Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica but not sure what to do? We know the feeling! It’s hard to pick just a few when there are so many amazing things to do in Costa Rica like heart pumping adventures, waterfall hikes and hidden beaches!
To help you narrow it all down, here are our top fifty things to do in Costa Rica. If you want to do any of these activities, feel free to contact us and don’t forget to check our exclusive deals for tours and hotels. If you’re ready to start planning, don’t forget to check our Costa Rica itineraries!
This post has been updated December 1, 2019, ready for the 2020 travel season! Click the activity to learn more or you can scroll down to our interactive map!
- Horseback riding
- Sunset sailing
- Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
- Boating in the Gulf of Papagayo
- Massage on the beach
- Canyoning (Waterfall rappelling)
- Get a Copo/Churchhill
- Fiestas Civias (local parties)
- Tortuga Island cruise in Nicoya Peninsula
- Central Valley small town roadtrip
- Rincon de la Vieja adventure tour
- Finca 6 stone sphere museum
- Stand up paddle board
- Llanos de Cortes waterfall
- Del Toro waterfall
- Ostional Wildlife Refuge turtle tours
- Jaguar Rescue Center
- San Jose city tour
- San Jose Dinner Show
- Kayak Tortuguero National Park
- Arenal Volcano National Park hike
- Aerial Tram through the rainforest
- White water rafting Pacuare River
- Waterfall Tours in Jaco/Manuel Antonio
- Manuel Antonio National Park guided walk
- See a volcano (Irazu/Poas/Arenal/Turrialba)
- Rio Celeste hike
- Wildlife watching safari floats
- Coffee tour
- Chocolate tour
- See crocodiles at the Crocodile bridge
- See the Marino Ballena National Park whale’s tail
- Eat a chifrijo at a local bar
- Beach hop
- Eat rice and beans on the Caribbean coast
- Relax at the Arenal hot springs
- Humpback whale watching
- Have a cold coconut on the beach
- Visit the Territorio de Zaguates dog rescue center
- Night walk
- Watch a futbol match at La Sabana stadium
- Hike or horseback ride to Nauyaca Waterfalls
- Hike Corcovado National Park
- Experience the hanging bridges in Monteverde
- Enjoy pura vida life!
Ziplining is one of the MUST DO’s 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. Costa Rica is said to be ziplining’s place of origin!
The best places to go ziplining in Costa Rica are Monteverde, La Fortuna and Guanacaste. Then there are many adventure parks with ziplines scattered throughout the country.
Some recommended ones for beginners/intermediates or families are Athica or EcoGlide in Arenal, Ponderosa Park by Liberia, Black Stallion and Hacienda Roble near Tamarindo, Los Sueños Zipline in Herradura, Hacienda Baru in Dominical, Midworld and El Santuario in Manuel Antonio, San Luis Canopy, Tortuguero Canopy Tour and Wingnuts in Samara.
For the thrill seeker, they will love the extreme ziplining at 100% Aventura in Monteverde, Sky Adventures Monteverde and Arenal, Selvatura Park in Monteverde and Arenal Mundo Aventura in La Fortuna. Also Diamante Eco Adventure Park in Guanacaste (get 10% off here) as it has the longest ocean view zipline!
Horseback riding is a common thing to do at the beach or the mountains. It’s a fun way to see the Costa Rican landscapes!
Horseback riding is one of the best things to do in Guanacaste as there are a handful of haciendas (farms). The horses are calm and know where to go so you don’t need to be an experienced rider.
Horseback riding tours costs anywhere from $35 -70 depending on how long the tour is and where it takes you. We recommend going horseback riding with a tour company and not hiring a random local on the beach or town since you don’t know about the conditions of the horses and how they treat them. Tour companies have to be strict on who they work with. Not to mention the tour companies have strict safety regulations (insurance, helmets, proper equipment) whereas some locals will let just about anyone without experience ride without a helmet or proper gear!
We have done several horseback riding tours which you can read below:
Sunset Sailing Cruise
This is one of the most relaxing and romantic things to do in Costa Rica. It’s particularly popular in Guanacaste because of the beautiful beaches up and down the Pacific coast. You can also go sunset sailing in Manuel Antonio and Playa Herradura/Jaco.
Recommended companies are Antares and Dream Chaser in Tamarindo, Kuna Vela and Sea Bird in Playas del Coco, Panache in Potrero, Serendipity in Flamingo, Samara Sea Tours in Samara and Marlin del Rey in Coco and Tamarindo. They include snorkeling equipment, drinks and snacks/lunch and there is a good chance to see marine wildlife.
