Where to Stay in Costa Rica? Top Beaches, Volcanoes & More

Escape Cadet Staff

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Discovering Costa Rica

Costa Rica, a small Central American country, is renowned for its biodiversity, idyllic beaches, and vibrant culture.

With an assortment of unique geographical areas, there’s no shortage of destinations for travellers with various interests. But how do you decide where to go? In this guide, we will explore the best places to stay in Costa Rica, from beachfront paradises and picturesque mountain regions to vibrant urban scenes.

Whether you’re a beach bum looking forward to chilling on the sandy shores, a nature lover seeking the thrill of wildlife encounters, or a culture vulture eager to soak in the local lifestyle, we’ve got you covered.

The Best Areas to Stay in Costa Rica

When considering a visit to Costa Rica, choosing the perfect area to stay is a vital part of planning your journey. Different areas boast diverse strong points, and what qualifies as “the best” is heavily dependent on your personal travel goals.

Areas Perfect for Beach Enthusiasts

For those longing to immerse themselves in Costa Rica’s renowned beaches, two areas are particularly impressive.


With excellent accommodations and numerous outdoor activities, Tamarindo is a favorite among tourists. Plus, you can enjoy thrilling water sports, such as:

  • Surfing
  • Snorkeling
  • Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Manuel Antonio

On the Pacific coast sits Manuel Antonio, another top spot for beach enthusiasts known for:

  • Idyllic beaches
  • Endless ocean views
  • Exquisite seafood dining

Staying Close to Nature: Jaco and Montezuma

If you’re more interested in wildlife and nature, consider these areas.


Jaco, a gateway to endless natural beauty, stands out for:

  • Rainforest adventures
  • Hiking trails
  • Wildlife spotting


Montezuma, meanwhile, adds a bohemian twist to the tropical offerings and presents opportunities for:

  • Yoga retreats
  • Eco-tours
  • Local craft markets

Other Significant Areas in Costa Rica

If the above areas don’t satisfy your requirements, some other worthy areas can offer equally unique experiences.


This province is home to Costa Rica’s capital, Heredia City. It’s less touristy than other areas, providing authentic experiences, and is known for:

  • Historical architecture
  • Local markets
  • Rich cultural ambiance

Puerto Viejo

On the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo brings a different flavor to the table. Its highlights include:

  • Relaxed Afro-Caribbean vibes
  • Exotic wildlife
  • Surf spots

It’s clear that Costa Rica has an immense number of areas that offer distinctive vibes and experiences. Whether you’re in pursuit of idyllic beaches, natural wonders, or cultural immersion, Costa Rica has a place for you.

Exploring the Volcanoes of Costa Rica

The tropical paradise of Costa Rica is known for its stunning beaches, vibrant wildlife, and an impressive number of volcanoes. It’s home to around 200 volcanic formations and six of them are active, enriching its diverse topography. Consider these volcano-centric destinations for an unforgettable stay.

Arenal Volcano Area

The Arenal Volcano area is a hotspot for thrill-seekers.

La Fortuna

La Fortuna is the main town near the Arenal Volcano, offering an array of outdoor activities. The place is known for:

  • Hot springs
  • Waterfall tours
  • Lava hikes

Opting for Cool Mountainous Zones

Looking to enjoy the freshness of mountain air? The highlands of Costa Rica are certainly a break from the tropical heat elsewhere in the country. These locations offer cooler climates and greener landscapes.


Monteverde’s high-altitude cloud forests are nothing short of enchanting.

Santa Elena

Santa Elena, an endearing little town in the Monteverde region, offers attractions like:

  • Cloud forest reserves
  • Ziplining adventures
  • Horseback riding

San Gerardo de Dota

Cocooned in the Talamanca Mountains, San Gerardo de Dota is a paradise for bird watchers, most notably for spotting the elusive Quetzal. It’s known for:

  • Swirling misty landscapes
  • Hiking in cloud forests
  • Freshwater fishing

Adventurous Stay in South Pacific Costa Rica

The densely forested South Pacific region is a haven for wildlife and offers unspoiled beauty far from the busy resorts of the North Pacific.

