free to do in costa rica

If you don’t know by now, we are cheap people but we like to have as much fun as humanly possible at all times. Costa Rica may be an expensive country, but it is possible to travel on a budget and see amazing things. In fact, we do it all the time!

Here are our favorite FREE activities in Costa Rica!


playa blanca

Hey, guess what? By law in Costa Rica, all of the beaches need to have public access. That means free beaches for everyone! Hell to the yea! Find a beach. Bring your stuff and enjoy a nice beach day. We love the beaches on the Pacific coast for their white sands and big waves. If you want a really cool rasta vibe head to the Caribbean. 🙂

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Watch the sunrise on the Caribbean and sunset on the Pacific

sunrise and sunset in Costa Rica

One of my goals this year is to watch the sunrise on the Caribbean and head to the Pacific coast for the sunset. Growing up in Boston it amazes me that it is possible to drive across all of Costa Rica in 4 hours. Like seriously, how cool is that?

We like Cahuita for sunrises. The beach is almost always empty and there is something so magical about sitting on an empty beach at 5am as the first rays o light appear.

There are plenty of places you can enjoy a great sunset view. In fact, the whole Pacific coast is prime sunset real estate. Our favorite area is the beaches in Guanacaste.


No, I’m not including a picture for this one…..Dream on!

Wait till all the beachgoers leave for the day and the sun sets. Now it is time to strip those clothes off and run into the ocean. Yea, I get it. It’s a bit daunting to go naked into the dark water, but what a fun experience to have! We’ve gone on some of the busiest beaches in Costa Rica at night. Now it has become somewhat of a checklist.


stargazing in Costa Rica

No matter where you are in the country (except for the cities obviously) you can get a nice view of the stars when it is not cloudy. Our favorite place to do some stargazing is on the beaches on the Pacific coast. There is something that is just so beautiful about watching the night sky while waves crash in front of you.

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Walk around downtown San Jose

san Jose Costa Rica

San Jose is not the world’s most beautiful city, but it does have its charms. The downtown area has some interesting historical buildings that are worth checking out. I like to walk and find the coolest graffiti. In fact, that’s a great idea for a post! Stay tuned for the ultimate graffiti walking tour of San Jose, coming soon to a Costa Rica Vibes blog near you. 🙂

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Watch the planes take off

OK, this terrifies me, but it’s so cool. At the San Joe airport planes take off right over the fence. What I mean is the runway ends, there is a fence, some grass, and then a road. So you can literally have planes taking off right over your head. We like to go here around sunset and sit at the end of the runway in the grass. It’s actually a pretty popular activity with locals here. It’s a terrifying crazy rush to watch planes go right over your head. Bring some earplugs. It is pretty loud.

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Have a picnic in the park

free in costa rica - picnic

Pretty much every town in Costa Rica has a park downtown and they all have the same exact layout! Besides these downtown parks, there are several other nice public parks throughout the country. On lazy days we like to bring a few drinks to our nearby park which overlooks the city. Another great park is Sabana. It is a huge park in San Jose that is the perfect place for a picnic, people watching, and walking.

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Find a swimming hole

Wherever there is an easy flowing river you can find people lounging on the rocks and swimming. One of the coolest spots to do this is in La Fortuna.


A bit out of the downtown (like 5 minutes) you will find a bridge. Walk down the embankment (it can be a bit slippery) and you will come to a pool with a rope swing. Now, all you have to do is jump! It’s definitely not for kids or the faint of heart. In fact, it’s a bit terrifying. Make sure you have travel insurance. No, it’s not that scary and you don’t HAVE to try the rope swing. You can just enjoy swimming.

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA –  Enjoy a natural hot spring

natural hot spring Costa rica

In La Fortuna, there are several hot springs that are pretty expensive. We like to go to the ones the locals go to which are cheaper, but if you want the ultimate local discounted experience, head to the free natural hot spring.


