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Best things to do in Costa Rica

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Where in the world: Central America  /  Costa Rica
Things to do in Costa Rica range from relaxing on sandy beaches like Playa Santa Teresa, to river rafting and horseback riding tours. Adventurous travelers, as well as ardent nature lovers, come to discover Costa Rica's diverse wildlife and pristine national parks, like Tortuguero and Arenal. A guided tour of Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve provides indispensable and enlightening insight into the ecology of the region. When you get tired of adventure, arrange a spa day at Tabacon Hot Springs, a luxurious five-star complex sited at the base of a mighty volcano.

Costa Rica is best known for its Beaches, Nature & Parks, and Zipline.

Top 15 things to do in Costa Rica

1. Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Experience a truly memorable natural environment at Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. The lush, protected, and diverse 5,000 ha (12,355 ac) contains a staggering 2.5% of the planet's biomass, with a considerable amount of life being endemic to the park. You have the opportunity to independently traverse 13 km (8 mi) of jungle trails, trying to spot any one of the 500 species of birdlife that live in the canopy. Alternatively, consider hiring a guide for an indispensable and enlightening lesson into the amazing ecology of the reserve. Be sure to try the restaurant and stop in the gift shop after exploring the natural wonder.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
Learn more about Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
Tours including Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve:

2. Playa Manuel Antonio, Manuel Antonio

Within a national park, Playa Manuel Antonio allows you to combine a bit of history with a lot of classic sun-and-sand fun. The stone turtle traps here bear witness to the area's pre-Colombian tribes, while a family-friendly vibe and plenty of sandy space invite visitors to picnic or play sports. Backed by lush vegetation, the beach remains a popular spot for swimming, surfing, and soaking up some warm Caribbean sun. The surrounding area boasts an impressive diversity of wildlife, including over 100 species of mammals and nearly 200 species of birds.
Suggested duration: 4h 30 min
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Tours including Playa Manuel Antonio:

3. Tortuguero National Park, Tortuguero

Visit the vast reserve of Tortuguero National Park, an area of diverse natural beauty encompassing 11 different habitats in one place. Famed for its returning sea turtle population, who nest on the beaches to spawn their young, you’ll have the opportunity to take a guided night visit in the hopes of seeing the turtles laying their eggs, or even seeing the hatchlings make a break for the ocean. Take a boat through the rich mangrove forests, spotting primates, caiman, and plenty of birds.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
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Tours including Tortuguero National Park:
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4. Arenal Volcano, Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano attracts nature lovers and adventurers with its lush scenery and wide range of outdoor activities. Hike through the jungle and on a lava flow trail, across hanging bridges and up the slope of the dormant volcano. The first recorded eruption occurred in 1968, when lava and ashes destroyed three little towns on its west side. The last explosion happened at the end of 2010. In the absence of spewing lava, get your adrenaline pumping with some waterfall rappelling or ziplining.
Suggested duration: 4h 30 min
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Tours including Arenal Volcano:

5. River Rafting & Tubing, La Fortuna de San Carlos

Plunge into the largely unexplored Costa Rican wilderness on a river rafting and tubing trip from La Fortuna de San Carlos. Equally appealing to both nature lovers and thrill seekers, this outdoor expedition allows you to take in impressive vistas of tropical greenery while looking out for sloths, toucans, and other rainforest residents lurking from the bushes. Whether you are an expert whitewater rafter or a total beginner, you'll easily find a tour that suits your skill level--from a scenic float with a chance for a swim, to a challenging decent on class V rapids. Most tours take 3 to 4 hours.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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6. Tabacon Hot Springs, La Fortuna

Soak in the volcanic surroundings at Tabacon Hot Springs, a spa resort in the heart of Costa Rica's rainforest. The five-star complex provides luxurious and relaxing experiences in a natural setting, right at the base of a mighty volcano that destroyed a nearby village in the 1960s. Dormant for the last few decades, the volcano now provides a scenic backdrop for five different hot springs, with temperatures ranging between 25 C (77 F) and 50 C (122 F). Naturally heated by the volcanic soil, a thermal river flows through the resort and forms several small waterfalls and swimming pools. Browse the website for one-day passes, special packages, and onsite accommodations.
Suggested duration: 4h 30 min
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Tours including Tabacon Hot Springs:

