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There’s a saying in Costa Rica: Pura Vida! (Pure life). Beyond the words, the meaning lives in the hearts of Costa Rica’s people and the soul of the country.

There’s a reason why Costa Rica it’s recognized as one of the happiest and most sustainable countries on earth.

Costa Rica has been one of SYI’s homes for more than a decade, and we know just how powerful traveling in Costa Rica can be, for us it is the simple reminder of the luscious landscapes, abundant beauty, and thriving fauna and flora that bring us back to reconnection of the unity of all life.

Over recent years Costa Rica has become a hub for tourists from all over the world. Many people speak English as a second language and there are lots of tour companies, hostels, hotels, and transportation options making traveling in Costa Rica really accessible.}

Whether you’re joining one of our upcoming Costa Rica training or just looking for advice on where to go we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of our top things to see and do while you’re here!

SAN JOSÉ & JACO

1. IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE RICH CULTURE OF SAN JOSE CITY

If you’re flying internationally you’ll likely land at San José Airport. Located in the middle of the country San Jose can be used as a base before venturing out to the coasts or exploring the lush forests inland.

If you’re a city lover, San Jose, Costa Rica offers plenty of things to do, for those who enjoy history, art, museums, architecture, and learning about the culture it’s worth spending a day or two exploring the city. There are many organised tours you can take or lead yourself around the city by beginning at the hub of Central Avenue, the downtown area has lots of shops, restaurants, bars, and museums, and in the evenings it fills up with musicians and street vendors.

Learn about Costa Rica’s rich culture while visiting the National Theater, the Museum of Contemporary Art & Design, the San José Central Market, the Gold Museum, the Jade Museum, and the National Museum. Then sample culinary delights on a city food tour.

Many day trips run from San Jose so it’s a great place to begin your journey, from there you can easily arrange tours to volcanic sites, coffee plantationsanimal santuaries and transport to other areas of the country.

San Jose, Costa Rica Picture.

Foto de Eelco Böhtlingk en Unsplash

San Jose, Costa Rica Picture.

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2. BALANCE ADVENTURE AND RELAXATION IN JACO

Jaco, Costa Rica is just only 1.5 hours from the San Jose International Airport and is the perfect place to relax and chill before heading off for your adventures. Whether you are staying for just a short stopover or planning on sticking around in Jaco for a while you’ll be able to spend your days visiting the beaches, exploring waterfalls, and hiking viewpoints before finishing the day with some of Costa Rica’s best restaurants.

Here are some of our top things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica:

3. WELCOME TO THE PARADISE FOR SURFERS

Jaco is known for its surf, perfect for beginners with those steady consistent long waves. If learning to surf is on your to-do list Jaco is the perfect place, check out one of their surf camps for a fun community experience!

4. ADVENTURE IN COSTA RICA’S WATERFALLS

There are many waterfalls near Jaco, Costa Rica. Right outside town lies lush mountains, home to many rivers and waterfalls. There are many tours that will see you hiking through the rich rainforest, jumping off waterfalls, and swimming in the pools!

If you have time, it’s worth venturing out of town to Bijagual (a 20-minute drive from Jaco) The waterfall is about an hour hike, or for animal lovers you can take a horse riding tour. Bear in mind that you will need to pay to enter the property (around $20). It’s definitely worth the visit to this incredible waterfall.

5. HIKE MIRO MOUNTAIN VIEW POINT

The viewpoint from Miro Mountain gives a bird’s eye view of the city, jungle, and beach meet. Located a little outside of Jaco you will need a car to get to the trail entrance. Park your car and head up to see the gorgeous view, this hike is relatively steep so be sure to wear sensible shoes!

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6. RELAX AT PLAYA BLANCA

After all that adventure you might be feeling the call of a relaxing day at the ocean. Playa Blanca is the sole white sand beach in the central pacific area and is definitely worth climbing through Playa Mantas at low tide. You can also purchase a day pass at the Punta Leona resort to enjoy the resort and have easy access to Playa Blanca. The resort offers paddle board rentals if you haven’t quite had enough adventure yet!

THE PACIFIC COAST

Heading down to the Pacific coast is a beach lover’s delight, the Pacific West Coast of Costa Rica offers miles of palm-fringed white sand beaches and epic surf breaks. The Nicoya and Guanacaste regions offer plenty to explore as well as some inviting downtime with plenty of beach resorts and Airbnb’s on the beach.

