5 Small Towns You Shouldn’t Miss in Costa Rica

I had the small town blues last week. Since Luke’s leg injury, we’ve been shacking up in small towns across Panama and Costa Rica. I was lusting for adventure – and all these small towns were making me feel blue.

I’d had my fill of sweet suburban houses, local farmer’s markets and small sodas – but hang on, what was I complaining about exactly? Life can’t always be big city lights and volcano boarding adventures, and quite frankly I wouldn’t want it to be either. Come to think of it, the small towns in Costa Rica have been some of the best places I’ve visited. Here are five of those awesome little places which you just can’t miss.


Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo is hands down my favourite place to be in Costa Rica. Lazy beach town vibes and colourful ramshackle houses give real character to this small town. It’s here where we learned to make coconut rice and beans in a vegan Caribbean cooking class, where we saw Costa Rica’s famous red-eyed tree frog for the first time, and where we cycled along the coast drinking pipa frias more times than either of us would care to count.

Puerto Viejo beach - Charlie on Travel


Santiago de Puriscal

Santiago de Puriscal holds a fond place in our hearts as it’s where we started our journey in Costa Rica. Our house sit here became a home base as we travelled around, heading back to take care of the jungle dogs whenever we were needed. The town itself doesn’t have much going on but the decrepit old church, which looks as though it could fall down in the next gust of wind, is gorgeous. The Saturday morning farmer’s market is a great place to grab a local’s breakfast and some good veggies, and the mountain surroundings make it a pretty place to spend the afternoon too.

Church Puriscal Costa Rica


Ciudad Colon

Just down the road from Santiago de Puriscal, Ciudad Colon is home to the Peace University, which is the reason behind it’s student-y style and arty vibe. The town square is a popular place for grabbing freshly made fruit juices (I definitely recommend apple, orange and banana juice) and enjoying the sun. There’s a line of al fresco sodas serving up typical food, including rice and beans, salads and yuca, opposite the street art painted walls.

Charlie in Ciudad Colon Street Art - Charlie on Travel



This small beach town just down from Quepos and Manuel Antonio is where you’ll find surfers and yogis galore. The distinctive grey beach and aquamarine ocean are pretty enchanting, and there’s lots of laid-back eateries mingling in between expensive cafes in town. Dominical is very close to Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge, so I’d definitely recommend heading up there for an adventurous day of exploring the jungle or even tree climbing.

Dominical beach Costa Rica



One of the most incredible travel experiences of my life happened in this small town: the turtle arribada. During this event, thousands of Oliver Ridley turtles come to the shores at Ostional to lay their eggs. It’s highly likely that you’ll also be able to see baby turtles hatching too. The arribadas only take place at certain times of the year, so make sure to check before setting a date to visit. The town itself is really tiny with only one or two sodas, a supermarket and an expensive but pretty delicious pizza restaurant.

Turtle digging hole to lay eggs ostional - Charlie on Travel

Travelling long-term can sometimes make it easy to lose perspective. That’s definitely what happened to me last week when I was feeling blue about all the time we’ve spent in small towns, but I quickly realised that really I love the local vibe of small towns and am so lucky to be able to travel around them.

How do you feel about travelling to small towns? Which small town is your favourite?

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

8 thoughts to “5 Small Towns You Shouldn’t Miss in Costa Rica”

  1. I love discovering small towns as much as big cities. It is refreshing sometime to step out of the busy and chaotic city life and enjoy instead some more quite small towns where the sense of community is often stronger.
    Ciudad Colon looks very interesting, mainly for the vibrant street art there, I think I’d love it :)
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    1. Me too, Franca! I think that it’s nice to have a good mix of all those kinds of things: cities, small towns, countryside, beach and so on. The variety is good. Ciudad Colon is really great, and we had excellent vegan food from a local soda right next to where that street art photo is, so I’m sure that you and Dale would love it.

    1. Thanks, Polly! It took Luke about 25 shots to get one that was good haha :D

      Oh no, so sorry to hear that Puerto Viejo wasn’t so good in high season! We caught the tail end of low season in early November, so it wasn’t crowded at all but the weather was still good.

      Any other small towns that you particularly liked?

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