Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica but not sure which activities to do? We know the feeling! It’s hard to pick just a few when there are so many amazing things to do. And with jungles and forests as lush and thick as Costa Rica’s and hidden beaches up and down the coast, you can have an unforgettable vacation discovering and experiencing nature like you never have before.
To help you narrow down the best activities, here are our top fifty things to do in Costa Rica. You can find a good mix of adventure, cultural, touristic and local activities on this list and willy give you a better idea of must-do things to tick off when in Costa Rica.
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50 Awesome Things to do in Costa Rica
1. Go horseback riding
Horseback riding is a common activity in Costa Rica to do at the beach or the mountains. It’s a fun way to see the Costa Rican landscapes and scenery and is a great group activity.
You can horseback ride in nearly every touristic destination in the country, particularly Guanacaste where there are a handful of a haciendas (farms). Many of the local farmers rent out their horses for tours.
2. Go ziplining
Ziplining is one of the essential things to do in Costa Rica (read why every traveler should go ziplining in Costa Rica). You really can’t visit Costa Rica and not zipline since they are world famous for their long cables with spectacular views.
If you’re scared of heights, don’t worry. Not all ziplines are incredibly high and long. There are short canopy tours and for the thrill seeker, they will love the kilometer long cables at Selvatura Park, Sky Adventures in Monteverde or Arenal and the new Diamante Adventures with the longest ocean view zipline!
3. Sunset cruise
This is one of the most relaxing things to do in Costa Rica: go on a sunset cruise and it’s particularly popular in Guanacaste because of the beautiful beaches up and down the Pacific coast. You can also go in Manuel Antonio, Playa Herradura and down in the Costa Ballena.
Nearly every beach town on the Pacific Coast like Playas del Coco and Playa Tamarindo offers sunset cruises as a way to experience the ocean. Most offer snorkeling, drinks and snacks and there is a good chance to see dolphins, whales when in season and other marine wildlife.
4. Snorkel or Scuba Dive
Snorkeling is a must do for ocean lovers, especially in northern Guanacaste and the Caribbean. If you’re a scuba diver, you can’t miss up on the opportunity to dive at some of the best sites in Central America such as Bat Islands, Cano Island and Catalina Islands.
For those who want experience the best dive site, head to Cocos Island, a World Heritage Site that houses huge populations of hammerhead sharks, giana mantas, yellowfin tuna and more.
5. Go boating
Boating is the best way to see islands and hidden beaches and it’s one of our top things to do in Costa Rica when we have friends or family in town.
So if you’re visiting the coasts of Costa Rica, boating is an awesome day trip to beach hop, snorkel and enjoy a day out in the ocean.
Costa Rica has certainly stepped up in its golfing game and you can find internationally recognized courses across the country. Many of them are on a resort’s property but anyone can purchase a day pass.
Golf lovers will want to check out the courses up in Guanacaste such as Hacienda Pinilla or Four Seasons since they offer some pretty awesome views. You can be hitting birdies while overlooking the Pacific ocean!
People from all over the world come to Costa Rica just to surf because the waves here are some of the best in Latin America. Some of the best beaches are Pavones, Playa Hermosa, Playa Avellanas but this is just a small sampling of the huge number of great surfing beaches here.
There are plenty of surf camps and surf vacations if you want to dedicate more than one day to learn or you can sign up for a one day lesson.
8. Rappel down a waterfall (canyoning)
This is an activity perfect for the thrill seeker – rappelling down waterfalls up to 200 feet! It might be a bit too much for the ones with acrophobia but the surge of adrenaline flowing through your body takes over and all sense of fear is lost.
Not only is it an adventure of a lifetime but you get to jump down right into the heart of a beautiful Costa Rican forest. It’s more exciting than ziplining in my opinion and it’s one of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica.
Mountain biking in Costa Rica is one of the best with trails starting at a volcano and ending up at the beach (Irazu to Guanacaste). The Ruta de Conquistedors is considered one of the toughest athletic events in the world as it goes from Pacific to Atlantic.
