10 Best Things To Do In Costa Rica: Attractions And Activities 2023
There are so many things to do in Costa Rica that it is sometimes difficult to choose just a few. That is why we came up with this definitive list of what to do in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is the dream destination for all adventurous travellers, and although the country is small in size, it has several great places to offer.
From volcano tours to beautiful beaches and relaxing hot springs. This country has something to offer us all, so we recommend these things to do in Costa Rica:
When To Visit Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has a tropical climate. This means that there is a rainy and dry season, but the temperature is relatively high all year round. It is only at higher altitudes in the mountains that the temperature drops slightly.
The rainy season runs roughly from May to November. During this time, it rains almost every day. Sometimes it rains only for a short time; sometimes, it rains all day. Only prepare during the rainy season and wear appropriate waterproof clothing. Also, try to have a backup in case it rains on your days at the beach.
The advantage of visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season is the lack of crowds and lower prices of tourist attractions. During the rainy season, you can also find cheaper flights to Costa Rica. So a trip to Costa Rica this half-year could surely be a win-win for your wallet. October is the rainiest month, so if you want to avoid bad weather, maybe skip the October visits.
The dry season is from December to April. This means that the rains stop, except for a few occasional spots of rain here and there. The sun is shining, the humidity is dropping slightly, and the weather is perfect for days at the beach and outdoors.
The dry season is also the peak of the tourist season, so Costa Rica is busier and more expensive at this time. It’s up to you when you want to visit! Planning a trip mid-season or between the rainy and dry seasons is ideal as you need to have decent weather, and the crowds can decrease a bit.
10 Best Things To Do In Costa Rica:
1. Relax in one of the hot springs in Costa Rica
A hot spring is a place where groundwater is heated by the energy created by the earth. Like the springs in Warm Springs, Georgia, the water from hot springs is said to have many beneficial properties, but the springs can also provide spectacular tourist attractions, such as Old Faithful in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park.
Costa Rica has some of the best hot springs in the world. Many of these natural wonders are maintained by spas and hot spring spas.
I recommend the Tabacón hot springs near the Arenal volcano. If time is short, you can book a day trip from San José to the Tabacon hot springs and Arenal volcano.
2. Try White Water Rafting
With so much jungle and humidity, there are many rivers around Costa Rica where rafting can be done. It’s an adventurous way to experience the jungle, inquire in advance about the rapids’ intensity level, and stay close to your comfort zone.
The Pacuare River off the Caribbean coast is one of the best rafting spots in Costa Rica, and the Naranjo River off the central Pacific coast is also highly recommended.
In the Guanacaste region, you can go rafting on the Tenorio River. If you spend more time inland, there are amazing rafting spots near the Arenal volcano. The River Toro, River Balsa, and River Sarapiquí are ideal for cascading rafting.
3. Go Snorkeling
Another way to spend time with water in Costa Rica is scuba diving. Whenever you’re near the ocean, look for the best snorkeling spots to get a glimpse of the Caribbean or Pacific aquatic fauna.
Some of the best diving spots in Costa Rica are in the South Caribbean Sea, with the best time to go in September or October. Despite being the rainiest season in most of the country, the Caribbean coast remains calm, and the waters are very clear. Also, try to visit the Cahuita National Park and the Gandoca Manzanillo Nature Reserve to snorkel with amazing coral reefs.
On the Pacific side, the Osa Peninsula to the south has the best diving spots. San Josecito Beach in Drake Bay and Corcovado National Park are amazing places to dive, and there are many small islands in the area with lots of wildlife. Caño Island has earned a reputation as one of the best because it has crystal clear water.
In the Guanacaste region of the North Pacific, visit the calm waters of Papagayo Bay for snorkeling.
4. Take a day trip to a waterfall
The tropical landscape of Costa Rica is full of waterfalls. They are spread all over the country, so you are sure to find fantastic no matter where you stay.
Admiring the La Fortuna, Bajos del Toro, and La Paz waterfalls in the cloud forests is some of the best things to do in Costa Rica, but there are other lesser-known waterfalls close to the coast as well.
Visit the Rio Celeste Falls and Llanes De Cortes Falls, both located in the Guanacaste region. Head to the Central Pacific to see the Bijagual Falls and Tacori Falls. In the South Pacific, you can find the Nauyaca Double Layer Falls that are amazing for swimming.
Each of these waterfalls is a fantastic trip, especially on a hot day, so you can swim and cool off in the cool, refreshing water. Purchase snacks at the local market before visiting the waterfall as they are generally quite remote and there aren’t many shops available.
