23 Top-Rated Landmarks in Costa Rica

author ALEX C. . October 16, 2022

When you sign up for a trip to famous landmarks in Costa Rica, you set forth on a whirlwind tour through Costa Rica's rich cultural and historical treasures consisting of opulent theatres, alluring centuries-old cathedrals, unbelievable eco-tourism legacies, and enigmatic archaeological finds.
It is because of these prominent landmarks filled with natural riches that Costa Rica has become one of the USA's most talked-about travel destinations.

Top landmarks in Costa Rica:
Here is what you must add to your Costa Rica itinerary:

1. Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano photo credit: Pixabay

We are kicking off our hunt for famous landmarks in Costa Rica with an active andesitic stratovolcano called Arenal Volcano that stands around 90 km northwest of San José in north-western Costa Rica. Looming ominous and large over the pastured green hillsides surrounding its base at 5,437 feet, the Arenal volcano serves as the centrepiece at Arenal National Park.

Since 2010, the lava has become inactive, which means that you will not get to witness plumes of ash rising from its top or lava flowing its sides but there is still a chance that clouds may obscure the volcano top.

However on this beautiful landmark in Costa Rica, you can observe its perfect cone from anywhere in the area but if you fancy a good view, invest in one of the “observatory” type lodges and wake up quite early in the morning. Moreover, there is much to do around such as rainforest hikes, horseback riding, and white-water rafting as well.

Never plan to visit the Arenal Volcano from December to April as the region is hit with an extremely heavy rainy season. May, June, July, and September are the best times to be in Costa Rica.
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2. Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Rincón de la Vieja National Park photo credit: Pixabay

It is one of the must-visit landmarks in Costa Rica, particularly in the Guanacaste Conservation Area that never fails to impress its visitors with the abundance of ecological diversity. Stretched over 34,000 acres, Rincón de la Vieja is home to 32 rivers and streams, two volcanoes, and an unbelievable variation of flora and fauna.

At this amazing landmark in Costa Rica, you can enjoy horseback riding, hiking, picnicking, swimming, diving into hot springs, and camping. At this park, you will get to experience both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the Cordillera de Guanacaste due to its sheer size and strategic location.

The west side of the park keeps a dry atmosphere that makes it a perfect hiking spot as it covers the slope of the volcano facing the Pacific Ocean. On the contrary, the eastern side stays damp as it flaunts the tropical ecosystems.

You can also rest at the picnic areas and gather your energy before resuming on the trails. This site is impressive all-year-round but specifically breath-taking during dry months.
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3. Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio

Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio photo credit: Pixabay

Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio is one of those significant landmarks in Costa Rica where the valleys and mountain landscapes team up with biodiversity. Present in the northern part of Costa Rica and forming a portion of the Arenal Tempisque Conservation Area, the jewels of this destination are twin volcanoes (Tenorio and Miravalles), the mesmerising Rio Celeste, its lagoons and waterfalls, running a luminous shade of blue.

Legend says that God washes his paintbrushes in the waters of Rio Celeste when he finishes painting the skies. Do explore the park’s rainforest hiking trails and enjoy panoramic views of the volcanoes and geothermal features. Take our advice, if you want to discover the best of the area, discover it on the foot.

We don't want you to be a sherpa but all you need is to walk and access the scenery through trails. See birds and distinct wildlife and the other attractions as we described earlier. We have already mentioned that this region is worth-visiting during dry months as the rainy days can be drastic.
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4. Catarata Río Fortuna

Catarata Río Fortuna photo credit: Pixabay

We are taking you to central Costa Rica in the Alajuela Province to explore the perfect beauty of La Fortuna Waterfall which is preserved and maintained by the Integral Development Association of La Fortuna.

Dropping at the base of the dormant Chato volcano from about 70−75 metres into a natural pool amidst a lush tropical forest, La Fortuna Waterfall provides you with a breath-taking experience as it boasts mesmerising scenery being surrounded by a great variety of flora and fauna and abundant vegetation.

Do wear your sturdy shoes while hiking to the waterfall as you will be crossing at least 500 steps to get to your destination. Don't panic, you will find their resting areas and hydration points to boost your energy. Once you reach the waterfall, make some memories from the comfortable and spacious vantage point or swim in the clear and refreshing waters and post some amazing pictures on your Insta account.

