There are many tropical destinations in the world that you can plan your next vacation to. If you are looking for a place with more than just all inclusive hotels Costa Rica may be the place for you.
Even though Costa Rica looks tiny on your map it has loads of activities to do. You will be able to do everything from white water rafting to horseback riding in this country. Knowing where all of these destinations are will help you plan where to look for your hotel.
There are many things to do in Costa Rica that will suit your vacation needs. From a relaxing float down a river to soaring through the tree tops at top speed, Costa Rica offers something for everyone.
Ready to start planning your vacation? Let’s take a look at the best things to do in the area below.
Quick Answer: 12 Best Things To Do In Costa Rica
Costa Rica is lined by water on both sides touching both the Pacific Ocean as well as the Caribbean Sea. This makes it a premiere snorkeling destination with many swimmable beaches housing tropical fish and impressive coral reefs. Due to the lush jungle environment, snorkeling is only ideal through the areas dry seasons. The rain in Costa Rica typically starts around noon so prepare to hit the water early for the best conditions.
When thinking of snorkeling beaches most people think of Manzillo Beach. Sitting along the Caribbean Sea close to Panama this area offers warm water with calmer currents. Cahuita National Park is also ideal for its large protected reef. For superior visibility try taking a boat tour out to the island of Canos.
2. Scuba Diving
No matter which side of the country you decide on you will be treated to some of the best scuba diving spots in the world. If you are trying to decide where to spend most of your time, we suggest the Pacific side. Its most famous dive areas include Guancaste, and Northern and Southern Puntarenas.
Cocos Island National Marine Park is one of the most unheard of places to scuba dive in the world. It sits 300 miles (482 kilometers) off the west coast of Costa Rica. This means you’ll need to rent a boat to get to it. Once you’re there you will be greeted with tropical fish and untouched coral.
Nicoya Peninsula is a part of mainland Costa Rica making it much easier to get to. This is part of the Guancaste area that offers great shore diving. The peninsula creates a sheltered bay with many islands that you can explore.
Isla del Cano is also much easier to get to than Coco Island. Cano island is 13 miles (21 kilometers) off the coast of the northern part of the Nicoya Peninsula. You can expect up to 80 feet of visibility and crystal blue waters.
Since Costa Rica is so close to the equator is has year round scuba diving. This means the water doesn’t fluctuate more than a couple degrees from 75 – 79℉ (24 – 26℃). Just be careful of its rainy season as the visibility will be significantly less than the other times of the year.
3. Whitewater Rafting
Costa Rica is known to be a haven for thrill seeking adventurers. White water rafting in this area is some of the best in the world. No matter your skill level there are rapids for you in this area. With lazy rivers you can leisurely float down to some of the roughest and fastest water in the world, Costa Rica is home to it all. The waters here are at their wildest between June and September.
There are many great places to hit the water for thrilling adventures in Costa Rica. Perhaps the most known spot in Costa Rica is the Pacuare River. If you are looking for an adventurous ride even in the off seasons you can head to the Reventazon River. Heading to the Corobici River is another top notch rafting destination close to the popular tourist hub of Guanacaste.
4. Horseback Riding
If you love horses or are looking for a romantic time with your partner you can take part in one of the many horseback riding trips in the country. Get your camera ready for an Instagram worthy ride with your partner along the beach. If you are feeling more adventurous you can explore the thick lush jungles on horseback. These horses are so tame that this is a great opportunity for people of all skill levels.
If you are a fan of kayaking, you can expect to have an experience like never before in this country. Lazy rivers, ocean kayaking and calm lakes can all be explored better when on a kayak. In fact, there are many areas of the country that can only be accessed by the water. With the help of a kayak you will be able to see much more than without.
A bird lovers dream you can expect to see many exotic birds on your trek. You will also likely encounter monkeys and sloths in the trees around you. There are many area guided tours in the area that will show you around and take you to the best areas in the country.
One of the fastest growing sports in the world there are many picturesque places to try your hand at paddleboarding in Costa Rica. The warm waters in this area are in the 80s year round making them ideal whether you are learning or are an experienced border. Try your hand at some SUP yoga at sunrise and take in all the beauty that surrounds you. There are many bays with calm water that is ideal for all skill levels. If you are looking to try your hand at SUP surfing there are many spots to do so along the Pacific Coast
7. Deep Sea Fishing
A fisherman’s dream, Costa Rica is one of the top deep sea fishing destinations in the world. There are many local tours in the area that will cover everything you need to have a great day on the water. Specifically great if you have access to a bbq to roast your catch, Costa Rica is famous for their trophy sized marlin, yellowfin tuna, sailfish and wahoo. There are three main snorkeling regions in the country: the Central and South Pacific area from Golfito to Jaco as well as the Northern Pacific region around the Nicoya Peninsula. Make sure to bring your camera along so you can document your impressive 400 pound Marlin catch.
Another great activity for adrenaline junkies, ziplining is incredibly popular in Costa Rica. If ziplining above the treetops of a lush jungle is on your bucket list, Costa Rica is definitely the place to do it. With so many protected rainforests in the area, there are opportunities to take part in this tourist-must in practically every major tourist hub. Designed to suit people of all ages and experience levels this is a great family bonding activity. If you have access to a GoPro, we recommend bringing one along.
9. Boating and River Tours
Costa Rica is a country that is largely surrounded by water. Due to the warm temperatures and the stunning coastlines, there are many boat tours to take in the area. There are many surrounding islands that you can visit with a simple boat ride. If you are looking to explore the fresh inland waters there are many lazy rivers to explore that cut through the jungle delivering unbeatable views.
If you are an outdoor type who loves to hike, Costa Rica will quickly become one of your favorite places. You will find trails that are at all skill levels and can vary depending on where you’re set up in the country. Overall, you will find that a lot of the trails will have more clay than in the USA or other parts of the continent. With that being said, there are still gravel and tree roots you’ll have to contend with. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding on which pair of shoes to bring with you on your vacation.
Another thing to consider is that Costa Rica is largely a rainforest. This includes most of both coasts and the large majority of its peninsulas. This means that you should plan on it being wet and overgrown so plan on being on slippery ground. It’s best to choose trails that you know have been maintained and have good water drainage.
What makes Costa Rica beautiful can also cause havoc on your gear. There are many rivers and waterfalls that are beautiful to take photos of and make the hiking payoffs spectacular. This also means that there is lots of wildlife you will encounter. There are many species of birds and plants that you may only ever see in this country.
Much like scuba diving, the best surfing in Costa Rica is on the west coast. It actually has entire towns that are nearly dedicated to surfing. There are many towns that have been described as surfing meccas for their ideal wave conditions and the support of the locals.
Tamarindo is one of the top surfing cities. It is found in the north of the Nicoya Peninsula. There are at least 10 amazing surf breaks that make this one of the best surf locations in the entire country (some say the entire world).
Dominical is a close second when it comes to surfing. Dominical’s waves are unique as they have sandbars and a river mouth that adds something to the wave break. The best time to hit these spots is between June and September. Keep in mind that the waves become bigger the closer you get to the mouth of the river.
All of the surf spots are ideal for any skill level. There are tons of surf shops and schools that can rent you boards and give you lessons. They even have week long surf camps where your accomadation and meals are included. This can be one of the best ways to learn and advance your skills as a surfer, possibly better than anywhere in the world.
12. ATV Tours
If you are looking for something more fast paced keep your eyes out for all terrain vehicle (ATV) tours. Costa Rica has many amazing designated trails that make ATVing fun while still being safe.
Pro Tip: If you are planning on taking in some of these tours make sure your travel insurance covers this activity. Some travel insurance companies don’t include these activities as they are deemed dangerous. This can be disastrous if you happen to injure yourself while ATVing.
This is a great way to see lots of the countryside in a short amount of time. Just remember to stay on the marked path as leaving it can cause unwanted damage to animals habitats. You can expect scenery that includes beaches to steep, high elevation trails with amazing views.
Be sure to plan these tours ahead of time. Especially from December to May you will only be able to do this if you book before leaving. You can rest assured that your ATVs will more than likely be new. These are relatively new tours for this country so tour companies haven’t been around long enough to have older gear. Safety equipment like helmets and high visibility vests are also typically included in your rental price.
Costa Rica has so much to offer it can be hard to make up your mind about what to do. If you are an outdoor lover you can spend months here and never want to leave. It offers everything from scuba diving to horseback riding to ziplining. On top of all this, Costa Rica is so close to the equator that the temperature doesn’t vary that much throughout the year. This is also the case for its waters. You can expect the water to be around 75℉ (24℃) throughout the entire year.
- Costa Rica, Costarica.com
Have you ever been to Costa Rica? Let us know your favorite spot in the comment section below!