7. SURF AND PLAY IN TAMARINDO

Tamarindo is a well-loved surf haven home to the popular beach breaks at Playa Grande and Playa Negra. Tamarindo offers plenty of sun, fun, and good food with a number of bars and restaurants. Nature lovers are also drawn to Tamarindo as its beaches are frequented by nesting sea turtles and native birds.

If surfing in Costa Rica is top on your things to do, our other fave surf spots include:

  • Playa Guiones – Nosara
  • Playa Hermosa – Jaco
  • Playa Santa Teresa – Santa Teresa
  • Playa Grande – Montezuma

8. RECONNECT IN NOSARA

Nosara calls to both surfers and yogis alike where the jungle meets the beach. Nosara is Tamarindo’s chill neighbor, offering surf breaks of Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada as well as well-established Yoga centers such as Bodhi Tree.

Bodhi Tree is one of Costa Rica’s best-established yoga centers offering Yoga, meditation, sound healing, and wellness services. With multiple shalas embedded in the dense jungle, it offers a moment to ground and connect with Costa Rica’s abundance through your practice. You can also nourish yourself at their eco cafe before you leave!

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9. TAKE A COOKING CLASS IN PLAYA SAMARA

The Costa Rican phrase ‘Pura Vida’ or ‘Pure Life’ applies to every aspect of the lifestyle, including the food. Traditional foods are simple yet highlight fresh fruits and vegetables. The traditional diet features tropical fruits such as papaya, pineapple, and maracuja as well as beans, pejibaye, yams, squash, bananas, and papayas.

La Senda offers the opportunity to learn a variety of Costa Rican cuisines. The cooking class uses organic and locally sourced ingredients, including many grown at the center.

A cooking class in Costa Rica is a fantastic experience to understand a little more about the culture and traditions of Costa Rica. On a course, you’ll learn to make many traditional dishes including Patacones, Casados, corn tortillas, and guacamole with some modern twists.

10. EXPLORE THE NATURAL ABUNDANCE OF THE SOUTHERN NICOYA PENISULA

Santa Teresa offers unique glimpses into the unique and inspiring natural abundance of Costa Rica, with guided tours into the protected areas of the Curu Refuge and once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as Kayaking in Bioluminescent waters. During your trip to Costa Rica you’ll find plenty of ways to reconnect to this magnetic and abundant natural landscape.

11. CATCH THE SUNSET IN SANTA TERESA

In the last few years, Santa Teresa has become a hub for digital nomads seeking a sunkissed work & surf life balance. It offers a perfectly acceptable place to chill, work and play with stretches of white sand beaches, a variety of restaurants, boutique shops, and arguably the peninsula’s greatest sunset spots. If you’re looking for a place to settle Santa Teresa offers a comfortable place to chill amongst the thriving ex-pat community.

12. GO ATV-ING IN MAL PAIS

Those chasing the adrenaline high on their trip and looking for a unique way to play in the Costa Rican landscape an ATV tour is one way to do it. From Mal Pais you can find many ATV trails that create a great pathway for exploration, there are also tours that combine ATV-ing with other activities such as ziplining.

13. CHASE WATERFALLS IN MONTEZUMA

Right at the southern point of the Nicoya Peninsula Montezuma is a laid-back town with a gentle vibe that offers a break from the bustle that can be felt in other parts of the peninsula. Montezuma is a little bit of a hidden gem and offers a charming insight into the simplicity of life that Pura Vida encapsulates. For nature lovers and adrenaline junkies, Montezuma is home to a gorgeous swimming waterfall and jump points. You can explore the waterfalls on one of the town’s famous zipline tours that will have you zooming high up in a canopy of lush rainforest.

Check out SunTrails offerings. From Montezuma you can also explore the popular dive and snorkel spot Tortuga Island, snorkel tours are easily arranged at one of the tour shops in the center of town.

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14. SWIM WITH TURTLES IN ISLA TORTUGA

The incredible wildlife of Costa Rica is not solely limited above land, there is a whole world of underwater life ready to be discovered. Off the coast of the Nicoya Penisula lies Isla Tortuga which is home to a whole host of marine life, take a day trip to the island and swim with turtles, tropical fish and even reef sharks (they’re completely harmless to humans). To balance all that excitement Isla Tortuga also has beautiful untouched beaches which are the perfect place to relax.

