Dreaming of coming to Costa Rica but not sure where to start?  Even though Costa Rica is a small country it is full of natural wonders. Whether you’d like to visit volcanoes, beaches or cloud forests, Costa Rica will win your heart. 

The magic of Costa Rica appeals as much to bird-watchers and luxury travelers as it does to surfers and backpackers. Enjoy the great weather and amazing sights in a country that is home to 6% of the world’s biodiversity.  

Banner: Top 5 destinations for first time travelers to Costa Rica

If you need a little guidance, we are here to help! These are our top 5 destinations for first time travelers to Costa Rica:


For the nature lovers, the forests of Monteverde are some of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. Enveloped in clouds, the stunning Monteverde forest has a unique mystery to it.

These cloud coverings provide the moisture necessary to sustain the area’s unique habitats.  Monteverde is home to more than 3,000 species of animals and plants.

While many visit Monteverde with the hope of glimpsing the elusive quetzal bird, this forest is also home to an incredible array of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. 

Organized hikes with a local guide are an excellent way to explore the forest but if you are more adventure inclined we may suggest witnessing it all from a zip-line through the tree canopy or some of the sky bridges in the area.

Monteverde and Santa Elena are the two main towns and tourist centers with accommodations, restaurants and shops. 

Driving to Monteverde from San José  takes around 3.5 hours. We recommend a 4×4 vehicle such as a Rav4.

Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is the depiction of Costa Rica you see in your dreams: white, warm sand, pristine beaches, and cute monkeys hanging from the branches near you. 

It is one of the country’s most famous national parks for a reason: it is absolutely  beautiful. Take a leisurely walk along the park, look for sloths sleeping on the trees or enjoy the stunning tropical beaches.

Find lots of accommodations and restaurants nestled on the hill between Quepos town and Manuel Antonio National park.

Whether you decide to stay in a 5 star hotel or a hostel, Manuel Antonio park is there for you to explore. 

Driving to Manuel Antonio from San José  takes around 3 hours. We recommend a vehicle such as a Toyota Rush. 


If you are looking for a one day trip, Poás Volcano is the answer. Located less than 90 mins away from the capital, Poás Volcano is a great national park to visit for first timers to Costa Rica. 

This national park protects 16,00 acres of nature and is host to one of the active volcanoes in Costa Rica. The well defined trails make it a fun hike to the crater, whilst enjoying the native flora and fauna of the area. 

The volcano is not the only attraction as the drive itself offers great views of the Central Valley. You’ll pass by local stores that sell fresh produce like strawberries and beautiful handcrafted souvenirs.

Driving to Poás Volcano from San José  takes less than 90 minutes. We recommend a vehicle such as a Toyota Rav4.

Puerto Viejo

Crystal clear water, white sandy beaches, lush tropical vegetation, endless  wildlife and amazing cuisine…Puerto Viejo has it all!

Known for its laid back vibes and friendly locals, Puerto Viejo is a destination unlike any other in Costa Rica. 

Puerto Viejo town is small but has everything you need to enjoy a wonderful vacation. Here you will find amazing restaurants, delicious soditas, shops and colorful houses.

This relaxed Caribbean town not only has some of the prettiest beaches in Costa Rica but it is also a foodies paradise. Puerto Viejo’s food scene reflects on the international population that has come to visit and stayed. Caribbean, Italian, Argentinian, Asian and Middle Eastern flavors entwine to delight the visitors.

Puerto Viejo has a lot to offer. World class surfing spots, yoga retreats, cultural visits, cacao farms, snorkeling and animal rescue centers, to name a few. 

Enjoy the wonderful atmosphere, wildlife sightings, and unique dishes of this Caribbean coastal town. 

Driving to Puerto Viejo from San José  takes around 5 hours. We recommend a vehicle such as Toyota Rush.


Prepare yourself to be stunned as you behold this impressive landmark. Sitting at an elevation of 5,357 foot, the perfect conical shape of the Arenal Volcano stands out from the surrounding fertile lands and serves as a backdrop to La Fortuna, the town sitting at its base.  

In this town you’ll find lots of wonderful activities such as horseback riding, rafting, hiking, and hot springs. Whether you are looking for a relaxing retreat or an adventure filled vacation, Arenal has something for you. 

Driving to La Fortuna from San José  takes around 3.5 hours. We recommend a vehicle such as a Toyota Fortuner. 

Getting around

The easiest and safest way to reach all of these destinations is by renting a car. At Budget Car Rental we are compromised with your comfort and safety and have the perfect car for your needs. 

Banner: Paradise awaits

We hope this list of our top 5 destinations in Costa Rica for first timers help you plan your visit but if you need any additional help, our team is ready to answer any of your questions!

Similar Posts