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Plan Your Trip to Costa Rica: Best of Costa Rica Tourism

Explore Costa Rica

Costa Rica is where to go when you want to disconnect and go all in on nature—and with its sun-drenched beaches and lush rainforests, it’s pretty easy to do it. Yes, it’s known for its laid-back pura vida lifestyle, but adventure’s everywhere, too: Hike through lava fields at Arenal Volcano National Park, raft down the Rio Celeste in Guanacaste, soar above the jungle in Monteverde—home to the longest zipline in Latin America. Or, head to the Osa Peninsula, where you can kayak through mangroves, spot some wildlife, and get a taste of local Tico culture—literally—with a trip to a cacao farm to see how chocolate is made. When you’re ready to slow things down, make your way to the Nicoya Peninsula and start each morning with yoga, then go surfing or kick back on a secluded beach. Whatever you’re into, you can find it, and we’ve got more recs, below.

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My under-the-radar family adventures on the Nicoya Peninsula

The farther south you venture from Tamarindo on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, the wilder the adventure feels. But in this generally safe country, there’s a choose-your-own-adventure nature to the exploring. We opted for backroads—some of which involved driving our rented SUV across shallow rivers (Google Maps made me do it!)—over a month-long exploration of this compact but ecologically diverse wonderland.
Stratton Lawrence, Charleston, SC
  • Pizza Tree
    Over a week-long stay in nearby Playa San Miguel, we made two trips to this wonderfully unique, Italian-owned pizzeria with three levels of dining areas, including a treetop perch. It’s a magical place at sunset. Pizza from the wood-fired oven may be the best in the country, but don’t sleep on the pasta carbonara and the grilled ribs.
  • Cabo Blanco Butterfly Farm
    Our children were mesmerised by the hundreds of butterflies in the two greenhouses at this legitimate farm, where native tropical butterfly pupae are raised and shipped to exhibits worldwide. Our children witnessed each stage of metamorphosis while we captured incredible images of adult butterflies dancing around them. During summer, call to schedule a private tour.
  • Macaw Recovery Network
    The scarlet and great green macaws at this non-profit institute are free to roam the jungle, but they return here in the evening and fill the trees with smile-inducing noise and colour. Staff ornithologists breed and rehabilitate macaws here, and the site is part of a network supporting the wild population across the country.
  • Guacamaya Lodge
    We met up with another family for a long weekend at this comfortable hotel at Playa Junquillal. The living here was easy, shifting between the beach (where sea turtle hatchling releases are common during winter at sunset) and the inviting pool. Even if you don’t stay the night, the thatched-roof restaurant is an excellent lunch or dinner stop.
  • Totobe Resort
    When you reach the end of the road at Playa San Miguel’s southern terminus, you’ve found this tiny “resort.” It’s not especially fancy (don’t expect A/C), but getting away from it all with a pool and grassy lawn directly on the beach—plus oceanfront porches to while away evenings—feels special. We extended our stay to a week because our children loved it here so much.
  • Jungle Butterfly Farm
    A second butterfly farm? Yes, kind of. But the promise of butterflies is really a front for entomologist Mike Malliet’s incredible walking tours through the dry tropical forest. We saw our fill of butterflies, but the highlight came when Malliet cracked open a termite nest, popped a few of the wriggling creatures in his mouth, and then offered one to our son, who eagerly obliged before asking for another.
  • Punta Islita, Autograph Collection
    Punta Islita, just south of Samara, is both a resort and a tidy little town where much of the local population works at the property. We enjoyed the best of both worlds here, taking in the small cultural centre and attending a local dance on Friday night while spending our days at the hotel’s beachfront pool.
  • Gusto Beach
    There’s no shortage of beachfront dining on the Nicoya Peninsula, and the bare-feet-in-the-sand, cocktail-in-hand concept reaches perfection in Samara, where the wide beach means children can run free while mom and dad truly relax. Gusto Beach was our favourite for relaxed meals and sunset palomas, with plenty of children’ options (even a grilled fish and potato puree for babies).