Costa Rica Capuchin monkeys are among the wildlife in Costa Rica.

Published on March 18th, 2014 | by admin

Capuchin monkeys are among the wildlife in Costa Rica.

Travel Tips: Top 5 Things to Do in Costa Rica


As the so-called “Happiest Country on Earth,” Costa Rica offers a winning combination of nature, culture and adventure. It’s a beautifully diverse destination of palm tree-lined beaches, turquoise waters, and lush tropical jungles brimming with wildlife. Not to forget it’s many volcanoes.

But even though it’s possible to drive from tropical Caribbean shores to Pacific Coastline in a day, it can still be daunting to plan a Costa Rica vacation for the first time visitor, as there’s such a variety of activities to experience and places to explore.

In my opinion, no trip would be complete without having experienced the Top 5 Things to Do in Costa Rica:

1. Visit a Volcano. Or Two. Costa Rica has more than 60 volcanoes, so you’ve really got no excuse for not seeing one. The central highlands are home to the most active volcano, Poás, (Poás Volcano National Park) and to Irazú Volcano, about two hours southwest of Poás. Rincón de la Vieja Volcano is located in the western province of Guanacaste, while the most popular volcano to visit is Arenal Volcano, located to the east in Alajuela province – be sure to take advantage of the many lodges available in and around Arenal.
Best volcano advice: Don’t be in a hurry, weather changes rapidly, bring your camera.

2. Visit the Rainforest. You can trek through it, zip-line along its treetops, or experience it by staying in a bungalow retreat. Another great way to view the Costa Rica rainforest is by taking an educational aerial tram ride to view the different levels of vegetation, flowers and birds that live throughout. The aerial tram ride is available just north of Jaco on the Pacific Coast or on the Caribbean Sea about an hour from San Jose.
Best rainforest advice: Go with an experienced guide (who can point out local flora & fauna), take a night tour, bring camera with zoom lens.

3. View the Wildlife. Whale watching, year-round sea turtle nesting, bird watching (including Toucan Sam), butterflies, and frogs! These are just a few of the wildlife viewing opportunities in Costa Rica. Turn the corner as you’re driving and you might see a family of coatimundi crossing the road in front of you. While you enjoy an Imperial beer at a beach bar, the local monkeys might be watching you. Be sure not to miss the squirrel monkeys of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio (Manuel Antonio National Park), the striking scarlet macaws found at Parque Nacional Carara (Carara National Park), and the famous crocodiles at Tarcoles River Bridge near Jaco.
Best wildlife viewing advice: Go with a guide, bring camera with zoom lens, binoculars, and cash for parking.

4. Take an Adventure. You’ve come all this way, so why not?! Take a surfing lesson, go horseback riding at the Monteverde Cloud Forest or try your hand at deep-sea fishing, snorkeling or scuba diving. Go bungee jumping, kayaking or white water rafting at Sarapiqui – then relax with the famous chocolate tour at nearby Tirimbina Biological Reserve. Play a round of golf or bike around scenic Lake Arenal.
Best adventure advice: Just do it.

5. Eat like the locals. Costa Ricans love fresh fruit, seafood and their ice cream. Be sure to have a typical Costa Rican dish of meat (chicken, pork, beef, or fish) served along with rice and beans, plantains and usually another side dish like a salad at a local roadside ‘soda’ – a family run roadside restaurant where the food is delicious, abundant and inexpensive. Have a fresh fruit drink made with mora (blackberries), plátano (bananas) or piña (pineapple) and because Costa Rica grows some of the richest coffee in the world, be sure to sample some each morning. Supermarkets showcase fresh fish daily, as do many local restaurants. After dinner, don’t miss visiting POPS ice cream for fantastic flavors like coconut, mango and of course, coffee.
Best “eat like the locals” advice: Just try it, you’ll love it.

These are my favorite things to do in Costa Rica but there are many more activities and interests I haven’t even touched on including incredible photo opportunities, history & the Mayan culture, museums of jade and gold in San Jose, sports including football (soccer), music and the majestic Teatro Nacional (National Theater) in San Jose, vibrant nightlife, learning Spanish and more. Pura vida! Enjoy the good life in Costa Rica.

Connie Motz is a freelance writer and former certified travel consultant based in British Columbia, Canada. She’s been published in U.S. & international periodicals and Canadian newspapers, as well as online. See more at Travel Writer, My Favorite Things and

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