5 Favorite Costa Rica Rainforests 

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Costa Rica is home to more than 100 species of plants and animals. It doesn’t matter whether you’re fond of exploring the lush greenery of rainforests, or are an animal lover who loves to set your eyes on different species — Costa Rica has something for you! 

The dense tropical dry forests as well as the rainforests in Costa Rica are a must-see for every explorer. Many say if you don’t visit at least one of those rainforests in Costa Rica, your visit to this beautiful country is incomplete. I would totally agree.

That said, we have put together a list of the top 5 best rainforests in Costa Rica. Pick any of these during your trip and you won’t be disappointed! 

beautiful bird sitting in a tree

Monteverde Rainforest

Probably the most well known rainforest in the country, this is where you can potentially spot the elusive quetzal bird. It’s also a national landmark of Costa Rica.

It’s a stereotypical rainforest- wet, green and the perfect amount of rain.

You’ll enter at the Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve, and you can hike for days. I highly recommend getting a specialized guide for this raonforest, you can maximize your time and the amount of Costa Rican wildlife you see.

Here you can also visit the hanging bridges or zip line through the top of the forest.

Related post: 15 Best Hotels In Monteverde Costa Rica

Tortuguero National Park

Looking for a rainforest that’s wild and thrilling? Head for the Limon province on the northern side of the country and you’ll find yourself in the Tortuguero National Park, which is known to be a wild ride for every new tourist and explorer, and the best place to see a variety of wildlife.

If you’re fond of geographic and biographic diversity, you’re in for a treat in Tortuguero, as this place is filled with dense rainforests, swamps, lagoons, beaches, and mangroves. 

This wildlife-enriched national park is spread out across 77,000 acres of land, so there’s plenty of area for you to explore and discover. During your venture, you will find tons of variety in terms of wildlife — crocodiles, jaguars, monkeys, pumas, sea turtles, parrots — you name it.

All in all, this national park is home to more than 85 marine species. The one you may find most interesting is the Leatherback Turtle, which is the largest turtle on the planet. It’s an endangered species, so if you see one, don’t do anything that may hurt it. This park is the best way to see sea turtles year round.

Manuel Antonio National Park

When you’re done exploring Tortuguero National Park, run towards the pacific coast of Costa Rica, and stop right next to the town of Quepos. You will find yourself on the horizon of the tropical forest of Manuel Antonio National Park. This park boasts some of the best beaches in the country, as well as lush, dense rainforest.

If you’ve stopped and resided in the capital city, San Jose, Manuel Antonio National Park is easy to reach. It’s just around 135 km away and easily accessible by car. 

It’s one of the smallest national parks in the country, with an area of just under 5,000 acres — but that doesn’t mean you should undermine it! 

It may be small, but it’s jam-packed with wildlife — there are more than 100 species of mammals and 200 species of birds. Snakes, wild bats, parrots, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, iguanas, scarlet macaws — there’s a ton for you to see. This is one of the most visited national parks in Central America.

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Cahuita National Park

If you’ve enjoyed learning about Tortuguero National Park, you’re going to fall in love with this tropical rain forest on the Caribbean coast.

Sitting as a neighbor to Tortuguero in the province of Limon, Cahuita National Park is said to be one of the most beautiful rainforests in the entire country — and there are good reasons why it earned that title. One is that it has coral reefs right inside the park, so the park extends into the ocean.

With more than 2,700 acres of land and 55,000 acres of marine area, there are tons of excitements for you to explore and fill your camera roll with. 

If you’re a fan of secluded beaches that aren’t dominated by humans, Cahuita National Park has just the thing for you. Most of the beaches are unexplored by the majority of explorers, so it’s your time to step in before others. 

Besides, this park is also well-known for its dense wildlife; toucans, ibis, pacas, sloths, raccoons, coatis, mantled howlers, and dozens more — wildlife enthusiasts are going to love it here!

You’ll also like: Puerto Viejo Travel Guide

Arenal Volcano National Park

While the name is based on one volcano, there are actually two volcanos in this national park located near the town of La Fortuna.

The first one is, of course, Arenal Volcano, and the second one is Chato Volcano. The tragedy is that the latter has collapsed, and has been inactive for more than 3,500 years now. 

Nonetheless, this national park offers some unique, refreshing, and energetic sceneries that are destined to stay in your memories forever. The best part is if you come from San Jose you’ll drive right through the cloud forests on the way here. There are also several Ayahusaca retreats close to this area.

Arenal Volcano National Park spreads out in an area larger than 29,000 acres — and is filled with tons of versatility in terms of biology and geography. 

From July 1968 to recently the Arenal Volcano was active and lava continuously flowed from it. Today it is dormant and you can no longer see the red lava flowing from it like you see in many of the photos from the area. It’s still a great place to visit, and my favorite place in the entire country.

Don’t forget to visit the suspension bridges in this area, as well as the hot springs, horseback riding and the zip lines.

About 90 minutes away is a hidden gem of the Blue River National Park (Parque Nacional Rio Celeste) and you can visit the waterfall and the largest tree in Costa Rica– a ceiba tree.

Related post: 15 Top Arenal Costa Rica Activities (For Families)

Piedras Blancas National Park

We couldn’t finish off our list without mentioning Piedras Blancas National Park — that’s how beautiful it is! 

Some even call it the face of Costa Rica. because it showcases the real nature of what’s living in the country. It was a part of Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula before but was separated in 1999. It is one of the most remote rainforests in the country.

So, why do they call it the face of Costa Rica? Well, this park has some of the rarest tropical trees in the world, and it’s tour best chance to see a wild variety of wildlife in one stop. Combining that with the tons of species of birds, reptiles, and mammals, this park has a densely-rich population of wildlife.

While some parts of this park are still owned by people privately, a charity organization, known as Rainforest of the Austrians, has transformed most of it into public ownership. 

All in all, this national park is a must-visit for everyone at least once in their lifetime!

If you would like to talk to me about a customized itinerary or specific Costa Rica travel advice for your family, (zero sales- just advice!) check out my “Ask Christa” page for more information on custom Costa Rica trip planning geared towards families.

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Christa Jimenez

Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. Hi Christa!
    I am on my late forties, travel on my own and I am planning to stay in San Jose for 8 days.

    What’s the best area to book a hotel for nightlife taking into account that I am in my forties and that I would like to meet people in their late thirties or forties as well?
    It’s important to take into account the safety of the area too.
    Thank you very much!!