Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
Costa Rica

11 Best Costa Rica Tourist Attractions

Costa Rica ziplining
Ziplining is a popular Costa Rica tourist attraction. Credit: Depositphotos

Costa Rica tourist attractions for western Caribbean cruises include Mayan ruins, ziplining in rainforests and whitewater rafting.

The country has devoted 27 percent of the total land area to 20 natural parks and eight biological reserves. It creates boundless things to do such as hiking, rafting, canopying and rainforest tours.

The most popular Costa Rica tourist attractions are accessible from two cruise ports: Limon on the Caribbean coast and Puntarenas on the Pacific coast.

1) Ziplining / Canopying

Costa Rica made ziplining a hugely popular shore excursion throughout the Caribbean. What makes it special here is the rainforests. Ziplining through them is a lot more fun than doing it on an arid landscape.

A typical zipline shore excursion here and elsewhere costs anywhere between $100 and $150 per person depending on the sail date, location and transportation costs.

For our ziplining shore excursion, the drive took about two hours to reach the location from the Limon cruise port. We spent another two hours there for training and the incredible experience. Despite four hours of total time in the bus, we had a fantastic time.

2) Puerto Limon

Puerto Limon is capital of the Limon province and the main port for western Caribbean cruises to Costa Rica.

It is not focused on tourism in part because the main tourist attractions for cruise visitors are located elsewhere in the country.

However, visitors who spend time in the city will see colorful open air marketplaces. They should go to the center of town for the main market.

Another attraction is the Parque Vargas in the east end of town facing the Caribbean.

The best time to visit Puerto Limon is around Columbus Day for the annual carnival Dia de las Culturas.

Some tour operators offer a total experience that includes a tour of Limon, a visit to Playa Bonita Beach and boating on the Tortuguero Canals. The five-hour trip costs about $75.

3) Tortuguero National Park

This Costa Rican national park was mainly set up to protect nesting grounds of sea turtles. It also is known for boating on its canals.

Although those ancient reptiles are often seen on the beach, the park is just as good for spotting rain forest animals such as sloths, caimans (a type of small alligator), toucans, parrots, iguanas, and even jaguars that feed on nesting sea turtles.

Quite a few tour operators offer canal rides as part of a package of attractions out of the Limon cruise port.

4) Veragua Rainforest Research and Adventure Park

The park includes the largest indoor nocturnal frog exhibit in the world, butterfly garden, reptile vivarium and a hummingbird garden.

It also has a tram ride through the rainforest canopy, walking trails through the primary rainforest and a waterfall, along with panoramic views of La Amistad International Park.

Veragua is about 45 minutes west of Puerto Limon. A shore excursion that includes both Veragua and the Tortuguero Canals will cost about $75.

5) Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Cahuita National Park was created to protect Costa Rica’s biggest coral reef. It is 45 minutes south of Puerto Limon in Limon province.

The best time to visit the park is during March, April, September and October when rainfall is lower. The park is a humid tropical zone forest.

Only a small part of the park is on land. The rest covers a much greater area of ocean and marine life.

Cahuita is popular because snorkeling and scuba diving, the park’s white sand beaches and clear waters that are ideal for swimming.

6) Whitewater Rafting

Visitors to the Limon cruise port will have access to whitewater rafting on the Reventazón River.

The river offers Class III rapids, which is moderately difficult on a scale of I to V. Class III rapids are usually challenging enough for teens and adults but not young children.

7) Rappelling

Costa Rica is one of the few if not the only Caribbean destination to promote rappelling down trees, waterfalls, cliffs and mountains as a recreational activity.

Various tour operators provide adventure packages that include rappelling as part of the package.

8) Waterfalls Costa Rica is known for some beautiful waterfalls including the 230-foot La Fortuna Waterfall near the Arenal Volcano. The Rio Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park is famous for for its vibrant blue color and tropical surroundings.

9) Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo has come into its own as one of the most popular Costa Rica tourist attractions on the country’s Caribbean coast.

It’s especially popular among young backpackers traveling through Latin America.

They come to Puerto Viejo to learn how to surf, meet other travelers, visit nearby jungles, and for lack of a better word, “party”.

However, despite some rumors to the contrary, they aren’t the only tourists that flock to Puerto Viejo.

10) North Region

This part of the coast ranges from the San Juan River to Limon city. The Caribbean coastal city and cruise port of Limon city is the tourism center for this region and for much of the country.

According to historical documents, in 1502 Christopher Columbus landed in Costa Rica at the place known as Puerto Limon.

The city’s old quarter has the characteristics of a historical center and is currently under urban renovation with restoration of buildings and a pedestrian walkway from Parque Vargas to the market.

Other activities in the North Caribbean region include green turtles nesting on Tortuguero National Park and sport fishing at Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge.

11) South Region

This region goes from Limon to the Panama border. It offers beaches, natural resources and culture in Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Gandoca Manzanillo.

High quality beaches allows adventure and natural history activities which definitely compliment with culture, gastronomy and music.

Natural attractions include reefs; multicolor beaches with black, yellow and gray sand; forest and coastal vegetation.

Cahuita National Park and Gandoca Manzanillo Reserve offer natural beauty and conservation.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
October 20, 2023

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