Costa Rica is a place where warm blue waves break against a giant carpet of tropical rainforest, rising up into cool mountains and active volcanoes. You can try every adventure sport possible here; canopy zip lining, surfing, hiking, ATV quad bikes – you will never be short of things to do in Costa Rica.
Sandwiched between Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south and the bathed in both the Caribbean and the Pacific to the east and west, Costa Rica is the only Latin American country to have no standing army and has seen over 100 years of constant and stable democracy.
Having always been sparsely populated right back to the Pre Colombian days, the country now has a population of only 4.5 million people, making it one of the most peaceful places to visit in Latin America.
With so many landscapes from rugged mountains and cloud forests, tropical jungles, mangroves and swamps, to deserted paradise beaches lined with coconut palms, there are so many places to visit in Costa Rica that this tiny country will leave with an unbearable urge to return!
7 Things to do in Costa Rica
1. Swimming with Horses in Puerto Viejo
With little in the way of indigenous populations, Costa Rica is a country with two primary cultures – Latin and Caribbean. The blend of Latin Pura Vida and unwavering Caribbean cool come together along the country’s west coast where you’ll find Puerto Viejo, the laid back surf capital of Costa Rica, which draws chill seekers from around the world.
The most exciting and enchanting way to explore the local beaches is on horseback. Riding between trees and galloping along beaches in search of perfect turquoise water, before turning your horse towards the horizon and entering the warm sea, has to be one of the best things to do in Costa Rica and will be a memory that stays with you forever. Check out a list of more of what to do in Puerto Viejo!
2. Explore Tortuguero National Park
There are so many places to visit in Costa Rica and so much to do, that it can hard to know which to prioritize on a limited amount of time. A visit to the sea turtle nesting grounds of Tortuguero National Park should be at the top of your list.
With over 77,000 acres of protected rainforest habitat nestled in against the Caribbean coast, this remote corner of Costa Rica is only accessible by charter plane or by small riverboat.
There’s an abundance of wildlife living amongst the rivers and trees, including various types of monkeys, sloths, caimans, river turtles, three species of sea turtle; Leatherback, Hawksbill and Loggerheads, not to mention manatees and even Jaguars.
In turtle nesting season you can take guided night tours to see the turtles arriving on shore to dig their nest and lay their eggs, and later in the season you can even see the baby turtles hatch and make their way down to the water’s edge!
3. Party and Surf in Tamarindo
In stark contrast to the more remote and natural locations in Costa Rica, Tamarindo has evolved from a quiet fishing village into the most popular party town in Costa Rica.
While this may not be to everyone’s taste, if you’re seeking world class surf and a thriving night life, this is the place for you, with several international surf competitions hosted here. It’s not all beer and boards though, as nearby is the Tamarindo National Wildlife Refuge – 1000 acres of protected forest, mangroves and estuaries, with beaches that are also the nesting ground of the world’s largest turtle, the Leatherback.
4. SCUBA Diving in Osa Peninsula
For the more adventurous traveller in search of places to visit in Costa Rica which are less frequented, a little more remote and altogether more inspiring, Osa Peninsula is one of the few remaining pieces of true wilderness in the country.
Home to Corcovado National Park and also only accessible by small plane or boat, it’s the perfect place to detach and unwind from all of the noise and distraction of the modern world and while electricity is pretty much standard, you’ll have to wander far in search of a constant Wi-Fi connection.
Just off the coast is Caño Island Biological Reserve, which is considered the best diving in Costa Rica, known for its abundance of big fish, sharks, rays and turtles as well as many migratory species from the Galapagos Islands.
5. Ride the Longest Dual Zipline in Central America
When researching the plethora of things to do in Costa Rica, the range of adventure sports on offer is simply incredible! Among all of the usual suspects like white water rafting and surfing, one that outdoor adventure that never fails to pump your body and mind full of pleasure is zip lining.
Often can called a canopy tour, zip lining in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica takes you to a whole new level of high, with more than 15 courses spread across the country, including the longest zip line in Central America over 4300 feet and the longest dual zip line in Central America!
The short walk from one line the next is peppered with jungle wildlife, from monkeys to toucans, to keep you entertained as you wait your turn.
6. Natural Volcanic Hot Springs of Arenal
As a country formed only 50 million years ago from a volcanic archipelago, Costa Rica is rife with active, dormant and extinct volcanoes along the length of its spine.
This constant volcanic activity, along from the occasional eruption and airport closure, provides the country with a wealth of natural volcanic hot springs, which have been used to create luxurious thermal spas.
Here you can soak away the aches and pains of long drives, flights or bus journeys. If you’re in need of total relaxation and revitalisation, then a visit to the volcanic hot springs is definitely one of the most luxurious things to do in Costa Rica.
7. Watch the sun melt into the Pacific Ocean
When looking at which places to visit in Costa Rica, most head straight for the Pacific coast to see what has to be one of the best sunsets in the whole world.
Sunsets in Costa Rica are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, as the giant orange globe of day falls timelessly through the sky before melting into the ocean and washing the sky in colour, as a thousand shades of red, orange and purple flow through the evening sky.
About the Authors
Kach Medina and Jonathan Howe are a traveling couple from the Philippines and the UK. Having each decided to quit their jobs and set off around South East Asia to start their new lives, neither imagined they would end up traveling the world with someone they met in a backpacker’s bar in Laos. But that’s what happened! Follow their journey at Two Monkeys Travel blog and social media – Facebook and Twitter.