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Pura vida: The top places to visit in Costa Rica

Pura vida: The top places to visit in Costa Rica

Take inspiration from the sloths and do Costa Rica at a pace that suits.

In terms of size, Costa Rica is small. It has just over ​​51,000 sq km, making us one of the smallest countries in Central America. However, our size belies everything we have to offer.

With a combination of jungles, mountains, tropical beaches, and exquisite Caribbean food, it's no surprise that Costa Rica receives over 1.7 million tourists per year.

It's a country that is best experienced by lingering along the way. This is to allow time to soak up the true character of our people and our way of life here.

Each region has a unique climate, as well as distinct flora and fauna. Therefore, to observe them all will take time. As one local writer puts it, "The illusive resplendent quetzal does not pose for harried tourists, nor does the ever-smiling sloth!"

Indeed, you will need to be moving slowly to spot them. But it will be well worth the wait.

There are also subtle differences in our spoken dialects and customs that will be equally easy to miss by those rushing to tick every "highlight" off the list in a single visit.

As many Ticos know, the country has endless activities for all nature and adventure lovers, including beautiful beaches to visit, cloud forests to explore and volcanoes to traverse.

There's everything from ziplining and whitewater rafting to birdwatching and horseback rides on offer. Not to mention our immensely rich and diverse range of fauna and flora, which is estimated to make up 4% of all animal and plant life on earth.

Here is our pick of the top four places to visit in Costa Rica.

Marvel at Río Celeste in Guanacaste

Situated in the north, the Guanacaste province is home to the Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio.

Here, visitors can marvel at not one but two impressive natural wonders: the majestic Tenorio volcano (from which the national park takes its name) and the Río Celeste, arguably one of the most impressive in Central America.

The river has clear, turquoise water and is surrounded by exuberant vegetation. Where does the unique color come from?, I hear you ask. It's due to the mineral elements (from the volcano) in the riverbed that create an optical effect when illuminated by sunlight.

In addition, there are lagoons, hot springs and waterfalls dotted around that you will be unable to do anything but stop and marvel at.

Enjoy spectacular views from Poás Volcano in Alajuela

Further inland, you will find another volcano well worth a visit.

Located in the province of Alajuela, among many other attractions, the Poás Volcano is an active volcano with one of the largest craters in the world. Among other things, it is a powerful symbol of the geothermal forces that formed our country.

Clad in protective gear, you can tour the volcano and appreciate the spectacular views from the Central Volcanic Mountain Range.

If you're lucky, the mist and clouds will part and you'll see the bubbling, green lake at the bottom, engulfed by smoke and steam rising from fumaroles.

The lake's water constantly makes its way through cracks in the hot rock. When it evaporates, it builds pockets of steam. And when the pressure in these pockets exceeds the weight of the water above, the steam breaks through in the form of impressive geysers. I've seen them reach heights of more than 800 ft!

A city centre in San José, Costa Rica

Top-up on culture and coffee in San José

The capital of Costa Rica and its largest city with a population of more than 300,000, San José is a must-visit for those after a slice of true Costa Rican culture and cuisine.

To try some of the best coffees Costa Rica has to offer, Barrio Escalante is the place to go. Here, you will find a number of cafés and restaurants serving delicious Costa Rican specialty coffees, including Franco Restaurante and Cabra Negra.

Just a 15-minute walk from the stunning 19th-century Teatro Nacional, Barrio Escalante is also home to Calle 33, also known as paseo gastronómico thanks to its many foodie spots.

In San José, visitors can soak up the local culture at one of the city’s many museums. Among the highlights is the Museo de Arte Costarricense, which houses paintings from an enviable array of both national and international artists.

The museum's Sculpture Garden, which was opened in 2003, also features a number of iconic works, including "Tres mujeres caminando" by Francisco Zúñiga, "Arboriforme" by José Sancho and "Cabeza Pensamiento" by Crisanto Badilla.

Immerse yourself in nature at the national parks of Limón

On our Caribbean coast, located on the east side of Costa Rica, the province of Limón is a genuine paradise thanks to the blend of beaches with thick jungle vegetation.

Here, you can find Parque Nacional Tortuguero, which is famous for its nesting sea turtles. Keeping a fair distance away, you can catch a glimpse while exploring the park's freshwater creeks and lagoons by boat.

Playa Punta Uva is the perfect beach for sunbathing and taking a swim in the crystal clear waters, while the nearby Cahuita National Park is home to an array of wildlife, from sloths and racoons to coati and monkeys.

For a tranquil experience filled with delicious coastal dishes, head to Manzanillo. Named after an ancient manzanillo tree that once stood in the town’s center, Manzanillo plays host to several colorful local markets and lots of restaurants serving up some of the best seafood in the country.

We hope these sights inspire your next – or first! – trip to Costa Rica very soon. Go slow, linger longer and soak up all the scenic beauty and hospitality our country has to offer.

We have only scratched the surface of all the incredible things to see and do in Costa Rica. Despite its small size, you really could spend a lifetime there without having seen and done everything on offer.

But if you're not lucky enough to be traveling to Costa Rica anytime soon – don’t worry! You can still enjoy the wonderful flavors of organic coffee from Central America.

At Mayorga Coffee, we have a wide range of freshly roasted organic coffees from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and more. Check out our full range.



 

 




Indira Frías

Indira was born in Panama, but found her roots in Costa Rica. She has a degree in Bilingual Communication, and specialises in areas of self-knowledge and nature. It's for that reason she enjoys living in a country as green as Costa Rica. She has written for Orgullo Latino since 2022.

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