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Blog20 of Our Favorite Exciting Things to do in Costa Rica

13 July, 2017by Billy Johnson

Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica but not sure which activities to do? We know the feeling! It’s hard to pick just a few when there are so many amazing things to do. And with Costa Rica’s many lush jungles, impressive volcanoes and hidden beaches, you can have an unforgettable vacation experiencing nature like you never have before.

To help you narrow it all down, here are our top fifty things to do in Costa Rica. You can find a good mix of adventure, cultural, touristic and local activities and will give you a better idea of which activities in Costa Rica you want to tick off your list.

1. Go horseback riding
Horseback riding is a common activity in Costa Rica to do at the beach or the mountains. It’s a fun way to see the Costa Rican landscapes and scenery and is a great group activity.

You can horseback ride in nearly every touristic destination in the country and it’s one of the best things to do in Jaco where there are a handful of haciendas (farms). Many of the local farmers rent out their horses for tours and costs anywhere from $70-$75 depending on how long the tour is and where it takes you.

You don’t need to have previous horseback riding experience as these horses are calm and know where to go.

2. Go ziplining
Ziplining is one of the essential things to do in Costa Rica. You really can’t visit Costa Rica and not zipline since they are world famous for their long cables with spectacular views.

If you’re scared of heights, don’t worry. Ziplining in Costa Rica doesn’t automatically mean every one is the highest or tallest. There are short canopy tours and for the thrill seeker, they will love the kilometer long cables at Vista Los Sueños, with ocean view zipline!

Canopy tours cost from $55 to $75 depending on if you need transportation and if you combine it with other activities. If there is any one adventure activity to do in Costa Rica, it is ziplining!

3. Sunset cruise
This is one of the most relaxing and romantic things to do in Costa Rica: go on a sunset cruise and it’s particularly popular in Guanacaste because of the beautiful beaches up and down the Pacific coast. You can also go in Manuel Antonio and Playa Herradura/Jaco.

Nearly every beach town on the Pacific Coast like Playas del Coco and Playa Tamarindo offers sunset cruises as a way to experience the ocean. Most offer snorkeling, drinks and snacks and there is a good chance to see dolphins, whales when in season and other marine wildlife.

Sunset sailing cruises run from around $70-85 per person and usually include snorkel equipment, fruit, water, drinks and snacks. It’s a super romantic activity in Costa Rica as you sail under a beautiful sunset, cuddling up with your loved one.

4. Snorkel or Scuba Dive
Snorkeling is a must-do activity in Costa Rica, especially in northern Guanacaste and the Caribbean during certain times of the year. If you’re a scuba diver, you can’t miss up on the opportunity to dive at some of the best sites in Central America such as Bat Islands, Cano Island and Catalina Islands.

For those who want experience the best dive site, head to Cocos Island, a World Heritage Site that houses huge populations of hammerhead sharks, giana mantas, yellowfin tuna and more. It takes a couple days on a boat to get there and it’s fairly expensive but it’s definitely an activity in Costa Rica that not many people do and is one for the world bucket list.

A 2 tank dive costs roughly $115 and the best towns to stay at for scuba diving are Playa Flamingo, Playas del Coco, Uvita, Playa Ocotal and Playa Tamarindo. You can also scuba dive in Manuel Antonio and Drake Bay.

5. Go boating
Boating is the best way to see islands and hidden beaches and it’s one of our top things to do in Costa Rica when we have friends or family in town.

So if you’re visiting the coasts of Costa Rica, boating is an awesome day trip to beach hop, snorkel and enjoy a day out in the ocean.

A private half day snorkeling/beach hopping tour costs around $90 per person for 2 people or you can take the catamaran cruises in the morning to go snorkeling which are around $80 per person.

6. Golf
Costa Rica has certainly stepped up in its golfing game and you can find internationally recognized courses across the country. Many of them are on a resort’s property but anyone can purchase a day pass.

