Costa Rica

Costa Rica has continued its reign as one of the world’s top honeymoon destinations – and it’s easy to see why. With its vast array of natural wonders and lush terrain, the country is teeming with one-of-a-kind experiences.

Sun seekers and spa enthusiasts will find hundreds of top-notch resorts, spas, and white-sand beaches. Meanwhile, thrill seekers will discover countless active pursuits like diving, canopy tours, and whitewater rafting. Eco-travelers will also encounter some of the world’s most unique and diverse wildlife, terrain, and guided excursions.

In terms of geography, the country is located in Central America and bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Nicaragua, and Panama. The capital is San Jose while the time zone is the same as the central part of the United States.

Slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia, Costa Rica features coastal plains separated by rugged mountains (including more than 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major volcanoes). With its diverse physical makeup, the Costa Rican landscape stands out through lush green valleys, verdant rainforests, waterfalls, hot springs, and beautiful beaches. The country is also home to 11 different microclimates.

In addition to coffee production, ecotourism has become one of the country’s prime industries. Ecotourism draws millions of visitors to the country’s extensive system of national parks and protected areas. In fact, 25 percent of Costa Rica’s land area is protected, making it No. 1 in the world for that category.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica is home to a wide variety of animals and plants. The country actually contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Notable parks include Corcovado National Park (featuring an abundance of wildlife), Tortuguero National Park (known for its turtles, birds, monkeys, and reptiles), and Montverde Cloud Forest Reserve (which contains nearly 2,000 plant species).

In terms of other top areas of interest, visitors can watch sparks fly at Arenal Volcano in Arenal National Park. Along the coast, be sure to get in some rest and relaxation by spending a few days on Guanacaste’s Gold Coast beaches. In addition to nearby rainforest activities, couples can also find amazing water sports options, such as kayaking, surfing lessons, snorkel excursions, and much, much more.

Activities and Attractions

Costa Rica hiking

  • Zip-line Canopy Tour — Start your adventure with a zip-line canopy tour at Selvatura Park, arguably the country’s best zip-line experience. Located inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest, you’ll fly for three hours via 15 cables and 18 platforms with an optional Tarzan Swing at the end of your adventure.

  • River Rafting — The Pacuare River is widely regarded as one of the top destinations for whitewater rafting. Grab a paddle with Costa Rica Nature Adventures and head deep into the jungle before winding your way down class IV and V rapids through narrow gorges, past giant boulders, and next to cascading waterfalls. Keep an eye out for an active wildlife scene, complete with birds, monkeys, sloths, and jaguars.

    Exploradores Outdoors -- another top outfitter for rafting trips -- offers a variety of exciting itineraries as well.

  • Hiking Up in the Clouds — Take to the trails and explore the country through a scenic hiking trip. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a spectacular spot to go hiking with its grey mist, well-marked trails, and amazing biodiversity. Consider taking a tour in the morning to familiarize yourselves with the forest before exploring further in the afternoon.

    Meanwhile, Monteverde is considered one of the country’s top destinations for art galleries and craft shops. Stick around for a few days and browse through the region’s most vibrant stores, galleries, and restaurants.

  • Sea Excursions — Head out to sea on the gorgeous catamaran Cool Runnings where your captain will lead you on a five-hour lunch cruise. You’ll get the chance to snorkel with sea turtles, swim with the fishes, and explore shipwrecks. Sunset cruises are also available and include swimming and snorkeling opportunities. All cruises feature excellent meals complete with open bar and wine. Rates are also quite reasonable, starting at $80 per person for the four-hour sunset sail.

  • Beaches of Costa Rica — Costa Rica offers hundreds of miles of spectacular beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. On the Pacific side, Playa Samara on the Guanacaste coast is a long stretch of white-sand beach with shallow waters, a coral reef, and even a deserted island to explore just offshore. The spot is also popular for kayaking, bird watching, snorkeling, and a number of exciting boat excursions.

    Situated on the eastern shore of the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Montezuma is ideal for couples in search of peace and inspiration. In addition to desolate stretches of sand, this laid-back region boasts amazing waterfalls, yoga and spa retreats, and stunning wildlife preserves.

    Nearby Guanacaste in the extreme northwestern part of the country, Santa Rosa National Park is a wonderful destination to truly get away from it all. An abundance of flora and fauna reside in the park's immense forests that eventually give way to pristine white-sand beaches. Santa Rosa is uniquely orientated to campers, offering a number of campgrounds for visitors who wish to spend the night.

  • Arenal Volcano Adventures — Arenal National Park is the site of Arenal Volcano, a massive (and active) volcano that has been spewing lava since 1968. During the day, you can witness smoke billowing from Arenal’s top, while at night you can watch the fiery-red lava pour down its steep sides. Hiking here is also excellent, giving visitors the chance to trek through rainforest, savanna, and even old lava flows. If you make the trip here, there are a number of excellent hotels and resorts nearby to make your stay most relaxing, including Tabacon Grand Spa.

  • Corcovado National Park — Situated along Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, the world-famous Corcovado National Park is one of the most biologically rich places on the planet and provides an excellent opportunity to see extremely rare and beautiful wildlife.

    Make no mistake – this is the REAL jungle. Within its 100,000 acres, Corcovado National Park has approximately 375 species of birds, 125 mammals, 50 bats, 131 reptiles and amphibians, 850 trees, 1,500 plants and ferns, and more than 6,000 insects. This is your chance to see the rain forest of Costa Rica in its most pure and pristine state. The park is wet, remote and rugged, but the trails are in good shape, giving way to hiking and backpacking experiences of a lifetime.

