Costa Rica is a beautiful, arid, rainforest-dense Central American nation with spectacular coastline lines on the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean. Despite its size, Costa Rica has some of the best hiking options in the Western Hemisphere.
Costa Rica is best known for its spectacular coastal beaches and mineral-rich volcanic soil. Approximately a quarter of the area is devoted to protected natural jungle, teeming with biodiversity including bird species and spider monkeys. Hiking in Costa Rica has become much more popular in recent years as tourism has grown in the country. This increase in hiking opportunities has also led to a relative decline in camping throughout Costa Rica.
Some of the best hikes in Costa Rica can be found in the coastal regions, particularly along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The most popular hiking destination, the San Jose National Park, boasts extensive natural vegetation and forests, which make for ideal walking conditions year-round.
Some of the best hikes in Costa Rica include routes through the national park, which includes a trek up Mount Etna, which is the highest peak in the entire country. While at Mount Etna, visitors can hike the Laser Cactus or encounter the Giant Cactus. Another popular route around the park includes the “Tequantos Trace,” which includes an ascent up the southern rim of the Arenal Volcano National Park.
Across the Caribbean Sea, the country of Costa Rica offers another popular option for tourists interested in trying out hiking. The western region of the nation, called the Central Valley, boasts some of Costa Rica’s best sandy beaches along the shores of Manzanillo and Guanacaste. Among the best hikes in Costa Rica for hikers include “Deguise Route,” which takes hikers on a 90-minute ride through the national park’s forested slopes.
Other popular routes include “Tambomachay National Park,” which takes hikers on a trek through lush, jungle-covered mountains; “Paradise Pass,” which are named after a stretch of pristine beaches on the Pacific coast; and “Cabo Campo,” which are in the heart of the Central Valley.
The north-central region of Costa Rica offers several popular hiking trails, including the well-known route across the Antelope Island. Hikers of all skill levels can enjoy the trail, which begins at the Pacific Ocean and meanders through picturesque pine forests before turning west towards Puerto Plata, its capital city.
Another popular trail for hikers in Costa Rica’s north-central region starts from the village of Arenal Dural, which is located on the eastern part of the island. Here, hikers will follow a trail that passes through beautiful fields, volcanic cinder cones, and stunning waterfalls as they meander their way through lush green surroundings.
Most visitors to Costa Rica are impressed by the country’s tropical climate, which makes one of the best hikes in Costa Rica extremely tempting. But Costa Rica has many other attractions to offer, including some of the most challenging hikes in the world.
“Cabo Campo,” a route found in the north-central Pacific, consists of a series of challenging treks across volcanic landscapes and dense forest. This trail is one of Costa Rica’s most popular, and hikers can expect to cover an approximate 25 miles over the mountain pass.
For an even more challenging trek, consider “Tepuis,” a Costa Rica rainforest trail that takes hikers through lush, oxygen-free rainforests. In addition to the challenging nature of this trail, it also offers magnificent views of the lush forest canopy and abundant wildlife.
Hikers will find “Tepuis Cariari,” or the “Great Walk Through the Forest,” a wonderful hike that takes them along the margins of an extinct volcano. On a day-trip to “Paradise,” travelers should also visit “La Bandera,” a delightful river town on the western rim of the Amazon where visitors can explore the rainforests and reefs along the banks of the pristine waterway.
1) Mount Chirripo
Mount Chirripo is the second highest mountain in Costa Rica, having an altitude of 3,811 meters. It’s located in Chirripano National Park and is known for its biological richness.
The mountain has been named “Chirripoo”, meaning “mountain of deep blue waters”, by Native Americans since there are so many large and shallow pools within its boundaries.
This is also the place where Christopher Columbus first began his voyage to these shores in 1513.
2) Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park attracts thousands of foreign tourists every year. Corcovado National Park covers almost forty percent of the Osa Peninsula, that includes more than 250,000 unique species of flora and fauna on the Pacific Coast of Central America.
Endangered animals like the leatherback turtle, sea turtles, junior’s beaked whales, and the razorbill are rarely seen here.
The park offers a wide variety of activities, from zip lining to swimming, biking, hiking, jeeping safaris to scuba diving.