But if you’re not a hardcore biker, biking is a fun way to get around beach towns such as Puerto Viejo or Playas del Coco. Many towns rent bikes for around $10 a day and it’s a great way to connect with locals.
10. Beach Hop
The coasts of Costa Rica are just full of gorgeous beaches and the reason why Guanacaste is nicknamed the “golden coast.” You can find beaches of all characteristics: white sand, dark sand, turquoise waters, clear waters, etc. So when you’re at the coast, definitely go beach hopping whether it’s by boat or foot.
On the Caribbean side, you can walk or rent a bike to go through the entire stretch of beach that is Playa Negra, Cocles, Chiquita and Punta Uva, even Cahuita.
The best part is that no beach is ever so full that you can’t find a spot to lay down and if you explore a bit, you may even have a beach all to yourself. All beaches in Costa Rica are public. It’s easy to beach hop as many are all right next to each other. Beach lovers will be in paradise exploring all the beaches!
Find out what the best beaches in Costa Rica are!
11. Eat a Copo (or a churchill in Puntarenas)
A copo is a Costa Rican shaved ice treat that you can get on nearly every beach. It’s shaved ice with kola syrup, powdered milk and condensed milk. Some versions called the churchill are more intense with ice cream and fruit added on top.
Puntarenas is famous for churchills so the best place to get one is there. You can’t get a more local dessert than that!
12. Enjoy a Costa Rican holiday and watch the bull riding
There are 9 national holidays in Costa Rica with several more observances, anniversaries and celebrations. Costa Ricans do love a good party and they know how to party hard! They make their holiday weekend well worth it.
The most popular festivities are the Palmares Fiestas, Zapote Fiestas and Puntarenas Carnaval. Millions of people come to these celebrations from all over Central America every year. Some are religious holidays, some are just a reason to have a good time. Bull riding is incredibly famous in Costa Rica and they do it all year long with special events during Christmas.
For those who want to experience local Costa Rica culture, this is one of the best (and most fun) things to do in Costa Rica.
13. Go for a drive through the Central Valley
The landscapes in Costa Rica are simply breathtaking and you can see views just like this driving through the Central Valley. Go off the map and explore the outskirts of big cities and beach towns to experience something authentic and natural.
We drove through Zarcero, Sarchi, Grecia and San Ramon and it was a fantastic way to see small town life, taste local goods and experience a less touristic area in Costa Rica.
14. Do a combination tour at Rincon de la Vieja National Park
If you’re short on time or want the best bang for your buck, there are several mega combo tours in Costa Rica. We love Guachipelin at Rincon de la Vieja National Park in Guanacaste which consists of ziplining, horseback riding, lunch, river tubing, hot springs and mud baths.
There are different variations but for an action packed day, a combo tour will fill your need for adventure! Many adventure parks offer combination packages or you can customize your own.
15. Ride a tram through the forest
There are a few trams in Costa Rica that take you through the forest up to stunning views. For those who aren’t big hikers or want a relaxing way to see nature, the tram is the best.
Along the way, it’s possible to see various birds, monkeys and other wildlife and it’s great to go with a guide who can point out the different plants and flowers you see. And always, at the top is a great view!
Sky Tram at Arenal and Monteverde are excellent ones and Rainforest Adventures Atlantico has an incredible one up the Caribbean side.
16. Learn about the mysterious stone spheres
Down in the Osa Peninsula is Finca 6, a museum dedicated to the stone spheres of Costa Rica. The purpose of the spheres have not yet been determined and are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is a great off the beaten path activity near Sierpe and incredibly interesting.
Stand up paddle boarding is becoming more popular in Costa Rica and you can rent a board and go on your own or take a class.
If you’re not much of a surfer but still want to get out in the water, SUP is one way to go. It’s a good workout for your whole body and a fun way to enjoy the ocean. Some of the best spots are at Playa Manta, Playa Panama and Playa Platanares for their very calm waters.
