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Top Costa Rica Attractions

The first time you visit Costa Rica, or any new destination, the question asked isn’t usually what attractions should be scene but what attraction to see first, what to expect, how to get there, and how much time is needed. We’ve provided tips, advice, and other information about the top tourist attractions in Costa Rica to help with your itinerary planning.

Canopy Safari Canopy Safari
Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio National Park
Arenal Volcano Arenal Volcano
Café Britt Coffee Tour Café Britt Coffee Tour
Surf's Up Surf's Up

Canopy Safari

 Address Manuel Antonio
 Admission USD $65.00
 Phone (506) 777-011

Costa Rica Rain ForestThe obligatory canopy safari tour is an exhilarating adventure located in Manuel Antonio. Invented in Costa Rica, the tour zips you through rainforest tree-tops, across 9 wires and down 3 rappel lines. You begin your journey with a drive through the rainforest, where your friendly guides will point out everything from squirrel monkeys hiding in the trees to stems of a henna plant transported from Africa. Once you arrive at the Canopy Safari Ranch, you will be greeted with either a full-Tico breakfast or lunch, depending on the time of your tour. When you’re ready to go, you will be given explicit safety instructions and outfitted with your zipping gear. After the initial zip across and above a small river, you begin your hike into the rainforest, where tree-stumps line the path of your ascent. Make sure to keep an eye out for animals while you're hiking. If you're lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the very rare Honduran white bat.

After your hike, you will begin zipping from tree-top to tree-top, landing on man-made platforms made especially for this adventure. Three heart-pounding rappel lines are included in the tour, and Canopy Safari is the only canopy tour in Costa Rica that offers the rappel. The trip lasts a few hours and you are given the chance to go for a refreshing swim in a local river immediately following the tour.


Manuel Antonio National Park

 Address Manuel Antonio
 Admission USD $7
 Hours 7:00 AM - 4:00 PM Tuesday-Sunday

Costa Rica is home to a number of national parks. Despite being the smallest, Manuel Antonio National Park has long been considered one of its gems. Located minutes from Quepos on the central pacific coast, the park's major draw is that it combines the beauty of white sand, warm beaches with an astonishing backdrop of forest and mangroves. Playa Espadilla and Playa Espadilla Sur are located here, as is the breathtaking Playa Manuel Antonio, easily one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Costa Rica. 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds reside in the park, and you can spot three-toed sloths, iguanas and the endangered squirrel monkey. Because of its increasing popularity and in order to protect the wildlife and the environment, camping is not allowed and the park is closed on Mondays. Go early in the morning or midweek to avoid large numbers of visitors. If you come within close contact to any of the squirrel monkeys, it is crucially important that you do not feed them. You can get fined and banned from the park, but most importantly, you can make them seriously ill, as they are used to a very natural diet.


Arenal Volcano National Park

 Address La Fortuna
 Admission $7USD
 Hours 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
 Phone (506) 692-2070

Arenal VolcanoArenal was a dormant volcano until 1968, when a massive explosion triggered lava flows that destroyed two villages, Tabacon and Pueblo Nuevo, and killed their entire population. Although the lava eventually slowed down to a normal and predictable flow, the volcano has remained active almost daily since then. It is considered one of the world's most active volcanoes, and the nighttime explosion of bright lava is an awe-inspiring experience.

The volcano is best viewed in the early morning hours or in the evening, as cloud coverage can, at times, be common. A number of tour operators offer packages to the park.

Note: there is no camping allowed inside the park. The only legal place to sleep is the Arenal Observatory Lodge. Located about a mile and a half from the volcano, the lodge provides the ideal starting point for a visit to the area. Travelers can embark on several hikes that provide amazing views, explore lava flow trails and soak in nearby hot springs. The lodge was established in 1987 and people from all over the world have come here to study the volcano.


Café Britt Coffee Tour

 Admission USD $20

Located in ‘the city of flowers’ the Café Britt Coffee Tour offers visitors a unique look into the business and art of coffee brewing. Since 1991, half a million people have enjoyed this informative and interactive tour that captures the history of coffee-making, from early plantation days through modern times. The tour takes place on a six-acre farm surrounded by breathtaking volcanoes. It is led by experts, who have their very own takes (often humorous) on the important roles that coffee has played in the development and prosperity of Costa Rica. In addition, visitors can also take the equally enticing Cappuccino Coffee Tour.

The coffee farm has an on-site restaurant and souvenir shop. Here, you can purchase everything from, what else, coffee (ground and whole beans) to chocolate-covered coffee beans to coffee liqueur. The shop also carries traditional souvenirs i.e. t-shirts, ceramics, books, etc. The grounds have their very own 200-seat theater, which sometimes produce theatrical or musical events. Weddings, corporate events and training seminars can all be held there as well.


Costa Rica Surfing

Although not exactly a ‘tourist attraction,’ one of the most incredible and rewarding experiences one can have while in Costa Rica is learning to surf (or learning how to attempt to surf!). Costa Rica has several great surfing beaches, and surfers from all over the world have been attracted to its marvelous breaks.

In Manuel Antonio, you will find several surf shops that offer lessons along the crowded strip on Playa Espadilla. Lessons are usually taught by locals who work for (or own) the surf shops. Depending on which shop you decide to go with, lessons vary from USD $20/hour to USD $30/hour. There is no need to set up appointments, but do know that the waves are best for riding during the early mornings and afternoons. Also, note that the best surf coincides with Costa Rica’s rainy season.

If you want a more intensive experience, head to Playa Tamarindo in the northern peninsula. The surfing here is top-notch, and you will see everything from beginners to more advanced surfers. Surf schools and tours line the strip here as well. Prices may vary.

Jaco´, in the central pacific coast, is Costa Rica’s surfing capital. It has consistent breaks all year and is easily reached from the nation’s capital. The town itself is not as appealing as others, mainly attracting surfers or those who want to learn.

More Information:


Costa Rica Travel Guides
 Frommer's Costa Rica
 Lonely Planet Costa Rica
 Let's Go Costa Rica
 Fodors Costa Rica