10 of the Best Things to Do in Costa Rica

See recent posts by Lara Grant

From spotting howler monkeys in the rainforest to watching professional surfers along the beach, there are loads of activities for travelers to Costa Rica. Whether you're traveling solo, on your honeymoon, or with a bachelorette group, we've rounded up the top 10 things to do on your next trip to this Central American country.

1. Soak in natural, thermal hot springs.

Hot Springs at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort/Oyster

Hot Springs at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort/Oyster

Thanks to the country’s volcanoes, Costa Rica has numerous natural hot springs where travelers and locals can have a relaxing soak. Mineral-rich hot springs reportedly have healing benefits for skin, stress, and blood circulation. Most are centered around the La Fortuna and Arenal area and incorporated into hotels. Hotel options range from low-key to luxurious, but we love Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort for its expansive, lush grounds housing 18 hot springs. Day passes are available for most properties. 

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2. Observe wildlife at Manuel Antonio National Park.

Playitas Beach in Manuel Antonio/Oyster

Playitas Beach in Manuel Antonio/Oyster

Travelers to Costa Rica are bound to see amazing wildlife wherever they choose to go, but no spot can really compare to the fauna-rich Manuel Antonio National Park. Located about a three-hour drive south of the capital, the coastal park spans 683 hectares (1,687 acres) and is home to 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. Keep your eyes peeled for sloths, white-faced and howler monkeys, iguanas, colorful butterflies, and chestnut-mandibled toucans.

3. Go on a chocolate or coffee tour.

Cacao beans at Finca Luna Nueva Lodge/Oyster

Cacao beans at Finca Luna Nueva Lodge/Oyster

While bed-and-breakfasts and luxury resorts in Costa Rica are bound to have delicious, locally produced coffee and chocolate on hand, it’s well worth taking a tour of a chocolate or coffee farm. Costa Rican coffee is considered some of the best in the world, and coffee production is a large part of the country’s economy. Chocolate production doesn’t play as big of a role in the economy (largely due to a fungus that wiped out around 80 percent of cacao trees in the ’70s), but it’s still a big part of the country’s history. Many coffee and chocolate tours are available throughout Costa Rica.

4. Go surfing or windsurfing in Tamarindo.

Beach at Witch's Rock Surf Camp/Oyster

Beach at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp/Oyster

There are multiple spots to ride a wave in Costa Rica, but Tamarindo in the Guanacaste region has developed a name for itself as a surfer’s mecca thanks to its variety of surf breaks that are suitable for both beginners and pros. Numerous businesses offer surf lessons, and those looking to spend lots of time in the ocean should consider Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, which gives guests unlimited access to surfboards and has an on-site surf shop.

5. Marvel at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

The Honeymoon Suite at El Establo/Oyster

The Honeymoon Suite at El Establo/Oyster

Monteverde is perhaps best known for housing the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a biologically diverse area with 2,500 plant species and hundreds of fauna species. Cloud forests are characterized by low-level cloud cover, typically at the canopy level, making for a magical feeling and abundant greenery. Well-maintained trails, zip lines, and suspension bridges are found within the reserve, as is the Continental Divide. 

6. Go zip-lining in Arenal Volcano National Park.

Arenal Volcano/Oyster

Arenal Volcano/Oyster

Zip lines are located across Costa Rica, but one of the best reviewed is Sky Adventures’ zip line in Arenal Volcano National Park. The Sky Trek in Arenal comprises seven zip lines, the longest of which is 2,493 feet and the highest of which is 656 feet. The two-and-a-half-hour tour goes through the stunning rainforest, providing magnificent views of the volcano, lake, and a variety of flora, plus birds and monkeys if you’re lucky.

7. Take a sunset walk along the beach.

Beach at Tulemar Resort/Oyster

Beach at Tulemar Resort/Oyster

Lovely beaches are a big pro for Costa Rica, and taking a long walk along the sand as the sun sets is a particularly enjoyable experience. For the best mix of pretty oceanfront and spectacular sunsets, head to Nosara Beach on the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Tulemar in Manuel Antonio, or Dominical Beach in Puntarenas

8. Go on a yoga retreat.

Akasha Shala at The Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort/Oyster

Yoga retreats are a dime a dozen in Costa Rica these days, meaning you’ll be able to find a yoga-centric property nearly anywhere you’ll be traveling. Whether you want to be by the beach or set back from the coast with stunning forest views, there are yoga hotels sprinkled throughout areas like Santa Teresa and Nosara. We love Costa Rica Yoga Spa hotel for the free daily yoga classes held in a pavilion overlooking the ocean, three healthy (mostly vegetarian) gourmet meals included in rates, and one free beach trip per day.

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9. Stay in a tree house hotel.

The Congo House at Tree Houses Hotel Costa Rica/Oyster

The Congo House at Tree Houses Hotel Costa Rica/Oyster

Just like yoga, staying in a tree house hotel is a top priority for many tourists. The lush landscape of the country makes sleeping in the canopy more scenic than in your childhood backyard. The La Fortuna/Arenal area has most of the available options, but other hotels with tree houses are in the remote coastal rainforests of the Osa Peninsula and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. Tree house accommodations are pretty rustic, but they’re also memorable and ideal for those truly looking to be one with nature.

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10. Hike to the Bajos del Toro Waterfall.


There’s no shortage of hikes to take within Costa Rica, whether strenuous or easy, and all are largely quite scenic. That’s especially true for the hike toward Bajos del Toro Waterfall, also known as Catarata del Toro. The waterfall is situated about a two-hour drive north of San Jose, and is considered one of the most breathtaking in the country. Water plunges 300 feet, and is surrounded by rocks covered in striking green moss. Travelers can hike down to the bottom of the waterfall, and the 350-step hike back can be strenuous, but several lookout stations are set up for taking a break and enjoying the scenery.

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