A land of rugged rainforests and beach escapes, Costa Rica is a nature lover’s paradise. And what better way to tap into the true beauty of the country, than diving head first into the amazing experiences it has to offer? From jaw-dropping wildlife to water sports and experiences that would make even mermaids jealous, these are officially the best things to do in Costa Rica on your next trip:
1. Go to sleep listening to howler monkeys
Stay in any of the dense rainforest areas such as La Fortuna or Monteverde and you can drift off to the tune of thousands of different animals. While the howler monkeys are LOUD alright, this is an unforgettable experience that will make you feel connected to the country and its nature.
2. Take a jungle walk in Selvatura Park
Costa Rica is around 51% rainforest. That’s A LOT, so why wouldn’t you want to take in as much as you can? Get up close to nature and see trees in untouched parts of the world. Who knows if there’s an ancient ruin just around the corner…
3. Go sloth spotting
This is a must for anyone in Costa Rica! Sloths are basically the country’s national symbol and you can find them throughout the country. The best way to see them is a specialised walk at night, but you might even spot some during the day, just hanging out on the side of the road or snoozing in palm trees on the beach – doing what sloths do (not much, YOLO).
4. See Sarapiqui’s unique biodiversity
Sarapiqui is one of the world’s most important places for rainforest research. Bird watching, white water rafting and as much peace and quiet as you want; this is pure nature porn.
5. Watch the sunset on the beach at Playa Tamarindo
Sunset + beach = bliss. Beaches in Costa Rica are stunning and we love Playa Tamarindo for its surf and party vibes. On Contiki’s Viva Costa Rica trip, you can even stay right by the beach for early morning swims. The added bonus of a sunset? You may just spot some nesting turtles, with many species of turtle calling these waters home.
6. Bathe in some hot springs around Arenal Volcano
All that running around the rainforest is going to have you in need of some relaxation, so dive into one of Costa Rica’s many hot springs. The area around this beautiful volcano has geothermal properties so a visit to the hot springs is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. Many of the springs have been used by the locals and ancient tribes for thousands of years and have pretty great views…
7. Snorkel or kayak with dolphins and whales
The sea life around Costa Rica is diverse and rich, and that’s why it’s a great place to grab a snorkel or kayak and join them. You’ll be able to see dolphins and whales (species vary depending on the migrating season) up close and in all their natural habitat. Tamarindo Beach and the stunning Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio are great places to do this.
8. Take in the heights (or maybe even hike) a volcano
Costa Rica is right in there on the Ring of Fire, known for its shifting land masses and heaps of volcanoes. Hiking one of these beauties (Arenal is our fave), or getting driven to the top will give you a true appreciation for mother nature and the forests of the area.
9. Try your hand at surfing
Costa Rica has some of the best waves in the world and caters to everyone – from beginners to pros. Board hire and lessons are super cheap so you really have no excuse not to try your best at hanging ten. Playa Santa Teresa, Playa Guiones (also great for yoga) and Playa Tamarindo are some of the best spots to get out there.
10. Go scuba diving
Once you’ve mastered life on top of the waves, dive under and see the beautiful corals and marine life Costa Rica has to offer. If you’re lucky you might even make a new turtle friend in the bright blue ocean. Cahuita National Park on the Southern Caribbean Coast has over 35 species of coral to explore, Caño Island Biological Reserve is great for both novices and seasoned scuba divers (look out for the white-tip sharks!) and The Coral Gardens is an underwater rainbow where you might spot parrotfish, butterflyfish and perhaps even an octopus!
11. Seek out the wildlife and wonders of Monteverde
The cloud forest is a far cry from the beaches, but it just goes to show how rich and varied Costa Rica is. Up in the clouds is a different kind of rainforest and it feels like you’ve stepped onto Mount Olympus. The air is so clean and the views are magnificent. Don’t forget your walking shoes so you can explore properly!
12. Go Horseback riding through Tocori Waterfalls
In case you missed it, this Central American country has endless waterfalls and rainforests, but seeing them on horseback with a local guide is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica and the perfect way to learn about the exotic plants and animals.
13. See Manuel Antonio National Park
This is not your average national park. Sure you’ve got your trees and hiking trails, but you’ve also got coral reefs and white sand beaches! And no before you ask, you can’t build a hut on the beach and stay forever.
14. Go canyoning through waterfalls
This is your chance to let your inner Tarzan shine as you rappel, abseil and swing from waterfall to waterfall in the pristine rainforests around Arenal volcano. It’s a little scary, but maximum fun and the best way to see the falls.
15. Seek out a Quetzal
This is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful (and elusive) birds. You can find them in the cloud forest south of San Jose – and even if you don’t manage to spot this mysterious bird, you’ll see hundreds of different species along the way – including the amazing toucan!