If you’re looking for the ultimate bucket list destination, look no farther than Costa Rica!
The place has it all. Sandy beaches and tropical rain forests. Quaint village towns and colorful cities with lots of culture and history. Getting up close and personal with the jungle wildlife.
With so much to offer, it has something to suit all travel styles—and we have a few ideas in store for you.
- Where Is Costa Rica?
- What Is Costa Rica Known for?
- When Is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?
- 15 Activities that Take Priority on Your Costa Rica “To-Do” List
- Relaxation in Costa Rica
- Adventure in Costa Rica
- Nature in Costa Rica
- Animals in Costa Rica
- Culture in Costa Rica
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Where Is Costa Rica?
First things first! Located in Central America, Costa Rica is a small country of only 5 million. Its capital city, San José, is home to just over 330,000 people.
The western and southern parts of Costa Rica are exposed to the Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea borders Costa Rica on the east. Neighboring countries are Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the southeast.
What Is Costa Rica Known for?
Costa Rica is known for its wildlife, adventure and rugged beauty!
People visit Costa Rica to get back to nature. If you’re looking for a trip filled with lush greenery, you won’t be disappointed.
The local Spanish-speaking people are known for being friendly and inviting. They love sharing their beautiful homeland with visitors who respect nature and care for the environment.
Whether you want to relax on the beach or rush down a white water rapid, Costa Rica is known as a destination for those who love the outdoors, especially diverse plant and animal life. In fact, Costa Rica is home to 5% of all known plant and animal species in the world!
When Is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?
Costa Rica’s climate is tropical. Temperatures are mild year-round, ranging from the low-70s to mid-90s. However, the country itself is made up of many climate zones, so it’s a good idea to do some research if you have a particular area in mind!
The dry season, from mid-December to mid-April, has the best weather for traveling. You’ll be less likely to get caught in a rainstorm. But keep in mind that these months are the peak travel season, so there will be lots of crowds.
If you’d prefer things to be a little quieter, you can always visit just after the rainy season, in June and July. The crowds will be thinner, but be prepared for the occasional rainstorm to pass through.
15 Activities that Take Priority on Your Costa Rica “To-Do” List
There aren’t many places in the world that offer the variety of activities available in Costa Rica, all bundled up in one compact package.
It’s a must-visit country for anyone interested in biodiversity and ecology, and a magnet for adventure lovers of all types.
Whatever your interests, you’re likely to find just what you’re looking for in Costa Rica. Here are our top bucket list activities for your trip to this beautiful country!
Relaxation in Costa Rica
1. Surf and snooze
Keen on catching some waves and a few naps in your downtime? The beaches of Costa Rica are known as being beautiful spots to learn to surf.
Gather your friends or family and rent a house at the gorgeous beach of Marbella. Or you can head to one of the other fabulous surf spots at Playas (Beaches) Tamarindo or Ostional.
2. Enjoy the waters of a beautiful hot spring
The Paradise Hot Springs are heated naturally by the nearby Arenal Volcano and offer five different hot pools to enjoy. And a cold plunge pool to wake you up!
You can admire the gorgeous local views, get a fantastic massage poolside and enjoy a cocktail from the bar.
3. Stay in an eco lodge
With such an incredible level of biodiversity, it’s no surprise that Costa Rica as a whole focuses on sustainability.
If you’re keen on sharing your space with macaws, sloths, toucans and monkeys, book one of the 17 bungalows at the beautiful Lapa Rios in Puerto Jiménez.
Or if you’re looking for something more affordable, how about staying in Danta Corcovado Lodge, where you can go dolphin spotting nearby?
Adventure in Costa Rica
4. Hike Arenal Volcano
Walk around the base of Arenal Volcano, which is one of the most well-known hikes in Costa Rica. Explore the springs in the area and learn about the history of the volcano and its geological surroundings.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, there are guided hikes up the neighboring Chato Volcano, too.
5. Go white water rafting
Does rushing down a quickly flowing river appeal to you? Get a taste of rafting with this half-day Naranjo River rafting trip from Rios Tropicales. There are rapids for people of all skills, from beginner to terrifyingly advanced!
If you really want to test yourself, why not take the plunge and register for this eight-day adventure trip with Costa Rica Extreme? It involves white water rafting, bungee jumping, mountain biking and canyoning.
