We’ve put together a few trip suggestions for you to consider, based on the time you have and your propensity to drive “Tico-style”. This is not a tourism guide book, just a subset of the places we’ve enjoyed…
Remember that roads can get tricky in some areas, and will sometimes require a 4 wheel drive car. We’ve tried to point out the places where this happens, but conditions can change, especially during the green (rainy) season. Just use good judgment, and don’t panic. This is – after all – the land of pura vida…
Rincón de la Vieja
This is a volcanic site, where you will get a chance to visit high forest trails and their inhabitants, hike to some gorgeous (and refreshing!) waterfalls, and observe all kinds of volcanic activity signs, like mud pots, foul smelling gas plumes, etc.
- Time recommended: 1 day.
- Distance: It takes about an hour to get to the entrance of the park. Roads are good the entire way, with some rocky parts toward the end.
Cloud forests are amazing! Often shrouded in mist, the Monteverde Reserve is a magical, “Harry Potteresque” place, full of life.
- Time recommended: 2+ days.
- Distance: It takes about 4 hours to get to Monteverde. Roads are reasonable until the last 20 km, where a 4×4 is recommended.
- Detailed Information Page
Possibly the most famous national park in Costa Rica. Because of this, it can get crowded, especially during high tourism months. Still, it’s worth a visit, especially if you happen to visit Costa Rica during the green season months (May – October).
- Time recommended: 2+ days, depending on the number of stops/visits along the way…
- Distance: It takes about 5 hours to get to Quepos / Manuel Antonio. Roads are paved the entire way.
Also read this excellent post about hiking in Quepos and Manuel Antonio.
To the south of Playa Grande, the Nicoya Peninsula is, in many places, still a wild place where locals live in small rural villages, and beaches are deserted (because getting there is … difficult). There are many, many beautiful places to explore, and it’s absolutely worth a visit if you have the time.
- Time recommended: 3+ days, depending on the number of stops/visits along the way…
- Distance: It takes about 5-6 hours to get to south extremity of the peninsula, if you don’t stop on the way. Obviously that’s not the recommended strategy… Roads are paved in some places, rocky and muddy in others, and there are spots where rivers must be crossed (not on a bridge), making it an absolute requirement to have a 4×4. Even so, some rivers crossings are not possible in the green season.
The following is a collection of web sites that we’ve found useful, beyond the traditional travel sites (e.g. TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, etc.). We have absolutely no relationship with any of those sites, nor do we know the people who run them…
- Two Weeks in Costa Rica – This is a site maintained by an American couple from Boston who moved to Costa Rica a few years ago. There’s an excellent collection of itineraries, trips and reviews. The link takes you directly to their map of Costa Rica destinations, but the whole web site is worth browsing…
- Anywhere Costa Rica – This site is more commercial, but offers good information.
- Mytanfeet – Samantha, from Washington State, met Yeison, a Tico while traveling in Costa Rica. They fell in love, and developed this web site to write about their trips in Costa Rica (and elsewhere).
- This America Girl – Blog about why Costa Rica is the best place in the world (I agree!), with recommendations for places to visit.