In Manuel Antonio, there is Ocean King and Planet Dolphin. We also did a sunset sail with Kayak Jaco out of Herradura.
Sunset sailing cruises run from around $70-85 per person and usually include snorkel equipment, fruit, water, drinks and snacks. It’s a super romantic activity in Costa Rica as you sail under a beautiful sunset, cuddling up with your loved one.
Snorkeling or Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is also excellent in Costa Rica and popular dive sites are Bat Islands, Catalina Islands and Caño Island.
For those who want experience the best scuba diving in Costa Rica, head to Cocos Island. This island is a World Heritage Site that houses huge populations of hammerhead sharks, giant mantas, yellowfin tuna and more. It takes a couple days on a boat to get there so it’s fairly expensive. Definitely one for the world bucket list for scuba divers!
A 2 tank dive costs roughly $115 and the best towns to stay at for scuba diving are Flamingo, Playas del Coco, Uvita, Playa Ocotal and Tamarindo. You can also scuba dive from Manuel Antonio, Cahuita and Drake Bay.
Private Boating Tour in Gulf of Papagayo
Boating is the best way to see islands and hidden beaches in Guanacaste and it’s one of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica when we have friends or family in town.
Private boating tours allow you to go to however many beaches you want, stay as long as you want and make your own schedule as opposed to an open/public tour which is always on a set schedule.
One of our friends has a boating company in Playas del Coco and we love going boating with him since he knows the best snorkel spots and hidden beaches. We always have the beach all to ourselves!
Get a Massage on the Beach
What is more relaxing than getting a massage on the beach? Not much! You can find many massage stands on the beach and it’s not too expensive. At Conchal, you can get an hour massage for $35! They also have massage stands on Playa Espadilla in Manuel Antonio (the free beach outside the national park).
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 for surfing are Pavones, Jaco, Santa Teresa, Playa Hermosa, Playa Cocles, Dominical, Playa Matapalo (Osa Peninsula), Playa Negra, Playa Guiones, Playa Avellanas, Playa Tamarindo and Playa Grande but this is just a small sampling of the 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. A 2 hour group surf lessons costs around $55 or you can rent a board for around $20 a day. So if you’re visiting any surf town, it’s one of the best things to do in Costa Rica you can’t miss!
Canyoning (rappelling down waterfalls) is an incredible adventure activity in Costa Rica. 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!
One of our favorite canoyning tours in Costa Rica is Pure Trek in La Fortuna. The first waterfall they take you to is nearly 200 feet tall!
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 and it’s a yummy way to beat the heat!
Visit the Fiestas Civicas
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! For this reason, you can find fiestas civicas, or the local parties all year long. In these parties, they have rides, games, food and bull riding.
The most popular festivities are the Palmares Fiestas, Zapote Fiestas and Puntarenas Carnaval. Thousands 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 just $10-15, you can hop into the stadium with other daring locals and get chased around by a bull! For those who want to experience local culture, this is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica.
These fiestas are held all year long throughout the country and you will see signs for them in town. The most common months are December, July February and March. If you’re in the Brasilito/Tamarindo area, the fiestas are usually mid March.
Go on the Tortuga Island day cruise
The Gulf of Nicoya is home to several beautiful islands in Costa Rica and you can take a day trip to Isla Tortuga, which has a stunning white sand beach. Cruise 1.5 hours through the gulf for spectacular views, relax on the island for 5 hours and boat back at sunset.
This is an excellent day excursion from San Jose, Puntarenas and Jaco and a great activity for families. You can go snorkeling, kayaking, jet skiing, swimming and hiking on the island. If you want to do this tour, we have a $10 discount. Check our post on the Tortuga Island day tour here to get the discount.
Road Trip 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. Renting a car is the best way to explore Costa Rica and visit off the beaten path destinations!
Combination Adventure Tour in Rincon de la Vieja
Combo adventure tours are one of our favorite things to do in Guanacaste. We love Guachipelin Adventure Park in the Rincon de la Vieja area which is a full day of ziplining, horseback riding, lunch, river tubing, hot springs and mud baths. It’s an awesome adventure in Costa Rica that allows you to experience the best of the volcano and dry tropical forest.
The Guachipelin combination adventure tour costs $93 per adult and includes a buffet lunch which is such a great value! If you need transportation, tour companies charge around $140-150 per person depending on the pick up location and group. The parks are about a 1.5 hour drive from Gulf of Papagayo and Tamarindo/Conchal area so definitely worth a day trip!