5. Zip line through the forest
With so much vegetation and different heights, Costa Rica is the perfect place for a zipper lining. Imagine you are flying high above the jungle, of course safely tethered, and feel able to fly.
There are many fantastic zip lines in Costa Rica, most of them inland, near the Cloud Forests. Visit the Arenal Reserve: Cable Car and Canopy Cable Car or Monteverde Sky Aerial Tram and Zip Line to try a zip-line through the Arenal or Monteverde rainforests.
Suppose you want to try zip-lining close to the shore. In that case, you can also go to the Diamante Eco Adventure Park in Guanacaste and the Jacó Canopy Zip Line Tour or the Manuel Antonio Canopy Safari Zip Line Tour on the central Pacific coast.
6. Lounge on the beach
When visiting a country with such an extensive coastline, it would be a shame not to have at least a few days on the beach. One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is to spend time on the beach.
There are many postcard-worthy beaches where you can do water sports and other activities or lie on the sand and sunbathe. Either way, no trip to Costa Rica is complete without spending time at the beach.
Two beaches stand out on the Caribbean coast: Playa Punta Uva and Playa Manzanillo. Both are located on the southern Caribbean coast, and both have calm waters and are perfect for snorkeling or kayaking.
Most of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches are located on the Pacific coast. In the northern region of Guanacaste, be sure to visit Conchal Beach, which has many beautiful shells, and Flamingo Beach, with sand that looks almost pink.
Also in the Guanacaste region is the Nicoya Peninsula, where you can visit Playa San Juanillo and Playa Santa Teresa to admire the impressive seaside landscape.
You must visit Herradura Beach in the Central Pacific, shaped like a horseshoe and has fantastic turquoise water. Matapolo Beach and Linda Beach are smaller beaches on the central Pacific coast that are unpopulated and underdeveloped.
Head to the South Pacific Coast to end your Costa Rica beach tour. One of the best beaches here in Uvita Beach, which is shaped like a whale’s tail due to the sandbanks jutting out into the ocean.
Whether you are visiting just one beach or all of them, you will indeed be enchanted by the tropical paradise that you will find when the sand meets the sea.
7. Learn how to make coffee
Costa Rica produces one of the best coffees in the world. It has fertile soil, constant rainfall, and a favorable climate, so the coffee beans grown here are of the highest class. If you are a coffee fanatic, you can drink a lot of fantastic coffee in Costa Rica. You can also take a plantation tour and learn even more about this unique drink.
Costa Rica produces all Arabica coffee beans. Most of the production is concentrated around the central highlands, where the terrain is more mountainous and the soil more fertile due to volcanic activity.
On the outskirts of San José, you can visit the small town of Naranjo and visit the Hacienda Espíritu Santo. Here you can explore their 600-acre plantation and learn about the process of harvesting and roasting coffee beans.
Heading north to the Monteverde Rainforest, you can make some great coffee tours here. The Don Juana Coffee Farm and Café de Monteverde offer informative coffee tours, and you can usually get a discount on their wares after the time.
You can also go on a coffee tour near the Costa Rican coast. Visit the Café Cedral Tour, the Santa María de Dota coffee plantation near the Pacific coast, or the Caribbeans Coffee and Chocolate off the Caribbean coast. This latest tour also includes a chocolate lesson, including how to make it and tasting.
Costa Rican chocolate is also vibrant and delicious, so if you are a fan of chocolate, the chocolate tour is also worth taking.
8. Try canyoneering
For adventurous souls, try canyoning in Costa Rica. It is about exploring a rocky canyon with ropes and harnesses so you can climb, jump and climb over the rocky landscape. This is usually done next to a waterfall, in which case it can be called a cascading zip-line.
As this is a high-risk activity, only do it with a highly qualified and experienced travel company that knows what they are doing. Unless you are an expert yourself, always be more careful.
There are waterfall tours available on the South Pacific Coast near Playa Dominical on the Diamante River. You can also go canyoning from Costa Canyoning in Uvita, also on the South Pacific Coast.
There are also many good canyoning companies in the interior. Canyoning at Arenal volcano and Canyoning in Monteverde are top-rated companies, or you can go with the Cascade Rappel Company from Cascada de la Familia Brenes Finca Modelo near Monteverde.
9. Go paddle boarding
Stand up plank paddling is great fun when the water is relatively flat. Although Costa Rica is a fairly famous surfing spot, you can still enjoy the wave-free beaches by paddleboarding while standing up.