The entrance to the falls is not free to experience this must-see Costa Rica landmark. You will be paying $18 for adults and $6 for kids.
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5. Parque Nacional Volcán Poás

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland photo credit: Pixabay

We cannot ignore the significance of Parque Nacional Volcán Poás while identifying the mystical landmarks in Costa Rica. Covering approximately 65 square kilometres, Poás Volcano is a major attraction in the Central Valley, Costa Rica.

It will be a day trip and a great add-on to your Costa Rica itinerary as Parque Nacional Volcán Poás is one of the most visited national parks in the whole USA. Poás volcano symbolises the powerful geothermal forces that formed Costa Rica.

Though Poás is active, don't expect to witness a full-fledged eruption, but you can witness a bubbling, sulfuric, green-colored rain-fed lake at the bottom all covered with smoke and steam coming from fumaroles. It is also counted as the world's largest active crater. Over time, new safety precautions are announced to protect visitors.

You can walk around the edge of the main crater or visit a small on-site museum or enjoy coffee and hot drinks at the cafe.
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6. Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio photo credit: Pixabay

Next up in the list of famous landmarks in Costa Rica is Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio that can be found on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Famous due to its rich biodiversity, this destination offers something to every visitor. The main highlights of this stunning park are casual forest trails, three beautiful beaches, and dense rainforest.

You can reach the Playa Manuel Antonio after a 30-minute hike from the main entrance of the park and enjoy spectacular views, relax, swim or participate in snorkelling or surf lessons. Don't forget to discover rainforest wildlife and hike the picturesque trails as well.

No doubt that Costa Rica and its destinations are quite safe to visit but one must exercise some level of caution to play one's part. You might experience petty theft or bag snatching so it's better that you leave your valuables locked behind in safes at home or resorts.
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7. Isla del Cano

Isla del Cano photo credit: Pixabay

Now we are going to introduce you to a small island located in the Bahia de Corcovado in Osa Costa Rica- Isla Del Cano. Occupying 5,800 hectares of sea and 320 hectares of land, Isla Del Cano features ruins of stone spheres once devised by pre-Columbian civilizations.

It is also known as the land of dolphins and whales as it serves as a breeding site for resident species of dolphins and humpback whales from both the southern and northern hemispheres. You can also locate herbaceous plants, heliconias, cashew, guava, bananas, vines, and ferns here. Don't forget to sign up for an incredible underwater adventure too at this amazing Costa Rica landmark. Dolphins, barracudas, sharks, humpback whales, Sea turtles, rays, and other aquatic species bring an awe-inspiring regular sight.

Do know that no tourists are allowed to hunt marine life or take any of the species with them- living or dead. Do take with you fresh clothes, insect repellants, bottled water, a camera, and trash bags.
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8. Isla Tortuga

Isla Tortuga photo credit: Pixabay

In our list of worth-seeing landmarks in Costa Rica, we will mention many islands as the main highlights of Costa Rica are white sandy beaches or lush green foliage. Present off the Southeastern shore of the Nicoya Peninsula, Tortuga Island is a treat for beach lovers.

To spend a magical day on this beautiful landmark of Costa Rica, it will be a better option to contact some touring company. You can either spend a relaxing day basking in the sun and enjoying a ready supply of refreshing drinks and fresh fruit or delicious food or participate in underwater ventures or hike the forested trails. You can get to the island through an engaging boat trip that can be booked from Puntarenas, Montezuma, Jaco, or the mainland.

The duration of your boat ride will depend on the distance of the departure site from the island. However, you will enjoy the sights of whales, dolphins, and other marine species frolicking in the ocean.
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9. La Paz Waterfall

La Paz Waterfall photo credit: Pixabay

Here comes another natural monument in our top picks for captivating landmarks in Costa Rica- La Paz Waterfall. Sitting on the slopes of the Poas volcano in the central highlands, it is where cloud forest and rain forest co-exists.

This site is all set to mesmerise its visitors with the largest butterfly observatory in the world, a serpentarium, five striking waterfalls, hummingbird and bromeliad gardens, and a frog pond. You can also engage in river kayaking, horseback riding, trout lake lodging, and an educational oxen wagon tour.

Don't forget to check out two amazing on-site restaurants, an orchid terrace, and a gift shop as well. It is located at a distance of 20 minutes from the Poas Volcano National Park and 45 minutes from the San Jose Airport. If you are a little uptight in your schedule, it will be enough to invest around two hours to explore the whole site.
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10. National Museum of Costa Rica

National Museum of Costa Rica photo credit: Pixabay

Next, our list of famous landmarks in Costa Rica features the National Museum of Costa Rica that you can find in Costa Rica's capital city, San Jose, a few blocks away from the country's Legislative Assembly. Sitting in a striking fortress-like building formerly built as military barracks, the museum keeps both natural and artistic products.

