Outdoor adventure is one of the main reasons why people visit Costa Rica. With an abundance of natural attractions, it’s easy to prepare an action packed itinerary. Not to mention that Costa Rica is a fairly small country so you can be soaring over the cloud forest one day and scuba diving with sharks the next.
Here are the top ten best adventure activities in Costa Rica. They all offer an unforgettable experience and leaves you wanting more and more! First, below is a map of some of our favorite activities and tour companies for these adventure tours. Second, you can keep reading to get more information. Third, we also have discounts with tour companies in Costa Rica so you can save on these awesome adventure activities! Click to get your Costa Rica tour discount.
*This post has been updated April 7, 2020.*
Ziplining is the top must-do activity in Costa Rica because it’s known as the birthplace of the first zipline. You can find canopy tours all throughout the country but the best ones are in Monteverde and La Fortuna. There is no feeling quite like soaring over the treetops with a bird’s eye view of the rainforest!
On some ziplines you can go in pairs, superman, upside down and other fun tricks. We’ve even ziplined in the dark! Every canopy tour is different and it’s always a day to remember. If you’re not quite sure about strapping yourself to a cable and zipping through the trees, read why every visitor has to go ziplining in Costa Rica first.
Some of the most extreme ziplines in Costa Rica are Diamante Eco Adventure Park (get 10% off the zipline) in Guanacaste, 100% Aventura, Selvatura Park and Sky Adventures in Monteverde and Sky Trek in Arenal.
Canyoning (Rappel down waterfalls)
This is an activity that requires a bit of courage. The most popular place to do it is La Fortuna where you jump down waterfalls up to 200 feet tall in the middle of the unspoiled Costa Rican forest!
It’s more exciting than ziplining in the sense that it requires a bit of strength and the guides like to enthusiastically swing you under the waterfalls.
One of my friends said that canyoning “changed her life” and after doing it, I understand what she meant. The best thing about the adventure activities in Costa Rica is that they break down barriers and make you feel free, almost invincible!
Some other places that offer canyoning tours are Monteverde, Jaco and Turrialba. However, La Fortuna is the most popular as it has the tallest waterfalls!
Read about our experience canyoning in Arenal.
White Water Rafting
If you love outdoor adventure, then you must go white water rafting. White water rafting is an excellent way to experience the beauty of Costa Rica as you paddle down roaring rivers surrounded by luscious flora and fauna.
There are many rivers for rafting Class I to Class V rapids so depending on how much you want to paddle that day, you can opt for a leisurely or action packed rafting day. Prepare to twist, turn and get wet but most of all, have one of the most exciting days of your trip!
Some popular rivers are Pacuare, considered one of the best for white water rafting in the world with Class 3 and 4 rapids, Balsa, Sarapiqui and Savegre. You can contact us if you’d like to do the Sarapiqui rafting or check out our review of Hacienda Poza Azul for a unique experience in Sarapiqui.
We have a partnership with Rios Tropicales to give $10 USD discounts to our readers! They also offer overnight tours where you stay on their lodge on the river.
For those visiting the coast, boating is a must do. There are many fabulous spots on the Pacific and Caribbean side to beach hop, snorkel or just sit back for the ride. You can also see marine wildlife such as humpback whales, dolphins and fish.
It’s one of the things we always do with friends and family. We always have a fun day boating and visiting the many hidden beaches in Guanacaste.
If you are visiting the Gulf of Papagayo, we highly recommend a private boat tour for the best experience. Our friend operates boat tours in Playas del Coco for snorkeling, beach hopping, fishing and surfing.
There are hundreds of waterfalls in Costa Rica and visiting one is always a highlight of any trip.
One of the best waterfalls to do so is the Nauyaca waterfalls in the South Pacific. It’s a 4 km hike through the jungle but so worth it! Catarata Llanos de Cortes is another one of our favorites in Guanacaste.
Most of the waterfalls you can visit on your own if you rented a car. If not, you can take a waterfall tour. This is only in the Jaco, Manuel Antonio and Uvita area with tour companies like Paddle 9, Jaco waterfall tours or Rancho Di’Andrew. These tours are awesome since they take you to waterfalls you normally can’t visit on your own since they’re either on private property or require a 4×4. We did one in Jaco with Costa Rica Waterfall Tours which was super fun!
Find out what our favorite waterfalls in Costa Rica are!
World class surfing can be found all over in Costa Rica. Warm waters, friendly locals and empty beaches make it a more enjoyable environment for beginners. People from all over the world come to Costa Rica with one goal in mind: to catch as many waves as possible.
Some of the best beaches are Jaco, Hermosa, Tamarindo, Guiones, Avellanas, Santa Teresa, Pavones and Grande. If you want to take a lesson, definitely take a lesson in Jaco, Tamarindo, Samara, Grande, Avellanas or Cocles.
In general, hiking in Costa Rica is fairly laid back. Most hikes in Costa Rica take you to waterfalls, up to a viewpoint or through the forest.
Some of the best hikes in Costa Rica are Arenal Volcano National Park, Nauyaca Waterfalls hike, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserves, Manuel Antonio National Park, Children’s Eternal Rainforest, Rio Celeste, and Rincon de la Vieja National Park. All AMAZING hikes that lead you to waterfalls and rainforest with lots of wildlife spotting opportunities.
If you’re looking for more intense hikes, Chirripo, Barva and Corcovado National Park are three excellent options.
You can read about other great hikes in Costa Rica.
Snorkeling or Scuba Diving
No visit to the beaches of Costa Rica is complete without snorkeling! You’ll see lots of colorful tropical fish and coral reef. If you’re lucky, you can see turtles and manta rays.
Although snorkeling in Costa Rica isn’t world class, you still have the opportunity to see lots of little fish. The best spots for snorkeling in Costa Rica are Caño Island, Gulf of Papagayo and Cahuita National Park.
But if you have your scuba diving certification, Costa Rica has excellent diving and you can swim with hammerhead sharks, turtles and big manta rays. Great spots for scuba diving are Cocos Island, Caño Island, Bat Islands and Las Catalinas.
The wildlife in Costa Rica is incredibly abundant as the country carries 5% of the biodiversity in the world. Many people want to see some animals and they never leave disappointed. It’s common to hear monkeys howling, see macaws fly by and spot an iguana crossing the road.
To see wildlife, it is best to take a guided tour or any tour that is designed specifically to see wildlife. Some tours are the Damas Island Mangrove boat and kayak in Manuel Antonio, Palo Verde National Park boat ride in Guanacaste, Peñas Blancas or Pure nature safari float in La Fortuna, Corcobici Safari float in Guanacaste and guided walk of Manuel Antonio National Park and Cahuita National Park.
Other Costa Rica Adventures
Some other popular adventure activities in Costa Rica are ATV, SUP, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking and fishing.
Tips for Enjoying Adventure Activities in Costa Rica
- Bring the appropriate clothing, especially in rainy season. Check out our rainy season packing list for more tips.
- You can wear hiking sandals (open or closed toe) for activities like ziplining and white water rafting. Read more about best shoes for Costa Rica here.
- If you’re visiting in rainy season, you can still do all these adventures but if it is raining very hard or lightning/thundering, tour companies may not operate the tours. Make sure to check with the company.
- Some activities have an age or height/weight limit. Make sure to check if you’re coming with kids.