and both are accessible to nature-loving visitors.

© Seaphotoart/Shutterstock

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