The Best Hikes in Costa Rica:
Manuel Antonio National Park: This is likely the most popular hike in Costa Rica. The park is located along the Central Pacific coast and features lowland rainforest which is bordered by beautiful beaches on the Pacific coast. While Corcovado is home to more wildlife, visitors to Manuel Antonio are more likely to see the animals up close as the park is more concentrated. The hike at Manuel Antonio is an easy one with groomed trails that are mostly flat.
Arenal Volcano Trails: There are several trails at the base of Arenal Volcano. These trails include the El Silencio Trail, Los Tucanes Trail, 1968 Trail and the official Arenal Volcano National Park trail. The latter three will lead you to the old lava flows. The El Silencio, while not as close as the others, provides the best wildlife observation. Each of these trails offers easy hiking on moderately flat ground.
Cerro Chato: The Cerro Chato trail actually enters Arenal National Park, but is a completely different style of hike than those mentioned above. Cerro Chato is an extinct volcano that is located next to Arenal Volcano. The trail is in rough shape and should be considered an extreme hike with a difficult level. While you will not likely see many mammals, there are a lot of birds in this area. You can go down to the crater, which is a green colored lagoon.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a private reserve located in the cloud forests of the Monteverde and Santa Elena region. The elevation is around 4,500 feet leaving the reserve cloud covered most of the time. Due to this, it is a damp environment which provides extraordinary habitat for plants and trees, which in turn provide great habitat for monkeys, sloths and highland birds. The trails of the reserve are well maintained and are of varying lengths and levels of difficulty.
Cerro Chirripo: Cerro Chirripo is probably the most challenging Costa Rica hike. This hike will require an overnight at the base and then a long day of hiking at high altitudes. Visitors will need to make advance reservations as the daily number of entrances is limited.
Corcovado: Corcovado National Park is one of the most remote destinations in Costa Rica. For that reason it remains the wildest place in Costa Rica and one of the most biologically intense places on the planet. Visitors are only permitted with registered guides. There are several trails to choose from, most of which consist of one to three kilometer loops.
The San Pedrillo Station trail is the most commonly used due to its proximity to Drake Bay. The Sirena Station trails are further south and less accessed, so there generally is more wildlife. The trail between the aforementioned stations has been closed. The La Leona Station is difficult to access, all the way at the southernmost point of the Osa Peninsula, but visitors are rewarded with plenty of wildlife once they enter the park. The Los Patos Station is in the heart of the park an d difficult to access by foot. The Danta Lodge in Guadalupe offers rental horses and will provide a wrangler to accompany you in and then take the horses back as you continue to the station. Most visitors that come in this way continue by hiking to the Sirena Station.
The trails in Corcovado range from moderately easy to difficult. However, it is important to note that it is hot in this region with daytime temps usually in the mid-90s.
Rincon de la Vieja: There are some excellent trails for hiking within this Guanacaste park. The Las Pailas section of the park is well-known as an amazing volcanic activity site with hot springs and fumaroles along the trails. There is also a trail that leads to the crater, though this is frequently closed due to volcanic activity. Similar to Corcovado, temperatures in this region are very hot, averaging in the mod-90s during the heat of the day.
Cahuita National Park: Cahuita National Park is very similar to Manuel Antonio in the sense that it is a small, concentrated national park along the coast with mostly flat, easy to hike trails. The main difference is Cahuita is located along the Southern Caribbean coast. Guided hikes will provide you with the opportunity to see many species of wildlife, making this a must-do for many visitors to the Southern Caribbean.
Gandoca-Manzanillo: This reserve is one of the least visited destinations in Costa Rica, yet one of the most beautiful and scenic. The park is located all the way at the end of the road of the southern Caribbean and borders the sea. The trails in the park are fairly well groomed and go for several kilometers. One can always stop along the way for a swim on some of the most beautiful, deserted beaches in Central America.
Barra Honda National Park: Barra Honda is another great hiking park that is rarely visited. The park also features a cavern which can be explored with registered guides. Visitors to this Nicoya Park should be prepared for a hot hike as temperatures can average in the low to mid-90s with little shade.
Cabo Blanco National Park: This was the first national park in Costa Rica and offers some great hiking trails. It is one of the few areas on the Southern Nicoya Peninsula which offers a true jungle experience and is home to loads of wildlife such as scarlett macaws, pizotes, monkeys and much more. The trails are fairly well groomed and provide an easy hike, though visitors should be prepared for the heat.
Rio Celeste: The Rio Celeste is located within the Tenorio National park. The trails that lead to it are moderate in difficulty and extraordinary for scenery. Most guided hikes will take you to the turquoise colored waterfall and lagoon above it. If you have the chance, try to walk further back where you will find natural hot springs and a bronze colored river that mixes with another. The minerals of the two rivers combined create the turquoise colored water of the Rio Celeste and is an incredible site.
Miravalles Volcano: The trails at Miravalles Volcano are quite unique in the sense that visitors can see hot springs and fumaroles up close. Similar to many other Costa Rica hiking trails, the level of difficulty can be hit or miss due to rains. It can rain hard in this area, but it also receives its fair share of sunshine. Overall, this is not the most popular hike due its location, but well worth the visit if you have the time.
Poas Volcano: The Poas Volcano hike is fairly easy and along groomed trails. The trail leads up to the crater of the active volcano where you will see steam and bubbling within the greenish-blue crater lake. The trail continues to the old crater lake which is a dark green color and then continues through cloud forest habitat with loads of hummingbirds zooming around.
Hanging Bridges: While not a single location, the hanging bridges in Costa Rica offer an amazing hiking experience. Most people do not realize that the majority of the hike is actually on land and then periodically you have the opportunity to hike through the canopy of the rainforest or cloud forest via the bridges. This is probably the most unique hiking experience you will ever encounter. If you really enjoy hiking, consider this as an option.