The Pacific Coast of Costa Rica offers a wide range of Highlights that define the country as a dream destination. From green jungles with waterfalls and raging rivers to numerous beautiful beaches and an enormous variety of wildlife. This part of Costa Rica has it all. In this article I introduce you to the best places to visit on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
During my 4 week lasting trip through Costa Rica I spent the majority of my time in this part of the country. After joining an active tour that focused on rafting, hiking and local living, I got to explore the Pacific Coast from Santa Teresa all the way down to Uvita independently. Besides surfing, rafting and hiking I used my time to visit a few national parks along the way and enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere in the smaller beach villages a bit off the tourist route.
I wrote this guide to highlight some of my personal favorites to help you plan your own trip. Use the following navigation to jump to the places on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica you are most interested in:
(use the anchor links to jump to the section, use „Top“ to get back to this menu)
1) Santa Teresa
Let's start this list off with one of the most popular destinations on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. In the past few years this small beach town on the Nicoya Peninsula developed into a true hotspot for surfers, yogis and beach lovers from all around the world due to its wide beaches with several consistent surf spots as well as its relaxed atmosphere.
Despite the fact that Santa Teresa is only accessible via a bumpy dirt road its growing popularity led to a great touristic infrastructure and variety. Along the main road you can find a wide selection of restaurants, bars, cafés, surf shops and even co-working spaces alongside with hostels, hotels, yoga retreats and a growing number of luxury resorts.
If you want to combine surfing or yoga with good food in a laid-back environment Santa Teresa might just be the perfect place for you!
Where to stay:
- Lost Boyz (Hostel & Bungalows) – this hostel was my choice for the first part of my stay in Santa Teresa and it didn't disappoint. The Lost Boys Hostel has a great atmosphere and features a number of Dorms as well as private rooms and cabins. Located right in the center of Costa Rica this place was the perfect place for me to connect with like minded travelers and explore the area. The staff is very welcoming and helpful, the breakfast was solid and the common area even features a big garden. Good vibes guaranteed!
- Selina (Hostel, Tours & CoWorking) – when I visited Santa Teresa this hostel just opened its doors and it made a great impression. Located just a few steps away from the beach the Selina Santa Teresa South is the perfect fit for surfers and beach lovers. This hostel features a variety of accommodation options ranging from dorms to deluxe private rooms. On top of that there is a pool, a bar, a surf rental and a tour office. If you want to stay a bit further north and plan to combine your stay with CoWorking you should checkout the Selina Santa Teresa North.
- Otro Lado (*** Lodge) – if you are searching for a quiet, modern lodge with a nice pool the Otro Lado is the perfect fit. This Lodge offers comfortable private rooms including a good breakfast just 300m away from the beach of Santa Teresa. A good choice for couples!
- Akwa Resorts Ocean View (***** Luxury) – you want a bit more luxury? This exclusive resort offers very modern, spacious villas, bungalows and deluxe rooms in an incredible setting. Located on a hill you can enjoy a lovely view to the sea from the terrace and the pool.
How to get there:
The quickest and most comfortable way to get to Santa Teresa from San Jose is to use the transfer service of Zuma Tours. This way you get picked up right at your hotel and will arrive in Santa Teresa within 4h via Bus & Taxi Boat. The company also offers transfers to/from other destinations such as Jaco, Dominical, La Fortuna, Monteverde or Tamarindo.
A more budget friendly option is to use the public bus which also includes a ferry crossing. The journey takes about 6h and will cost around 12US$, busses leave from the bus terminals 7-10 in San Jose.
2) Montezuma & Mal Pais
If you plan on visiting the Nicoya Peninsula chances are high that you pass through Montezuma at some point. Because of its location Montezuma is the gateway for speedy boat transfers with the local tour operator Zuma Tours to Jaco and with that to most visitors who come from the international airport in San Jose.
Even though the majority of tourists only pass through, the area itself is definitely worth a visit with the nearby Montezuma waterfalls, hanging jungle bridges and the high chances of spotting dolphins or even whales on a boat tour. Another great thing to do is renting an ATV to explore the area all the way down to Mal Pais.
If you want to spend some time in a quieter place to truly unwind in combination with some shorter tours Montezuma is worth considering.
Where to stay:
- Pura Vida Hostel – if you are on a tighter budget the Pura Vida Hostel is the right place for you. Located around the corner from the center this family run hostel offers simple privates and dorms as well as a shared kitchen and a garden.
- Hotel El Jardin (** Hotel) – situated in the center of Montezuma this Hotel offers great value. All rooms have a bathroom ensuite and a terrace, the garden & pool are perfect if you need some down time.
- Hotel Nya (**** Design Hotel) – this is the right place if you love modern design in combination with nature. The Hotel Nya is the perfect fit for a romantic getaway with a beautiful tropical garden & pool area. Besides the very attentive staff you can expect a lovely a lá carte breakfast matching your needs.
How to get there:
Getting to Montezuma is similar to Santa Teresa. Therefore you can either book a transfer with Zuma tours(4h) or use the public transport (5h).
