Costa Rica is a wildly diverse landscape. Similarly, its must-see destinations run the gamut from museums to national parks to exceptional communities to explore. Depending on the length of your visit, it might be impossible to see them all; here’s a quick summary to help you choose which ones you’d most like to dedicate your travel time to.

Squirrel monkey hanging on a branch at Manuel Antonio National Park. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Squirrel monkey hanging on a branch at Manuel Antonio National Park. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

  • Museo del Oro Precolombino: This San Jose museum is chock-full of gold artifacts, jade ornaments, and other indigenous relics.
  • Poás Volcano National Park: Costa Rica’s most visited national park stars an active volcano.
  • La Paz Waterfall Gardens: Explore a butterfly enclosure, walk-through aviary, snake and frog exhibits, and a wildcat zoo that has the only captive jaguar in Costa Rica. Cloud forest trails lead to the namesake waterfalls.
  • Tortuguero National Park: Time your visit to witness green turtles nesting on the beach.
  • Manuel Antonio National Park: The wildlife’s not shy at this park, where you’re practically guaranteed to spot monkeys and sloths in the trailside trees, almost at fingertip distance.
  • Cahuita: Come to this laid-back Afro-Caribbean community to chill in a hammock, savor rondón (fish cooked and seasoned in coconut milk), and jive to “Don’t Worry About a Thing”.
  • Arenal Volcano National Park: Hike along lava trails surrounding the youngest and most regularly active of Costa Rica’s volcanoes.
  • San Gerardo de Dota: This retreat offers premier cloud-forest terrain that is unparalleled for the quetzal viewing.
  • Casa Orquídeas: The birding is exceptional at this rainforest resort, reachable solely by boat.
  • Jewels of the Rainforest Insect Museum: Costa Rica’s showcase insect exhibit astounds, plus adjacent facilities at Selvatura activity center include zip line and hanging bridge trails.

Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Costa Rica.