What are the main cities in Costa Rica? This Central American country is divided into five main regions including the North Pacific, the Central Pacific, the Central Valley, the South Pacific and the Caribbean coast. Besides San Jose, the capital, the country has important cities and regions to visit when traveling to Costa Rica.
Cities in Costa Rica: San Jose, Central Valley
Besides being the capital, San José is also the largest city in Costa Rica. Between mountain peaks and volcanoes, San José is dense and home to nearly a third of the country’s population. The city is distinguished by its Spanish colonial buildings, such as the National Theater of Costa Rica in the neoclassical style, but also by its many museums which reflect the history of the country, in particular the Costa Rican civilization, like the Museum Costa Rican National and Gold Museum.
Monteverde, North Pacific
Monteverde is one of the main cities in Costa Rica to visit for a breath of fresh air. Located in the mountainous region in the northwest of Costa Rica, in the province of Puntaneras, Monteverde is renowned for the great biodiversity of its cloud forest, nestled at 1500 meters above sea level. We obviously go there to visit the famous biological reserve of Monteverde which is home to countless wild animals, including jaguars, ocelots or colorful quetzals. The Monteverde reserve has a suspension bridge that allows you to walk above the forest canopy.
Thrill-seekers, in Monteverde, you can indulge in all kinds of activities such as tubbing (down the river in a buoy), rafting, or tree climbing…
Puerto Limon, Caribbean Coast
On the Caribbean coast, Puerto Limon (also called Limón) will seduce you with its forests, mountains and heavenly beaches. A true protected area of Costa Rica, Limon is characterized in particular by its national parks, including that of Tortugeroin the north of the province, one of the most important nesting grounds for green sea turtles on the American continent.
Going down to the south, an hour’s drive away, is Cahuita, a quiet little town known for its national park of the same name, home to a large expanse of coral reef. The turquoise waters of Cahuita beach are an unmissable spot for snorkeling lovers.
In Puerto Limon, take the opportunity to visit Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, located just 30 minutes from Cahuita. Puerto Viejo is an authentic fishing village, with many beaches with crystal clear water, bordered by a tropical forest sheltering a unique fauna and flora. A true surfing paradise, Puerto Viejo is one of the most famous spots in Costa Rica, coveted by surfers from all over the world.
Finally, in Limon, we will not forget to take a short walk Manzanillo, small village located in the protected area of Gandoca-Manzanillo. You can rent kayaks there to explore peaceful mangroves and observe birds and reptiles typical of the area.
Liberia, North Pacific
In the province of Guanacaste, Liberia is one of the cities of Costa Rica to visit absolutely. 215 km north-west of San José, Liberia, nicknamed “The White City” is a real anchor point for exploring the beaches as well as the neighboring national parks. Considered the colonial heart of Costa Rica, Liberia is steeped in history: the city is easily explored on foot.
About a two-hour drive from the center of Liberia is the Rincon de La Vieja National Park. The latter is home to lush forest, hiking trails and waterfalls galore. Ideal for fully experiencing the “Pura Vida” dear to Costa Ricans.
Tortuguero National Park
Just for the mere fact that it can be reached by boat (or the luckiest by plane or helicopter) and not by road, they make this a destination like few others. On the one hand, he is carried away by the Caribbean rhythm and the coconut milk seasoning the most typical dishes that are served in wooden cabins made up with bright colors. But on the other, it allows you to take a look at the beaches where sea turtles come to lay their eggs at night. This is a spectacle that pays for itself the trip to this corner of the Costa Rican Caribbean, but not the only one, since inland there is a network of canals that can be traveled by canoe and that will make one believe navigating in the Amazon .
In a country with an immensity of volcanoes, and not a few that are active, there is an indisputable king and that is part of any tour that is done in Costa Rica. El Arenal is a real volcano, one that even a small child could draw, and sometimes, if the clouds do not selfishly cling to it, it lets you see lava coming out of its crater and hear the tremors and explosions that occur in it. inside such a cauldron.
One can try to surround it from the town of La Fortuna through roads and paths that allow one to see an exhausted half that seeks to cover its frontal position, still well leafy. But it’s a lot of fun to watch (and listen to) at night from the warmth of the hot springs that lie just below you (Tabacón Hot Springs is the best-known natural spa in the area) while a bartender offers you a cocktail you’ll believe with. swimming inside the volcano.
Its conical silhouette is not as suggestive as that of Arenal, but the Poás volcano does not need it because it allows you to climb to the top of a steamy crater (the largest in size in the country) that emits sulfur in resounding fumaroles. Let you see it before the fog completely covers it, which happens sooner than we would like, which requires getting up early and praying to the spirit that lives in Poás to have mercy on us and help us. show your volcanic beauty.
In the province of Guanacaste, and we pass to the Pacific, turtles also come to nest. In protected places like Ostional, there are nights when not one or two come, but hundreds of them on the same day to treat our eyes to one of the greatest shows we can attend on a trip to Costa Rica. Always accompanied by a guide, without using lights that harm or scare these marine animals, we will be able to see how the beach becomes a nursery full of turtle eggs that will hatch the following month. It is a very Darwinian event because out of a hundred eggs perhaps a turtle will survive and, if it can (or rather, if they let it), it will return to the same beach where it was born to give meaning to the cycle of life again.
Manuel Antonio National Park
It is the most touristic and crowded town, by far, in Costa Rica. Perhaps what the city is, with hotels, lodges and apartments galore, is the most impersonal facet of the Central American country and the one I like the least, but it has the asset of the Manuel Antonio National Park, which is beautiful and offers very interesting tours of the beach. Few places in the world allow you to observe a greater number of marmosets up close and the sunsets on the beach are authentic postcards. And it’s not exactly a bad base to start exploring the Costa Rican Atlantic coast and go down, who knows, to Drake Bay and penetrate the Osa Peninsula.
When to go to Costa Rica: All our advice
Tamarindo, North Pacific
Also in the province of Guanacaste, Tamarindo is one of the towns in Costa Rica worth visiting. It seduces with its beautiful beaches ideal for surfing, but also for observing the laying of eggs. You can organize a night tour to see the arrival of turtles on the beach and the laying of eggs, in peace and respect for the animals. Tamarindo also shines with Las Baulas de Guanacaste National Park, its rare birds and its unique mangrove.
Uvita, North Pacific
To end this vacation in Costa Rica, don’t forget to visit Uvita, also located in the province of Guanacaste. This small village in the south of Costa Rica is known for its surf spot, its magnificent waterfalls, its natural parks but also for its beach, shaped like a whale’s tail. Also worth seeing is the village of Dominical located about 20 minutes by bus from Uvita. There are typical bars and restaurants, as well as a very uncrowded paradise beach. Simply the dream.