Costa Rica is known for its large number of national parks, some of which are still considered insider tips. Travel bloggers Nina and Tom therefore introduce you to four of the most beautiful national parks in Costa Rica that you should not miss. Because they not only score with beautiful dream beaches and wild animals, but are also away from the tourist hotspots.
Costa Rica not only offers beautiful Caribbean and Pacific coasts, but also many national parks. A total of 30 protected areas take up more than a quarter, namely 25.6%, of the country – and the trend is rising. No wonder Costa Rica is often referred to as a “green paradise”. Not so easy not to get lost in the jungle of protected rainforests, on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific. We’ll take you with us and show you the most beautiful national parks with beaches and untouched nature.
Wild Corovado National Park
Multi-day tours to fully immerse yourself in the Costa Rican wilderness
Good to know:
- Access is limited to 120 day visitors and 70 overnight stays.
- The park can only be visited with a guide.
- Tickets for the park and tours are very popular and should be booked 1-2 months in advance.
- Only overnight accommodation: Sirena Lodge (accessible by foot, boat or plane)
- Tours: from $150/day
- Best starting points for day or multi-day tours: Drake Bay (easiest to reach by boat) or Puerto Jiménez (easiest to reach by car)
Learn more about Corcovado National Park .
In our opinion, Corcovado National Park on the west coast is the most beautiful in all of Costa Rica. It is home to more different animals than any other national park. There is even talk of one of the most species-rich regions in the world. Due to its seclusion, it is often not included in the standard Costa Rica round trips and is therefore still a real insider tip.
Stumbling over a tapir on the beach, watching caimans eat lunch and following the tracks of a jaguarundi – this sounds like an adventure film, but that’s exactly what you can experience in Corcovado National Park . One has the chance to see all kinds of animals that exist in Costa Rica. Also the very rare wild cats, such as puma, ocelot or jaguarundi, although you need a bit of luck for that. It is much more likely to see all four species of monkeys living in Costa Rica, the almost extinct tapirs, sloths, raccoons, toucans, macaws and many other bird species within one day.
There are different ways to explore the national park and its beaches. In order to completely immerse ourselves in nature and let the wilderness work on us, we decided on a 2-day tour with Corcovado Hiking Tours . You spend the night in the Sirena Lodge in bunk beds with mosquito nets. There are showers, toilets, a small shop and a buffet restaurant. All very basic but functional and clean.
You can arrive either by plane, boat or on foot (20 km hike). All possible arrival options can be combined for day or multi-day tours. We found the “Boat in – Hike out” combination to be the best as it gave us enough time to explore the short trails around Sirena Lodge while still enjoying the beaches and remoteness of the park on the long hike on day two . On the first day we saw by far the most monkeys, birds, insects, crocodiles and even tapirs.
Sloth Guarantee at Cahuita National Park
Perfect for :
Sloth spotting and long walks on the beach
Good to know :
- Opening hours: 08:00 – 16:00
- Admission: Free, donation-based (at the Kelly Creek entrance, $5 pp is recommended)
- There are two entrances, the one at the Kelly Creek Hotel in the village of Cahuita (free) and the official entrance directly on the main street. ($10)
- We didn’t meet many other tourists or tours during the 3-hour hike, so the small park actually seems to be an insider tip in Costa Rica.
Find out more about Cahuita National Park here .
The Cahuita National Park is located on the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica and is a real recommendation, especially for sloth fans. Perhaps nowhere else is it easier to spot these cute, hairy climbers in the wild than here. Even without a guide, you can spot the animals in the trees with a careful look.
An 8-kilometer hiking trail leads through the park, connecting both entrances. Instead of hiking shoes, flip-flops are more suitable here, because the path is very easy and you walk along the beach again and again and get caught by a wave every now and then.
Raccoons, monkeys and a total of 8 sloths kept us company. We were even lucky enough to see a baby sloth “doing business”. That’s the only reason a sloth comes out of the tree, and it’s only once a week. We were able to watch the sloth actively climbing and relatively close – a real highlight.
The most beautiful beaches in this national park in Costa Rica are Playa Blanca right at the beginning and Puerto Vargas right at the end. If you start hiking at the Kelly Creek Hotel, you can simply take the bus ($1) or taxi ($2) back.
Whale Fin Beach in Ballena Marien National Park
whale watching, long walks on the beach and beautiful sunsets
Good to know:
- Opening hours: 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m
- Admission: $6.78
- Humpback Whale Season: December-April and July-November
For more information visit the Ballena Marine National Park page .