3) Nauyaca Waterfalls
Have you ever heard of the name Nauyaca? If not, then it’s time that you do so for the beauty and serenity of this waterfall has to offer.
Located in the rural community of Nuqui, near the town of Moray, Nauyaca Waterfalls is one of the best hikes in Costa Rica.
While many other waterfalls can only be found in the country’s more developed areas, this waterfall is a hidden gem, offering hikers the chance to experience nature at its natural best, without the hustle and bustle of city life.
4) Manuel Antonio National Park
The park where Manuel Antonio National Park is situated is a fascinating destination for any nature lover. Consisting of more than 1600 kilometers of hiking trails, hiking enthusiasts from across Central America will find themselves greeted by lush vegetation, beautiful waterfalls, mountainous peaks, desert landscapes, and remarkable endangered animal life.
The park is home to some of the most diverse fauna and flora on earth, including clouded leopard-signature species, giant anteater, deer, foxes, ocelots, jaguars, sloths, and even turtles. For the more adventurous nature lovers, there are even opportunities for zip lining or parasailing on one of the many canyons found within the Park’s boundaries.
5) Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Situated in the Southern region of Costa Rica on the Pacific Ocean is Rincon de la Vieja National Park. This remote and beautiful region is best known for its rich biological diversity and unique flora and fauna.
The de la plata national park is one of the last places in the world to still have active volcanoes. Since the park is considered to be one of the last great barrier reef systems, it is also perfect for nature lovers who want to see the underwater plant life and animals.
6) Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park
Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park is the perfect place to explore nature. Located in the eastern part of Costa Rica, Rio Celeste is located on the western edge of the Galapagos. It is a volcanic island and sits at the western tip of the islands with the rivers connecting it to mainland Costa Rica.
Since the park is located in an active volcano, most visitors stay away from it during the dry months of the year (which means that summer months are the busiest times here) and make their trip to the rainforest in May or June when the lush vegetation is abundant. However, the high altitude and spectacular scenery make this park one of the best hikes in Costa Rica, and even from here you can still see the beautiful rivers meeting the sea.
7) Arenal Hanging Bridges
Located just 30 kilometers from the southernmost tip of Costa Rica, Arenal Hanging Bridges are a spectacular destination on the route to the incredible jungle city of Cancun. You’ll find the Arenal Hanging Bridge on the map of Central America and can easily find yourself amongst the many white sand beaches of Playa Blanca de San Miguel.
These narrow passageways provide a perfect setting for groups of friends and families looking for the best hikes in Costa Rica with some amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. If you’re a nature lover and a curious about monkeys, don’t miss the chance to hike this unforgettable trail!
8) Barra Honda National Park
A must-visit park for avid hikers on vacation in Guanacaste, Barra Honda National Park offers some of the best hikes in Costa Rica’s tropical rainforest. Hiking through the park will give you the chance to see the indigenous culture of this country as well as witness some of the most spectacular wildlife in the world.
You’ll have the opportunity to spot monkeys, sloths, deer, and even anteaters! The trails also offer you an easy way to get around the area so you won’t need to rely on the town bus or taxis to get around.
9) Monteverde/Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
Monteverde/Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is the best hikes in Costa Rica in terms of the diversity and quantity of species represented in a relatively small geographical area. The lush tropical forest can be easily seen from the Ticomata National Park, which is located on the eastern border of Monteverde.
Monteverde is home to some of the worlds-high biodiversity hotspots, including the recently protected Montezuma-Benio national park. The rainforest canopy provides habitat for a wide variety of birds and animals, including endangered reptiles such as the leatherback turtle. This reserve is home to many indigenous tribes and is a favorite place for travelers to visit during holidays to Costa Rica.
10) Arenal Volcano National Park Hike
One of the most beautiful and interesting landscapes in all of South America can be found on the borders of Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil, and that is the wondrous Arenal Volcano. The impressive volcano stands proudly on its side of the beautiful Andean range and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area.
For this reason, there are many hiking opportunities within a few hours’ drive of the volcano. Many tourists choose to extend their Arenal Volcano National Park Hike into a full-fledged trekking adventure, but the best hikes in Costa Rica often begin with a visit to the nearby towns of Manzanillo and San Jose.
Here, you will find some of the best trails in Costa Rica that make for an enjoyable trek across the mountainous terrain and natural wonders of this region.