31 Adventurous Things to Do in Costa Rica

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With lush jungles, adventure activities, surf and sun, Costa Rica is a perfect vacation spot for all types of travelers. We’ve put together an ultimate bucket list of the top things to do in Costa Rica — from the must-see places to off the beaten path adventures. Let’s start planning your trip to paradise!

Rio Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s postcard worthy beaches, lush jungles, ample wildlife and dreamy waterfalls are all part of the reason it’s considered the most popular vacation spot in Central America. 

Whether you’re backpacking through or you’re on a 2-week holiday with family, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Costa Rica that you won’t want to miss.

From can’t-miss highlights to offbeat destinations to heart-pumping adventures, this list is a round up of the top things to do in Costa Rica for all types of travelers. Use this as a guide for planning your trip to the land of pura vida.

Costa Rica Travel Guide

For more tips and advice for planning your trip to Costa Rica, jump to the following sections (or just keep scrolling to see it all!).

Top things to do in Costa Rica

If you’re looking for the very best things to do in Costa Rica, here are our top recommendations: 

  1. Learn how to surf
  2. Soak in natural hot springs
  3. Walk through the clouds at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  4. Learn about indigenous culture
  5. Zipline above the jungle on a canopy tour
  6. Explore Manuel Antonio National Park

Keep reading for more detailed information on each of these things and more ideas of fun things to do in Costa Rica. 

1. Learn how to surf

Things to Do in Costa Rica Learn To Surf

Costa Rica is world-renowned for its surf, and people flock here to rip the waves. But even if you’re not experienced on a board, Costa Rica is a great place to learn how to surf (read about our surf lesson!).

The best surf is on the central Pacific Coast. If you’re looking for good surfing beaches, check out Playa Grande, Tamarindo, Playa Negra, Dominical, Montezuma and Santa Teresa. These are all popular surf spots and each has their own unique draw.

We liked the vibe of Santa Teresa the most for surfing. 


If it’s your first time surfing, we’d highly recommend taking a lesson, as you will learn how to stand up infinitely quicker than if you attempt on your own. Plus, it can be dangerous for an inexperienced person to face the waves.

Surf lessons are inexpensive and you can find anything from single lessons to weeklong surf camps.

Planning a trip to Costa Rica? Find out the best time to visit Costa Rica based on regional weather patterns and your personal travel style.

2. Soak in natural hot springs

Things to Do in Costa Rica Natural Hot Springs

Being that the Arenal Volcano is an active volcano, hot springs are in abundance in the area. Soaking in a blissfully warm pool (or a few!) should definitely be on your Costa Rica itinerary.

From the luxuriously landscaped Tabacon Hot Springs resort with jaw-dropping hot pools (and a price tag to match!) to a naturally hot section in the nearby El Choyin River that’s totally free to enter, there is a hot spring for every type of traveler (and every budget).

Check out our descriptions of the best hot springs in Arenal.

3. Walk through the clouds at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Things to Do in Costa Rica Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde’s hanging bridges are something out of a dream. Located in the heart of Monteverde Cloud Forest, these suspension bridges weave their way through the vine-covered jungle.

Do not be discouraged if it’s raining; it does on most days! And the moisture in the air creates thick and low-hanging clouds that make the experience all that much more magical.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is open year-round, 7 days a week, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The entrance fee is $25 USD per adult for a day pass for non-nationals. 

Insider Tip: Just be sure you’re prepared with a proper rain jacket as well as a dry bag to keep your valuables safe.

Alternative: Santa Elena Reserve

Also situated in Costa Rica’s Monteverde region, the Santa Elena Reserve offers visitors a similarly captivating cloud forest experience but with a quieter and less crowded ambiance. 

This is a great option if you want to skip the crowds, or are on a tighter budget. Entrance to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest is just $16 USD for adults. 

4. Learn about indigenous culture

Things to Do in Costa Rica Visit an Indigenous Culture

Learning about the culture of the country we are visiting is one of our favorite things to do on our travels.

At first glance, Costa Rica feels like some of its culture has been lost with the Westernization mass tourism has brought to this country. But with Bribri indigenous groups, there are opportunities to learn about the different peoples that make up this beautiful country.