6. Speed through the air on a zipline
Sure, you’ve seen ziplines before. But have you zipped over a rainforest teeming with native monkeys and birds? To get the ultimate bird’s-eye view of Costa Rica’s greenery, you have to see it from the air!
Costa Rica Sky Adventures has two thrilling zipline tours for you to choose from, one located in Arenal Volcano National Park and the other at Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Costa Rica is one of the best places to go ziplining in the world!
Nature in Costa Rica
7. Visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens
A gorgeous, private nature reserve is the perfect place to see birds, butterflies, monkeys, hummingbirds, snakes, felines and frogs.
You can even stay overnight in the romantic Peace Lodge if you’d like to experience the park at night. We hear there are a few bats that inhabit the area!
8. Have your head in the clouds at Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
This massive nature reserve is one of the most well-known in Costa Rica. It truly allows you to have your head in the clouds and wander around the top of the forest canopy.
Founded in 1972, it’s home to a massive 50% of all the species of flora and fauna that call Costa Rica home.
9. Journey along the Tortuguero Canals
Tortuguero National Park is one of the most significant nesting sites of the endangered green turtle in the Western Hemisphere.
While there are lots of trails throughout the park, your best bet is to rent a kayak or boat and meander through its many waterways to enjoy the scenery.
Animals in Costa Rica
10. Go bird watching at Corcovado National Park
One of the best places in Costa Rica to spot abundant bird life, Corcovado National Park is a must-visit for all bird lovers. It’s home to one of the largest wild macaw populations in the Americas.
Just make sure to bring your earplugs. There are a lot of noisy, playful parrots vying for your attention!
11. Visit the world’s first sloth sanctuary
There’s one attraction that brings visitors to Costa Rica in droves: the humble sloth.
This slow-moving, smiley-faced creature, which is beloved across the world and a bonafide internet celebrity, can be found in several places in Central and South America. But Costa Rica is known as one of the best places in the world to spot a sloth.
Visit the Sloth Sanctuary to learn all about these lovable creatures and to help to ensure their ongoing survival in the wild.
12. Go horseback riding
If you like to mix adventure and animals, riding a horse is the perfect way to see the sights of Costa Rica.
Discovery Horseback Tours has a huge range of horseback riding options available, from a half-day trip around Jaco to a six-night long trail journey.
For an authentic cowboy adventure, you can even ride bareback on the beach at Esterillos Este through Beyond the Riding Adventure.
Culture in Costa Rica
13. Explore the capital city of San José
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Costa Rica, make sure you visit San José, its capital city.
Whether it’s the Museo de Arte Costarricense (Museum of Costa Rican Art) or the Gold Museum, there are numerous cultural gems to explore in this city.
San José is also home to many delicious eateries and art galleries. The area can be a tourist hub, so you’ll want to spend some time exploring its back alleyways to get off the beaten path.
14. Visit the beach hotspot of Jaco
Want to experience the vibes of Costa Rica’s charming towns? Look no farther than Jaco. This relaxed beach resort is relatively close to San José and offers a bustling main strip with a friendly atmosphere, delicious food and tons of water activities.
Sure, Jaco’s a little touristy. But it’s great for a day trip and a perfect spot to kick back and enjoy happy hour.
15. Continue your Spanish lessons
Even if you’ve been practicing your Spanish before you visit Costa Rica, it’s great to continue learning during your adventure. There are lots of ways you can experience language immersion in Costa Rica, and the friendly locals are usually willing to help you practice your skills!
At the same time, you can do a few simple activities on your own to enhance your time abroad and ease into the experience of being surrounded by Spanish.
You can listen to Spanish music on Spotify, check out the local radio stations, or watch Spanish films on Netflix. You can also download immersion-based language programs. One example is FluentU, which lets you watch and learn from Spanish videos enhanced with subtitles, flashcards and quizzes.
If you prefer formal language training, you can even sign up for a Spanish and surfing class in Jaco.
While we’ve suggested a few ideas to get you started, this list merely scratches the surface of what’s available in Costa Rica. With such an amazing range of activities to offer, Costa Rica is the ultimate bucket list destination.
Brush up on those Spanish skills and get packing! The sloths are waiting for you.
An experienced writer, traveler and communications professional, Belinda Birchall splits her time between New Zealand and Dubai, with a lot of travel packed in between—visiting 20 countries in 2017/2018. In her spare time, she blogs at The 58th Floor and shares photos of her travels on Instagram.
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