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Things to Do in Costa Rica

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The eco-tourism hub of Central America, Costa Rica’s sunny climate creates the perfect atmosphere for some of the planet's best gifts – forest fringed beaches, whimsical volcano springs, and conservation areas that preserve a nice percentage of the earth's biodiversity. The green-covered geography offers opportunities for a wild adventure, whether it is trekking high-altitude routes or experiencing the white-water rapids. And for those who want a more laidback getaway, the stunning landscape and the colorful Costa Rican culture is exciting enough just to experience.

Here’s our curated list of things to do in Costa Rica; pick a few or do them all — it’s your chance to revel in the country’s offerings in different degrees of pleasure.

#1 Marvel at the mountain forest in San Gerardo de Dota

Quetzal in San Gerardo de Dota forest in Costa Rica
The legendary Quetzal can be spotted in the mountain forest in San Gerardo de Dota.

Rising to an elevation of 2,194 meters, one of the top things to do in Costa Rica is a trip to the Talamanca Mountains. The journey is worth it, especially as you step into a paradise filled with the lyrical humming of more than 170 bird species. Spot a quetzal, or take snapshots of other remarkable birds as you wander into a cloud forest blessed with the crisp mountain air.

Location: Savegre River, Talamanca Mountains

Best time to visit: January to March

Top tips: With steep roads ahead of your journey, the best way to get here is via a 4WD.

#2 Tickle Your tastebuds in a chocolate tasting tour

Man grinding cacao beans in Costa Rica
A man grinds cacao beans in a process to make chocolate.

Costa Rica has a long-existing love affair with chocolate; it has been used as drinks, dessert and even currency! There's no surprise that chocolate farm tours are among the best things to do in the country. Have yourself a piece — or more, if you wish — as you go wander into a garden of Cacao Trees. You may even get a chance to make chocolate with your own hands.

Location: San Isidro, San José Province

Best time to visit: All year round

Top tips: Carry a light rain jacket as you are most likely to walk through forested areas with occasional precipitation. Most tours last within 2-3 hours, with a quick trip into the farms. Wear mosquito repellent before going.

#3 Wander in the magnificent “Chepe”

Teatro Nacional a historical building in San Jose, Costa Rica
The Teatro Nacional is a colonial mansion that is considered a cultural asset of the country for its neoclassical architecture.

Chepe, as San José is fondly known, is the cradle of art in Costa Rica. The largest city in the country offers a neoclassical appeal in form of historic architectures aficionados will revel in. Take a jaunt into colonial mansions, now converted into fine art galleries and boutique hotels. Among your best stops: Museo de Oro, Teatro Nacional and Barrio Amón.

Location: San José
Best time to visit: December to April
Top tips: Be prepared to walk; it's quicker to get through the area's narrow streets this way over taking a bus. Wet season is from April to December, so make sure to pack an umbrella.

#4 Soak in the thermal hot springs

Hot spring near Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica
You cannot miss a chance to soak into a hot spring when traveling in Costa Rica.

Throw in a mix of adventure and relaxation in your to-do list of activities in Costa Rica by visiting Arenal Volcano. Here, you get to see one of the most active volcanoes in the world, while you spend time relaxing in the region's hot springs. A small-group tour in this vicinity offers pick-up, a trip to the artisan town of Sarchi, and gourmet dinner in your hotel.

Also, check out our article on Best Hot Springs in Costa Rica to find the best places to soak into.

Location: Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna, Alajuela Province

Best time to visit: May - November

Top tips: Watch out for any lava flows, ash or smoke as you walk within the volcanic vicinity.

#5 Go turtle spotting in the shores of Tortuguero

A sea turtle in Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica
A turtle makes its way to the sea after laying eggs in the beaches of Tortuguero National Park.

Seemingly a world apart from the mountainous topography of Costa Rica, this wildlife conserve is nestled away from the public, sandwiched in between volcanic beaches and a tepid lagoon. Reach this wonderland through Río la Suerte and watch turtles lay their eggs.

Location: Tortuguero National ParkLimón Province

Best time to visit: July to October

Top tips: Put on your bug spray and make sure to wear dark, non-reflective clothing. Unfortunately, photography in this area is restricted.

#6 Admire the five cascades at Viento Fresco

A waterfall in Viento Fresco in Costa Rica
Viento Fresco covers 1.3 kilometers of untouched nature.

