Traveling to Costa Rica is a trip unlike any other, exploring a tropical paradise surrounded on both sides by miles of the coast. To the east, you have the warm waters of the Caribbean while on the country's west shores you can watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean. The food is fresh and flavorful, whether you're enjoying a cup of fresh coconut by the water or dining on Caribbean cuisine in a five-star restaurant. Nature lovers, you're in luck too: hiking, snorkeling, diving—you name it, Costa Rica has the experience you've been waiting to try.
Keep reading to further explore why Costa Rica should top your list of must-see destinations.
Costa Rica is brimming with a variety of incredible sights, but your first stop should be the country's capital, San José. If there's any one thing you have to see in the city, it's the Teatro Nacional. Book a tour and check the theater's calendar to see if there are any performances while you're in town. The capital is a cultural hub with numerous museums, but it's best known for the Museo Nacional, which includes a butterfly sanctuary and rotating exhibits that give interesting insights into the country's history.
Costa Rica's most famous site, however, is located beyond the capital. La Fortuna de San Carlos is a volcano located northwest of San José and surrounded by lakes, hiking trails, and waterfalls. Also available around La Fortuna are hot springs resorts for a luxurious stay after a day of activity.
In a country surrounded by gorgeous beaches, it can be tough to narrow down which are musts to visit. There are three, however, that absolutely can't be missed in Costa Rica: Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, and Uvita.
Tamarindo is located on the northern shores of Costa Rica's west coast. With its warm waters and low tides, this popular beach is famous for surfing. Tour guides like Pura Aventura also offer horseback riding, zip-lining, and tours of the hills surrounding Tamarindo.
Santa Teresa is a beach town with almost every type of activity available for visitors, from windsurfing to kitesurfing, zip-lining, and snorkeling. When it's time to unwind, there are numerous spas in the area, along with yoga and Pilates centers.
For a lower-key alternative, visit Uvita Beach, a large swath of land with black sand and incredible natural sites, including a waterfall. Kayaking and canoeing are popular here, and wildlife is lush. Try swimming with the dolphins for an unforgettable experience.
Really getting a feel for Costa Rica's culture starts with the food. Costa Rican cuisine is rich and varied, and you'll find quintessential dishes at every price point in San Jose. In a country surrounded by water, it's no wonder that seafood is incredibly popular. For a fine dining experience, Restaurante Grano de Oro is one of the best in the city, boasting a menu that mixes Mediterranean and tropical influences.
For a more traditional option, try venturing into one of San Jose's many sodas, small, family-owned restaurants serving traditional fare. Chelles in San Jose is one of the most well-known examples and is the perfect place to grab a plate of arroz con pollo with a side of fried plantains. After, satisfy your sweet tooth with a trip to La Sorbetera de Lolo Mora for its local-favorite ice cream, available in one signature flavor: a mix of vanilla and cinnamon.