Best Things To Do In Costa Rica: The 2023 Ultimate Guide

Over 2 million people visit Costa Rica on a yearly basis, most travelling here in search of adventureswildlife and natural beauty in this part of Central America. 

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There are plenty of things to see in Costa Rica, like great beaches, lush rainforests and unique wildlife. For a relatively small country, there is a vast variety of fun things to do in Costa Rica, making it extremely difficult for most people to choose where to go and which places and activities to add to their itinerary.

Having spent many years exploring this beautiful country, we have had the pleasure of seeing most of the corners of Costa Rica. But we know that most of you are limited to only a few weeks for your Costa Rica vacation. 

To help you make the most of your time, we compiled a list of the top things to do in Costa Rica! 

Best Time To Visit Costa Rica

Generally speaking, most activities and regions in Costa Rica are accessible all year round because of its tropical climate, but the country does have 2 distinct seasons: rainy season and dry season. 

The green season (or the rainy season) lasts from May to November, but it’s really just the months of September/October that see the most rain and have the biggest impact on activities in Costa Rica. Some hotels, restaurants and tour operators actually shut down for the months of September – November, so be mindful of these dates when planning your trip. If you don’t mind taking a gamble on the weather, the green season offers great prices and sparse crowds.

The dry season is from December to April. The dry season definitely sees the most tourists because the weather is at its peak, but that also means more crowds and higher prices. There is no shortage of Costa Rica tours and Costa Rica attractions to keep you busy if you plan your visit during this time of the year.

READ MORE: Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

Book The Best Car Rental In Costa Rica

Renting a car in Costa Rica can be one of the most challenging parts of your visit! Unfortunately, car rentals in Costa Rica often come with significant hidden insurance fees, resulting in many frustrations at pick-up. The experience has ruined many trips and ballooned trip budgets for friends, family and followers. After years of not having a good solution, we finally found an honest car rental company that we proudly recommend to our readers.

We recommend booking with Vamos Costa Rica – a local car rental company that offers fantastic service and NO HIDDEN FEES and get 10% of your rental rate plus FREE additional driver, FREE child seat and other perks and benefits when booking through our link below!

Book early as rental car availability all across Costa Rica is currently lower than demand!

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Best Places To Go In Costa Rica

What is there to do in Costa Rica? The options are endless!

Costa Rica offers a plethora of destinations and activities for any traveler. After spending many years exploring and experiencing many of its top tourist attractions, we’ve put together this list with our top recommendations that cover what you must do in Costa Rica, as well as the must-see places in Costa Rica. 

The list covers some popular destinations in Costa Rica, some hidden gems, and our favourite tourist activities to help you decide on what to do in Costa Rica.

Manuel Antonio National Park

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Wildlife. Popular with Families and Nature Lovers

Located on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s best places to visit. At Manuel Antonio National Park, the white sand beaches, which have some of the warmest waters in all of Costa Rica, are surrounded by lush rainforests, making it the ultimate picture of paradise. If you’re not much of a beach bum, then this park is an excellent destination for wildlife tours and hiking, and there are some nearby cultural attractions and waterfalls to explore.

Manuel Antonio is also a launch point to some of the lesser-known best places to go to in Costa Rica. Taking a day trip to Dominical or Quepos is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica and offers unique insight into the culture.

Top Things to Do in Manuel Antonio 

  • Visit Manuel Antonio National Park. Seeing wildlife is a must when visiting Costa Rica, and Manuel Antonio is the place to do it. The park is home to monkeys, sloths, and a number of birds.
  • Enjoy the white sand beaches at Manuel Antonio Beach or Espadilla Sur
  • Go on a unique Jungle Night Tour to see rainforest creatures come to life after dark. Bring a jacket and some bug spray and join the expert guide for a tour of the plants and wildlife of Rainmaker Conservation Park. The tour takes less than three hours, and you’ll learn a ton about the local birds, lizards, snakes, and amphibians.
  • Spend the night in an Airplane Hotel, or Hotel Costa Verde.

Day Trip to Nauyaca Waterfalls

Travel inland from Playa Dominical and you’ll come across two of the most impressive waterfalls in Costa Rica. Surrounded by a lush tropical rainforest that’s populated by monkeys and macaws, the upper falls cascade into an un-swimmable pool, while the lower falls have a delightful pool that’s perfect for a dip. 

There are three ways to get to the falls. The first is to hike all the way down–make sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife spotting along the way. You’ll likely break a sweat on this route, but jumping into the cool waters will make it all worth it. Another way is arriving on horseback, but make a note to book this early as it can get very busy. Last but certainly not the least, you can also hitch a ride in the back of a pick-up truck just like we did! Arrive early to beat the crowds and have the waterfalls all to yourselves, just like nature intended.

