Perhaps Costa Rica has been on the bucket list for a while now and finally, the time has come to fulfill the dream. You have researched flights, found some of the most beautiful Costa Rica luxury homes and have set a budget. But because of the diversity ranging from beautiful beaches to lush rainforests it can be a challenge to know where to visit. Here are some of the top spots in Costa Rica for relaxation, adventure, nature and surfing.

San Jose

San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital and province of the same namesake, is usually a hub for exploring the country. The region is both diverse in natural beauty and has a modern cosmopolitan city steep in history. San Jose City is located on a plateau surrounded by mountains. If you visit the capital, check out the National Museum, National Theater and the Casa Amarilla. San Jose also has lots of parks and green spaces where locals like to hang out with their friends. There are endless numbers of bars, cafés and restaurants along with a wide variety of accommodation choices here too.

Cartago

Located in the foothills of the Irazu Volcano 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) from San Jose, Cartago combines history with modernity. Tourists can walk around ruins from past eruptions and explore the old city walls. The town center has attractive buildings including the colonial Our Lady of the Angels Basilica. If you want to visit the volcano, regular tours depart from Cartago. Nearby Orosi Valley has beautiful mountains, coffee plantations and incredible views just 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) east of the city.

La Paz Waterfall (Cloud Forest)

The La Paz Waterfall, approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of San Jose, is one of the most popular day trips from the capital. The privately-owned ecological site buzzes with life and activity in the rainforest. Keep your eyes open and you might see a range of amphibians, mammals and maybe even the elusive jaguars. The waterfall consists of five cascades with colorful flowers and orchids nearby.

Liberia

Liberia, a short distance from the Nicoya Peninsula, was once the center of Costa Rica’s cowboy culture. Within a short a distance of the border with Nicaragua, Liberia is a popular stopover for those travelling through Central America. Inside the town, you can experience the historical old quarter, colonial buildings and cowboy memorabilia. Taking a day trip to the nearby Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is a favorite activity too.

Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa National Park is one of Costa Rica’s best in the northwestern part of the country. Established in 1971 and 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Liberia, visitors can experience endless rainforests leading to secluded beaches. The La Casona monument, one of the country’s most famous monuments, is inside the national park too. Camping facilities are available for independent and adventurous tourists. Or, get a guide to help point out and explain the variety of flora and fauna.

Dominical

Beach lovers should head down to Dominical on the western coast. The small beach town has a laid-back vibe and plenty of places to hang out after a day on the beach. Dominical is also a famous spot for surfers and gets decent waves coming in from the Pacific Ocean. If you spend a few days here, head into the Haciendo Baru Wildlife Refuge for a day of rainforest trekking and to see sloths and monkeys living in their natural habitats. Whale watching tours are available at certain times of the year. You can head to the Nauyaca Waterfall too.

Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo makes one of the best places in Costa Rica to spend a few days at the beach. Located along the Caribbean Coast towards the border with Panama in the southeastern part of the country, the seaside town attracts backpackers and surfers. The beaches are pristine, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get out onto the water and go surfing. Some parts of the town are lively and have an active nightlife. Other areas have quiet and secluded resorts. For a beach getaway in paradise, head to Puerto Viejo.

Nosara

If you’re an enthusiastic surfer, Nosara in Guanacaste Province isn’t to be missed. Costa Rica’s most famous surfing spot combines an attractive town with endless stretches of white-sand beaches next to dense jungle. The waves are some of the best in Costa Rica attracting surfers from around the world. Nosara also boasts world-renowned yoga, turtle nesting sites, two rivers, horseback riding, kayaking and snorkeling. The town has a large expat community of digital nomads and retirees.

Samara

Samara Village, just 30 minutes from Nosara, is a favorite spot for snorkeling along its protected coral reef. The sandy beach stretches several kilometers and the waters are calm making a perfect spot for sunbathing and swimming. Hotels line the coastline and the small village feels touristy. But it’s easy to find a quiet spot on the long beach. If you visit this charming seaside village be sure to visit nearby Isla Chora, join a canopy tour and go kayaking. Visitors typically spend a few nights in Samara.

Knowing Where to Travel

Most tourists arrive in San Jose and you probably will too. Take the time to explore the charming capital and enjoy the surrounding beauty. And then get out to see the national parks, volcanoes and head along the Pacific coast for some of the country’s best surfing spots. Just remember to plan a rough idea of your itinerary to make sure you get the most out of your trip to Costa Rica.