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From waterfalls to volcanoes: The ultimate Costa Rica adventure guide

Costa Rica is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers. With its diverse landscape of lush rainforests and gorgeous beaches it has no shortage of things to do and see. Hike to a volcano, zip through the treetops and view the breathtaking La Fortuna Waterfall. The country in Central America truly has something for everyone, from adrenaline-pumping activities to serene nature experiences.  

So, pack your bags and prepare for an unforgettable adventure and relaxation-filled trip in this tropical paradise. Here are our top picks on the ultimate things to do in Costa Rica. 

Hike to breathtaking waterfalls

Waterfall in Costa Rica
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Costa Rica is home to some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the world. Nestled in the lush Tenorio Volcano National Park, the Rio Celeste is a stunning jungle waterfall with bright blue water plummeting into a pristine jungle pool below. After admiring the falls from a distance, hike down the stairs to the base for another photo opportunity and spot local wildlife along the way. 

Scenic view of La Fortuna Waterfall and rainforest

You’ll also want to visit La Fortuna waterfall in a biological reserve within Arenal. Surrounded by dense greenery, the 70-meter-tall waterfall cascades into a natural pool. The incredible sight is worth the trek along a path with 530 steps. At the reserve, make sure to visit the onsite colourful orchid garden before you depart. 

Spend the day at crystal clear beach

View of the Whale's Tail at the Marino Ballena National Park in Uvita, Costa Rica
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Costa Rica boasts over 1,228 kilometres of coastline, meaning there are plenty of beautiful beaches to explore no matter what type of experience you seek. Manuel Antonio Beach, located in Manuel Antonio National Park, is a slice of paradise. Its crystal-clear waters are perfect for swimming and snorkelling, and the surrounding rainforest is home to various wildlife, including monkeys. 

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For a more secluded beach experience, head to Conchal Beach in Guanacaste. This unique beach comprises millions of tiny, crushed shells instead of sand, giving it a picturesque and distinctive look. 

See monkeys in their natural habitat

Wild Squirrel Monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
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Costa Rica is known as the “Land of the Monkeys” due to its abundance of these playful creatures. One place to spot them is Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can hike through the rainforest and catch a glimpse of white-faced capuchin, howler, and squirrel monkeys swinging from tree to tree.  

 Visit Manuel Antonio National Park with Windstar Cruises aboard a seven-day Naturally Costa Rica Itinerary and enjoy exploring the rainforest in search of Costa Rica’s monkeys. 

For a more interactive experience, visit the Monkey Sanctuary in Tamarindo. Here, you can get up close and personal with rescued monkeys and feed them snacks. 

Get your adrenaline pumping on a zipline or skywalk

Zip line in Costa Rica against green foliage

For an exhilarating adventure, try ziplining through the lush rainforest canopy. The Treetopia Park Monteverde offers even ziplines spanning over three kilometres, offering breathtaking views of the forest and surrounding mountains. Another great spot for ziplining is the Sky Trek in Arenal which reaches speeds of up to 70 km/h on the seven ziplines that soar as high as 200 meters above the lush vegetation.

Trek over a sky forest

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If ziplines aren’t your thing, The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a great option. The biological reserve is home to more than 500 types of orchids, 120 types of mammals and 425 species of birds. The best way to explore the incredible flora and fauna inside is by following the nature trail that leads to an observation deck and a hanging bridge that gives you a bird’s eye view of the sky forest below. 

Explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest on an eight-day Costa Rica Eco Adventure tour from Trafalgar. See all that Costa Rica has to offer as you travel between San Jose and Liberia, taking in the beauty and biodiversity of the country.   

See colourful butterfly gardens

Blue Morpho Butterfly in Costa Rica
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Costa Rica is home to over 1,200 species of butterflies, making it a prime location for butterfly gardens. A top pick is the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens, which offers tours in English through three gardens where you get an up-close experience with the butterflies. 

La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park Alajuela Province Costa Rica
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Another top pick is La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park, which has plenty to see and do. It is home to an animal sanctuary with 100 types of animals, including jaguars, sloths, and monkeys, and an enclosed butterfly and hummingbird garden. When visiting the nature park, make sure to explore the scenic hiking trails that lead to five waterfalls! 

Visit an active volcano

Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake, Costa Rica
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Costa Rica has over 200 volcanic formations, with some still active today. One of the most popular is Arenal Volcano, known for its frequent eruptions and stunning views. You can book a guided tour around the volcano’s base (many tours end with a hike to a nearby hot spring).   

On a nine-day Tropical Costa Rica Itinerary from Member Choice Vacations, you’ll experience Costa Rica’s scenic landscapes. You’ll even enjoy the view of Arenal Volcano from one of your hotel room windows.   

Poas Volcano Crater, Poas Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
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For a more challenging hike, head to Poas Volcano National Park. This active volcano offers a panoramic lookout from the viewing platform of the crater and hot lake. But be sure to check with park officials before visiting, as it can sometimes be closed due to volcanic activity. It is also best to go early in the morning, as later in the day, the top can be covered in mist. 

Ride the waves while surfing

Woman Surfing Away from the Camera in Costa Rica
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With its ideal location between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is a top destination for surfing. The best time to catch some waves is from May to November, with the most consistent swells on the Pacific coast. 

Tamarindo Beach is a popular beach town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, known for its white sand beaches and world-class surfing. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer, the waves here are perfect for everyone. More experienced surfers can challenge themselves at Hermosa Beach, known for its big and powerful waves.  

Enjoy the white sand of Tamarindo Beach with a Costa Rica: Beaches, Wildlife and Wild Times tour from G Adventures. Spend 6 Days exploring Costa Rica’s coastlines and wildlife as you travel from Liberia to Tamarindo. Plus, you’ll learn how to surf the waves of Tamarindo Beach. 

Relax in a natural hot springs

Tabacon Hot Springs
Willian Bezerra | iStock

After all the adventure and excitement, take some time to unwind at one of Costa Rica’s natural hot springs. The Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort near Arenal Volcano offers a luxurious and tranquil experience with mineral-rich pools and cascading waterfalls.  

For a more budget-friendly option, visit the Rio Negro hot springs within Rincon de la Viega National Park. There are ten volcanic heated hot springs next to each other. 

Adventure through Costa Rica

Ready for your Costa Rica adventure? Speak with a CAA Travel Consultant will make your travel dreams a reality.  

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