Over 2 million people visit Costa Rica on a yearly basis, most traveling here in search of adventure, great beaches, lush rainforests and unique wildlife. For a relatively small country, Costa Rica offers a vast variety of activities, making it extremely difficult for many to pick and choose the ones to add to their itinerary. We would all love to have unlimited time to explore every corner of this beautiful country, but most of us are only limited to a few weeks. To help you make the most of your time in Costa Rica, I have enlisted the help of someone who is lucky to call Costa Rica his second home – my husband, Max.
Max and his family moved to Costa Rica when he was only 3 years old. He spent 10 years living in Costa Rica and continues to go back there on a regular basis. When we decided to put Costa Rica on our travel itinerary for this December (yay, I finally get to go and experience Costa Rica for myself), we put together a list of 10 Things To Do in Costa Rica. So here’s our list and here’s hoping that Max’s local advice will inspire you to add a few things to yours.
1. Pack a lunch, a bathing suit and a towel and spend a day away from the crowds exploring Manuel Antonio National Park.
The beach inside the park is secluded, quiet and peaceful and has some of the warmest waters in all of Costa Rica. It’s these warm waters that bring Max’s grandmother back here every time she visits the country.
2. Visit Poas volcano to look into its crater and admire its blue/green coloured lagoon.
Max’s tip: be sure to go on a clear day, if there are any clouds in the sky you won’t see anything. And keep your cameras handy, when those clouds part the perfect photo opp will not last long.
3. Take a walk through the Monteverde Cloud forest, admire the flora and fauna or experience the thrills of the zip lines or bridge walkways.
Costa Rica’s forests are home to over 890 bird species, that’s more than number of birds in US and Canada combined. Max’s tip: Bring binoculars or a zoom lens, as some of them are tricky to spot.
4. Visit the Arenal volcano and take a swim in Tabacon Hot Springs. Max’s tip – leave visiting the Hot Springs until after you hike Monteverde. Your muscles will thank you for it.
5. Soak up the sun on the beaches of Guanacaste, visit the Playa Grande to watch leatherback turtles hatch on the beach.
Max’s tip: Choose an environmentally responsible tour, run by the locals that care and protect the turtles.
6. Get a taste of local culture at the ‘Fiestas’ with a bull riding competition.
Max’s tip: majority of these happen throughout December-February, so you might not be able to catch one if you are visiting at a different time. And don’t worry, the bulls are never harmed or killed during these competitions.
Want more? Read: A Dangerous Encounter at the Costa Rican Fiesta
7. Rent a car and explore the reggae infused Caribbean coast, making sure to stop in Cahuita and Puerto Viejo.
Max’s tip: this activity is only suitable for the dry season ( Nov – May), as the rainy season floods a lot of the roads, sometimes making it impossible, or as Max would say, “very difficult and rather adventurous” to get to the other side of the country.
8. Get away from the crowds, chill out on the beach and enjoy the nightlife in a small town like Montezuma or Samara.
Max’s tip: decide early on what beer brand you are going to drink, as people in Costa Rica are as loyal to their beer brand, as they are to their football (soccer) team.
Want more to learn more? Read: Samara – a beach town in Costa Rica That’s Hard Not to Love
9. Tour through one of Costa Rica’s many coffee plantations
Max’s tip: these are mostly found in the mountains that surround San José, so this is best scheduled at the start of your trip, on the way out of the capital, or at the end of your trip, before your departure.
10. Spend a day aboard a fishing boat and have a go at catching marlin or mahi mahi fish
Max’s tip: For a local experience, check out long time family friends – “Flamingo Sportfishing CR“, based out of Brasilito/Flamingo.