Visit Finca 6 to See the Stone Spheres
Down in the Osa Peninsula is Finca 6, a designated UENSCO World Heritage Site and museum dedicated to the stone spheres of Costa Rica. The purpose of the spheres have not yet been determined and have been one of the biggest mysteries in Costa Rican history.
This is a great off the beaten path activity near Sierpe and incredibly interesting. It’s also an excellent cheap activity in Costa Rica as the entrance fee to the museum is only $6 for adults and $4 for students. However, you will need your own transportation. You can also book a tour which includes transportation and a bilingual guide.
Stand Up Paddle Board
Stand up paddle boarding is very 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 Mantas, Playa Panama and Playa Platanares for their very calm waters. You can sign up for classes or rent boards in destinations like Playas del Coco, Tamarindo, Jaco and Golfito.
A board rental varies in cost whether you rent from a company or a hotel. I did a 2 hour SUP tour with Kayak Jaco from Playa Agujas. We stand up paddle boarded to Playa Mantas and the beautiful white sand beach Playa Blanca.
You can also SUP on rivers and lakes! You can do a SUP tour on Rio Baru by Dominical with Pineapple Tours Kayak & Super or SUP on Lake Arenal with Jacamar (get 10% off the tour).
Llanos de Cortes Waterfall
This is one of the best waterfalls in Guanacaste, the stunning Catarata Llanos de Cortes. It’s one of our favorite things to do in Liberia, Costa Rica since it’s only 20 minutes from the city and the best way to cool off on a hot day.
This small but powerful waterfall has plenty 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 to the waterfall.
Here is our guide to visiting Catarata Llanos de Cortes including our favorite secret spots around the waterfall.
Del Toro Waterfall
Here’s one for the bucket list – one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica! Catarata del Toro is a stunning 270 foot (83 meters) waterfall in an extinct volcano crater hidden in the Central Valley.
You can stop by if you’re driving from San Jose to La Fortuna or even stay the night as the private reserve has cabinas. The path down to the waterfall has many steps but it’s completely worth it when you get to the bottom! In our opinion, Catarata del Toro is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica!
For more information, check out our post on Catarata del Toro.
You can read about other wonderful waterfalls in Costa Rica in this post.
See Turtles at Ostional Wildlife Refuge
Costa Rica is famous for their huge masses of sea turtles coming to lay their eggs (arribadas). On both coasts, you can see mother turtles nesting and baby turtles hatching. 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.
You must hire a local guide if you want to enter the refuge or you can walk on the beach outside the refuge without a guide. The best time to go to Ostional WIldlife Refuge is July – December and is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica in November as that is when the biggest arribadas occur.
Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo
If you want to learn more about the wildlife of Costa Rica, the Jaguar Rescue Center is one of the best places to do so. It is a rescue center in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca that takes in injured animals, rehabilitates them and releases them back to the wild.
They offer guided tours of the center so you can learn about how they are working to help animals such as monkeys, anteaters, sloths and various birds. It’s very interesting and the center does great work when it comes to conservation and educating the public on how to interact with wildlife.
Other excellent rescue centers and animal sanctuaries to visit are Toucan Rescue Ranch, Centro de Rescate Las Pumas, Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary and Kids Saving the Rainforest. You can take guided tours to learn more about their programs and animals.
Costa Rica is one of the best countries for fishing with healthy waters and knowledgeable locals. Sport fishing in Costa Rica is purely catch and release and you can catch fish like marlin, rooster fish and sail fish.
If you go in shore fishing and catch tuna snapper or mahi mahi, you can keep it. Many restaurants will cook the fish for you too which is nice!
Take a San Jose City Tour or Walk Through Downtown
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.
There are some great cultural sites San Jose, Costa Rica as it is where majority of Costa Rican citizens live and work. We recommend walking through downtown San Jose to get a feel of how the city is.
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. If you’re interested in learning more about the city, take a San Jose city tour!
San Jose Dinner Show
To enjoy a fun night out in San Jose full of Costa Rican culture and local food, a dinner show is a great option. We have visited Mirador Tiquicia which has a dinner show on Fridays and Ram Luna Restaurant which offers a buffet and dinner show on Wednesdays and Thursdays. They both have a spectacular view of San Jose!