  • Surfing in Nosara — While many visitors head to pleasant seaside village of Nosara for its kayaking, rainforest expeditions, and horseback riding on the beach, the region truly stands out thanks to its consistent surf. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned surfer, paddle out with a reputable local outfitter like Coconut Harry’s, which offers surf rentals, lessons, vacation tour packages, and English-speaking instructors. Other recommended outfitters include Safari Surf School and Nosara Surf School.

Where to Stay

Costa Rica hotel

  • Grand Spa at Tabacon Located at the base of the active Arenal Volcano, this stunning property aims at completely immersing guests within nature. The resort features luxurious suites complete with outdoor terraces, handmade furniture from the region, and the backdrop of natural hot springs and tropical rainforest. The world-renowned spa includes charming bungalows set within colorful gardens, plus open-air Jacuzzis that even draw water from the nearby thermal springs.

    For a unique treatment, sign up for the Temazcal experience, a traditional purifying ritual that's often performed in a sweat lodge. Another invigorating option is the volcanic mud wrap, which uses mineral-rich clay from Costa Rica and helps the skin feel restored and healthy..

  • Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica For beach lovers, it doesn’t get any better than this. The stunning five-star property is home to four pools, two beaches, a full-service spa, four restaurants, and one of the world’s top golf courses. Enjoy spacious accommodations near the beach, top-notch restaurants that make magnificent use of local ingredients, a full service spa, and eco-adventures galore. This is easily one of Costa Rica’s finest properties.

  • Kura Design Villas Situated on an impressive mountain ridge, Kura is a small luxury boutique hotel on the southern coast of Costa Rica. You'll find a unique place where the rainforest-covered mountains of the Osa Peninsula meet pristine Pacific Ocean beaches. The gorgeous property offers six luxury villas, a 62-foot infinity saltwater pool, a spectacular outdoor poolside lounge and spa area, and an acclaimed restaurant serving traditional Costa Rican cuisine.

    Each villa stands out with an open floor plan, king size bed, spacious private terrace with glass veranda, double rain shower with ocean view, bamboo ceilings, free wireless internet, and even binoculars. Additionally, the villas run on alternative sources of energy, such as solar panels, rainwater collection systems, solar water heaters, and LED lighting.

  • Lapa Rios Ecolodge This 16-bungalow upscale boutique hotel is situated within a 1,000-acre private rainforest reserve near Corcovado National Park in beautiful Costa Rica, overlooking the point where the Gulf of Dulce meets the Pacific Ocean.

    Designed in harmony with the surrounding forest and beach environment, the resort's main lodge and bungalows line three ridges and are connected by walking paths and steps. The strategic location of Lapa Rios (at 350 feet above the ocean) ensures that the property catches the cooling ocean and forest breezes. The hotel's private bungalows come with wooden floors, king beds, bamboo furnishings, huge private decks, and two showers (including a rainfall shower).

    Additional on-site amenities include a restaurant, outdoor pool, easy beach access, and the options for massages and yoga. Guests can pick from dozens of exciting on-site and off-site activities. While on-site adventures range from bird tours to waterfall hikes to lush rainforest treks, off-site tours are highlighted by waterfall rappelling, surfing, and local farm visits.

  • Tortuga Lodge & Gardens Experience guided tours of rainforest terrain, local villages, and exotic jungle rivers when you stay at Tortuga. This elegant property along the Caribbean coast is widely considered one of the top eco-lodges in the country.

    The resort is situated on 146 acres of private land on Costa Rica's northeast Caribbean coast. View the wildlife of Tortuguero National Park and explore its backwater creeks and lagoons by boat with your Tortuguero Naturalist Guide, while staying in the comfort of your River View Deluxe Rooms or River View Penthouse Suite.

  • Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort Featuring 153 deluxe rooms seemingly built into a cliff, this stunning resort is a perfect honeymoon getaway spot. The beachfront property stands out with two beaches, two fabulous pool areas, three restaurants, chic design, and 28 acres of gorgeous grounds.

Where to Eat

Costa Rica upscale restaurant

  • Grano de Oro - Located at the Hotel Grando de Oro in San Jose, this wonderful restaurant has evolved into one of the city’s top dining establishments. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily with a focus on Costa Rican tropical and European flavors.

  • Lola’s - A terrific beach cafe in Playa Avellanas along the Nicoya Peninsula. Enjoy front row views of the ocean and a lovely setting set amidst palm trees and hammocks. Menu favorites range from fresh smoothies to pizzas to mouth-watering ceviche.

  • Trio - A lovely choice in downtown Santa Elena and close to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Ideal for lunch and dinner, couples can look forward to healthy and contemporary menu selections like coconut curry, chicken breast stuffed with figs, and beef tenderloin with manchego. 

Getting There

Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) is Costa Rica’s main airport and the primary airport serving San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. The airport is located near the city of Alajuela, which is about 12 miles west of central San Jose. The airport offers rental car companies, taxi services, and bus transportation.

While most international flights end up in San Jose, more flights are now touching down in Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR). Liberia is known as the gateway to the beaches of Nicoya Peninsula and the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. If you’re only looking to spend time in the beach region of Liberia, you’ll want to fly in and out of here. However, if your travels take you to the Southern region, Caribbean coast, and Central Pacific coast, San Jose is the most convenient gateway.