With stunning waterfalls, a rich variety of flora and fauna, and over 5% of the world’s biodiversity, there are plenty of things to do in Costa Rica. One could easily spend a lifetime here and never get bored of all the natural wonders in Costa Rica.
It’s tough to choose the best things to do in Costa Rica, but this list should provide a great place to start planning your trip to the land of Pura Vida!
Things to do in Costa Rica: Top Tours
The Best Things to do in Costa Rica
Visit Arenal Volcano
A fun Costa Rica fact is that it has 14 volcanoes – with 6 of them active. None are as famous as Arenal Volcano, which means visiting this one is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. This perfectly cone-shaped volcano towers over the area at 1,633 meters high.
Hiking to the top is forbidden, but you can hike in the Arenal Volcano National Park and experience several microclimates and ecosystems where various species make their home. Seeing Arenal is easily one of the best things in Costa Rica.
- Location: In northwest Costa Rica near La Fortuna.
- Tip: Guides can be hired at the visitor center and they’re trained naturalists who’ll point out many fascinating things you would miss while hiking on your own.
- Price: $15 to enter Arenal Volcano National Park.
Book an Arenal Tour!
Manuel Antonio National Park
Located on the Pacific Coast, Manuel Antonio National Park is known for its diverse wildlife and the diverse ecosystems that house the many creatures that make their home there. It’s a popular place for nature lovers looking to explore fascinating natural wonders, have a picnic, relax by the coast or take a refreshing dip in the waters of one of the unspoiled beaches.
Visiting Manuel Antonio is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica and as you explore the park, you’ll also see rainforest areas that are home to sloths and various species of monkeys. The main hiking trail is just over a mile long but there are several other trails throughout the park. Manuel Antonio National Park is renowned for having some of the best sunsets in the region.
- Location: Puntarenas Province, Quepos.
- Tip: If you want to learn about the park, take a guided tour with a naturalist.
- Price: It costs $18 per adult to enter. Guided tours are $65 per adult.
Book a Tour from San Jose!
Stay in a Yoga Retreat
Enjoying a yoga sesh is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica, and we have just the place for you! Situated on the edge of the jungle in one of the most beautiful beach towns on earth, Anamaya is the place you go to unwind and rejuvenate.
Spend your days doing yoga, relaxing in a hammock overlooking the pacific ocean, or dining on fresh, organic meals. On-site, you’ll find a beautiful infinity pool, a spa and elegant guest rooms.
- Location: Anamaya Rd, Montezuma, Puntarenas Province
- Tip: Take a walk down the road to the little town of Montezuma and check out the sandy beach and great selection of restaurants and shops.
- Price: Weekly rates start at $795.
La Fortuna Waterfall
One of my top Costa Rica travel tips is to enjoy as many waterfalls as possible. Fortuna Waterfall is one of the most famous waterfalls, and one of the best things to do in Costa Rica.
Located in Arenal Volcano National Park, this 70-meter-high waterfall is a delight for visitors who must pass through 530 steps to reach it.
However, the reward is a refreshing dip in the pools once you reach it!
Book a Tour!
Sloth Tour in the Wild
The Arenal area is well known for its two different Sloth species: two-toed sloths and three-toed sloths. Seeing them in the wild is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica, and why many sloth lovers head here.
This tour will have you trekking and searching for these interesting creatures, all guided by a knowledgeable naturalist. During the tour, you’ll also come across various birdlife, iguanas, and monkeys!
Book a Tour!
Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge is a great place to start if you want to get off the beaten path. Upon arrival, hop on a boat and float through canyons to reach your main destination.
Once there, you’ll see many marine and land species. Migratory birds, howler monkeys, crocodiles, jaguars, deer, turtles and maybe even a shark fin or two are just some of the creatures you may spot on your journey.
- Location: Caño Negro District in Alajuela Province.
- Tip: After your tour, head to Cano Negro village and visit one of the great restaurants such as Sofa la Palmera.
- Price: Free to enter but $25 to travel by guided boat tour.
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero National Park is an area of incredible biodiversity where nature enthusiasts can explore a protected area with beaches, lagoons and wetlands.
