Costa Rica is as close to paradise on Earth as you can get. Covered in lush rainforest, lined with pristine beaches, and dramatic vistas of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Throw in a few volcanoes, some sloths, and the famed lifestyle of “Pura Vida,” and you’ve got a near-perfect destination.
Its spectacular landscape makes it the ultimate adventure vacation, and the easiest way to maximize your time is with a proper tour. Well-organized Costa Rican tours will cover your transport, food, and all the activities you plan to do—saving you stress on your trip.
Here are some of the top-rated Costa Rican tours and activities to give you some planning ideas. We even tried some of them on our company’s annual retreat this year.
While ziplining has become an industry-standard activity worldwide, there’s nowhere better to try it than Costa Rica. The country’s staggeringly vast rainforests make it the perfect aerial playground, and the engineers designing the courses go all out. One zipline could see you screaming across the canopy for hundreds of meters, while the next has you swinging precariously through narrow ravines.
We found an excellent course near Tamarindo that fused the best of the rainforest with the spectacular canyon formations within the national park. Some segments required rock climbing and even had us sliding off rocks into drops before swinging across gullies. It’s not to be missed.
Costa Rica’s coasts are spell-binding, and the Pacific side in particular will take your breath away. You’d be missing out on an unforgettable day if you didn’t get out on the water for a tour of the coast.
These services vary in length and type. Our whole group chose a full-day catamaran tour, including food and drinks (yes, alcohol too). The captain and his crew kept us entertained the entire day, stopping in places to allow us to snorkel or relax on and in the water. The day was capped off by an unexpected whale sighting just off the coast—an unmissable Costa Rican tour.
As one of the surfing capitals of the world, riding a wave should be high on your Costa Rica list. If you’re already an experienced surfer, hone in on the perfect spot, rent a board, and get tubular. If you’re a novice, book yourself into a surf camp or lesson.
Even a two-hour crash course is enough to get you standing on your first wave, but if you have the time, a week-long camp will see you making huge improvements. Individual classes usually last around two hours, with relatively small groups allowing for one-to-one instruction. I can vouch for the instructors who helped me stand up on my last attempt of the day. Other members of our time took to it like ducks in water—like our director Kasandra.
Over 50% of Costa Rica’s landmass is covered in rainforest, with estimates placing 4% of the world’s known species within its boundaries. In short, it’s a breathtakingly diverse landscape, and exploring it should be a central theme of your visit.
There are a ton of different top-rated Costa Rican tours and activities that lead you into the jungle. Some are more immersive than others, taking you on in-depth naturalist hikes, while others are easier-going and feature canopy walks through the trees that don’t require as much physical effort. Whatever you choose, you’ll leave with a greater appreciation for the power of nature and Costa Rica’s inspiring efforts to protect its natural beauty.
Volcanoes and hot springs
Some say the source of Costa Rica’s beauty is the volcanic power rumbling under the surface and in its mighty volcanoes. There are currently five active volcanoes in Costa Rica and 50 dormant or extinct ones, so there’s plenty of opportunity to learn more about these fascinating natural wonders.
Arenal is the most famous of the five in Costa Rica, while Irazu is the easiest to visit, thanks to a well-trodden road leading to the summit. The top-rated Costa Rican tours and activities vary in scope, with the majority focusing on views of the mountains themselves and their effect on the surrounding area, while others allow you to climb them. Bear in mind a climb will be strenuous and isn’t for everybody. If there has been any activity on a volcano in the past weeks or months, they’ll likely be closed to visitors.
If heading up a volcano isn’t your thing, stay at the bottom and enjoy their geothermal power in a different way–natural springs and mud baths. It’s a far more relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
If you’re short on time, one of the best top-rated Costa Rican tours and activities is an all-encompassing adventure tour. These package deals will often include several activities, like ziplining, river-tubing, hiking, and horseback riding.
The day our team spent ziplining, a horseback ride, a visit to the hot springs, and a white-water tubing experience were all included—both relaxing and exhilarating. Our food was covered, too, as well as transport from the coast to the national park. Whatever you choose, make sure you embrace Pura Vida!