15 Top Cities of Costa Rica - Best travel and holiday destinations
Updated 8 Apr, 2020
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Costa Rica, the land of dense tropical rainforests, vast coastline and the connection between the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean is an amazing tourist destination.
Whether you are looking for adventures like zip lining, hiking, tracking and exploring or relaxing in its sandy beaches, the country has it all.
Costa Rica has some of the world's best travel destinations and cities; read along to find the inspiration for your next trip.
San Jose - most developed city in Costa Rica
San Jose is the largest city and the capital of Costa Rica in the central part of the nation that is famous for the city's diverse culture and beauty.
Top things to do in San Jose –
- Round over the Plaza de la Cultura take a glimpse of important landmarks of San Jose.
- Visit and attend many vibrant events in the National Theatre of Costa Rica , a historic theatre in the center of the city.
- See many anthropological, archeological and jade collections in Museo del Jade Marco Fidal Tristan Cristo.
- Relax and enjoy sports events in La Sabana Metropolitan Park, the largest urban park of Costa Rica.
- Relish fun rides with your kids in Parque Diversiones, a famous park giving its profits to a children’s hospital.
- Get familiar with the history and culture of Costa Rica in the National Museum of Costa Rica.
- Do shopping for handicrafts in Municipal Craft Market.
Popular food to try in San Jose consists of traditional Costa Rican dishes like Casado, Gallo Pinto, Arroz Con, Sopa Negra and Chifrijo.
Best time to visit San Jose is during December, January and February during the dry season.
How to reach San Jose? Book a flight to Juan Santamaria International Airport to reach the city.
Puntarenas - pearl of the Pacific
Puntarenas is the capital city of the Puntarenas province on the coast of Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of Nicoya.
Top things to do in Puntarenas –
- Find out many rare animal species like seahorses, sea turtles and crocodiles in Parque Marino del Pacifico.
- Take a round over the Plaza de la Cultura, a beautiful square with an art gallery and a theater.
- Head to the San Lucas Island, an abandoned island near the town that is now functioning as a wildlife refuge.
- Day out in lovely Puntarenas beach backed by many shops and cafes and adore the mesmerizing sunsets there.
- Relax, meander and have lunch in the Mora Y Canas park.
- Travel over the Roman catholic church of Puntarenas, a historic brick and mortar church in Puntarenas.
Popular food to try in Puntarenas comprises chicken, rice and beans, Arroz Con, Lizano salsa and salad.
Best time to visit Puntarenas is from early December to mid December.
How to reach Puntarenas? Take a taxi or bus from the city of San Jose to reach the town.
Tamarindo - top nightlife destination in Costa Rica
Tamarindo is a famous surf town in Costa Rica that is also referred to as ‘party and play' for the town's many zippy activities from day to night.
Top things to do in Tamarindo –
- Night out with friends in the country's best dinner spots, rooftop bars, casinos and dance clubs that come alive after the sunset.
- Shake your legs on beat of DJs, drink wines and cocktails and get moody with live music and tasty food.
- Do shopping for food, art and craft while enjoying music in lively Tamarindo Night Market of Tamarindo.
- Go for surfing in this surfer’s paradise destination known for some best beaches and shores to surf.
- Roam along the Playa Ventanas, do swimming or water sports and detect unique rock holes in the cliffs.
- Book an ATV or UTV to explore the trails, mountains, rivers and coasts of the town.
Popular food to try in Tamarindo consists of lobster, sandwiches, pasta, steak, vegan food and traditional dishes.
Best time to visit Tamarindo for warm weather activities is from January to April.
How to reach Tamarindo? Book a flight to Tamarindo Airport to get access to the town.
Santa Maria de Dota - top coffee lover destination in Costa Rica
Famed for its world’s best coffee, a visit to Costa Rica is incomplete without exploring the lush coffee plantations, Santa Maria de Dota being one of them.
