What to See & Do in Costa Rica

Though just a tiny country in Central America sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica packs a big punch for romance, adventure, and awesome beach locales.
By: 
Maya Vandenberg

Flanked by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Costa Rica’s stunning shorelines are second only to its lush, jungle interior. And combined, the two spectacular landscapes offer the best of both worlds for couples seeking romance and outdoor pursuits by land and by sea.

costa rica
Photo Credit: Sergio Pucci

Rainforest Respite
Ensconced in the verdant Costa Rican rainforest at the edge of imposing Arenal Volcano is the gorgeous and ultra-romantic Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens. Just 50 bamboo-roofed bungalows, a luxe spa (request the open-air treatment room overlooking the jungle), two upscale restaurants (one authentic Costa Rican and the other Latin-inspired sushi) and the concept Nostalgia Wine Bar make up the rolling 15-acre property. Suites have hammocked terraces with a Jacuzzi for two, a four-poster mahogany bed positioned just so to afford rainforest views and outdoor showers. And now with the brand new 16-villa Nayara Springs open, you can enjoy added seclusion plus a private, natural spring plunge pool and butler service (room rates start at $245; arenalnayara.com).

nayara hotel in costa rica
nayara hotel in costa rica
nayara hotel in costa rica
Photo Credit: Sergio Pucci

Beachside Bliss
Nestled on a Pacific Coast hillside, the tony 154-room Four Seasons Resort at Peninsula Papagayo is a honeymoon-perfect place to both kick back and be pampered. You’ll especially love the champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries upon arrival. Book a canopy plunge pool suite with views of the bay and jungle and you’ll never want to leave your room. But with five on-site restaurants, two private beaches, a full-service spa, five tennis courts and an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, there’s plenty else to keep you busy. The resort recently introduced the L’Atelier painting studio that hosts local and international resident artists as well as a chocolate-making workshop where you can get handsy making your own delicious treats out of cocoa beans (room rates start at $425 a night; fourseasons.com).

four seasons resort at peninsula papagayo
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Surf's Up
It’s no secret that Costa Rica has some of the best surf breaks in the world, so take advantage and sign up for a lesson with luxury tour operator Tropicsurf, who recently launched a surf school at the Four Seasons Resort at Peninsula Papagayo. Absolute beginners can start with an hour-long lesson in the bay (rash guards and boards are provided) to nail down the basics of technique and increase their comfort on the waves before heading to nearby Playa Prieta or Tamarindo for half- or full-day excursions. Experienced surfers can hit the waves at famed Witch’s Rock straight away.

four seasons resort at peninsula papagayo
Photo Credit: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Arenal Adventure
While you can’t hike up Costa Rica’s active volcano, there’s plenty of adventure to be had near Arenal. To get a unique perspective on the area, take a trip to the Arenal Volcano Adventure Park for the Sky Trek, a tram ride and an eight-cable zipline tour that hovers 660 feet above the jungle. Or try the Sky Walk hanging bridge tour where you can enjoy waterfall views from a series of observation platforms. The area’s bounty of mineral hot springs is also a draw, and the Eco Termales Hot Springs complex is top-notch. Reservations are a must at this smallest of the Arenal hot springs — just 100 visitors for every four-hour slot are welcomed to the four pools, which range in temps from 91 to 105 degrees.

ziplining in costa rica
Photo Credit: Sergio Pucci

Tamarindo Highlights
The wildly popular Pacific surf town of Tamarindo deserves a day or two of exploration. For fun in the sun, head straight to Playa Conchal, named for the thousands of conchas (shells) that wash up on the sand and which has staked a claim as one of the country’s most beautiful beaches. Hit up Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas and you can view the nesting of the world’s largest turtles plus get an eyeful of the abundant wildlife, such as howler monkeys and coatis (raccoon-like creatures), that inhabit the Costa Rican countryside. For dinner, try El Jardin del Eden Restaurant, within the hotel of the same name. The menu features super-fresh fish with Mediterranean accents like grilled lobster with chimichurri or steamed fish in banana leaves with pesto and basil. Afterward, head to popular nightspot Voodoo Lounge, which has an inviting alfresco bar and live music on the weekends.

costa rica beach
Photo Credit: Sergio Pucci