Costa Rica Experiences
Discover Costa Rica with kimkim's curated list of top-rated activities. Whether you're navigating the lush canopies of Arenal Hanging Bridges, feeling the adrenaline rush as you zip line through the cloud forest in Monteverde, learning to surf on the pristine beaches of Tamarindo, or embarking on a wildlife boat excursion in Tortuguero National Park, you're guaranteed an authentic taste of Costa Rica. Don't miss out on our recommended activities in Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, Tamarindo, Tortuguero, the Gulf of Papagayo, and more for your next trip to Costa Rica.
Best Experiences in Costa Rica
With ample mountains and rainforests, Costa Rica’s fortunate topography is a breeding ground for rivers and streams that turn into rushing waterfalls. Climbing these picturesque cascades will reward you with stunning views from the top and refreshing pools below. (In other words, pack a swimsuit and towel.) Here’s a list of the country’s best waterfall hikes ranging in difficulty for young and old alike.
As the birthplace of modern zip lining, Costa Rica's Monteverde region is the prime location to zip through the jungle. With four main zip lining companies to recommend, you'll find adventure parks suitable for any traveler, including beginners, families with children, adventure-seekers, and nature lovers.
As a result of Costa Rica’s volcanoes and their geothermal activity, the country has a plethora of natural hot springs. These healing pools are a relaxing place to soak after a day’s worth of adventure activities, but not all of Costa Rica’s volcanoes hold the same praise. We’ve put together a list of the best hot springs near Arenal, Rincon de la Vieja, and lesser-known Miravalles.
With 28 national parks, nearly 800 miles of coastline, over 300 beaches, and more than half of its land covered in forests, Costa Rica's nature excursions are its biggest draw. Spend your time trekking through rainforests, hiking along hardened lava flows, finding blue-hued waterfalls deep in the jungle, boating along rivers, snorkeling above reefs, spotting wildlife, and kayaking or canoeing in national parks.
Costa Rica abounds with wildlife and outdoor activities, setting the scene for an ideal family vacation. But you don't need to head straight to the beach—travelers flying into urban San José will find plenty to do with kids upon arrival. Interactive museums, local markets, and more are a great way to spend a day in the city.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a beautiful stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Costa Rica and near the border with Panama. Though many travelers stick to the country's Pacific side for beaches, Puerto Viejo is the prime destination on the Caribbean side. You'll find gentle beaches protected by vibrant coral reefs—perfect for snorkeling and swimming—next to some of the best waves in the region, attracting surfers from around the world. Whether you want an adventure or a relaxing getaway, we've rounded up the best beaches in Puerto Viejo.
One of the most popular experiences in Costa Rica is observing the mighty sea turtles. For thousands of years, several turtle species have used Costa Rican beaches to safely lay their eggs, with each turtle laying roughly 60 to 100 eggs at a time. About two months later, baby turtles wriggle out of the sand and make their way to the surf. Two of the best places to observe nesting and hatching are Guanacaste and Tortuguero, and kimkim provides details on which tours to choose.
Costa Rica certainly lives up to its name (literally 'Rich Coast'), blessed as it is with miles of beaches on both its Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The country has long recognized the value of preserving its stunning environmental assets, making this relatively diminutive nation a leader in conservation. As one of the happy consequences, Costa Rica's rivers, lakes, and seas provide abundant opportunity for endless outdoor adventures.
More than a quarter of Costa Rica’s total area is made up of national parks and protected rainforests making it a popular travel destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Below, we’ve put together a list of adventure activities to consider when visiting the nation of “pura vida” (pure life).
Packed with dense rainforests, national parks, nature preserves, rivers, and rehabilitation centers, Arenal/La Fortuna is an excellent choice for wildlife experiences in Costa Rica. Take advantage of the forests with wildlife hikes and birding excursions—some by day and some by night—plus visit butterfly gardens and wildlife refuges and learn more about local conservation efforts. Enjoy animals on the water, too, with boat and kayaking experiences.
Known for world-class surfing, the Nicoya Peninsula is home to some of the best stretches of coastline for catching waves. But if you're not a surfer, you can still enjoy these idyllic beaches with horseback riding, relaxation, or stand-up paddleboarding. Then take your adventures inland to kayak through the mangroves, explore the jungles, and visit Costa Rica's famed Macaw Recovery Network, which is responsible for releasing over 200 of the colorful birds back into the wild.
Monteverde's Cloud Forests are certainly the area's highlights, and many visitors are surprised to discover there's more than one. Plus, you can experience these misty jungle and wildlife hubs in many different ways. Besides hiking through the forests, opt to visit the unique ecosystems via Latin America's longest zip line, on horseback, or with nighttime wildlife excursions. Monteverde is also a birding paradise and home to coffee, chocolate, and sugar cane farms.
From vibrant cities to humble artisanal villages, protected jungles to stretches of farmland, and sweet chocolate to rich rum, Costa Rica is a country full of cultural experiences. You can enjoy cooking classes to discover traditional recipes; learn how farmers grow and process important exports like coffee, chocolate, and sugar cane; visit hamlets known for artisan crafts; or tour museums and beloved neighborhoods in the heart of San José.
