Pacific Beaches & Rainforest Region
This tourism region encompasses the central Pacific coast from Puntarenas south to Dominical. This area mostly consists of scenic beaches and seaside villages separated by beautiful coves and bays. In addition to the many activities available for beach lovers, wildlife viewing in this area is excellent and adventure sports include canopy tours and ATV excursions. A large population of scarlet macaws live in the Carara National Park where toucans, monkeys and other tropical birds are regularly spotted.
If traveling from San Jose or Puntarenas, be sure to stop at the Tarcoles River Bridge. There are usually more than a dozen massive crocodiles sunning themselves on the river’s edge, some of them up to 12 feet long. Visitors will drive over this bridge when traveling from San Jose south to Jaco and beaches farther to the south. In addition to great surfing, Jaco is notorious for its lively party scene and adventure sports, including everything from parasailing and sport fishing to horseback rides along secluded mountain trails.
Along this length of coast there are many picturesque beaches, including Playa Hermosa, Esterillos Oeste, Centro and Este, and the tranquil Playa Bejuco. Surf schools, cozy restaurants, some specializing in fresh ceviche, and quaint towns make this stretch of coast worth exploring.
Quepos, one of the larger cities on the central Pacific coast, has an airport located just outside of town and regular bus service from San Jose. The town is filled with shops, restaurants and a great outdoor market on the weekends. Sport fishing is huge in Quepos. World records have been set by anglers in this region and the warm Pacific waters are rife with marlin, sailfish, mahi mahi, amberjack and tuna.
Just over the hill are Manuel Antonio and its national park. Early morning hikers are likely to see white-faced capuchin monkeys, whiptail lizards and a variety of song birds. Coatimundis, two and three-toed sloths, and black spiny-tailed iguanas are common, too. The area is well known for its population of the endangered squirrel monkey. The beaches located inside Manuel Antonio National Park are some of the most beautiful Costa Rica has to offer. There is plenty of shade and gentle currents to help you laze the day away. A wide range of hotels, from budget to luxury, line the road between Quepos and Manuel Antonio.
Farther south, the intrepid will find mountains that jut up from the coastline and frame long stretches of palm-fringed beach at Dominical. The spectacular scenery may inspire lots of hammock time, where non-surfers can watch boarders tackle big waves. At Ballena National Marine Park just south of Dominical, swimmers and snorkelers can enjoy calmer waters. The park is also a hot spot for dolphin and whale watching. In this watery realm, named after the humpback whales that migrate there from August - October and December - April, visitors can explore miles of deserted beaches, mangrove forests and coral reefs.