One of the highlights of our trip to Costa Rica was learning about the culture of the Bribri, an indigenous group that is from the Caribbean Coast. We visited a traditional village, learned how they make chocolate and spoke with a shaman.

If this sounds like something you want to do during your trip to Costa Rica, read up on our cultural experience and how you can do the same. 

5. Zipline above the jungle on a canopy tour

Thing to Do in Costa Rica: Zip Lining

A popular activity for all ages, Costa Rica is one of the best places to go zip-lining in the world.

Truth time: We’ve been zip-lining a handful of times, and can hands down say Costa Rica has the best we’ve seen.

Soaring over low-hanging clouds and lush rainforests is exhilarating. Breathe in the crisp air and enjoy the bird’s eye view. Out of all the adventure activities in this list, we’d say zip-lining is the most tame.

While the initial jump can be scary if you’re afraid of heights, this activity is extremely safe and can be a good way to get over a fear.

You can find great zip-lining all over the country, but if you want to read more about our personal experience on our canopy tour, check out this article.

6. Explore Manuel Antonio National Park

Things to do in Costa Rica Manuel Antonio

This national park is the most popular of all the national parks in Costa Rica for a good reason. This gem on the central Pacific coast offers a rich blend of wildlife, adventure, and relaxation. 

Within Manuel Antonio, there is a high concentration of wildlife, stunning beaches and jungle viewpoints. Plus, the park is big enough to escape the crowds if you plan your visit right. 

When you go, be sure to hike around the Punta Cathedral to get away from crowds and see the stunning viewpoints.

7. Go white water rafting

Things to do in Arenal Costa Rica White Water Rafting

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or just looking for a fun family activity, Costa Rica has rapids for you. We’ve been white water rafting all over the world, and some of the best (and most accessible) rivers we’ve rafted on are in Costa Rica.

While you can do this activity all around the country, one of the most popular spots to go white water rafting is in Arenal.

And if you’re really up for an adventure, consider rafting on the Pacuare River. It is a multi-day rafting trip from San Jose and would be an experience of a lifetime. Plus, it’s a great method of transportation across the country!

8. Push your limits on a canyoning tour

Things to Do in Costa Rica Canyoning Tour

Calling all adventure-seekers! If you’re after a heart-pumping experience, book a Gravity Falls trip with Desafio. Just do it. 

This tour brings you through a pristine river valley that in itself is a sight to behold. And to get through the valley, you will rock climb, repel over waterfalls, scramble and cliff jump for the most epic adventure you can have in Arenal. 

We’ve taken 2 trips with Desafio and can’t recommend them any higher! For more info, check out our personal experience canyoning in Arenal. 

9. Witness sea turtles nesting at Tortuguero National Park

Things to Do in Costa Rica: Observe Baby Sea Turtles

This hard-to-get-to national park located on Costa Rica’s northeastern Caribbean coast is a rainforest plopped down on a sandbar. Lush canals wind their way through the dense rainforest to create a unique ecological haven. 

Celebrated for its vital role in sea turtle conservation, Tortuguero National Park is home to some of the largest sea turtle nesting grounds in the world. This makes it one of the most popular places for turtle viewing in Costa Rica. 

Responsible travel tip: If you do want to observe this beautiful and natural phenomenon, please do your research and only go with a naturalist guide. Never touch the turtles, and do not use flash photography if you are observing the hatching at night.

Read more about where else you can see turtle nesting in Costa Rica.

There are no roads in this national park; the only transportation is by boat. Visitors can embark on guided boat tours through the winding waterways to encounter all sorts of wildlife, from howler monkeys to caimans and colorful birds. We highly recommend you travel here with a guide. 

10. Hang out with sloths and their babies

Things to Do in Costa Rica See Sloths

We didn’t realize how much we love sloths until we got to Costa Rica. After seeing one too many posters featuring the adorable sleepy-eyed creatures, we made it a goal of ours to see at least one sloth while we were there.

Well, we ended up seeing a bunch! We were lucky to see a handful in the wild, but even if luck isn’t on your side, you can be sure to see these cuties at the Jaguar Rescue Center.

