Costa Rica may be a small country, but it is filled with tons of amazing destinations. Unfortunately, in a one or two week vacation, you won’t be able to visit much of the country. Although it may be small, it does take a long time to drive between locations. 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!

Where is Costa Rica Located?

costa rica location map

If you look at Costa Rica on a world map it is a tiny tiny little speck.

We actually hear a lot from people who think that Costa Rica is an island. In fact, it is not. Costa Rica is located in Central America directly below Nicaragua and above Panama. It borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

The Costa Rica Provinces

costa rica region map

Here is a map of Costa Rica regions. There are six regions in the country. Let’s go through each one so you can better understand the vibe of each place.

San Jose Province

costa rica central valley

The San Jose Province is home to the 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 plantations, and the major cities in the country.

The major towns in this region are…

sanjosemap

San Jose: The capital city of the country. This is likely not a place you will spend much time, besides when you are flying in and out of the country. The city has many great restaurants, museums, and historic buildings.

alajuela-map

Alajuela: The city next to the airport. The downtown area is nothing special, but the surrounding area is home to Poas Volcano and many coffee plantations. This is a nice area to explore if you find yourself with an extra day before your flight out of Costa Rica.

cartago-map

Cartago: Cartago is technically its own province, but we included it with San Jose for easier organization. The downtown area is not much of a tourist destination. it is one of the largest cities in the country. However, the surrounding area is home to Irazu Volcano, beautiful views, nice hiking, and coffee plantations.

San Gerardo de Dota: This is a cozy cloud forest town that we love! Not many tourists venture here but it is perfect for bird watching, eating tons of trout, hiking, and relaxing by a warm fire.

Puntarenas Province

manuel antonio national park

The Puntarenas Province is one of the most visited areas of the country due to its proximity to the San Jose International Airport and its amazing beaches.

The major towns in this region are….

Montezuma: One of our favorite towns in Costa Rica. We love the long beaches, small downtown, and remote vibe.

Santa Teresa: Santa Teresa is a relaxed surfer town with dirt roads. We love this area for fishing, eating fish (notice a theme here), and just chilling out.

jaco-map

Jaco: Jaco is popular with tourists due to its proximity to the San Jose international airport. The town and beach are not our favorites, but it is a good jumping-off point for other adventures.

manuel antonio-map

Manuela Antonio:

Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular towns for tourists to visit in Costa Rica. A big part of that is because it is home to Manuel Antonio National Park. This is a great place to see a ton of wildlife in a condensed area. This area also has some amazing beaches.

Dominical: Dominical is a tiny beach town with an unusual amount of great restaurants. It is also home to the amazing Nauyaca Waterfall.

uvita-map

Uvita: Uvita is home to a beautiful beach and the whale’s tale (pictured below).

whales tail

This is a great place for whale watching tours, beach hopping, and relaxation.

Guanacaste Province

playas del coco

The Guanacaste Province borders Nicaragua. This area is known for high-end resorts, tons of water sport possibilities, long beaches, beautiful sunsets, and more!

The popular towns in this region are….

playas del coco map

Playas del Coco: Playas del Coco is located only about 30 minutes south of Liberia International Airport. Just above Coco is the Papagayo Peninsula which is where most of Costa Rica’s nicest resorts are located. Coco is a good beach town to stay in for jumping off to other adventures.

flamingo map

Playa Flamingo: Playa Flamingo is home to some of the nicest white sand beaches in the country. There are many large condo-style hotels here.

tamarindo-map

Tamarindo: Tamarindo is a popular town for surfing. This area has tons of excellent restaurants and a touristy vibe. It is much busier than some of the other beach towns in Costa Rica.

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Nosara: Nosara is a tiny beach town located off of a dirt road. It is most popular with surfing and yoga enthusiasts who want to be away from the crowds.

Samara: Samara used to be a popular surfing town, but due to an earthquake in 2012 the surf is no longer as good. Now, it is just a nice relaxed beach town which is popular with backpackers.

The Northern Zone

la fortuna

The Northern Zone, located in the middle northern part of the country is home to lush jungle, cloud forests, volcanoes, waterfalls, and plenty of fun adventure activities such as ziplining and rafting.

The major towns in this region are….

la fortuna map

La Fortuna: La Fortuna is an adventure lovers haven and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Here you can relax in hot springs, enjoy volcano views, swim under an amazing waterfall, zip line, raft, and more!

monteverde map

Monteverde: Monteverde is a cool cloud forest. This area is popular for ziplining, hiking, and wildlife spotting.

The Caribbean Coast

puerto viejo

The Caribbean coast is home to amazing sunrises, tropical beaches, top surfing destinations, and more! This area of the country has an Afro-Caribbean flair to it.

The popular towns in this region are….

cahuita map

Cahuita: Cahuita is home to one of our favorite national parks, Cahuita National Park. This town is also great for relaxing on the beach and seeing wildlife.

puerto-viejo-map

Puerto Viejo: Puerto Viejo is a popular backpacker destination. The surfing is also excellent here. For a more relaxed vibe, head just south of Puerto Viejo to Playa Cocles or Manzanillo.

The South Pacific

puerto jiminez beach

The Southern Pacific zone is less developed than some other areas of the country. Here you can find beautiful beaches, diverse wildlife, and Corcovado National park which contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity.

The major towns in this region are….

Puerto Jimenez: Puerto Jimenez is a small beachfront town that has remained true to its roots and has not become overly touristy. This is a great jumping off point when visiting Corcovado National Park.

Drake Bay: This is a remote beach town along the Pacific Coast. It is a great entry point for hiking in Corcovado National Park.

costa rica map
Here is a full map so you can get a better idea of where everything is located.

Map Out Your Trip

manuel antonio beach

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 locations, we have a complete guide to that here. This will tell you the best GPS units to use.

Also, if you need so help with itinerary ideas that make sense for your specific needs, we have an entire collection of itineraries.

Our Costa Rican Map Tips

prusia forest

– For directions, a GPS is best, as we mentioned. However, if you would like an actual map to carry with you, here are a few great ones that you can purchase before your trip. We especially like the waterproof map because typically everything gets wet here.

-There are two international airports in Costa Rica. The main airport (Juan Santamaria International Airport) is located just outside of San Jose in the central part of the country. The other airport is located in the northwestern part of the country in Liberia.

Keep your arrival and departure airport in mind when planning your trip. For example, flying into Liberia airport and then planning a trip to the Caribbean coast would just be too much driving. You would be much better off to fly into San Jose instead.

-The dry season on the Pacific coast of the country runs from December until late April. The rainy season on the Caribbean coast tends to be from December until February and then again June and July. The rest of the year on the Caribbean is typically dry and hot.

-Don’t forget to check out our destination guides for more info on each location throughout the country. These guides will definitely help when mapping out the perfect trip.

-We decided to make the Costa Rica map we created for the cover of this article free for you all to download. It is 8.5 x 11. Feel free to print it out for wall art or use it as a computer background so you can always have a bit of that Costa Rica vibe. 🙂

Just click here to get a pdf printable copy.

Let us know if you have any questions about this Costa Rica map guide in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out!

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