Kayak Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero National Park, or the “Amazon of Costa Rica” is a place like no other in the country. It’s famous for turtle nestings and rainforest canals thatmake up the national park. The national park and town are boat access only so it’s quite an adventure to get there! Once in Tortuguero, you can take boat rides through the national park to see wildlife but our favorite way is to go by kayak.
Kayaking allows you to go to areas that motored boats can’t go and you don’t disturb the wildlife as much so you can get very close. See toucans, monkeys, and all sorts of wildlife up close as you glide quietly on the water, surrounded by lush jungle with no one around. This is one of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica because we saw so many animals super close!
Want to visit the national park? Check our Tortugero National Park guide. It is on the Caribbean side so the best time of the year to visit is September and October as it is drier and it’s the peak time for turtle nestings.
Hike Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the top three most visited national parks in Costa Rica and is the best place for those who want to see a “cone” shaped volcano. The volcano erupted back in 1968, leaving a wave of destruction in its path. Nowadays, the forest has grown back and visitors can hike through the remaining lava beds for beautiful views of the volcano and Lake Arenal.
This is a great national park for first timers since it’s easy to get to and the trails aren’t too tough or long. It’s open every day from 8 AM to 4 PM and costs $15 for foreigners. If you walk the Coladas trail, you will reach a viewpoint to see Lake Arenal and the volcano. Visiting Arenal Volcano is a must when in La Fortuna!
Ride a Tram Through the Rainforest
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 can’t do a lot of strenuous movements, the tram is the best way to experience the tropical jungle.
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 Park on both the Caribbean and Jaco sites have a tram. Veragua, a research center and adventure park on the Caribbean coast has an aerial tram too.
White Water Raft Rio Pacuare
For a full day of fun and adventure, white water rafting at the Rio Pacuare packs all that and more. Raft through class 3 and 4 (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 multi-day white water rafting trips for the more adventurous ones. You can even go white water as a way to get around Costa Rica as many companies pick up in San Jose and drop off in La Fortuna or Puerto Viejo! This is definitely one of the top adventure activities in Costa Rica.
If you want to do the tour, we have a Rio Pacuare white water rafting discount to save $10!
Go on a Waterfall Tour
Costa Rica has spectacular waterfalls all throughout the country thanks to the many volcanoes, rivers and valleys. Many are easily accessible and others require a tour.
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.
There are several companies that operate waterfall tours like this one in the Central Pacific. We went with Costa Rica Waterfalls Tours for the one in Jaco and they also operate another tour that goes to really tall waterfalls. In Manuel Antonio, Paddle 9 operates waterfall tours and in Uvita, Rancho Di’Andrew runs waterfalls tours.
Book a Guided Walk at Manuel Antonio National Park
If you want to see monkeys in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the best places and we highly recommend a guided walk! You can see three types of monkeys in the park: howler, white face and squirrel and two types of slothes! Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the best places in Costa Rica to see wildlife thanks to its year long lush rainforest.
To see wildlife, we recommend to take a guided tour. You may get lucky and see wildlife without one, but for (almost) guaranteed sightings, it’s best to hire a guide. The guide can also share interesting facts and find other animals or interesting flora. (Get 7% off your Manuel Antonio National Park guided tour here).
Visit a Volcano
Costa Rica has a handful of volcanoes why is why visiting a volcano is a MUST DO thing in Costa Rica! The best ones to see are Arenal, Turrialba, Irazu and Poas Volcano.
You can get up to the entrance of Turrialba Volcano National Park for crazy views like this one. Go all the way up to the crater of Irazu Volcano or visit Poas Volcano National Park to see the active crater. And don’t forget to visit Arenal Volcano National Park for close views of the volcano!
See Rio Celeste With Your Own Eyes
One of Costa Rica’s most magical places is Rio Celeste, a sky blue river in Tenorio Volcano National Park. This bright blue river is stunning and it’s even more beautiful in person. It’s hard to believe the water is that blue but it really is!
You can hike through Tenorio Volcano National Park to see the waterfall and the union of the two rivers which creates the blue color. You’ll be in awe of this spectacular natural landmark when you see for yourself just how blue the water is!
Read our guide to visiting Rio Celeste for more information on how to best experience one of the top sights in Costa Rica. We also highly recommend to stay a night or two in Bijagua, the town that is the gateway to Rio Celeste. It’s a beautiful, small rural town and community that is excellent for birdwatching, nature and wildlife.
Wildlife Watching Safari Float
One of my all time favorite tours is the river safari float from La Fortuna. We went to a beautiful river in the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, which is one of the best places in Costa Rica to see wildlife. Floating down the river in a raft allowed us to get up close to animals without disturbing them.