Located in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, this sanctuary and rescue center takes in all kinds of animals that have been abused by people or found injured in the wild. The goal of the center is to rehabilitate and release the animal when possible.

And because sloths are often injured while attempting to climb on telephone lines or hit by cars while crossing the road, there are several adults and babies in the rescue center.

Find out more details on visiting the Jaguar Rescue Center.

The best part is that your visit contributes to the work they are doing, so you can feel good about the rather steep $24 entrance fee.

11. Eat a casado (or 20!)

Things to Do in Costa Rica Eat Casado

By the end of your time in Costa Rica, you will be sick of casados, there’s no doubt about it. But even so, it is something you must try while you’re in this country.

When it comes to Costa Rican dishes, casado is probably the most common thing you’ll find. 

Casado basically just means a plate of food, and you can order it at any soda (local restaurant). You can order a variety of different casados – chicken, beef, or our favorite, grilled fish. In some places you can find vegetarian options too.

It will come with a variety of sides, including rice and beans (for sure), salad, potatoes or other grilled vegetables, fried plantains, etc.

Oftentimes this meal is big enough to split, and is usually the cheapest meal you’ll find. So if you’re on a budget, you’ll likely be ordering these daily.

12. Leap from a rope swing at a swimming hole

Things to Do in Costa Rica Rope Swing

Channel your inner Tarzan (or Jane!) and grab on tight! Even if you don’t do the swing jump, this swimming hole is a fun place to cool off on a hot day and watch the locals show off their tricks!

Find out how to get to the El Salto Rope Swing and swimming hole in La Fortuna!

13. Experience the biodiversity at Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park - Credit: ExploreTakizia.com
Corcovado National Park – Credit: ExploreTakizia.com

If you really want to get off the tourist path and experience the best nature Costa Rica has to offer, Corcovado National Park is your place. 

Located on the Osa Peninsula, this national park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists as one of the world’s most biodiverse and pristine rainforests.

As you explore its extensive network of trails, you may encounter elusive species such as jaguars, tapirs, and scarlet macaws in their natural habitat. But beware, this remote park can be difficult to get to and visiting it is not cheap.

We have a guide to visiting Corcovado National Park that’ll tell you everything you need to know. 

14. Learn about sustainable living off the grid

Rancho Mastatal Sustainable Lodge Ben and Katie and Mountains

It can be hard to get away from the crowds while traveling in Costa Rica, but if off-the-grid solace is what you’re after, we’ve got just the place for you!

Nestled in the little-traveled Mastatal Mountains not far from the Pacific Coast, Rancho Mastatal is an oasis that will make you feel a world away from the tourist path.

This sustainably-run eco lodge is one of the most interesting places we’ve ever stayed, and we can’t recommend it highly enough. Be prepared to relax and eat the most delicious food, all while learning about sustainability. 

Oh, and don’t forget to bring a bathing suit so you can play in the nearby waterfall!

And if you have the time, consider joining one of their courses on natural building, fermentation or wilderness first aid (to name a few options).

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, be sure to read all about our stay at Rancho Mastatal so you are prepared and know what to expect.

15. Discover the Nicoya Peninsula

Things to do Santa Teresa and Montezuma Audrey Surf Teacher

Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is a sun-soaked paradise renowned for its pristine beaches, laid-back atmosphere, and healthy lifestyle. This Pacific coast gem is a haven for surfers, yoga enthusiasts, and digital nomads alike. 

With a strong emphasis on eco-tourism and sustainability, the two most popular beach towns on the peninsula, Santa Teresa and Montezuma, offer a unique blend of natural beauty and vibrant culture.

We have a complete guide to visiting the Nicoya Peninsula, including all the fun things to do in this unique area. 

16. Go chasing waterfalls

It seems like there is a waterfall around every turn in Costa Rica. Big, small, secret, well-known—you really have your pick when it comes to these beauties.

Below are a few of our favorite waterfalls that you should add to your Costa Rica itinerary if time allows. We think these are well worth the effort to get there.

Rio Celeste Waterfall

Things to Do in Costa Rica: Rio Celeste Waterfall

If you love a good waterfall, Rio Celeste waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park will surely be a favorite to add to your list. 