18. Visit Catarata Llanos de Cortes
This is one of the best waterfalls in Guanacaste, Catarata Llanos de Cortes and it’s only 30 minutes from Liberia making it a great day trip.
This small but powerful waterfall has lots to enjoy besides the water. You can climb up the rocks and sit under the water when it’s dry season or you can hike to the top.
19. Go to a concert
Costa Ricans love more than just salsa music. There are several popular Costa Rican bands and being such a small country, you’ll have a good chance to enjoy one if you happen to be near a city.
Enjoy a concert with locals and even if you don’t know Spanish, it’s a fun way to make new friends and listen to some great music!
20. See the Olive Ridley sea turtles at Ostional Wildlife Refuge
Costa Rica is famous for their huge masses of sea turtles coming to lay their eggs (arribadas) and for their conservation work with turtles. On both coasts you can see mother turtles and baby turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean. For animal lovers, this is one of the best wildlife things to do in Costa Rica.
Ostional Wildlife Refuge is famous for the mass arrival of Olive Ridley sea turtles with hundreds of thousands of them coming to shore every year. There are many volunteer programs available if you want to do some charity work and help Costa Rica protect their beloved turtles. It’s an experience that will make you appreciate nature even more.
21. Explore the jungle
Much of Costa Rica’s jungles have yet to be explored and there’s no guessing what you may run into if you venture off the path.
We’ve discovered stunning little waterfalls, beaches and rivers. This is one of the reasons why we encourage renting a car so you can explore those dirt paths that look like they lead to nothing. Those usually make for the best adventures!
22. Go Sport Fishing
Costa Rica is one of the best countries for sport fishing with healthy waters and knowledgeable locals. You can catch mahi mahi, roosterfish, sailfish or even the mysterious marlins.
You can go world class fishing at Playa Flamingo, Manuel Antonio and in the Caribbean. And if you catch a fish, you can bring it to a restaurant where they’ll cook it for you!
23. Walk through San Jose
San Jose really isn’t as terrible as people make it out to be. As the capital city, there’s a good handful of historical landmarks and it’s a good way to get a glimpse of the Costa Rican city life.
Usually 1 or 2 days in San Jose is a good amount of time to explore the city, visit some museums and get a taste of Tico city life.
24. Play with puppies at the beach
There are a lot of stray dogs who live at the beach and love nothing more than a pat on the head and someone to play with. They’re adorable, friendly and just want to have a good time at the beach just like us humans!
If you’re in the Central Valley, you can also visit the Territorio de Zaguates. It’s a huge farm that houses hundreds of stray dogs, you can visit to learn more about their project, donate and play with tons of cute pups!
25. Explore Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the top three most visited national parks in Costa Rica. Outdoor lovers will simply delight in everything Arenal has to offer: fresh weather, great hiking, hot springs, wildlife watching, ziplining, canyoning, boating, waterfalls and more.
This is an especially good national park for first timers since it’s easy to get to and has so many things to do.
26. Waterslide in the middle of the jungle
Ever wanted to experience the jungle a different way? Waterslide through it at Buena Vista Combo Tour in Guanacaste! This slide is fast as you zip 400 meters through the jungle. I only went twice instead of three times because it was too intense for me!
The waterslide is part of a combination tour which also includes horseback riding, ziplining, mud baths and hot springs.
27. White water raft Rio Pacuare
For a whole day of pure fun and adventure, white water rafting at the Rio Pacuare packs all that and more. Raft through class 3 and 4 rapids in the canyons of Costa Rica, bathe in the cool fresh waters and experience a trip of a lifetime.
This is my favorite tour I’ve ever done in Costa Rica and there are also 2, 3 and 4 day white water rafting trips for the more adventurous.
28. Jump off waterfalls
Costa Rica has spectacular waterfalls and you can’t fully experience it without jumping off one. We did a waterfall tour in Jaco which was simply amazing. We climbed through the virgin Costa Rican forest up 7 waterfalls, jumping off a few and standing under more.
