Costa Rica Adventure Travel
In Costa Rica adventure travel is lurking around every corner. The country’s natural beauty and geography provide a veritable playground to fulfill every exciting activity you’ve ever dreamed of. As a premier destination for the active traveler with scores of resources to take advantage of the topography and both the Pacific and Caribbean coast, Costa Rica adventure travel enthusiasts will not be disappointed.
With all this opportunity it’s easy to miss out on something you might not have known was available. To help you out with this I’ve written up a list of things to do that would make any Costa Rica adventure vacation unforgettable.
Costa Rica Adventure Travel To Do List
Scuba diving — Scuba diving in Costa Rica is a great way to see all the marine life present in Costa Rica. With access to two bodies of water, Costa Rica offers the best of both worlds, with intricate and beautiful corals on the Caribbean side and large oceanic animals on the Pacific side. I got my divemaster certification in the town of Playa del Coco on the northwest coast and had the opportunity to go scuba diving with Manta Rays and a bull shark, and swim with humpback whales and a whale shark. Certification prices are cheap and you should definitely add it to our Costa Rica adventure travel itinerary. Check out my page on scuba diving in Costa Rica.
Snorkeling — Cheap and easy to do, snorkeling in Costa Rica is a great way to see the oceanic life of Costa Rica. To learn more please check out my snorkeling guide here.
Sailing — Many of the larger coastal towns like Playa del Coco, Tamarindo, Quepos etc. have sailing charters and this can be a relaxing or exciting way to spend the day, depending on the winds. I’ve worked on a charter catamaran out of Playa del Coco and our clients always left the boat with a smile on their faces, especially after a spectacular sunset on the majestic Pacific Ocean.
Surfing — Close to 10% of all visitors come to Costa Rica for the waves. As the surf Mecca of Central America, Costa Rica doesn’t disappoint. From the world-class waves at Roca Bruja on Pacific Northwest coast and the huge swell at Salsa Brava in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean, to the beginner friendly beach break in Tamarindo, Costa Rica is a fantastic place for experts and novices alike. One way or another you’ll leave with some fantastic stories, like the time I discovered I was sharing the waves with a 7ft crocodile! Don’t worry though, attacks are extremely rare – learn more at my page on Costa Rica surfing.
Fishing — With 12% of all visitors citing sportfishing as a reason for them visiting this country you can see why it is a highlight of Costa Rica adventure travel. There is amazing fishing for billfish, Dorado, roosterfish and more on the Pacific side and trophy sized Tarpon and plenty of snook on the Caribbean side. This is not to mention the plentiful freshwater opportunities inland for Guapote (Rainbow Bass) and Rainbow trout. Oh, and for those of you interested in fishing but not keen on killing a fish, catch-and-release is often practiced and easy to request. For an in depth explanation of species, fishing locations, and seasons see my fishing guide here.
Rainforest Canopy Tours and Zip lines — Costa Rica adventure travel is not complete without an amazing canopy tour of the lush rainforest here, which is home to thousands of unique animals. Bridges starting at 65ft / 20m allow you a bird’s eye view of the canopy and forest floor. To complete the view with the actual sensation of flying, you must try a zip line tour, which will have you zooming down wire cables at incredible speeds just skimming over and through the treetops. There are lots of opportunities for tours throughout the country, with a large concentration in the Monteverde area.
Hiking and backpacking — There are plentiful opportunities for hikes lasting a few hours through the many national parks of Costa Rica. There are less strenuous opportunities as well that offer you a great chance at seeing some of the country’s diverse wildlife. If you’re looking for some memorable hikes for your Costa Rica adventure travel itinerary try the day-long hike from Arenal to Monteverde, try summiting the highest peak in the country at Chirripó, or walk through pure rain forest in Corcovado National Park.
Volcano exploration — As a member of the so-called Ring of Fire surrounding the Pacific, Costa Rica is home to 7 active volcanoes and 60 dormant ones. Some you can drive up to like Poás and others offer nighttime lava shows like Arenal. These ancient formations, which in many cases are still forming, provide a memorable experience for any Costa Rica adventure vacation.
