Costa Rica is fantastic! Not only is this Central American country warm, friendly, welcoming, and exceptionally beautiful, but there are so many things to do there when you visit. So many, in fact, that you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed by all the options.
Tourism is a huge industry in Costa Rica, and as a result, there are hundreds of providers offering trips, Costa Rica excursions, and adventures. How can you know which are the best excursions in Costa Rica and which are right for you?
Often, when there are too many options to consider, the best strategy is to narrow the list and then go from there. We’ve taken care of this step for you by searching, finding, and researching the best tours and excursions that Costa Rica has to offer.
You can be confident that every tour listed below is highly rated and well reviewed by participants who tried them first.
You’re going to have a great time in Costa Rica, and one way to ensure that you’ll have a time that you’ll never forget is to fill your days with fun activities that capture the essence of Costa Rica. The following adventures will help to do exactly that.
Read on to check them out and choose a few to try yourself!
Table of Contents
- Best Things to do in Costa Rica
- 1. Surf Lessons in Tamarindo – Tamarindo
- 2. Vida Aventura Nature Park Experience – Guanacaste
- 3. Tortuga Island Tour with Costa Cat – Jaco/Playa Hurradura
- 4. Manuel Antonio National Park Guided Tour – Quepos/Manuel Antonio
- 5. Whitewater Rafting Savegre River – Quepos/Manuel Antonio
- 6. The Night Tour with Tracie The Bug Lady – Osa Peninsula
- 7. Bio-Luminescence and Sunset Kayak Tour – Osa Peninsula
- 8. Full Day Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, & Hot Springs – La Fortuna
- 9. Lost Canyon Canyoneering Adventure – La Fortuna
- 10. The Original Canopy Tour – Monteverde
- 11. Irazú and Turrialba Volcanoes with Guayabo Tour – San Jose
- 12. Bites & Sights – Walking Food Tour in San Jose Small-Group – San Jose
- 13. Tortuguero Canals Including Playa Bonita and Puerto Limon Highlights – Limon
- 14. Jaguar Rescue Center from Limon – Limon
Best Things to do in Costa Rica
From touring national parks to swimming with sea turtles, there’s something for everyone to do in Costa Rica. Here are some of the best tours and excursions in Costa Rica.
1. Surf Lessons in Tamarindo – Tamarindo
People come from all over the world to surf in Costa Rica, and the northwestern part of the country is especially good for surfing.
If you’ve never surfed before, this is an excellent place to learn, because there are so many patient and experienced teachers here.
If you’re staying in or near Tamarindo, these surf lessons in Tamarindo with the Iguana Surf Camp & Surf Shop are one of the highest-rated tours in all of Costa Rica. Your two-hour lesson includes instruction and the use of a rash guard and surfboard during your lesson.
Your patient instructor will teach you everything you need to know to get started and will guide you to improve along the way.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
2. Vida Aventura Nature Park Experience – Guanacaste
The operators of this fun and varied tour pick up participants at hotels in Tamarindo, Papagayo, and Liberia early in the morning. After a drive of an hour or so, you’ll arrive at Vida Aventura Nature Park for a full day of adventure and activity.
Your day will include an exciting zip line experience through the canopy and horseback riding through a tropical forest.
You’ll also have the opportunity to relax in a thermal pool where you can exfoliate your skin with a volcanic mud bath! On top of all that, you’ll also be served a delicious Costa Rican lunch at mid-day.
This tour will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed and thrilled and exhilarated all at the same time. You’ll be glad you spent your day at this exceptional park.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
3. Tortuga Island Tour with Costa Cat – Jaco/Playa Hurradura
It’s nice to spend your days on vacation sitting on a sunny beach, but what about getting out on the water? This excursion on the Costa Cat party catamaran will allow you to do exactly that.
The boat departs from Los Suenos Marina in Playa Herradura, but they’ll pick you up at your hotel or vacation rental in the morning and take you there.
Once you arrive, you’ll get a light breakfast, and then you can relax on board on the way to Tortuga Island. There, you’ll have lunch on board and then you can snorkel, take a banana boat ride, or go for a nature hike on the island.
You can enjoy soft drinks, rum punch, margaritas, and coffee on board all day – it’s all included. This eight-hour excursion is sure to be one that you’ll never forget!
See Related: Best Dutch Caribbean Islands to Visit
4. Manuel Antonio National Park Guided Tour – Quepos/Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio National Park is the most visited national park in Costa Rica. It’s fantastic – it’s full of wildlife, and it has more than one breathtaking beautiful beach where you and your companions can swim and relax. Visiting this park is a must-do for anyone of any age or interest that visits Costa Rica.