You can also jump off other waterfalls such as Nauyaca and Uvita.
29. See monkeys and sloths at Manuel Antonio National Park
White face monkeys are always seen at Manuel Antonio National Park along with sloths, iguanas, other monkeys and toucans. Playful, smart and cheeky, these monkeys sure know how to entertain humans!
Other wildlife you can see at Manuel Antonio is howler and squirrel monkeys, toucans, Jesus Christ lizards, raccoons and agoutis. Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most popular for wildlife because it has simple trails, beautiful beaches and easy accessibility.
30. Visit Poas Volcano
Poas Volcano is a spectacular crater volcano but it is a bit tricky to see it in full form like the picture above. Most of the time it is covered in clouds or is very foggy but if you’re lucky, you can see it clear!
Although it’s impossible to predict the weather, it’s best to go during dry season so you can have a better chance of a clear dry day than in rainy season. You can also walk the trails to the lake at the Poas Volcano National Park.
31. Explore Caves at Barra Honda National Park
Experience the limestone caves of Costa Rica at Barra Honda National Park, some up to 250 meters deep. Interesting rock formations and stalagmites can be found with columns that look like various shapes in everyday life.
It’s not your typical ziplining or hiking adventure but it may give you a new perspective of our world.
32. Hike Rio Celeste
One of Costa Rica’s most magical places is Rio Celeste. This bright blue river is stunning and it’s even more beautiful in person.
There is a waterfall and you can hike through Tenorio Volcano National Park along the river to see the different stages. You’ll be in awe of this spectacular natural landmark when you see for yourself just how blue the water is!
33. Go on a wildlife watching boat cruise at Palo Verde National Park
Palo Verde National Park is one of the most important parks in Costa Rica as it contains tropical dry forest, an extremely endangered ecosystem.
You can see herons, cranes, crocodiles, monkeys, basilisks, iguanas and more animals at Palo Verde. Thousands of migratory birds flock here every year making this area a sanctuary for many creatures.
34. Find out why Costa Rican coffee is so darn good
Costa Rica grows some of the best coffee in the world and if you’re a coffee lover, you’ll want to take a tour of a plantation.
It’s an incredibly educational and enlightening experience as you learn how a cherry gets from the plant into your cup. Plus you get to sample delicious coffee at the end!
35. See the crocodiles at Rio Tarcoles
The Rio Tarcoles is famous for one main reason: their crocodiles. As you walk across the bridge and look down, you can see up to 10 or 15 giant crocodiles laying around just a few meters below you.
You can take a boat tour down the river to see these animals up close and personal or stop on the bridge to see them from above.
36. Watch a sunset on the beach
I don’t think I need to say too much as to why this is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. I’ll let the picture explain for me.
Our favorite beaches for sunsets are Tamarindo, Uvita and Manuel Antonio. But really, any of them are good!
37. Hike Cerro Chato
This dormant volcano crater next to Arenal is quite a sight to see on a clear day and is one of the tougher hikes in Costa Rica. When we hiked Cerro Chato, we made it to the top where the volcano and lake are but being in the middle of a thunderstorm, we saw nothing.
It’s a tough but rewarding hike with an ever increasing steep incline and no clear path. You’ll be trekking through the jungles of Arenal and hopefully you’ll have better luck than us and actually see the volcano and swim in the lake!
38. Visit La Paz waterfall
La Paz waterfall (catarata de la Paz) is a beautiful waterfall in the middle of the rainforests of Alajuela. There is a waterfall garden ($40 entrance fee) that has more trails to the waterfalls above if you want to see more. Otherwise, you’ll just see this part of the waterfall from the road.
It’s close to Poas Volcano National Park so you can combine the two for a full day trip.
39. Eat rice and beans
If you go to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica like Limon, you’ll be surprised to see that the culture, food and people are completely different. This is one of the must things to do in Costa Rica so you can experience the vast cultures between the Caribbean and the rest of the country.
