Along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is a small park called Manuel Antonio National Park. Locally known as Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, it is the smallest national park in Costa Rica, with only 1,983 hectares of land area. Manuel Antonio has over 150,000 visitors each year and is famous for its pristine beaches and hiking trails. With over 109 species of animals and 194 species of bird, the national park’s diverse wildlife, in addition to the beautiful forest and the Manuel Antonio waterfall, is one of the reasons why the park’s trails should be explored. The park has four light sand beaches within the area: Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, Teloro, and Playita. Although lifeguards are present in the park, it is important to note that proper precautions must be taken for rip currents occur.
Arenal National Park—one of the top volcano viewing areas in Costa Rica—can be found in Cordillera de Tilarán. Located northwest of the country, Arenal National Park features the famous 1,633-meter Arenal Volcano. With its cone structure and ash-spewing crater, the volcano is one of the top attractions in the park. Tourists may view the volcano through the Arenal Observatory Lodge—the only lodge within the park—located south of the volcano wherein excellent views of the Arenal Volcano and, in the opposite direction, the Arenal Lake can be seen. There are also trails across the park that would allow you to get a glimpse of the wide range of biodiversity—a mix of reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and half of the Costa Rican bird species—in the area. With only a 15-dollar entrance fee, you may visit the Arenal National park daily, from 8 AM to 4 PM.
Another famous attraction along the Cordillera de Tilarán is the Monteverde Cloud Forests. With over 70,000 visitors per year, the popular ecotourism destination is a delightful hiking location that would allow you to go nature-tripping. The Cloud Forests has 6 ecological zones, 90% of it being virgin forests, that allow you to view the rich biodiversity of the area. The unique Costa Rican plants and different types of wildlife can be enjoyed through organized hikes and canopy tours that involve zip-lines, bridges, and cable cars. The Monteverde Cloud Forests also has a lodge wherein the Monteverde Nature Center is located. The lodge can accommodate up to 47 visitors, and it also has a restaurant, a gift shop, and animal exhibits.
Located on the Northern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is Tamarindo, a surf town known for its fun vibes and beautiful beaches. What was once a quiet fishing village is now a tourist haven, bustling with activities throughout the day. Tamarindo is one of the premier surfing beaches in the country; with a handful of surfing rental shops and surfing instructors, the place is beginner-friendly. In addition to surfing, Tamarindo has eco-friendly activities for the adventure seekers. Right next to the beach is an estuary wherein boats can be rented for as low as $40. With one of the best horseback riding trails in Costa Rica, Tamarindo offers horseback rides on the beach and long horse rides to the mountains wherein you can appreciate the beauty of Tamarindo even more. The town also has zipline packages that are best experienced as the sun is going down the Costa Rican sky.
In the Puntarenas is a backpacker’s haven with beautiful beaches and affordable accommodations--Dominical. Known for its waves, this southern beach town has a lot to offer to nature lovers. The wide stretch of open beach is one of the area’s main attractions, attracting surfers from all around the world. Playa Dominicalito, Playa Piñuelas, and Playa Ventanas are some of the small beaches that are excellent for swimming. Dominical also has long stretched-out beaches, some of which includes Playa Hermosa, Playa Linda, and Playa Matapalo, that allows visitors to have quiet beach walks with almost no one else around. Playa Dominical, one of the more commercialized beaches in the area, has numerous bars and restaurants wherein you can join the locals with their daily sunset drinking by the ocean.
At the heart of the country’s capital lies the national pride of the Costa Ricans—the National Theater. With a facade that boasts the statues of Calderón de la Barca and Ludwig van Beethoven, the National Theater and its neo-classical design are considered as the most impressive building in San José. Designed by Nicolás Chavarrí, the building was constructed in the late 19th century, and has been running performances for more than 120 years. Classical music, theater, and dance performances are still being run here several times a week. Tours at the National Museum are available every hour in both English and Spanish and only cost $10. The tour enables you to visit off-limits areas, including the Smoking Room which exhibits famous paintings, antique furnishings, and lavish gold trimmings.
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