15. HIKE ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK

The now dormant Arenal Volcano is an impressive sight, the towering peak sits over the gentle town of La Fortuna. The 500,000-acre Arenal Tilaran Conservation site was once a bundle of villages until Arenal woke up in 1968 with a thunderous earthquake that began a series of eruptions that lasted over 40 years. Most of the villages no longer remain but today you can safely explore the Volcano site, and witness how nature has thrived in harsh conditions. In the 10 years since Arenal became dormant many flora and fauna have started to regrow in the lush volcanic soil and the area has been designated as a conservation site.

There are hiking routes that thread around the volcano base, a 90-minute loop track takes you to the base of the volcano and through the village while a 2.5-hour loop takes you around the entire base. It’s not necessary to hire a guide to explore the site, although many do choose to as guides will give you an insight into the history of the site and the life now growing there.

Entry

  • Adult: $15
  • Children 6 and 12 years old: $5

Opening times

  • The park welcomes visitors every day from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Guided tours run from San Jose or for information about visiting the volcano without a guide, be sure to check the visitor’s website.

16. BATHE IN THE HOT SPRINGS OF LA FORTUNA

Ecotermales Hot Springs are naturally heated magnesium-rich waters nourishing and picturesque place to unwind post-hike. Here there is a complex of 5 pools ranging from 90 – 160 degrees that weave within the jungle under the view of the volcano.

Cool off between warm soaks in the natural waterfalls and cold plunge pools, or relax on lounge chairs as you take in the views. You can also enjoy drinks and local food at the onsite restaurant.

Ecotermales Hot Springs resort is just outside of the town La Fortuna.

One of the most popular destinations is the Tabacon Hot Springs, near the Arenal Volcano and the La Fortuna Waterfall. In this same area, there are plenty of other, less-crowded hot springs, such as Baldi Hot Springs, Eco Termales, Titoku Hot Springs, and Rio Agua Caliente.

Entry

  • Adults – $44;
  • Children ages 5 to 11 – $26.
  • Tickets include access to towels and lockers.

Opening times

  • Reservations are required for each of the two sessions: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. To make reservations, visit the official website.
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17. TRY YOUR HAND AT CANYONEERING

If you’re visiting La Fortuna seeking a little more adventure, Canyoning or Canyoneering is a unique way to experience Costa Rica’s epic natural habitats. La Fortuna offers a stunning base for this adrenaline-filled activity. Canyoneering involves traversing down waterfalls using ropes. Because of the numerous mountains and humid climate in Costa Rica, there is a plentitude of waterfalls and canyons to explore.

You can go on a canyoning tour with La Fortuna’s Pure Trek, which has a jaw-dropping waterfall of 200 feet! Other impressive locations for canyoneering include The Park at Jaco or Turrialba’s Explornatura. Advanced canyoneering tours like the Finca Modelo Ecologica offer a test for those already familiar with the sport.

18. ZIP LINE THROUGH MONTEVERDE’S CLOUD FOREST

Take a magical journey through Monteverde’s cloud forest. The cloud forest is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica and a must-see for many visitors. The 35,000-acre reserve has more than 2% of the world’s biodiversity and over 100 mammals, 400 different species of birds, and 1,200 amphibians.

Hiring a guide to show you around the park is advisable as they will help you spot animals and vegetation. You can explore the forest on foot with one of the reserve’s guided walking tours, or if seeking a thrill, visitors can fly through the forest on a zipline tour. Sky Adventures offers a zipline tour experience. You’ll literally be walking through the clouds so be sure to pack plenty of rain gear.

Monteverde Cloud Forest is about a three-hour car ride northwest of San José.

Entry

  • Adult: $25
  • Children 6 to 12: $5
  • *guided tours cost extra.

Opening hours

  • The reserve welcomes visitors every day from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, consult Monteverde’s official website, run by Costa Rica’s Tropical Science Center.

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19. EXPLORE CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK

The park is one of Costa Rica’s most biologically diverse areas, there are over 300 different bird species, 140 types of mammals, 40 fish species, and more than 100 different amphibians. Including Macaws, Jaguars, Sea Turtles, and Tapirs. It’s a nature lovers’ paradise, you can spend the day exploring one of the many trails to a chorus of singing insects and chirping birds. For adventure seekers, there’s a beach area that offers wild camping!

Entry

  • Like many of the parks in Costa Rica visitors must have a permit to enter, permits are usually obtained through a tour operator. For more information check chat with our friends at Corcovado Hiking Tours.
  • Admission is a separate fee and costs $15 for adults and $5 for children (ages 2 to 12).