It’s a very special place for sea turtles who come to nest on the park’s beaches, and guided tours to witness this event are available. Inside this park, you’ll see many other species, including monkeys, birds and caimans.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is hike in Monteverde. A cloud forest is basically what it sounds like; a forest that is shrouded in a layer of cloud. This low-hanging cloud cover creates a damp environment where a unique mesh of plants and animals thrive.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve features such a rare environment and is home to the highest number of orchids in the world, more than 400 bird species, 1,200 amphibian and reptile species and 100 animal species.
There are about eight miles of hiking trails if you wish to explore the reserve on your own.
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is the perfect place to head if you want to chill in the treetops all day. This is a wonderful forest surrounded by a wildlife sanctuary. The hanging bridges are one of the most unique places to observe different species.
You can easily go on a self-guided tour and take as much as you would like to appreciate the stunning biological corridor.
Book a Tour!
Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park is a nature reserve on the Osa Peninsula that was created to protect unique ecosystems including lowland rainforest, mangrove swamps and highland cloud forest.
The area is said to be the most bio-diverse on the planet and one of the country’s best places to spot wildlife. Jaguars, macaws and various species of monkeys are just some of the creatures you may see!
- Location: GCRH+8JM, Los Patos Sirena Trail, Puntarenas Province.
- Tip: There are several hiking trails in this park. Drake to San Pedrillo, Los Patos to La Sirena and La Leona to La Sirena are a few of the longer trails. San Pedrillo Station and La Sirena Station are shorter trails.
- Price: Entry is $15.
There are many places to zipline in Costa Rica but none are as thrilling as the lines at Diamante Eco Adventure Park. When you zip across the treeline here, you’ll get the longest ride times in the country and some of the best views. You’ll also get to participate in a 30-foot free-fall jump!
Embark on a Sunset Sailing Cruise
There’s something soothing about cruising calm ocean waters in a catamaran, even more so when you combine your relaxing cruise with a pacific coast sunset.
This adventure is unique because it combines both relaxing and thrilling elements. During the 4-hour cruise, you’ll go snorkeling, watch for whales and kick back on the deck while admiring the views.
- Tip: Snacks, beverages, dinner, and snorkeling gear are included in the price.
- Price: $100 per person.
Book a Catamaran Tour!
10. Tabacón Hot Springs
Nothing beats a soak in some mineral hot springs for total relaxation and rejuvenation – truly one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. This is especially true if those hot springs are surrounded by spectacular scenery, lush greenery, and the sounds of chirping birds.
Such is the case when you visit Tabacon Hot Springs, and the unique thing about these springs is the source is a thermal river heated by nearby Arenal Volcano. There are five different springs on site, and the temperatures vary from 77 to 122 degrees. There’s also a cold river for when you’d rather cool off.
Go Snorkeling off the Catalina Islands
The Catalina Islands are a group of islands about ten miles off the coast of Tamarindo, and the waters around these islands are known to be the best for snorkeling in the region.
Embark on a journey to two different areas where you’ll snorkel for 40 minutes each. Tropical fish, small sharks, and manta rays are some marine species you’ll see.
- Location: TamaDive Dive Center – Potrero meeting point, Unnamed Road, F67Q+FMH, Guanacaste Province.
- Tip: You can arrange to be picked up and taken to the meeting spot as long as you’re staying in Tamarindo, Langosta, or Potrero.
- Price: $125.13 per person.
Go on an ATV Tour
ATVs are a popular way to get around the remote areas of Costa Rica and you have a chance to embark on a one-of-kind adventure with this 3-hour ATV jungle waterfall tour. Travel through rough mountainous landscapes and across rivers to reach an area with spectacular views and two waterfalls.
- Location: Adventure Tours Costa Rica, Av. Pastor Díaz Local 1, Jaco, Puntarenas province.
- Tip: Take a swimsuit so you can take a refreshing dip in a natural pool. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can jump into a pool below one of the waterfalls.
- Price: From $125.
Book a Tour!
Go Surfing in Jaco
One of the most exciting things you can do in Costa Rica is surf; you don’t need to be a pro to catch some waves! Even if you’ve never surfed before, the pros at Jaco Beach will have you riding waves in no time.
Start with a basic lesson on safety and technique before heading into the water where you’ll try and try again until you finally ride that first wave. There’s nothing quite like it!
- Location: Jaco Beach
- Tip: A souvenir photo is available for an extra fee.
- Price: $90.88 per person.
