Top ten things to do in Costa Rica

Amy Rosoman

Title photograph by CampPhoto

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Updated July 2019

Live the Pura Vida way in Costa Rica, a destination bursting with everything to set your senses alight. Trek across colossal volcanoes, visit a sloth sanctuary, zipline through rainforests and surf waves in beach paradise. It’s time to explore the happiest country on the planet.

Explore euphoria in Manuel Antonio National Park

Look out for wild howler monkeys swinging in the treetops and see sloths lazing about in the velvet forest canopies of their natural habitat. Watch iguanas sunbathing on rocks in the wild, listen out for kingfishers and spot tiny frogs, with their splashes of colour dotted throughout the rainforests. Wander through luscious jungle trails or discover the paradise of the Pacific Coast, with its mesmerising beaches. Kick back on white sand, grab a board and hit the surf or snorkel above tropical fish through crystal-clear waters.

Top tip: Stay for a sunset that will have you falling head over heels and just be in the know that this park is closed on Mondays.

Discover Costa Rica

Visit the alluring Arenal Volcano

The contrasting terrain of Costa Rica will captivate every part of you. Soak up the beauty of this resting stratovolcano, standing tall in the north-west. Although you cannot hike the crater itself, go trekking through the emerald green groves, then relax in one of the steamy hot springs nearby.

Top tip: Reach for the peak and hop on a sky tram to take in unforgettable views for picture-perfect moments.

  • Arenal volcano in costa rica with a plume of smoke. ©acanonguy.

    Did you know?

    Arenal volcano stands at a whopping 1,633 metres above sea level.

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Discover the cloud forest of Monteverde

Walk along hanging bridges across turquoise lagoons, through thick jade tropical foliage. Embrace the biodiversity of this misty landscape and find your way to the sensational viewpoint on the continental divide – where on a clear day, you can see both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Enjoy wildlife encounters, where toucans brighten up the trees and hummingbirds flit around the flowers. Keep an eye out for jaguar inhabitants and open your eyes to the vibrant orchids, bromeliads and lichens.

Top tip: Soar through the Costa Rica skyline on a zip-line through the forest canopies, for a bird’s eye view of Monteverde.

Take a seven nights eco-adventure tour

Turtles in Tortuguero National Park

Only accessible by light aircraft or boat, the magic of Tortuguero begins on your journey there. Enjoy the beauty of this ecotourist destination, bursting with an array of natural wonders. Venture to the shores for turtle spotting, where green sea turtles, leatherbacks and hawksbills arrive for prime nesting and hatching season between July and October. Be sure to explore the freshwater rivers and creeks. Watch out for endangered manatees in the lagoons and spider monkeys above, as you kayak through the tropical canals.

Top tip: Your best chance to see baby turtles hatch is at night time, where you must be accompanied by a guide after 6pm.

Take a 14 nights Costa Rica highlights tour

  • A humpback whale in Corcovado National Park. ©LuismiX.

    Whales in the wild

    See memerising humpback whales in Costa Rica, as they splash and play about in the waters.

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  • Hanging Bridges in Cloudforest - Costa Rica Monteverde. ©Arnoldo Robert.

    Enchanting possibilites

    Take a leap of faith and walk across the magical bridges of the Cloudforest.

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  • Young Hoffmann's two-toed sloth. ©Chaovarut Sthoop

    Did you know?

    The Hoffman's two-toed sloth is one of the world's slowest mammals and they are completely nocturnal.

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Hiking through Corcovado National Park

Explore the environmental riches of Corcovado Park on the Pacific coast of the Osa Peninsula, which oozes in exotic beauty. Immerse yourself in a world of different ecosystems, from the lowland rainforests, mangrove swamps, to deserted beaches and coastal habitats. Explore the wilderness of Costa Rica, hike through tropical towering trees and swinging vines. Wander through the ever-changing scenery, filled with a thriving variety of creatures, from flittering butterflies to curious anteaters. Just keep an eye out for hammerhead sharks in the sea, as well as the crocodiles and bull sharks in Corcovado Lagoon.

Top tip: There are camping areas available if you want to spend a night or two in the wild, just remember to carry a detailed map with you.

Costa Rica beaches in Cahuita National Park

Make tracks to the Caribbean coastline, to discover wonders and snorkel along the vibrant reefs in azure waters. Explore the 12-mile strip of waters between Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo. Look out for parrotfish, angelfish, eagle rays and nurse sharks in these tropical seas, in this colourful coral ecosystem. Or wander along the ivory white sands and recline under the cooling shadows of a palm tree. Once you have explored the thriving corals, swim to shipwrecks in the shallows and see even more of what this wondrous ocean has to offer.

Top tip: Watch the weather to avoid rainy days, so you can see the best of the underwater world when it’s most clear.

  • Pool area at the El Mangroove, Autograph Collection. ©2017 El Mangroove

    Unwind poolside

    Soak up the sun and relax, to take a break from all your tropical adventures.

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Go whale and dolphin watching in Guanacaste

Take time out along the most north-westerly part of the Pacific shoreline of Costa Rica. Enjoy an experience of a lifetime, with an offshore excursion to see enchanting humpback wales – the most frequent visiting whales to the Costa Rica coast. Be sure to look out for pilot whales, blue whales and pseudo-orca whales too, who are sometimes seen along the Pacific. Watch out for playful bottlenose and spotted dolphins, which you can usually see from the beaches or whilst snorkelling, sailing and on other ocean trips.

Top tip: The best time to whale-watch is between July until April – you can spot dolphins all-year-round.

Birdwatching in Golfo Dulce

Discover the ultimate beauty spot for relaxation, bursting with flora and fauna. With its plentiful rainfall, the wildlife is thriving and the rainforests are always flourishing. Savour a kayaking experience and listen to the songs of flycatchers, the calls of red-lored parrots and whistles of colourful toucans. Paddle along the Gulf and watch pelicans swoop into waters and see falcons stalk the skies. Or make your way through the dense mangroves, for bird encounters you won’t believe.

Top tip: With over 900 species of birds in Costa Rica, a visit to Golfo Dulce is a must for bird lovers. Explore this land of colourful feathers and bird calls.

Take a four star Costa Rica tour for seven nights

Visit the Jaguar Rescue Centre in Manzanillo

See the south east of Costa Rica and make a trip to this animal rescue centre. Meet a variety of animals which are being rehabilitated, before being reintroduced into protected areas in their natural environment. See raccoons, sloths, monkeys, wild cats and other animals saved from peril. Meet trainers who will educate you about this sanctuary and what they do to help these creatures. Learn from a guide about everything outdoors and about how to help protect our world.

Top tip: for a truly heart-warming experience, take part in an animal release.

Take a four star Costa Rica tour for 14 nights

Carnival time in Limón

Join in the party on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, as early October brings a colourful celebration. Tuck into dishes of Caribbean spiced rice and beans, fiery plantain, creole bowls and coconut-flavoured treats. Soak up the electrifying atmosphere, in an artistic array of dancing and parades. See the colours of the rainbow in an impressive array of masks, outfits and headdresses, as you dance to the beat of the bands and drummers.

Top tip: When it’s time to unwind, park yourself on a blissful beach and sip on fresh coconut milk.

Where to stay

Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa

A tropical beachfront resort, where you can choose to recline poolside or on pristine sands.

Book a stay at the Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa

Tamarindo Diria

Soak up the beauty of this idyllic resort, surrounded by palm trees, in a four star retreat.

Book a stay at the Tamarindo Diria

El Mangroove

An opulent five star sanctuary, oozing with sleek bohemian style, relax in the elegant pool or relish a spa pamper.

Book a stay at El Mangroove