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Infinite beauty in Costa Rica © Bernard Fourmond/Flickr
Infinite beauty in Costa Rica © Bernard Fourmond/Flickr
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The Most Underrated Towns and Cities to Visit in Costa Rica

Picture of Jenn Parker
Updated: 2 August 2017
There are so many places worth visiting in Costa Rica that one could come back year after year and each time have an entirely different trip. Most visitors go to places like Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio, Santa Teresa, Arenal, Monteverde, and San José. However, there are many underrated and overlooked towns and cities to incorporate into future Costa Rican adventures.

Playa Flamingo

Playa Flamingo is located north of Tamarindo in Guanacaste. It is a stunning white sand crescent moon beach that is ideal for picnicking, swimming, and watching sunsets. The upscale beach town has a great selection of lovely hotels and luxury vacation rentals. There are a few great restaurants (like Coco Loco and Angelina’s) and some cafés and shops, but the town itself is pretty quiet. It is for this reason that Playa Flamingo is such a peaceful destination for a Costa Rican getaway. Playa Flamingo is a conveniently accessible spot for deep sea fishing expeditions, sunset sailing tours, yoga and paddle boarding classes, and visiting the Las Baulas National Marine Park.

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Montezuma

Montezuma is a tranquil beach town with bohemian vibes on the Nicoya Peninsula. It’s a favorite amongst backpackers, yogis, surfers, and those looking for an inspiring and peaceful escape. There are mangrove forests, lush tropical forests, tidal pools, and several waterfalls to explore during the day; in the evening, there are bars and clubs to party in and watch the sunset from. For such a small beach town, there is great energy in the air and a variety of activities to enjoy.

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Dominical

Dominical is a colorful beach town north of Quepos and Manuel Antonio and south of Jaco. It appears many people either stop and stay in Jaco or continue on to Quepos, while missing Dominical. However, it shouldn’t be ignored! The waves are very consistent in Dominical and there are several different spots geared towards surfers of all levels. There are beachfront bars, restaurants and local artisans selling their crafts along the cobblestone road parallel to the shore. From Dominical, there is relatively easy access to the Chirripo National Park, Manuel Antonio National Park, and Corcovado National Park.

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Deep barrels in Dominical
Deep barrels in Dominical | © Roman Konigshofer/Flickr

Palmar Sur

Palmar Sur is a small inland town situated on the Sierpe River in the southwest region of Costa Rica. Nature lovers and eco-adventurers will find this place to be truly heavenly. The Sierpe River actually leads to one of the largest mangrove forests in the world! The plant and animal life in this area is extraordinary. There are boutique and luxury accommodations alongside backpacker, budget-friendly spots, and a decent selection of restaurants and bars. Palmar Sur is a great place to spend a few days before continuing down into the Osa Peninsula.

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Visit with the monkeys
Visit with the monkeys | © Roy Luck/Flickr

Zacero

Zacero is a picturesque and quaint town on the scenic path towards Arenal from San José. This might be one of the loveliest small towns in Costa Rica. The landscape here consists of verdant rolling hills, coffee farms, sugar cane plantations, and lush forests. It is also much cooler up here than in other parts of Costa Rica, which makes for a nice change after traveling around the coastal zones. One of the most popular attractions is a topiary garden, which has over 120 hedge sculptures and archways. There are plant sculptures shaped like elephants, giraffes, dinosaurs, humans, and even cars.

Perfectly crafted archways
Perfectly crafted archways | © Henry Zbyszynski/Flickr

Turrialba

Turrialba is awe-inspiring in its beauty and charm. The Central Valley highland town offers visitors exquisite views of coffee, macadamia, and sugar plantations, rolling hills and deep valleys, and Turrialba Volcano National Park. And there’s springtime weather all year. Turrialba is a perfect place to stay for both high-energy activities like whitewater rafting and volcano hiking or for kicking back and relaxing. The town even has its own type of cheese, which is delicious!

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Countryside views
Countryside views | © Alexis Le-Quoc/Flickr

San Isidro de El General

San Isidro de El General is a truly unique place to visit in Costa Rica. The town is home to several traditional festivals, including Fiesta Civica (known for its bullfighting, live music and ceremony honoring the patron saint San Isidro). Attending one of these festivals is a wonderfully authentic cultural experience. San Isidro is also a bird lover’s paradise; the colorful resplendent quetzal can be found here! It also happens to be a very important agricultural zone in Costa Rica, producing fruit (especially pineapple), sugar cane, and coffee. There is plenty of hiking and exploring to do around this town and the weather makes it pleasant enough to spend the entire day outdoors.

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Resplendent quetzal
Resplendent quetzal | ©Ben Johnson/Flickr

Sarchí

The small town of Sarchí is famous for its crafts and painted oxcart wheels. If looking for quality, handmade Costa Rican art and crafts, this is the spot. Arriving to Sarchí takes an easy day trip from San José. Anyone who enjoys taking photographs will have a field day here, as everything is so vibrant and colorful, plus there are magnificent views of the surrounding Central Valley.

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A colorful tradition
A colorful tradition | ©Ben Betzen/Flickr

Playa Chiquita

Playa Chiquita is only 5 miles (8 km) from the town of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. This charming and gorgeous beach town is ideal for romantic getaways or family vacations. There are cute little cafés, a gourmet grocery store, and a local farmers market once a week. Days can be spent soaking in a private tidal pool on a stunning beach dotted with palm trees. Playa Chiquita is also great for exploring the surrounding tropical rainforests and national parks and reserves.

Perfect place to spend the day
Perfect place to spend the day | ©Geoff Sowrey/Flickr

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Overall, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is still underrated and under-visited in comparison to the Pacific coast. Puerto Viejo is a vibrant, laid-back yet lively beach town that should definitely not be overlooked. The town has a great selection of restaurants, some of the best nightlife, and easy access to multiple beaches, great snorkeling, and lush tropical rainforest. There are tons of exciting tours and activities to choose from, including rainforest hiking, surfing, snorkeling, zip lining, horseback riding, and sea turtle tours.

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