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 is our list of best things to do in Costa Rica. Find out what to see and do in Costa Rica, recommended by Mytanfeet. And if you want to do any of these activities, don’t forget to check our exclusive Costa Rica discounts!
Click the activity to learn more or you can scroll down to our interactive map at the bottom of the post. All prices listed below are in USD.
• Sunset sailing
• Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
• Boating in the Gulf of Papagayo
• Canyoning (Waterfall rappelling)
• Try a Copo/Churchhill
• Fiestas Civias (local parties)
• Tortuga Island cruise in Nicoya Peninsula
• Central Valley small town roadtrip
• Rincon de la Vieja adventure tour
• Zarcero topiary gardens
• 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
• Rio Celeste hike
• Wildlife watching safari floats
• Coffee tour
• Chocolate tour
• Crocodile bridge
• See the Marino Ballena National Park whale’s tail
• Eat at a traditional restaurant
• Have a chifrijo at a local bar
• Beach hop
• Eat rice and beans in Puerto Viejo
• Relax at the Arenal hot springs
• Humpback whale watching
• Have a cold coconut on the beach
• Town square people watching
• Night walk
• Watch a futbol match at La Sabana stadium
• See Nauyaca Waterfalls
• Hike Corcovado National Park
• Walk the hanging bridges in Monteverde
• Enjoy pura vida life!
What to Do in Costa Rica
Check out our list of 50 best things to do in Costa Rica. We hope you have an amazing time.
Ziplining is one of the MUST DO’s in Costa Rica. This country is world famous for their long cables and spectacular views. Actually, Costa Rica is said to be ziplining’s place of origin so you can’t pass up a chance to soar over the tropical rainforest.
The best places to go ziplining in Costa Rica are Monteverde, La Fortuna and Guanacaste. However, there are many ziplines throughout the country of all levels and heights.
Some recommended beginner and family friendly ziplines in Costa Rica are Athica or EcoGlide in Arenal, 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.
The best extreme ziplining in Costa Rica is at 100% Aventura in Monteverde, Sky Adventures Monteverde and Arenal, Selvatura Park in Monteverde, Arenal Mundo Aventura in La Fortuna, Diamante Eco Adventure Park in Guanacaste. Diamante actually has the longest ocean view zipline cable in Costa Rica! (Get 10% off in the link above for any Diamante adventure).
Ziplining tours cost from $35 to $80 USD per person.
2. Sunset Sailing Cruise
If you’re planning a beach vacation, you must book a sailing cruise! This is one of the most relaxing and romantic things to do in Costa Rica.
Travelers love the sunset cruises because you sail underneath a beautiful sky and watch the sun go down while relaxing on the boat. It’s a great activity for all travelers, especially couples.
Similarly, you can opt for a morning cruise which offers better snorkeling. This is an excellent half day trip in Costa Rica to see the stunning tropical coastlines.
Recommended companies are Antares and Dream Chaser in Tamarindo, Kuna Vela and Sea Bird in Playas del Coco, Panache and Lazy Lizard in Potrero, Serendipity in Flamingo, Samara Sea Tours in Samara and Marlin del Rey in Coco and Tamarindo. In Manuel Antonio, there is Ocean King and Planet Dolphin. We also did a sunset sail with Kayak Jaco out of Herradura (near Jaco).
3. Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
Thanks to having both Pacific and Caribbean seas, Costa Rica has good snorkeling and scuba diving. Therefore, if you love the ocean, snorkeling or scuba diving is definitely a must do in Costa Rica!
You can snorkel right off of some beaches or you can take a dedicated snorkeling tour which will take you to much better snorkeling spots.
You can find snorkeling tours in nearly all touristic coastal towns. The sunset sailing cruises mentioned above also offers opportunities to snorkel during the cruise.
A 2 tank dive costs roughly $115 USD and the best towns to stay at for scuba diving are Drake Bay, Flamingo, Playas del Coco, Uvita, Playa Ocotal, Manuel Antonio, Cahuita and Tamarindo. Additionally, if you don’t have your certification, some scuba dive shops will offer “discovery dives” for those who don’t have their certification.
4. Private Boating Tour in Gulf of Papagayo
The Gulf of Papagayo up in the north Pacific coast of Costa Rica is in our opinion, one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica. This gulf, made made up of many small bays has a myriad of boat access only white sand beaches and amazing snorkeling spots. The best way to experience the Gulf of Papagayo to the fullest is a private boat tour.
It’s one of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica and always on the itinerary whenever we have friends or family visiting!
Private boat 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. And there are so many hidden, boat access only beaches in the Gulf of Papagayo that you can have all to yourself! Plus, you get the entire boat for your group (great for social distancing).
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.
5. ATV Tour
Add some adrenaline to your vacation on an ATV tour! Drive through forests and jungle to reach beautiful viewpoints. It’s even more fun in the rainy season when you can get a bit muddy!
You can find fun ATV tours in many places like La Fortuna, Tamarindo, Monteverde, Flamingo, Samara, Herradura, Jaco, Santa Teresa and Manuel Antonio.
People from all over the world come to Costa Rica just to surf. Costa Rica has some of the best in Latin America!
Some of the best beaches for surfing in Costa Rica are Pavones, Jaco, Santa Teresa, Playa Hermosa (Jaco), Playa Cocles, Dominical, Playa Matapalo (Osa Peninsula), Playa Guiones, Playa Avellanas, Playa Tamarindo and Playa Grande. However, this is just a small sampling of the great surfing beaches here.
Likewise, if you really want to learn to surf, sign up for a surf camp! There are great ones in Nosara, Jaco and Tamarindo. For lessons, a 2 hour group surf lesson costs around $55 USD per person. You can also rent a board for around $20 USD a day.
