Gaylon Wampler/Corbis
Ashley Harrell
October 24, 2014

You could be in Costa Rica for a number of years—nearly three in my case—and never complete all of its adventures. They are seemingly infinite. The other thing they are is extreme.  Out of everything I’ve done here—all the canopy tours, the horseback and ATV rides, the rock climbing, the rappelling, the surfing, and I could go on—five particular adventures stand out in my mind above the rest, and most of them can only be undertaken in Costa Rica.

Have you ever gone diving surrounded by hundreds of hammerhead sharks? Surfed through world-class gusts of wind in a lake beside an active volcano? Ventured out to sea in search of dolphin super-pods and migrating whales? These are the only-in-Costa-Rica experiences that always remind me of why I live here, and why others should take the time to visit. High-end adventures can be expensive, but the five below are definitely worth the price. 

Rafting the Pacuare

Diving Cocos Island

Hiking Chirripó

Summiting Chirripó takes a couple of days, but those with the will and the stamina shouldn’t have a problem scaling its 12,533-foot peak. The trek takes you through many different ecosystems, including cloud forest and páramo, and usually involves sightings of monkeys, peccaries, and majestic tropical birds. On a clear day at the top, you’ll be able to see both coasts. 

Wind Surfing Lake Arenal

From November to April, the winds pick up over near the Arenal Volcano and the windsurfers hit the lake. These winds are some of the strongest in the world, and the lake often churns with whitecaps. Those with little experience should not attempt to windsurf in the middle of the lake—my friend found out firsthand that a Jet-ski rescue costs $25. 

Ocean Safari off the Osa Peninsula

Bono—yes, U2’s Bono—is big on this one. He’s come with his family more than once to skid out off the Osa Peninsula and into deep water, where dolphins travel in pods of more than 1,000 members. Encountering a spinner dolphin super-pod, which involves dolphins jumping out of the water all around the boat and spinning as many as 10 times in the air, is something you can only do here in Costa Rica.  

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