A beach that looks like a whale’s tail and where you can actually watch whales – that sounds like a really crazy coincidence. Similar to Tamarindo, Ballena Marine National Park in Uvita is primarily a marine reserve along a 15-kilometer stretch of coastline that includes Whale Fin Beach.
Before planning your trip to Ballena Marine National Park in Costa Rica, be sure to check the tides online. The whale fin beach is only accessible 2 hours before and after low tide. If necessary, you can ask for this information again at the cash desk.
It takes about 30 minutes to walk to the tip of the whale’s fin. Also plan some time to explore the hiking trails behind the beach, you might even spot a sloth. At $6.75 it is one of the cheapest national parks in Costa Rica.
Tip: If you buy a ticket after 4 p.m., it is still valid for the next day. You can also watch the sunset here without paying twice. Humpback whales pass by the coast twice a year and, with a bit of luck, can be accompanied on a boat tour for part of their journey.
Our insider tip to see the extraordinary beach in Costa Rica with your own eyes without a drone: visit the Mirador Don Roger restaurant , which is slightly elevated on a hill. Our Hotel Ballena Paraíso was right behind it.
Turtle Beaches in Las Baulas National Park
turtle tours and beautiful sunsets
Information about the turtle season:
- Species: Pacific ridley turtle, green sea turtle, leatherback turtle (very rare)
- Nesting time: October to February
- Hatching time: December – April
- How can you observe the animals? To see the turtles nesting on the beach in the evening, you need to book a tour. Together with guides and special flashlights, you search the beaches for the turtles in the dark without disturbing them. The number of participants is limited, so it is best to book in advance. We can recommend our provider Native’s Way Costa Rica .
More information is available on the Las Baulas National Park website .
Last but not least, we would like to introduce you to another insider tip among the national parks in Costa Rica, which is particularly worthwhile between October and April, when various species of turtles nest and hatch at Playa Grande, Playa Ventanas and Playa Real . This wilderness area was created primarily to protect populations of the globally endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle (Baulas). The eponymous leatherback turtles (Baulas) are the largest marine reptiles with a body weight of 700 kilograms and are one of the most endangered species.
The national park is accessible free of charge during the day all year round. During the turtle nesting season, you can officially only stay on the beach until 5 p.m., but at Playa Grande, some others stayed a little longer with us to see the sunset. Then the pink clouds are reflected at low tide on the wide sandy beach and make for an almost surreal sight. Our Hotel El Manglar was right on the beach, which we highly recommend.
The town of Tamarindo itself is no longer an insider tip in Costa Rica, but there are still some wild, untouristy beaches in Las Baulas National Park . A real insider tip on the west coast of Costa Rica is hidden near Playa Grande, namely Black Sand Beach . To do this, drive to Playa Ventanas. Park as north as you can by the beach and then hike down a narrow path to Black Sand Beach. Here light and black sand form artistic shapes, really very impressive.
True insider tips: Costa Rica
If you liked the Costa Rica insider tips mentioned above and you would like to visit all national parks, let yourself be inspired by our Costa Rica itinerary for 3 weeks .
One more note : Travelers often complain that Costa Rica’s national parks are so expensive to enter. But always remember that this is the only way that the species-rich regions can also be placed under nature protection. In other countries, rainforest areas are cut down to use the areas economically. With the entrance fee or a donation, you therefore contribute to the preservation and expansion of the nature reserve. Seen from that perspective, one likes to pay the entrance fee to the national parks, doesn’t it?
Practical tips for the national parks in Costa Rica
- What is Costa Rica known for?
Costa Rica is known for its wildlife, because here you can see sloths, wild cats, tapirs, toucans, macaws and countless other animals in the wild. On the other hand also for its nature. Over 25% of the land area is protected, so there are volcanoes, jungles and beautiful beaches.
- What is the currency in Costa Rica?
The official currency in Costa Rica is the Colon. However, you can also pay for everything with US dollars and even withdraw Colon and US dollars from ATMs.
- What’s the best way to get from A to B?
Costa Rica is one of the few countries in Latin America where you can easily go on a road trip with your own rental car. This is partly because the country is very safe and partly because traffic is very “normal”.
- When is the best time to travel to Costa Rica?
The best time to travel around Costa Rica is during the dry season on the Pacific coast and inland. This is the case from January to April. It can rain all year round on the Caribbean coast. However, this is also the time when most tourists are on the move and it is the most expensive. If you want to avoid that, you can switch to December or May.