Canyoning (rappelling down waterfalls) is an incredible adventure activity in Costa Rica. It’s one of my personal favorite things to do in Costa Rica since it’s a heart pumping adventure in the middle of a beautiful rainforest. So exhilarating!
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!
Want to go canyoning? Get 7% off the Arenal canyoning tour here!
8. Eat a Copo (or a Churchill in Puntarenas)
A copo is a delicious Costa Rican shaved ice treat. 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! You can find copos in nearly all beach towns and cities.
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!
9. Partake in the Fiestas Civicas (Local Parties)
Costa Rica has a lot of holidays and they sure do love to party! 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 per person, 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 Christmas time, July, February and March. If you’re in the Brasilito/Tamarindo area, the fiestas are usually mid March.
10. Cruise Through the Gulf of Nicoya to Tortuga Island
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 cruise 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. Also, if you want to do this tour, we have a $10 USD discount. Check our post on the Tortuga Island day tour here to get it!
11. 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!
12. 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’s 1 day combo tour 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 day tour that allows you to experience the best of the volcano and dry tropical forest.
The Guachipelin combination adventure tour costs $95 USD per adult and includes a buffet lunch (no transportation). f you need transportation, tour companies charge around $140-160 USD per person. The parks are about a 1.5 hour drive from Gulf of Papagayo and Tamarindo/Conchal area so definitely worth a day trip!
13. See the Topiary Gardens in Zarcero
Zarcero, a small town in the Central Valley is very famous in Costa Rica for its intricate and well manicured topiary gardens. The gardens have been around for some time and are the prize jewel of the town.
Zarcero also has a beautiful church and is a cute little town to stop by for a day. Walk through the gardens, visit the church and get a local treat of cheese, tortillas and hot chocolate at one of the local snack stands. It’s such a cute little town for a less touristy destination to experience local culture.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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!
20. Take a San Jose City Tour or Walk Through Downtown On Your Own
San Jose really isn’t as terrible as people make it out to be. As the capital city, it’s the best way to get a glimpse of the typical Costa Rican city life.
Usually 1 or 2 days in San Jose is a good amount of time to visit museums or local markets. If you’re interested in learning more about the city, take a San Jose city tour. If you don’t want to take a tour, we recommend to walk through downtown on Central Avenue (Avenida Central) to experience and see the city.
21. 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!
22. 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.
23. 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!
24. 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.
25. White Water Raft Pacuare River
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!
26. 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.
This was a waterfall tour we did in Jaco which was super fun.
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.
27. Take 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).
28. See 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!
29. See Rio Celeste Waterfall and River
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.
30. 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!
31. Learn about Costa Rican 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!
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 even visit Hacienda Alsacia, Starbucks’s coffee plantation! Since coffee grows best in higher altitudes, the best places for coffee tours are San Jose, Grecia, Heredia, Turrialba and Monteverde.
32. 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.
33. See the Crocodiles 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.
34. Walk to 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!
Another nice thing about this national park is that it’s not very popular. The local community is small with minimal development so this is an amazing area for wildlife, mountains and beaches.
35. Try Gallo Pinto and Salsa Lizano at a Local Restaurant
Food and travel go hand in hand and food is for us, the ultimate way to know a country’s culture. So when you are in Costa Rica, make sure to go to a soda, which is what the locals call a traditional restaurant. They’re usually a small, open air family run restaurant serving only Costa Rican food. You’ll know it’s a soda because the sign outside will say something like “Soda Teresa” or Soda “X” Name.
As for what food to eat, the most traditional breakfast is gallo pinto, which is rice and beans. This is usually paired with eggs, plantains, a tortilla and cheese. You will also see a brown sauce on the table called “Salsa Lizano.” It’s Costa Rica’s classic sauce and I recommend to put some on your pinto. Delicious!
Then if you go for lunch, you can order a casado which is a plate of rice, beans, salad, meat and usually plantains or a picadillo or some sort. You can have that for lunch or dinner. Find out what other Costa Rican dishes you should try in this link!
36. Eat a Chifrijo at a Local Bar
And continuing on the topic of food, if you go to a local bar, then you have to order a chifrijo! It is a mix of rice, beans, pico de gallo and chicharrones (fried pork) with chips. A chifrijo is best eaten at the local bar with a beer. There’s nothing more Costa Rican than a chifrijo and a local Imperial beer!
37. Beach Hopping
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!
38. 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.
39. 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.
40. 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.
41. Try a Cold Coconut Water
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!
42. 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!
43. Hang Out in the Town Square
To experience a bit of local life, head to the town square and park. Here is where you’ll see locals hanging out and relaxing in the evenings. La Fortuna is one of our favorite town square’s to get an ice cream and people watch. It’s so picturesque with the church and volcano in the backdrop!
It has a lovely garden and all you see are families, kids and teenagers and locals catching up after work, playing with their kids and enjoying the fresh cool night air. If you get there around 5 PM, you can also see the pretty colors of the sky as sunset falls.
Other places we like to people watch is at Plaza de la Democracia in San Jose, the boulevard and park in Playas del Coco, topiary gardens in Zarcero, the park in front of the red church in Grecia and in front of Amy’s Restaurant in Monteverde.
44. 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 7% 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.
45. 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.
La Sabana in San Jose is their biggest stadium but they also have stadiums in Heredia, Puntarenas, Alajuela, Limon and Cartago.
46. 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.
47. 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. 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.
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’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. Likewise, you need to purchase tickets and make reservations. 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.
49. 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. Additionally, there is 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.
50. 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 above all, the most important thing to do in Costa Rica 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.
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