From outdoor adventures such as zip lining and waterfall hiking to surfing and butterfly-watching, there are many different things to do in Costa Rica. Here’s our guide.
Keen to visit Costa Rica but not sure where to start with your itinerary? Consider joining Culture Trip’s action-packed nine day Costa Rica trip, led by our Local Insider.
While there are mangrove forests located up and down both coasts, the Sierpe Terraba mangrove forest on the Osa Peninsula is the biggest in Costa Rica. The flooded forest stretches 67,000 acres (27,000ha) and is teeming with wildlife such as crabs, caimans, crocodiles, boas, tree frogs, river turtles, iguanas, white-faced capuchin monkeys and a wide variety of birds. This serene habitat, which can only be accessed by boat, plays an important role in protecting the coastlines from the destructive force of big storm swells. Take a tour with a certified naturalist who will share information about the mangrove forest and its inhabitants. Bahia Adventures Mangrove Nature Trip and Sierpe-Terraba Mangrove Tour are two excellent choices.
Between December and April, the Marino Ballena National Park in Uvita serves as a base for humpback whales migrating from Antarctica. Killer whales and pilot whales (both of which are actually in the dolphin family) also spend time in these rich tropical waters. Whale-watching tours in Costa Rica have fallen under the radar for years but are gaining popularity in places like Uvita. There are so many whales and dolphins during these months that there will most definitely be some special encounters out at sea.
See the volcanoes, forests, valleys, towns, coastal areas and even wildlife of Costa Rica in one exhilarating tour. Lift off at sunrise with a highly experienced certified pilot who will take you on an incredible tour; and if you’re seeking a more intimate experience, you can even privately charter the hot air balloon. Serendipity and Centaura are two great hot air balloon tour companies.
Most people see Costa Rica from the ground, but seeing it from above offers an entirely different perspective. HeliJet Aviation, a San Jose-based helicopter charter company, was one of the first companies to offer helicopter sightseeing tours; choose from four tour options (explore the city and surrounding Central Valley, the volcanoes, the beaches and crocodiles or the rainforests) or create a customized tour. Having a bird’s-eye view of the magnificent landscape and its natural wonders is an unmissable opportunity.
More than 800 species of birds call Costa Rica home – around 600 permanent residents and 200 migratory species. All of North America has just over 900 species of birds, so this is truly a bird utopia, and an incredible place for bird lovers to see some exotic and exquisite species, including the resplendent quetzal, scarlet macaw, toucan, roseate spoonbill and 50 different types of hummingbirds. The best spots for birdwatching are San Gerardo de Dota, Curi-Chancha Reserve, Tortuguero National Park, Rancho Naturalista, Manuel Antonio National Park, and La Selva Biological Reserve.
If you’re looking for things to do on Costa Rica’s coastline, then check out our article on things to do on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.