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Things to do in Costa Rica

Things to do in  Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica

Bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica spans just 170 miles (274 kilometers) coast-to-coast, yet contains six percent of the world's biodiversity. Postcard-perfect beaches; lush, protected rainforests; and a proud history of promoting conservation and eco-tourism have helped make the country a veritable paradise for active travelers and nature lovers—as well as Central America's top travel destination. Many tours begin in Costa Rica's ""Golden Triangle"" and string together the most popular destinations: Arenal Volcano National Park and nearby La Fortuna, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and Manuel Antonio National Park. In this region alone, there are enough outdoor activities to fill several vacations, ranging from ziplining through the rainforest canopy, to whitewater rafting, to rainforest safaris, and perhaps even a glimpse of the Arenal volcano in action. Many tours offer family-friendly options, and proximity to the Pacific coast makes it easy to include plenty of beach time. Off the beaten path, consider a private tour of Tortuguero National Park, a protected wilderness reserve and seasonal sea-turtle nesting ground that's home to monkeys, crocodiles, and more than 300 species of birds. If you have some time in San Jose, the capital offers a wealth of museums, including the National Museum, the Gold Museum, the Jade Museum, and the Children's Museum. Or tour the lively Central Market to shop for handicrafts. Everywhere you go, Costa Rica casts its spell—don't be surprised if you fall in love with the ""pura vida"" lifestyle and never want to leave.

Top 15 attractions in Costa Rica

Tamarindo Beach

Once the site of a quiet fishing village, Tamarindo Beach has become one of Costa Rica's most popular stretches of golden sand. Surfers travel from across the globe to ride Tamarindo's waves, but you don’t need to be a pro to hang 10 here. There are spots nearby that are calm enough for first-time wave riders to learn.More

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

The 16 hanging bridges that line the paths of Costa Rica’s Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park stretch a total of 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) across the steep landscape. See the birds, monkeys, sloths, snakes, and frogs that call the forest canopy home by ascending these spans, suspended above gorges and stretched across jungle floors.More

La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna Waterfall cascades 200 feet (61 meters) down the sheer cliff face of Cerro Chato, the Arenal Volcano’s dormant and thickly forested twin. One of the most impressive and accessible waterfalls in Costa Rica, La Fortuna is a great place to picnic, swim, and photograph the waterfall’s perpetual mists and nearby exotic vegetation.More

Jaco Beach

Jaco is a lively beach town known for its water sports and party atmosphere. Located on some of Costa Rica’s most developed coastline, within two hours of the capital, it’s a favorite escape for San José residents, as well as backpackers, snowbirds, and North American retirees.More

Tortuga Island (Isla Tortuga)

A postcard-perfect paradise of white-sand beaches, swaying coconut palms, and sapphire-blue water rife with marine life, Tortuga Island (Isla Tortuga) is an ideal spot to swim, snorkel, or bask in the sunshine. The island is only accessible from Costa Rica’s main cities via a scenic boat ride across the Gulf of Nicoya—an extra perk for your vacation.More

Rainmaker Park

Brimming with lush forest, wildlife, and waterfalls, Rainmaker Park provides a quieter alternative to the often-crowded Manuel Antonio National Park. As well as being home to animals such as dart frogs, snakes, and butterflies, the off-the-beaten-path attraction offers great forest views from a set of swinging bridges.More

Arenal Volcano National Park

Although visitors once flocked to Arenal Volcano for its impressive lava shows, the 5,437-foot (1,657-meter) volcano has stayed quiet since its last eruption in 2010. However, Arenal and the surrounding Arenal Volcano National Park remain a hot spot for visitors to Costa Rica, and is especially popular among those seeking hiking trails, swimming holes, hot springs, bird- and wildlife-watching, and sweeping views of the tropical rain forest.More

Selvatura Park

Selvatura Park is a popular nature-adventure park in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. Located just outside Monteverde, the park contains over 850 acres (344 hectares) of ecologically diverse forest. Attractions include zipline and suspension bridge tours, hummingbird and butterfly gardens, natural history walks, and reptile exhibitions.More

Curi-Cancha Reserve

The cloud forest of Curi-Cancha Reserve creates a habitat for flora and fauna such as colorful quetzals and monkeys. Visitors can explore the private reserve via several nature trails. Plus, the private reserve’s daily 50 person cap means you’ll see more wildlife without having to battle the crowds.More

Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Rincon de la Vieja National Park is the ultimate “one-stop shop” for Costa Rica’s natural attractions. Expect fuming volcanoes, gushing waterfalls, sky-high ziplines, natural hot springs, and more—all within just a couple of hours of the popular Guanacaste coast.More