Golf lovers will want to check out the courses up in Guanacaste such as Hacienda Pinilla or Four Seasons since they offer some pretty awesome views. The Reserva Conchal also has a great golf course that hosts PGA tournaments for Latin America. You can be hitting birdies while overlooking the Pacific ocean!

7. Surf
People from all over the world come to Costa Rica just to surf because the waves here are some of the best in Latin America. Some of the best beaches are Pavones, Playa Jaco, Santa Teresa, Playa Hermosa, Playa Avellanas, Playa Tamarindo and Playa Grande but this is just a small sampling of the huge number of great surfing beaches here as you can see!

There are plenty of surf camps and surf vacations if you want to dedicate more than one day to learn or you can sign up for a one day lesson. A 2 hour group surf lessons costs around $55 or you can rent a board for as little as $12 a day.

8. Rappel down a waterfall (canyoning)
This is a the perfect adventure activity in Costa Rica – rappelling down waterfalls up to 200 feet! It might be a bit too much for the ones with acrophobia but the surge of adrenaline flowing through your body takes over and all sense of fear is lost.

Not only is it an adventure of a lifetime but you get to jump down right into the heart of a beautiful Costa Rican forest. It’s more exciting than ziplining in my opinion and it’s one of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica.

Canyoning is really popular in the La Fortuna/Arenal area as well as outside Playa Hermosa by Jaco. Our favorite is Pure Trek in Arenal, the first waterfall they take you to is nearly 200 feet!

A canoyning tour costs around $100 with lunch.

9. Bike
Mountain biking in Costa Rica is one of the best with trails starting at a volcano and ending up at the beach (Irazu to Guanacaste). The Ruta de Conquistedors is considered one of the toughest athletic events in the world as it goes from Pacific to Atlantic.

But if you’re not a hardcore biker, biking is a fun way to get around beach towns such as Puerto Viejo or Playas del Coco. Many towns rent bikes for around $10 a day and it’s a great way to connect with locals.

If you are a hard core mountain biker though, we highly recommend you visit Turrialba which is where the start of the Ruta de Conquistadores is and it has the best mountain biking in Costa Rica.

10. Beach Hop
The coasts of Costa Rica are just full of gorgeous beaches and the reason why Guanacaste is nicknamed the “golden coast.” You can find beaches of all characteristics: white sand, dark sand, turquoise waters, clear waters, etc. So when you’re at the coast, definitely go beach hopping whether it’s by boat or foot, it’s easily one of the cheapest and best things to do in Costa Rica!

On the Caribbean side, you can walk or rent a bike to go through the entire stretch of beach that is Playa Negra, Cocles, Chiquita and Punta Uva, even Cahuita.

The best part is that no beach is ever so full that you can’t find a spot to lay down and if you explore a bit, you may even have a beach all to yourself. All beaches in Costa Rica are public. It’s easy to beach hop as many are all right next to each other. Beach lovers will be in paradise exploring all the beaches!

Find out what the best beaches in Costa Rica are!

11. Eat a Copo (or a churchill in Puntarenas)
A copo is a Costa Rican shaved ice treat that you can get on nearly every beach. It’s shaved ice with kola syrup, powdered milk and condensed milk. Some versions called the churchill are more intense with ice cream and fruit added on top.

Puntarenas is famous for churchills so the best place to get one is there. You can’t get a more local dessert than that!

12. Enjoy a Costa Rican holiday and watch the bull riding
There are 9 national holidays in Costa Rica with several more observances, anniversaries and celebrations. Costa Ricans do love a good party and they know how to party hard! They make their holiday weekend well worth it.

The most popular festivities are the Palmares Fiestas, Zapote Fiestas and Puntarenas Carnaval. Millions of people come to these celebrations from all over Central America every year. Some are religious holidays, some are just a reason to have a good time. Bull riding is incredibly famous in Costa Rica and they do it all year long with special events during Christmas.

For just $10-15, you can hop into the stadium with other daring locals and get chased around by a bull! For those who want to experience local Costa Rica culture, this is one of the best (and most fun) things to do in Costa Rica.

