They say the best things come in small packages and Costa Rica is a great example, this small country in Central America will surprise you with how much it has to offer. Thanks to its diverse terrain you can go from sunbathing on a secluded beach to hiking in a cloud forest a few hours later.
There is so much to do that your biggest problems will be figuring out what the best things to do in Costa Rica are, and how to plan your vacation, so you get a chance to experience it all, that is where we come in.
We have compiled a list of all the best activities you should consider doing on your visit to Costa Rica, and we can help you plan it all!
Hiking in a Cloud Forest
Transport yourself to a magical land of mist while visiting Monteverde and Santa Elena cloud forest reserves.
Monteverde is perhaps the most recognized and popular of the two, with over 70,000 visitors a year, but, if you prefer a more intimate encounter with nature, then we suggest you visit the nearby Santa Elena reserve.
Both reserves have lots of hiking trails where it is easy to see the spectacular vegetation which includes wild orchids and bromeliads. If you are lucky, you might spot the elusive pumas or the endangered jaguar.
If you are a birdwatcher, then a hike through the San Gerardo Reserve is a must. More than 500 bird species live in the area including the majestic quetzal, the three-wattled bellbird, and the blue-throated toucanet.
The forests are at high altitude, and it rains year-round, make sure you pack a light jacket, rain gear, and hiking boots.
Experience the world from the vantage point of monkeys and birds while you zip through the forest canopy.
This adrenaline packed activity is stupendous for visitors of almost all ages and physical conditions, making it an excellent family adventure. The parks are known for adhering to high safety standards, and the lines are regularly checked and maintained, making this a very safe activity for the entire family.
In addition to the zip-lines, several parks offer hanging bridges where you can enjoy a hike through the jungle canopy or aerial trams for those who would prefer not to walk as much.
Costa Rica has become a top white-water rafting destination; thanks to its diverse terrain and heavy yearly rainfall
the country has several rivers suitable for this fantastic sport.
If you are fond of water sports and activities, then white water rafting should be at the top of your best things to do in Costa Rica list.
The beauty of rafting in this little tropical paradise lies in the diversity of the rivers and the class of rapids. Some rivers or stretches are cataloged as class II and III suitable to those who have little or no experience. There are also class IV rapids which should please the more experienced travelers.
The best time to go white water rafting is during the rainy season (May – November) when the rivers are full. You can still go rafting during the dry months but, there will be fewer options, and the rapids won’t be as exciting.
Visit Some Waterfalls
There is a strange allure to water cascading down a cliff; maybe it’s the dramatic scenery, the sound of rushing water, or the sheer power of this life-giving element, the truth is we are all mesmerized at the sight of a waterfall.
Costa Rica is blessed to have mountains and rivers flowing towards the Pacific and Caribbean coast as well as Lake Nicaragua, the rise and fall of the terrain make an excellent backdrop for some stunning waterfalls.
Many waterfalls are accessible to visitors via horseback ride, ATV tours, or a good old fashion hike. Make sure to take along your camera!
Costa Rica has more than 200 volcanoes, but only a handful of them are active, and they are all spectacular!
Let the healing power of the Costa Rican volcanoes cleanse away toxins and revitalize your mind, body, and soul.
While there are several volcanoes which are open to the public, the Arenal offers more tourist attractions than most others. You can go hike up the side of the volcano, take a horseback ride, or visit one of the volcanic spas in the area.
Imagine yourself relaxing in a natural hot spring water pool, getting a mud bath beauty treatment with all-natural volcanic mud, perfect for detoxifying and nurturing your skin, and getting a professional massage at the end of the day, all while surrounded by expertly maintained gardens.
Sounds like a dream, right? Well, your dreams can come true with our relaxing mineral hot springs full day pass!
Enjoy the Local Food
No list of best things to do in Costa Rica would be complete without experiencing some of the delicious local food.
If you are a foodie like me, then you are in for a treat. You must try the Casado an all in one platter which features, rice, black beans, a salad, meat of your choice (beef, chicken, fish, or pork), and fried plantains.
Of course, you can’t leave without trying a hand-made tortilla or two, but, what is surprising is that over the years Costa Rican chefs have re-imagined traditional ingredients and have created a trend of fusion cuisine that is unique to the country.
If you become an avid fan of typical Costa Rican dishes and would like to learn how to make them, you are in luck! We can arrange a cooking class with a real Costa Rican family so you can better understand their customs and way of life while you learn how to make your favorite dishes.
Visit an Animal Sanctuary
Costa Rica is well known for its biodiversity and conservation efforts, over the years the government has created protected wildlife areas, and national parks where hunting and poaching are prohibited.
Sadly, not all locals have the same respect for wildlife, because of this some species are now endangered, but thanks to private initiatives, there are now several animal sanctuaries which dedicate themselves to rescue injured animals, and when possible rehabilitate them, so they can be released back into their natural habitats when possible.
Some sanctuaries specialize in the rescue and rehabilitation of individual species, whether they be birds, big cats, or sloths. However, most of them are open to rescuing any wild animal in need. We recommend you visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens or volunteer at the Wildlife Rescue Center near Arenal during your visit.
Relax on The Beach
No list of best things to do in Costa Rica would be complete without mentioning its stunning beaches.
With almost 780 miles of Pacific coastline and 132 miles of Caribbean coastline, you won’t have any trouble finding the perfect beach to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Unlike other destinations, most of the Costa Rican shoreline is underdeveloped; this means you can still enjoy pristine beaches and abundant wildlife in most beaches you will visit.
Each beach is unique; there are some that have tranquil waters perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and even paddle boarding, others offer amazing waves ideal for surfing; likewise, some are surrounded by a few palm trees, while others lie next to tropical rainforests.
If you are looking for a beach town feel with lots of nightlife then Jaco, Tamarindo or Playas del Coco is where you want to be. If you wish to be closer to nature and enjoy a more relaxed vibe, then Puerto Viejo and Cahuita on the Caribbean coast are ideal. For those who want a nice compromise between nightlife and nature then I recommend Manuel Antonio.
To make the most out of your visit to Costa Rica and get a chance to explore as many beaches as possible, we recommend you rent a 4×4 as some beaches can only be accessed through dirt-roads
Explore the Costa Rican beaches, rainforests, volcanoes, and quaint little towns on an ATV!
Most popular destinations offer ATV tours, as is the case with Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, Tamarindo and Flamingo Beach.
This activity is suited for everybody, whether this will be your first time on an ATV or if you are a seasoned veteran of off-road adventures, you are guaranteed to have a great time!
Here’s a fun fact, did you know that local surfers are carving a name for themselves in international surfing competitions? And yes, they all learned to surf right here in Costa Rica.
If you haven’t considered Costa Rica as an ideal surfing destination you may want to reconsider, there are several spectacular surfing spots on both coasts.
And if you always wanted to learn how to surf you can take lessons from local expert surfers while on vacation in Costa Rica.
No matter if you are traveling with friends, your partner or your family, Costa Rica has plenty of options for you to enjoy your dream vacation.