Home of coffee and sugar, beautiful beaches, active volcanos, and some of the most impressive biodiversity on the planet, Costa Rica is a little piece of Central American paradise. Costa Rica tourism is varied with many different options whether you prefer outdoor adventure, city living or taste testing your way across the country.
Check out our list of must-include activities on your Costa Rica vacations!
Encounter incredible biodiversity
Costa Rica offers the chance to come in contact with some of the world’s most unique, rare and fascinating nature due to its endemic flora and fauna. The country is home to an abundance of national parks and conservation areas, rainforests, cloud forests, beaches, active volcanoes, mangrove swamps, and 1300 species of orchids.
The wonders of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
White-faced monkeys and three-toed sloths frolic in Costa Rica’s smallest but most popular National Park, connected to the mainland by a skinny Pacific sand tómbolo at Punta Catedral. Rangers monitor the varied wildlife (and many visitors) between palm-fringed beaches, mangroves and lush green forests.
Look out for colourful oxcarts and yokes
Oxcarts and yokes are so culturally important in Costa Rica they are a national symbol of the country. These colourful contraptions played a crucial role in developing Costa Rica’s export industry, and are unique in Central America due to their colourful shapes and patterns. No two carts are painted exactly the same, and the art form has been passed down through many generations to survive to this day.
Experience an Eco-Lodge
Costa Rica is the world’s frontrunner for sustainable eco-tourism, and you can do your part by choosing a tour that promotes eco-lodges accommodation. From rustic basics to all the home comforts, many tours offer an opportunity to aid the world while you sleep, staying at local community-based ventures.
Stroll the unique capital of San José
Silhouetted volcanic peaks ring a sprawling valley of coffee and sugar cane farms within which the capital is found. San José forgives a fertile centre with a reputation soiled by petty crime and earthquake-worn architecture, but is a transportation hub impossible to miss. Ignore the naysayers – the jade and pre-Colombian gold museums are a joy to visit.
Zip-line through Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
Fly like Tarzan through rainforest clouds via zip-lines and suspension bridges, on the look out for the endangered Quetzal and tropical singsong of birds and monkeys from the canopy. Forget your fear, and be sure to look down!
Take a tour of a coffee or sugar cane farm
Coffee and sugar are two of Costa Rica’s biggest exports. Taking a tour of a farm where these oh-so-important ingredients are grown and prepared to be transported to your local Starbucks or supermarket is a great way to spend a day. You’ll learn all about the processes involved, from growing to roasting or refining, all under the guidance of knowledgeable locals.
Spot the Jesus Lizard at Tortuguero National Park
From a small Afro-Caribbean town, embark on an amphibian boat trip through the canals of some of the world’s first-rate marine biology. Here beach celebrities are the various species of nesting sea turtles, manatees and wetland birdlife. Look out for the Jesus Lizard – so named because it can walk on water.
Get swept up in the surf culture
Costa Rica presents the chance to surf both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, offering a unique tour of two coastlines known for clean-breaking waves that allow surfers to compete with the dudes in Hawaii and Bali.
Hike an active volcano: Volcán Arenal
Rumbling from below is the sporadic flow of red-hot lava from this active volcano, and since its protection as a national park, organised trail walks offer visitors the chance to witness nature’s fury first hand with a knowledgeable guide from La Fortuna.
Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC