El Fortín, a circular fortress tower, in Heredia, Costa Rica.

Heredia, Costa Rica’s City of Flowers

Heredia, seven miles north of San José and colloquially known as La Ciudad de las Flores (City of Flowers), is surrounded by coffee fields. A pleasant atmosphere pervades the grid-patterned town despite its jostling traffic, making it easy to wander. There’s something here for history buffs, coffee aficionados, nature lovers, and after all that, the nightlife is pretty good too.

A surfer walking on the beach in Malpais. Photo © Keith Levit/123rf.

Things to Do in Malpaís and Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

The shoreline immediately north of Cabo Blanco is a lively surfers’ paradise with some of the best surfing beaches in the country. The past few years have seen phenomenal tourism development, propelling the contiguous communities of Malpaís and Santa Teresa from offbeat obscurity to huge popularity. With this boom comes a surge in nightlife, outdoor activities, and more and more ways to spend your time.

Visitors gazing into the main the crater of Poás Volcano.

Poás Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

There are few volcanoes where you can drive all the way to the rim. At Costa Rica’s Parque Nacional Volcán Poás you can—well, at least to within 300 meters (1,000 feet), where a short stroll puts you at the very edge of one of the world’s largest active craters. Learn about this restless giant’s history, along with trip planning tips to make the most of your visit.

Topography surrounding San Vito. Photo © Eric T Gunther (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

San Vito and Las Cruces Biological Station

San Vito is a pleasant hill town founded by Italian immigrants to Costa Rica in the early 1850s. Nearby you’ll find the Estación Biológica Las Cruces, a nature lover’s delight. This 800-acre forest reserve is a vital habitat for hundreds of species of butterflies and bats, and dozens of birds and mammals. Visit for miles and miles of well-maintained trails and the chance to spot these creatures and to enjoy the gardens inside the reserve.

Visitors gaze at a tumbling waterfall from an observation platform.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s splendid nature and wildlife park La Paz Waterfall Gardens at Montaña Azul features trails through a soaring hangar-size aviary with a separate climate-controlled butterfly cage. There’s also a hummingbird garden, a serpentarium (snakes), a walk-through ranarium (frogs), a monkey exhibit, plus a trout lake and orchid houses.

An elegant pool surrounded by lush vegetation with a swim-up bar featuring a thatched roof.

Costa Rica’s Best Hot Springs Spas

Several entities make the most of the hot springs that pour from the base of Volcán Arenal in Costa Rica. These are the best, from a full-service Spanish colonial-style balneario with swim-up bars to a packed Disneyesque success story with a waterslide to a much more tranquil, serene springs with a variety of temperatures and pools.

A mantled howler monkey, Alouatta palliata, eating leaves in Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica, Central America.

Monkeys in Costa Rica

The liveliest and most vocal rainforest tenants, there are four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica: the white-faced (or capuchin), howler, spider, and squirrel. Their daily habits are as varied as the wide range of habitats they occupy, from the rainforest canopy to the scrubby undergrowth of the dry forests, though each species has its own niche and the species seldom meet.

A tapir in Costa Rica's Corcovado National Park.

Animals Found in Costa Rica

Anyone who has traveled in the tropics in search of wildlife can tell you that disappointment comes easy. But Costa Rica is one place that lives up to its reputation. Costa Rica is nature’s live theater—and the actors aren’t shy. Learn about the hundreds of animals you’re likely–and not–to spot in Costa Rica.

Arenal Volcano. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Planning Your Time in Costa Rica’s Northern Lowlands

Travelers flock to Costa Rica’s northern lowlands thanks to the singular popularity of Volcán Arenal and the fistful of adventures based around nearby La Fortuna. Use this area overview to learn about the region and what more it offers, along with a bit of history and tips on planning your time.