With its spectacular landscapes, rich biodiversity, and tourism-friendly weather all year round, it’s not surprising that Costa Rica is one of the top destinations on many travelers’ must-visit lists.
It’s often ranked as one of the happiest countries worldwide, and visiting this country will surely reveal why it deserves the acclaim.
Whether you’re an adrenaline-seeking adventurer or one that prefers serene landscapes, this diverse list of the best things to do in Costa Rica is sure to have something for you or your family.
Best and Most Unique Things to Do in Costa Rica
Stroll Through San Jose
Before you dive straight into exploring the natural wonders of Costa Rica, don’t forget to explore the bustling city of San Jose.
Packed with culturally rich attractions, such as the Jade Museum, National Theatre, Metropolitan Church, and Museo de Arte Costarricense, this city can give you a glimpse of the vibrant Costa Rican culture in just a matter of hours.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: San José
Hike Arenal Volcano National Park
Standing at over 5,000 feet high, with its cone-shaped summit almost touching the clouds, it’ll be a shame not to explore Costa Rica’s iconic Arenal Volcano in its very own national park.
This breathtaking destination gives you access to a myriad of attractions like hot springs, horseback riding, and ziplining, thanks to its immense size of 30,000 acres.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal
Go Ziplining in the Cloud Forest
Visiting Costa Rica without ziplining is like missing out on half the fun of the country. And, if you’re looking for an exhilarating ziplining experience, the Monteverde Cloud Forest is the perfect place to go.
One trip on this wonder’s zip lines can give you a glimpse of Cloud Forest’s highly diverse ecosystem, which houses over 400 types of birds, about 1,200 amphibians, and more than 100 mammals.
If you’re lucky, you may even spot wildlife up close as you zoom through the canopy of this cloud-kissed forest. So, this activity definitely deserves a spot in the top 10 Costa Rica adventures you should try!
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde
Visit La Fortuna Waterfall
For a more relaxing escape, visit La Fortuna Waterfall, located just a short distance from the town of La Fortuna.
Not only is this natural wonder a feast for your eyes, but your weary muscles will also thank you if you decide to dip in the waterfall’s magnesium-rich waters.
You can reach La Fortuna Waterfall by hiking, but I highly recommend arriving on horseback for a unique and memorable experience.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: La Catarata de La Fortuna
Walk The Mistico Hanging Bridges
For an enchanting nature experience, take a stroll through the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, which are also located in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. The bridges of this park’s trail span about 2 miles and can give you a unique bird’s-eye encounter with rainforest wildlife and a panoramic view of the landscape.
See the Wildlife at Manuel Antonio National Park
The Manuel Antonio National Park only spans 7 miles but is packed with pristine white-sand beaches, wildlife-filled rainforests, and coastal hiking trails. It’s a haven for mountain and beach lovers alike and is a dream destination for those chasing romantic golden sunsets.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
Go Snorkelling in the Caribbean Sea
When visiting a tropical paradise, a visit to the beach is a must. Fortunately, Costa Rica lives up to this expectation, as a snorkeling excursion in its enchanting Caribbean Sea is sure to reveal unique coral formations and a vibrant array of marine creatures.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Mar Caribe
Go Surfing in Jaco
For those who prefer riding thrilling waves to calm sea explorations, Jaco, a popular beach town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, got a pleasant surprise. This laid-back town is embraced with sandy beaches and consistent waves, making it one of Latin America’s most popular surfing destinations.
Thanks to its long beach stretch with varying wave conditions, surfing pros and newbies alike can enjoy this surfing haven.
Swim in the Arenal Hot Springs
One of the best activities to do after an adventurous day in Costa Rica is to take a leisurely soak in the Arenal Hot Springs. Located near the Arenal Volcano itself, this oasis has a collection of geothermally heated pools of varying temperatures, allowing you to choose the perfect relaxing spot for unwinding.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Aguas termales del Volcán Arenal
Try the El Salto Rope Swing
Explore the jungle scenery of El Salto and experience its exhilarating Tarzan-style rope swing before plunging into the natural pool below. It’s an ideal spot for group travelers or solo adventurers who love high dives, lively atmospheres, and the thrill of the jungle.
Visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Just outside the cultural city of San Jose, you’ll find the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a place for an enchanting eco-excursion experience. With its five rushing waterfalls, lush rainforests, and exotic wildlife, walking through the paths of this waterfall sanctuary is like stepping into a natural wonderland.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Catarata de La Paz
Take a Canyoning Tour in La Fortuna
If you love a good workout and can embrace heights, consider taking a canyoning tour in La Fortuna. Guided by experienced instructors, you’ll descend the best waterfalls Costa Rica has to offer through a thrilling combination of rappelling, sliding, and jumping.
While this activity can certainly come off as intimidating, you’ll no doubt enjoy one of the most unique things to do in Costa Rica in the heart of the lush rainforest.
Take a Sloth Tour
Many lush rainforests in Costa Rica are welcoming homes for fascinating and adorable three-toed and two-toed sloths. So, if you want to witness these interestingly super slow creatures, take a sloth tour in renowned biodiverse Costa Rican locations such as Manuel Antonio National Park, Corcovado National Park, and La Fortuna.
Take a Coffee Tour
Coffee lovers won’t regret visiting Costa Rica as it’s home to some of the best coffee plantations in the world, including Hacienda Alsacia, Starbucks’ one and only company-operated coffee farm.
The good news is most coffee plantations you’ll find in the country offer their very own coffee tours that’ll allow you to see how your favorite beverage transforms from a bean to a steaming cup of coffee.