The waterfall is located shortly after 2 rivers converge. Each river has a different mineral makeup, and the mixture of the two creates a brilliant, milky blue that’s almost hard to believe is real.

Note that the water is less brightly colored after a heavy rain, where the river bottom is stirred up. We visited after a rainstorm and it wasn’t as brilliant blue as we were expecting. However, it was still a fantastic (and not crowded!) day trip from La Fortuna.

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Its location is not far from the town of La Fortuna, but because there is no consistent public transportation that goes here, visitors have to find their own transportation.

Renting a car in Costa Rica is really affordable and driving in the country is relatively easy. Actually, it was because we wanted to get to Rio Celeste that we initially rented a car. When we found out how convenient (and cheap!) it was, we turned our 1-day rental into 2 weeks!

Do it yourself: Get all the information about how to get to Rio Celeste Waterfall on your own!

Nauyaca Waterfall

Things to Do in Costa Rica Nauyaca Waterfall

Located not far from the surf town of Dominical, Nauyaca Waterfalls are a sight to behold. The “hike” to get there takes around 45 minutes and is on a dirt road. You can pay for a shuttle or a horse riding tour, but at $28 and $70 per person respectively, we’d recommend walking if you’re up for it.

The falls themselves are pretty magnificent, and there are two viewpoints. You can swim in the water below the falls, which is refreshing on a hot and humid day.

La Fortuna Waterfall

Located near the iconic Arenal Volcano, this stunning waterfall cascades from a height of 75 meters into a pristine emerald pool, inviting you to take a refreshing swim. 

The “hike” down to the waterfall provides incredible views of the surrounding rainforest. The majority of the approximately 0.75 miles / 1.2 km round trip walk is on stairs, you should expect to get down in about 15 minutes, but it usually takes longer to walk back up.

A taxi to get to the entrance should cost around $10 to $20 USD from La Fortuna, and the entrance fee is $10 USD per person.

La Paz Waterfall Garden

Located just an hour from San Jose, this privately-owned nature park provides a convenient day trip destination to check out some waterfalls near the city. 

The park boasts a collection of five spectacular waterfalls, including the iconic La Paz Waterfall, which plunges dramatically into a deep canyon. With well-maintained trails and viewing platforms, you can get up close to these natural wonders and snap some nice photos. 

The park also features an animal rescue center, where you can learn about the conservation efforts and rehabilitation programs aimed at protecting Costa Rica’s unique biodiversity.

17. Get lost on an epic road trip

Things to Do in Costa Rica Road Trip

Driving in Costa Rica is an adventure in itself. Not only is it one of the most economical (and convenient!) ways to travel around the country, but it allows you to go at your own pace.

Stop at epic viewpoints to take pictures. Grab a bite to eat at a hole-in-the-wall soda. And come prepared with a road trip playlist that makes you wanna roll the windows down and sing out loud!

But before you head out on the road, check out our ultimate guide to renting a car in Costa Rica. You’ll find info on how to score the best deals as well as some tips you definitely want to know before getting behind the wheel.

18. Get pampered in luxurious jungle villas

Oxygen Jungle Villas Infinity Pool

If you and your hunny want a little R&R on your Costa Rican vacation, book a few nights at Oxygen Jungle Villas. This stunning property overlooks the ocean, and has a dreamy infinity pool to relax in. Umm, is this heaven?

Each glass villa is surrounded by jungle, so you’ll feel like it’s only you and your beau. Oh, and did we mention that this place has a private waterfall on the property?!

Read up on our stay at Oxygen (complete with a video!), or peruse our list of romantic destinations all around the world.

19. See volcanoes up close

Things to Do in Costa Rica: Hiking on Arenal Volcano

With over 60 volcanoes sprinkled across Costa Rica, it would be hard not to see at least one on your travels. 

Costa Rica’s Central Valley is littered with them. There are many even just outside the capital city of San Jose.

Arenal Volcano

If you want to be a bit more adventurous, head up to La Fortuna and go hiking on the Arenal Volcano. Head to Arenal Volcano National Park where you can walk on old lava flows and get great views of the volcano (if it’s not too cloudy).