Wine and Dine at one of San Jose’s Finest
The exquisite dishes prepared at Botaniko are prepared by a renowned chef using a wood-fired oven and fresh, local ingredients. The cuisine is a delicious mix of traditional Argentine recipes and techniques combined with Costa Rican traditions.
Most of the dishes are gluten-free. Also on-site are a sushi bar, a cocktail bar and pretty outdoor seating.
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
If you can only visit one waterfall, you’ll want to make it one that has a pool at the bottom that you can swim in and Llanos de Cortez Waterfall is a popular choice. It’s easy to get to, it’s picturesque and the swimming hole is patrolled by lifeguards.
Go Bungee Jumping
The Old Colorado River Bridge is just one of the places where you can bungee jump in Costa Rica but it’s the best! Tropical Bungee runs a jumping service on this bridge that crosses a river gorge that’s around 265 feet deep.
It’s the highest jump in the country and you don’t have to worry about cars trying to cross the bridge as you muster up the courage to take the plunge because it’s closed to traffic.
- Location: About an hour outside of San Jose in Naranjo.
- Tip: At nearby Rancho Amalia, you can do some hiking on some easy trails.
- Price: $75 for one jump, $45 for a second jump. Prices include a t-shirt and video of your jump.
See Turtles at Ostional Wildlife Refuge
Turtles are popular in Costa Rica and Ostional Wildlife Refuge is yet another place where you can observe these fascinating creatures. This protected area includes a nine-mile stretch of beach where thousands of turtles come to lay their eggs.
- Location: X8Q2+XQ8, Guanacaste Province, Ostional.
- Tip: Visitors can only visit the refuge with a guided tour which can be booked at the Guide Association office in Ostional.
- Price: The tour, which includes transportation, costs $50 to $80 depending on your location.
Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo
The Jaguar Rescue Center is an animal rescue center that serves as a temporary home and rehabilitation center for orphaned and injured animals. The goal is to get these animals healthy so they can be released into protected areas around the country.
While jaguars are a popular draw, you’ll also see monkeys, sloths, birds and many other local species.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
It’s not that far from the capital city but the La Paz Waterfall Gardens is where you’ll find mountainous rainforest surroundings featuring hiking trails, waterfalls and a wildlife sanctuary with wild cats, sloths, monkeys, snakes and many species of birds.
Take a San Jose City Tour
The capital city of San Jose is a beautiful city with historic buildings, markets and parks. The best way to see it is on foot and a guided walking tour with Intrepid Urban Adventures is the best way to get an introduction to this vibrant city.
This tour lasts three hours and along the way, you’ll learn about the city’s history, taste local cuisine, and sip local coffee.
- Location: Downtown San Jose.
- Tip: The meeting place is at the National Theater of Costa Rica at 1, Catedral.
- Price: $50.00 per person.
Book a Tour!
Take a Ride on a Tram
If ziplining over the rainforest canopy is not your style, you can enjoy a less adrenaline-pumping rainforest experience with a tram ride with Rainforest Adventures Jaco. During your tour, you’ll learn about the surrounding landscapes and the importance of the various rainforest ecosystems.
Tour of a Coffee Plantation
Some of the best coffee in the world comes from Costa Rica so naturally, you’ll want to take a tour of a local coffee plantation with North Fields Coffee and Chocolate. You don’t have to be a coffee drinker to appreciate the process of getting this much-loved drink to breakfast tables around the world!
The farm that you’ll visit also specializes in making traditional chocolate. As you tour the facility, you’ll see the equipment and plantations and have the opportunity to taste some of the fresh coffee and chocolate that is made right on-site.
Stop on the Crocodile Bridge
It’s not an advertised attraction but a great one if you want to see crocodiles up close and in their natural element. This bridge is along a busy highway but you’ll know you found it when you see the vehicles pulled over with people looking over. Usually, about a dozen crocodiles are lounging in the sun below the bridge.
Spend a Day at Tamarindo Beach
It’s hard to pinpoint just one beach to be the best in all of Costa Rica because there are so many everywhere. However, Tamarindo Beach stands out from the rest for its soft white sand, beautiful scenery, and spectacular sunsets.
When the surf is up, waves can reach 12 feet, making it a top surfing spot. In calmer waters, paddle boarding and sea kayaking are popular.
