Best Things to Do in Costa Rica

TopTen Quick List: Canyoneering | Zip-Lines | Beach | National Parks | Rafting | Night Tours | Boat Safaris | Canopy Bridges | Birdwatching | Dining & Drinking

One of the really great things about Costa Rica is that there are so many things to do for everyone of all ages.  We’ve traveled with friends and family age one month to their mid seventies and never been at a loss to find adventures.  There are some age and weight limits on some tours for safety reasons – if someone is too light they may not have enough momentum to reach the end of a zipline and if someone is too heavy the brake may not stop them in time.

Waterfall Rappelling Arenal
It looks very dramatic, but the waterfalls of La Roca are a safe fun introduction to the new sport of Canyoning

Things that may sound out of your league like rafting or waterfall rappels and canyoning can easily be fit to most levels of experience and physical ability by choosing the right place to do them.

Try Something New and Adventurous

Stretch your boundaries a bit.  My mom was terrified before we headed down the class III rapids of the Río Pacuare but once we got on the water she was all smiles.  Sit on top kayaks look like something that might take a few lessons but are actually very stable and easy to paddle as soon as you sit down.

Good tour operators will help you determine what’s a good fit or if you’d rather, ask in a comment below (yes we read them) and we’ll make some suggestions.

After a trip of mountain biking, rappelling, surfing and climbing a friend reminisced saying “I had a blast doing all those things, but Costa Rica was some of the best sitting around I’ve ever done too.”  Most great trips are made up of part adventure, part relaxation and a bit of getting to know the people and culture so take a look at the list below and pick a few that sound good to you.

Costa Rica-More Fun than Humanly Possible

Top ten things to do in Costa Rica - the Beach - Playa Manzanillo on the Caribbean coast1. It’s tough not to make “Go to the Beach” number one – so I will.  Of course some will disagree pointing out that Costa Rica is best known as a natural destination – for it’s rainforests and wildlife – but there are just so many things to enjoy at the beach and so many amazing beaches.  Besides everything else on the list is in the forests.  Whether surfing, sunning, swimming or just hanging in a hammock under the coconut trees one of Costa Rica’s 300 beaches will be perfect for you.

Ten Best Things to Do in Costa Rica - Visit National Parks2. Hiking, Walking & Trekking in Costa Rica’s National Parks.  Nearly everyone who visits wants to spend some time peering up a tree as a sloth slowly reaches for the next branch or a flock of Scarlet Macaws raising a ruckus in the mangroves.  The best place to do it is in the National Parks and the best way to visit is on foot.

The warm water, beautiful rainforested riverbanks and wildlife make White Water Rafting one of the Top Ten things to do in Costa Rica3. Visitors from northern climates where wetsuits are de rigueur are delighted to discover White Water Rafting is a whole different experience when the water is warm and the monkeys are smiling. everything form class I float trips to class IV and V raging rapids and trips from a few hours to a few days mean there is something for everyone..

Waterfall rappelling is one of the best new things to try in Costa Rica4. Vertical white water is as much fun as horizontal and Waterfall Rappelling is the fastest growing adventure sport in Costa Rica.  There are hundreds of waterfalls and valleys only accessible to experienced canyoneers with gear and expertise but a growing number of Costa Rica’s most beautiful canyons are being rigged with cables, platforms and walkways.  These canyoning and waterfall rappel tours are safe and fun for novices.

Ziplines are one of the most popular things to do in Costa Rica5. Zip-line tours through canyons, over waterfalls and the old standby through the rainforest canopy.  Costa Rica has a claim as the place ziplines started  although there are earlier less publicized examples.  There are now well over 100 zipline tours in Costa Rica so it shouldn’t be too tough to find one nearly anywhere.

Night tours are your best chance for seeing snakes in Costa Rica6. Night Tours in the rainforest nearly always provide a surprise or two, a whole tree full of kinkajous eating night blooming flowers, a dangling vine snake, or an ant bird so deeply asleep you can almost touch it.  More creatures are nocturnal than are active during the day so don’t miss out on this whole other world and one of the best things to do in Costa Rica.

Wildlife viewing from boat is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica7. Wildlife Boat Safaris are one of the best ways to see animals which typically don’t perceive boats as a threat in the same way they fear humans on foot.  Try paddling your own kayak through the mangroves or one of the river trails at Tortuguero National Park or riding in a canopied motor launch through the wetlands of Caño Negro Wildlife refuge.

Hanging bridges are one of the best ways to explore the rainforest 8. Get into the treetops where an entirely different ecology exists by visiting one of the many amazing Suspension & Hanging Bridge Walks. Epiphytes, lianas, vines and even trees growing on other trees make the rain or cloud forest canopy one of the most diverse habitats on the planet. We’ve seen wild orchids, hundreds of birds, frogs, and a few snakes and even had up close encounters with Capuchin monkeys using the same bridges as part of their highway through the treetops (click the thumbnail to see full width photo)..

Costa Rica is one of the ten best destinations for birdwatching9. Costa Rica is one of the top destinations in the world for Birdwatching. The variety of ecozones and micro-climates in Costa Rica means a huge variety of bird species including this scarlet Macaw occur here. Another famous avian resident the resplendent Quetzal may be easier to see in Costa Rica than anywhere else while trailing its iridescent green three foot long tail feathers in mating flights.

Enjoying some typical cuisine is one of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica10. Dining & Drinking can definitely be an event in Costa Rica.  Choose the perfect beachfront restaurant to enjoy an entire casual evening as the sun sets into the Pacific and the stars fill the sky or seek out an authentic rural soda and try a typical casado for lunch but meals are a great part of the experience of Costa Rica.

And Much More…

It’s a shame to limit this list to just the ten best things to do because there are so many things we love doing that don’t fit.  Yoga, Photography, ATV tours, snorkeling, mountain and road biking, scuba diving, surfing, hot springs, and the list goes on.


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