13. Go for a drive through the Central Valley
The landscapes in Costa Rica are simply breathtaking and you can see views just like this driving through the Central Valley. Go off the map and explore the outskirts of big cities and beach towns to experience something authentic and natural.

We drove through Zarcero, Sarchi, Grecia and San Ramon and it was a fantastic way to see small town life, taste local goods and experience a less touristic area in Costa Rica.

14. Do a combination tour at Rincon de la Vieja National Park
If you’re short on time or want the best bang for your buck, there are several mega combo tours in Costa Rica. We love Guachipelin at Rincon de la Vieja National Park in Guanacaste which consists of ziplining, horseback riding, lunch, river tubing, hot springs and mud baths. It’s an awesome adventure in Costa Rica that allows you to experience the power of a volcano and the dry tropical rain forest.

There are different variations but for an action packed day, a combo tour will fill your need for adventure! Many adventure parks offer combination packages or you can customize your own.

Combination tours cost around $90 and includes lunch, such a great value! If you need transportation, tour companies charge around $140-150.

15. Ride a tram through the forest
There are a few trams in Costa Rica that take you through the forest up to stunning views. For those who aren’t big hikers or want a relaxing way to see nature, the tram is the best.

Along the way, it’s possible to see various birds, monkeys and other wildlife and it’s great to go with a guide who can point out the different plants and flowers you see. And always, at the top is a great view!

Sky Tram at Arenal and Monteverde are excellent ones and Rainforest Adventures Atlantico has an incredible one up the Caribbean side and in the Central Pacific.

16. Learn about the mysterious stone spheres
Down in the Osa Peninsula is Finca 6, a museum dedicated to the stone spheres of Costa Rica. The purpose of the spheres have not yet been determined and are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This is a great off the beaten path activity near Sierpe and incredibly interesting. It’s also an excellent cheap activity in Costa Rica too as the entrance fee to the museum is only $6 for adults and $4 for students. You will need your own transportation however or you can book with a tour guide which will cost more but it’s worth it so you can learn more.

17. SUP
Stand up paddle boarding is becoming more popular in Costa Rica and you can rent a board and go on your own or take a class.

If you’re not much of a surfer but still want to get out in the water, SUP is one way to go. It’s a good workout for your whole body and a fun way to enjoy the ocean. Some of the best spots are at Playa Manta, Playa Panama and Playa Platanares for their very calm waters.

A board rental varies in cost whether you rent from a company or a hotel. A lesson in Playas del Coco costs $30 for 1 hour.

18. Visit Catarata Llanos de Cortes
This is one of the best waterfalls in Guanacaste, the stunning Catarata Llanos de Cortes. It’s one of our favorite things to do in Liberia, Costa Rica since it’s only 20 minutes from the city and the best way to cool off on a hot day.

This small but powerful waterfall has lots to enjoy besides the water. You can climb up the rocks and sit under the water when it’s dry season or you can hike to the top. Another awesome thing about this waterfall is that it’s only $2! Many waterfalls in Costa Rica have a high admission fee because they are on private property, but this one is still very cheap.

Here is our guide to visiting Catarata Llanos de Cortes including our favorite secret spots around the waterfall.

19. Go to a concert
Costa Ricans love more than just salsa music. There are several popular Costa Rican bands and being such a small country, you’ll have a good chance to enjoy one if you happen to be near a city.

Enjoy a concert with locals and even if you don’t know Spanish, it’s a fun way to make new friends and listen to some great music!

20. See the Olive Ridley sea turtles at Ostional Wildlife Refuge
Costa Rica is famous for their huge masses of sea turtles coming to lay their eggs (arribadas) and for their conservation work with turtles. On both coasts you can see mother turtles and baby turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean. For animal lovers, this is one of the best wildlife things to do in Costa Rica.

Billy Johnson

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20 of Our Favorite Exciting Things to do in Costa Rica

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