Irazu Volcano

If you want to stick around the San Jose area, you might want to check out Volcano Irazu. Only an hour and half drive out of town, you can drive nearly all the way to the top, but that’s probably why it gets so crowded. Our friend, Michelle, does a great job describing her time visiting Volcano Irazu.

Poas Volcano

The Poás Volcano is one of the country’s most accessible active volcanoes and another popular place to visit. 

Located in the Central Valley, just an hour and a half drive north of San Jose, you’ll find Poás Volcano National Park. A short hike takes you to the edge of the immense crater, where you can peer down into the steaming, sulfuric lake below. 

20. Walk on the iconic “Whale’s Tail” Sandbar

Things to Do in Costa Rica: Whale Tail Beach

You’ve never seen a beach like this one before! From above it looks unmistakably like a whale’s tail (don’t believe me, Google it!). And at low tide, you can walk along a sandy stretch to an uninhabited island offshore.

The iconic “Whale’s Tail” sandbar is part of Marino Ballena National Park, an ideal backdrop for whale watching and snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean.

Be sure to plan your visit at the correct time, because when high tide comes, the sandy path disappears! Use Magic Seaweed to determine the tides. And it’s a hot 2km walk to the tip of the tail so be sure to wear your reef-safe sunscreen.

Entrance fee to Marino Ballena National Park is $6 USD for foreigners. 

21. Visit one of the lesser-known national parks

Things to do in Costa Rica Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica has no shortage of pristine wilderness and lucky, a lot of that space is protected as designated national parks. In fact, there are 30 national parks in Costa Rica, and during your trip, you’ll want to be sure you make it to at least one.

We’ve already mentioned some of the most popular national parks above, but if you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path, check out some of these other national parks in Costa Rica. 

  • Rincon de la Vieja National Park: visitors can explore volcanic landscapes, rejuvenate in natural hot springs, and discover diverse flora and fauna in the heart of Guanacaste’s rugged wilderness.
  • Cahuita National Park: boasting vibrant coral reefs and lush coastal rainforests, this is a prime spot for snorkeling and wildlife viewing on the Caribbean coast.
  • Carara National Park: a lush and biodiverse park where you can spot scarlet macaws and other tropical wildlife amidst the transitional zone between Costa Rica’s tropical dry and rainforests.
  • Braulio Carrillo National Park: encompassing rugged mountains, dense rainforests, and cascading waterfalls, this park offers fantastic hiking opportunities and a stunning natural escape just outside of San Jose.

22. Go scuba diving

Things to Do in Costa Rica: Go Scuba Diving

Whether you’re a scuba newbie or an advanced diver, there are sites located on each of Costa Rica’s coasts that will be suitable for your level.

While it’s not nearly as cheap to dive in Costa Rica as it is in other parts of Central America, like Honduras’s Bay Islands, there is a beautiful underwater world to explore if you have the budget and the time.

Top spots to go scuba diving

  • Cocos Island: Super remote and known for hammerhead sharks
  • Tortuga Islands: explore shipwrecks
  • Catalina islands: find interesting cave diving
  • Caño island: known for its excellent visibility and variety of marine life, including manta rays, dolphins, and a variety of whales
  • Bat islands: known for an abundance of bull sharks
  • Manuel Antonio: a popular place for divers of all levels to explore the underwater world

Insider Tip: You’ll typically experience the best visibility for scuba diving in Costa Rica between the months of June and September.

Want more diving? 

If you can’t imagine traveling to Costa Rica and only diving once or twice, then you might want to look into doing a Liveaboard diving trip. 

You’ll get to dive 3 to 4 times a day and spend anywhere from 3 to 10 days on the boat! All your meals are catered for you and when you’re not diving you can relax on the top deck and sunbathe. 
Sounds pretty great, right? Check out the best deals on LiveAboard.com.

Scuba Diving Liveaboard

23. Soak up Caribbean vibes in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Thing to Do in Costa Rica: Visit Puerto Viejo

You’ll feel like you’ve left Costa Rica altogether once you get a taste of the Caribbean flavor in this town. 

Puerto Viejo is like what the Corn Islands are to Nicaragua or Providencia is to Colombia. It has a personality entirely its own, and is a great place to add to your Costa Rica itinerary.