The ideal locations for stand-up rowing training in Costa Rica are Playa Sámara and the Papagayo Peninsula, both in the Guanacaste region of the North Pacific Coast. Here, the shores are somewhat sheltered so that the waves are not too high, which makes the water calm and perfect for paddle surfing.
Lake Arenal is another perfect place to go rowing surfing as it is obviously a lake and has no waves. If you are not going to the coast while in Costa Rica, this is a great place to spend some time on the water while you are inland.
Standing up on the boards is relatively easy as the boards are heavy, long and strong. So it is a family-friendly activity suitable for all fitness levels.
10. Surf the waves
Many travelers come to Costa Rica to surf. Surfing is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica, whatever your skill level.
If you are a beginner, Playa Tamarindo in Guanacaste is the perfect place to study. The waves are small, the beach is long and spacious, and many surf schools to take lessons from. Taking surfing lessons or joining a surf camp is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
If you have surfed before, other beaches near Tamarindo are Playa Negra, Playa Avellanas, Playa Langosta and Playa Grande. The waves here can still be beginner-friendly, but they can also be bigger when there are more waves.
Other great surfing beaches pop up as you walk along the Pacific coast. Esterillos Beach on the Central Pacific Coast and Dominical Beach on the South Pacific Coast are also known for their big waves.
Playa Hermosa on the central Pacific coast is one of the best surfing spots in Costa Rica, but try not to confuse it with another beach called Playa Hermosa, located on the North Pacific coast.
Is it expensive to take a trip to Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a country that has a quality of life far above that of other Central American countries such as Guatemala or El Salvador, which makes the prices of tourist services and activities a little more expensive.
However, if you compare its prices with those of South American countries such as Brazil and Argentina, it is still much cheaper to take a walk through Costa Rica and all its attractions.
In addition, the historical, cultural and paradisiacal beauty of this country will make you feel as if you are travelling through a true natural paradise in search of adventure. Who hasn’t dreamed of an Indiana Jones-style scavenger hunt adventure? Here you can make it happen.
Frequently Asked Questions: Best Things To Do In Costa Rica
What is Costa Rica best known for?
Costa Rica is known for its incredible national parks, where tourists can enjoy some thrilling activities like river rafting, canyoning, cave tubing, and zip lining. It’s also one of the best places for animal lovers to discover some interesting wildlife like macaws, sea turtles, and adorable sloths.
Is Costa Rica safe for tourists?
Costa Rica is a safe country to visit for solo travelers. As long as you stay away from isolated areas, don’t wave your valuables around, and don’t travel alone at night you will be able to avoid the most common dangerous situations.
Why you should not go to Costa Rica?
Reason not to visit: If you are into nightlife such as clubbing or late nights in general, Costa Rica may not be the best destination for you. Most bars at resorts close by 10pm and most public bars close by midnight unless you are staying in places such as Tamarindo, San Jose, Puerto Viejo or Jaco.
Do Costa Ricans like tourists?
Since tourism is such an important part of the country’s economy, many Costa Ricans are very hospitable. Ticos are also extremely polite, and will often go to great lengths to avoid directly saying no to people, which can be a little confusing for some tourists!
What is the best month to go to Costa Rica?
The best time to visit Costa Rica is from mid-December to April (the dry season). This peak tourist season boasts plenty of sunshine making it an ideal time for exploring rainforests and lounging on beaches. That said, the dry season is the most popular (and expensive) time to visit.
Is Costa Rica family-friendly?
Yes! Costa Rica is an excellent place for families to go because it has beaches, wildlife, exciting activities, and many places to stay that are good for kids.
Is Costa Rica expensive?
Costa Rica can be expensive. At least, it can feel expensive to Westerners who expect to be able to have the same buying power as in places like India or Thailand. Costa Rica is ranked as the most expensive country in Central America and the sixth most expensive in North America and the Caribbean (2015).
Can I drink the water in Costa Rica?
Tap water in Costa Rica is generally clean and safe to drink. In some areas of the country, though, mainly on the Caribbean side and in non-touristy pockets around the country, it’s best to stick to bottled water. If you have any doubt, bottled water is widely available to purchase.
What are the dangers in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a safe country, but petty crime (bag snatchings, car break-ins etc) is common and muggings do occur, so it’s important to be vigilant. Many of Costa Rica’s dangers are nature related: riptides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are among them.
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