10+ Natural Landmarks of Costa Rica: Parks, Volcanos & Waterfalls

a tall waterfall falls amongst lush rainforest at one of the best landmarks of costa rica
La Fortuna Waterfall is a top natural Costa Rica landmark

Searching for the best natural landmarks of Costa Rica? This guide has you covered.

Costa Rica, a tropical paradise brimming with natural beauty and rich biodiversity, offers an array of stunning landmarks that captivate travelers.

From the fiery peaks of active volcanoes to the serene shores of pristine beaches, each site promises unique experiences and unforgettable adventures. Explore the lush rainforests of Manuel Antonio, the vibrant coral reefs of Cahuita, and the mystical cloud forests of Monteverde. Immerse yourself in the thermal wonders of Arenal and the turquoise waters of Río Celeste.

This guide highlights Costa Rica’s most remarkable natural and cultural landmarks, each showcasing the country’s commitment to conservation and adventure.

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Top Natural Landmarks in Costa Rica

1. Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano stands behind a forest foreground on a sunny day with white fluffy clouds as one of the top Costa Rica landmarks

Arenal Volcano is a must-see natural landmark in Costa Rica. Nestled in the northern lowlands, near the town of La Fortuna, this majestic volcano stands at an impressive 1,670 meters (5,479 feet).

Until 2010, Arenal was one of the most active volcanoes in the world, frequently displaying spectacular eruptions that lit up the night sky. Although its activity has decreased, the volcano’s perfect cone shape and lush surroundings make it a captivating sight.

Visitors can explore Arenal Volcano National Park, which offers a variety of trails through primary and secondary rainforests. These trails provide breathtaking views of the volcano and lead to the remnants of past lava flows. The park is also home to diverse wildlife, including howler monkeys, toucans, and jaguars which makes it one of the top things to do in La Fortuna.

For adventure seekers, there’s no shortage of activities: zip-lining, horseback riding, and white-water rafting are just a few options. Arenal’s surrounding area also boasts the stunning La Fortuna Waterfall and the tranquil Arenal Lake, perfect for kayaking and fishing. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or a nature lover, Arenal Volcano is an unforgettable destination that captures the essence of Costa Rica’s natural beauty.

2. Tabacón Hot Springs

Tabacon Hot springs cascades through the jungle as one of the ultimate natural landmarks in Costa Rica

At the base of Arenal Volcano, Tabacón Hot Springs offers a rejuvenating escape into nature. These naturally heated springs, fed by volcanic activity, create cascading thermal pools surrounded by lush gardens. The mineral-rich waters, with temperatures from 77°F to 122°F (25°C to 50°C), provide a therapeutic and relaxing experience.

The beautifully landscaped grounds feature meandering paths leading to secluded pools and tranquil waterfalls. Ideal for couples, families, or solo travelers, Tabacón promises peace and privacy.

The resort boasts world-class amenities, including a full-service spa with treatments using volcanic mud and organic ingredients, and on-site restaurants serving locally-sourced cuisine. Whether lounging in a secluded pool, enjoying a cocktail at the swim-up bar, or marveling at Arenal Volcano, Tabacón Hot Springs offers a luxurious blend of relaxation and natural beauty, creating an unforgettable tropical sanctuary.

3. La Fortuna Waterfall

a waterfall splashes into a blue green pool of water surrounded by grey rugged rocks

La Fortuna Waterfall, located a few kilometers from La Fortuna, is one of Costa Rica’s most stunning natural attractions. This breathtaking waterfall plunges about 75 meters (246 feet) into a sparkling emerald pool surrounded by lush jungle. To reach the waterfall, visitors descend a well-maintained path of approximately 500 steps through dense rainforest, where they can spot vibrant tropical birds, monkeys, and exotic plants.

At the base, the waterfall creates a refreshing pool perfect for a cooling dip after the hike. The rocky area around the pool makes water shoes a good idea for comfort and safety. While swimming directly under the waterfall is discouraged due to strong currents, calmer spots nearby offer a safe swimming experience.

For those who prefer to stay dry, picnic areas and viewpoints provide stunning perspectives of the waterfall and jungle.

4. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

a misty sky lies above a green rainforest canopy in Costa Rica

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a mystical gem in Costa Rica, renowned for its dense, mist-covered forests and incredible biodiversity. Located in the Tilarán Mountain Range, this 26,000-acre reserve is home to a unique ecosystem where clouds continuously bathe the lush vegetation in moisture. The reserve’s trails wind through towering trees draped with orchids, ferns, and mosses, creating a magical atmosphere for hikers and nature lovers.