And the beaches… OMG! Head down to Manzanillo and follow the trails along the Carribean coast for some pretty epic secluded beaches.

Read up on the top things to do in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

24. Explore a mysterious cemetery island

Things to Do in Costa Rica: Visit a Cemetery Island

If you like quirky experiences, you’ll want to add this one to your list!

Located just off the shores of a small town not far from Santa Teresa lies an island unlike any you’ve ever seen. The only thing on this uninhabited island is a cemetery. 

The cool part is, if you plan your visit during low tide, a sandy strip appears and you can walk out to the island. But be sure to look at the tide times before you leave because it isn’t a place you’d want to be stranded.

Read more about how to get to this cemetery island.

25. Spend the night in a tree house

Things to Do in Costa Rica: Stay in a Tree House

If you had childhood dreams of living in a tree house (anyone else a Swiss Family Robinson fan?!), you can make them come true in Costa Rica.

You can find tree houses all around the country at different budgets and at varying levels of off-the-grid-ness, but here are a few of our favorites:

  • Finca Bellavista: This tree house community has several rooms up in trees and even has an on site spa. One of the best treehouses in Costa Rica.
  • Airbnb Junglehouse with Jacuzzi near Manzanillo: Because who wouldn’t like a hot tub in a treehouse?
  • Tree House Lodge: Secluded in the jungle, but close enough to drive to attractions near Puerto Viejo.
  • Rancho Mastatal: Learn about natural building and permaculture while staying at the Ranch high up in the mountains.

26. Take a hike

Things to Do in Costa Rica: Go Hiking

Costa Rica is a haven for nature-lovers, and you’ll find a variety of hikes at all skill levels.

From easy walking trails that give you views of Arenal Volcano, to proper trekking to get to the summit of Costa Rica’s high peak, Mount Chirripó, there is a hike for everyone.

27. Practice your Spanish

Costa Rica is a great location to travel even if you don’t speak Spanish. Many people in the more touristic areas speak English well, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting around.

That said, it is also a fantastic place to practice speaking Spanish. Get a phrasebook or use Google Translate (the best travel app ever!), and try ordering your next meal en Español

Even if you don’t speak perfectly, the locals will appreciate your effort. And if they start speaking in English back to you, politely say, “necesito practicar mi español” and most of the time they will be happy to help you practice.

One helpful phrase to know is “repetir mas despacio, por favor”, which asks them to repeat more slowly.

And if you really want to delve in and learn the language, Costa Rica is home to some great Spanish schools where you can get lessons from a private teacher or in a class setting with others doing the same.

28. Relax on the beach

Things to Do in Costa Rica: Walking on the Beach Puerto Viejo

Costa Rica boasts some of Central America’s most stunning beaches, catering to a wide range of preferences. 

On the Pacific coast, beaches like Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa, and Santa Teresa offer golden sands, world-class surf, and vibrant beach towns. On the Caribbean side, Puerto Viejo and Cahuita provide a laid-back atmosphere and Afro-Caribbean culture. 

For a more tranquil escape, head to the Caribbean coast near Manzanillo where you can relax on beautiful beaches in solitude.

Other places with less crowded beaches are:

  • Manzanillo: south of Puerto Viejo, we wandered around all day and found countless little coves and beaches to relax on. (I mean, just look at that picture above!)
  • Playa Uva: near Puerto Viejo is a quiet beach with few vendors to disturb you. You won’t be the only one, but the beach is so large, you’ll have no problem finding solitude.
  • Playa Dominical: near Uvita, this beach is a great place to watch surfers as you sunbathe. The restaurants in this little town are pretty good too.

29. Go whale watching

Photo Credit: Our friend Rodrigo Santamaria fromExplore Tikizia| Whale Watching Costa Rica
Photo Credit: Our friend Rodrigo Santamaria from Explore Tikizia | Whale Watching Costa Rica

Costa Rica is actually a “sweet spot” when it comes to spotting humpback whales. This is because it happens to be located in the intersection of two whale migrations, so you have a chance to spot these gentle creatures 9 months out of the year.