4×4 — Pretty much all of the rental car companies offer 4WD vehicles to better take advantage of all the dirt roads in Costa Rica. Off-roading can be quite an adventure and a great way to explore some of the national parks, like Santa Rosa National Park. Make sure you are covered for off-road travel though in your rental agreement and see my car rental guide for more information.
Horseback riding — As evidenced in the rural areas of Costa Rica, horses are still an integral part of everyday life and a horseback ride is an essential part of any Costa Rica adventure vacation. There are a multitude of places to rent horses throughout the country and ride options range from an hour-long sunset trip, to multi-day or week long trips through the northern regions.
Atv — There are quite a few places where you can rent Atv’s either to go on a tour or for personal exploration. With all of the dirt roads in the country, this is another fun and exciting addition to your Costa Rica adventure travel plans.
Kiteboarding — A fairly new activity to Costa Rica, there are some great spots along the northwest Pacific coast in Guanacaste. The season is generally late fall through winter and into early spring with the strongest winds in December and January, occasionally reaching speeds of 30+. There are some schools in Guanacaste that offer instruction and equipment rental.
Whitewater rafting — With an array of great rivers to choose from, it’s no wonder 15% of visitors choose to make this activity part of their Costa Rica adventure travel experience. The most popular rivers are the Rio Pacuare and Rio Reventazon and there are various tour operators in Costa Rica, though quality varies. Reed my page on whitewater rafting to make the best of this addition to your Costa Rica adventure travel plans.
Jet skiing — In many of the larger beach towns there is the opportunity to rent a jet ski for a quick adrenalin rush, cutting through the warm coastal waters of Costa Rica.
Glass bottom boats — A couple Canadian friends of mine run a company that rents personal watercraft with glass bottoms for fish viewing out of Playa del Coco.
Kayaking — This is a great way to explore the coast on both sides of Costa Rica. It’s also a great way of getting close to wildlife without disturbing them with the noise of an outboard motor. This is great for going up estuarial waters and perhaps glimpsing the elusive Tapir, or for pulling up close to one of the many sea turtles that come here every year to mate and lay eggs. It’s a wonderful activity for your Costa Rica adventure vacation.
Mountain biking / road biking — While the potholed main roads of Costa Rica don’t lend themselves to road biking, secondary roads and the many dirt roads offer nice mountain biking. It’s easy to arrange a bike tour or just rent your own mountain bike, many places offer quite decent ones, and plan your own journey. Other areas also offer leisurely biking opportunities on cruisers, such as the nice little ride from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo along the Caribbean.
Golf — With magnificent natural beauty and warm temperatures year round, Costa Rica has the potential to be a great golf destination, but currently there are just six regulation 18-hole courses. Many courses are currently under development in the Guanacaste province though, where I spent the most of my time. The ultra luxurious course at the Four Seasons Papagayo is a magnificent course in this area, though it is only for guests of the hotel. Check the internet before you go though, because you never know when a course may open up.
Windsurfing — I bet you didn’t know that Lake Arenal, under the majestic Arenal volcano, is ranked as one of the three best windsurfing spots in the world during its season from December to March. Winds are consistently around 20 knots, with some days with winds around 30 knots and windless days are very rare.
Parasailing & Hang gliding — Get a true bird’s eye view of this beautiful country and add a truly unforgettable experience to your Costa Rica adventure travel program. Various outfits offer hang gliding and parasailing (like hang gliding with a parachute) flights and instruction. Parasailing opportunities can be found just south of Puntarenas near the Caldera area. Hang gliding can be found around Jaco.
Bungee — Recently brought to Costa Rica, you can now get your kicks by daring to take the plunge. Jumps are done from the Rio Colorado Bridge around the turnoff for Grecia, around half an hour northwest of San Jose.
Rock climbing — Although this is a relatively new sport to Costa Rica there are numerous climbing opportunities, especially on Mount Chirripó, and a few operators that run climbing tours.
Hot Air Ballooning — While this is still a relatively new activity to Costa Rica, it is certainly a wonderful way to take in the country’s natural beauty, which according to 58% of visitors is what drew them to the country in the first place.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, and other Costa Rica adventure travel opportunities are popping up everyday, it will give you an idea of what is out there and hopefully allow you to better plan your trip. One way or another, you will definitely have some serious fun on your Costa Rica adventure vacation!