Explore Costa Rica
Costa Rica Tourism: Best of Costa Rica
Essential Costa Rica
What to do
Where to stay
Where to eat
My under-the-Radar family adventures on the Nicoya Peninsula
- Pizza Tree98Over a week-long stay in nearby Playa San Miguel, we made two trips to this wonderfully unique, Italian-owned pizzeria with three levels of dining areas, including a treetop perch. It’s a magical place at sunset. Pizza from the wood-fired oven may be the best in the country, but don’t sleep on the pasta carbonara and the grilled ribs.
- Cabo Blanco Butterfly Farm3Our kids were mesmerized by the hundreds of butterflies in the two greenhouses at this legitimate farm, where native tropical butterfly pupae are raised and shipped to exhibits worldwide. Our kids witnessed each stage of metamorphosis while we captured incredible images of adult butterflies dancing around them. During summer, call to schedule a private tour.
- Macaw Recovery Network279The scarlet and great green macaws at this non-profit institute are free to roam the jungle, but they return here in the evening and fill the trees with smile-inducing noise and color. Staff ornithologists breed and rehabilitate macaws here, and the site is part of a network supporting the wild population across the country.
- Guacamaya Lodge151We met up with another family for a long weekend at this comfortable hotel at Playa Junquillal. The living here was easy, shifting between the beach (where sea turtle hatchling releases are common during winter at sunset) and the inviting pool. Even if you don’t stay the night, the thatched-roof restaurant is an excellent lunch or dinner stop.
- Totobe Resort14When you reach the end of the road at Playa San Miguel’s southern terminus, you’ve found this tiny “resort.” It’s not especially fancy (don’t expect A/C), but getting away from it all with a pool and grassy lawn directly on the beach—plus oceanfront porches to while away evenings—feels special. We extended our stay to a week because our kids loved it here so much.
- Jungle Butterfly Farm63A second butterfly farm? Yes, kind of. But the promise of butterflies is really a front for entomologist Mike Malliet’s incredible walking tours through the dry tropical forest. We saw our fill of butterflies, but the highlight came when Malliet cracked open a termite nest, popped a few of the wriggling creatures in his mouth, and then offered one to our son, who eagerly obliged before asking for another.
- Punta Islita, Autograph Collection1,328Punta Islita, just south of Samara, is both a resort and a tidy little town where much of the local population works at the property. We enjoyed the best of both worlds here, taking in the small cultural center and attending a local dance on Friday night while spending our days at the hotel’s beachfront pool.
- Gusto Beach1,462There’s no shortage of beachfront dining on the Nicoya Peninsula, and the bare-feet-in-the-sand, cocktail-in-hand concept reaches perfection in Samara, where the wide beach means kids can run free while mom and dad truly relax. Gusto Beach was our favorite for relaxed meals and sunset palomas, with plenty of kids’ options (even a grilled fish and potato puree for babies).
Explore Costa Rica by interest
Get your adrenaline pumping
If you're feeling fancy-ish
Costa Rica on a dime
Next-level happy hours
See nature do its thing
A beach day for the books
The sound of Costa Rica
Bring those binoculars
Ride the waves
Take a hike
Travelers' pro tips for experiencing Costa Rica
In the words of those who've been there before ...
What is the best way to get there?
Costa Rica is served by two international airports: San Jose International Airport (Juan Santamaria) and Liberia International Airport.
Do I need a visa?
Most visitors from the US, Europe, and Australia will not need a visa to travel to Costa Rica; but do consult the Costa Rican embassy for details.
When is the best time to visit?
Costa Rica has two distinct seasons. The wet season (May to November) sees daily showers up and down the country, with the heaviest rains occurring in September and October. The dry season is the most popular time to travel, with daytime temperatures in the late 70°Fs (mid 20°Cs) — ideal for hitting the beach or hiking through the cloud forests. This is also festival season, with major events including the Fiestas Palmares (January), Semana Santa (Easter), and the Festival de la Luz (Festival of Lights, December).
Domestic airline Sansa has regular flights between all of Costa Rica’s main cities. Other airlines that fly domestically are Skyway, Aerobell, and Green Airways.
The cheapest way to travel around Costa Rica is by bus, and there is a wide network of long-distance buses that will take you wherever you want to go. Find route information and fares.
For shorter trips and local transport, taxis are widely available.
Uber is available in San Jose and some other Costa Rican cities on your smartphone.