Things to Do in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is an outdoor activity paradise. You will never get bored between beach and jungle activities.
If you are looking for relaxation, have no fear! There are plenty of options for that as well.
Beach & Water activities
With extensive coastline on both the Pacific and Caribbean coast of the country, there are tons of options for enjoying fun beach activities.
Also, keep in mind that by law all beaches need to have free public access. This means that no beach if off limits for your enjoyment.
A few of our favorite beach activities are; surfing, snorkeling, fishing, walking on the beach in Montezuma, visiting Isla Tortuga, going on a whale watching tour, seeing sea turtles at Ostional, relaxing at a beach bar, and watching the sunset.
The middle of Costa Rica is filled with lush jungles, moody cloud forests, mountains, volcanoes, and plenty of waterfalls.
It is truly a tropical paradise!
The best things to do in the Costa Rica jungle are; zip-lining, bird watching, relaxing at the Arenal hot springs, white water rafting, visiting a waterfall, visiting a volcano, going on a chocolate tour, learning how coffee is produced, looking for wildlife, searching for butterflies, taking a hike along hanging bridges, visiting a national park, and taking a wildlife night walk in Monteverde.
Things to Do By Budget
There is something for everyone in Costa Rica. So, if you are ready to splurge with some luxury in your life or if you are trying to stick to a strict budget, we’ve got options for you.
Some of our favorite high-end activities are; taking a catamaran tour, going deep sea fishing, relaxing at a nice spa, taking a multi-day diving trip to Cocos Island, playing golf, relaxing at a luxury hot spring, and taking a helicopter ride.
It is always possible to organize high-end activities with transportation included.
Most things in Costa Rica are what I would consider a mid-price range.
Some of our favorite things to do are; go zip-lining, take a surfing lesson, go white water rafting, take a guided wildlife tour, and visit a hot spring.
One of our favorite budget-friendly activities is hiking. This can be done at a national park or in many private reserves throughout the country.
We have a long list of budget-friendly activities you can check out for more ideas.
Free Things to Do
Our absolute favorite free thing to do in Costa Rica is to visit one of the many beautiful beaches on either the Pacific or Caribbean coast.
On the beach, you can watch the sunset, do some yoga, go swimming, etc.
We have a long list of free activities you can check out for more ideas.
Costa Rica National Parks
There are national parks located all throughout the country. The most popular parks are:
Manuel Antonio National Park in Manuel Antonio – The most popular national park in the country. This is a good place to see tons of wildlife in a condensed and easily walkable area.
Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula – This park needs to be accessed with a guide. Expect pure raw beauty here.
Tenorio National Park – Most people visit this park to see the bright blue Rio Celeste waterfall.
Tortuguero National Park in Tortuguero – The best way to see this park is by taking an early morning wildlife canoe ride.
Cahuita National Park in Cahuita – A great place to see a lot of wildlife on flat trails with a nice beach.
For more amazing national parks check out our National Park guide.
There are tons of waterfalls in Costa Rica. It is even possible to swim under or slide down some of them.
For more great ideas check out our waterfall guide.
The most popular volcanoes in Costa Rica are:
Poas Volcano in Alajuela – One of the few active volcanoes that you can visit up close. This is easy to visit if you are flying in or out of the San Jose International Airport.
Arenal Volcano – Located in La Fortuna this volcano is best enjoyed from afar so you can admire the impressive appearance of it.
Irazu Volcano – Located in Cartago, this is a good day trip from the San Jose area. Just be aware that the elevation is high (as in you will literally be above the clouds).
Rincon de la Vieja – Located near the Nicaragua border on the Pacific coast, this is a great place to get a true volcanic experience. You can see bubbling mud and steaming lakes.
For more info check out our volcano guide.
Costa Rica is rich with wildlife. You most likely don’t even need to go to a national park to see monkeys, a wide variety of birds, and more!
If you really want to ensure you see wildlife we suggest hiring a guide while in national parks.
Guides walk the same trails every day and know exactly where to spot animals. Plus, they carry powerful lenses so you can see animals up close.
Another option is to visit a wildlife rescue center. We suggest this if you have children who want to get close to the animals.
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Booking Costa Rica Activities
How you reserve your Costa Rica activities really depends on your travel style.
For things such as visiting beaches and going to national parks, you do not need to reserve anything ahead of time. Just show up and enjoy.
For guided tours, it is usually possible to book things somewhat last minute. However, during the high season (late December through late April) we suggest reserving activities before your trip. Things can book up fast!
If you are staying at a hotel it is often possible to book things to do through your hotel.
Lately, we have been booking more through Viator.
We like to book directly through tour companies when possible, but Viator has been helpful because most tours have really good cancellation policies.
With the current world situation, it is nice to know that if your travel plans change you can get your money back.