Costa Rica is a country that’s literally defined by its exceptional array of national parks. A system of wilderness protection that started almost five decades ago, Costa Rica’s best national parks encompass over a quarter of the entire country. Whether you’ve got your eye on a volcano you can climb, a river on which you can kayak and whitewater raft, a beach you can learn to surf on, a stretch of coast renowned for attracting nesting turtles or a high-altitude cloud forest brimming with exotic birds, it’s highly likely it’ll be part of a fervently protected national park.
Just about all of Costa Rica’s best adventures play out in one of the country’s many national parks and this overview guide will help you decide which one to include on your forthcoming adventure vacation. Planning a honeymoon, family vacation or multi-sport tour? We’ve got just the national park for you!
Best National Parks for Honeymoon Adventure Vacations
Manuel Antonio National Park is the unrivaled honeymoon queen of national parks, the stunning reserve home to dreamy honeymoon resorts, spectacular stretches of beach where the luscious wilderness just seems to tumble straight into the sapphire seas. Yep, MA is all that, and then some. Close to the capital and offering a little of everything that makes Costa Rica’s wilderness world-renowned, Manuel Antonio is the top-choice for short and sweet honeymoon vacations.
But it’s not the only one…
The Arenal Volcano National Park has a little bit of magic up its sleeve, because what could be more romantic than soaking in a hot thermal pool surrounded by a pristine tropical rain-forest? Jaw-dropping views of Arenal Volcano from the luxurious Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort (one of our favorite wedding photo shoot locations) offer that breathtaking extra everyone seeks on honeymoons.
Ready to head a little further?
Head due east to the Limon Province and you’ll be discovering one of the lesser-visited best honeymoon national parks of all: Tortuguero National Park. This remote and unspoiled corner of Costa Rica is revered for attracting an abundance of nesting turtles and is considered an off-beat destination that tugs at the heartstrings of nature lovers the world over. As such, it is not as built-up as some other parks and is mostly coveted for its ‘totally wild’ adventure settings. However, we think all of this spells ‘pure perfection’ for adventurous honeymooning couples, the kind who don’t mind foregoing the luxurious of a 5* all-inclusive resort to be immersed in the kind of untarnished tropical wilderness that’s hard to find nowadays. Besides, there are three amazing lodges here that actually do provide plenty of luxury and comfort – think jacuzzi soaks, couple massage and riverside cabins that just scream ‘romance’. Check out our choice of amazing resorts in Tortuguero.
Best National Parks in Costa Rica for Family Adventure Vacations
Families heading to Costa Rica are usually looking for a wide array of activities, something that’ll please children and adults equally. Luckily, Costa Rica does this seamlessly which is the main reason the country is just so popular for family vacations. Although you can always choose a child-friendly resort that offers some kind of kid-club (just a little yawn-inducing) we think you and the kids deserve a little more. In the best national parks for families in Costa Rica, you can all have the time of your lives doing fun and exciting stuff, together, whether it be going on a night-time wildlife-spotting walk, zip-line run, family hike, bicycle tour, surf lesson and even horseback ride on the beach. If time together equals closeness, then what’s the point of having fun, separately??
Manuel Antonio is very family friendly and there are walking excursions that are ideal with little ones in tow. Over in Alajuela is where you can all explore the resplendent Rio Celeste on a thrilling hike through the Tenorio Volcano National Park (ideal if your kids are a little older) and if you have kids of varying ages, you can visit Arenal, where cable-car rides thrill the little ones and zip-line rides will delight thrill-seeking teenagers.
If you do have toddlers or young kids, you’ll also love the La Paz Nature Park because it offers light walks even the tiniest tot can achieve (carried, if need be) yet offering an abundance of beautiful wilderness experiences that’ll titillate all their senses. Numerous waterfalls and close-up encounters with some of the country’s most iconic wildlife is what enthralls young and older alike here.
Many families also love visiting Los Quetzales National Park which is, much like uber-famous Monteverde, a stunning cloud forest destination. This is one of the country’s youngest national parks and one of the least-known, which makes it a great off-the-radar destination. It’s very close to San Jose and boasts an altitude range of between 4,000 and 10,000 feet, which is sublime on a summer visit. Home to about 200 distinct species of birds as well as deer, tapirs and even a few pumas which you’d have to be pretty lucky to spot as they’re terribly shy. This is a real bird-lover’s paradise and if you take a local guide, you’ll spot some amazing specimens, like the Resplendent Quetzal at the right season and different types of hummingbirds. If your kids are interested or studying birds, they’ll absolutely love this place. There’s pretty basic infrastructure here so far (which makes it feel super remote) yet it means that guided walks are advised, with a choice of options for short and longer trails, depending on the age of your kids.
Best National Parks for Multi-Sport Adventure Vacations
It really doesn’t matter if you’re heading over solo, on honeymoon, with friends or with your extended family: adventures abound in Costa Rica’s best national parks. For multi-sport adventure vacations, whereby you can fit in as many active pursuits every day (so requiring less in-between travel) you really can’t go past the entire region framing the Pacuare and Sarapiqui rivers, on the central-eastern half of the country.
Bordered by the Tortuguero, Cahuita, Braulio Carrillo and Barbilla National Parks, these rivers are considered the heart and soul of the country by bonafide adventure seekers. Here, you’ll find primary virgin rain-forest that showcases astonishing biodiversity, the wilderness home to elusive jaguars, anteaters, ocelots, sloths, an abundance of monkeys and an untold number of exotic tropical birds, including toucans and macaws. We love this region because it is untouched for the most part, bar a few eco-lodges that simply offer us the chance to explore the rivers by kayak and whitewater raft and its stellar wilderness on foot. Considered one of the world’s best rafting destinations of all (the Pacuare River, particularly) this region is ideal for multi-sport adventures, because there are enough lodges to allow for week long trips but not enough commercialization that means multi-day rafting or kayaking needs to be interrupted.
For adventurous souls, this whole area is unparalleled, with plenty of offerings for families and honeymooners too. Given the Pacuare’s three-section river runs, this is also a great place to learn rafting and kayaking and a handful of dreamy lodges means honeymoon suites on riverside lodges are also on offer.
When it comes to the best national parks in Costa Rica, it’s worth noting that just because we mention a special reason to visit a particular national park, it doesn’t mean that reason won’t be found elsewhere. Except for the multi-sport option perhaps: the Pacuare really is the best rafting and kayaking river in the country, so even if you hike, bike ride or zipline elsewhere, you’ll still want to head here for the best river-based adventures.
Yet for all other aspects, you do have a wide array of choice. The northwest of the country, for example, is home to the best and largest range of honeymoon resorts but there are plenty scattered all over the country, some of which are exceptionally unique, remote and absolutely stunning.
You can contact us, right here