Free Activities to Do in Costa Rica

Free and beautiful
Free and beautiful | © Mike Baird / Flickr
Photo of Jenn Parker
12 April 2018

While Costa Rica isn’t the cheapest destination (especially in Central America), there are quite a few ways to lessen your expenditures while exploring and enjoying this extraordinary country. One of the easiest ways to keep your adventure budget-friendly is by taking advantage of free activities.

Explore art and culture in the city

The capital city of San José is home to a thriving art, music, and design scene, as well as quite a few noteworthy museums and galleries. The National Museum of Contemporary Art and Design is free on Mondays and the National Museum is always free to children under the age of 12. Every two months a tour called the San José Art City Tour is offered to anyone who would like to join for free. The tour covers 20 museums, galleries, restaurants, and points of interest in San José.

Listen to live music

While there are concert venues and live music opportunities in Costa Rica where you are required to purchase a ticket or pay an entrance fee, there are equal if not more opportunities to see live music for free. Especially in the coastal beach towns, live music is almost a nightly occurrence in many places. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafés that employ local musicians to play at their places of business for the pleasure of their guests. Keep your eyes out for flyers, talk to the locals, and just follow the sound of music.

Live and free | © haley8 / Flickr

Watch a parade

There is almost always some sort of celebration or festival taking place somewhere in Costa Rica. Costa Ricans celebrate multiple religious holidays, historic holidays, town pride, and even favorite foods, such as palmito cheese, pejibayes, and chicharrones. More often than not, such celebrations are complete with a lively and colorful parade. The annual town fiestas always have a horse parade, called a tope. This is an amazing opportunity to witness some of the traditional culture, music, dances, symbols, and clothing of the local Costa Rican people while visiting their country.

Getting ready for the tope | © Christopher Alpizar Gaviria / Flickr

Take a hike

While hiking trails within the national parks and reserves in Costa Rica require you to pay a small entrance fee, there are plenty of hiking trails that are free to access. Most eco-lodges are located on their own small reserves and oftentimes have maintained and marked hiking trails for their guests. The best way to learn about the free hiking trails that are around where you are visiting is to simply ask the owners or concierge of the place that you are staying at. Most of the time this information is not readily available online, which makes these types of trails hidden gems.

Go birdwatching

You don’t necessary need to set off on a guided full day tour to experience some of Costa Rica’s unique birds. Birds are especially easy to observe, as Costa Rica is a birdwatching hotspot. There are more species of birds in Costa Rica than in the United States and Canada combined. The blue-crowned mot mot, resplendent quetzal, scarlet macaw, keel-billed toucan, fiery-throated hummingbird, collared aracari, crested caracara, and bay-headed tanager all live in Costa Rica and are surely high on your birdwatching checklist. You might even spot some monkeys and other types of wildlife while you are birding too.

Might not even have to leave your patio to see spot one of these beauties | © Don Faulkner / Flickr

Stroll the beach

There are around 300 named beaches in Costa Rica. There are many beaches that are just waiting for you to take a walk on them. Taking a walk on any one of Costa Rica’s magnificent beaches is sure to be a pleasant and peaceful experience. This is a totally free and healthy activity that you can do anytime of the day. It is a wonderful way to explore and admire Costa Rica’s awe-inspiring beauty.

One of better start walking | © Cesar Reñones Dominguez / Flickr

Enjoy the sunset

Costa Rica’s sunsets are worth more than a thousand words or a thousand dollars. The Pacific coast boasts some of the most magical sunset shows. They are so spectacular that even the locals tend to head down to the beach at the end of every day to watch them. They really never get old and every day is different. And the best part is they are totally free to watch!