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Diving in the Caribbean Sea Rich © Carey/Shutterstock
Diving in the Caribbean Sea Rich © Carey/Shutterstock
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An Adventure Traveler's Guide to Costa Rica

Picture of Jenn Parker
Updated: 31 January 2017
Costa Rica is the perfect destination for travelers looking for a rush of adrenaline, some heart-pounding moments, and the giant smile that follows a flush of excitement. Costa Rica has a wide variety of adventure activities available all over the country for all different types of thrill seekers. Embarking on one or multiple tours is a great way to see some of the most beautiful parts of the country from rainforests and cloud forests to waterfalls and coral reefs.

Canopy zip line tour

Zip lining is one of the most popular activities in Costa Rica. This thrilling activity offers a completely unique view of the rainforest; a bird’s eye view. Long cables take you through the canopy from platform to platform. This completely safe and professionally guided activity is an excellent tour for the whole family. Some of the best zip line tours are Arenal Reserve, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, and the San Luis Canopy tour. There are zip line canopy tours offered all around the country, though.

Zip line through the rainforest/David Berkowitz/Flickr
Zip line through the rainforest | © David Berkowitz/Flickr

White water rafting

There are at least six different rivers in Costa Rica that offer between class one and class four rapids to those looking for an adrenaline pumping activity. Costa Rica receives high levels of rainfall between the months of May and October, which only helps to make the rapids more exhilarating. In order of least to most difficult, the following are the most well known rivers for rapid tours: Peñas Blancas, Corobicí River, Rio Balsa, Pacuare River, Tenorio River, and Naranjo River.

White water rafting/David Berkowitz/Flickr
White water rafting on the Naranjo River | © David Berkowitz/Flickr

Waterfall and canyon rappelling

Waterfall and canyon rappelling is not for the faint of heart. However, it is a truly unique way to become completely enveloped in the rainforest. Rappelling magnificent waterfalls and down deep canyons to the lush and verdant forest floor will be an experience like no other. The tour will be a mix of hiking and rappelling alongside an experienced guide who will have a great wealth of knowledge about the local flora and fauna. There are breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls all around the country.

Waterfall rappelling in La Fortuna/Wilma Compton/Flickr
Waterfall rappelling in La Fortuna | © Wilma Compton/Flickr

Sailing

The Costa Rica Sailing Center in Playa Portero in Guanancaste is a must for adventurers. The location is absolutely perfect for kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, snorkeling and, of course, sailing. There are sailing lessons available for all different levels and boats for rent for those who already know how to sail and just want to set out to sea. There are often bonfires on the beach for sunset and live music, karaoke, bingo nights, and other family friendly events varied throughout the week. The restaurant offers some delicious, locally-inspired dishes and the beers are always icy. This place has it all for someone who is looking to spend an active (or relaxing) day on the water.

Set sail at the Costa Rica Sailing Center/Courtesy of Costa Rica Sailing Center
Set sail at the Costa Rica Sailing Center | © Courtesy of Costa Rica Sailing Center

Surfing

Costa Rica is synonymous with surfing. Costa Rica has both world-class waves and gentle beginner breaks. There seems to be a surf shop, school, or camp on every corner, which makes it a breeze to rent a board, book a lesson, and start shredding. Tamarindo is one of the most popular places to go to learn how to surf. SALT (Surf As Life Therapy) Surf School and Tours is one of the best programs for beginners and more advanced surfers alike. If you are new to the sport, it is very important to learn safety and surf etiquette first in order to ensure a safe (for everyone in the water) and enjoyable experience.

Surfs up/Jenn Parker
Surfs up | © Jenn Parker

Diving

What’s beneath the surface in Costa Rica is often as beautiful as what’s above. Costa Rica is bursting with thriving rock and coral reefs, abundant marine wildlife, such as sea turtles and stingrays, and a vast collection of tropical fish. Scuba diving, snorkeling, and snuba diving tours are available around the country on both the Caribbean and Pacific side. The Catalina Islands, Bat Islands, Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, and Cocos Island are some of the most famous dive sites in Costa Rica.

Horseback riding

What better way to explore the countryside, mountainous jungles, and beaches than by horseback? Pretty much anywhere that you go in Costa Rica there will be a horseback riding tour available. It is a great way to experience firsthand the vast beauty of the country at a pace where you can really take it all in. Oftentimes, guides will be bilingual and knowledgable about the local surroundings, both natural and culturally. Most Costa Ricans take very good care of their horses, but avoid tours where horses look emaciated, dehydrated, and dirty, as this is a sign of a bad operation.

Take a ride through the mountains/Scott Robinson/Flickr
Take a ride through the mountains | © Scott Robinson/Flickr