Top things to do in Santa Maria de Dota –
- Explore the shade grown Tarrazi coffee plantations thriving in the rich volcanic soil of the area with a day or night tour or a weekly exploration programme.
- Find out more than 200 species of birds with birdwatching tours where you can spot owls, falcons, woodpeckers, warblers and more.
- Adventure yourself with hiking in the rough mountainous area of the national parks nearby the town.
- Hike to the top of the mountains to admire the view of the coasts and possibly of erupting volcanoes.
- Take breathtaking photographs of the green steep mountain valleys and plantations.
- End your trip after tasting the authentic coffee in town.
Best time to visit Santa Maria de Dota is during the months of March, April and May.
How to reach Santa Maria de Dota? Take a taxi, car or bus from the city of San Jose to reach the town.
Uvita - most romantic destination in Costa Rica
Uvita is a small resort town in Costa Rica located on the coast of Pacific Ocean in the southern part of the country.
Top things to do in Uvita –
- Spend time with your partner on the long cool beaches away from the crowd.
- Go for adventures like kayaking, swimming and scuba diving with your partner in the blue waters.
- Tour the remote Arco beach near the town featuring a waterfall from where you can head to the Marino Ballena National Park.
- Move to Isla Ballena, a distant island in the ocean notable for snorkeling opportunities to spot cetaceans.
- Attend the annual music festival held in the town during February , one of most immersive festivals in the world.
Popular food to try in Uvita includes BBQ chicken, seafood, pizza, burger and many Costa Rican delicacies.
Best time to visit Uvita is from April till June.
How to reach Uvita? Book a flight to Palmar Sur Airport from where you can take a taxi or car to reach the town.
Jaco - top beach destination in Costa Rica
Jaco is a beautiful, energetic beach town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica that is located near the capital city of San Jose.
Top things to do in Jaco –
- Soak up the sun in Jaco beach and treat yourself with the tasty food in melodious restaurants and bars.
- Enjoy a luxury stay with your family or with your partner in Hotel Club del Mar.
- Discover the beauty and diversity of Costa Rican’s dense rainforests with a rainforest adventure tour.
- Stop at Mirador de Jaco, an observation deck in Jaco giving spectacular views of the coastlines.
- Advent yourself with activities like swimming and surfing on the waters near Hermosa beach.
- Explore Carara National Park where you can detect crocodiles and macaws.
- End your trip after zip lining in the forest area providing the ocean views with different perspectives.
Popular food to try in Jaco consists of seafood, poultry, pasta, steak and traditional food.
Best time to visit Jaco is from February till April during the summer season.
How to reach Jaco? Take a bus or taxi from the city of San Jose to reach the town.
Papagayo - top family travel destination in Costa Rica
Papagayo is a long stretch of beach flanked by beautiful rainforests and luxurious resorts offering a great family holiday.
Top things to do in Papagayo –
- Experience the luxury of well maintained and sustained resorts of town that you will never want to leave.
- Get adventurous with your family in land or water with scuba diving, fishing, swimming, horseback riding and surfing.
- Take a zip line being the longest zip line system in Costa Rica facilitating you to enchant the marvelous ocean views.
- Take an ATV rental for discovering the natural plantations and local villages near the beach at a fast pace.
- Enjoy with your family a poolside bubble bath with fun games, a major attraction in various resorts of Papagayo.
- End your trip after spotting various wild animals like Capuchin monkey, rhinoceros beetle, sloths etc. in the nearly national park.
Best time to visit Papagayo is during the months of November, December and January.
How to reach Papagayo? Take a taxi, bus or car from the city of San Jose to reach the town.
Corcovado National Park - top wildlife destination in Costa Rica
Corcovado National Park is one of the richest biodiversity regions in the world located in the southwest part of the country in Osa peninsula also called the Amazon of Costa Rica.
Top things to do in Corcovado National Park –
- Find the densest population of tapirs, jaguars, ocelots, puma, giant alligators and macaws in the park.