Of course, it’s possible to visit Manuel Antonio National Park on your own, and many people do. However, you will have a much better and a much more memorable time if you visit the park with a guide. This half-day, three-hour, small-group tour is limited to ten participants.
Your guide will pick you up at your hotel or vacation rental nearby in an air-conditioned vehicle.
Then, a trained naturalist guide will lead you through Manuel Antonio National Park and will spot animals in Costa Rica you’d never find on your own. He or she will bring along a scope so you can get a better look and so you can take pictures through it.
You’ll be amazed at the vast number of animals that you’ll see that you never would have known were there otherwise! This is a great way to experience this park.
See Related: Best Beaches in Costa Rica (Top Spots Ranked!)
5. Whitewater Rafting Savegre River – Quepos/Manuel Antonio
Whitewater rafting in Costa Rica is a grand adventure that everyone in your group will enjoy. Several rivers in this country offer fast-moving water that’s perfect for rafting but one of the very best is the Savegre River near Quepos and Manuel Antonio.
This six-hour-long Costa Rica tour begins with hotel pickup and a short drive to the river. From there, you’ll be outfitted with all the gear you need before you hop into a raft with your guide.
You’ll be amazed at the beauty along the river and you will surely see some wildlife, too. At the end of the trip, you’ll be served a tasty Costa Rican lunch before you the guides return you to your accommodations in town.
See Related: Best Holiday Destinations for Couples
6. The Night Tour with Tracie The Bug Lady – Osa Peninsula
Lots of people are nature lovers who come to Costa Rica for the wildlife, but lots of people don’t stop to think about the fact that “wildlife” includes bugs!
This is one of those Costa Rica tours that may not be for everyone. But, if you are interested in insects, and if you aren’t afraid of the dark, then you’ll love this walk on Costa Rica’s wild side.
This is one of the oldest and longest continuously running tours in Costa Rica – biologist Tracie “The Bug Lady” and business partner Gianfranco Gomez love taking people into the forest to tell them about the many insects and creatures found here.
You’ll learn about giant spiders, hardworking ants, toxic toads, and native bats on this incredible two-hour, after-dark hike.
See Related: Most Stunning, Unique Costa Rica Animals
7. Bio-Luminescence and Sunset Kayak Tour – Osa Peninsula
Even if you’ve never paddled a kayak before, you can have great success and much fun on this three-hour, early evening bioluminescence kayak tour.
The tour groups are small and are limited to only eight participants. They depart from Puerto Jiminez. Due to the small size of the groups, the guides are able to offer in-depth instruction and also will provide much information about the flora and fauna of this region.
Bioluminescent microorganisms in the water will light up all around you as you paddle the calm waters. You’ll also get a chance to snorkel among them, and a snack of seasonal fruit will be provided as well.
This is a unique trip and is one of those Costa Rica experiences that you’ll never forget as long as you live.
8. Full Day Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, & Hot Springs – La Fortuna
People who want to sample a bit of everything the La Fortuna area has to offer will love this eleven-hour-long, small group, combination excursion that stops at several of the region’s most popular sights.
This is one of the top Costa Rica excursions that you can do in this area, or in the whole country for that matter.
The tour begins with hotel pickup and you and your fellow tour participants will be whisked away to the incredibly seventy-foot tall La Fortuna Waterfall where you’ll have the opportunity to swim.
Next, although this excursion does not enter Arenal Volcano National Park, you’ll hike to a viewpoint with spectacular views of the volcano and surrounding area.
Your group will be served lunch and a cocktail and learn about life in a small Costa Rican village before you visit hot springs to end the day.
All along the way, your guides will supply interesting commentary and will share their knowledge with you about the Arenal volcano, area wildlife, plant life, and life in Costa Rica in general. Don’t miss this excellent tour!
See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in Costa Rica
9. Lost Canyon Canyoneering Adventure – La Fortuna
If you like adventure tours, then you’re going to love this exhilarating adventure near Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna. On this tour, your guide will pick you up at your hotel, and then they will take you on a 4×4 off-road adventure deep into the nearby mountains.
When you arrive at your destination, the guides will get you geared up and ready to rappel!
Your first small, practice rappel will take you 150′ down a small waterfall. From there, you’ll rappel down a series of six more waterfalls that get bigger and bigger along the way.
In the end, you’ll take a ten-minute hike back to the top where you can change into dry clothes, and a delicious lunch will be provided before your guide drives you back to your accommodations. This is an adventure tour that you’ll never forget!
See Related: Best Travel Insurance for Costa Rica
10. The Original Canopy Tour – Monteverde
There are dozens if not hundreds of companies offering zip line excursions in Costa Rica and it’s a great place to enjoy this adventurous activity. However, some companies are better than others, and you deserve the very best.
This short, two-and-a-half-hour zip lining excursion in Monteverde is well-rated and well-reviewed and will give you the experience of a lifetime, and it’s fun for all ages. This company has been in business since 1994, and it’s the best option for zip lining in the area.
This tour includes pickup from your hotel or vacation rental and drop-off after the tour is complete. It will allow you to connect with the local environment in a fun and unique way as you zip along the treetops in the cloud forest with the ground far below.
You’ll also get to rappel down to the forest floor climb inside a tree, and more. Guides will be on hand for your safety and to answer questions about the local ecosystem, too.
See Related: Costa Rica Packing List: What to Pack for Your Trip
11. Irazú and Turrialba Volcanoes with Guayabo Tour – San Jose
If you’re visiting San Jose and would like to get out into the countryside to see a bit more of what Costa Rica is all about, then this full-day tour is for you.
Your guide will pick you up at your hotel and then this tour begins with a visit to Irazu Volcano National Park where you will get the opportunity to view and enter the crater of this, the highest volcano in the country.
Your certified guide will tell you all about it and about the Paramo, the dwarf forest that you will also visit nearby.
Next, you’ll take back roads to Turrialba Volcano and the neighboring abandoned town before enjoying delicious lunch prepared by a local family.
On your way back to your hotel, you’ll stop at the Guayabo Archaeological Site to learn a bit about the pre-Hispanic culture in Costa Rica. Overall, you will learn so much on this trip, and you’ll see things that will stay with you forever.
12. Bites & Sights – Walking Food Tour in San Jose Small-Group – San Jose
Lots of people only visit San Jose briefly when they visit Costa Rica.
The country’s main airport is here, so most people pass through, but the majority leave almost immediately to head to the forests, volcanoes, and beaches. This is understandable, but it’s also worth exploring Costa Rica’s largest city at least a little bit.
This walking tour will allow you to do just that. You can schedule this tour in the morning or afternoon, and you can sign up for a small group tour or a private tour that’s for you and your companions only.
Your local guide will take you around the city, point out some of the sights, and tell you about its history. But, more importantly, they will take you to Mercado Central and Mercado Borbon to try some of the local food.
You’ll be able to sample seasonal fruit, tamales, and empanadas, and will get a chance to try your hand at making tortillas and plantain empanadas, too. This is a great way to experience the city and the true local “flavor” of it, too!
See Related: Costa Rica Packing List: What to Pack for Your Trip
13. Tortuguero Canals Including Playa Bonita and Puerto Limon Highlights – Limon
The Caribbean coast and Pacific Ocean coast of Costa Rica are very different from one another and both are worth exploring. This tour departs from Limon and in just four hours you’ll see and learn so much about this side of the country.
Your guide will pick you up at your hotel or at the cruise port if you’re in town just for the day. He or she will give you a brief tour of the port city of Limon and will point out the highlights. Next, you’ll visit a fruit farm before heading to Cahuita National Park.
From there, you’ll visit a banana plantation to learn about the importance of bananas in the Costa Rican economy before taking a one-hour boat ride on the Tortuguero Canals in a covered boat.
Many people consider this area to be the “Amazon of Costa Rica” and you’ll likely see many animals as your guide teaches you about the area’s rich biodiversity.
Finally, you’ll stop at the white sand beach of Playa Bonita where you can take a swim. This tour offers a fantastic overview of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and you’ll learn and do so much in a very short time.
14. Jaguar Rescue Center from Limon – Limon
Another Costa Rica tour that visitors to Limon enjoy is this one to the Jaguar Rescue Center and La Ceiba Private Reserve Release Site.
This tour also includes transportation and will take you to this wildlife sanctuary where you will see rescued jaguars, yes, but also a wide variety of other rescued animals as well including monkeys, sloths, wild birds, and more.
Your guide will tell you more about the animals and you’ll have the opportunity to walk through the nature reserve as well.
This is a great way to guarantee that you see a lot of animals if you are only in Costa Rica for a short time, and you’re supporting a helpful and hardworking organization in the process as well.
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