The Southern Zone is arguably the BEST area in all of Costa Rica. Those who have seen her beaches and jungles in all of their glory are seldom able to leave unchanged. We wouldn’t want you to miss out on any of the once-in-a-lifetime spots this area is known for, so we’ve broken it down to give you…
The Best Of The Best Things To Do In Costa Rica: The Southern Zone
So you can skip straight to the good parts!
The Best Places To Surf
It almost comes with no surprise that the untamed shores of Costa Rica call the most devoted surfers from every corner of the world. Far before tourism took off and brought development, surfers have been coming to Costa Rica, almost instinctively being drawn to these incredible surfing spots.
Nearly 1,000 miles of coastline begs the questions, where is the best place to surf? It’s a hard choice to make, and depending on your level of skill and preference, you might find you like different spots more than others. Some of the most popular surfing spots include Playa Hermosa, the one just south of Dominical, Matapalo, Pan Dulce, Pavones, Esterillos, and Playa Escondido. Some lesser-known gems include Chaman beach, Playa Arco, Playa Ventanas, and Dominicalito.
One of the most world renowned surfing beaches is Playa Dominical. Perhaps this is due to the consistency of good surfing conditions, or the powerful currents that make it suitable for advanced surfers. In May of 2012, Dominical hosted the 4th circuit of the Copa Quicksilver Olympus 2012 National tour and then hosted the fourth 2014 Olympus National Surfing Circuit competition.
You can check out this awesome site for a complete guide to some of these more popular beaches, complete with the best swell directions, best wind directions, best tide, and best surf season; the wave quality, how crowded each beach is, the water condition, and what you should be careful of in each of these awesome surfing spots.
Don’t forget to check your weekly surf report, so you never have to question or miss out on the best time to surf.
The Best Places To Hike
The most adventurous, nature-loving souls find their hearts’ rest in the jungles of Southern Costa Rica. There is a surplus of exploration to be had here, where diverse wildlife peak out of every knook and cranny of the trees, and unexplored caves and waterfalls beckon never before had adventure. Any Earth-loving explorer will find the Southern Zone to be nothing short of magical.
We’ve got your complete guide to the best places to hike in Southern Costa Rica right here.
Among these top notch spots you’ll find the famous Chirripó National Park–the spot that boasts the highest peak in all of Costa Rica, and the coldest temperatures recorded in all of this tropical nation. Just this past January 2016, a small group of hikers received the privilege of taking the first official trek on a newly opened route up Chirripó from San Jeronimo. If you’re adventurous, now is the perfect time to be among the first, and only, people to ever see this area of wilderness. Only 15 lucky hikers are awarded with the rare opportunity to take this guided trek up the tallest peak. Will you be one of them?
The Best National Parks
The Southern Zone is home to some of the best National Parks in all of Costa Rica.
Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular of the National Parks, which may come at a surprise, given it’s also one of the smallest. This is the only place is all of Costa Rica where you can see all four native monkey species in one day. Some of the best features of this national park are its beaches, which are real life versions of that dream beach that always comes to your mind when you think about paradise. You know, that white-sand, torquise water, palm-lined shore daydream? That’s Manuel Antonio.
The Corcovado National Park has been named by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity”. This is the ultimate spot if you want to explore thick, semi-difficult to access, jungles.
The Marina Bellena National Park is located in Uvita. This National Park covers mostly sea area, and extends just a bit onto the land. It’s one of the best places to go for whale watching, as humpback whales migrate through these waters twice each year, every December to April and August to December. Additionally, this a prime location for snorkeling and boat tours!
Chirripó National Park: Remember that rare and stunning mountainous hike up to the tallest peak in all of Costa Rica that we mentioned? Yep-that area doubles as a National Park.
Los Quetzales National Park is a lesser-known national park just 97 kilometers from San Isidro de El General, Costa Rica. This gem is one of the best places to hike, and is one of the few places you have the chance to witness the highly south after Quetzal bird.
The Best Waterfalls
There are 5 major waterfalls in the Southern Zone that are an absolute must-see. Check out your starter’s guide to each of these waterfalls for the info you need before you go!
Of these 5 waterfalls, one of the best waterfall duos, perfect is you’re up for a good hike followed by a leisurely swim in the naturally formed pools, are the Nauyaca Waterfalls. Everything you need to know about this amazing pair, you can find right here.
The Best Restaurant
If you’re a foodie, you’re going to love Southern Costa Rica. There are Sodas (local, Tico restaurants with authentic Costa Rican food) on just about every corner. Additionally, with the influx of expats coming to this area, all bringing their creative culinary concoctions, a variety of restaurants have popped up serving everything from chicken wings, to steak, to sushi. We hope that you’ll let your taste buds lead the way as you explore the many restaurants in the area, but to help you get started, here are some of the most loved spots in the area:
Cafe Mono Congo is a hip cafe perfect for meeting with friends or colleagues, diving into a good book, or just enjoying the laid back surfer vibe of this town.
Jolly Rogers: Honestly, some of the best chicken wings you will ever have in your life. This place was created by a laid back, personable expat who spends his days getting to know the people that come in for lunch, dinner, or drinks at the bar. They’ve got 19 different wing flavors (all creative AND delicious) and the largest imported beer selection of the area.
Tortilla Flats is smack-dab on the beach making it the perfect place to go after watching the jaw-dropping sunset at Dominical. This is the place for a killer plate of nachos perfect for two (or maybe just one. 😉 )
Pizzeria La Fogata: When that craving for pizza finally hits, (and it will) this is your place. None of that “foreign pizza with weird-tasting cheese” stuff here. Just mouthwatering slices of pizza that will leave you wondering if you’re in Italy or Costa Rica.
Falafel Bar: The place to go for delicious, mediterranean-inspired food that’s a mini haven for the many animal-loving’ vegan and vegetarians living in Costa Rica.
If you love to cook, why not try these awesome recipes and feast on the best of Costa Rican cuisine from the comfort of your own home?
Of course, in a place as spectacular as the Southern Zone, there are many more noteworthy spots to be discovered.
What little gems have you found in the Southern Zone? Share your favorite places in the comments below!