This Costa Rica Map Will Take You on Wild Adventures
Protecting around 30 percent of its territory, Costa Rica is an adventure traveler's dream. The beautiful country boasts long coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific, tall volcanoes that provide natural hot springs and forests teeming with wildlife.
Extreme activities are endless: You can go scuba diving, surfing, whale watching, hiking and ziplining — you could even trek mountains while on the hunt for glowing mushrooms!
Ready to have the time of your life? Here are some of the most exciting experiences you can have in Costa Rica.
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Climb Costa Rica's Highest Mountain
If you're a person who likes challenges, make climbing Cerro Chirripó a goal. Rising 12,536 feet, it's the tallest mountain in Costa Rica.
The mountain is within Chirripó National Park and is a hidden gem that still flies under the tourist radar. You don't have to be a professional climber to achieve this feat. The hike is 12 miles, which is considerable, but it follows a trail that is marked and is not particularly difficult.
Besides the mountain, Chirripó National Park offers incredible landscapes and ecosystems like the cloud forest and glacial lakes.
Where to stay: Rio Chirripo Lodge and Retreat
Zipline Through the Rainforest in Puerto Viejo
While most tourists spend time on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, the less touristy Caribbean coast has just as much to offer.
In the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, ziplining adventures are a popular pastime. Tours usually take you on a semi-challenging hike to a high point. Your only way down is by sliding down cables at absurdly high speeds.
Terraventuras is one of the best operators in the area, with nine aerial platforms and over nine thousand feet of cable. They're also known for their Superman cable, which hoists you horizontally from the back rather than having you dangle. You'll glide for 984 feet as if you were flying.
Along the way and after the adventure, you'll likely see some fascinating wildlife like sloths, monkeys and (perhaps) the occasional crocodile.
Where to stay: Umami Hotel
Catch Waves in the Pacific Coast
Everyone knows Costa Rica is one of the planet's premier surf spots. And the province of Guanacaste attracts surfers from all over the world.
Whether you're a veteran of the sport or a nervous newbie, you'll want to visit Playa Grande, just north of the popular Playa Tamarindo. The beach is located within the Las Baulas National Marine Park, where you can also go turtle watching and snorkeling.
Where to stay: Hotel el Manglar
Watch Sea Turtles Nest at Tortuguero National Park
According to the Costa Rican tourism authority, "It's always turtle season in Costa Rica!"
This is because numerous species of turtles "lay their eggs on both the Pacific and Caribbean shores of Costa Rica every month of the year, meaning a sighting on land or in the water is possible year-round." How cool is that?
While you can watch sea turtles in several places in the country, the most iconic place to do so is Tortuguero National Park. Four species of sea turtles come here to nest: leatherbacks, hawksbills, loggerheads and green sea turtles. Seeing the endangered animals come to lay their eggs, or witnessing baby turtles hatch and make their way to the sea is nothing short of magical.
Keeping your distance and not disturbing the turtles is a must. And if you want to do more than watch, you can join a volunteer trip to protect the precious species.
Where to stay: Hotel el Icaco Tortuguero
Go Whale Watching in Uvita
Blessed with an extensive coast on the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica has several places where you can enjoy whale watching. The small town of Uvita may be the best one.
Just an hour south of the popular town of Manuel Antonio, Uvita has one of the world's longest whale seasons and is a gateway to the Marino Ballena National Park. You can do whale-watching tours from July to October and from December to February. The best month to visit is September, when your chances of catching these gentle giants in action are pretty high.
This is also the month that Uvita holds its annual Whale and Dolphin Festival. Whale-watching tours are the main events, but you can also expect to celebrate cetaceans with competitions, food and concerts.
Where to stay: Cristal Ballena Boutique Hotel and Spa
Hike Around the Active Arenal Volcano
La Fortuna is one of Costa Rica's most popular destinations, and it's mostly thanks to the Arenal Volcano. The dormant giant measures 5,357 feet (1,633 meters) and last erupted in 2010. Its presence shapes nature and life in the area.
You can't hike to the summit of the volcano, but there are several trails around it considered some of the best in the country. Besides breathtaking views of the lonesome mountain peaking out of the forest, you'll see trails made by old lava flows, hidden waterfalls and abundant wildlife.
People also come here for the natural hot springs fed by the volcano's geothermal activities. Their rejuvenating waters are the reason some of Costa Rica's most impressive luxury resorts are in this area.
Where to stay: Arenal Springs Resort
Dive in Costa Rica's Most Biodiverse Region
The Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica is often considered the country's most biodiverse region. Yet, it doesn't receive as many visitors as the northern parts of the Pacific.
There are plenty of places to dive around here (it is a peninsula, after all), but we suggest heading to Drake Bay for this activity. Here, you'll find relatively tame currents and numerous coral reefs teeming with marine life. You can spend entire weeks diving in this area without getting bored.
And if you want to take a break from the ocean, you'll be only half an hour away from Corcovado National Park, home to monkeys, jaguars, tapirs and various species of birds.
Where to stay: Drake Bay Greenleaf
Search for Bioluminescent Fungi Near La Cangreja National Park
In March 2022, the official Costa Rican tourism authority announced the launch of a fungi trail to "promote the conservation of wild mushrooms at the local level through responsible and sustainable tourism." Throughout the year, different communities along the trail hold activities pertaining to these fascinating little aliens that are neither plants nor animals.
One of the most interesting activities happens in La Cangreja National Park, where you'll search for mushrooms in one of the country's least-visited national parks. Then, at night, you'll hunt for bioluminescent fungi at the nearby Villas Mastatal Eco Lodge. Yes, there are species of mushrooms that glow in the dark, providing a trippy and unique experience.
Of course, it's not all just getting down and dirty on the forest floor looking for glowing fungi. You'll also learn about the importance of these organisms and why the health of the forest depends so much on them.
Trust us, this is one of the most unique and incredible experiences you'll have in Costa Rica.
Where to stay: Villas Mastatal Eco Lodge
Help Rescue Animals at Natuwa Wildlife Sanctuary
Wildlife is one of the main reasons to visit Costa Rica. But while it's incredible to see animals in their natural habitat, you can also give back to the community by visiting a wildlife refuge.
The Natuwa Wildlife Sanctuary in Pitahaya, Puntarenas, rescues native and foreign animals that have been injured or captured and that can't be released back into the wild. Some of the majestic species you'll see here include two-toed sloths, jaguars, macaws, tapirs and spider monkeys.
Just a visit is a contribution to the cause since your entrance fee is used for the upkeep of the animals. To take it a step further, volunteer at the sanctuary.
Other incredible wildlife sanctuaries around the country include Las Pumas Rescue Center and Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center.
Where to stay: Puerto Azul Boutique Resort & Marina
See the Rare Roseate Spoonbill Bird in Caño Negro
Though flamingos may be more famous, the pretty Roseate spoonbill is another pink-feathered bird native to the Americas. Its range is gigantic: from the southern United States to Chile and Argentina. But because of its great habitat-protection policies, Costa Rica is an ideal place to see the species.
Birders will be happy to know that they can catch a glimpse of this bird in several places in Costa Rica. We recommend heading to Caño Negro, in the northern plains of the country. Not too many people come here, so you can do a nature excursion that won't be interrupted by large or loud groups.
Other places to see the Roseate spoonbill include the Palo Verde National Park, the Gulf of Nicoya and Tarcoles River. Just a word of caution about the latter. It has the highest concentration of crocodiles in the world and is considered one of the planet's most dangerous rivers, though that may just be one more reason to visit it.
Where to stay: Hotel de Campo
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