You can explore here a wide variety of displays showcasing the country's history and culture, starting from the pre-Columbian times to the present. A 2,500-year-old jade carving, grinding stones, collections without the context featuring several objects used for personal adornment and rituals including pendants, necklaces, earrings, and arrow points confiscated from smugglers, and metates are surely worth a sight.

An authentic eighteenth-century bedroom and dining room representing a true picture of Costa Rica's mediaeval history from the Spanish colonial period through independence is surely worth a sight. In the museum's courtyards, you will also find Costa Rica's mysterious stone spheres that are a must-see in this historic Costa Rica landmark.
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11. Playa Negra

Playa Negra photo credit: Pixabay

Let's explore another mesmerising beach of Costa Rica while discovering famous landmarks in Costa Rica- a beautiful dark-sand beach called Playa Negra. Occupying the Pacific coast in Costa Rica's hot province of Guanacaste, it is famous amongst the surfing community due to its right-hand barrel waves.

However, surfer or no-surfer, you will equally enjoy the natural, pristine, and remote landscape of Playa Negra. If travelling with family, head towards protected areas for swimming at the beach's southern end. Reaching the beach is also quite an adventure as dirt roads are the only way to access Playa Negra and to take a 4-wheel drive vehicle is a must.

You can also discover and enjoy the experience on the nesting ground for the leatherback turtles. It’s called the Marino Las Baulas national park which is just a few miles away where you can also experience the culture of the Tico lifestyle.
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12. Nauyaca Waterfalls/Cataratas Nauyaca

Nauyaca Waterfalls/Cataratas Nauyaca photo credit: Pixabay

Here comes a horseback riding adventure in our picks for must-visit landmarks in Costa Rica- a visit to Nauyaca Waterfalls, Costa Rica.

This paradisaic place surely happens to be a traveller's dream place as here you can enjoy the true colours of nature, relax, rest, have fun, discover your adventurous soul, and appreciate nature through the most appropriate means of transport- horseback ride. Located in the canyon around eight metres wide, the Nauyaca Waterfalls feature one forty-five metres high free fall and another twenty metres high stepped fall, both forming a pool of a thousand square metres and six metres deep at their foot.

If you want to enjoy nature escape, then this could be your best choise in Costa Rica.
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13. Santiago Apóstol Parish Ruins

Santiago Apóstol Parish Ruins photo credit: Pixabay

Here comes something exciting in our guide for famous landmarks in Costa Rica. We will talk about a destination that takes its visitors on a journey back through time- Santiago Apóstol Parish Ruins.

This Costa Rica's significant cultural heritage site is one of the oldest communities present in the country-perhaps a vision for history buffs. Santiago Apóstol Parish Ruins date back to the 16th century as the entire town was wiped away by an eruption of the Irazu Volcano in 1723. The site also housed multiple churches. Some locals are of the view that this site is cursed as besides the volcanic eruptions, this site also experiences the worst earthquakes from time to time.

The local authorities once attempted to build a church here but the construction was stopped in 1910. Though the volcano is present at a distance of 24 miles from the ruins, several other eruptions have destroyed several significant ruins too.
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14. Parque Diversiones

Parque Diversiones photo credit: Pixabay

While planning your trip to must-see landmarks in Costa Rica, Parque Diversiones Dr. Roberto Ortiz Brenes must top the list. A famous amusement park in San José, Costa Rica, the park was built with a motto of helping sick children through healthy children in 1981. Dr. Brenes was a man who nurtured the idea of donating the profits from the amusement park to support the National Children's Hospital "Dr. Carlos Saénz Herrera".

It is where fantasy, fun, and entertainment meet a noble cause- to invest in the welfare and education of the Costa Ricans. The park features four roller coaster rides, typical Costa Rican restaurants, and coffee places. Its water Coaster experience is the most fulfilling one that combines the thrills of a rollercoaster with the thrills of a water slide. The Spinning Rapids Ride will also fill you up with that typical adrenaline rush.