Monteverde is famous for its rich wildlife, including over 400 bird species such as the resplendent quetzal, as well as jaguars, ocelots, and countless insects. Visitors can explore well-marked trails, suspension bridges, and lookout points that offer breathtaking views of the forest canopy. The reserve also features a hummingbird garden and a butterfly garden, adding to its charm.

Visiting the cloud forest tops the list of best Monteverde activities.

5. Tenorio Volcano National Park

a paradise waterfall in Rio Celeste Tenorio National Park in Costa Rica with bright green pool of water

Tenorio Volcano National Park, located in northern Costa Rica, is a hidden gem known for its breathtaking landscapes and unique natural wonders. The park’s crown jewel is the Río Celeste, a stunning river famous for its vibrant turquoise color, which results from a natural chemical reaction involving volcanic minerals. The park is centered around the Tenorio Volcano, an inactive volcano that adds to the park’s dramatic scenery.

Visitors can hike the well-marked trails that wind through lush rainforest, passing by waterfalls, hot springs, and bubbling mud pots. The hike to the Río Celeste Waterfall is a highlight, offering a rewarding view of the striking blue cascade. Along the way, you might spot a variety of wildlife, including toucans, monkeys, and even the elusive tapir.

The park also features natural hot springs where visitors can relax and soak in the therapeutic waters. The combination of geothermal activity and pristine forest makes Tenorio Volcano National Park a unique destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

6. Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park, located on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, is a paradise of pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and abundant wildlife. Despite being the smallest national park in the country, it is one of the most popular due to its stunning natural beauty and accessibility. The park features a combination of tropical rainforest, white-sand beaches, and coral reefs, making it an ideal destination for both relaxation and adventure.

Visitors can explore a network of well-maintained trails that wind through the dense forest, offering opportunities to spot a variety of wildlife, including howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and a vibrant array of bird species. The park’s beaches, such as Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla, are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.

Manuel Antonio National Park also offers breathtaking viewpoints where visitors can enjoy panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding landscape. The diverse ecosystems within the park provide a unique experience, combining the serenity of the beach with the thrill of a jungle adventure.

7. Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park, situated on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, is a lush paradise renowned for its labyrinth of waterways and abundant wildlife. Often referred to as the “Amazon of Costa Rica,” the park encompasses a network of canals, rivers, and lagoons set amidst dense rainforest, offering a unique and immersive experience in nature. Accessible only by boat or plane, Tortuguero feels like a world apart, where tranquility and adventure coexist.

The park is a crucial nesting ground for several species of sea turtles, including the endangered green turtle. Visitors can witness the awe-inspiring sight of turtles laying their eggs on the beach from July to October. Beyond turtles, the park is teeming with wildlife, from howler monkeys and jaguars to caimans and vibrant bird species.

Exploring Tortuguero by boat offers a chance to glide silently through the canals, spotting wildlife and soaking in the serene beauty of the rainforest.

8. Poás Volcano

Poas Volcano with a grey rocky crater, green mountain and misty sky is one of the top natural landmarks of Costa Rica

Poás Volcano, located in central Costa Rica, is one of the country’s most accessible and active volcanoes. Standing at 2,708 meters (8,885 feet), it features one of the world’s largest craters, filled with a strikingly acidic lake. Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views from the observation platform, witnessing the fumaroles and geysers that dot the landscape.

The surrounding Poás Volcano National Park offers well-maintained trails through lush cloud forests, home to diverse wildlife and vibrant flora. A visit to Poás is a unique opportunity to experience the raw power of nature in a stunningly beautiful setting.

9. Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Rincón de la Vieja National Park, located in northwest Costa Rica, is a volcanic wonderland brimming with geothermal activity. The park’s namesake volcano, Rincón de la Vieja, features bubbling mud pots, fumaroles, and hot springs, offering a unique glimpse into the earth’s geothermal processes.

Visitors can hike diverse trails leading to waterfalls, volcanic craters, and lush forests teeming with wildlife, including howler monkeys and exotic birds.

The park also boasts scenic viewpoints with panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape.

10. Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park, located on the Osa Peninsula, is often called the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s national parks. Covering diverse ecosystems, from dense rainforests to pristine beaches, it is one of the most biologically intense places on Earth. The park is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including jaguars, tapirs, and scarlet macaws.

Visitors can explore numerous trails, enjoy guided tours, and experience the park’s unspoiled beauty and rich biodiversity.

11. Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park, situated on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, is renowned for its beautiful beaches and vibrant coral reefs. The park’s main attraction is its coral reef, home to a stunning array of marine life, making it a popular spot for snorkeling and diving. On land, visitors can explore trails through tropical rainforests, spotting wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, and colorful birds.

Cahuita National Park offers a unique blend of terrestrial and marine biodiversity.

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