- Uncover the picturesque Drake Bay and it’s magical remote beaches, getting a chance to stroll along and relax.
- Get a memorable experience of tenting amidst the dense canopy while cherishing the spectacular view of the valley.
- Go for hiking along the short or long trails and explore the pristine beauty of the evergreen tropical rainforests.
- Head to Llorona beach where you can see hawksbill turtles, green turtles and leatherback turtles.
You will be advised to bring your own food as there are not any options for good food here.
Best time to visit Corcovado National Park is during the summer season from December till April.
How to reach Corcovado National Park? Book a flight to Drake Bay Airport from where you can take a taxi, ship or bus to reach the national park.
Puerto Viejo - top solo travel destination in Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo is a pleasing town in Costa Rica located on the Caribbean coast known for its unique combination of cultural heritage and natural wilderness.
Top things to do in Puerto Viejo –
- Forget the world and relax in the undisturbed white sandy beaches feeling the airbrushed vibe of Caribbean.
- Get an opportunity to surf in some of the best surfing waves you would find in the country.
- Unveil marine life and coral reefs while doing swimming or scuba diving in refreshing waters of the ocean.
- Progress to the city and see many artifacts in the art gallery of Luluberlu.
- Visit the Casa de la Cultura Marcus Garvey and get lost in its striking cultural atmosphere.
- Detect many injured or confiscated animals in Jaguar Rescue Center near the town.
- Ride into the rainforest or explore the beach with a horseback riding tour.
Best time to visit Puerto Viejo is from February till April or from August till October.
How to reach Puerto Viejo? Book a flight to Limon International Airport from where you can take a taxi or car to reach the town.
Limon - food capital of Costa Rica
Situated on Caribbean coast, Limon is an attractive major city of Costa Rica popular for its rich history and large black community.
Top things to do in Limon –
- Kick start your taste buds and imagination with the freakish and delightful local food the city is offering.
- Attend the annual carnival celebrating the Afro Costa Rican culture with calypso music and costumed parade and food events during the month of October.
- Jump to Playa Bonita to enjoy activities like swimming, kayaking and snorkeling.
- Examine your luck, play games, dance and drink wine in Casino Columbus Platinum.
- Progress to Parque Nacional Tortugaero, a nesting area near the town where you can find sea turtles.
- Feel holy at Cathedral Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, a dramatic catholic church in Limon.
Popular food to try in Limon consists of Rondo, Patis, Chifrijo, Casado, Tres Leches, Água de Sapo and Cacao Fresco.
Best time to visit Limon is between the period of August and October.
How to reach Limon? Book a flight to Limon International Airport to get access to the city.
Cahuita - best Caribbean town in Costa Rica
Cahuita is a wonderful surf resort town in the South Caribbean coast of Costa Rica popular for the perfect Caribbean beaches, weather and natural beauty.
Top things to do in Cahuita –
- Do activities like snorkeling, canoeing and scuba diving in the warm and calm waters of this quaint town.
- Relax along the tranquil and exotic shoreline of black sandy beaches of town or roam in the striking trails.
- Unearth the wilderness of Cahuita National Park, one of the most precious natural areas of Costa Rica.
- Go for a hiking adventure in the rugged mountains of the rainforest.
- Interact with the local Afro Costa Rican people making your Caribbean experience more localized and authentic.
- Locate a few shipwreck sites with a diving trip.
- Take a guided tour to the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica aimed at protecting the population of sloths and other animals.
Popular food to try in Cahuita comprises dessert crepes, chocolates and many more traditional delights.
Best time to visit Cahuita is from March to May or from September till November.
How to reach Cahuita? Take a bus or taxi from the city of Limon to reach the town.
Monteverde - most popular place in Costa Rica
Monteverde is a massive natural town in Costa Rica located in the province of Puntarenas that is well known for its cloud forest.
