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Places to visit in Costa Rica – A First-timer’s guide

One of the beaches inside Manuel Antonio National Park, photo credit daniel castillo b

One of the beaches inside Manuel Antonio National Park, photo credit daniel castillo b.

So it’s your first time in Costa Rica.  So much to do, so little time!  Your mind is whirling from all the recommendations your friends and family have given you.  It’s enough to numb you into inaction! Don’t despair, these tips will send you on your way.

Pacific Coast: One of the undisputed jewels in Costa Rica is the Manuel Antonio National Park.  The area has been selected one of the most beautiful national parks in the world, its beaches also voted one of the best recently by Trip Advisor.  So what makes it so special? The park has several beaches, hiking paths and a waterfall.  Its natural beauty is magnified by the ease with which you can observe the local fauna.  Where to stay?  Check out Hotel El Parador, its location guarantees breathtaking panoramic views and they are one of the top properties in the area and the country because of their comfort and quality.

View of the pool and ocean from Hotel El Parador, Manuel Antonio. Photo credit saretmj.

View of the pool and ocean from Hotel El Parador, Manuel Antonio. Photo credit saretmj.

Caribbean Coast: The province of Limón has a personality of its own.  Most residents are Afro-Caribbean descendants, many speak English and they have their own dialect or “patois”. Cuisine is inspired by local seafood and produce, coconut milk and spices, making for some delicious dishes.  As for the beaches, some have black volcanic sand, the vegetation falling directly into the water.  Several National Parks to visit on this coast as well, notably the Tortuguero National Park in the North where turtles come to nest, and the Cahuita National Park in the South, with trails and beaches to explore and wildlife to observe.  Lodging options in Tortuguero area include high-end all-inclusive Manatus Hotel, as well as the more moderately priced Evergreen Lodge and Pachira Lodge.

Lush gardens at Pachira Lodge, Tortuguero. Photo credit misviajesporelmundo.

Lush gardens at Pachira Lodge, Tortuguero. Photo credit misviajesporelmundo.

Northern Plains: The Arenal Volcano/La Fortuna area is replete with activities such as canopies through the forest, trails observing flora and fauna or tubing down rivers.  You can also be as relaxed as you like and pamper yourself in their hot springs, get a facial or a massage, and lounge in the pool listening to the sounds of Nature around you.  Lodging options are wide and varied and include the “jungle Elegance” of Lost Iguana Resort and Spa, Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa, famous for its mineral springs, The Springs Resort and Spa, and further north, Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel, next to the unmissable Volcan Tenorio National Park and the crystalline blue water of the Rio Celeste River.

Rio Celeste Waterfall, photo credit riocelestehideaway.

Rio Celeste Waterfall, photo credit riocelestehideaway.

Visit these three areas during your first visit to Costa Rica, and get a taste of both our coasts, several volcanoes, breathtaking landscapes and flora and fauna and exciting cuisine.  This is just the beginning, Costa Rica has many more areas to explore and enjoy and this trip will only leave you wanting more!

Article by Katie Widdowson