Try some Stand-up Paddleboarding on Lake Arenal
Lake Arenal is the perfect place to explore on a paddleboard. The views of Arenal Volcano are amazing and as you explore the lake, you’ll be immersed in a rainforest environment where you’ll hear and see a variety of animals and birds. If paddleboarding isn’t your thing, you can also explore in a kayak.
- Location: CR Paddleboard Rentals and Tours, El Fósforo-El Castillo, El Fosforo, Alajuela province.
- Tip: Before starting your adventure, request the photoshoot service, which costs an additional $6.
- Price: From $72 per person.
Relax in Santa Teresa
Guanacaste is the most popular destination for tourists to Costa Rica, but it’s also the aridest region in the country. The primary reason for this is the large amount of sunshine with good surf and beaches. Santa Teresa is located in Guanacaste but in the far southwest of the peninsula, where rain is abundant.
Here you’ll find a buffer of rainforest along the coast where the ocean dumps large amounts of rain. It’s hip, eclectic, and full of yoga studios and eco-lodges. Everything here still operates off one dirt road and isn’t completely easy to get to. If you want something more off the beaten path, then Santa Teresa is the place to head!
Stay in a Treehouse
Finca Bellavista is one of the most unique and coolest places to stay in Costa Rica. This eco-community is set in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle along the Pacific Coast in the country’s south.
It’s a stunning track of secondary and primary forest with a network of hiking trails to explore on your own. Rooms here come in the form of treehouses spread throughout the forest, some an hour-plus hike from the main lodge, make sure you book accordingly.
With a down-to-earth vibe, it attracts a clientele in search of digital detox and good conversation. Treehouses start at $100 a night, food not included, but you will have access to their amazing grounds and hiking.
Be Dazzled at Rio Celeste
Tenorio Volcano National Park is a stunning park and a prime example of Costa Rican jungle. In this park is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the entire country.
The Rio Celeste is unique in its color as it is a deep turquoise blue. It looks absolutely unreal and is caused by the convergence of two rivers. One river is acidic, and the other carries a volcanic mineral so that when they meet the mineral enlarges, reflecting the light in an effect called Mie Scattering.
- Location: Rio Celeste
- Tip: Before starting your adventure, request the photoshoot service which costs an additional $6.
- Price: $15 per person.
Book a Rio Celeste Waterfall Tour (With Sloth Sanctuary!)
Catarata del Toro
Catarata del Toro is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the entire country. This is a privately owned ecological waterfall project and is near a small town called Bajos del Toro.
It’s close enough for a day trip from San José or Alajuela. To reach the falls you’ll have to descend a scenic staircase before laying your eyes on a 90-meter fall that flows into an extinct volcanic crater.
There are 375 steps to the waterfall’s base, so prepare for the hike back up! Hiking shoes are recommended!
See Macaws on the Osa Peninsula
Anyone in search of nature and seclusion should head to the Osa Peninsula. It’s considered the most biodiverse region in the planet, with nearly 2.5% of the planet’s species packed into a tiny area.
As big conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts, we knew we had to make it to the Osa Peninsula. We were by no means disappointed, as within our first hour, we found a tree full of 13 scarlet macaws. It is on the Osa Peninsula that we would go on to find anteaters, armadillos, fer-de-lance snakes, and tapirs! This is also where Corcovado National Park is, a true gem of Costa Rica.
Seek Out the Resplendent Quetzal
The stunning Resplendent Quetzal is like the elusive leopard in Africa. If you spot one, consider yourself very, very lucky.
This beautiful bird is part of the trogon family and can be seen in the Costa Rica cloud forest. Grab some binoculars and a birding app, and look out for this beautiful bird.
Best Things to do in Costa Rica Map
Costa Rica Quick Tips
- Currency: Costa Rica Colón
- Visa: Many nationalities can enter Costa Rica for 90 days visa-free
- Weather: There is a lot of weather in this tiny country. The rainy season typically runs from May to December. You can expect colder temperatures in the cloud forest, while Guanacaste is typically dry and hot. The coastal areas are pretty much miserably hot and humid all year around.
- What to Pack: Good hiking shoes, a bathing suit, rain jacket, and rain boots.
- Stay Connected: We recommend Sim Cards from Kolbi, Movistar, or Claro. Sim cards can be purchased in town centers
When Is The Best Season To Travel Costa Rica?