Top things to do in Monteverde –
- Get lost amidst the trials and misty environment of Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a unique yet famous attraction in Costa Rica.
- Walk and take some alluring instagrammable shots of the cool bridges and trails in the forests that look quite impressive in fog.
- Increase your knowledge about butterflies in Monteverde Butterfly Gardens to see butterflies and insects in their natural habitat .
- Go on a zipline adventure in its evergreen rainforests and take a panoramic view of the dense canopy below you.
- Locate more than 200 species of birds in the wildlife refuge of Curi Court Reserve just 1 km away from the cloud forest.
- Spend a night between the waterfalls, rivers and lush green forest while listening to the voice of the jungle.
Best time to visit Monteverde is from December till April during the summer season.
How to reach Monteverde? Book a flight to Fortuna Airport from where you can take a bus, taxi or car to reach the town.
Sarchi - most beautiful town in Costa Rica
Sarchi is a beautiful city in Costa Rica in the province of Alajuela known throughout the country for its picturesque and intricate environment.
Top things to do in Sarchi –
- Admire the magnificent architecture of Templo Catolico de Sarchi Norte, a catholic church in the city centre.
- Visit Fabrica de Carretas Joaquin Chaverri where you can see the world's largest oxcart and adore the artistically appealing surroundings.
- Locate a historic big sized wooden chariot in the tiny Sarchi Park decorated with striking drawings.
- Relax or wander across the green grounds of Else Kientzler Park, a large botanic garden in the city.
- Tour the nearly town of Grecia, famous for a large red colored catholic church.
- Cover the many trials and notice waterfalls and swimming holes in the Los Chorros Municipal Recreative Park.
Best time to visit Sarchi is from December till mid March.
How to reach Sarchi? Take a bus or taxi from the city of San Jose to reach the town.
Poas Volcano - top adventure destination in Costa Rica
Poas is a scenic volcano in Costa Rica located in the central valley that is a symbol of geothermal forces that built the modern Costa Rica.
Top things to do in Poas Volcano –
- Hike through the trails that lead to the twisted and stunted cloud forests in the high altitude region of the volcano.
- Get amazed to see the majestic blue green Botos Lake, a large crater lake that needs to be captured.
- Spot animals and birds like hummingbirds, Poas squirrels, tanagers, toucans, flycatchers and clay colored robins.
- Stroll amidst the green coffee plantations in the lower volcanic valleys of the mountain.
- Witness the natural beauty near La Paz waterfalls known for its wildlife habitats including one of largest butterfly gardens in the world.
- Get some fantastic views of the distant mountains and the smoke coming out of the craters that just look terrifying.
Poas is an active volcano that last erupted just a few years ago in April, 2017.
Best time to visit Poas Volcano is during February, March and April. Try to hike during morning time.
How to reach Poas Volcano? Take a bus or taxi from the capital city to reach the volcano.
Cartago - cultural capital of Costa Rica
Cartago is a large city in Costa Rica that is an important agricultural and cultural center and also served as the capital of Costa Rica.
Top things to do in Cartago –
- Visit the grand Basilica of Our Lady of Angels, an expansive church in the city centre with a sacred statue.
- Travel over the haunted Santiago Apostol Parish ruins, a historic cultural site that failed to be recreated due to frequent earthquakes.
- Relish the large collection of bamboo and other native plants in the Lancaster Botanical Gardens.
- Do shopping for local food, clothes and souvenirs in the famous Sunday market of Cartago.
- Get sweeping views of the green valley and distant volcanoes from the Mirador Sanatorium Carlos Duran.
- Unveil Ruinas de Ujarras, the ruins of a 16th century Spanish colonial church surrounded by green gardens.
Popular food to try in Cartago consists of Guaro Cacique, Chaguite, Costa Rican food with many international flavors.
Best time to visit Cartago is from early December to mid April.
How to reach Cartago? Book a flight to Tobias Bolanos International Airport from where you can take a bus or taxi to reach here.