3) Manuel Antonio National Park
Listed as one of the most beautiful National Parks in the world by Forbes the Manuel Antonio NP for sure is one of the must places to visit on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
In contrast to other National Parks in the country chances are high that you are able to spot almost all kinds of domestic animals here. The diversity of wildlife in the Manuel Antonio National Park is unequaled with 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds making it the most visited NP in all of Costa Rica.
In order to make the most out of your time I highly recommend hiring a local guide as they know the park well and can easily spot monkeys, sloths or reptiles which are hard to find for the untrained eye. We entered the park right after the gates opened in the morning and were able to see numerous animals up close with the help of our guide Daniel before the majority of visitors arrived. Please respect the rules of the NP to keep your eco footprint as small as possible.
Where to stay:
- Selina Manuel Antonio (Hostel & Hotel) – like in Santa Teresa you can also find a property of Selina near the National Park. This Selina is located in a redesigned resort with a pool and bar area, a restaurant, a yoga deck and even a CoWorking area. Depending on your budget you can stay in Dorms or choose from a selection of private rooms. A good breakfast is often included in the price.
- Millenium Manuel Antonio (** Hotel) – located right next to the entrance of the National Park this hotel offers a great value. Even though the rooms are a bit simple, the staff is lovely and you can make use of the pool after a day of exploration in the park. All rooms come with private bathroom and breakfast included in the room price.
- Parador Resort and Spa (**** Resort) – you want to spend more time in the area and combine your visit with a few relaxing days by the pool? No problem, this luxury resort is the right place to treat yourself to good food, fancy drinks or even to a spa day. The rooms are modern and big and come with an own balcony. The property features 3 restaurants, 2 bars and several pools with a great view to the Pacific Ocean.
How to get there:
The cheapest way to get to the Manuel Antonio National Park is by public bus. If you travel from San Jose you can take a direct bus with Tracopa for about 10 US$ that will take about 3,5 hours for the journey.
Another option would be to book a private shuttle wich provide a door to door service but come with a higher price tag of about 57 US$ (e.g. Interbus).
4) Dominical & Savegre River
The next spot on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is a bit more remote than the previous mentioned destinations. Recently Dominical attracted more and more active travelers who are in search of good surf and rafting spots resulting in a growing number of restaurants, bars and accommodation options.
While the beach of Dominical is mostly suited for intermediate & experienced surfers, the smaller Dominicalito beach offers great conditions for beginners. The Savegre river which meets the ocean right next to Dominical is one of the best spots for rafting adventures with rapids up to class 4. Surf classes, equipment and rafting tours can be booked in town – I took surf classes with the Dominical Surf School and can only recommend their courses & equipment!
I spent almost a week in this charming little village and enjoyed days full of surf, good food and relaxation by the pool. A great contrast to the crowds I got to experience in Santa Teresa.
Where to stay:
- Cool Vibes Hostel (Hostel) – located right next to Playa Dominical the Cool Vibes Hostel is the perfect spot for surfers. The Hostel offers budget friendly dorms as well as private rooms and features even a small pool.
- Hotel Villas Río Mar (*** Hotel) – this hotel was my home for 3 days where I stayed in one of the many bungalows inside the big tropical garden. The spacious property is located a bit outside of Dominical and offers a quiet environment with a big restaurant/bar and pool area. A good spot for families!
- Mavi Surfhotel (**** Hotel) – this small family run Surfhotel is where I spent most of my time (altogether 10 days!) for several reasons. First and foremost the lovely family and the incredible breakfast they prepare each day. The rooms are very comfortable and spacious, the pool is great and the location right around the corner from the beach is a big plus too. Even if you don't come for the surf the Mavi is the perfect homebase to explore the area – Barbara & Max certainlky have some of the best insider tips to make the most out of your stay!
How to get there:
If you plan on heading to Dominical you should consider combining your stay with a visit to Uvita and the Manuel Antonio National Park. For this my best tip would be to rent your own car in San Jose as it gives you full flexibility for your visit of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The journey from San Jose takes about 3h of driving.
Otherwise you can also use public buses: there is a direct connection with Tracopa which takes about 4h and will cost you 8 US$.
The third option is a private shuttle offered by Monkey Ride which offers connection from and to all major tourist destinations in the area. For the trip from San Jose you'd need to calculate about 49 US$.
5) Uvita & Ballena Marine NP
Uvita is another less touristy beach village I can highly recommend visiting on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Located just a 15min drive south of Dominical this is the place where you have a great chance to spot whales.
The Ballena Marine National Park is the most important marine national park of the country to protect humpback whales and other rare sea creatures. Your chance of spotting humpback whales are best from December to April when they come to breed down here as well as from August to October. You can book whale watching tours right in town. Please make sure to follow the rules of the NP to help protecting the environment.
