With almost a third of its land protected by national parks, wildlife refuges, and natural areas; Costa Rica offers exciting hiking opportunities for adventurers. While in this beautiful country, you can hike through rainforests, stroll along beaches, and challenge yourself by climbing mountains. Whether you’re into pushing your limits or prefer a leisurely pace, Costa Rica caters to both types of explorers. So if you are ready to discover South America’s great outdoors and witness its stunning beauty, here are 15 must-visit hotspots for hiking in Costa Rica.
1. Rio Celeste Waterfall
One of the most stunning places for hiking in Costa Rica is Rio Celeste, a river with such a dazzling blue hue that it seems unreal. You’ll be amazed by the contrast between the lush green forest and the turquoise water as you hike along the trail.
The best way to explore Rio Celeste is by joining a guided full-day tour of the Tenorio Volcano National Park, where the river is located. You’ll learn about the fascinating geology and ecology of the area and see some of the park’s highlights. Some of these highlights include the furnace vents of a volcano and the spectacular Rio Celeste waterfall. The hike is about 5.5 km long and can be challenging, so make sure you’re prepared for some steep and muddy sections.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to swim in the river, as it’s prohibited by the park authorities. But don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to take amazing photos and enjoy the scenery. Rio Celeste is one of those places that you have to see to believe, so don’t miss this chance to experience its magic.
2. Arenal Volcano Park
Are you ready for an adventure of a lifetime? Then don’t miss the chance to visit the Arenal Volcano National Park, where you can witness the majestic beauty of one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and it offers a variety of hiking trails for all levels of experience. Whether you choose to join a guided hike or explore on your own, you’ll be amazed by the scenery and the wildlife that surround you.
A guided hike is a great option if you want to learn more about the history and ecology of the park. An expert naturalist will accompany you and point out the fascinating facts and features that make this park so unique. If you prefer to hike on your own, you can still enjoy the park’s wonders at your own pace. Just stop by the park ranger station after paying the entrance fee, and they’ll provide you with a map and some recommendations.
Hiking in Costa Rica is an unforgettable experience, and the Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the best places to do it. Don’t miss this opportunity to immerse yourself in nature and witness the power and beauty of a living volcano.
3. Arenal Hanging Bridges
If you are looking for an exhilarating way to explore the rainforest and the volcano in Arenal then you should try the Arenal Hanging Bridges Hike. This is a thrilling adventure that takes you across 14 bridges of different types and heights. You’ll walk along a 3.2-km loop that winds through a private reserve, where you’ll have the chance to see amazing wildlife and plants.
You might spot howler monkeys, colourful birds, or even wild boars, especially if you hike with a naturalist guide who can help you find them. Don’t miss the waterfall extension trail at the end, where you’ll be rewarded with a refreshing sight. Certainly, hiking in Costa Rica doesn’t get any better than this! Don’t forget to book your spot in advance and start early to catch the best views.
4. Manuel Antonio National Park
If you want to experience the best of Costa Rica’s nature and wildlife, you can’t miss Manuel Antonio National Park. This park may be small, but it’s packed with wonders. You’ll find so many animals like monkeys, sloths, iguanas dolphins, whales, and turtles. You’ll also discover some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, where you can relax and enjoy the sun and the waves.
Manuel Antonio National Park has several trails to choose from, depending on your preferences and abilities. The Main Trail is the easiest and most popular one, as it leads you to all the main attractions and beaches. You can join a guided hike with a naturalist guide who shows you all the secrets and surprises of the park.
Alternatively, you can try the Cathedral Point Trail, a more challenging loop that offers stunning views from the park’s ridge. Just be prepared for some steep sections and bring your swimsuit along! Hiking in Costa Rica is a dream come true, and Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the best places to make it happen!
5. Bajos del Toro Waterfall
Do you love waterfalls? Then you’ll be amazed by the Bajos del Toro Waterfall, a short but spectacular trail that starts from the El Silencio Cloud Forest Lodge. In just 15 minutes, you’ll reach a stunning canyon, where the Bajos del Toro Waterfall, also known as Catarata del Toro, drops 121 m into a pool of water. The canyon is a feast for the eyes, with its green moss and colourful rocks.
The hike is easy at first, but then you’ll have to go down 375 steps to get to the base of the falls. Make sure you wear good hiking shoes for this part! The climb back up might be hard, but it’s worth it for the views. Hiking in Costa Rica is an adventure you’ll never forget, and this trail is one of the best ways to enjoy it.
