Things to do in Costa Rica
There’s no shortage of things to do in Costa Rica, especially for those who love the great outdoors. From natural wonders—cloud forests, jungles, volcanoes, and beautiful beaches—to great local shops with colorful artisanal crafts, bars with sunset views, and tropical drinks and spas featuring indigenous ingredients, Costa Rica is an ideal destination for active and adventurous travelers who also enjoy a dose of culture.
For smart ideas on what to do in Costa Rica, search our travel guide, featuring handpicked listings from Travel + Leisure editors and writers. Browse to find the best local experiences from San José and Tortuguero National Park to the Nicoya and Osa peninsulas—surf schools, rainforest treks, photography safaris, and more.
Travel + Leisure also shares the names of top travel agents and tour operators who specialize in the region. These go-to experts know what to do in Costa Rica, helping travelers zero in on the very best attractions and activities, like ziplining, Arenal volcano hikes, and wildlife treks with naturalists. We point you to one-of-a-kind adventures, such as surfing with the pros at Pavones, site of the country’s most famous wave. Whether seeking unusual things to do in Costa Rica or classic iconic experiences, let Travel + Leisure be your guide.
Wood sculptures by locally renowned artists are the specialty of this upscale gallery. The carved, stylized figures of Central American animals and rainforest flora have traditionally played an important role in the lives of Costa Ricans and local lore.
Active travel (cycling; walking; sea kayaking; rock climbing) paired with unexpected cultural experiences (storytelling in Ireland; a game of boules in Provence; visiting mask makers in Bali).
The left point break at Pavones is the country’s most legendary wave—and a pilgrimage site for top surfers from all over the world.
Unbeatable access to experiences around the globe—learning firsthand about a family-run organic coffee plantation in the Galápagos; dining in a private home in Delhi—are woven into every walking-based excursion, from Ireland to Bhutan.
The oldest and most reputable adventure outfitter in the country (founder Michael Kaye left his native New York to open the biz in 1978), Costa Rica Expeditions runs multiday packages to all the country’s wildest natural places.
Coffee is king in Costa Rica—and of the nearly 150,000 large and small coffee fincas (plantations) that dot the Costa Rican landscape (most in the Central Valley), Café Britt is the best place to learn about it.
The reserve protects 815 acres of coastal rain forest. Look for capuchin monkeys, toucans, and three-toed sloths along the reserve's well-groomed trails.
Many of the nearly 400 bird species at Rara Avis can be found nowhere else in the world. Costa Rica’s first reserve, this is the place that kicked off the country’s ecotourism movement when it opened in 1983.
Just south of Quepos on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica are a series of wide, white-sand beaches backed by dense, tropical forest, mangrove swamps, and lagoons that serve as the home for hundreds of species of animals such as sloths, iguanas, and rare squirrel monkeys.
The Arenal volcano region in north central Costa Rica has always attracted pilgrims to the natural hydrotherapy provided by the hot springs and waterfalls.
Behind the columned, Neoclassical facade of San José’s National Theater, the opulent pink marble lobby with statues of Beethoven and other iconic composers gives way to a main auditorium with grand oil paintings of 19th-century Costa Rican life.
An independent group of naturalists directed by biologist Mike Boston leads custom wilderness treks on the Osa Peninsula.
While this Pacific stretch’s notorious breaks are mainly for experts, novices can learn to hang ten along the calmer shores of Manuel Antonio Beach.
A lively mix of locals and globals gather at this casual beach bar to lounge in leather rocking chairs on the open-air patio and sample from an exquisite cocktail menu (more than 90 concoctions are on the list).