Costa Rica is known for its abundant wildlife, accessible rainforests, beautiful beaches, friendly locals, and awesome adventure tours. The tourism industry has been going strong since the 1980's, which means there are a dizzying amount of activities to choose from.
Below is a list of ten things to do in Costa Rica that I highly recommend to help make your decision easier.
1. Hike through a National Park
Over 30% of the land in Costa Rica is protected, which means that no matter which part of the country you decide to vacation in, there will be a National Park for you to discover and explore.
Some of the best National Parks, like Corcovado, border the ocean where lush green jungle weaves in and out of white sand beaches, and you can stop for a swim in emerald waters, under clear blue skies, while white-faced monkeys watch curiously from the shore.
2. Watch Arenal Volcano erupt from nearby hot springs
Arenal is Costa Rica’s very active volcano, ejecting red-hot lava almost every night, and it is surrounded by bountiful rainforests, ensuring plenty of opportunity for an unforgettable experience with the surrounding wildlife.
There are a variety of hot springs to choose from, ranging from amusement park to romantic resort, to low key, and free.
Plan your stay for at least two nights to ensure a glimpse of the nighttime fireworks exploding out of the Arenal Volcano. There are resorts, hotels, and hostels suited to fit every traveler’s budget and style in Arenal and the nearby town of La Fortuna.
3. Surf Anywhere!
Costa Rica’s beaches offer an array of surfing options for every skill level, from beginner to award-winning professional.
Check out surf lessons in Jaco Beach, Playa Hermosa, or on the Nicoya Peninsula. For the pros, I recommend a visit to Roca Bruja (Witch’s Rock) in Guanacaste, Salsa Brava in the Caribbean coastal town of Puerto Viejo, or the epic 2 km wave in the southwest coastal town of Pavones.
4. Go whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River
Whitewater rafting in Costa Rica is best on the Pacuare River. Five hours raging down class 3, 4, and 5 rapids while howler monkeys holler at you from the treetops and jaguars, ocelots and sloths peek at you passing through densely vegetated gorges.
Book your trip with an experienced company who employs professional guides and has good customer feedback.
5. Coffee tour in the Central Valley
Costa Rica is synonymous with good coffee and a coffee tour is an educational and interesting way to learn more about that delicious crack-like drink that so many of us depend on every day.
You will be treated to taste tests of some of the best coffee in the world and you can buy fresh coffee beans straight from the farmer!
6. Take in the local culture at a horse parade or Costa Rican bullfight
Throughout the year, you can find festivals all over Costa Rica with special Costa Rican style bullfights, local street food, and horse parades.
The cerveza is flowing, spirits are high – Ticos love to have a good time! Dress up in your best cowboy or cowgirl outfit and strut around town, line up and down the streets to watch the horse parade, or dip into the arena to watch the bulls trample the Ticos!
7. Zipline through the Monteverde Cloud Forest
Watch the ground whizzing by 100's of feet beneath your feet, with the wind in your hair and wildlife within your grasp, as you fly over and under the treetops, and through the cloud forests of Monteverde.
For the more adventurous, find a zipline company that also has a Tarzan swing, so you can swing out, let go, and fly, diving into a refreshing turquoise pool fed by surrounding waterfalls.
And if all of this sounds too fast paced for you, you can choose a company that offers the option of slowly rolling through the tops of the cloud forests seated comfortably in a rainforest sky tram.
8. Visit the National Museums in San Jose
Museum-lovers will appreciate the variety and proximity of Costa Rica’s national museums – it is possible to comfortably visit more than one in a day.
For history lovers, check out the lavish Pre-Columbian gold collection in the Museo de Oro, or the largest American jade collection in the Museo de Jade.
Art lovers can visit the fabulous Museo de Arte Costarricense located in the former international airport in La Sabana park or satisfy their contemporary art craving in the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo.
Nature lovers will delight in the La Salle Natural Science Museum, which boasts over 65,000 natural specimens from around the world, making it one of the most complete collections in Latin America.
Those of you traveling with children will want to stop by the Museo de los Niños (Children’s museum) which is housed in a former prison resembling a castle, and even contains an exciting earthquake simulator!
9. Visit an animal sanctuary
Meet, greet, and get up close and personal with exotic animals such as sloths, pizotes, howler monkeys, and even snakes!
Take a stroll through a butterfly garden where thousands of butterflies flutter around your head, floating from giant orange trumpet flowers to towering green tropical vines.
10. Learn Spanish
Costa Rica is a great country to learn Spanish in because the locals are extremely friendly, there are natural wonders and cultural opportunities around every corner, and there are an abundance of excellent quality schools.
You can choose intense immersion courses, or a more laid back approach and take weekly Spanish lessons.