7. La Fortuna Waterfall, La Fortuna de San Carlos

A short drive from town, La Fortuna Waterfall offers an idyllic place for swimming, picnicking, and relaxing. Fed by the Arenal River, which winds its way through the rainforest before plunging dramatically over a steep cliff, this waterfall forms a large pool at the base of a dormant volcano. Lifeguards remain on duty throughout the day, while modern facilities like restrooms and showers ensure a comfortable visit in a lush area noted for thick vegetation and abundant wildlife. Prepare for a short but arduous hike to the base of the waterfall by wearing shoes suitable for slippery and uneven terrain.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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8. Zipline, Monteverde

Delve into the misty Costa Rican rainforest by soaring through the treetops on some of the country's longest zipline courses. The exhilarating flight will allow you to experience the jungle and its remarkably diverse ecosystem from a bird's-eye perspective. Look out for tiny hummingbirds and colorful butterflies as you launch from treetop platforms, wobble on rope bridges, and sway on giant Tarzan swings. You can top off an adrenaline-fueled journey with a delicious lunch at a local restaurant. These 2- to 3-hour adventures are not suitable for children under the age of four.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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9. Jardins da Cachoeira de La Paz, Vara Blanca

Enjoy the lush natural environment of Jardins da Cachoeira de La Paz, wandering over 3.5 km (2.1 mi) of beautiful hiking trails through clouds and rainforests. You'll observe waterfalls and various animals along the way, including jungle cats and enormous aviaries, as well as plenty of other exhibits. You can amble independently around the site at your leisure, or take a guided tour. After taking in all the nature, consider eating at the restaurant and bar on Trout Lake. Be sure to bring sturdy shoes for the trails, as well as an extra layer of clothing in case the weather turns cold.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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Tours including Jardins da Cachoeira de La Paz:

11. Poas Volcano, Poas Volcano National Park

Observe firsthand the geothermal forces that created much of Costa Rica at Poas Volcano. Located within a national park, this active stratovolcano in the central part of the country features a giant crater over 1 km (0.6 mi) in diameter. Although the last major eruption occurred back in the 1950s, on most days you can see mud and water shooting high up into the air. These minor blowouts are caused by deposits of liquid sulphur, which wreaks havoc on the surrounding ecosystem. Just south of there you can see an inactive crater filled by a lake and surrounded by lush cloud forest. Begin your visit at the wheelchair-accessible visitor center, which marks the starting point of one of the park's main trails. Wear shoes suitable for rugged terrain, and keep in mind that due to its location above the frost line, the park often experiences below-freezing temperatures.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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Tours including Poas Volcano:

12. Ecotermales Fortuna, La Fortuna de San Carlos

With only a hundred visitors allowed in at any given time, Ecotermales Fortuna offers a haven of rest and relaxation. The family-run hot springs complex boasts a number of pools with varying temperatures. Sit back and unwind in the warm mineral water, praised for its reinvigorating and wellness benefits. Enjoy the lush verdant scenery as you relax, have a delicious cocktail while soaking, then cool off under the freshwater cascade. After lounging in the pools, you can indulge in some traditional Costa Rican cuisine at the onsite restaurant.
Suggested duration: 3h 30 min
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13. Lake Arenal, La Fortuna de San Carlos

Costa Rica's largest lake, Lake Arenal encompasses about 85 sq km (32 sq mi). Originally much smaller, the lake tripled in size when a huge dam was built in the 1970s. Get on the water to admire the surrounding natural scenery, green undulating hills surrounding the deep blue lake, and the Arenal Volcano in the background. A windsurfing and sailboarding haven thanks to its constant winds, the lake offers numerous recreational activities. Take a boat tour and enjoy the picturesque landscape, go fishing for rainbow bass, rent a kayak, or explore the surroundings on bike, foot, or horseback.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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14. Stand-Up Paddleboarding, Manuel Antonio

Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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15. Nature & Wildlife Tours, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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