Poas Volcano National Park

Poas Volcano National Park houses one of the more popular volcanoes in Costa Rica—a telling superlative for a country with world-famous geothermal activity. But with its spectacular wildlife, informative museum, and variety of hiking trails, the accolade comes as no surprise.More

Braulio Carrillo National Park

The vast protected forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park is a natural for toucans, eagles, armadillos, sloths, monkeys, and jaguars. Catch a glimpse of its rugged beauty from the comfort of your car, or hike along the trails that lead to thundering waterfalls, towering mountains, and rapid rivers.More

Gold Museum

Housed in a historic building and managed by the Central Bank of Costa Rica, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum holds one of the largest collections of gold artifacts in Latin America. In total, the museum holds more than 1,600 pre-Columbian items, including Costa Rica’s very first coin, handmade ceramics, jewelry, and religious icons dating from 500 AD to 1500 AD.More

Morazan Park

This lush public park at the center of San Jose was named after Francisco Morazan, an old-school general who tried to unite all of Central America into one common country. And while Morozan Park was once a hub for San Jose’s grit and grime (it used to be a known for drug sales and prostitution), the park has recently undergone a complete renaissance.Travelers can safely wander through the green gardens that make Morazan Park a respite from the otherwise urban feel of San Jose and stretch out for an afternoon picnic on thick lawns under massive shade trees. The Templo de Musica, a concrete gazebo at the center of the land, is the highlight of any visit to Morazan Park—especially when live local musicians are playing.More

Llano de Cortés Waterfall

Llano de Cortés is one of Costa Rica’s most scenic waterfalls, just a short drive from Liberia, which is more commonly the jumping off point to the Pacific beaches than jungle swimming holes. The waterfall is about 40 feet tall and 50 feet wide, creating a gorgeous veil of white water streaming over the rocks. Adventurous visitors can climb behind the falls to sit on the rocks looking outward through the veil, and the warm pool is perfect for wading, swimming and standing under the cascade of water.More

Top activities in Costa Rica

Rio Celeste Hiking, Sloth Sanctuary & Llanos de Cortes Waterfall Tour
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Blue Dolphin Sailing Adventure

Blue Dolphin Sailing Adventure

Volcano Hike, Waterfall Swim & Hot Springs Combo on Rincon de la Vieja
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Manuel Antonio Canopy Tour - Longest Twin Zip Line in Central America
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Full Day Nicaragua Tour from Costa Rica
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Arenal Volcano Full-Day Combo Tour with Lunch and Dinner
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Tamarindo Estuary Boat Safari
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Tamarindo Estuary Boat Safari

Day Tour to Playa Fantasia on Sealounge Catamaran
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Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in Costa Rica

