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Wonders of Costa Rica

Laguna Caliente in Poás crater in white color
Laguna Caliente in Poás crater in white color / Richie Diesterheft, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

This small Central American country offers numerous beautiful natural monuments as well as some exciting archaeological monuments.

Highlights of Costa Rica are:

  • Natural monuments related to volcanism – several very active volcanoes, highly unusual crater lakes, hot springs and bubbling mud pools.
  • Extremely high biological diversity coupled with wonderful tourism infrastructure made with high environmental consciousness.
  • Diverse archaeological monuments including the mysterious stone balls in the southern part of country.

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 22 wonders of Costa Rica

Geological wonders

Poas Volcano and Laguna Caliente


Very active and unusual volcano with Laguna Caliente – a lake of extreme acidity reaching up to 0.0 pH. Frequent phreatic eruptions may eject this acid up to 1 kilometer high. Around the volcano, all the vegetation is stunted brown and black by the extremely acid clouds coming from this lake.

Laguna Caliente in Poas crater, Costa Rica
Laguna Caliente in Poas crater / Carlos Reusser Monsalvez, Flickr. CC BY 2.0
Waterfalls of Rio Celeste


A unique waterfall formed by thermal waters containing much lime and sulfur. The pool below the fall is sky blue, while the background of the approximately 30 m tall falls is colored orange by the travertine and iron salts. Sometimes even the falling water is colored in glowing blue color which is an amazing sight.

Las Hornillas


A geothermal field at Miravalles Volcano with fumaroles and pools of boiling mud in different colors. Often it is mentioned that there are located also small geysers, but there is no proof of it.

Arenal Volcano


1,670 m high volcano with perfect conical form. One of the most active volcanoes in the world, very often offering a beautiful sight of red-glowing lava flowing down its slopes.

Arenal volcano in night, Costa Rica
Arenal volcano in night / Photo Courtesy of CostaRicaPhotos.com
Terciopelo Cave and Barra Honda rimstone formations


Terciopelo is a rather small, 41 m deep, and 92 m long cave, very rich with speleothems. Lime-rich streams have formed amazing rimstone formations on the west slope of Barra Honda mountain.

Diego de La Haya crater lake, IrazĂş Volcano


Bright green-yellow lake colored by the minerals dissolved along the crater walls. Sometimes the lake color changes to rust-red.

Gabinarraca Cave (Venado Cave)


Large cave with known length – 2,741 m. Contains beautiful cave formations including rimstone basins.

Waffer Bay Falls


One of more than 200 waterfalls on Cocos Island, approximately 60 m tall.

Puente de la Piedra of Grecia


Beautiful natural arch over PorĂł river.

Biological wonders

Monteverde cloud forest


Cloud forest with extremely high biological diversity. Nature reserve Bosque Nuboso Monteverde has the highest diversity of orchids in the world with more than 500 species, 34 new species were discovered in this forest. Here are found more than 2,500 plant species, 400 bird species, and numerous other organisms.

Rainforest of Cocos Island


Very picturesque, 24 km² large island with a high number of endemic species of plants and animals. The only island rainforest in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean. At higher elevations grow even cloud forests. Forests contain 70 endemic species of flowering plants, 65 endemic insects, two endemic lizards, three endemic birds, and numerous other endemic organisms.

Hammerhead shark schools of Cocos Island


Cocos Island is one of the most impressive dive sites in the world. This is a unique site for observation of large pelagic fishes and especially famous are the largest hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) schools of the world constantly seen here. Divers have the possibility to see hundreds of these weird, large fishes. Sharks come here to “cleaning stations”.

Hammerhead shark at Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Hammerhead shark at Cocos Island / Barry Peters, Flickr. CC BY 2.0
Kapok in Corcovado National Park


Giant ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra), reportedly – 77 m tall – although it is not known whether this has been really measured. As is common with many trees of tropical forests, the base part of this giant tree has a pyramidal form and thus the usual way to measure the girth of the tree at 1.2 – 1.4 m height here can not be applied.

Archaeological wonders

Spheres on Isla del Caño


Very unusual monument – perfectly round stone (granite) spheres. This is an ancient monument but the exact timing and culture are unknown. Many spheres in Isla del Caño are still in their original place – some are located in an ancient cemetery of the Boruca people. Spheres have been found also in some remote parts of the Osa Peninsula.

Stone spheres on Isla del Caño, Boruca cemetery, Costa Rica
Stone spheres on Isla del Caño, Boruca cemetery, Costa Rica / Photo Courtesy of CostaRicaPhotos.com
Guayabo de Turrialba


The most impressive archaeological monument in Costa Rica: a city or ceremonial center that was inhabited in 1000 BC – 1400 AD. Remnants of stone structures, paved streets and plazas, complex aqueducts, and bridges. Here are located also the mysterious round stone balls characteristic of this region.

Diquis Valley Spheres


Very unusual monument – perfectly round stone spheres, some up to 16 tons in weight. This is an ancient monument, although the exact timing and culture are unknown. This is an ancient monument, although the exact timing and culture are unknown.

Megalithic monuments at Rivas

San José

An archaeological site of the Chiriquí period, AD 750-1500. In the fields around Rivas town are found house foundations: rings of large stones as well as separate standing stones, causeways, and stairways. Archaeological excavations have yielded over 600,000 shards of pottery, some clay figurines depicting women, and ceramic musical instruments – rattle and whistles.

Piedra del Indio

San José

Cliff with interesting petroglyphs including a possible map of the Talamanca Mountain range.

Nicoa Cave


One of many caves of Barro Honda. Here have been found human remnants and artifacts including jewelry, dating back to 300 BC.

Petroglyphs at Volcan Cacao


Several hundreds of petroglyphs near Maritza Biological Station, possibly made by the Chirigua people. Petroglyphs are found in different regions of Costa Rica.

Architecture wonders

Treasure of Cocos Island


One of the most renowned legend sites where more than 300 expeditions have looked for hidden treasure left by Spaniards (Loot of Lima) or pirates (Devonshire Treasure). The beauty of the rainforest-covered island creates an appropriate backdrop to this legend and occasional finds of golden items add fuel to the flames in the imagination of treasure hunters.

Museo de Jade

San José

The world’s largest collection of American jade. Here are numerous items of high archaeological and artistic value.

WorldYellow Recommended books

Living in and Visiting Costa Rica: 100 Tips, Tricks, Traps, and Facts

Finally, a book on Costa Rica that gives a “slice of life” view of this tropical, Central American country. Real-world examples of what to expect at: the bank, the grocery store, the restaurant, the restroom, when driving, and more.

Fodor’s Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the most popular destinations for travelers in search of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and sun. In full-color and with helpful magazine-style illustrated features, Fodor’s Costa Rica shows off the splendor of the country’s stunning natural landscapes and its varied flora and fauna like no other guide.

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