Best Costa Rica waterfalls
Nauyaca Waterfall Costa Rica
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Best Costa Rica Hiking Trails
Manuel Antonio National Park
hotel costa verde costa rica: Costa Verde Hotel
Hotel Costa Verde, aka the Airplane Hotel in Costa Rica

READ NEXT: The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Manuel Antonio, CR

Osa Peninsula

When to Visit: During Dry Season (Nov-April)
Best for: Wildlife. Popular with wildlife enthusiasts and off-the-beaten-path travelers.

Osa Peninsula is considered one of Costa Rica’s most remote destinations and one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. This wild region is home to a wide variety of exotic wildlife, lush rainforests, and the largest stretch of mangroves in the country.

Corcovado National Park, located on the Osa Peninsula, is one of the world’s top eco-tourism destinations and one of the most biodiverse spots in the world!

Getting there is an adventure in itself. The areas surrounding Drake Bay and Puerto Jimenez are wild and far less touristy than other destinations in Costa Rica. While the journey to get there is long, it’s worth adding to your Costa Rica to-do list!

Top Things to do on the Osa Peninsula 

  • Visit Corcovado National Park to see wildlife with the help of a local guide; it’s one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. Conserving the largest primary forest on the American Pacific coastline, Corcovado National Park offers a ton to see and appreciate. From monkeys and sloths to jaguars and ocelots, you’re sure to see and hear things that you would never get a chance to experience in your day-to-day life. You can take a day trip or spend the night in the park. Either option is one of the best activities in Costa Rica and well worth the trip!
  • Kayak in the mangroves near Puerto Jimenez. Costa Rica’s mangrove swamps of Golfo Dulce are incredibly diverse and surrounded by exotic birds. Depending on when you’re visiting, you may also get the chance to see dolphins, sea turtles, or whales out in the open ocean, where the kayaking tour usually ends. Plus, if you are visiting in the right season, there is a chance for a bioluminescence encounter. Regardless of what’s keeping you company in the water, it’s one of the highlights of Costa Rica. 
  • Learn about Costa Rica’s gold mining history on a unique tour.
Guide to Ecotourism in Costa Rica
The entrance of Corcovado National Park, Osa Peninsula

READ NEXT: 5 Reasons to Visit Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Poas Volcano National Park

When to Visit: Dry Season
Best for: Unique Volcano views close to San Jose. Popular with San Jose day trippers.

If you are looking for unique things to do in Costa Rica, then how about visiting an active volcano? Peer into its crater and admire the blue/green coloured lagoon of Poas Volcano. It’s definitely one of Costa Rica’s famous landmarks, but due to unpredictable weather and frequent activity, it’s not always accessible. 

Plan to go on a clear day when visiting this Costa Rica must-see destination. In the rainy season, the cloud cover takes away from the vibrancy of the lagoon.

You’ll also not want to miss the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. The area is home to The Largest Animal Sanctuary in Costa Rica and spectacular waterfalls. It’s a great way to end your day after exploring the volcano.

Top Things to do at Poas Volcano National Park 

  • Go for a hike. You’ll find a number of geysers and crater lakes around Poas Volcano National Park.
  • Join a Poás Volcano Tour to visit the park and La Paz Waterfall. Despite the name, there’s more to the tour than just the volcano; it’s a full-day event, and it’s one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. You’ll start at the Doka Estate coffee plantation, where you’ll learn about what goes into harvesting, roasting, and preparing Costa Rican coffee. After that, you’ll head into the national park to see the volcano, hike to Botos Lagoon, and head to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Eat a bite of lunch, explore the rainforest, and appreciate the beauty of the region.
The Complete Guide to Costa Rica National Parks Poas Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
Poas Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

READ NEXT: The Complete Guide to Costa Rica National Parks

Arenal

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Adventure activities, hot springs and views. Popular with couples and thrill seekers. 

A trip to the Arenal Volcano National Park and the surrounding natural hot springs is one of the top things to do in Costa Rica. Although the volcano has been dormant over the last 10 years, we’ve seen it in its active glory, spewing up rocks and lava and lighting up the sky at night. But don’t worry; the sight of this cone-shaped volcano is still breathtaking today! 