The security is also uptight as it is one of the famous landmarks of Costa Rica. So do visit this amazing place fulfilling a noble cause.
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15. Refugio Nacional Gandoca-Manzanillo

Refugio Nacional Gandoca-Manzanillo photo credit: Pixabay

While informing you about the famous landmarks in Costa Rica, we want to divert your attention towards a rather little-explored refuge- Refugio Nacional Gandoca, Manzanillo- that extends from Manzanillo and stretches up to the Panamanian border, protecting around 70% of the Caribbean coast. It not only reserves 50 sq. kilometres of the land but also encompasses 44 sq. kilometres of marine habitat.

This peaceful and pristine white sandy stretch is a perfect place to relax, soak in the sun, and participate actively in water sports and explore the distinct coral reef featuring sea fans, lobsters, and long-spined urchins. As per the reviews that we collected, it is safe to say that the best time to visit this remarkable destination is during March through April or September, or October as these are known as the dry months otherwise you will be stuck in excessive rainfall.

If you sign up for snorkelling and scuba diving, you will be thrilled to witness special views of tropical fish weaving in and out of the coral reef.
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16. Kalambu Hot springs

Kalambu Hot springs photo credit: Pixabay

Here comes a relatively new attraction in our hunt for the worth-visiting landmarks in Costa Rica- Kalambu Hot springs. This landmark is only one of its type. Welcoming the tourists to make the most of pools, slides, restaurants, swim-up bars, and play areas, all of the visitors can find something engaging and joyous here, regardless of age and size.

Located in the heart of Costa Rica’s beautiful Arenal region, Kalambu operates on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only. You should take with you a towel, swimsuit, extra pair of clothes, and money to buy drinks, food, and a locker. In case you want to have an adventure, hop on 'The Mammoth', the highest and the fastest of Kalambu slides that will take you through 374 feet of tunnel. For some light adventure, the Triple slide is where you will twist and turn or bob up and down towards the water.

The best part about this amazing landmark of Costa Rica is its thermal pools with swim-up bars that are also available to relax after dosing on the adventure.
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17. Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles

basílica-de-nuestra-señora-de-los-ángeles photo credit: Pixabay

Here we list in our guide to explore the most raved-about landmarks in Costa Rica, the Costa Rica's most revered religious shrine and one of the important sites present in Cartago- Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles.

Flaunting Byzantine grace, this basilica catches the eye due to the hand-painted interiors, fine stained-glass windows, carved wood altars, and ornate side chapels. The main highlight of this historic structure is unharmed La Negrita- a relic representing Virgin Mary engraved in 1635. The legends tell that a woman discovered the statuette and tried to take it with her, but it reappeared on the site twice miraculously so the authorities declared it as Costa Rica's patron.

You will find the statuette fixed on a gold-jewel studded platform at the main altar. Every year on the 2nd of August, the basilica arranges a ceremony marking the anniversary of this holy discovery which is attended by pilgrims from every nook and corner of the country.
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18. Parque Nacional Tapantí - Macizo de la Muerte

Parque Nacional Tapantí - Macizo de la Muerte photo credit: Pixabay

Let's go out on a walk and loosen up for a day without getting much away from the city- let's explore one of the cleanest and coolest rivers in the country. Let's plan a Sunday trip to Parque Nacional Tapantí - Macizo de la Muerte. Stretched over 580 sq. kilometres, this wettest national park is protecting the dense northern slopes of the Cordillera de Talamanca.

Don't forget to take with your trunks or swimsuits, a waterproof jacket, trail running shoes, a sweater, comfortable clothes, snacks, and drinks, and adventurous spirit for a memorable picnic. You will find hundreds of ranches with tables to eat. The fun part about this Costa Rica landmark is that the park houses prolific wildlife, lush thick vegetation, numerous waterfalls, mossy and wild country.

The scenic beauty of Tapanti, a breath-taking combination of clear turquoise waters and pebbles, makes it more than a simple river. The park also includes the ever-famous Cerro de La Muerte or the Mountain of Death in its territory.
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19. Parque La Sabana

parque-la-sabana-costa-rica photo credit: Pixabay

Here is another park in our list of beautiful landmarks in Costa Rica-indeed one of Costa Rica's prominent yet biggest parks- Parque La Sabana. Covering 72 hectares of green space since 1977, this park is famous as the lungs of San Jose amongst the locals.

Here you will find a lagoon and a regional art museum. Also, it happens to be a hotspot for sports enthusiasts as it houses many athletic fields, a skating and running track, and a shooting range. The park's paths are also relaxing venues for a refreshing jog, stroll, or picnic. Along with enjoying the admirable atmosphere here, you can also enjoy the view of the river and Cork Harbour. Also, don't forget to explore its outdoor sculpture garden which is again quite interesting and unique.

