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24 Free Things to Do in Costa Rica That You’ll Love

Costa Rica is an adventure lovers paradise. There are so many fun things to do here. However, most activities are not cheap. We created this guide to the 24 best free things to do in Costa Rica to help guide those of you on a budget.

To be honest, even if you are not on a budget you should check out a lot of these activities. As a couple who lives in Costa Rica, this list contains some of our absolute favorite things to do in the country.

So, forget the high price tag for day tours and enjoy these things instead. 

Let’s get to it!

1. Watch the Sunrise

sunrise in cahuita

Head to the Caribbean Coast for amazing sunrise views of the Caribbean Sea. The sun rises in Costa Rica year-round between 5:15 and 5:45 am.

I think this is the perfect way to start your morning and set the tone for the day. Plus, a lot of the wildlife in the country is most active in the early morning hours. You might see a lot of sloths, monkeys, and birds.

We suggest watching the sunrise from the beach for the most peaceful experience. 

2. Watch the Sunset

Watching the sunset is the perfect free activity that you can do every day.

Our favorite place to watch the sunset in Costa Rica is from one of the many Pacific coast beaches. The sunset occurs between 5:15 and 5:45pm year round.

Just be aware, once the sun goes down the mosquitos tend to come out in full force, so bring bug spray to your sunset viewing.

Also, it gets dark very quickly. Having a headlamp or flashlight might be helpful to get back to your hotel after. 

3. Climb a Ficus Tree in Monteverde

If you opt to visit the beautiful cloud forest town of Monteverde, you should definitely check out the ficus tree. You can climb up in through the inside of it like a ladder.

In the past, you were able to climb all the way to the top. Now, it is blocked, but you can still climb up a little way.

Just be careful, there aren’t any safety regulations in place and it can be slippery after one of the many rains here.

Use this Google Map link to find it. It says it is closed, but it is still possible to access it. 

4. Explore All the Beaches

Did you know that all beaches in Costa Rica need to have public access by law? That means that every beach on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts are yours to explore.

One of our favorite ways to spend the day is just driving along and pulling in random beaches to check them out. 

5. Go Snorkeling from Shore

24 Free Things to Do in Costa Rica That You'll Love

Bring your own snorkel mask and you can enjoy a snorkel experience anywhere in Costa Rica.

Just be aware that some areas are known for rip currents. It is best to check any signs and ask at your hotel which areas are safe to swim before going.

If you need a snorkel mask, here is a good one that can fit in your luggage. 

6. Go Shore Fishing

We love deep-sea fishing day tours, but they are not cheap!

For a free experience, you can always fish from shore.

In Costa Rica, most locals fish without a pole. They just use a line with hook and bait on the end. You can get this for a few dollars from any fishing shop. 

The best time to fish is typically at sunrise or sunset. Look for the locals on the beach. They typically know the best places to fish and do this every day. 

Thomas is always fishing no matter where we go. From shore he has been able to catch needle fish, barracuda, jacks, and pompano. So, it is definitely possible to catch so great things just from the beach or rfocks.

7. Explore Downtown San Jose

san jose costa rica

San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica. It is centrally located in the country and is home to the largest international airport.

As people who live in San Jose, we really don’t think you need to spend much or any time here. However, if you do find yourself with a day or two in downtown San Jose, there are plenty of free things to do to keep you entertained.

Downtown San Jose is easily walkable. You can walk Avenida Central, check out the historic architecture, visit the Mercado Central, look for unique graffiti, and so much more for free downtown.

Check out our guide to things to do in San Jose for more ideas.

8. Visit the Free Hot Spring in La Fortuna

la fortuna free hot spring river

La Fortuna is home to the best volcanic hot springs in the country. There are places for all budgets and interests from family-friendly places to adult-only spaces.

If you are on a budget there is even a place you can soak in the volcanic stream for free. This is called El Choyin.

Be careful, the rocks here are very slippery. I suggest some type of stable water shoes. I definitely wiped out the first time we visited.

Also, walk around a bit in the stream. You will be surprised at all the different water temperatures throughout.

Here is the access point on Google Map.

9. Relax in a River or Lake

One thing that locals love doing is to find a nice river or lake to relax in. This is especially true in the middle part of the country that is not near beaches.

It is possible to find rivers or lakes all throughout the country. One of our favorites is El Salto in La Fortuna. There is even a rope swing here that you can jump off of.

10. Swim in a Bright Blue River at Rio Celeste

road near rio celeste

Rio Celeste is a bright blue river that almost looks completely photoshopped. But, I assure you, during the dry season it really is that blue.