Take a stop between your drive from Monteverde and Arenal and see the spectacular water arcs dropping from tens of meters above. Viento Fresco covers 1.3 kilometers of well-maintained area where you bask in the untouched beauty of nature – which is truly among the best things to do in Costa Rica.

Location: Tilarán, Guanacaste Province

Best time to visit: June to November

Top tips: Add a horseback riding tour to fully enjoy the scenery

#7 Delight in a romantic sunset cruise in Tamarindo

Couple on a cruise during sunset in Costa Rica
Couple enjoys the sunset view from a cruise.

Comfortably perched inside an 80-ft Schooner that sports an open bar, live music and 6 gourmet courses, this afternoon cruise is nothing less than wonderful. Cocktails are offered as you head to Playa Huevo, with the boat gliding on the smooth waters as the sky slowly bursts in the orange hues of sunset.

Location: Tamarindo Beach, Guanacase Province

Best time to visit: December to April

Top tips: If you're a vegetarian, you can easily advise the chef to prepare a meal that suits your preference

#8 Take a mud bath in Miravalles Volcano

Mud baths are available near volcanoes in Costa Rica
Enjoy the warm sensation of volcanic mud baths.

See smoke rising around Miravalles Volcano, a rainforest-covered landscape that lets you to safely walk around its craters. Warm up to the sensation of the mud pots, whose temperatures range from 40° to 100° C.

Location: Cordillera de Guanacaste, Guanacaste Province

Best time to visit: November to August

Top tips: Wait for 15–20 minutes for the clay to cool you down and enjoy its natural benefits to your skin. Bring swimming suits, hiking shoes, sun block and a good pair of binoculars.

#9 Go deep underground in Venado Caves

Grottoes, chambers and amazing rock formations welcome you in this dark tour, where bat colonies thrive from the hanging rocks. Feel like a true archaeologist as you discover prehistoric marine fossils and ancient sea beds with your exploration equipment.

Location: Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna, Alajuela Province

Best time to visit: February to April

Top tips: Make sure to carry a towel and a new change of clothes. Do not wear flip-flops.

#10 View the Diquís Spheres in Sitio Arqueológico Finca 6

Historical stone spheres of Costa Rica
These historical stone spheres ranging 20-30 meters in diameter are significant artifacts in the Costa Rican history.

Created between 300 BC and 1500 AD, these historical mounds, ranging 20–30 meters in diameter, offers significant artifacts in the Costa Rican history.

Location: Palmar Norte, Sierpe, Puntarenas Province

Best time to visit: February to April

Top tips: Make sure to see the banana pulley system that takes you back to the olden days of Costa Rica at the on-site museum. The museum is closed on Mondays. Entrance is free for senior citizens.

#11 Hike in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

Hanging bridge in the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica
Enjoy the nature of Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve from the hanging bridges.

Trek into this lush, 25,000 acres of misty oasis hidden by tall trees. Thriving inside this cloud forest are 100 species of mammals, 400 types of birds and thousands of flora families that create the bright green landscape. Zipline or walk through the hanging bridges to see the reserve from above.

Location: Santa Elena, located within Puntarenas and Alajuela Province

Best time to visit: December to August

Top tips: Supermarkets and banking facilities are available in Santa Elena, just in case you want to replenish your essentials in the mountains

#12 Enjoy the serene secluded beaches at Guanacaste

A beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Guanacaste beaches are tranquil, sunny and picturesque.

Appreciate the feeling of calm by touring Guanacaste, a sunny, savanna-covered shoreline, which extends straight to the Nicaraguan border. Drop by the palm-draped Playa Carillo beach or see the UNESCO World Heritage Site Santa Rosa National Park, which preserves the ruins of the 1985 battle place. For a soothing spa experience, go to Rincón de la Vieja, where you'll be treated to hot springs and the beautiful sight of waterfalls.

Location: North Coast of Costa Rica

Best time to visit: December to April

Top tips: Easily reach this destination by Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport

Taking scenic strolls do not make your stay any less than high-octane thrills. There are plenty of things to do in Costa Rica, and most of them will fill your senses just as any challenging adventure. Revel in the country’s splendid landscape and culture, and take home a pleasant memory of newfound friends and experiences.

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