Only in Costa Rica: 5 Incredibly Cool Things to See & Experience

Tenorio Volcano waterfall

Only in Costa Rica: Rio Celeste. And yes, it’s as beautiful as it looks!

Costa Rica is a special place where dynamics flip-flop: the reality is greater than the expectation, and photos always pale in comparison to your real-life experiences. Indeed, there are so many things we could dub “only in Costa Rica” experiences, and yet we’ve done our best to narrow it down to just a few. Five, to be exact. At least, for now.

And sure, “only” might be a bit of a stretch, as you can experience some of these things in other parts of the world. But we challenge you to find all of them in one place, especially in a place as tiny as Costa Rica. Because here, you really can fit your entire bucket list into one vacation.

You could, although we bet you won’t want to; you’ll prefer to come back. And back. And back! Costa Rica is just that kind of place. To whit:

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Off the Beaten Path in Costa Rica: Guide to Rincón de la Vieja

Rincon de la Vieja Volcano

Costa Rica’s Rincón de la Vieja National Park is a favorite!

Known as the park with a watery skin and a fiery heart, Rincón de la Vieja National Park is one of Costa Rica’s steamiest and coolest attractions, in every sense of the words. Here, still-active volcanoes and boiling mud pots meet cold-water cascades and misty cloud forest – a startling and striking combination of many natural wonders, conveniently distilled into one awesome national park.

And yet, for all its delights, Rincón de la Vieja National Park remains one of Guanacaste’s best-kept secrets. On any given day, you’re likely to meet only a few other tourists at the park. The reason? Access. Located a hop, skip, and more than a few bumps up rustic gravel roads, Rincón de la Vieja is not the easiest drive in Costa Rica. But is it worth it? You bet.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park Overview:

Location: 17 miles northeast of Liberia; 62 miles (2 hours) northeast of Tamarindo

Founded: May 10, 1974

Maximum Altitude: 6,286 feet above sea level

Area: 34,908 acres (divided into two sectors: Las Pailas and Santa Maria)

Hours: Las Pailas: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday; Santa Maria: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Sunday

Telephone: 2666-5051

Entrance Fee: $15 adults / $5 children

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5 of the Best Waterfalls in Guanacaste

Llanos de Cortes is one of the best waterfalls in Guanacaste

Llanos de Cortes is considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica, and is easily one of our picks for best waterfalls in Guanacaste

There are few simple pleasures more delicious than hiking to a deserted waterfall in the middle of paradise, peeling off your walking shoes, and then jumping into a cool, mountain-fed swimming hole. In fact, we love this simple pleasure so much that we make it practically our job to scope out the best waterfalls in Guanacaste (and beyond). Hey, it’s a tough gig but someone’s got to do it!

After long days of arduous hard work, we’ve whittled this list down to five of our favorites, all within a few hours’ drive of Tamarindo. And now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to hike and swim more of the best waterfalls in Guanacaste. As we said, it’s our job.

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Favorite Restaurants: The Best Pizza in Tamarindo

5 best pizza restaurants in Tamarindo

The best pizza in Tamarindo is cheesy, fresh-baked, homemade, and always hits the spot!

Bonnie and Clyde, gin and tonic, yin and yang – the world is full of perfect pairings. And here’s one more: pizza at the beach. We know from experience – there are few simpler and more delicious pleasures than diving into a perfect pie after a day with your toes in the sand and your feet in the Pacific. And that’s why we’ve rounded up a few more of our favorite restaurants, this time those offering the best pizza in Tamarindo.

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Tips for Women Traveling Alone in Costa Rica

women traveling alone in Costa Rica

Women traveling alone in Costa Rica: go where you want, wear what you want, do what you want!

Will I be safe?  

This is the Big Question, right? And for good reason: Women traveling alone face some serious (and seriously frustrating) challenges in much of the world. But happily, the answer to whether you’ll be safe traveling alone in Costa Rica is mostly a good one: You’re as safe traveling here as you would be in almost any other destination. Hurray!

However, that’s not to say there are no safety concerns – there are. As with any other place in the world, you should take safety precautions. Opportunists exist. Petty theft exists. All the standard possibilities exist, and can be exacerbated by Costa Rica’s reputation as a major tourist destination (and its respective major tourism dollars).

All this to say, don’t stress. Millions of women have traveled to Costa Rica alone and have then gone home with nothing more than great memories. So, grab your flip-flops, your beach read, and your suitcase. It’s time to have some fun!

While you prepare, here are a few tips to prep you for visiting Costa Rica as a solo female traveler:

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A Guide to Costa Rica’s Active Volcanoes: They’re Dynamite!

Costa Rica Volcanoes

Of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes, Arenal Volcano is the most photogenic

Costa Rica is home to an impressive 200+ volcanic formations, some dating to more than 65 million years. That said, only half show any signs of activity at all, and just a handful are classified as active volcanoes.