Osa Peninsula

The Osa Peninsula, home to Corcovado National Park, is famous for:

  • Rich biodiversity
  • Scuba diving
  • Dolphin and whale watching

Drake Bay

Drake Bay, the gateway to Corcovado, is a remote location known for its:

  • Mangrove swamps
  • Off-beaten-path appeal
  • Snorkeling in Cano Island

All said and done, the “best side” of Costa Rica to stay on truly depends on what one seeks to experience. From protective volcanoes and mountain havens to wildlife-rich coastlines, there’s a diverse array of options to choose from.

Diverse Costa Rica: A Closer Look

Costa Rica may not be the biggest country, but it undoubtedly has an enormous variety to offer. Let’s delve into a few more regions and activities that could make your first trip to Costa Rica an unforgettable experience.

The Central Valley: Harbinger of Costa Rican Urban Life

While the coasts and jungles of Costa Rica may get the bulk of attention from travelers, the bustling Central Valley offers a unique perspective on Costan Rican life.

San Jose

As Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose is a dynamic meeting point of old and new. Its attractions include:

  • Vibrant nightlife
  • World-class museums
  • Scarce but significant colonial relics


Home to the Juan Santamaria International Airport, Alajuela is often the first stop for travelers. It’s known for:

  • Local fruit markets
  • Proximity to coffee plantations
  • The iconic Alajuela Cathedral

Vast Plains: Amazing Wetlands and Bird-Watching

Beyond the beaches, forests, and cities, Costa Rica is also home to surprising wetland ecosystems.

Canoe Nicaragua Lake

Situated in the Northern region, Canoe Nicaragua Lake area is famous for:

  • Bird-watching
  • Boat tours
  • Exceptional biodiversity

Enriching Cultural Experiences

To truly appreciate Costa Rica, consider immersing yourself in its rich and distinct culture.

Visit Indigenous Reserves

Gain profound insight into the country’s ancestral heritage by visiting indigenous reserves like the Bribri indigenous reserve which is known for:

  • Local cultural immersion
  • Traditional crafts
  • Unique wildlife encounters

Engage in Community-Based Rural Tourism

Participating in community-based rural tourism (CBRT) can offer unique and sustainable travel experiences.

Farmlands of San Luis

The farmlands of San Luis, located near Monteverde, is appreciated for community-based rural tourism. Here, you can experience:

  • Farm tours
  • Milking cows
  • Making traditional cheese

Finca El Cisne

Finca El Cisne offers a glimpse into authentic rural living in Costa Rica. You can witness:

  • Horseback riding
  • Coffee plantation visits
  • Authentic home-cooked meals

Vibrant Festivals

Witnessing a Costa Rican festival could be a dazzling addition to your trip. Staggering processions, vibrant outfits, and rhythmic music make Costa Rican festivals a sight of pure joy.

Fiestas de los Diablitos

The Fiestas de los Diablitos (Festival of the Little Devils) is a traditional Borucan festival celebrated in late December and early January, featuring masked dances that depict the resistance of the Borucan people against Spanish conquerors.

Carnival of Limon

Limon hosts a sensational Caribbean carnival in October, famous for:

  • Raucous music parades
  • Delicious Afro-Caribbean food
  • Spectacular dance shows

While deciding on the best place to start your Costa Rican adventure might seem daunting given the many options, remember that there’s no wrong choice. Each part of Costa Rica has unique experiences to offer, catering to different interests, desires, and travel styles. Simply pick the one or a combination that resonates most with your travel aspirations.

City Life Vs. Wilderness: More Choices in Costa Rica

To enrich your Costa Rican experience, consider exploring both the dynamic city-life and untouched wilderness Costa Rica offers in abundance.

Sampling Metropolitan Charms

Soak in the urban vibe by opting for city stays. They offer access to gastronomy, architecture, museums, shopping, and more.


