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