Instead of gallo pinto, they eat rice and beans which has coconut milk in it. Their culture is highly influenced by the nearby Caribbean islands so you’ll find plenty of jerk chicken and other yummy dishes.
40. Enjoy the hot springs in Arenal
Arenal has some of the best hot springs in the country with the Tabacon river supplying natural hot water to the springs. Some hotels have their own private hot springs or you can go to free access part of the river where the locals go.
Tabacon, Baldi and Titoku are just a few places you can bathe in and enjoy the thermal waters.
41. Go whale watching
Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale watching season in the world so your chances are pretty good to see these magnificent creatures.
Whale watching is a great activity in Costa Rica because you get to be on a boat, go out into the water and there is a high possibility to see whales and some other marine life.
42. Get a pipa fria
You’ll see signs for pipa fria at every beach town and you definitely want to try one. It’s cold coconut water and is oh so delicious on a hot day!
I love watching the vendors hack off the top with a huge machete (they do it with such precision), hand you the pipa and keep hacking other coconuts. They are coconut experts!
43. Go bird watching
With over 800 species of birds living in Costa Rica, any bird lover will be in paradise. Snap photos of hummingbirds, toucans, macaws, parrots and other gorgeous tropical birds all throughout the country.
Wildlife and bird lovers have to put a bird watching tour on their “things to do in Costa Rica’ list.
44. Eat a giant Costa Rican taco
Costa Rican tacos are nothing like Mexican tacos so don’t get those confused. You can usually find them on the menu at a soda under snacks.
The best taco place is in Heredia, called Taqueria Fatima where you can eat a taco just like the one Yeison is holding. It’s at a not so normal length of about a foot and a half stuffed full with meat and cheese and topped with cabbage.
45. Visit the National Theater and Gold Museum in San Jose
The national theater and the gold museum are two cultural and historical attractions not to be missed when visiting San Jose. Learn about how the currency of Costa Rica came to be, how gold influenced the country and tour the magnificent theater.
These museums are some of the best things to do in Costa Rica in terms of culture and history.
46. Watch a futbol game at the national stadium in La Sabana
Futbol is a huge passion of all Costa Ricans and there are games held in the stadium year round. Cheer for the local teams and experience one of the country’s favorite past times.
Also the Costa Rican national team goalie Keylor Navas just got signed by the Real Madrid so if you think Costa Rica doesn’t have good players, you’re definitely wrong on that part!
47. Have a Costa Rican Beer
Costa Rica has a few locals beers of which Pilsen and Imperial are the most popular. Head to the bar to have a beer and you’ll also get a great glimpse into Tico life since beer is heavily ingrained in their culture.
Costa Rican beer doesn’t vary that much but it’s worth trying out!
48. Hike Corcovado National Park
As one of the most biologically diverse places on earth, Corcovado National Park is an absolute must for hikers and wildlife lovers. It’s such a unique place in Costa Rica, you feel like it’s a different world with the sheer amount of wildlife around.
You can do a one day hiking trip to the ranger stations such as La Leona, San Pedrillo and Sirena but the ultimate way to experience the national park is to do an overnight hiking trip. The most popular one is from La Leona to Sirena, where it’s possible to see tapirs, pumas, anteaters and more.
49. Walk the hanging bridges in Monteverde
Walking the hanging bridges in Monteverde gives you a great view of the cloud forest as each one goes up higher and higher. You can see lush green forest all around you and even some wildlife if you have a good eye.
Don’t worry, these bridges are all very stable and secure and is one of the best ways to take in the beauty of Costa Rica.
50. Enjoy the pura vida life!
And of all the things to do in Costa Rica, the most important one is to enjoy the pura vida life.
Costa Rica is a country full of love and peace and their people know how to live and enjoy. They’ll teach you how to be grateful for what you have and you’ll take all those things with you when you go back to your home country. Hopefully your trip here will give you a new perspective on life and to appreciate what is given to you.
If you’re looking for a must-do list of activities that capture the essence of Costa Rica, check out these essential experiences.
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