Besides whale watching, the beach of Uvita itself is worth a visit. Funny enough the beach even features a gigantic, natural sandbank in the shape of a whale tail. Playa Colonia on the south side also offers some good surf (right in front of the Flutterby house). I spent altogether 3 days in Uvita where I spotted whales on a boat tour and caught some fun little waves on my afternoon surf sessions.
Where to stay:
- Flutterby House (Hostel) – this inexpensive jungle hostel offers dorms as well as private rooms and bungalows. The Flutterby House is the hub for independent travelers in Uvita as it offers surf and bike rental, features a restaurant/bar and is located right next to the beach
- Yubarta Lodge (Budget Hotel) – if you prefer a quieter place to stay you should consider the Yubarta Lodge. This neat little hotel has not only several budget friendly private rooms but also 2 dorms on offer. The beautiful garden and pool area in combination with the friendly hosts are good reasons to spent a few nights here.
- Uvita Paradise (**** Apartments) – these new, modern apartments are another excellent option for those of you who aren't on a tight budget and are looking for a base to explore the area. The apartments are fully equipped and feature a garden with a beautiful pool. Altogether a great option for couples and families!
How to get there:
Because of its proximity to Dominical (15min drive) you have the same options of transportation here (see above).
6) Guided Tours
If you like to see more of Costa Rica you can easily combine your independent holiday with a guided tour. This way you don't need to bother about the organization, you get to know more about the country and you can travel with like-minded people. A great choice for solo travelers and those who want to see & experience more!
After working with them in Costa Rica I highly recommend the tours offered by G Adventures as their philosophy (working with small local businesses) and focus on sustainable travel are in line with my personal values. With many years of expertise you can expect well organized, fun trips in small groups:
- Trekking Hidden Costa Rica (12 days): This is the very tour I took before continuing independently and I can highly recommend it. This tour offers a great package of adventure and cultural experiences paired with the incredible beauty of the country. Besides Homestays on Farms in the jungle, Rafting and spending a night in a cave behind a waterfall (!) you'll also spend 2 days each in Dominical and Uvita. The price includes transfers, accommodation, some meals, loads of activities (e.g. rafting, tree climbing, hiking, jungle sauna) and several local guides. Great deal!
- Costa Rica – Ocean, Waves & Sunsets (8 days): This budget friendly tour takes you from San Jose to the volcanoes in La Fortuna and the beaches in Santa Teresa. With that it offers a great mix between relaxation and some fun activities such as rafting, surfing or waterfall rapelling. The price includes all transfers, accommodation and local guides.
- Natural Highlights of Costa Rica (9 days): This National Geographic Journey features a number of destinations and experiences which will give you a deeper understanding of local conservation and the protection of natural heritage. On this tour you get to travel from San Jose to La Fortuna, Monteverde and the Manuel Antonio National Park. Hotels, meals, transfers, several activities, classes and local guides are included.
- Costa Rica Adventure (16 days): If you want to see it all this tour is the one to look into. From the the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica you get to travel to the cloud forest of Monteverde, the volcanos of La Fortuna, the rainforest of Sarapiqui and the Highlights on the Caribbean Coast. Altogether this tour is basically Costa Rica in a nutshell featuring many adventures, diverse natural sights and cultural experiences. The tour price includes transfers, hotels, a jungle lodge stay, some meals, loads of activities (e.g. bike tour, cloud forest night walk, cooking class) and several local guides.
7) Best Time to visit Costa Rica
The good news is that you can visit Costa Rica basically all year round. Even though the seasons here are divided into “dry” and “wet” season you don't need to be afraid of the ladder as rainfall mostly occurs only for a certain time period per day. I chose to travel in the middle of the wet season and got to enjoy a very sunny holiday with rain showers on some of the afternoons (when it rained it poured).
The most popular time to visit Costa Rica is of course the dry season from mid December to April. During this time you'll have clear skies but also the highest amount of tourists traveling the country, especially during Christmas and New Years. Naturally this peak season also results in higher prices and demand. Please make sure to book everything well in advance if you plan on traveling during this time of the year.
As stated my personal recommendation is the wet/green season from May to November for several reasons. First and foremost you get to experience less crowds which also results in a more active wildlife. Another good reason to come during this time are the low prices for hotels. In the months of July and August there is a little less chance of rainfall which makes those months the sweet spot during the green season.
8) My Video
I visited way more spots than I mentioned in this article and filmed an in-depth documentary of my tour through the jungle to all the places to visit on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The video is filled with practical tips about each place and offers a personal view of my experience:
Any Places to visit on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica to add?
I wrote this Costa Rica travel guide based on my own travel experience. If you have been to Costa Rica as well and you have something to add to this list of places to visit on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica please feel free to leave a comment below. In case you liked the guide and found it helpful, I would appreciate if you could share it with your friends or link to it from your homepage!
As a brand ambassador for G Adventures I got invited on parts of this trip in order to produce a video documentary in cooperation with G Adventures. This post contains Affiliate Links for services and products I’m using on my travels – therefore I can highly recommend them. By using these links you won’t pay any additional fees! All recommendations, tips, opinions, and ironic remarks are, as always, my own.