Great Hikes in Costa RicaFrom rugged volcanoes and lush jungle to golden sand beaches
There’s no shortage of hikes to choose from, but these are our top picks of where to go for the most exceptional views. Many hikes are located just over the border from Guanacaste, making them easy to reach for those with a house or condominium in the area.
Get the Best Volcano Views at Arenal Volcano National Park
Costa Rica’s most famous volcano makes a beautiful backdrop for a hike through the rainforest. There are a number of hiking trails with close-up views of Arenal, but our favorite spot to fully appreciate the magnificence of this cone-shaped volcano is from across Lake Arenal.
To get there, take the La Peninsula trail, a one-mile trek through leafy jungle that leads to the lake and a viewing tower. Although it’s further away from the volcano than the other main trails, it provides the most breathtaking and majestic views of this natural wonder. Best of all, the path is paved and it’s an easy hike, making it great for children and those with reduced mobility.
Explore Unforgettable Azure Waters at Tenorio Volcano National Park
Although named after another one of Costa Rica’s many volcanoes, this national park is most famous for the cloudy turquoise waters of the Rio Celeste. This unique phenomenon is created by a chemical reaction that takes place when the waters of two colorless rivers—Buenavista River and Sour Creek—combine into one.
From the starting point it’s about a 30-40 minute walk through the jungle till you reach the first and most spectacular sight of the park, the Celeste Waterfall. Here the azure waters of the Rio Celeste swirl into a white froth that tumbles down through bright green foliage into a pool below.
We recommend continuing upstream and hiking the entire trail to the end, where at Teñideros you can see this remarkable trick of nature in action as the two clear rivers combine into turquoise water. Depending on the conditions, the round-trip hike can take anywhere from three to five hours, so check the weather and bring plenty of water!
Traverse the Continental Divide at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
There’s something both mysterious and enchanting about hiking through cloud forests—unique ecological areas formed when warm Caribbean air gets pushed up high mountains. Monteverde provides some of the most breathtaking views, and it has around eight miles of hiking trails that are all worth doing.
Our favorite is Sendero Nuboso, a trail that takes you through lush and misty jungle up to the continental divide, where on a clear day you can see nearly across the entire country on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides. Sendero Roble is another picturesque trail with the reserve’s famous red suspension bridge, from which you can peer through the mist at the jungle canopy above and below. This trail is rugged and atmospheric, with mossy steps and hanging vines, and can be a great place to spot coatis and other animals.
Walk to Wyoming and Back at Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Considered the “Yellowstone” of Costa Rica, the views in this park are perhaps more otherworldly than they are beautiful, but this is what makes them so exceptional. The park is filled with geothermal wonders from geysers to fumaroles, which can be seen along with the incredible boiling mud pots on the 1.8-mile Sendero Las Pailas trail. With the arid landscape, colorful mineral-stained soil, and the smell of sulfur, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in Wyoming instead of Guanacaste.
If you’re looking for a challenge and even more incredible sights, hike the five-mile Sandero Crater Activo up to the crater of Rincon de la Vieja. The highest point in the park, it offers breathtaking views of the Nicoya Peninsula and beyond. Just as advertised, this is one of the most active volcanoes in the country, so the trail is sometimes closed for safety. Don’t forget to check before you visit.
Hike with Hummingbirds to a Waterfall Deep in the Rainforest
We’ve looked at volcanoes and waterfalls, but how about a waterfall in a volcano? That’s the best way to describe Catarata del Toro, a waterfall that plunges 300 feet into an extinct volcano crater. It’s located inside a beautiful 250-acre private rainforest reserve outside of Bajos del Toro, and can be accessed by a trail through the leafy jungle, replete with hummingbirds and other wildlife. The trail offers several different places to view the waterfall but becomes very steep with lots of steps, so don’t forget to take your time and look up now and then at the gorgeous sights around you.
Nearby Catarata del Toro is also the incredible Poas Volcano, which has one of the largest active craters in the world. Although it can be reached without a hike, it’s definitely worth a visit to see the steamy turquoise blue crater lakes.
Search for Costa Rica’s Rarest Sights in Corcovado National Park
No list of beautiful hikes would be complete without including one of Costa Rica’s most incredible sights: the wildlife. Corcovado National Park spans a number of different ecosystems, including old-growth tropical forests, lowland rain forests, mangrove swamps, and rugged beaches. Along with varied landscapes, the park is said to contain an incredible 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity, and it is home to numerous rare species including Baird tapirs, harpy eagles, squirrel monkeys, jaguars, and much more.
The park is only accessible with a guide, who can help you catch a glimpse of some of the rarest sights Costa Rica has to offer. The hikes themselves can be strenuous and are definitely more off-the-beaten-path compared to other parts of the country, but it’s a great way to experience some primeval pura vida.