Cloud forests, active volcanoes and untouched beaches along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts – you’ll find some of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders in Costa Rica. This Central American country, known for its biodiversity (it’s home to more than 500,000 animal species), attracts more than 1m visitors annually. But where exactly to go? These are the most beautiful places to visit in Costa Rica.
The Corcovado National Park, the largest park in Costa Rica, attracts ecologists and enthusiastic travelers eager to discover its biodiversity. It covers a huge area of about 164sqmi (424sqkm) and is among the world’s most biodiverse regions – jaguars and macaws are a couple of its live-in residents. Join a jungle trek to explore its terrain fully.
Come to Tamarindo for a slice of Costa Rican beach life. This former fishing village, on the northern Pacific coast, is now an immigrant and tourist haven. Surfers flock here to ride the huge waves, which crash onto white sands backed by thick jungle. There are surf schools for novices and vibrant beach bars where you can dance into the night. You’ll also have the chance to see leatherback turtles nesting between October and February at nearby Las Baulas National Marine Park.
The turquoise waters of the Rio Celeste, fed by two other rivers, snake through Tenorio Volcano National Park. While the color of the river is an optical illusion, many locals believe that God dipped his paintbrush into the river after coloring the sky. Hike through muddy, jungle-covered trails to soothing hot springs and the park’s star feature, a 98ft (30m) waterfall that crashes into a topaz pool. While swimming is prohibited inside the national park, it’s possible to take a dip by the free public entrance, surrounded by colorful morpho butterflies.
Looking for a bohemian beach retreat? Montezuma is a magnet for hippies, artists and those seeking an alternative lifestyle – think yoga classes, vegetarian dining, meditation retreats and markets selling handmade trinkets. Enjoy the mountainous surroundings of the southern Nicoya Peninsula, complete with jungle waterfalls and exotic wildlife. Playa Montezuma is a highlight, and you can book a trek to the nearby Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve to explore jungle trails and quiet beach coves.
Amy Blyth contributed additional reporting to this article.