Costa Rica National Parks

Costa Rica is home to over 20 national parks and several other wildlife refuges. 

Because Costa Rica has several different micro climates throughout the country each national park has a completely different feel. 

curu reserve
cabo blanco

Volcano National Parks

Did you know that there are 5 active volcanos in Costa Rica and many other (close to 100) non active volcanic formations in the country?

One of our favorite things to experience in Costa Rica is a volcanic visit.

There are a few volcanoes in the country which have been turned into national parks. Here are our favorites…..

irazu crater

Irazu Volcano National Park

Irazu volcano is located near San Jose on the outskirts of Cartago. It is possible to drive to the top of this volcano and enjoy the view. On clear days you can even see nearby Turrialba volcano erupting. 

For more info check out the Irazu National Park guide

Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal is the perfect volcano from a visual standpoint. At the Arenal National Park you can enjoy several trail options.

Personally, our favorite way to enjoy the volcano is by viewing it while sitting in a hot spring. 

You can find out more on the official Arenal National Park site

arenal volcano
poas volcano

Poas Volcano National Park

Poas Volcano used to be the most visited national park in the country, but in recent years there have been off and on eruptions. Currently, the volcano is open for visitors once again.

Plan your visit with our Poas Volcano guide


– Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is the most popular national park in Costa Rica due to its beautiful white sand beaches, abundance of animals, and easy walkability. Find out more with our Manuel Antonio National Park guide

– Marino Ballena National Park

Marino Ballena is located in the cute seaside town of Uvita. You can see whales here, go snorkeling, take a kayak tour, and more! Find out how to plan a visit with our Marino Ballena National Park guide

– Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is located on the Osa Peninsula at the very tip of Costa Rica before Panama. This national park needs to be explored with a guide. It is possible to visit as a day trip or to spend one or two nights in the national park. Find out more with our Corcovado National Park guide

– Curu Refuge

Curu Refuge is not frequently visited by tourists, but we think it is worth a visit. There are hiking trails for all levels here as well as bioluminescent kayaking, snorkeling, island day trips, and more! Find out how to visit with our Curu Refuge guide. 

– Cabo Blanco Reserve

Cabo Blanco Reserve is located between Montezuma and Santa Teresa. The hike here can be intense depending on the weather, but you will be rewarded with a beautiful beach. Plan your visit with our Cabo Blanco guide

– Carara National Park

Carara National Park is located just before the beach town, Jaco. If you are interested in bird watching this is a great place for it. You can find out more in our Carara National Park guide

Caribbean National Parks

Tortuguero National Park – The best thing to do here is to take an early morning guided canoe ride through the river channels. This is a great way to see lots of wildlife including birds, monkeys, caymans, and more!

In the fall you can also see sea turtles here laying eggs in their natural habitat. It’s really cool!

Find out how to plan your visit with our Tortuguero National Park guide

Cahuita National Park – This park is filled with wildlife. We have seen sloths, vipers, blue crabs, monkeys, and more here.

This is our favorite national park in Costa Rica for the variety of flora and fauna.

Find out how to plan your visit with our Cahuita National Park guide

Travel Tip

If you would like a real adventure experience you should look in to hiking at the Chirripo National Park. Chirripo is the highest mountain in Costa Rica with a peak of 12,530 feet (3,820 meters) above sea level.  

You can find out more about completing this hike on the official Chirripo website

costa rica mountain view
monteverde cloud forest

Travel Tip

Did you know that Costa Rica is home to some of the best cloud forests in the world? The two best places to experience a cloud forest in Costa Rica are in Monteverde and in San Gerardo de Dota.

In Monteverde you can hike at the Santa Elena Reserve and in San Gerardo de Dota you can explore the Quetzal National Park. 

Grab a free copy of our Costa Rica guide

Rio Celeste

For a completely unique experience head to Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park. This national park is located in the northern part of the country about 1.5 hours from La Fortuna. 

Here, you can hike along a naturally bright blue river which is home to this amazing waterfall.

This hike is best done during the dry season when the paths are less muddy and the water is at its bluest.

rio celeste
rio celeste
rio celeste
rio celeste

Should You Hire A Guide?

At almost every national park in Costa Rica you will see locals outside of the park offering their services as a guide. These guides are not cheap, but we have actually never had a bad experience. 

The guides know where to spot wildlife and they almost always carry a telescope so you can get a close up view of the wildlife.

If you really want to see a lot of animals we think it is worth it to hire a guide.

If you want to save some money and want a more fast paced hike, you are better off without a guide.

manuel antonio national park

Wildlife in Costa Rica

One of the main draws of Costa Rica is the incredible diverse amount of wildlife. We have seen sloths, vipers, monkeys, tarantulas, and more! 

Don’t forget your binoculars and camera at home! You’ll definitely want them.

Check out our 12 favorite places to see wildlife in Costa Rica for some tips.

monkey costa rica

Travel Tip

It can be difficult to determine the best clothes for hiking in Costa Rica. 

If you will be deep in the jungle it is always best to wear long pants. There are some critters here that you don’t want to get too close to.

If you will be on well maintained trails we always wear sport clothes that dry quickly and are very breathable (the sun and humidity here are no joke).

You will also like…..

Things to Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Guide to Beaches

The Best Costa Rica Waterfalls

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