Costa Rica — which has introduced a digital nomad visa — is a dream destination for many remote workers. This country contains a continent's worth of diversity within a small and manageable area. No region is more than a day's drive from any other region for the motivated traveler.
Let's break down the various regions of Costa Rica, so that you can decide which part of this Central American country is the best place for you to take a workation.
Overall Geography of Costa Rica
Let's start with the overall geography of Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a country on the narrow strip of land where Central America connects North and South America. It borders Nicaragua in the north and Panama in the southeast.
Costa Rica is made up of seven provinces whose administrative borders don't necessarily match up perfectly with the natural borders of some regions. For instance, the Nicoya Peninsula is split between mostly Guanacaste and Puntarenas province in the southwest.
In general, Costa Rica has a Pacific side, a Central Valley area, and Caribbean coast.
Caribbean Coast (Limón Province)
The Caribbean Coast has traditionally been known as the more 'undeveloped' side of Costa Rica relative to the Pacific Side. There tend to be more pristine habitats for animals and plant life than luxury hotels and tourist hotspots. This is changing as more and more people discover Costa Rica.
The city of Puerto Viejo is an amazing draw with all of the outdoor activities you could imagine: surfing, rafting, ATVs, treetop canopy tours, and snorkeling.
The Caribbean Coast is where Costa Rica's Latin culture meets Caribbean culture, including influences from Jamaica and other islands further north.
Tortuguero National Park is one of the most popular parks in the entire country with its famous nesting ground for endangered turtles.
Manatees, crocodiles, fish, mammals, and reptiles are also a big draw at Tortuguero.
San José and the Central Valley
San José and the Central Valley are the cultural heart of the nation of Costa Rica.
If you are interacting with Ticos (Costa Rican locals) anywhere in the country and you ask where they come from, they will often say San José. Over two million people live in the metro area and it offers opportunities for restaurants, museums, sporting events, theatrical events, and more.
The Central Valley is always nearby — make your way out to rolling agricultural areas and find yoga retreats, bed and breakfasts, and traditional Tico rural lifestyle in less than an hour from the city.
Nicoya Peninsula (Guanacaste Province and part of Puntarenas)
Some of Costa Rica's most beautiful beaches, hidden gems, surf towns, and villages are nestled along the coast and inland on the Nicoya Peninsula. This peninsula sticks out on the Pacific side in the southern part of Guanacaste province.
Nicoya Peninsula's biggest draw is its amazing beach towns — often connected by dirt roads that require a 4x4 to access. Places like Nosara, Samara, Montezuma, Santa Teresa, and Malpais are all towns in which sun- and surf-lovers can spend days or weeks exploring — without leaving the Nicoya Peninsula.
Fishing is a big draw and popular pastime in the area, and the seafood on the Nicoya Peninsula is generally excellent, in addition to the vegetarian and vegan food found within yoga and wellness Meccas like Nosara.
Arenal/La Fortuna/Northern Lowlands (Alajuela/Heredia provinces)
Arenal Volcano is a mystical mountain and the most majestic sight in the Northern areas above San José. It rises with a symmetrical profile, like a Fuji of the tropics, and the boat from Monteverde to Arenal across Lake Arenal is one of the most awe-inspiring lake trips you will ever take.
Arenal erupted in 1968 and was active until 2010. The volcano has been dormant since 2010, although we'd like to look up what the definition of dormant is because you can still see smoke from time to time, coming from the top of the mountain.
There are other areas like Juan Castro Blanco Nationa Park, Tenorio National Park, and Caño Negro National Park.
In Monteverde, Arenal, and La Fortuna, you can see a different side of Costa Rica — a more landlocked, mountainous, and mysterious inland ecosystem — far from the sandy beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts.
The Osa Peninsula and the South Pacific Coast (Puntarenas Province)
The Osa Peninsula is the true destination for the nature lover who wants to push into the most biodiverse frontier in the country and truly get immersed in natural wonder.
Corcovado National Park and Drake Bay are two world-famous locations that are almost spiritual.
Some of the Osa Peninsula is not quite rugged, in terms of needing a guide to reach certain areas and not necessarily having the provisions or conveniences you might expect in other parts of the country.
This lowland rainforest is further down from the Nicoya Peninsula and contains almost half of Costa Rica's animal species.
Guanacaste & The North Pacific
Guanacaste is a province as well as a general region of Costa Rica. It has many active volcanoes as well as rivers for kayaking and rafting.
Tamarindo and Conchal are some of the more famous beaches.
National parks include Rincon de la Vieja National Park and Palo Verde National Park.
If you've learned a little bit about the regions of Costa Rica, but need to plan where you want to work, check out our list of ten coworking spaces that you can visit to help you be productive while visiting Costa Rica.