Arenal Volcano National Park offers plenty, including long and short hiking trails through forest and lava fields. A perfect way to end the day is to soak in one of the many hot springs in town. Tabacon Hot Springs is the most popular and luxurious option, but there are plenty of others to suit every budget. The gateway to Arenal is the sleepy town of La Fortuna

Top Things to Do in Arenal 

  • See the highlights of the area on an Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, and Hot Springs Tour. You’ll follow the hiking trails with a guide to see the best sights, including the lava fields from the eruption in 1968. Enjoy a traditional lunch and a hot spring resort. Transportation is included, so this tour is ideal if you don’t have your own vehicle. 
  • Visit Arenal Volcano National Park to hike the trails and see the volcano up close.
  • Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall. Located at the base of Cerro Chato Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall is over 70 meters tall. There is an entry fee, but the ability to jump into the water after a long hike is well worth the cost of admission. 
  • Soak in the geothermal baths at Tabacon Hot Springs

Join a Rainforest Chocolate Tour to learn all about Costa Rican chocolate and get hands-on experience. The tour takes two hours and is suitable for the whole family.

Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Lake Arenal
Lake Arenal

READ NEXT: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Arenal Costa Rica

Rio Celeste & Tenorio National Park

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Hiking & Instaworthy Photos. 

Located inside Tenorio Volcano National Park, Rio Celeste is a beautiful turquoise-blue river with a picturesque waterfall amid the lush rainforest. It is one of the best things to do in Northern Costa Rica and a rather off-the-beaten-track destination that often won’t make it onto most tourist maps. 

However, thanks to the power of Instagram, Rio Celeste is becoming more and more popular, with everyone wanting to snap that Insta-worthy shot of the turquoise waterfall.

It’s a bit of a trek to get to, but we enjoy hiking in Tenorio Volcano National Park. There are a few other excellent viewpoints in the park that provide a great overall experience for those looking to connect with nature. Rio Celeste is definitely at the top of the list of must-sees in Costa Rica.

Top Things to do in Rio Celeste 

  • Hike your way through Tenorio Volcano National Park and visit Rio Celeste Waterfall
  • Visit Rio Celeste on a Full-Day Tour from La Fortuna. This 8-hour tour includes a 4-hour hike to the Rio Celeste, with pick up and drop off from La Fortuna, a guide to help you appreciate the wildlife and lunch to fuel you after your exercise. 
Best Costa Rica Waterfalls
Tenorio Waterfalls at Rio Celeste
Oksana and Max at Tenorio
Oksana and Max at Tenorio

READ NEXT: Guide to Visiting Rio Celeste in Costa Rica

Monteverde

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Adventure Activities and Wildlife

The Monteverde Cloud Forest is consistently ranked amongst the top places to see in Costa Rica; it’s one of the country’s natural wonders. This unique ecosystem is entirely different from other National Parks in Costa Rica and warrants a visit to fully appreciate. Admire flora and fauna and experience the thrills of the zip lines or hanging bridges in Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest. There is an impressive amount of wildlife to be spotted in Monteverde. It’s a destination particularly popular with birdwatchers. The cloud forest is among the Costa Rica things to see that you can’t miss. 

Monteverde is loaded with activities to do in Costa Rica, from bird watching to canyoning to exploring the forest from the hanging bridges, with some coffee farming in between. Plus, the Cloud Forest is one of the country’s seven natural wonders. For us, this area is one of the best things to see in Costa Rica.

Top Things to do in Monteverde 

  • Walk the hanging bridges in The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to see the trees from above the forest canopy. 
  • Go ziplining—Monteverde’s zip line is one of the top adventures in Costa Rica!
  • Explore the local town of Santa Elena to find good food, shops and local entertainment.
Armadillo in Monteverde
Armadillo in Monteverde
Monteverde, Costa Rica Ziplining
Monteverde, Costa Rica Ziplining
Enjoying being in nature at the recently reopened Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Enjoying being in nature at the recently reopened Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

READ NEXT:  Guide to Visiting Monteverde Costa Rica

Santa Teresa

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Surfing & Laidback living

For a classic beach town experience with some great surf, Santa Teresa is one of Costa Rica places to visit! Tucked away on the western edge of the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa has gained popularity for being one of Costa Rica’s best surf spots. It’s particularly popular with experienced surfers looking for larger, faster waves. For them, riding the variety of beach breaks in Santa Teresa is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica!

But Santa Teresa isn’t just a destination for surfers. The town has many beautiful luxury accommodation options and other activities to keep everyone entertained. The area is nestled between stunning waterfalls, beautiful beaches, and thriving nature reserves. There are some great restaurants in town and a number of beautiful eco-hotels in the area. 

Top Things to do in Santa Teresa 

  • Go surfing at Playa Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen, or in Mal Pais.
  • Visit a wildlife reserve to see monkeys, coatis, scarlet macaws, and hundreds of other Costa Rican species of tropical and migratory birds.
  • Enjoy the beach!
Costa Rica Santa Teresa coast 0094
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

READ NEXT: Things to do in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Nosara

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Yoga, Surfing and Laid Back Beach Living

Playa Nosara is one of the most popular beach towns in the Guanacaste region, stretching from Playa Ostional to the Boca Nosara (also known as the Nosara river mouth). If you are wondering where to visit in Costa Rica for some quiet time, Nosara is a great choice. There is also some great fishing, surfing, or local wildlife sanctuaries to visit in the area.

Nosara is a wellness hotspot, filled with yoga retreats, healthy restaurants, and sustainable shopping options. The lifestyle here is laid-back, with plenty of go-to fun activities in Costa Rica.

Top Things to do in Nosara, Costa Rica

  • Enjoy the pristine beaches. We’d recommend Punta Pelada over Playa Guiones, especially for swimming.
  • Take a surf lesson to enjoy Nosara’s waves—they’re one of Costa Rica’s highlights.
Things to do in Costa Rica. Nosara
Peaceful fishing on Playa Pelada. Nosara. Costa Rica
Max at Nosara beach, Costa Rica
Max at Nosara beach, Costa Rica

READ NEXT: Guide to Visiting Nosara, Costa Rica

Playa Avellanas

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Surf and Beach Lovers. Popular with off-the-beaten-path travelers. 

For a more authentic atmosphere, we recommend getting off the beaten path and paying a visit to the smaller beach town of Playa Avellanas. It’s one of our favourite beach spots, known for ‘Little Hawaii”, one of the best surfing spots in the country. It’s got a great beach, incredible surf, lots of nearby activities with all the beauty of the Guanacaste region and less of the crowds.

For us, Playa Avellanas is the best vacation spot in Costa Rica since it’s just as beautiful but way quieter than Tamarindo. It’s got a handful of great restaurants and lots of opportunities to stay active and enjoy the outdoors. 

Top Things to do in Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica

  • Relax on the beach or hit the water on a paddleboard
  • Explore the estuaries by kayak
  • Take a surf lesson – Avellanas is one of Costa Rica’s best beginner surf spots
One of the best beaches in Guanacaste is Playa Avellanas
One of the best beaches in Guanacaste is Playa Avellanas
Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica
Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica
Things to do in Playa Avellanas SUP, surf camp in costa rica
Ready for SUP!

READ NEXT: Things to do in Playa Avellanas Costa Rica

Tamarindo

When to Visit: Green Season (Dry Season is very busy)
Best for: Night life, activities. Popular with young travelers, backpackers and first-time visitors. 

With its great waves, Playa Tamarindo (or Tamarindo Beach) is the perfect spot for surfing, whether you’re just learning or a pro on the board. The town also boasts excellent nightlife with a lively party atmosphere and a plethora of restaurants, activities, and day trips. It’s a great destination to base yourself in to explore the region of Guanacaste.

Once a quiet fishing village, Tamarindo is now a town bursting at its seams. There are tons of cafes, shops, and hotels in town and in the dry season – tons of people. That said, there are still pockets of nature in town, a beautiful beach, and plenty of opportunities for surfing, fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Tamarindo is definitely one of the top places to visit in Costa Rica, especially for first-timers!

Top Things to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

  • Visit the beaches for sunbathing, surfing, fishing, and paddleboarding.
  • Go on a Sunset Sail and Snorkeling Tour. The boat has an open bar and offers a light meal, while you sail along the shores of Tamarindo. You can go snorkeling, go for a swim, or simply appreciate the beauty of the area. If you’re lucky, you might even have an up-close encounter with the local dolphins or turtles.
  • Go zip-lining through a forest canopy. This half-day tour offers an opportunity to hike and zip-line in the forest through different levels of the canopy. If you get lucky, you might even see (or more likely hear) some howler monkeys while you make your way across the walking bridge. 
  • Go on a Boat Safari at Las Baulas National Park. This half day tour sails through the mangrove swamps and bays of Las Baulas National Park, offering an opportunity to see crocodiles, sea birds, monkeys, dolphins, and other wildlife.
Langosta Beach, Tamarindo
Langosta Beach, Tamarindo
Some of the best beaches in Guanacaste includeTamarindo Costa Rica
Sunset in Tamarindo
What to do in Playa Avellanas: Budget your activities accordingly
What to do in Playa Avellanas: Budget your activities accordingly
costa rica backpacking
Tamarindo, Costa Rica

READ NEXT: Things to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Tortuguero National Park

When to Visit: Year Round (Turtle nesting season from July to October)
Best for: Wildlife

Located on the Caribbean Coast, Tortuguero National Park is a remote tourist destination that’s actually easy to visit. It takes 5 hours to get to Tortuguero from San Jose, but the journey is worth the trek! Visitors flock here to see the green and leatherback sea turtles nesting on the beach, as well as a plethora of other wildlife that can be spotted during boat cruises and kayaking experiences.

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Costa Rica, seeing the nesting sea turtles is up there. Turtle nesting season spans from July to October, but August is considered the best time to visit for turtle tours. Tortuguero offers a glimpse into the wild Amazon-like setting of Caribbean Costa Rica and is a destination worth visiting even if your timing doesn’t align with turtle nesting season. 

Top Things to do at Tortuguero National Park 

  • Observe the sea turtle nesting from July to October
  • Walk up to Tortuguero Hill for panoramic views of the park
  • Go on a boat cruise or kayak through the river estuaries to look for monkeys, caymans, and a plethora of birds
Oksana and Max at Tortuguero National Park.
Oksana and Max at Tortuguero National Park.
Wildlife at Tortuguero National Park.
Wildlife at Tortuguero National Park.
Wildlife at Tortuguero National Park.
Wildlife at Tortuguero National Park.
Tortuguero National Park Beach
Tortuguero National Park Beach

READ NEXT: Guide to Visiting Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo & The Caribbean Coast

When to Visit: Year Round (Sunny during the Green Season)
Best for: Vibrant Culture and Unspoiled Nature

Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast is the least explored area in the country. It tends to be a bit cheaper and less crowded than some other Costa Rica tourist attractions. Check out the relaxed beach town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca with its laid-back attitude, where you can take your fill of coconut rice and Reggaeton beats. Soaking up the culture is one of the best free things to do in Costa Rica!

Puerto Viejo shows a different side of Costa Rican culture that’s unique to other places in Central America, whether you’re more interested in shopping or visiting a jaguar rescue center. Spending a day exploring the town is a fun way to see artisan shops and check out yoga studios

Top Things to do in Puerto Viejo 

  • Visit the secluded beaches like Playa Negra and Punta Uva. 
  • Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center to see majestic animals you likely won’t see anywhere else.
  • Spend a few days in town enjoying good food, and Pura Vida vibes

READ NEXT: Sustainable Guide to Visiting Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

San José

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: History Buffs and Culture Lovers 

Unlike other Costa Rica destinations, San Jose isn’t an area filled with gorgeous beaches and cloud forests. In fact, many of the nicest places to visit in San Jose, Costa Rica, are actually indoors. Stroll through the city to see churches, theatres, and museums like the Jade Museum.

We suggest visiting on a Saturday to attend La Feria Verde. It’s a market filled with sustainable crafts, produce, and snacks. There are also lots of great restaurants in town, especially in the Escazu neighbourhood. You can also opt to go for a city tour, a beer tour, or a food tour.

Best Things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica

  • Stroll through the Mercado Centrale (Central Market) for local art and food. 
  • Visit The National Theater on a guided tour. 
  • Experience the nighttime vibe of Costa Rica’s capital on a small group Food and Culture Night Tour. Join a local guide on a food-themed walking tour, starting at Morazán Park. You’ll make your way through San Jose, experience its nightlife and learn about Costa Rica’s history and architecture. The night will end with a meal and a drink at a local restaurant.
San Jose, Costa Rica
San Jose, Costa Rica

READ NEXT: Things To Do In San José, Costa Rica

North Guanacaste & Papagayo Peninsula

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Families and Divers. Popular for its all-inclusive resorts.

Known as one of the best places to vacation in Costa Rica, Northern Guanacaste is spoiled with beautiful beaches. From Playa Flamingo to Playa Del Coco, the area boasts peaceful shores and mellow waters. 

Catalina Islands on the Papagayo Peninsula are also one of the best places to go scuba diving in Costa Rica. You’ll see colourful fish, and unique rock formations, and have a chance to spot sharks, manta rays and stingrays. Northern Guanacaste is all about enjoying some of the best things in Costa Rica: sand and surf.

Top Things to do in Guanacaste

  • Explore beautiful beaches like Playa Flamingo, Playa Conchal, and Playa Del Coco.
  • Go scuba diving in the Catalinas Islands. Local operators, like Deep Blue Diving, offer morning and afternoon 2-dive packages. When we visited, visibility wasn’t great, but we still managed to see and photograph some amazing sights.
What you Need to Know about Visiting Playa Conchal, Costa Rica
Playa Conchal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

READ NEXT: The REAL Cost of Living in Costa Rica

Jaco

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Solo Travelers

If you’re looking for Costa Rica fun, Jaco is bursting with it. Tourists in Costa Rica flock to Jaco for vibrant nightlife, bustling restaurants, and the party atmosphere. That said, it’s got a seedy vibe to it that isn’t exactly our cup of tea. 

It’s still one of the most popular Costa Rica tourist places for solo travelers, backpackers and, surprisingly, retirees. Beyond the nightlife, Jaco offers great surfing, access to waterfalls, and beautiful Carara National Park.

Top Things to Do in Jaco, Costa Rica

  • Sign up for surf lessons to learn the ropes of one of the top Costa Rica activities to do.
  • Join a zip line and adventure ATV tour through the rainforest. It takes just a couple of hours to zip line through a course made up of 10 cables and 14 platforms and to visit a waterfall.
Jaco Beach, Guanacaste
Jaco Beach, Guanacaste

READ NEXT: Things To Do In Jaco, Costa Rica

Uvita

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Beaches and Marine Life

Uvita is a hidden gem south of Dominical on the Costa Ballena coastline. Costa Ballena means “Whale Coast”, referring to the whale tail-shaped beach that only appears at low tide. It’s also where humpback whales migrate, which is a special sight to see during the dry season.

Uvita itself is a quiet town surrounded by postcard-worthy beaches and pristine rainforests. Marina Ballena National Park is a highlight of the area with mangrove forests, coral reefs, and a wild coastline. It’s great for relaxing and, of course, wildlife viewing.

Top Things to do in Uvita, Costa Rica

  • Visit Playa Uvita’s whale’s tail for one of the lesser-known Costa Rica tourism attractions
  • Join a whale-watching tour
  • Check out Uvita Waterfall 
Uvita Waterfall, Costa Ballena. Costa Rica
Uvita Waterfall, Costa Ballena
Playa Uvita, Costa Rica
Whale’s Tail at Playa Uvita, Costa Rica
Max & Oksana in Infinity Pool at Oxygen Jungle Villas in Uvita, Costa Rica
Enjoying the views of Uvita at Oxygen Jungle Villas, Puntarenas

READ NEXT: Guide To Visiting Punta Uvita, Costa Rica

Costa Rica Must-Do Adventures

Now that we’ve covered Costa Rica’s most popular destination, let’s talk a bit about activities. There are a lot of activities you can do while traveling around the country and while many of them do overlap from town to town, some are truly unique and worth the investment. If you’re looking to make some memories, these things to do in Costa Rica are sure to impress. 

This list of adventure activities in Costa Rica will get your heart pumping in a beautiful natural setting! 

Ziplining In Monteverde National Park

Get a bird’s eye view of the Costa Rican rainforest at one of the adventure parks! 

There are many canopy tours throughout the country, but the best place to zip line in Costa Rica is probably in Monteverde. Monteverde Sky Adventures has the longest zip line in Latin America, which lets you experience the cloud forest canopy and Monteverde’s rich biodiversity in an adrenaline-pumping way! Try the Tarzan swing, a free-fall experience that’s not for the faint-hearted.

Other Places to go Ziplining in Costa Rica: Arenal’s Go Tours Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica Ziplining
Monteverde, Costa Rica Ziplining

READ NEXT: Best Zip Lining in Costa Rica

White Water Rafting In Arenal

For us, one of the best things to do in Costa Rica is white water rafting, it is one of those Costa Rica outdoor activities which are perfect for adventure junkies. You can combine exciting rapids, lush greenery and exotic birds and animals as you descend down the river. 

There are many operators offering different types of whitewater rafting experiences in La Fortuna, near Arenal National Park. From three-hour tubing to eight-hour-long rafting trips, you can find something that suits your courage and your budget!

Other Places to go White Water Rafting in Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio’s Naranjo River.

Costa Rica Itinerary: Arenal rafting
Arenal white water rafting

SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding)

SUPing can sometimes be difficult on the open ocean so we would suggest you take advantage of stand-up paddleboarding on the calmer river estuaries and lakes. Arenal Lake is the ideal place to test your balance and take in the beauty of the Arenal Volcano region aboard your SUP board. It’s one of the must-do things in Costa Rica and a popular activity near Arenal Volcano. 

Best Place to SUP in Costa Rica: Lake Arenal or the protected Gulf of Papagayo

Things to do in Playa Avellanas SUP, surf camp in costa rica
Ready for SUP!

Yoga 

Yoga and other wellness activities are widespread all around Costa Rica. Most towns now have yoga studios or an opportunity to practice yoga at your hotel. Yoga is a particularly popular past-time in Nosara, Tamarindo, Avellanas/Playa Negra, Santa Teresa, and Puerto Viejo. 

Our favourite yoga experience was at the Harmony Hotel in Nosara, where we joined one of their drop-in classes. 

Best Place to do Yoga in Costa Rica: Nosara, Playa Negra, and Santa Teresa host some of the best activities in Costa Rica for yogis

Costa Rica is home to a variety of yoga retreats.
Costa Rica is home to a variety of yoga retreats.

