Things and Activities to do in Costa Rica
There are plenty of options for both soft and hard adventure, ranging from biking, hiking, white water rafting, canoeing and kayaking, diving, surfing, windsurfing, and horse riding to caving and mountain-climbing.
Costa Rica is a marvelous country for biking. The hills of the center can be quite rugged, and the coast hot, but the sights can be spectacular and smaller roads and paths can be very pleasant. Most organized tours make sure you are mainly cycling downhill, and that you have plenty to drink. Costa Ricans are enthusiastic bikers, both mountain biking, and cruising. Bear in mind, though, that Costa Rican drivers can be dangerous on the roads.
The country is a birdwatcher’s delight, with more than 850 recorded species of which 630 residents. This is more than for the whole of North America and covers a wide diversity of raptors, water birds, seabirds, and birds of the cloud- and rain forests. Even the resplendent quetzal can be found, albeit with much patience and luck. The four birding regions are the southern Pacific lowlands, the northern Pacific plains, the interior highlands, and the Caribbean lowlands. Learn more about birding in Costa Rica https://www.costaricabirdingjourneys.com/pro-birder/
The rainforest around La Selva (around 400 species)
Chirripo and La Amistad parks (400)
Corcovado park (360)
Braulio Carrillo park (350)
Wilson Botanical Gardens (330)
Tortuguero park (300)
Palo Verde Park (300)
Caño Negro and Ostional parks (200)
canoeing, kayaking, and white water rafting
The many fast-flowing rivers in the country are highly attractive for rafters and kayakers. The main rivers are the Reventazon, Pacuare, and Corobici, and also the Naranjo river at Quepos. Rafting is highly developed in Costa Rica, as the rivers and scenery are fantastic, offering people of all skill levels an exciting element to their visit to the country. The coasts also offer many varied possibilities for sea kayaking which is becoming increasingly popular.
The Essential Road Guide for Costa Rica by Bill Baker. Spiral-bound (1995).
A good book is The Rivers of Costa Rica: A Canoeing, Kayaking, and Rafting Guide by Michael W. Mayfield.
These are relatively new attractions now in various locations in Costa Rica which literally give you a bird’s eye view of the jungle from the treetop or canopy level. They typically consist of platforms at the treetop level, linked by cables, and you slide between the platforms suspended with a harness from the cable. They require no experience. A motor-driven version is the Rainforest Aerial Tram located less than an hour from San Jose and located in the Braulio Carrillo national park.
Apart from the international cruise ships which pass along both coasts, there are several possibilities for one-day cruises from Puntarenas on the Pacific coast to and around the islands of the Gulf of Nicoya. Also, short cruises are possible from many ports, for example, Quepos.
Self-drive can be a very attractive way to see the country, allowing you to stop when you like, have picnics, and make detours. You need to live with the frustration of poor pot-holed roads, slowly being repaired, and main roads that can be heavily-trafficked at peak periods. Also, local drivers are notoriously dangerous at times, and seem to assume another character completely when behind the wheel!
There are excellent hotel packages, also known as an open voucher, whereby you receive vouchers enabling you to stay in participating hotels. The following books and maps are also useful:-
You Can Drive To Costa Rica In 8 Days! by Dawna Rae Wessler, Kent Rawson Valentine (Editor). Spiral-bound (August 1998)
Costa Rica offers world-class deep-sea fishing in the Pacific particularly for marlin and sailfish, and international competitions are held each year. Boat charters can be arranged from several ports, such as Quepos, Tamarindo, and Flamingo. There is also good coastal and inland fishing. For freshwater fishing, the closed season is from September to December.
Costa Rica has recently started developing a number of very attractive courses around the country, including a Robert Trent Jones course at Paradisus Playa Conchal.
A good guide book is Golf Resorts: Where to Play in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica & the Caribbean (Serial) by Jim Nicol, Barbara Nicol. Paperback (April 1998). For details of the hotels with golf courses.
There are good opportunities around the country, although paths are not sign-posted and may not be easy to find. Organized tours, from half a day and longer, are starting to be offered by operators, or customized trips with a guide can be arranged. The toughest hike is probably climbing the 3,819m Chirripo mountain, which needs a couple of days and permission for staying overnight in the refuge. Wearing the right clothing, particularly for the mountains, is important.
This is very popular in Costa Rica, where this is quite a culture, and so there are good opportunities for riding tours around the country. Several hotels and lodges either have their own facilities or can arrange rides with local stables.
Several operators have developed tours on Harley Davidsons and BMWs, as this has grown in popularity. The comments for the section on driving about the quality of the roads and drivers apply, but the experience can be great fun.
The best-known location is Cocos Island, 500km southwest of Costa Rica, where diving is world-famous. There are excellent locations for diving along the northern part of the Pacific coast, such as Islas Murcielagos and the Catalinas, and at or near Playa Ocotal. These locations offer marine life rather than coral. For details of the hotels with diving packages, click here
Costa Rica is a top destination for surfers in search of the perfect wave, since beaches are attractive, uncrowded, and offer some really great waves. Although the Pacific coast is the main area, the Caribbean coast is also popular.
This has been developing slowly but surely over the last few years. Costa Rica is a world-class windsurfing location for advanced sailors seeking high winds and is often compared to the Gorge. The two main locations are Lake Arenal (at the northern end about 15kn from Tilaran), and Salinas Bay on the Pacific coast just south of the Nicaraguan border.
Both locations offer strong 15-25 knot winds December-April, and good gear is available for rental if you don’t bring your own. Elsewhere winds are light, and few hotels keep boards.