Costa Rica Activities

Rainforest zip line ride in Costa Rica

Zip line rides over the rainforest, one of many routes available in Costa Rica activities. Photo by Ken Haufle

Popular Costa Rica activities

Wildlife Parks

Naturally nature comes first, with about 70 great parks featuring all kinds of wild things. Pick your park according to desired sights and time available though beware that the most easily accessible parks are getting a LOT of visitors.
Birding is the biggest attraction with mammals such as monkeys, iguanas and frogs slithering close behind. Like the Amazon, rainforest wildlife is tricky to see because the forest is dense and many of the mammals and reptiles hunt at night but with a good guide you’ll probably see more wildlife in Costa Rica than in the Amazon rainforest.

Zip Lines

One of Costa Rica’s more popular adrenalin activities is the zip line (otherwise known as a wire slide or flying fox) tour, where you slip on a safety harness, clip on to a wire and rocket from one tree-top platform to the next, hoping not to plummet to the forest floor 80m below.

There are close to a hundred operators in the country but choose wisely and not necessarily the cheapest – there is a safety factor involved, so ensure that equipment is in good shape, fits snugly and your guides are sensible and sober.

Skytrek (3hrs, 2km/1. 25m) in Monteverde (private) Park offers the biggest wire slide, including one 400m slide, with 80m suspension bridges.

Surfing

Surfing, Costa Rica Activities

Surfing off Playa Dominical, a small and relaxed town on the southern Pacific coast. Photo by Haru Master.

When to surf Dominical beach: April through August the waves are clean and the swells come rolling in constantly. September through December there is still a good swell but the weather can be unpredictable.

There are often good waves on the Pacific side at Pavones (South), Boca Barranca, Playa Jaco and Doña Ana (centre) and Playa Tamarindo (NW, Peninsula de Nicoya) and on the Caribbean at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Boards are available to rent.

Volcano viewing

Arenal Volcano is currently the liveliest cone in the world and has mini-eruptions hourly while the neighbouring town of La Fortuna offers loads of activities, including Arenal treks.

Canopy tours

a hanging bridge in Monteverde cloud forest, Costa Rica

A Costa Rica ‘hanging bridge’ in the Monteverde cloud forest. Photo by Haakon Krohn

Alternatively for those who wish for more forest study and less speed, canopy tours include high suspension bridges (sometimes known as sky-walks) and platforms from where travellers can eyeball wildlife horizontally, getting a far better view of monkeys and birds than is possible from the ground.

Hiking

rainforest hiking, Costa Rica Activities

Taking a walk in the Costa Rica rainforest.

If you prefer to hike through the rainforest instead of scooting over it at speed, this is the kind of scenery you may expect, with plenty of wild flowers and the odd waterfall (below). Hikes can be an hour, half a day, a day, several days, with guide or without, well marked trail or not, all options are open in the ‘jungles’ of Costa Rica. Corcovado National Park (SW) has the most serious hikes, tho’ sticky. Santa Rosa (NW) is drier, while Chirripo (centre east) offers highland hiking.

Llanos de Cortes waterfall, Costa Rica

Llanos de Cortes waterfall. Photo by Yricordel.

Mountain Biking

Road cycling is not recommended in Costa Rica as neither roads nor driving standards are good enough to guarantee survival.

Mountain biking, however, can be a lot of fun in the right area such as in the region around Lake Arenal and the volcano, where the scenery’s spectacular, there are masses of trails, and at the end of a hard day the hot springs at a thermal resort are perfect for unwinding.
Bikers will find some first class mountain bikes for rent. Roads can be crude but empty and interesting, tho’ avoid the wet season unless you enjoy mud wading.
Prime targets are the Orosi Valley near San José or trails around Lake Arenal. Serious bikers may care to tackle the Ruta de los Conquistadores from the Pacific to the Caribbean. .

White-water rafting

white water rafting, Costa Rica Activities

Rafting on one of Costa Rica’s famously unflagging rivers.

Due to the country’s regular, heavy rainfall and hilly topography white-water rafting aficionados and kayakers have a superb variety of wet river runs that are the envy of most other countries and attract activity professionals in training from all over the world.

San José is close enough to a couple of serious rivers to offer day trips out to the Reventazon or Pacuare, or longer excursions further away. La Fortuna also provides trips out to several fine rivers, as does Quepos in the Central Pacific, or head for the white-water capital, Turrialba in the Central Valley.

The best white-water rafting ride is probably the Pacuare River but for amateurs or newbies it’s better to go for more relaxing Class II and III rivers such as Reventazón, Sarapiquí, Peñas Blancas, and Savegre.

Kayakers have both river and sea kayaking options.

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving, Costa Rica Activities

And finally, there are plenty of underwater treats in Costa Rica, not so much for snorkelers but scuba divers on the Pacific coast are well catered for. These are white tip reef sharks hanging out on a sea mount and waiting for dark to start hunting.

Snorkeling and Diving

In spite of an endless supply of reefs, caves and rocks off the coast snorkeling in Costa Rica is less than wonderful as regular heavy rain causes soil runoff which muddies waters near the shore, particularly in the wet season and especially on the Caribbean side of the country where even diving well away from the shore isn’t too good, with the exception of Isla Uvita, off the coast of Limón, near the Panamanian border.

Informed scuba divers tend to head for Pacific dive locations such as Isla del Caño, Bat Island, and the Catalina Islands, where they are likely to come across manta rays, white-tipped sharks and masses of smaller fish and colourful coral. Reputedly the best Costa Rican diving is a week on a dive boat off the coast of Isla del Coco.

Deep Sea Fishing

Excellent boats and skippers can be found on both coasts but prime areas in the best seasons get fully booked so consider booking a package. .