Costa Rica is a country located in Central America that is ranked as one of the most visited international destinations, and for good reason! Besides hiking to see incredible waterfalls, there are so many fun things to do in Costa Rica, from zip lining across dense jungle to surfing along the beach breaks. In this blog, we're sharing the 10 best things to do in Costa Rica.
Hazy mist, trailing foliage, and the mysterious call of rare birds-- welcome to the Monteverde cloud forest! Cloud forests take their name from the low-hanging clouds that hover around the upper canopy of the forest. This causes a slower rate of evaporation, and the extra moisture helps to promote a huge amount of biodiversity. There are over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, and 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles living within its bounds.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the country’s seven wonders, and is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. You can explore the forest by hiking suspension bridges or zip lining through the canopies. Look out for the rare Resplendent Quetzal while you do!
Located in northwestern Costa Rica, the Guanacaste Region is perhaps the most sought-after and popular in the country, due to its consistent surf and famed waves. Playa Tamarindo is a great spot in the region for both beginners and advanced surfers alike. You’ll find no shortage of outfitters to rent a board or take a lesson from.
Without a doubt, the most popular and well-recognized of Costa Rica’s volcanoes is Arenal. Arenal is an active andesitic stratovolcano in north-western Costa Rica, and one of the best things to do in Costa Rica is visit Arenal Volcano National Park. While you cannot hike up the volcano itself, we recommend hiking through the park with a bilingual naturalist guide in search of old lava flow and wildlife.
After your hike, head to some hot springs! Arenal is also home to several hot springs. There are plenty of resorts built around them, but for the most natural experience, head to Rio Chollin.
The northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is home to mass turtle nestings. Four different species of sea turtles come to Tortuguero annually for the arribada (sea turtle nesting). Visit when this occurs, during mid July to October, and you’ll see the Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Loggerhead sea turtles return home to lay eggs on the beach. Even more special is witnessing a hatching, which will happen in September and October! Your best chance of seeing turtles is actually at night, and you’ll need to book a guide for access.
Costa Rica has incredible waterfalls, and visiting them is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. The most famous waterfall - you’ve likely seen photos of it - is Rio Celeste. The Rio Celeste Waterfall is known for its stunning blue color, which is due to the minerals in the water. The local story is that it got its color when God dipped his brush in the Rio Celeste river as he was painting the sky.
Rio Celeste is located in Tenorio Volcano National Park, and it’s about a 3.7 mile hike with a set of stairs down to the waterfall. For more Costa Rica Waterfalls, see our blog The 5 Costa Rica Waterfalls You Need to Visit.
You’ll likely fly into San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital. If you have the time, it’s definitely worth exploring for a day or two! A city tour or food tour here is a fun way to get introduced to Costa Rica. The National Theatre is often considered a must-see when visiting San Jose, due to its architecture and performances, along with visiting the central market.
Costa Rica produces incredible chocolate and coffee, and one of the best things to do in Costa Rica is tour a local coffee or chocolate farm. Consider Eden Organic Farm in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Here you can take a chocolate or coffee tour, learn how each is made, and get to sample it as well!
There are over 200 volcanic formations in Costa Rica, and this immense geothermal energy fuels the country’s many hot springs and mud baths, which are known for having health benefits! The experience of mud bathing typically includes painting yourself with volcanic mud and letting it dry on the body, then rinsing off in a cool pool or hot spring. We recommend checking out the Rio Negro hot springs, which are thermal mineral pools that you can hike to. While they’re a part of Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin, you hike out to the natural pools, making it a more natural experience. Mud will be provided for you, which is taken right from the earth.
Costa Rica's dry season is from November to April. May signals the beginning of the rainy season, and it's then that the rivers rise and make for some incredible whitewater rafting. Costa Rica has 14 major river systems, which means there are many opportunities for white water rafting, and there are ideal spots for all skill levels.
The calmest river with Class I rapids is the Peñas Blancas River. The Balsa River, which has class II/III rapids, is also a great option for families. For adrenaline lovers, The Río Toro offers a series of about 45 continuous Class III/IV rapids. The best all around rafting experience, though, is the The Pacuare River; National Geographic ranked it in their list of the 10 best river trips in the world! You’ll experience Class III/IV rapids, with beautiful, calm sections by the lowland rainforest in between. In these calmer sections, it's not uncommon to spot several species of tropical birds, as well as monkeys, ocelots, and sometimes even Jaguars.
Thanks to the nutrient-rich coastal waters, diving and snorkeling in Costa Rica can be a magical experience. Costa Rica has a variety of snorkeling options for beginners and experts, the best of which is likely the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge or Caño Island Biological Reserve. If you’re a diver, head to the later, where you’ll get to experience el Bajo de Diablo, where huge rock pinnacles reach from the ocean floor to create an incredible underwater landscape of peaks and valleys.
That concludes our list of the 10 best things to do in Costa Rica! This amazing country is brimming with adventure. Be sure to check out our affordable trips to Costa Rica, where we’ll create a personalized itinerary for you based on what you want to see and do.
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