Costa Rica

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.

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).

This long established agency can organize botany, birding, or photography tours, and more.

With its zip-line canopy tours, Selvatura brings you eye-to-eye with birds that occupy the rainforest treetops—and lets you fly like one yourself.

Take a spectacular sunset, throw in a sexy clientele, live music on the beach, finely mixed cocktails, and a reliable party-food menu, and you have The Backyard: one of the Pacific Coast’s better spots for a beach fiesta.

One of the most remote areas in Costa Rica, this 47,000-acre coastal preserve—which encompasses an intricate series of jungle canals, lagoons, and beaches—is reachable only by boat or plane.

A 1.7-mile zipline network in the Monteverde Reserve operated by Costa Rica Sky Adventures gives airborne guests close-up glimpses of forest-dwelling mammals, like the fuzzy brown martilla, as well as views of the smoldering Arenal Volcano.

Dozens of broken surfboards are screwed to the ceiling (proof of Dominical’s powerful waves), and surf-competition photos line the walls at this classic surfer bar. Most nights the action revolves around pool, foosball, and swapping surfing stories.

The most dramatic zipline tour around, featuring 11 lines and the country’s tallest platform.

The eco-minded outfitter organizes customized itineraries with volunteer activities—protecting green, hawksbill, and leatherback turtle nests with park rangers in Tortuguero National Park, or counting species like the endangered rainbow-hued scarlet macaw in Corcovado National Park.

A buzzing hive of commercial activity, this covered market is as much of a full-immersion experience as a shopping destination.

Nearly 5,000 feet above sea level—and reached via a four-hour, precipitous, unpaved drive from San José—this 25,700-acre, amazingly biodiverse preserve is the most popular tourist attraction in Costa Rica.

Float quietly past the howler monkeys, green iguanas, crocodiles, and toucans that reside on the thickly forested banks of Guanacaste’s Tenorio River while rafting. Expert guides can lead you through adrenaline-pumping rapids or slower, meandering waters. half-day trips from $95