But first, a general overview: Costa Rica’s volcanoes speckle the country’s three volcanic ranges: the Guanacaste Volcanic Range (home to the Rincón de la Vieja, Orosi, Miravalles, Tenorio, and Arenal Volcanoes, among others); the Central Volcanic Range (comprised of the Poás, Barva, Irazú, and Turrialba Volcanoes, among others); and the Talamanca Volcanic Range (home to El Viejo Volcano).

But, back to active volcanoes. Of Costa Rica’s 200 volcanic formations, just seven are considered historically active: Rincón de la Vieja, Poás, Arenal, Irazú, Turrialba, and Tenorio, plus the not-so-active Miravalles, which emitted just a puff of steam way back in 1946. The things a volcano will do to be classified as active…

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Costa Rican Wildlife Watching: The “Big Five”

Howler monkeys are iconic Costa Rican wildlife

Costa Rican wildlife is so varied, it’s impossible to narrow it down to the top 5!

Hey Africa, you may have the Big Five of safari wildlife, but Costa Rican wildlife is pretty impressive, too! From gargantuan reptiles, to startlingly-hued amphibians, to smiling sloths, our “Big Five” will delight your mind and dazzle your camera lens.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to narrow down Costa Rica’s animal species to the Top 5. Impossible, really. So much so, that we’re going to wimp out and call this a Big Five. The country’s wildlife is simply too diverse to narrow it down to just five must-see species. So, we’ll start with these. But, we guarantee, we won’t be able to stop here. More amazing animals, to come!

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Destination Overview: Playa Flamingo Travel Guide

Playa Flamingo panorama

Our Playa Flamingo travel guide takes you to this convenient, yet secluded beach paradise

This mile-long, crescent-shaped strip of white-sand Playa Flamingo is the Costa Rica of postcards: shade-lined coast, pristine beaches, and turquoise water so clear, you can count the dots of the spotted rays that glide just beneath the ocean’s surface. Our Playa Flamingo travel guide lets you in on the secret.

Add in a convenient location (just an hour from the international airport), one of the country’s most important (and largest) marinas, record-breaking inshore and offshore sport fishing, an overflowing menu of water sports, lavish vacation rentals, and some truly spectacular scenery (with the wildlife to match), and it’s easy to see why Playa Flamingo is one of Costa Rica’s most popular “hidden” gems.

Playa Flamingo Overview:

Location: North-Pacific Costa Rica, aka The Gold Coast, about 15 miles (23 km) north of Tamarindo

Average Temperature: 75-96º F (23-36º C)

Landscape: Lots of tropical ocean, dry and wet forest, and desert-like landscapes (inland)

Closest Airport: Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) – about 65 minutes

Top Activities: Surfing, Catamaran Sailing, Snorkeling & Scuba Diving, Horseback Riding, Sports Fishing, Golf, and Swimming

Top Attractions: Beaches, Catalina Islands (scuba & snorkeling), Las Baulas National Marine Park

Great for: Couples & Honeymooners, Anglers, Families & Family Reunions, Destination Weddings, Nature Lovers

We Recommend: If you’ve ever dreamed of battling for an epic catch, you cannot miss out on Flamingo’s world-renowned and truly incredible sport fishing.

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9 Totally Random Things You Should Know Before Visiting Tamarindo

Costa Rica Pacific sunset

Things you should know before you visit Costa Rica: yes, it really is as beautiful as everyone says!

Planning a trip to Costa Rica and, specifically, Tamarindo? You’ve probably read the books. You’ve stalked a few Facebook groups. You’ve scoured the web. Still worried you’ve missed something? We’ve got you covered. Here are a few things you should know before you visit Costa Rica:

  1. Your Valid Passport May Not Be Valid

Bags are packed, think you’re ready to go? Not so fast! Your passport, while “valid,” may not be valid enough for Costa Rican Immigration. According to the Costa Rican Embassy, your passport must not expire for 6+ months after your date of entry. (Example: If you’re arriving on January 1, your passport must expire after July 1.) You may also be asked for proof of exit – for example, your return flight reservation.

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5 of the Best Family Vacation Rentals in Tamarindo

Casa de Luz in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Search for your perfect family vacation rental in Tamarindo (Pictured: Casa de Luz)

Planning a family vacation to Tamarindo, Costa Rica? Then, you’re probably searching for the perfect accommodations. And that’s where these five family vacation rentals in Tamarindo might come in handy!

So, why a vacation rental instead of a hotel? There are many reasons, but the three big ones are space, amenities, and economy: in short, your budget stretches much further, and buys more square-footage and extras (ex. a private pool, Jacuzzis, secluded decks, gourmet kitchens, and more) for the same – or less – than the cost of a ho-hum hotel room.

And, with that, five of our favorite family vacation rentals in Tamarindo:

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