Dry Season (Late November to Late April)
Contradictory of the high season in North America, Costa Rica celebrates its best weather during the North American winter. The high season in Costa Rica is the dry season. You’ll get little rainfall from late November to April to spoil your holiday. This is good and bad. No one likes rain on their holiday, but it also means that everything won’t be as lush as in the wet season. During this time you’ll find higher prices, and accommodation options booking up fast. Advanced bookings are recommended.
Rainy Season (May to November)
Often referred to as the green season, this is when the rain falls in Costa Rica. May is the beginning of the rainy season, with peak rainfall in September and stopping around mid-November. The rainy season means lower prices and fewer tourists.
However, you should travel with a rain jacket as chances are high you’ll get rained on. The plus side is everything is green and gorgeous. We traveled to Costa Rica in the middle of May, and it rained at least once a day, but we still saw plenty of sunshine and had a fantastic time! Rain in the jungles of Costa Rica is so picturesque! See the month-by-month breakdown here!
Accommodation in Costa Rica
Large multi-bed dorms with ten or more beds can start at around $5, depending on the season. However, expect to pay more if you want fewer beds in the room or a private room.
It’s standard for hostels to provide free (although maybe slow) WiFi, linens, and occasionally breakfast – many also have large common rooms, restaurants, and bars, making it easy to meet people.
We stayed a few Airbnbs around Costa Rica. Airbnb allowed us to have our own apartment with a kitchen and do some cooking.
Airbnb also allowed us to get away from resorts and live more like a local in a neighboring. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of Airbnbs in Costa Rica.
Eco Lodge ($200+)
The Costa Rican government has actively protected the country’s biodiversity. This means many lodges around the country are considered environmentally friendly, promising to give back to the environment. You’ll find them all over the country and the range in price point and luxuriousness. Eco-lodges often include guides, tours, and food in their packages.
Private room or “casita” ($40-$50)
In Spanish, “casita” means “little house.” You’ll find this word and the little houses all over the country. We stayed in a few of these and loved our time in them as they were often very intimate and in secluded locations since they were small.
You know those cool treehouses you see on Instagram around the world? Well, I feel like Costa Rica is their birthplace of them. For sustainable, off-grid living, consider booking out a treehouse for a few days.
Transportation in Costa Rica
Costa Rica doesn’t have a huge public transport system. But there are local buses that you can get between most major destinations, towns, and cities. It can save a lot as car rentals can be expensive, though it will take some serious patience. Remember that bus routes do not link destinations resulting in multiple transfers and wasted time in uncomfortable spaces.
We rented a car for our three weeks in Costa Rica for under $500. Remember the destinations you plan to visit in Costa Rica, as many roads are notoriously bad. Due to the poor roads, we rented a small 4×4 and would advise the same.
While many of the main roads may be fine with a small car, once you turn off, the need for a 4×4 is necessary. Another important thing to note is that you must have third-party liability insurance in Costa Rica.
This is not covered with your credit card or home insurance provider but check just in case you feel it may be covered. Due to the insurance, the price you see online is a lot more expensive than you may think, we suggest adding the insurance on to your booking to ensure you aren’t met with a surprise cost addition when you land in Costa Rica.
Food Costs in Costa Rica
Cheap Eats: We found the food to be the worst value in Costa Rica. The country produces many products with plenty of sunshine and rich soil; however, much of it is invaluable tropical fruits for export. This resulted in Costa Rica importing much of its produce. To curtail this, the government implemented tariffs on imported produce. The cheapest meals you can find out will be at soda shops. Check out to see where the locals are heading for the best ones. You can eat a full meal at a soda shop for $7-$10.
The local staple is gallo pinta, a mixture of rice, beans, and spices. It’s a decent staple and can often be found in the national dish of casado. Casado is the typical lunch with a meat, salad, cheese, gallo pinta, tomato, salsa, and plantains. You need to try it with a “batido,” which is fruit smoothie made with ice “aqua” or milk “leche.”
Grocery Stores: Modern chain grocery stores in major cities like San Jose and Jaco. You will be able to find most of the things you will need to cook a full and complete meal at these stores. However, you will likely only find small convenience stores with limited items at a high price outside of major cities.
What to Wear in Costa Rica?
I can’t stress the importance of good shoes for Costa Rica. Shoes that can handle mud and rough terrain! Hiking clothes are also of utmost importance for all the waterfall trekking! We break down our entire Costa Rica packing list here!