If you’re like us and you visit during the season where there aren’t any whales (mid-April through mid-July) we can have a pity party together and cry over the fact that we didn’t have the chance to see these beauties.

A group of humpbacks from the north start making their way to warmer waters once the northern hemisphere’s winter chill sets in. They hang out in the waters near Costa Rica for a few months – from December to April – to breed and raise their young.

The group of whales from the southern hemisphere makes its way to Costa Rica in mid-July and stay until the beginning of November. (This is the season that you’ll have the best chance of spotting a whale!)

Best places to go whale watching in Costa Rica

  • Osa Peninsula (Corcovado National Park)
  • Uvita (can even be spotted off of Whale Tail beach)

Whale watching tours typically cost between $80-$100 per person.

Traveling in early September? Try to line up your trip with the annual Whale and Dolphin Festival, where you’re almost guaranteed to spot a whale! It’ll be a WHALE of a good time! (Sorry, we couldn’t resist!)

30. Party on the beach

If you want to dance the night away on the beach with an Aguila in hand (the local beer), there’s a good chance you’ll find a good time in Tamarindo or Puerto Viejo. There will be a mix of reggae and salsa music to get your feet moving. 

Johnny’s Place in Puerto Viejo is where the party gets going around 10 or 11 p.m. and goes well into the night. Be prepared to get sandy and make new friends!

31. Explore San Jose

Costa Rica’s capital city offers a vibrant mix of culture and history. While in San Jose, stroll through the bustling Mercado Central for a taste of local life, and don’t miss the Teatro Nacional, an architectural gem hosting concerts and performances. 

If museums and history are your thing, you’ll want to pay a visit to the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, where you can marvel at exquisite indigenous gold artifacts and learn about Costa Rica’s rich pre-colonial heritage. 

Next, head to the National Museum, housed in a grand, former military barracks, to gain insights into the country’s history, including fascinating exhibitions on archaeology, art, and colonial-era artifacts. 

San Jose provides an excellent introduction to Costa Rican culture and serves as a convenient hub for exploring the rest of the country.

How many days do you need in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica Waterfall Katie

The number of days you need in Costa Rica depends entirely on your interests, the areas you plan to explore, and the activities you want to do. 

To get a well-rounded experience of the country, we’d recommend spending 7 to 10 days in Costa Rica. This allows for a mix of adventure, nature, wildlife, and relaxation.

Two weeks will give you the time to have a more in-depth experience. However, you could easily spend months traveling around Costa Rica and not see it all. 

Best time to visit Costa Rica

Oxygen Jungle Villa Infinity Pool

If hiking and exploring volcanoes is your goal, January through March is best, as you’ll have the best chance of avoiding rain altogether. 

The rugged, deep-in-the-jungle hikes and tours are also more likely to be open, with less chance of impassable mud and flooding streams. Conversely, this is high season, which means higher prices and fewer accommodation options. 

For beachgoers, July, as well as December through May, are the best times to visit the Pacific coast, while you may want to avoid September and October, when it rains almost daily.

September and October are the sunniest, most ideal months for visiting the more relaxing southern Caribbean coast, with ideal conditions for snorkeling and swimming. In the more rugged northern part of this coast, it rains year-round, so timing doesn’t matter as much.

For an in-depth guide on the regional seasons, weather patterns and other factors, check out our complete guide to the best time to visit Costa Rica.

How to get around Costa Rica

Renting a Car in Costa Rica Countryside with Camera

Getting around Costa Rica is easy with lots of different transportation options. The choice depends on your preferences, budget, and the specific regions you plan to visit. Here are some common ways to get around Costa Rica:

By rental car

As we mentioned already, renting a car in Costa Rica is one of the most convenient and affordable means of transportation. 

But before you head out on the road, check out our ultimate guide to renting a car in Costa Rica. You’ll find info on how to score the best deals as well as some tips you definitely want to know before getting behind the wheel.

Domestic flights

If you need to cover a long distance in a short amount of time, you may want to look into domestic flight options. 

Costa Rica has several domestic airports, and regional airlines offer frequent flights between major cities and tourist destinations. Popular routes include San Jose to Liberia, Quepos (for Manuel Antonio), and Tortuguero.