There are two safari floats from La Fortuna: Penas Blancas, the most common one. Another is the Rio Frio tour which is operated exclusively by Jacamar Naturalist Tours. Both are wonderful! If you’re short on time, Penas Blancas is the best choice. For a more intimate and personal experience, Rio Frio is quite special.
You can also do river boat rides like in Palo Verde National Park, Damas Island in Manuel Antonio or at Hacienda El Viejo in Guanacaste. El Viejo also offers cultural and rum tours for a full day of wildlife and culture!
Learn about Coffee on a Coffee Tour
Costa Rica grows some of the best coffee in the world, hands down. If you’re a coffee lover, you’ll want to take a tour of a coffee plantation to find out why it’s so darn good!
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 and purchase coffee and souvenirs.
Our favorite coffee tour is Doka Coffee Estate but there are many others. Golden Bean in Turrialba, Britt in Heredia, Coopedota in San Gerardo de Dota, Tio Lio in Liberia, San Luis in Monteverde and Finca Rosa Blanca in Heredia are all excellent. You can now visit Hacienda Alsacia, the coffee plantation owned by Starbucks! Since coffee grows best in higher altitudes, the best places for coffee tours are San Jose, Grecia, Heredia, Turrialba and Monteverde.
The best time to take a Costa Rica coffee tour is October – March as that is the production and harvest season. You will be able to see the whole process in action making coffee tours a must do in Costa Rica!
Take a Chocolate Tour
In the past several years, Costa Rica has seen a resurgence in their chocolate production. Cacao grows very well in the tropical climate and you can take tours to see how they grow and process cacao to make chocolate.
The best places to take a chocolate tour is Puerto Viejo and La Fortuna. We did a chocolate tour with the BriBri indigenous community outside Puerto Viejo which was fascinating since chocolate plays such an important part in their culture. The Puerto Viejo chocolate tour is another excellent one. We also did one with Rainforest Chocolate Tour in La Fortuna and Costa Rica Best Chocolate in Sarapiqui which was really fun and informative.
Stop at the Crocodile Bridge
The Crocodile Bridge is famous for one main reason which you can guess: 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 little below you.
The bridge is in the town of Tarcoles, a little bit before Jaco and it’s worth stopping to see the giant crocodiles. Warning: please be very careful walking on this bridge. There is no pedestrian path and the guard rails are not that high. Please don’t climb over the rails! Those crocodiles are waiting to be fed and you do not want to be their next dinner.
See the Whale’s Tail at Marino Ballena National Park
Costa Rica is full of stunning natural treasures and Marino Ballena National Park in Uvita is one of them. Inside the park, there is a section where two beaches come together so in low tide, it looks like a whale’s tail!
If you go in high tide, the water covers the whole thing and you can’t see it. The Whale’s Tail is appropriately named as that area is one of the best places in Costa Rica to see humpback whales!
Eat a Chifrijo at a Local Bar
Looking for the ultimate classic Costa Rican bar food? Order a chifrijo! It is a mix of rice, beans, pico de gallo and chicharrones (fried pork). It comes with chips and best eaten at the local bar with a beer. There’s nothing more Costa Rican than a chifrijo and a local Imperial beer!
The coasts of Costa Rica are just full of gorgeous beaches and you can find beaches of all characteristics: white sand, dark sand, turquoise waters, clear waters, etc. So when you’re at the coast, you must visit different beaches. It’s one of the must do’s in Costa Rica as 70% of tourists visit at least one beach during their vacation. Thanks to the excellent Costa Rica weather, it is one of the best tropical destinations for a beach vacation!
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. And all beaches are public by law so it’s one of the best cheap activities to do in Costa Rica.
Find out what the best beaches in Costa Rica are!
Eat Rice and Beans
If you go to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, particularly Puerto Viejo, 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 varying 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.
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. Baldi is best for kids, Tabacon is ideal for couples and Paraiso and Ecotermales are great for those who don’t want to be around a lot of people. If you’re visiting La Fortuna, going to the hot springs is a must! You can read more about the best hot springs in Arenal in this post.
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. If you love whales, this is a must do activity in Costa Rica.
The best places for whale watching is down in Uvita, Drake Bay and Gulf of Papagayo. The best months are August and September but in Uvita, you have a chance to see them from July – November and January – April since both northern and southern humpback whales pass through.
Cool Down with a Cold Coconut
You’ll see signs for cold coconut (pipa fria) at every beach town and you definitely want 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!