Rio Celeste waterfall and part of the river are located in the Tenorio National Park. This is a great place to visit for a nice day hike and epic waterfall views.

However, you can not swim in the river at the national park. 

If you would like to swim in bright blue water and get some cool photos, you can do that on the banks of the river next to a bridge. There is even plenty of space to pull your car off on the side of the road.

Here is a Google Maps link so you know where to go

11. Visit La Paz Waterfall

La Paz Waterfall is located in the hills above Alajuela near Poas Volcano.

You have to pay for admission to enter the La Paz Waterfall Garden park.

This park has a wildlife rehabilitation center, info on Costa Rican culture, and views of two cascading falls that are part of the La Paz Waterfall.

However, if you don’t want to pay the admission, you can still view one of the huge falls from the road. 

I’ve marked the waterfall pull-off point on Google Maps for you.

Just pull your rental car off to the side of the road and get out to enjoy the views. 

12. Enjoy the Arenal Volcano Views

arenal volcano view sunny day

There are several volcanoes in Costa Rica, but Arenal Volcano is definitely the most impressive from afar.

The Arenal Volcano is located in La Fortuna. On a clear day, we suggest driving around town to try and get the best views. You can sometimes capture some really magical photos.

12. See Baby Sea Turtles 

montezuma turtle

It is possible to see sea turtles on several different beaches in Costa Rica, but most are considered national parks and require an entrance fee.

For a free experience, head to Montezuma and go to the beach at 4pm. It doesn’t happen every day, but the ASVO (Asociación de Voluntarios) Sea Turtle Hatchery often releases freshly hatched turtles into the water.

It is such a cool thing to experience!

Here is the exact location on Google Maps.

12. Go Bird Watching

It is always possible to go birdwatching with a tour or in a national park.

But, for a free experience just bring your pocket binoculars and walk or drive around.

I bought Thomas this Costa Rica bird book a few years ago and he really likes it for identifying the birds he sees.

15. Check out Souvenir Shops

24 Free Things to Do in Costa Rica That You'll Love

You can find souvenir shops almost anywhere in the country.

One of our favorite places to check out unique artisan products is in Dominical next to the beach (pictured above).

You don’t necessarily have to buy anything. Looking at souvenirs is also often a good way to get a taste for the culture.

16. Visit Cabuya Cemetery

24 Free Things to Do in Costa Rica That You'll Love

Cabuya is a relaxed beach village located between Montezuma and Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula.

The beaches here are really nice on their own, but one of the most unique things you can do here is to visit the Cabuya Cemetery.

This cemetery is located on an island that is accessible by walking to during low tide.

The cemetery is really beautiful with unique gravestones.

If you want to snorkel, the waters off of the cemetery island are great for snorkeling.

Just make sure you head back before the tide starts coming in so you don’t get stuck out there. 

Here is the Cabuya Cemetery location on Google Maps.

17. Explore a Farmer’s Market

One of our favorite things to do when we have family or friends visiting is to take them to a farmers market.

These markets take place in all bigger towns and usually occur once a week. You can ask at your hotel if there is one near where you are staying.

The best part about these markets is the option to buy tons of tropical fruits that you probably have never tried before.

17. Do Some Beach Yoga

tamarindo yoga

It is always possible to take a yoga class in Costa Rica, but for a free experience just head to the beach on your own for some re-centering.

We like to go early in the morning before the beaches get crowded. 

19. Visit a Historic Church

There are several historic churches in Costa Rica that you can visit for free.

Our favorites are:

20. See Crocodiles Up Close

rio tarcoles

If you are driving from San Jose to any of the Central or Southern Pacific Beach towns you will pass the Rio Tarcoles Bridge about an hour into your drive. 

Pull your car off the side of the road and walk out onto the bridge. There is a narrow sidewalk. Look down and you will see giant crocodiles sunning themselves.

Just note, sometimes this isn’t a completely free activity because locals may collect a few dollars to watch your car for you while you are on the bridge. This is a good idea because you are likely going to be stopping here while your car is filled with all of your luggage.

Here is the Crocodile Bridge on a map.

21. Hike at Cahuita National Park

The Cahuita National Park located on the Caribbean Coast is not technically free, but instead there is no set admission fee. This park asks for a donation to enter. So, you can pay whatever you feel comfortable with.

Cahuita National Park is my favorite national park in the country. The trails are relatively easy and level, you can see TONS of wildlife, and the trails run parallel to the beach so you can pop out on the ocean at any time you want.

