cover image featuring the best cities in costa rica.

12 Cities in Costa Rica To Add To Your Next Visit

From the coasts to the capital, these are our favorite cities in the country.

From the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is home to some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in Central America. The country offers endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation.

And the cities are just as vibrant. From the capital of San José to national park gateway towns, these lively cities offer a wealth of opportunities to immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture. Here are our favorite cities in Costa Rica (plus some towns we couldn’t resist).

San-jose-costa-rica
Gianfranco Vivi

San José

San Jose is the capital city and cultural heart of Costa Rica. With its bustling streets and lively plazas, it is a city often overlooked as tourists pass through to the coasts. But it’s worth exploring. The National Theater, a neoclassical building hosting various performances and exhibitions is a city staple. Or stop by the famous Saturday Farmer’s Market (Feria Verde) then visit Central Park in the city’s center. Head to San Jose’s Barrio Escalante for an unforgettable dinner at Doma Escalante.

Read: Tipping Etiquette in Costa Rica

La-fortuna-costa-rica
Gianfranco Vivi

La Fortuna

The town of La Fortuna is situated at the foot of the majestic Arenal Volcano, one of Costa Rica’s most famous attractions. For those looking to unwind, the area’s hot springs will do. Add a spa experience at Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa, and you may never go home. For foodies, La Fortuna has everything from street food from La Canalla to fine dining at Nayara Gardens to experience the country’s most authentic cuisine.

Jaco-costa-rica
Jodi Jacobson

Jaco

Looking for a prime surf spot and gourmet eats? Head to Jaco, where the waves are high and the cuisine is top-notch. Savor fresh seafood and craft cocktails at Lemon Zest Restaurant, then catch the perfect wave at Jaco Beach. It’s the ultimate city escape right on the coast.

Liberia-costa-rica
Gianfranco Vivi

Liberia

Known as the “white city,” Liberia is the capital of the Guanacaste province with a cowboy culture. While most stay on the coast, Liberia has plenty to explore and is a less expensive home-base option. Take a historical walk through the old quarter to see the city’s colonial architecture, where you’re sure to stumble upon the contrasting modern architecture of the Immaculate Church of Concepcion de Maria in the main square. Adventure northeast of the city to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park to see one of the active volcanos. Or head west to the nearby beaches of Playa Hermosa and Playa del Coco (grab a cocktail at Zarpe while you’re there). Don’t forget to book a coffee tour at Tio Leo to experience an authentic, locally-grown cup.

Puerto-viejo-costa-rica
Cris Young

Puerto Viejo

For a taste of the Caribbean coast’s laid-back lifestyle, look no further than Puerto Viejo. This town is a melting pot of cultures, offering a unique blend of Afro-Caribbean and indigenous traditions. Cahuita National Park is a natural paradise home to diverse wildlife, from coral reefs to monkeys and toucans. And, when it comes to food, the town’s famous cacao, along with its seafood dishes, are not to be missed. Stashu’s Con Fusion knows how to serve a blend of the best at its beachfront property.

Santa-teresa-costa-rica
Cris Young

Santa Teresa

If you’re searching for a beach town with relaxation and adventure, then Santa Teresa is the perfect destination for you. With its white sand beaches and Pacific waters, it’s the place for total rejuvenation. The town’s main attraction is surfing, and there are exceptional surf schools for beginners like The Girl and the Sea. Or, check out one of the yoga retreats at Pura Vida Adventures that offers everything from oceanfront yoga to a world-class spa. And, with a range of boutique surf hotels, restaurants, and bars, you’ll never want to leave.

Tortuguero-costa-rica
Kenneth Vargas Torres

Tortuguero

Tortuguero is a small town located on the north Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, famed for its sea turtle nesting sites and pristine natural beauty. It sits next to Tortuguero National Park, a true paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. The park’s beaches are also an important nesting site for several species of sea turtles, with conservation efforts to protect the decreasing populations of endangered species like the green turtle. Retreat from a day of exploring at the Tortuga Lodge & Gardens.

Scarlet-macaw-near-corcovado-costa-rica
worldswildlifewonders

Corcovado

For intrepid travelers seeking a true wilderness adventure, the remote area of Drake Bay, located on the Osa Peninsula in the southern Pacific region, is your base to explore Corcovado National Park. This is the place to see the scarlet macaw. The trails are some of the best hiking in the country, winding through rainforest and along secluded beaches. For lodging, several eco-resorts such as The Tranquilo Lodge have perfected the art of sustainable luxury.

Puerto-limon-costa-rica
Solarisys

Puerto Limón

As the largest city on the Caribbean coast, Puerto Limón offers a unique blend of Afro-Caribbean culture and outdoor adventure. You’ll experience a culturally eclectic city unlike any other part of Costa Rica, which evolved separately from the rest of the country. It may feel as if you’ve left the country altogether. Check out the central market for a glimpse into daily life and to connect with the wonderful locals. And, when it comes to dining, the city’s Caribbean-influenced dishes are a must-try, especially the local Soda el Patty. Find lodging right on the water, or take a trek an hour outside the city for a luxury eco-suite at the Pacuare Lodge.

Manuel-antonio-costa-rica
Stefan Neumann

Manuel Antonio/Quepos

Set on the Pacific coast, Quepos is the gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park, with the neighboring town Manuel Antonio only fifteen minutes away. Quepos is a walkable tourist city aimed at serving travelers without losing Costa Rican authenticity. This is the place to get your beach and rainforest fix in all at once. Playa Espadilla, in particular, is an unspoiled gem. There’s plenty to explore here, and it’s especially rewarding to do it from one of the resorts with Pacific Ocean views, like Makanda By The Sea or Arenas del Mar Beach & Rainforest Resort. For those looking for adventure, check out white-water rafting on the Savegre River.

Basilica-de-nuestra-senora-de-los-angeles-cartago-costa-rica
Dudarev Mikhail

Cartago

As the original capital city (and only thirty minutes away), Cartago offers a glimpse into Costa Rica’s colonial past. The city’s most prominent feature is its historic church, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels. And, for foodies, the city’s Central Market (Mercado Central) is the best place to taste local specialties and fresh produce. Take a day trip to Irazú Volcano National Park. Walk through the Jardin Botánico Lankester. Explore the Ruins of Cartago. The adventure awaits.

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