Great nature tour
Stacie_L, Jan. 2023
Bird-Watching Tour from San Jose to Braulio Carrillo
We got to see not only birds but also animals, insects and plants.
Perfect way to spend a day in Fortuna/Arenal
Daniel_A, Jan. 2023
Full day Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall and Hotsprings
Given the range of activities, transport and fantastic lunch its incredible value.
Good but a better pace of things would have been great.
Mark_G, Jan. 2023
Tortuguero Canals Including Playa Bonita and Puerto Limon Highlights
It was great to see the countryside, and to visit Costa Rica.
A great experience
Lori_B, Jan. 2023
Rainforest Bijagua Ranas Costa Rica Excursions Travels
He was attentive for what we wanted to see and learn about.
Great first day in La Fortuna!
Jessica_A, Jan. 2023
Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, Typical lunch and Arenal Volcano Hike
The waterfall was incredible and the bridges were a nice way to end the tour.
White water tubing is super fun!
Erica_M, Jan. 2023
Guachipelin Adventure Volcano Zipline Horseback River Tubing Combo
The hot springs were lovely.
Awesome experience
Debbie_P, Jan. 2023
Pure Trek Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling Tour in La Fortuna
We enjoyed the experience and would repeat the adventure tour next time we come to visit Costa Rica.
Great excursion with Larry! Definitely recommend!
Dao_H, Jan. 2023
Tortuguero Canals Including Playa Bonita and Puerto Limon Highlights
We really enjoyed the boat ride & got to see a lot of sloths in action.
Recommended tour if you go to La Fortuna
Ivan_P, Dec. 2022
Arenal Highlights (Hanging Bridges, Fortuna´s Waterfall, lunch & Arenal Volcano)
In addition to the fact that Kenya has an incredible view to find animals, we were able to see a great variety of them thanks to the fact that she located them easily
Aaron was amazing! The...
Cathy_B, Dec. 2022
La Leona Waterfall Hike
We had SO much fun and learned about different plants, animals, and the waterfall was truly breathtaking.
Undeniably one of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica
Jennifer_T, Nov. 2022
Skip-the-Line La Fortuna Waterfall Admission Ticket
I was blown away by how beautiful the waterfalls were, even though we couldn't swim due to the current.
What a fun way to experience Costa Rica!
ChongAe_S, Nov. 2022
Jaco Beach & Los Suenos Zip Line Canopy Tour Adventure
How fun it was to see Costa Rica this way!
Long Day but TOTALLY worth it!
Robin_E, Nov. 2022
Arenal Volcano Full-Day Combo Tour with Lunch and Dinner
My favorite part, the hot spring, so dope.
Arenal Combo Tour
Tevin_R, Nov. 2022
Combo Tour Arenal: Hanging Bridges + Hot Springs + Waterfall from San José
They drove us safely to our locations and guided us through the attractions and got us back safely.
I am not one for tours...
Matthew_F, Oct. 2022
Full day Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall and Hotsprings
We got to see so much packed into a day tour and the price is a steal for the memories we will have forever
This was the highlight of our trip
Tyler_H, Sep. 2022
3-Hour ATV Jungle Waterfall Adventure
the ATV is the BEST way to see Costa Rica.
Amazing experience
Thomas_Z, Sep. 2022
Manuel Antonio Park Nature Guided Tour
We highly recommend this tour to anybody wanting to see how beautiful Costa Rica and its inhabitants are.
Great Driver
Tiffany_R, Sep. 2022
Private Transportation from LA FORTUNA to SAN JOSE AIRPORT or hotels
Our driver, though he spoke very little English, he used a translator on his phone and could not have been more accommodating.
It was enjoyable trip
Deco_m, Aug. 2022
Arenal Volcano Full-Day Combo Tour with Lunch and Dinner
I enjoy most learning the history of Costa Rica and finishing the hot springs for a long day tour.
Don’t skip this!
Caroline_M, Aug. 2022
Monkey Mangrove safari
We got to see animals up close!
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All about Costa Rica

When to visit

Costa Rica’s climate splits the year cleanly. The dry season—December through April—is the ideal time for beach hopping, surfing, and partying at winter fiestas. If you don’t mind taking a siesta during afternoon rainstorms, visit May through November for lower room rates and an explosion of green foliage in the rain forests.

Getting around

The most convenient way to get around Costa Rica is by rental car, though be prepared for steep inclines and windy roads in some places. There are also plenty of tour operators offering airport transfers and private and shared tour packages if you’d rather leave the driving to someone else. If you’re on a strict budget and don’t mind taking a bit more time to get from place to place, consider relying on long-distance buses.

Traveler tips

Eating out in Costa Rica can get expensive—especially by Central American standards—but you can fill up easily and cheaply, like a local, by ordering a casado, a traditional dish that usually includes beans and rice (gallo pinto) along with some sort of combination of fried plantains, salad, tortillas, meat (often in picadillo form), eggs, and avocado.

People Also Ask

What is Costa Rica best known for?

Costa Rica is best known for its scenery, from sandy beaches to wide expanses of tropical cloud forests full of all sorts of wildlife—everything from colorful birds to adorable sloths. Costa Rica is also known for its excellent coffee, which gets exported all over the world.

How many days do you need in Costa Rica?

In order to make the most of Costa Rica, you’ll need at least 10 or so days. This will allow you to spend time visiting attractions such as Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest, with time to see a beach town or check out some museums in San Jose.

What should you not miss in Costa Rica?

If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, don't miss the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Arenal Volcano, particularly if you’re interested in spotting wildlife. It’s also worth stopping at a coffee plantation and spending time at some of San Jose’s museums, notably the Gold Museum.

Is there a lot to do in Costa Rica?

Yes. There is a lot to do in Costa Rica. There are tons of great beaches, so surfing, sunbathing, and swimming are all popular activities. Hiking and wildlife-viewing opportunities also abound, and you'll want to stop at some of the protected parks that provide refuge to everything from toucans to primates.

Is it safe to walk around Costa Rica?

Yes. It is safe to walk around Costa Rica, at least for the most part. Visitors and locals alike should exercise caution after dark, particularly in certain areas of San Jose, but tourist areas are—by and large—very safe.

What are some traditional activities in Costa Rica?

Traditional activities in Costa Rica for tourists include ziplining, surfing, and taking guided nature hikes through the rainforest. If you want to learn more about the traditions and day-to-day lives of Costa Rican people, consider joining a cooking class or attending a soccer match.


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