The old capital, Cartago, is a nexus of historical significance and offers attractions like:

  • Imposing churches
  • Botanical gardens
  • Ancient ruins


Known for its upscale appeal, Escazú is home to exclusive restaurants, trendy boutiques, and art galleries. Its highlights include:

  • Shopping malls
  • Italian cuisine
  • Modern cinema

Immersing in Pristine Wilderness

If undisturbed nature is what you seek, heading towards less commercialized, pristine areas in Costa Rica can be rewarding.

Tortuguero National Park

Often referred to as the “Amazon of Costa Rica”, Tortuguero National Park is famous for:

  • Sea turtle nesting
  • Jungle canal exploration
  • Bird watching

Guanacaste Conservation Areas

Hosting the most significant dry forest in Central America, the Guanacaste Conservation Areas are known for:

  • Biodiverse protected areas
  • Rural tourism
  • Exceptional marine life

Experiences Based on Seasonality

Understanding Costa Rica’s climate is key to timing your visit. The country experiences two main seasons – a dry season (December-April) and a rainy season (May–November).

Travel During Dry Season

Dry season, or ‘Verano’ (summer), is perfect for beach visits and outdoor activities, offering:

  • Best surfing conditions
  • Hassle-free road travel
  • Lively fiestas and events

Travel During Rainy Season

Rainy season, or ‘Invierno’ (winter), can be great for budget travelers, offering:

  • Lower rates in accommodations
  • Less crowded tourist spots
  • Rainforest in full bloom

Depth in Diversity: Tiny Villages

There’s more to Costa Rica than meets the eye. Exploring quaint little towns and villages can provide an unadulterated taste of local life.


Beside towering mountains, Grecia, often known as the cleanest town in Latin America, is famous for:

  • The unique red metal church
  • Local crafts
  • Organic coffee tours


The artisan town of Sarchi is synonymous with Costa Rica’s brightly painted oxcarts. It offers:

  • Artisan workshops
  • Souvenir shopping
  • Oxcart parades

Choosing your destination in Costa Rica can indeed depend on an array of factors. However, irrespective of the choice, the country’s breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and the warm-hearted locals guarantee a memorable stay.

Choosing your Costa Rican Adventure

In conclusion, Costa Rica is a traveler’s paradise, offering an incredibly diverse range of experiences for every type of traveler. From beach lovers to adventure enthusiasts, nature buffs, culture lovers, and urban explorers, Costa Rica is teeming with potential adventures. It’s less about selecting the perfect destination and more about identifying your personal travel aspirations. With a keen focus on your interests, and an adventurous spirit, you’re all set to make the most out of everything Costa Rica has to offer. The beauty of this vibrant country lies in its diversity, promising something memorable around every corner. Remember, there’s no wrong choice, only different paths to the same enlightening discovery – the pure life, or ‘Pura Vida’, that Costa Rica embodies.

What is the best coastal area to stay in Costa Rica?

There is no definitive answer as it depends on your preferences. Tamarindo and Manuel Antonio are notably loved by beach enthusiasts, while Puerto Viejo offers a unique Afro-Caribbean vibe.

Which is the best area for experiencing nature in Costa Rica?

Jaco and Montezuma are great for being close to nature. South Pacific region, particularly Osa Peninsula, and Tortuguero National Park are perfect for wildlife lovers.

What area would you suggest for cultural immersion?

Heredia provides authentic experiences and gives a taste of the urban culture, while visiting indigenous reserves can provide deep insight into Costa Rica’s ancestral heritage.

When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?

Both dry and rainy seasons have their perks. Dry season (December to April) is better for outdoor activities and beach visits whereas rainy season (May to November) is great for witnessing the rainforest in full bloom and for budget travel.

What other unique sides of Costa Rica can be explored?

Other fascinating aspects include participation in local festivals, exploring small villages like Grecia and Sarchi, sampling metropolitan charms in cities like Cartago, and engaging in community-based rural tourism.

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