Just pull your car off to the side of the road next to Tabacon Spa. Someone will probably approach you offering to watch your car for a few dollars. Pay them (they really will watch your car and it’s better to be safe than sorry). Ask them and they will show you where to go. It is a short walk down a hill to the bank of the river. Then just hop on in and enjoy the natural hot spring!

We suggest wearing some type of water shoes such as Chacos because there are some wet rocks you have to walk over. Also, it can be busy during the day, but if you go around sunset it will be virtually empty. Bring a few beers and enjoy!

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Do some bird watching

parrots in Costa Rica

The bird watching in Costa Rica is on point. We are not really big bird watchers, but popular areas are San Gerardo de Dota and Monteverde. You may also get lucky and find birds in random places. The parrots in the pic above were just chilling in the trees while we are at the beach in Jaco. We unfortunately only had our phones with us so we were unable to get a clear shot. Bring your binoculars and you’ll be good to go!

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Explore a farmers market

farmers market in Costa Rica

We love farmers markets in this country. In fact, we go every Saturday morning to the one near our house. We pick up quality produce at rock bottom prices and i is a great way to start the day.

You can ask at your hotel when and where the local farmer’s markets are. Also, be sure to try some new fruits or veggies. There are so many unusual items here that you likely have never seen before. We try to buy an unusual new fruit every week just to try something new.

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA –  Go on a secret beach quest

secret beaches in Costa Rica

Because every beach needs to have public access that means the entire Pacific and Caribbean coast are fair game or beach chilling. We love going on secret beach searches! Our favorite secret beach area is Guanacaste. There are so many of them!

If you are feeling adventurous you can just hop in your rental car and start looking. If you want a little more guidance you can ask at your hotel if they know of any secret beaches in the area. They may help you out, but sometimes they might be hesitant about sharing their secrets with you.

It is my biggest goal to find the best secret beaches this year and I promise to share them with you once I have a good list.


fishing in Costa Rica

Most people wrongly assume that to go fishing in Costa Rica you need to go with an expensive tour. That is fortunately not true. Instead do as the locals do. You can buy a spool of fishing line at almost any store near the beach. We like to put a little piece of chicken and stand on the rocks with the locals for fishing. You can find out more about how we fish on a budget here.

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Check out some crocodiles

If you are heading to Jaco or Manuel Antonio from San Jose you will pass over a river called Rio Tarcoles about 1.5 hours into your drive. You will know you are there by the amount of people lined up on the bridge taking pictures. Just pull over on the side of the road, make sure there is nothing valuable left visible ad walk back onto the bridge. You’ll get a nice view of some huge crocodiles chilling in the sun.

It’s not something you will likely spend too much time at, but it is still something neat to see for free.

FREE ACTIVITIES IN COSTA RICA – Stand behind a waterfall

free activities in Costa Rica - waterfall near Poas

Unfortunately, Poas volcano has been erupting and is closed indefinitely. We used to like to combine a trip to Poas with a visit to this waterfall.

It will take you about an hour from San Jose to get here. It seems like a long drive just to view a waterfall, but along the way, you will have several opportunities to pull off the side of the road for nice views of the Central Valley. There are also many tiny markets along the way selling fresh fruits and cheeses. Whenever I come to this area all I can think of is Switzerland. It’s so beautiful.

Anyway, we like this waterfall because you can just park on the side of the road. There is a path that goes behind the waterfall so you can capture cool shots. Just a warning it is usually pretty muddy and wet so wear shoes that you feel confident in.

If you would like something else to do in the area there is also the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, but it is kind of expensive and we prefer to just enjoy the free one. 🙂

We hope this list helped you find some fun free activities. Have any questions about our favorite activities that are free in Costa Rica? Leave them in the comment section below and we’ll help you out as best as we can.

 Want more activity ideas? Check out our mega list of fave budget activities here!



  1. 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?

    • 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 🙂


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