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. Many hotels and tour companies offer bird watching tours, especially down in the Osa Peninsula, Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo, Arenal and Monteverde as those are the top places to see a diverse amount of birds. They usually start around 530 AM since birds are more active in the morning and take you either to an observation platform or hiking around the forest.
If you visit Monteverde, we highly recommend a birdwatching walk at Curi Cancha Reserve. We saw a handful of gorgeous Resplendant Quetzals there!
Play with Puppies at Territorio de Zaguates
Territorio de Zagutes is the biggest no kill shelter in the world. They have anywhere from 700-900 dogs at one time living on their insanely large property up in the hills outside of Heredia and they host open walks every month for visitors to play, run and enjoy the company of hundreds of dogs.
The couple that runs the shelter works incredibly hard to give these street dogs the care and love they deserve including health check ups, vaccinations and getting them adopted. You can adopt a dog or simply donate as they don’t charge an entrance fee for visiting doggie paradise.
Read our guide to visiting Territorio de Zaguates for more information. **The shelter has been limiting their public walks. Make sure to contact them for the most up to date information on how to visit the shelter.**
Go on a Night Walk
The jungle changes drastically when the sun goes down and the best way to experience it is to go for a guided night walk (you don’t want to be wandering the forest on your own!). Guides will point out creatures that are only seen in the dark such as insects, spiders, frogs, snakes and more.
We’ve done several night walks in Costa Rica. In Arenal, we did a night walk with Jacamar (get 10% off this tour). In Osa Peninsula we did a night walk at Leona station with La Leona Eco-Lodge, in Braulio Carrillo we did a night walk with Rainforest Adventures and in Monteverde we did one at Finca Santa Maria. For night walks in Manuel Antonio, we recommend Si Como No Hotel which has a private reserve.
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 plays for the Real Madrid so if you think Costa Rica doesn’t have good players, you’re definitely wrong on that part! La Sabana in San Jose is their biggest stadium but they also have stadiums in Heredia, Puntarenas, Alajuela, Limon and Cartago.
Try Costa Rican Local and Craft Beer
Costa Rica has a few locals beers to try, 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. All bars in Costa Rica offer some sort of happy hour, some places even have happy hour all day!
Costa Rican craft beer is growing immensely in Costa Rica. Now, many bars and restaurants serve craft beer! In San Jose, you can even take a beer tour with Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Co to learn more about it. Micro-breweries are popping up all throughout the country which is great for beer lovers.
Hike or horseback ride to Nauayca Waterfalls
I’ve already mentioned a few waterfalls in this post but I can’t forget the majestic Nauyaca waterfalls! These two stunning waterfalls lie deep in the rainforest up in the mountains of Dominical and it’s an incredible place to visit!
The waterfalls are on a private property owned by a local family and they have turned it into one of the best attractions in the area. You can hike (4 kilometers or 2.5 miles) one way, take the local horseback riding tour or ride their 4×4 truck. Definitely a must if you’re in Manuel Antonio, Dominical, Uvita or Ojochal.
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’ll feel like it’s a different world with the sheer amount of wildlife around. Corcovado National Park is in the Osa Peninsula, which holds around 6% of the world’s biodiversity.
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.
You now have to go with a guide if you want to do the overnight 14 kilometer (8.5 mile)hike. You also need to purchase tickets and make reservation. If you want to visit Osa Peninsula where Corcovado National Park is, check our Osa Peninsula guide for more tips on how to visit the national park.
Walk the Hanging Bridges in the Monteverde Cloud Forests
Walking the hanging bridges in Monteverde gives you a great view of the cloud forest. You can see lush green forest all around you and even some wildlife if you have a good eye. It’s an unforgettable experience and let’s be real. The bridges are one of the most instagrammable places in Costa Rica!
All these bridges are very stable and is one of the best ways to take in the forests. Many of the adventure parks have their own hanging bridges like Selvatura and Sky Trek. There is also one hanging bridge inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.
There are hanging bridges parks in other places in Costa Rica such as Mistico Hanging Bridges in La Fortuna, Rainmaker by Parrita and Heliconias Lodge by Tenorio Volcano.
Enjoy the Pura Vida Life!
Pura vida is the slogan of Costa Rica and directly translated to English it means pure life. Costa Ricans use this as a way to say anything good. Life’s good, pura vida. That guy’s my friend, he’s very pura vida.
They also say it as hi, goodbye, thank you and you’re welcome. So 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.
Watch this video of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica!
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