Costa Rica may be a small country, but it is filled with tons of amazing destinations.
And with so many great things to see, it can be difficult to find the best locations for your trip.
We created this Costa Rica map guide to give you a better idea of your options throughout the country.
With some clarity, you should be able to plan your Costa Rica trip to the best areas in the country based on your specific travel wishes.
Let’s get to planning!
Costa Rica is located in Central America directly south of Nicaragua and north of Panama.
The country borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
In fact, it is possible to drive from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific coast in about four hours. You can start your day with the sunrise and end it with the sunset.
There are two international airports in Costa Rica.
These are the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) located in San Jose and the Liberia Guanacaste Airport (LIR) located in Liberia.
The San Jose airport is the most visited airport, but more and more flights are going to Liberia. We suggest flying in to San Jose if visiting the Caribbean or southern Pacific.
Liberia is a great option for the northwest corner of the country.
You can find out more in our guide to Costa Rica airports.
For flights, we suggest checking out Skyscanner. We consistently find the best deals and flight options there.
Here is a map of Costa Rica regions. There are seven regions in the country. Let’s go through each one so you can better understand the vibe of each place.
Note that the Central and South Pacific make up one province called Puntarenas. We like to split them up because there is so much to see in this area!
The San Jose Province is home to the country capital, San Jose, as well as the surrounding Central Valley.
This area is home to beautiful views, dormant and active volcanoes, the major international airport, plenty of coffee farms, and most of the major cities in the country.
The popular towns in this region are…
A cold cloud forest town that is perfect for bird watching and eating a lot of fresh trout.
Cartago is home to Irazu volcano, beautiful views, coffee plantations, and hiking opportunities.
This is the most popular beach area in the country mostly due to how close it is to the San Jose International Airport. This area is great for mostly calm waters on the beaches, visiting the Manuel Antonio National park, sand plenty of adventure options.
A bustling beach town. In our opinion, this isn’t the nicest town, but it is a good jumping off point for adventures.
A popular beach town and home to Costa Rica’s most popular national park.
A series of small villages located along wide stretches of beaches.
A small surfing village located next to Jaco. This is a good place to stay for relaxed vibes.
This area is perfect for beaches of raw beauty backed up by dense jungle. The most popular activities in this area are surfing, whale watching tours, and hiking in Corcovado National Park.
Located on the Gulfo Dulce, this is a good town to stay in if you plan to visit Corcovado National Pak.
It is difficult to get here, but it is a great peaceful place to stay for exploring Corcovado National Park.
This side of the country has a completely different vibe than the Pacific coast. Here you can expect a Caribbean vibe, turquoise waters and many darker sand beaches.
Some popular things to do in this area are; seeing sea turtles in Tortuguero, hiking at Cahuita National Park, and beach hopping near Puerto Viejo.
A popular town with backpackers and surfing enthusiasts. There is also a good night life scene here.
A fun caribbean town that is best known for its amazing national park.
This small village is a chilled out of a destination with a nice national park located near the Panama border.
Tortuguero is only accessible by boat. It is a small town that is a must visit spot to see sea turtles laying their eggs.
A series of islands located in Panama just over the border. This place is paradise on earth.
This remote little corner of the country is filled with beautiful beaches, world class surf, fishing, and great hiking spots.
It is not the easiest to get to this region, but that contributes to its charm.
Also, don’t tell the rest of Costa Rica, but this is our favorite spot.
A popular surfer and backpacker town with some seriously chilled out vibes.
A great place to enjoy long walks on the beach and hiking.
This area near the Nicaragua border is home to the city of Liberia, one of the country’s two international airports, several nice beach towns, volcanoes, and waterfalls.
It is a great place to visit for snorkeling, diving, luxurious resorts, and family friendly activities.
The most popular area for all inclusive resorts in the country. A beautiful beach area.
A busy town that is popular with expats. It’s a great place for fishing and diving.
A quiet beach area that is perfect for families. The water is calm enough to swim and there are several nearby activities.
The northern mountains are perfect for jungle and cloud forest adventures.
Some fun things to do here are; zip lining, relaxing in hot springs, hiking, hanging bridge exploration, enjoying volcano views, and visiting waterfalls.
The best time to visit this area is between December and late April for the best volcano views and least rain.
La Fortuna is a popular jungle destination that is made for adventure. Here you can zip line, go white water rafting, swim under a waterfall, and more!
Monteverde is the perfect place for a unique cloud forest adventure. We love this spot for moody days, hiking, and zip lining!
Here is a clickable map of all the popular towns to visit in Costa Rica.
By clicking on your desired destination you will be taken to our detailed guide to that location which includes transportation tips, seasonal info, great hotels, the best restaurants, and much more!
If you are visiting Costa Rica for one week we suggest visiting one jungle destination and one beach destination.
This will give you the perfect feel for the country.
We don’t suggest visiting more than two places in seven days because although it is a small country, driving between destinations can take a long time.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, we completely understand. Check out our ready-made itineraries for tons of suggestions.
Here are three good itinerary map options.
Ge a feel for Costa Rica in a short amount of time. Fly in and out of San Jose International Airport and see beautiful Pacific beaches and lush jungle.
Head to the Caribbean coast for two weeks and even visit Panama. Some of this itinerary can be done by bus.
Soak up all those Pacific coast vibes with three weeks of beach hopping. Enjoy surfing, swimming, relaxing, and more!
When you start to map out your trip we suggest using Google Maps to see how long it will take for you to drive between destinations. However, keep in mind that driving times typically take longer than quoted on maps.
It is not unusual to get stuck behind a big truck and have difficulty passing on narrow stretches of road. We suggest adding an hour on to any driving time that you are quoted on maps.
When it comes to actually getting directions between Costa Rica locations we suggest the free app Waze. It is the most widely used app for directions throughout the country.
We don’t suggest using paper maps. Directions are always changing here so a GPS unit or map app is always best.
If you plan to rent a car we suggest Adobe Rent-a-Car. And we have a 10% discount plus other perks with them to pass on to you.
Here is a map of all the Adobe offices throughout the country.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving long distances you can always opt to take a private transfer and then rent a car in your destination for day-to-day exploration.
The two easiest places to cross the border are in Sixaola (if heading to Panama) and in Penas Blancas (if heading to Nicaragua.
For more information, we suggest checking our guide to the Nicaragua border and our guide to the Panama border crossing.