We like to bring a picnic lunch to spend a full day exploring and relaxing. 

22. Go Stargazing

Depending on where you are in the country, the stairs can be really amazing. Since the sun sets so early here (by 6pm every night) you don’t even need to stay up late to enjoy some star viewing.

We like to sit outside with some wine and a free star app on our phones for a nice evening activity.

23. Take a Long Beach Walk

As I mentioned above, visiting the beaches in Costa Rica is the perfect free activity. But, you can take that one step further by taking a long walk.

Our favorite place to do this is in Montezuma.

You can head south on Montezuma beach and walk for a few miles all the way to this epic waterfall that flows into the ocean.

Along the way you will pass through a wildlife refuge, pass a stream, see tons of crabs, and more!

Just make sure to start your walk a but before low tide so that you can get back before the tide comes in all the way.

24. Watch a Soccer Match

Soccer (or fútbol as it is called in Spanish) is a big part of the Costa Rican culture. Almost every town has a soccer field in the center of town.

If you want to watch the locals play, you can usually just show up and stand on the sidelines.

Typically this is free. It’s a fun way to get a taste of the local life.

Travel Tips for Free Things to Do in Costa Rica

Here are a few things you should know before arranging your free activities.

Stay at a Hotel with Good Amenities

We have found that sometimes the best way to save some money is to spend a bit more money.

If possible, opt for places with a hotel pool or on-property hiking trails.

This will allow you to stay entertained and enjoy the Costa Rica vibes without having to spend anything extra.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

A lot of these activities are somewhat off the beaten path and aren’t regulated for security like you may be used to.

To combat that, we always suggest purchasing travel insurance for your vacation in Costa Rica.

Our go-to Costa Rica travel insurance is a company called Heymondo. They cover travel plan changes, lost luggage, illness, and more!

Get a price quote from Heymondo Travel Insurance here

Consider Your Transportation Options

We believe that renting a car is the best transportation option in Costa Rica. This will allow you to explore all of these off-the-beaten-path activities on your own.

For all your Costa Rica rental car needs, we suggest a local company called Adobe Rent-a-Car. We have an exclusive partnership with Adobe and have a 10% discount plus other perks to pass on to you.

⤷ Get Your 10% Car Rental Discount

Conclusion: Free Things to Do in Costa Rica

In conclusion, Costa Rica can be pricey, but it is also possible to travel on a budget. With this list of 24 free activities you can keep yourself entertained without spending any money all around the country.

If you have any questions on any of these free activities, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you plan!

You Might Also Like:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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5 Comments

  1. Hi! I love your website, I’ve been reading your different articles and getting so much information! My partner and I will be attending a destination wedding in Alajuela Province, La Fortuna, Costa Rica and am wondering what you suggest we do regarding transportation from SJO airport to La Fortuna or La Palma? We are not sure about renting a car. Additionally, do you have any recommendations for adventuring/visiting around the area for a short 3 day stay?

    1. Hi Karen! There are shuttles that run that route, but they are not exactly cheap. I would suggest checking out Interbus. https://www.interbusonline.com/ They tend to be the most reputable shuttle company. It may actually end up cheaper for you to rent a car, but I’m not positive. The drive really is not bad. It’s actually a very beautiful drive, but of course it can be a bit overwhelming and sometimes it’s less stress to depend on a shuttle service.
      As far as things to do in La Fortuna, definitely go to the waterfall and check out some hot springs. Those are for sure the La Fortuna highlights. That area is made for adventure though so if you’d like to go a little crazier there are plenty of zip lining companies, white water rafting companies, a place you can go caving etc.
      Let me know if you have more questions!

  2. Awesome website and great info! Can’t stop reading. Thank you for sharing ❤️

  3. Hi! Thanks for lots of helpful information! I’m planning a trip in January for my husband and I. We can only stay for 7 days. I want to combine adventure and relaxation. If you only had a week, what places would you visit?

    1. Definitely, do La Fortuna for maybe two nights. It’s the perfect adventure spot in the jungle and then I’d head to a beach.
      I love the northern Pacific beaches the best (Playas del Coco or Tamarindo area), but if you are flying into San Jose it is a bit of a drive. Most people head to Manuel Antonio, which is nice, but a bit too touristy and filled with people in my opinion. The Caribbean is also really cool (Cahuita/ Puerto Viejo). There is a very fun rasta vibe and not as many tourists.
      Sorry, that was way too many options!!
      Check out our destination page if you haven’t already. It might give you a better idea of the feel in different spots and let us know if you have more questions 🙂