Go Beach Hopping
Costa Rica boasts around 300 spectacular beaches, making it one of the best countries to take your beach-hopping adventures seriously.
Consider following the coastlines of this beautiful country, and within a day, you can find a wide variety of beach landscapes, with some featuring different shades of sand and others showcasing surprising variations in water qualities.
Go Whale Watching
Marine life enthusiasts shouldn’t miss Costa Rica’s whale-watching tours in renowned locations like Drake Bay, Golfo Dulce, and Uvita.
The country boasts the longest humpback whale-watching season worldwide, so there’s a pretty high chance you’ll see whales during your Costa Rica visit, even if you don’t go during the peak months of August and September.
Walk the Suspension Bridges in Monteverde Cloud Forest
If you’re not too daring to try the ziplining adventures in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, why not opt for the less intense but equally thrilling experience of walking its suspension bridges instead?
Some of these bridges can span over two miles, so just imagine how breathtaking the panoramic view of the rainforest, hills, and valleys would be.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde
Visit Nicoya Peninsula
With its charming beach towns and cream-colored shores, the Nicoya Peninsula is another must-visit destination in Costa Rica. Depending on the specific beach town you stay in on this peninsula, you may encounter sea turtles, discover birding hot spots, or experience the best nightlife scenery in the country.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Península de Nicoya
Visit the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
The Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge stands as another Costa Rican gem teeming with abundant wildlife. Although this natural wonder is best known for being a bird watchers’ haven, it also hosts a diverse array of species, including crocodiles, lizards, and monkeys.
For an up-close yet undisruptive encounter with the natural beauty of this sanctuary, I recommend trying out the safari floats by raft offered in this refuge.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Caño Negro
Go Bird Watching
When in Costa Rica, don’t forget to immerse yourself in the birdwatching experience. With 800 bird species living in this country, you’ll easily spot feathered wonders at any nature reserve you visit, so you don’t need to go out of your way for this activity.
If you’re a hardcore birder, consider visiting the dedicated lodges specifically made for birding, such as Villa Lapas and Trogon Lodge.
Visit Tenorio Volcano National Park
Experience the magic of Tenorio Volcano National Park, where you’ll find the surreal Rio Celeste waterfall with its milky blue-colored water. The mesmerizing color is caused by the convergence of two rivers right before the waterfall, and for many, it stands as a breathtaking reward after finishing the challenging hikes of the park.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio
Check Out the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum in San Jose
If you’re planning to tour around the busy streets of San Jose, make sure to drop by the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum located beneath the Plaza de la Cultura. It houses a very diverse collection of gold artifacts, including classic jewelry and more culturally significant ceremonial objects.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Museo de Oro Precolombino
Take a Chocolate Farm Tour
While you must be quite familiar with the joy of indulging in chocolates, you may not be too acquainted with how these sweet delights come to life.
Well, Costa Rica’s chocolate farm tours are about to change that as they’ll walk you through the exact process of how cacao beans transform into delectable treats. These tours are some of the best things to do in Costa Rica with kids, but honestly, even adults can enjoy them to the full extent.
Delight your mind, nose, and taste buds all at once!
Go White Water Rafting
For a water-soaked, thrilling adventure, plunge into the heart of Costa Rica’s rivers with white water rafting. With numerous rivers offering varying levels of rapids, you can tailor the experience to your preference—whether you’re into gentle floats or crave the adrenaline rush of exhilarating rapids.
Rafting opportunities abound across the country, so whether you find yourself in the vibrant La Fortuna or the bustling San Jose, this adventure is always within a day’s reach.
Go Paddle Boarding at Sámara Beach
Famous for its long stretch of white sand and very calm waves, Sámara Beach is one of the top Costa Rican spots for a relaxing paddleboarding session. This activity lets you enjoy gliding through beaches without the challenge of paddling against waves, making it a go-to for many families and laid-back tourist groups.
Tourist spot’s Spanish name: Playa Sámara
Costa Rica Safety
Although Costa Rica is a relatively safe destination for travelers, most governments warn their citizens to exercise precaution when visiting this country due to its high rate of petty crimes, which include purse snatching and pickpocketing.
Thieves in Costa Rica often work in groups, making it easy to fall into their coordinated distractions to divert attention away from your belongings.
Moreover, there have also been reports of incidents resulting from adulterated alcoholic drinks in Costa Rica, so it’s best to stay away from beverages that you’re not too familiar with.
As much as possible, surround yourself with trusted individuals, groups, or authorities when visiting Costa Rica. If you’re traveling alone, avoid secluded areas at night, refrain from leaving yourself in vulnerable states in public, and remain vigilant.
Costa Rica: Expensive Or Cheap?
Costa Rica is currently one of the most expensive tourist destinations in Central America due to its highly-developed tourist attractions and rapidly booming economy. However, with enough preparation, it’s possible to enjoy this country on a budget, especially if you’re traveling in a group to share costs.
This Is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
The best time to visit Costa Rica is during its dry season, which spans from December to April. During these months, you’ll enjoy plenty of sunshine and avoid rainstorms, allowing you to truly appreciate the beauty of the country.
While there are countless mesmerizing spots in Costa Rica, my personal favorite wonder is the Rio Celeste waterfall. The vibrant color of its water looks like it jumped right out of a fairytale.
The 3 things that Costa Rica is known for are its pristine beaches, captivating natural wonders, and adventure-packed activities. If you’re planning to visit the country, make sure to appreciate these three highlights that define the essence of Costa Rica.
Monteverde is often regarded as one of the safest places to visit in Costa Rica. As it’s a highly popular tourist destination, it’s often protected by an active police force and bustling with tourists, which will make you feel less vulnerable.