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10 hidden gems in Costa Rica

If you are looking for lesser known places in Costa Rica to explore in the upcoming months, we want to introduce to  you some hidden treasures around the Central Valley and our two coasts. Let

10 hidden gems in Costa Rica

If you are looking for lesser known places in Costa Rica to explore in the upcoming months, we want to introduce to  you some hidden treasures around the Central Valley and our two coasts. Let the adventures, begin!


This town located on the southeastern cusp of the Nicoya Peninsula, was a fishing village and nowadays its coastline is a great meeting point for locals and foreigners, who enjoy surfing and the boho scene. Other main attractions are its nightlife and a 80ft waterfall with swimming holes and natural hot springs.

If you know anything about this area, is the trifecta of Santa Teresa, Malpaís and Montezuma, that you can get to by taking a ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera and then driving until you get to your desire destination. Also, you can take a bus or a boat from Jacó or a 25-minute flight from San José to Tambor, a nearby town.

Ruinas de Ujarrás

The ruins of the first church built in Costa Rica during colonial times, when Cartago was the capital of Costa Rica. The abandoned church, located very close to the town of Paraíso, is surrounded by a beautiful garden, where anyone can go rest and have a picnic.

It was declared a national monument in 1985 because the historical data suggest that the temple was built between 1575 and 1580. Supposedly its construction was based on the discovery made by an indigenous fisherman of an image of the Virgin of the Rescue that, in a wooden box, floated in the current of the Pacuare River.


If you are looking for a glimpse of paradise in the Caribbean coast, the town of Manzanillo will give you everything and more. It has 10 miles of unspoiled southern coastline between the end of the main road and the border with Panama. We recommend you to hire a local guide to uncover the wonders of Gandoca’s Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge.

It holds the charm of the Afro-Caribbean culture and while you won’t come across any fancy boutique hotels, you will find a very active nightlife, the spiciest food and some locals snorkeling. Manzanillo is located 20 minutes south of Puerto Viejo, and the best months to visit this region are September and October.

Bahía Drake

You can find this small bay at the northern part of the Osa Peninsula, where the Pacific Sea meets the rainforest. Drake is the jumping-off point between Corcovado National Park and Caño Island Biological Reserve, where 367 different species of birds, 140 species of mammals, 6,000 types of insects, 117 amphibians and reptiles, 40 freshwater fish species, 500 of trees and archaeological finds, coexist harmoniously.

Without compromising the natural resources of the area, Drake Bay offers hiking trails, waterfalls, kayaking, spring-fed rivers, sports fishing, horseback riding, tide pools, and some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in Costa Rica. You can get there by speedboat, plane or in a four-wheel drive.

San Gerardo de Dota

In the south-central part of the country, you can find the Savegre River Valley, where birdwatching is advised, or Los Quetzales National Park, a non-touristy option to tour around the Talamanca Mountain Chain.

This region is the home of almost 200 bird species, including the mythical Quetzal and hummingbirds, who enjoy cloud forests year-round. For foreigners, it also offers luxury villas and mountain lodges, rafting, sloths and squirrel monkeys, trout fishing, coffee and fruit plantations, waterfalls around Naranjo and unlimited green rolling hills that reach heights of 3,600 meters above sea level.

Ostional National Wildlife Reserve

Kemp’s ridley and leatherback turtles are the main attraction of the region that also holds Las Baulas National Marine Park. The annual “arribadas” is a phenomenon that consists in the arrival of hundreds of female “olive” sea turtles between August and November, usually a few days before the new moon -the darkest phase-, to come ashore and lay their eggs every night.

Although there are tours that pass through the site, it is not saturated with tourists, because its essential that you go with an experienced tour guide, to limited the risk of crushing the eggs or damaging the fragile ecosystem.

10 hidden gems in Costa Rica

Barra Honda National Park

The park is home to rock formations called stalactites and stalagmites, pointy icicle looking structures, limestone caverns, hiking trails, waterways, and even a mirador of Nicoya. Caves are slippery, even without rain, so visit them between December and May.

You don’t have to be an expert to discover Terciopelo and La Cuevita, 2 of the 19 explored caves, dating back to 300 BC. The hill is made up of ancient coral reefs that emerged due to an uplift caused by tectonic faults, and its wildlife includes blind salamanders, bats, coatis, raccoons, white-tailed deers, anteaters and endemic fish.


This town in Cartago has one of the top 10 whitewater rafting places in the world according to National Geographic, located in the Pacuare River, surrounded by mountains, canyons and waterfalls. It accommodates every ability level, managing the rapids, while you’ll likely catch glimpses of numerous birds and monkeys along the way.

If you are not that adventurous, you can arrange a tour to The Guayabo Monument, to discover one of Costa Rica’s only pre-Columbian site that’s open to the public, inhabited between 1000 BC to 1400 AD. Their famous stone spheres -almost a perfect circle-, are part of Costa Rica’s historical-architectural heritage.

Rincón De La Vieja National Park

An adventure park located in the province of Guanacaste, that encompasses the Rincón de la Vieja and Santa María volcanoes and the dormant Cerro Von Seebach. The last eruption in the area was in 2017 by Rincón de la Vieja.

The best destination for outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts, with countless species of birds and mammals, combined with multiple trails and paths leading out to waterfalls, volcanic craters, mud pools, and hot springs. Traveleres can also endure a variety of activities such as, horseback riding, zip-lining and tubing.

Isla San Lucas

San Lucas is a continental island of 500 hectares, located 8 kilometers from Puntarenas, in the Gulf of Nicoya. Is known by locals as the “Island of The Lonely Men” due to the novel by José León Sánchez who discounted several years of imprisonment in this place, when it operated as a prison from 1873 to 1991.

The 30th National Park opened its doors for visitors in 2020, as a cultural, historical and natural tourist destination, where you can appreciate the scenic beauty, enjoy the warm waters, watch exotic fauna at their habitat and reflect on the horrors written on the walls of the penal center.



She serves as the Journalist at Outlier Legal. Maripaz Soto has a Degree in Communication Science with a major in Journalism from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). She has worked with UNOPS and GIZ. Empathic, creative and determined, are some adjectives that fit her perfectly.

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