6. Santa Rosa National Park
If you’re looking for a place where history, nature, and adventure meet, you’ll love Santa Rosa National Park. This is Costa Rica’s oldest national park, and it’s home to a rich variety of wildlife. You can hike through the dry forest, where you might see monkeys, deer, or even jaguars. You can also witness a miracle of life at the beach, where olive ridley sea turtles nest and hatch. This is the only place in the world where this endangered species is fully protected. You can watch them from August to November when thousands of baby turtles emerge from the sand.
Santa Rosa is also a paradise for surfers, who come to enjoy the amazing waves and the white sand beaches. You can drive for about 11 km inside the park, but then you’ll have to leave your car and continue on foot. There are about 19 km of trails to explore, each one offering a different experience. Santa Rosa is one of the best spots for hiking in Costa Rica, and you’ll never get bored of its beauty and diversity.
7. La Fortuna Waterfall
Imagine standing in front of a 70-metre waterfall, surrounded by a lush forest and exotic wildlife. That’s what you’ll experience when you visit the La Fortuna Waterfall, one of the most stunning spots for hiking in Costa Rica. To get there, you’ll need to park your car and pay a small entrance fee. Then, you’ll see a cosy restaurant and a lookout point where you can admire the waterfall from above.
Next, you’ll begin your descent down a staircase that leads you to the base of the waterfall. The trail is a round trip, so be prepared for some exercise. It takes you about 15 minutes to go down and maybe longer to go back up. But don’t worry, you can stop and rest along the way. You’ll also enjoy the scenery as you cross a bridge and pass huge boulders in the canyon.
Finally, you’ll reach the majestic La Fortuna Waterfall itself. You’ll be amazed by its power and beauty, as it crashes into a pool of water below. Unfortunately, you can’t swim right under the waterfall, but you can swim downstream a bit. It’s a great way to cool off and have some fun. Just make sure you wear your swimsuit under your clothes or bring a change of clothes with you.
8. Carara Biological Reserve
If you love nature and wildlife, you won’t want to miss the Carara Biological Reserve on the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This reserve is a sanctuary for the endangered scarlet macaws, as well as monkeys, sloths, and many other bird species. You can explore different ecosystems, from mangroves to rainforests, and marvel at the biodiversity of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast. You can also join an optional crocodile tour on the nearby Tarcoles River for some extra thrill.
The Carara National Park Tour is a great way to experience this reserve with a professional guide. It is suitable for beginners and travellers with disabilities, as the trails are mostly flat and paved. The park also features audio-visual and haptic technologies to enhance your learning and enjoyment. For these reasons, Carara is one of the best spots for hiking in Costa Rica.
9. Poas Volcano National Park
If you’re looking for an easy and thrilling hike near San Jose, look no further than the Poas Volcano. This active volcano has one of the deepest craters in the world, and you can get up close and personal with it! The best time to hike the Poas trails is early in the morning when the sky is clear and the views are stunning.
But that’s not all. The national park also features the Botos Lagoon, a beautiful lake inside an extinct volcano. Don’t miss this scenic spot after you reach the summit. The trail to the lagoon is a bit more challenging, but it’s worth the effort. A guide can make your hike even more enjoyable, as they can share interesting facts and stories about the park.
The Poas Volcano is one of the best spots for hiking in Costa Rica, and you can easily combine it with other tours in the area. It’s a perfect choice for a day of adventure.
10. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Monteverde is not just a forest, it is a cloud forest. This means that it is often shrouded in mist and fog, creating a magical atmosphere and a home for a remarkable diversity of life. As you walk along one of the nine trails that cover 13 km of the park, you will be amazed by the sights and sounds of nature.
While here, you might spot a colourful quetzal, one of the 400 bird species that live here, or a playful monkey, one of the 130 mammal species. You also see countless plants and insects that make this forest a living museum of biodiversity. Monteverde is a place to experience the wonders of the cloud forest and enjoy some of the best spots for hiking in Costa Rica.
Happy Hiking in Costa Rica
All in all, Costa Rica is a natural wonderland where diverse landscapes invite you to explore. Hike through rainforests and beaches, volcanoes and waterfalls as well as parks and refuges. Witness the beauty of Rio Celeste, the power of Arenal, and the wildlife of hanging bridges. Enjoy Manuel Antonio’s sandy shores, Santa Rosa’s historic sites, and Bajos del Toro’s cascades. Marvel at La Fortuna’s falls, Carara’s biodiversity, Poas’ crater, and Monteverde’s cloud forest. No matter where you choose to go for your hike, adventure awaits in Costa Rica! For a more unique adventure, try hiking the holy land of Israel. Have a wonderful time!