Enjoy the incredible scenery of Costa Rica's Gulf of Papagayo, a large stretch of coastline offering some of the best beaches in the country. Set along the Guanacaste region, you can enjoy water sports, including sailing, paddling, and snorkeling, or watch the famous Pacific green turtles nest on the beach at night. Explore natural parks with adventures like hiking, horseback riding, and soaking in hot springs, or view some of Costa Rica's most beloved wildlife, such as monkeys and sloths.
As a world leader in eco-tourism and wildlife conservation, Costa Rica is known for its abundance of wildlife. With half of the country covered in forests, an intricate network of waterways, and nearly endless coastline, wildlife spotting alone draws travelers to Costa Rica. You can spot beloved sloths, monkeys, and frogs in the rainforest, watch turtles nest on the beaches, go birding in national parks, explore the jungles by night, and visit wildlife rehabilitation centers.
Set your sights on Costa Rica's southern Caribbean coast, where you'll find coral reefs, white-sand beaches, rainforests, and agricultural lands. From active excursions to cultural experiences, you can snorkel in the sea, hike through jungles, spot wildlife, trek to waterfalls, explore the history of cacao, and learn how to surf at one of the world's most legendary wave breaks, all in one compact area.
Set in Guanacaste Province, Tamarindo is a dreamy coastal escape with long white-sand beaches known worldwide for surfing. It's idyllic for relaxing and offers several adventures, including snorkeling or diving in the nearby Catalina Islands, boating through the famed Tamarindo Estuary, and exploring dense wetlands teeming with wildlife. To make your visit a bit more cultural, try visiting a traditional hacienda and learn the secrets behind the region's rum-making techniques.
Home to one of the largest rainforests in Central America (widely protected by Corcovado National Park), the Osa Peninsula is the wildlife and hiking jewel of Costa Rica. Dubbed "the most biologically dense place on Earth," you can see much of the country's famed wildlife by hiking through the jungle and watching whales and dolphins in Drake Bay. Then, take your adventures to the next level by surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving at Cape Matapalo and Isla del Caño Biological Reserve.
Explore La Fortuna, a small town in Costa Rica's Arenal area, set at the base of the country's most popular volcano. Its surrounding region offers some of the best hiking, zip-lining, canyoneering, and wildlife spotting in the country. You can hike atop lava fields and through rainforests, discover electric-blue waterfalls, and spot critters like sloths and monkeys. Get your adrenaline pumping with white-water rafting or walking the Arenal Hanging Bridges. Then, dive into the area's culture with a visit to an organic coffee farm or soak in a hot spring.
Costa Rica's Manuel Antonio region packs a lot of activity into one small area. It's a dream location for active travelers and adventure seekers, as you can combine coastal water sports with land-based excursions. Enjoy surfing at Playa Scull, scuba diving, kayaking, and snorkeling, all in one place. Then, take your adventures inland for activities like whitewater rafting, nature hikes, and horseback riding through the rainforests.
Tortuguero sits on the northeast coast of Costa Rica on a rainforest-covered sandbar. This unique environment combines two of the country's biggest draws: powdery beaches and lush jungles. Tortuguero is also home to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, making it an ideal place to watch turtles nest and hatch. Explore the area's rich history and biodiversity with kayaking, boating, and hiking, all of which offer opportunities to see Tortuguero's famed wildlife.
Sporty travelers, adventure seekers, and outdoor enthusiasts will find endless active experiences in Costa Rica, a country filled with rainforests, beaches, coral reefs, volcanoes, national parks, waterfalls, rivers, and more—all waiting to be discovered. In Costa Rica, you can rappel into canyons, raft through whitewater rapids, mountain bike near active volcanoes, hike through national parks, surf at world-renowned beaches, snorkel above reefs, zipline through the rainforest, and more!
Manuel Antonio attracts visitors across the globe for several reasons: pristine beaches, a rainforest that stretches down the coast, and an abundance of wildlife. With the scenic Manuel Antonio National Park as the backdrop, you can visit wildlife sanctuaries, discover organic spice farms, enjoy trekking excursions, take boats on rivers and through estuaries, plus kayak and snorkel in the ocean. End your stay with a sunset catamaran cruise or a surf lesson at one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica!
Costa Rica offers adventures suitable for all ages, making it an excellent choice for a family vacation. Kids and adults alike love spotting wildlife, ziplining through cloud forests, learning how to surf, touring organic farms, and much more. The unique experiences you can enjoy in Costa Rica—a country leading the world in eco-tourism and wildlife conservation—will leave a lasting impression on the entire family for years to come.
It's no surprise that many nature enthusiasts make their way to Costa Rica's Manuel Antonio region. Located on the central coast, you get a little bit of everything here: white-sand ocean beaches, lush rainforests, mangrove estuaries, islands, nature parks, waterfalls, and more. Discover Manuel Antonio's nature with hiking, boat tours, snorkeling, wildlife safaris, and more.
Thanks to its array of recreational opportunities, outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those who prefer active vacations all make their way to Costa Rica's Arenal/La Fortuna region. Enjoy lively excursions with unique twists, such as trekking to aquamarine lagoons, rappelling down waterfalls, hiking along hanging bridges suspended in the air, or standup paddleboarding, biking, and horseback riding at the base of a volcano.