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A city guide to Costa Rica – beautiful beaches, exciting wildlife, and unlimited adventures

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This exotic nation was voted the happiest country in the world back in 2012, and you can be part of that atmosphere. It boasts white beaches where you can relax, surf or scuba dive and offers a journey through history with its many museums. After a day of first-class shopping you can head out and explore the variety of inviting nightlife Costa Rica has to offer.

Chuck Chastain

My Destination local expert on

Costa Rica

Alajuela Province


This province boasts rivers, forests and a National Park surrounding Volcano Arenal, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The Ave Zoo, also a rescue center for animals, is great for a family day out. Explore the beautiful scenery in the smaller regions, or visit the larger towns for a variety of tours and live music venues. Any coffee lovers? Visit Doka Estate to see the process from seed to cup, getting to taste them at the end.


Guanacaste Province


Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, the long summer days of Guanacaste offer infinite activities from surfing to zip lining. With opportunities to relax, Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a must-see paradise full of wildlife, waterfalls and hiking trails and the Tempisque River provides perfect photo opportunities and spotting wildlife. See if a Sabaneros cowboy festival is being held during your visit, as these are traditional events that take place throughout the year and guarantee excitement.


Cartago Province


Sandwiched between San Jose and Limon provinces, Cartago is peaceful and offers a cool climate, making it perfect for sugar cane fields and coffee plantations. Surrounded by volcanoes and mountains, its changing environment provides great opportunities to see the fantastic wildlife. Less populated than other provinces, it’s rich in culture, offering tourists a more traditional view of Costa Rica. There’s a stunning Byzantine style church and the ruins of the old ‘Parroquia’ in the town of Cartago, surrounded by a market and a park.


Heredia Province


This province offers a diversity of landscape and altitude, opening your eyes to different types of forests, flora and fauna. Visit the town of Puerto Viejo if you enjoy boat trips or rafting, but go with an expert! Take an educational tour around the Café Britt coffee plantation in the town of Barva, or stop in Sacramento for a picnic in the scenery of the parks.


Limón Province


Unknown to tourists and not the place for pristine beaches, Limón province has a great community and a unique history. It offers the chance to bird-watch in mangrove swamps, or experience the creole cuisine. Punta Uva is the best place to snorkel and is one of the last protected coral reefs. Tortuguero National Park is a protected zone, home to over 160 mammals, but tourists mainly visit to watch the turtles lay their eggs (between July and October).


Puntarenas Province


The Puntarenas’ coastline is brimming with islands, beaches and stunning national treasures, meaning it’s lively year-round. Marino Del Pacifico Park is a main attraction, known for the historic train station and aquariums which are home to Pacific Ocean fish. Located in the Carara National Park is ‘Pura Vida’ waterfall, reaching 650ft and surrounded by pools for swimming in. There are three estuaries worth visiting for a range of boat trips and water sports for the more adventurous.


San Jose Province


San Jose Province is the main base for their democratic government and primary transportation links. The capital is full of bustling nightlife, museums, shopping malls and a buzzing nightlife not to be missed. There are numerous museums, a fantastic zoo and a diverse range of restaurants to choose from. Definitely go down to El Pueblo as it is a shopping center by day, and clubbing district at night with over 50 bars, clubs and restaurants.