Opening times

Corcovado National Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Arriving early in the day between 7- 9 a.m. avoids crowds and gives you the best opportunity to spot wildlife.

You’re exploring a raw untouched jungle, so make sure to pack rain gear and shoes for muddy trails and insect repellent.

Corcovado National Park is located along Costa Rica’s South Pacific coast; the three closest towns are Drake Bay, Puerto Jimenez, and Carate (accessible via dirt road).

CARIBBEAN COAST

20. TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK

In Spanish the word Tortuga means Turtle, Costa Rica is a key breeding ground for these aquatic reptiles. The Tortuguero National Park is the key habitat and nesting ground of four of the eight species of marine turtles in the world! Not only that, this diverse habitat is a wildlife hotspot filled with meandering rivers and indigo lagoons, it is home to the endangered West Indian manatee and much other unique flora and fauna.

Because of its ecological importance, Tortuguero National Park is a protected area. The area is extremely swampy, and is only accessible only by boat or small plane. Plan on spending at least a couple of days in the village if you want to visit the park.

To explore the park you will need to book a tour, you can explore the area via boat on the intricate canal systems or spend the day up and close to nature on one of the hiking trails.

One of the most magical activities in Tortuguero National Park is the nesting turtle tour. Four kinds of sea turtles come to the park’s gray sand beaches to lay their eggs. Visit from July to October to witness a nesting event. If you’re lucky, you can also spot leatherback turtles between March and May. Turtle-watching tours happen at night along the beach and can be arranged through the local association of guides for around $20 per person.

For more information and tour options check out https://www.getyourguide.com/-l179461/

21. PUERTO VIEJO

Visiting Puerto Viejo should definitely be at the top of your list when considering things to do on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. This picturesque spot has plenty to offer from diving, and snorkeling to horseback riding and surfing. Puerto Viejo is a little less touched by tourism compared to other spots in Costa Rica and you can also organize cultural visits to indigenous villages.

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22. EXPLORE CAHUITA NATIONAL PARK

One of the main spots to visit is the nearby Cahuita National Park, which protects Costa Rica’s largest and only coral reef which is home to over 500 species of fish. Here you’ll find pristine beaches where lush rainforests evolve down to the sea. The park provides the perfect atmosphere to relax.

The park is located around 20 minutes outside of Puerto Viejo jo and makes a great day trip if you’re staying in the area. The park encompasses an expansive 2,732 acres of land and 55,200 marine acres so there’s plenty to see and explore. If diving or snorkeling is on your list of things to do in Costa Rica then Cahuita National park is the place to do it. Bear in mind that in order to protect the reef snorkeling here is only allowed through guided tours with professionals who are passionate about protecting the reef from further damage. If you’re more interested in exploring the landside environment there are plenty of hiking trails that will guide you through the lush jungle and picturesque coastlines.

Entry

There are multiple entry points to the park depending on where you are traveling in from There are two separate entrances to access Cahuita National Park. The main entrance from Cahuita town is called Kelly Station. This entrance is by donation and is highly recommended for tourists. You can take a bus which will drop you off near the entrance, from there its a short walk there from the center of Cahuita town. The alternative entry point is from Puerto Vargas. This point is slightly closer to Puerto Viejo and has a parking lot if you’re traveling by car.

Adult:

  • Free – $5 suggested donation
  • Children 6- 12: free – $5 suggested donation
  • Guided tours cost extra.

Opening hours

  • The reserve welcomes visitors every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. We advise arriving before 2pm so you have plenty of time to explore, park workers often turn people away at the trailhead between 2-3 pm. Visit https://costa-rica-guide.com/nature/national-parks/cahuita/ for more information about visiting the park.

23. TAKE A YOGA TEACHER TRAINING

Costa Rica is the perfect place to immerse yourself in Latin American culture with many of the comforts of home.

Visiting Costa Rica you’ll soon see why we love to return here year after year for our Yoga Teacher Training. For us really this land really does encompass all that it means to live a pure life, whether you’re planning a short reeling vacay or are looking to stick around for longer we’re sure that you’ll love it as much as we do. This area of the world is known as the happiest place on earth! Sun, surf, and yoga with your soul family!

We hope you liked our top things to see and do while you’re in Costa Rica, and please let us know which places you liked the most. Pura Vida!

Have more questions about Things To Do in Costa Rica or our YTT’s? We’re here to help!