However, women should avoid going out into the woods alone in the evenings or after sunset. All in all, there is some attraction here for every visitor.
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20. Turrialba Volcano

Turrialba Volcano photo credit: Pixabay

Here we will highlight another volcano in our picks for famous landmarks in Costa Rica- the Turrialba Volcano, a stratovolcano that overlooks the city of Cartago. The flanks cover vegetation, forests, and farmland, and three summit craters, it can be taken as the largest stratovolcano in the region.

Turrialba Volcano National Park opens every day from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm where the visitors are allowed to make a day trip. Truth be told, the Turrialba Volcano National park happens to be quite an underrated one as compared to the others of its kind in the region as it is not much developed. This is the reason that it hosts quite a few visitors every year.

However, the park is beautiful on its own. To adventure into the park, you need to book a 4WD vehicle. The chances are that you can encounter old lava remains during your hike. Rich foliage also awaits there for visitors in the forests.
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21. Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco

Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco photo credit: Pixabay

Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco has made a presence in our picks for the fantastic landmarks in Costa Rica due to its active volcanic vents, volcanic cones, inactive volcanic vents, rugged topography, and thermal pools.

Also known as the park of waters because several significant rivers were born here, it spreads over 14,285 hectares protecting a varied range of elevations from 400 to 2267 meters. It is also home to a varied wildlife including wild turkeys, quetzals, black guans, chachalacas, agoutis, tapirs, and monkeys. The significant highlight of the park is Pozo Verde Lake that backs up around 50 of the rivers and some of Costa Rica's biggest waterfalls (now you know why it is called a park of water).

You will find restrooms, trails, an information office, and clean drinking water. It is in the plans of the local government to purchase any private properties that lie inside the park and work on its improvement.
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22. La Cangreja National Park

La Cangreja National Park photo credit: Pixabay

Located in the province of San José, in the canton of Prisca, la Cangreja national park is a wild and remote natural area. Taking its name from Cerro La Cangreja, a legend by indigenous peoples of the region saying that a giant crab (Cangreja) blocked the pass between two mountains in the center of the park which was injured by the chief of the tribe and took refuge in the rocks and ended up becoming a crustacean look-alike formation.

You will find here many short trails and a mirador, waterfalls, and Quebradas through the primary rainforest. You can keep your feet dry by hopping on a suspension bridge, else you will pass through log and rocks balancing water crossings. Also, do take a break and experience the spectacular sight of varied bird species flitting in and out of the sun.

There is also a side trail that follows the river and leads to a giant rock wall eroding into pools into its foot.
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23. Chirripó National Park

Chirripó National Park photo credit: Pixabay

We are closing our list of famous landmarks in Costa Rica with Chirripó National Park which is the only wilderness national park in Costa Rica that can be accessed by foot. Many of the rugged terrains have not experienced any development or exploitation due to being inaccessible.

Here you will not only find the infamous Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica's highest peak but also miles of trails winding through the captivating ecological zones. The real challenge would be to climb up the Cerro Chirripó Grande but once you do, you will be able to enjoy spectacular views, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea simultaneously. You can also collect maps and visitor guides from the park headquarters.

However, do take a lot of water, a sleeping bag, a cookstove, and food if you plan to climb. Also, don't forget to make a reservation through the park system. The experience will be fulfilling as well as exhilarating.
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Costa Rica is not only one of the most stable countries in Central America but can also be counted as an adventure travel destination. Don't judge it being a small-sized territory-it certainly packs a punch for its visitors. Even families can enjoy plenty of “soft adventure” opportunities here. When we talked about the famous landmarks in Costa Rica in this article, we featured;

Diverse archaeological monuments such as stone balls- located in the southern region of Costa Rica. Highly poignant biological diversity infused with pleasant tourism infrastructure flaunting environmental consciousness. Natural monuments featuring various active volcanoes, bubbling mud pools, hot springs, and unusual crater lakes. Costa Rica is for sure a complete package for any tourist.

Its capital, San Jose, is where the most attractions lie- lovely squares and the country's best museums but its real treasures are small coastal villages and forests. We hope that our list helped you form the very best Costa Rica bucket list.

I am born to explore the world. I don’t know where I’m going, but still, I’m on my way. Travel as much as you can, wherever you can, and as long as you can. Life is too short to be lived in one place.