Maps of Costa Rica

Why You Should Study Maps of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a tiny country nestled in between the waters of the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans – so small, in fact, that you can see both seas on the distant horizon from the crown of Cerro Chirripo, a soaring peak which is also a haven for many rare tropical montane species. This might lead you to believe that it is simple to find your way around in this Central American country, when in fact such an impression would be deceptive.

The topography of Costa Rica is extremely complex, with highly detailed topography encompassing at least fourteen different major ecosystem types. The backbone of the country is gnarled by mountains, including both ordinary peaks and active volcanoes, and hills, ridges, valleys, and rivers form a complex texture of landforms descending from these crags to the sea.

The high rainfall ensures that there are countless watercourses, though lakes tend to be small, and coastal mangrove swamps and a mix of sea cliffs and beaches all add to the complexity of the land’s fringes as well. The dense forests make orienteering difficult, so good maps are essential when you visit Costa Rica – particularly when you venture away from the roads for ecotourism hikes, but also when you moving from town to town and city to city.

Things to Look For in Maps of Costa Rica

Both because of the complex topography of Costa Rica and because of the highly specialized use that you are likely to be putting them to, you should look for maps that have certain characteristics rather than just generalized road maps or the like.

The most useful maps are those which show both useful human constructions like roads, highways, and towns, and also give a picture of the topography of regions as well, both for navigating through the areas when you are there and for deciding whether you want to go there in the first place (depending on the terrain and likely climate).

Interactive, online maps – including those that can be downloaded to a mobile device such as an iPad or iPhone – or GPS maps with a lot of detail are well suited to those who are planning to spend a lot of time trekking across country. These maps are not always available, however, and detailed paper maps still cannot be considered obsolete since they cannot run out of electricity, short out in tropical dampness, or have their signals blocked by the looming flank of a mountain.

The Best Maps of Costa Rica Available

Though you can likely unearth some very useful maps on your own, there are several sources that are useful to nearly every traveler to Costa Rica. Online, Lonely Planet offers enhanced Google maps that can be zoomed down to a high level of detail for preliminary analysis of local terrain. These maps are available in Map, Satellite, Hybrid, and Terrain views, with the Terrain view being the best for those who need a chart of roads and towns but also a clear depiction of the landscape nearby (go to and press “Show map” button)

Lonely Planet also publishes printed maps (, and many more maps of Costa Rica are available on Amazon. This site includes everything the bold adventurer might need for guidance in the rainforests of this neotropical country. There are even waterproof maps of Costa Rica that will survive the tremendous rainfall of the eastern mountain slopes or the spray of a mountain waterfall as you pause beside its basin to find your way once more.