Hey Matt, I spent some time in Costa Rice and here are my thoughts.
Places I highly recommend are:
Mount Chiripo: This is the highest mountain in Costa Rica and on a clear day you can see both coasts from the summit. It is a tough hike up and you'll need 3 days to do it. Day 1 go up to the base camp, day 2 summit and then return to base camp, day 3 descend the mountain. We did it in 2 days, we went up the first day and decended the second day, it was really hard and a very bad idea. I could not walk right for a few days afterwards from muscle damage. It gets cold on the top so pack intellegently and you'll want to pack light. There is an awesome little hotel, it is a couples home and they built a nice room into the mountain. Very cool, I forget what it is called but with some research you should be able to find it. It is a walk away from the beginning of the hiking trail.
Manuel Antonio: This is one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica that I saw. Do not cheap out on a hotel here, the hostels are very sketchy so avoid them. The place is touristy but still small and very nice. It has some resorts, a lot of nice restaurants and bars, and a very lively night life. The main strip was a great time! We did some scuba diving with a company outside of Manuel Antonio for really cheap so if thats something you want to do let me know and I can look into the name of the company. Manuel Antonio park was amazing, the beaches are the most beautiful in Costa Rica, the nature is brilliant, and the wildlife is amazing. There are monkeys, sloths, and other tropical animals everywhere as well as birds. Manuel Antonio is a must see place!
Monteverde: We went here on the way to La Fortuna. This place has some of the best zip lining in the world and definitely in Costa Rica. It was a phenominal experience!
La Fortuna: We spent quite a bit of time in La Fortuna. We stayed at the backpackers Paradise hostel, it was the best place I stayed while in the country. Cheap and the place was fantastic. Big pool, a bar with great meals, a walk away from a fun karoake bar, has an amzing view of the volcano, and a short walk from great cafes for breakfast. While in La Fortuna we did a tour of the Arenal volcanoe, did a canyoning trip, went to Baldi Springs, rented dirt bikes for the day (don't even need to have ever ridden one, i figured it out on my own), saw La Fortuna waterfall, and enjoyed the sun. This is another must see area, it was amazing!
Jaco: Stay away from Jaco, it is very touristy and developed. Great surfing if you want to do that but expect lots of hookers and drug dealers and a very dirty and disgusting city. I did not enjoy it at all.
Montezuma: A very nice little town. This place was amazing. We stayed in a little villa style room and it was fabulous. Not sure what they were called but I do remeber it was a bunch of little villas that someone had built on their land. They stayed in a home on the land and let us use the pool there. It was fantastic. I really awesome little town definitely worth checking out. We took a speedboat to Montezume from Jaco which was enjoyable. Things to do here are relax, wander through the nice village, rent some quads or take a hummer tour.
To be continued: