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Over 2 million people visit Costa Rica on a yearly basis, most travelling here in search of adventure and 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 what to do in Costa Rica and which places and activities they want to add to their itinerary.

Planning a trip in the time of COVID?

Keep in mind that information found in this article may have been impacted by travel restrictions and other closures. Double check opening hours, tour providers and hotel status before you go.

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We would all love to have unlimited time to explore every corner of this beautiful country, but we know that most of you are only limited to a few weeks.

To help you make the most of your time, we put together a list of top things to do in Costa Rica and the best places in Costa Rica to visit.

Best Places to Go in Costa Rica

If you are looking for advice on where to go, Costa Rica offers a plethora of options for any traveler. After spending many years exploring the country, and experiencing many top tourist attractions in Costa Rica, we’ve put together this list with our top recommendations. The list covers some famous places in Costa Rica and some off-the-beaten-track spots, plus our favourite Costa Rica tourist activities. 

So dig in and happy planning!

Manuel Antonio National Park

When to Visit: Year Round 
Best for: Families with Kids and Nature Lovers

Located on the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica 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 rainforest 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 offers a unique glimpse into Costa Rican culture.

Top Things to do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

  • Visit Manuel Antonio National Park. Seeing wildlife is a must when visiting Costa Rica and this is the place to do it! 
  • 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.
  • Spend the night in an Airplane Hotel also known as Hotel Costa Verde.
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, Costa Rica

Osa Peninsula

When to Visit: During Dry Season (Nov-April)
Best for: Wildlife enthusiasts

One of the country’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 rainforest, and the largest stretch of mangroves in the country, which are best showcased in Corcovado National Park, one of the world’s top eco-tourism destinations. Plus we love that the area has the highest concentration of sustainable eco-lodges in the country so you can discover the best things to do in Costa Rica while staying somewhere in good conscience.

Getting to the Osa Peninsula 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 definitely worth adding to your Costa Rica to-do list!

Top Things to do on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

  • Visit Corcovado National Park to see wildlife with the help of a local guide.
  • Kayak in the mangroves near Puerto Jimenez. The mangrove swamps of Golfo Dulce and incredibly diverse and surrounded by exotic birds.
  • 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

Nauyaca Waterfalls

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Swimming and Hiking

Located inland from Playa Dominical, the Nauyaca Waterfalls consist of two falls which are some of the most impressive in Costa Rica and made even more spectacular by their jungle surrounds which are dotted with monkeys and macaws. The upper falls cascade into a pool that is unswimmable but the lower ones have a delightful little pool to go for a dip. You can hike, arrive on horseback or hitch a ride in the back of a pickup truck like we did, just ensure you try to beat the crowds so you can enjoy the falls like nature intended. 

If you choose to hike to the falls, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the way. You’ll likely break a sweat on your way down so jumping into the lower falls is a much-deserved refresher. Whether you go by foot, horse, or truck, the Nauyaca Waterfalls are certainly some Costa Rica must-sees!

Top Things to do at Nauyaca Waterfalls, Costa Rica

  • Swim under the lower falls. We recommend going early to have the pool to yourself!
  • Go on a horseback ride down to the falls. Just be sure to book early as it gets very busy.
Best Costa Rica waterfalls
Nauyaca Waterfall Costa Rica

READ NEXT: How to Visit the Nauyaca Waterfalls in Dominical

Poas Volcano National Park

When to Visit: Dry Season
Best for: Volcano Views

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. You’d never list Poas amongst Costa Rica’s famous landmarks as it is relatively off the beaten path but it’s worth a visit nonetheless. Just try to remember 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, Costa Rica

  • Hike around the geysers and crater lakes that surround the volcano.
  • Join a Poás Volcano Tour to visit the park and La Paz Waterfall 
Poas Volcano, Costa Rica
Poas Volcano. Photo credit: Wikipedia

READ NEXT: The Complete Guide to Costa Rica National Parks

Arenal

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Adventure Activities and Stunning Views

When anyone asks, “what is there to do in Costa Rica?’ – a visit to Arenal, is always one of our top recommendations. 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 or so 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 has plenty to offer, including long and short hiking trails through forest and lava fields from previous eruptions. A perfect way to end the day is with a soak in one of the many hot springs in town. Tabacon Hot Springs is the most popular and most luxurious option, but there are plenty of others to suit every budget. 

The gateway to Arenal is the sleepy town of La Fortuna. In La Fortuna alone, there are over 50 things to do in Costa Rica from visiting Lake Arenal to rafting on Rio Balsa

Top Things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica

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

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 in the midst of 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 really enjoy hiking in Tenorio National Park. There are a few other nice viewpoints in the park which provide a great overall experience for those looking to connect with nature. Plus, ending at a sparkling waterfall is always a treat! Rio Celeste is definitely at the top of the list of must-sees in Costa Rica.

Top Things to do in Rio Celeste, Costa Rica

  • Hike your way through Tenorio Volcano National Park.
  • Visit the Rio Celeste Waterfall for magical rainforest scenery. 
  • Short on time? Visit Rio Celeste on a Full-Day Tour from La Fortuna
Best Costa Rica Waterfalls
Tenorio Waterfalls at Rio Celeste
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 always ranked amongst the top places to see in Costa Rica. This unique ecosystem is completely different from other National Parks in Costa Rica and warrants a visit to fully appreciate. Admire the flora and fauna or experience the thrills of the zip lines or hanging bridge walkways in Monteverde 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, with some coffee farming in between. Plus, the Cloud Forest is one of the country’s seven natural wonders. It’s a no-brainer that the area is one of the best things to see in Costa Rica.

Top Things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica

  • Walk the hanging bridges in The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to see the trees from above the forest canopy. 
  • Go ziplining—it’s one of the top adventures in Costa Rica!
  • Explore the local town of Santa Elena to find good food, shops and local entertainment
Breathtaking view of the Monteverde in Costa Rica
Armadillo in Monteverde
Monteverde, Costa Rica Ziplining
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 the Costa Rica places to visit!  Tucked away on the western edge of the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa has gained its popularity for being one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. Especially if you are looking for larger, faster waves, then this is the beach for you. Experienced surfers love the variety of beach breaks in Santa Teresa, particularly during a good swell.

But Santa Teresa isn’t just a destination for backpackers and surfers. The town has lots of beautiful luxury accommodation options and lots of other nearby activities to keep everyone entertained. The area is nestled between stunning waterfalls, glorious beaches, and thriving nature reserves. You’ll also want to spend time exploring the great restaurants and stay at some of the beautiful eco-hotels in the areas. And don’t forget the magical Pacific sunset. 

Top Things to do in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

  • 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 species of tropical and migratory birds.
  • Enjoy the beach!
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. However, there is also some great fishing, surfing, or local wildlife sanctuaries to visit. 

Nosara is also a wellness hotspot, filled with yoga retreats, healthy restaurants, and sustainable shopping options. The lifestyle here is chilled and 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 the highlights of Costa Rica.
Things to do in Costa Rica. Nosara
Peaceful fishing on Playa Pelada. Nosara. Costa Rica

READ NEXT: Guide to Visiting Nosara, Costa Rica

Playa Avellanas

When to Visit: Year Round
Best for: Surf and Beach Lovers

For a more authentic atmosphere, we recommend getting off the beaten track 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 none 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 the best beginner surf spots in Costa Rica
One of the best beaches in Guanacaste is Playa Avellanas
Aerial view of 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!
Costa Rica Playa Avellanas. one of the best beaches in Guanacaste
Surf time at Playa Avellanas

READ NEXT: Things to do in Playa Avellanas Costa Rica

Tamarindo

When to Visit: Green Season (Dry Season is very busy)
Best for: Families and Backpackers

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. It also boasts great nightlife with a lively party atmosphere and a plethora of restaurants, activities, and day trips. 

While it was once a quiet fishing village, Tamarindo is now a town busting 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 great opportunities for surfing, fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. It’s no wonder that Tamarindo is one of the top places to visit in Costa Rica!

Top Things to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Langosta Beach, Tamarindo
Langosta Beach, Tamarindo

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 down the river estuaries.

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Costa Rica, seeing the nesting sea turtles is definitely 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 line up with turtle nesting season. 

Top Things to do at Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

  • 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

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 and is cheaper and less touristy than the Pacific side of the country. 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. Plus, 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. Spending a day exploring the town is a fun way to see artisan shops and yoga studios. As a tourist in Costa Rica, you might not think of visiting the Caribbean Coast, but you definitely should!

Top Things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

  • 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.

Best Things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica

  • Stroll through the Mercado Centrale 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
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

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, unique rock formations as well as sharks 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, Costa Rica

Flamingo Beach, Playa Flamingo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Flamingo Beach,  Guanacaste, Costa Rica
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: What to Budget for Life in Paradise

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, it’s got 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 zipline and adventure ATV tour through the rainforest 

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 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!  There are many canopy companies 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 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 Sky Adventures

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

Floating along the Balsa river after 2 hours of intense 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 popular activity in Arenal. 

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!

READ NEXT: Buying Property in Costa Rica: What You Need to Know 

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, when we joined one of their drop-in classes. There are singles, couples, just for women, combining surfing, adventure or just relaxation yoga activities in Costa Rica. 

Best Place to do Yoga in Costa Rica: Nosara hosts some of the best activities in Costa Rica for yogis

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 an intimate 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 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 

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. The South Pacific 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 

costa rica backpacking: Things To Do in Jaco Costa Rica
Surfers in Jaco, Costa Rica
Guide to Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Surf lesson on the beach in Santa Teresa

Guide to Ecotourism in Costa Rica

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

Hiking

Hiking and Costa Rica should be synonymous. The plethora of National Parks 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.

READ NEXT: 8 Best Hikes In Costa Rica

Canyoning

This relatively new adventure sport consists of rappelling down waterfalls and cliff sides. 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. What not to do? Miss out on canyoning!

Best Place to go Canyoning in Costa Rica: For family-friendly canyoning, try Arenal Volcano’sLost CanyonorLa Fortuna Waterfall. Or if you’re craving something more extreme, 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 and Pacific Coast. However, the Caribbean tends to have more colourful reefs which have warm waters and easier dives that are 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 Jose

Get your caffeine kick with a Costa Rican coffee tour. They are one of the top things to do in Costa Rica, San Jose, since the plantations 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:

Reasons to visit Monteverde Cloud Forest: Coffee tree at the Don Juan Coffee Planation in Monteverde
Coffee tree at the Don Juan Coffee Planation in Monteverde

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

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 plantation 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 Costa Rica things to do. 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. 

Scarlet Macaw Bird
  • On this dedicated bird watching tour you’ll travel through Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve spotting birds from a boat. 
  • Whereas on this private bird watching tour from Liberia you’ll wander through the dry forest with a bilingual guide. It’s one of the best things to do in Liberia Costa Rica.

Sea Turtle Nesting and Hatching Tour

Without a doubt one of the top 10 Costa Rica things to do is 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 on a tour from Nosara. Otherwise, head into the remote wilds of Costa Rica on this 3-Day Tortuguero National Park Tour from San Jose. You’ll have a great chance of spotting green and leatherback turtles here.

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

Horseback Riding Tour to the Oropéndola Waterfall

Located in Rincon de La Vieja National Park, this great horseback riding experience to Oropendola Waterfall is amongst the best of Costa Rica. On a horseback ride you will discover a variety of flora and fauna before reaching the 25 meter waterfall. When it comes to choosing a tour operator we suggest this 2.5 hour horseback riding tour

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. However, for a more light hearted tour in Arenal choose this Family-Friendly Balsa River Rafting tour where you’ll cross over Class 2 rapids. 

Seasons and Costa Rica Things to Know

One of the top Costa Rica things to know when planning your trip and things to do in Costa Rica is the seasons. We often get asked questions like what are the best places to visit in Costa Rica in January, where to go in Costa Rica in March, or any other month for that matter so we have broken each month down in this article: Best Time to Visit Costa Rica: Monthly Breakdown & Recommendations

You’ll find that things to do in Costa Rica in December and the best place to visit in Costa Rica in May differ greatly based on where you want to go in the country and how it is affected by the green and dry season. The green season lasts in Costa Rica from May to November and the dry season is from December to April. 

What to do in Playa Avellanas: Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Dry season in Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Dry season definitely sees the most tourists because the weather is at its peak but that also means more crowds and higher prices. If you don’t mind taking a gamble on the weather, the green season offers great prices, sparse crowds, and some great places to add to your Costa Rica attractions map.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! There are multiple Costa Rica tours and Costa Rica attractions to keep you busy for weeks and months! 

Tell us about your favourite things to do in Costa Rica!

5 thoughts on “Costa Rica Bucket List: Things To Do in Costa Rica”

  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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