READ NEXT: 8 Best Yoga Retreats in Costa Rica

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding on the beach or in the rainforest is a really cool way to explore the nature of Costa Rica in a different way. There are many places that offer half-day, full-day, or multi-day experiences, so it just depends on your location and the time you have to spare. You can trek the beaches of Guanacaste (Tamarindo, Avellanas, and Nosara) or take a trot through the mountains near Arenal Volcano, but for the most spectacular ride, choose to go horseback riding at sunset!

Best Place to go Horseback Riding in Costa Rica: A horseback riding tour to Arenal is one of the top attractions in Costa Rica

Costa rica itinerary: horseback riding nosara
Horseback ride on the beach in Nosara, Costa Rica

Soak In The Arenal Natural Hot Springs

If you’re taking a trip to Costa Rica, then visiting the hot springs is a must. If there is one place to experience natural hot springs, it’s in Arenal. Thanks to the geothermal activity surrounding Arenal Volcano, the area is home to tons of hot springs resorts and hotels. Our favourite is the Tabacón Hot Springs. If you can splurge on spending a few nights at this beautiful resort, do it, otherwise, you can book a half-day or full day at the springs that includes breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Other best places to travel in Costa Rica for hot springs: If Arenal is not on your itinerary, you can still soak in natural hot springs at Rincon de la Vieja National Park or at hot springs surrounding Miravalles Volcano.

Tabacon Hot Springs, Costa Rica
Tabacon Hot Springs, Costa Rica

READ NEXT: Guide to Hot Springs In Costa Rica

Surfing 

Ask yourself, what is Costa Rica known for? We have an answer: the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is considered one of the best year-round surf destinations in the world. However, there are peak seasons that provide more consistent swells, so be sure to time your trip to Costa Rica properly. The South Pacific Coast swell season is from June to September and provides the west coast with great surf. The North Pacific Coast swell season is from November to April, and provides even better waves than the South Pacific season! Everyone from beginners to advanced surfers will find a beach break right for them in Costa Rica.

Best Place to go Surfing in Costa Rica: Jaco or Playa Avellana for beginners, Playa Tamarindo for everyone, Dominical or Playa Grande or Playa Negra for experts 

Guide to Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Surf lesson on the beach in Santa Teresa

READ NEXT: Where to Find the Best Waves & Surf Camp in Costa Rica

Hiking

When you’re deciding on things to do in Costa Rica, hiking and Costa Rica should be synonymous. The plethora of National Parks and nature trails are some of the top places of interest Costa Rica has to offer. The national parks often have excellent hiking opportunities and tend to be the best way to spot wildlife in their natural habitat. 

Best Place to Hike in Costa Rica: For an epic hike, try Mount Chirripò, the tallest mountain and most challenging hike in Costa Rica. For other great hikes to explore Costa Rica, try El Manglar Trail in Manuel Antonio or Las Pailas Loop Trail in Rincon de la Vieja.

Max at Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja
Max at Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja

READ NEXT: 8 Best Hikes In Costa Rica

Canyoning

This relatively new adventure sport consists of rappelling down waterfalls and cliffsides. It’s a heart-pumping Costa Rica sightseeing activity that does not disappoint. The top spots for canyoning in the country are Monteverde, Arenal, and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. 

Best Place to go Canyoning in Costa Rica: Try Arenal Volcano’s Lost Canyon or La Fortuna Waterfall for family-friendly canyoning. Or if you’re craving something more extreme in Central America, try an Extreme Canyoning Tour in Jaco at Vista Los Suenos Adventure Park.

Caving

One of the best things to do in Costa Rica with kids is to go caving. You’ll don a helmet and headlamp and descend into the underground world to check out stalactites and stalagmites. Venado Caves in Arenal and Barra Honda National Park Caves on the Nicoya Peninsula are the best places to see these special places of Costa Rica.

Best Place to go Caving in Costa Rica: Go on a Spelunking Tour at Venado Caves for one of the coolest Costa Rica adventures.

Diving 

Given that Costa Rica means “rich coast” it’s no wonder that one of the top Costa Rica activities is scuba diving. There are opportunities for diving on both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Coast. However, the Caribbean tends to have more colourful reefs, which have warmer waters and easier dives than the Pacific Coast, and it’s better suited to beginners. The Pacific Coast still has an abundance of marine life, but it often comes hand in hand with strong currents which are more suited to advanced divers.

Best Place to Dive in Costa Rica: The Gulf of Papagayo or Caño Island in Drake Bay

scuba diving, costa rica, pacific side
Costa Rica scuba diving, Pacific side

READ NEXT: Guide to Scuba Diving in Costa Rica

Must Do Tours In Costa Rica

For simplicity in planning the top things to do in Costa Rica, unique, local experiences, and for the chance to meet new other travelers don’t miss these Costa Rica excursions. They are some of the best things to do in Costa Rica.