Public buses

Costa Rica’s public bus system is extensive and affordable. While it may take longer than other options, it’s a budget-friendly way to travel between cities and towns. Keep in mind that schedules can be subject to change, and bus comfort varies.

Taxis and ride-sharing

Taxis are readily available in cities and tourist areas. In San Jose, you can use ride-sharing apps like Uber and DiDi. Always ensure the taxi has a meter or agree on a fare before starting the journey.

Tips for visiting Costa Rica

Things to do Santa Teresa and Montezuma tree pose

Before you touch down in Costa Rica, here are a few things to consider to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience in Costa Rica.

  • Plan ahead but be flexible. While it’s essential to have a general itinerary and book accommodations and transportation in advance, leave room for spontaneity. Costa Rica’s weather can be unpredictable, and road conditions may vary, so be prepared to adapt your plans as needed.
  • Learn basic Spanish phrases. While many Costa Ricans in tourist areas speak English, learning a few basic Spanish phrases can enhance your experience and show respect for the local culture. Phrases like “Hola” (hello), “Gracias” (thank you), and “Por favor” (please) can go a long way in making connections with locals.
  • Embrace the Pura Vida lifestyle. Pura Vida is a popular saying in Costa Rica that translates to “pure life” or “simple life.” It represents the country’s laid-back and positive attitude. Embrace this lifestyle by being patient, open-minded, and flexible during your trip. Slow down, enjoy the moment, and savor the natural beauty and experiences that Costa Rica offers.
  • Don’t forget travel insurance. Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers unexpected events, such as trip cancellations, medical emergencies, and lost luggage. We share exactly which travel insurance we use in our travel insurance comparison
  • Pack accordingly. Costa Rica’s climate varies by region and season, so pack versatile clothing. Lightweight, breathable fabrics are ideal for the tropical climate, and don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a reusable water bottle. And don’t forget to bring appropriate footwear for outdoor activities.
  • Respect the environment and wildlife. This should go without saying. Costa Rica is known for its stunning natural beauty and biodiversity. Help protect it by practicing responsible tourism

What to pack for traveling to Costa Rica

Things to do in Arenal Costa Rica Canyoning

We know it can be overwhelming packing for a trip to a new destination. That’s why we spent hours creating this super helpful PDF just for you.

In this free Costa Rica packing list PDF download, we’ve provided packing checklists for everything from clothing and toiletries (for both women and men!) to what shoes to pack and extra medicines you may want to have on-hand just in case.

Plus, we’re sharing tons of packing hacks and tips for traveling in Costa Rica that you won’t find anywhere else!

Costa Rica Packing List

Round up of the best things to do in Costa Rica

Here’s a recap of all the best things to do in Costa Rica so you can see everything in one place.

  1. Surfing
  2. Natural hot springs
  3. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  4. Learn about indigenous culture
  5. Zipline canopy tour
  6. Manuel Antonio National Park
  7. Whitewater rafting
  8. Canyoning tour
  9. Tortuguero National Park
  10. Jaguar Rescue Center
  11. Eat a casado
  12. Tarzan swing jump
  13. Corcovado National Park
  14. Sustainable living off the grid at Rancho Mastatal
  15. Nicoya Peninsula
  16. Go chasing waterfalls
  17. Road trip
  18. Luxurious jungle villas
  19. See volcanoes up close
  20. Whale Tail Beach
  21. Lesser known national parks
  22. Scuba diving
  23. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
  24. Cemetery island
  25. Spend the night in a tree house
  26. Take a hike
  27. Practice your Spanish
  28. Beaches
  29. Whale watching
  30. Beach partying
  31. San Jose

Planning a trip to Costa Rica?

We have lots more resources on travel in Costa Rica and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Ultimate Costa Rica Travel Guide for all the answers you’re looking for, or read some of our favorite articles below.

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Things to Do in Costa Rica | Two Wandering Soles
Things to Do in Costa Rica | Two Wandering Soles

We want to hear from you!

Which of these things to do in Costa Rica seem like the most fun to you? Did we miss any? Do you have any questions about travel in Costa Rica? Comment below and check back because we do our best to answer ALL comments!

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