Unleash your adventurous side in Costa Rica, home to endless natural beauty, from its lush rainforests to sparkling beaches. This guide will help you make the most of your trip and discover the must-see attractions and activities for nature lovers and thrill seekers alike.
If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica and enjoy hiking and waterfalls, then you’re in for a treat. During our visit, we spent two nights in San Jose and then drove up north to La Fortuna. We found that these two areas offered a great mix of activities and beautiful landscapes. Here are some of the highlights from our trip that we think you’ll enjoy too.
Manuel Antonio National Park
One of the highlights of our trip to Costa Rica was visiting Manuel Antonio National Park. Located on the central Pacific coast, this park is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, lush rainforests, and diverse wildlife. As we hiked through the park, we were surrounded by the sounds of tropical birds and monkeys swinging through the trees. The trails were well-maintained and offered breathtaking views of the ocean and lush vegetation. We were lucky enough to spot several monkeys and even a sloth lazily hanging from a branch. The beaches were also a highlight, with crystal clear waters and plenty of opportunities for swimming and sunbathing. Overall, Manuel Antonio National Park is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Costa Rica.
Costs: $18.08/pp + Parking: $5-10/pp
Rio Celeste Waterfall
Rio Celeste waterfall was one of the most breathtaking sights we saw in Costa Rica. Located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, the waterfall is known for its striking blue water, which is caused by the mixing of sulfur and calcium carbonate in the river.
The hike to the waterfall was beautiful and peaceful, passing through lush rainforest and crossing small streams. However, the trail was challenging, with the path covered in mud and heavy rain making it slippery. But, we were determined to see the waterfall, so we managed.
As we approached the waterfall, we could hear the thundering sound of the water crashing down and it was an incredible sight to behold. The vibrant blue water was mesmerizing and the mist from the waterfall was refreshing. We were lucky enough to have the waterfall mostly to ourselves, but it was the most touristy spot we visited during this trip and regardless of coming early you’ll bound to run into people. Unfortunately, we did not see any animals except one baby viper snake. Despite the crowds and lack of wildlife, the beauty of the waterfall made it all worth it.
Costs: $12/pp + Parking: $3-5/pp
La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall was a true gem that we were lucky to discover during our trip to Costa Rica. The waterfall is located just a short drive from the town of La Fortuna and the trail to the waterfall is well-maintained, making it easy to access for people of all ages and abilities. Unlike Rio Celeste, the trail to La Fortuna Waterfall was not muddy or slippery, and it was a relatively easy hike.
The waterfall itself was breathtaking, the water cascaded down in a powerful torrent and the sound of the falling water was mesmerizing. The pool at the base of the waterfall was crystal clear and inviting, but unfortunately due to the strong current from the rain that happened earlier that morning, we weren’t able to swim. Nevertheless, it was still worth seeing the waterfalls in person, the natural beauty and tranquility of the place was a true highlight of our trip.
Cost: $18.00/pp Parking: Free
Tabacon Hot Springs
The Tabacon Hot Springs were the perfect way to end our trip to Costa Rica. Located in the Arenal Volcano National Park, the hot springs are a natural wonder that offer a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. The water is heated by the nearby volcano and ranges in temperature from warm to hot. We strolled through the various pools, each with a different temperature and setting, from the secluded and peaceful to the lively and social. The lush tropical gardens surrounding the pools added to the overall ambiance and the sound of the nearby river was soothing. We enjoyed a delicious meal at the on-site restaurant and then relaxed in the hot springs under the stars. It was the perfect way to end our trip, it was a true highlight and definitely one of the best experiences we had in Costa Rica.
Cost: $55/pp (day pass) Parking: Free
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges
The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges was a unique and exciting experience that we had in Costa Rica. The park is located in the Arenal Volcano National Park and it offers a network of hanging bridges suspended high above the rainforest canopy. The bridges are well-maintained and safe to walk on, and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding rainforest, the Arenal volcano and the distant mountains.
Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side, it was cloudy and rainy the whole time we were there, so we didn’t get to spot any animals. But, the experience of walking above the canopy was still a unique one, the sound of the raindrops on the leaves and the smell of the forest was something we will never forget.
The park also has several lookout points and we were able to see the Arenal volcano up close, it was a truly magical experience. The park also has an interpretive center where we learned about the different flora and fauna of the area. The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges was one of the most memorable experiences we had in Costa Rica, it was a unique way to explore the rainforest and get a different perspective on the natural beauty of the area despite the weather.
Cost: $26.00/pp Parking: Free
San Jose Central Market
The San Jose Central Market in Costa Rica is a bustling and colorful marketplace located in the heart of the city. It’s a must-see destination for any traveler looking to experience the local culture and find unique souvenirs to take home.
The market is filled with vendors selling everything from handcrafted clothing and jewelry to traditional Costa Rican food and crafts. The atmosphere is lively and vibrant, with vendors shouting out their wares and the sounds of traditional music filling the air.
The market is also an excellent place to find locally made souvenirs, such as hand-carved wooden figurines, woven bags, and brightly painted pottery. Overall, the San Jose Central Market is a great place to immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture and find one-of-a-kind souvenirs to remind you of your trip.
Cost: Free to enter
Other Activities and Charming Towns Worth Exploring
Isla Tortuga: Known for its crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches, it’s the perfect destination for swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing in nature. The island’s lush rainforests are home to a diverse array of tropical wildlife and the local community is friendly and welcoming. Furthermore, it offers a secluded getaway where you can disconnect and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Costa Rica.
📍Take a boat ride from Jaco
Jaco: a popular beach town known for its lively nightlife and active tourism scene, Jaco is a great destination for those looking for a mix of adventure and relaxation. The town’s main beach is a long stretch of white sand that’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying the warm sun. Jaco also offers a variety of activities such as surfing, fishing, horseback riding, and canopy tours, making it a popular spot for tourists seeking adventure.
📍Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest ziplining: an exhilarating adventure activity. Participants strap on a harness and fly through the canopy of the forest, soaring over treetops and getting a bird’s-eye view of the lush vegetation and diverse wildlife below. The zipline cables are strung between tall trees, and the experience typically includes multiple runs of varying lengths and difficulty levels. It’s a thrilling and unique way to explore the cloud forest and experience the beauty and biodiversity of this special place.
📍8633+3P3, Carr. a Reserva de Monteverde
Santa Teresa: a small coastal town known for its beautiful beaches, lush jungle, and laid-back atmosphere. Santa Teresa is a popular destination for tourists seeking a combination of relaxation and adventure. The town offers a range of activities such as surfing, yoga, horseback riding, and canopy tours, as well as a variety of restaurants and bars. It’s also a great place to learn Spanish, with many schools offering language classes. The town is growing in popularity, and it’s a great place for those looking for a mix of adventure and relaxation.
📍 Puntarenas province of Costa Rica
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The East Escape
I’m writing to you from our porch within steps from the ocean. Looking up, the water is inviting and appearing to be magnetic trying to draw me in. Ah, the East Escape is a paradise to me.