Visit A Coffee Plantation Near San José

Get your caffeine kick with a Costa Rican coffee tour. They are one of the top things to do in Costa Rica, San José, since the coffee farms are typically found in the mountains that surround the capital. You can take in the gorgeous scenery, learn about the harvesting and roasting processes and maybe even participate in picking coffee beans. Here are a few tours worth checking out:

Aquiares Estate Coffee Tour with tasting takes place at the largest Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farm in Costa Rica. 

Cooking Class

One of the best ways to get to know a culture is through your stomach. So, take a Costa Rican cooking class with a local chef for the ultimate cultural experience and insight into the local Tico diet. 

You can find cooking classes all over the country, and cuisine may sometimes vary from region to region.

Visit A Chocolate Plantation In The Highlands

If you’re looking forward to Costa Rican cuisine, one of the sweetest Costa Rica excursions is to the nation’s many chocolate plantations. They are typically found in the country’s highlands. On a typical chocolate tour, you’ll learn about the origins and historical significance of cocoa, see how it is made first hand and get a chance to taste freshly made chocolate. 

Go On A Bird-Watching Tour

Did you know Costa Rica’s forests are home to over 890 bird species? That’s more than the number of birds in the US and Canada combined! So it’s no wonder bird watching is one of the top things to do in Costa Rica. 

There is great birdwatching all around the country! You can wander the trails on your own with binoculars in hand, but you will have a much better chance of spotting with a guide.

Join this guided tour in Monteverde to explore and appreciate the wonders of Monteverde Cloud Forest. Bask in its natural, hazy mist, walk across its trailing foliage, and listen to the call of rare birds.

Costa Rica Uvita Costa Ballena scarlet macaw bird 00776
Scarlet Macaw Bird

Sea Turtle Nesting And Hatching Tour

Without a doubt one of the top Costa Rica things to do is to see turtles nesting and hatching on the beaches around Costa Rica. Head to Playa Grande or Playa Ostional, where you can watch leatherback sea turtles lay eggs or hatch in front of your eyes. 

You can also catch turtle nesting/hatching in Tortuguero National Park on this 3-Day Tortuguero National Park Tour from San Jose

Baby turtle on a beach in Costa Rica
Baby turtles are absolutely adorable!

White Water Rafting Tour

For a heart-pumping tour, book this Arenal Rafting Upper Balsa Class 3 and 4 Rapids tour. You’ll travel over 10 kilometres and over 30 continuous rapids and feel the real thrill of the Balsa River. For a softer adventure tour in Arenal, choose this Family-Friendly Balsa River Rafting tour, where you’ll cross over Class 2 rapids. 

From the beautiful beaches to the colourful and exotic wildlife to the delicious Costa Rican food and the unique local culture–there’s so much to experience in Costa Rica, and we can’t recommend it enough! There are so many things to do in Costa Rica, making it a great destination for all kinds of travelers who appreciate the natural world.

 

What’s your must-do when in Costa Rica? Leave a comment below, and we’ll be happy to share more travel advice!

5 thoughts on “Best Things To Do In Costa Rica: The 2023 Ultimate Guide”

  1. Beautiful post! Loved Manuel Antonio, the park has some of the best beaches. Definitely want to go to a coffee plantation next time too 🙂

  2. Visiting Costa Rica year around has become a year around thing to do. My favorite place to visit is Monteverde. It’s location among the rainforest of Costa Rica. gives you the feeling that your surrounded by the many wonders He has given us.

  3. Hello Oksana and Max,
    Thanks a lot for your informative blog. I learned a great deal from it about Costa Rica and other Latin American countries. My partner and I are planning our first trip to Costa Rica, but unfortunately we will have only 10 days (Feb. 23-Mar. 3rd). The first 3 days we were thinking to visit Envision Festival, and after that we’ll have a week to explore the country. I know it’s not that much time and we won’t be able to see all of it, but thought you could advice what area we head out to after the festival considering we’d only have a week. Any advice will be much appreciated. Also, what’s the best way to reserve a car?

    1. Hi Yana, the area where Envision Festival is taking place is quite lovely, so you can see lots and do lots within a few hours from there. You can decide if you want to explore further south (Osa Penninsula, which happens to be one of our favourite places in Costa Rica), or travel back up towards San Jose and visit Dominical and Manuel Antonio on the way. Here are a few posts that might help you plan the rest of your holiday:

      https://drinkteatravel.com/why-visit-osa-peninsula/

      https://drinkteatravel.com/12-reasons-visit-costa-ballena-uvita-dominical-ojochal/

  4. i also enjoyed these fabulous things during my last journey and we came back with stunning memories.

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