¡Pura Vida! : Top 10 Things to Do In Costa Rica

by Lauren AbuAli

Many people have an idealistic perspective of what Costa Rica is like. They envision a paradise of flourishing rainforests, glistening beaches, exotic animals, and a culture world-known for their kindness. Well, this point of view is right on the money. Costa Rica is nothing less than a paradise-on-earth, but many people who have never visited the region are only exposed to the adventure promoted in commercials and brochures and fail to know about the rest of the magic and mystery that lies in Tico utopia. Below is a list of the top ten things that one should do while in Costa Rica, coming from someone who has experienced it first-hand!

White-water rafting in Costa Rica
White-water rafting in Costa Rica. Photo by Lauren Abuali

10. Take a Visit to the Manuel Antonio National Park 

You have not fully experienced Costa Rica if you miss out on this gorgeous hotspot. Full of foreigners and locals, Manuel Antonio offers picture-perfect white sand beaches as well as various trails that are not overwhelming difficult but enough to offer you a challenge! If this does not do it for you, the wildlife will: Manuel Antonio is full of various species of monkeys, birds, iguanas, frogs and the infamous two and three-toed “Oso Peresozo”. Better get your camera ready. Oh, and entrance is only about $10!

9. Fruit Markets! 

Once you try Costa Rican fruit, fruit in the states will never measure up. Not only is the fruit of Costa Rica very sweet, tender, and overall “RICA”, but there are so many cool fruits to choose from! The lush and succulent Guanabana fruit is rampant in Costa Rica. If you’re struggling, some have found that the best way to pronounce the fruit is by inserting it in the “Mahna Mahna” Muppet Show theme song! San Jose offers a great fruit market on Saturday mornings but if you are not in the area, they are sure to be found around any corner of Costa Rica!

8. Hiking/Exploring by Arenal

The active Arenal Volcano is a favorite among both tourists and locals. By day one can hike, bike, and horseback ride through all the various trails offered in the neighboring town of La Fortuna, and by night you will find yourself steaming off in the natural hot springs. A recommendation is to bring along some friends and go for an early morning run to get the best view of the volcano and sunrise.

7. Rappelling in La Fortuna 

Do you enjoy gliding down mountains? Are you a fan of raging waterfalls? Check out rappelling tours in the town of La Fortuna! In rappelling, you are attached to a bungee and bounce down the side of cliffs and mountains with guides from above and below loosening your cable until you reach the bottom. The rappelling offered in La Fortuna consists of several streaming water falls as well!

6. Luna Llena and Bike Rides in Montezuma 

When in the gorgeous tourist hotspot of Montezuma, be sure to make your room reservations at the Luna Llena Hostel. This quaint homestay, literally smack-dab in the middle of the jungle, is more than just a place to sleep but rather a hang-out for passer-byers. With hammocks and beds located right outside the rooms for a little TLC as well as board games, a clean kitchen, complete bookshelves, morning wake-up calls from howler monkeys, and the most beautifully decorated interior and exterior you will ever see of a hostel, you would almost rather not have to leave to go down to the beach. Despite this fact, Montezuma is home to a knockout coast as well as vibrant trails, pathways, waterfalls, etc. Try renting a bike or better yet, a four-wheeler!

5. Bar El Observatario, San Jose

If you are seeking authentic Latin American culture, check out Bar El Observatorio in San Jose. At this local hub you will get a taste of fervent Latin music, hot-blooded dancing, and a racing heartbeat that naturally comes with the heat of the night!

4. Surf Lessons, Tamarindo 

Tamarindo Playa is an ideal location to practice your moves on the water! Whether you have surfed before or have never picked up a “tabla” in your life, Arenas Adventures is a quality, fair-priced small surf company that offers lessons from well-experienced and trained surfers. Everyone should have the opportunity to glide over the water at least once in his or her life, as it is a feeling truly unlike any other! If you choose not to go with this company while in Tamarindo, there are plenty of instructors that just hang out on the beach and offer lessons for an even better price- always be sure, however, to use caution and common sense!

3. Ziplining, Monteverde 

As if Costa Rica itself isn’t enough of a rush, ziplining and canopy tours with 100% Aventura will guarantee that you have the time of your life! Offering the longest zipline in the entire region of Latin America (approximately 1590 meters) as well as a Superman cable and Mega Tarzan swing, you get a little taste of it all! If you like thrills but are not necessarily brave enough (or willing to pay the cost) for bungee-jumping, ziplining is the perfect alternative!

2. White-Water Rafting, Siquirres 

While some of you who have never experienced white-water rafting may imagine it as an easy-going, relaxing activity to do with friends, think again. With the company Exploradores Outdoors, your fun white-water rafting experience will turn into what seems like a fight for survival (even though the guides have everything under control the whole time!). If you decide to go with Exploradores Outdoors, request Mauricio!- he’s got some crazy tricks up his sleeve like rafting with eyes closed, without paddles, from the inside of the raft, and tons more. 

1. Making Real Connections With the Local Ticos! 

If you visit Costa Rica you are likely to go with a group of friends or students from your own country. While you will be inclined to stick to what you know and who you know, the people that you are with, rather than the things you do or the places you see, are really what can make or break the experience. While one must be very cautious in venturing out to meet new people, the best thing that you can while in Costa Rica is establish meaningful relationships with some of the natives. They know better than any brochures the best things to do in their country. Surrounding yourself with Ticos will help you more than anything to learn the language, culture, and gain some incredible perspective that will surely have a long-lasting influence in your life.