Costa Rica is an enchanting little country full of natural beauty located in the middle of the Central American isthmus. Perfect weather, abundant wildlife, and captivating scenery all come together to create one the best travel destinations in the world. Its borders are Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. To the east, Costa Rica touches the Caribbean Sea and to the west the Pacific Ocean.
Costa Rica might seem like a small country, but it’s full of places of interest for anyone that knows where to look. Use our Costa Rica map to check out the different regions and provinces of the country and plan your trip.
How to get to Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s location is truly privileged. Easily accessible from North America, it is only 2 and a half hours from Miami, four hours from Dallas, and six hours from Los Angeles by plane (check out the country´s location in our Costa Rica map). It’s also important to remember that while most flights land in the Juan Santa Maria International Airport, there is another airport located in the city of Liberia Guanacaste that also receives international flights. All of our American and Canadian friends will be happy to know that all they need to enter Costa Rica is a valid passport. No Visas or additional permits are required.
Geography of Costa Rica
Costa Rica has 19,653 square miles of total land and an extra 277 square miles of territorial waters. The total area is about the size of West Virginia, which makes it all the more amazing when you think about how 5% of the earth's total biodiversity resides here.
Costa Rica is made up of coastal plains separated by three volcanic mountain ranges: the Cordillera Central, the Cordillera de Guanacaste, and the Cordillera de Talamanca. Politically, this area is divided into seven different provinces: San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limon. San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, and Cartago constitute what is known as the “Greater Metropolitan Area”. All of Costa Rica’s major urban cities are located in these provinces. Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limon are all rural provinces with littoral areas; any beach that you visit will be located in one of these three provinces. Static MAP that shows provinces, cordilleras and great metropolitan area.
Regions of Costa Rica
Costa Rica extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, making it one of the few countries with shores on both oceans. While the area from one end to the other is relatively small, the difference between the two coasts is vast. Between the two coasts there are also many different regions, each with its own unique characteristics and treasures. Altogether there are 9 different region in the country. Here’s a brief overview of them:
Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica
The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is famous for its golden sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs. Here you will find the Tortugero and Cahuita national parks famous for sloths and turtles, the town of Puerto Viejo, and the Gandoca-Manzanillo wildlife refuge.
Central Highlands Region of Costa Rica
The Central Highlands of Costa Rica have some of the most breathtaking views in the world. Miles of mountain terrain stretching out as far as the eye can see. Coffee plantations, fields and lush forests abound. In this region you will find Monteverde with its beautiful cloud forests, the charming city of San Ramon, the gorgeous mountains and rivers of Turrialba, and the famous La Paz Waterfalls.
Central Pacific Region of Costa Rica
The Central Pacific Region consists of a small strip of land that runs between the coasts of Jaco and Manuel Antonio. Famous for its beaches and tropical vegetation, this region packs a large punch into a small area. Here you will find the town of Jaco, beaches renowned for good surfing, the Tarcoles River, Los Sueños Marina, and the Puntarenas and Caldera ports.
Central Valley Region of Costa Rica
The Central Valley (or the Greater Metropolitan Area) is made up of four provinces: San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, and Cartago. Over 70% of the country’s population lives in this area. Here you will find the country’s most famous stadiums and museums, an active nightlife scene, and several important historic sites.
Guanacaste Region of Costa Rica
Guanacaste is without doubt one the better known parts of Costa Rica. Filled white-sanded beaches, unique national parks, and several famous volcanoes it has something for everyone. This area is so popular that it even has its own airport. Here you will also find the peaceful Salinas Bay with beaches that are virtually untouched by human hands, the luxurious Papagayo Gulf with some of the fanciest resorts in the country, and Ocotal Beach filled with beautiful scenery and an active nightlife.
Nicoya Peninsula Region of Costa Rica
The Nicoya Peninsula is a small patch of volcanic land that branches out into the Pacific Ocean. This region is home to the Barra Honda, Marino Las Baulas, Vida Silvestre Curu, and Cabo Blanco national parks. You can also find several famous beaches here, including: Mal Pais, Santa Teresa, Montezuma, and Nosara.
Northern Lowlands Region of Costa Rica
The Northern Lowlands of Costa Rica are a group of plains located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea just below the Nicaragua Border. This region of Costa Rica is known for cattle ranches, hot springs, and the world famous Volcan Arenal.
South Central Region of Costa Rica
The South Central Region of Costa Rica boasts some of the most amazing landscapes and vistas, including the country’s largest virgin rain forest. This region is home to several indigenous reserves as well as the highest peak south of Guatemala, the majestic Cerro Chirripo. Here you will also find protected wildlife areas filled with unique species of flora and fauna.
South Pacific Region of Costa Rica
The South Pacific Region of Costa Rica is one of the least visited parts of the country due to a lack of entry points. This gorgeous area is home to the Peninsula de Osa, the largest prehistoric rain forest in all of Central America. Here you will also find the Corcovado National Park, Drake Bay ideal for the adventure-minded explorers looking for outdoor activities, Golfito famous for its duty-free shops, and the surf havens like Pavones and Dominical Beach.