6 Epic Costa Rica Activities to Embrace Your Wild Side (and Get Back to Nature)
Costa Ricans have a zest for life. Pura vida, they say. And while it literally means “pure life,” it’s really more about living life to the fullest. So let’s do exactly that. Let’s explore the best, most epic, most legendary Costa Rica outdoor activities and embrace our wild side.
Anyone who’s ever been outside before knows that it’s all about location, location, location. For example, there’s a difference between walking through a Target parking lot in your hometown and hiking through a lush, green rainforest in Costa Rica. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy both, but there’s just something special about the Costa Rica outdoors.
I interviewed some of EF Ultimate Break’s Costa Rica experts to gather a list of the top six must-see, must-do, must-sweat-for Costa Rica activities. So if you’re a thrill-seeker, looking to get out there and enjoy the great outdoors, read on. If you’re somehow here by mistake, you might as well read on, too—you may learn something!
1. Swim under La Fortuna Waterfall
Located in central Costa Rica, La Fortuna Waterfall is without a doubt one of the most beautiful sights in Costa Rica. Sure, you have to walk down a 500-step jungle staircase to get there, but it is so worth it. Plus, you wouldn’t come all this way to what I have just now decided is probably the adventure capital of the western hemisphere and not expect to get your steps in, would you?
EF Ultimate Break Trip Consultant and Costa Rica enthusiast Justin agrees: “If you’re an adventurous person (which you probably are if you’re going to Costa Rica) then La Fortuna Waterfall is a must-do.” After the hike down the steps, he suggests you “reward yourself with some awesome Instagram-worthy pics and a cool refreshing swim in the waterfall’s pool!” Good tip, Justin.
2. Kayak in Lake Arenal
Kayaking is great. Kayaking in Costa Rica is even better. Kayaking in Costa Rica with views of Arenal Volcano…well, it’s perfect. Lake Arenal’s got you—whether you want a relaxing paddle around the lake or a sweat-inducing workout. Pick your pace and let the beauty of the lake and surrounding area overwhelm your senses. Oh, and keep an eye (and ear) out for monkeys.
3. Go white water rafting down the Sarapiqui River
Adventure? Check. Adrenaline? You bet. Helmet hair? Honestly, it’s unavoidable so just embrace it. White water rafting on the Sarapiqui River belongs on your “must-do” list of Costa Rica activities. A trip down the river offers a bit of everything—animal sightings, natural beauty at every turn, and more than a few opportunities to splash your fellow travelers.
You’ll go back and forth between sections of exhilarating rapids and moments that feel more like a lazy river. The best part? A local guide will be with you the whole time, helping you navigate the rapids and teach you about your surroundings along the way. Because, what’s the point of travel if you can’t listen to a local Costa Rican do a howler monkey impression as you careen down a river?
4. Trek through Manuel Antonio National Park
Along the western coast of Costa Rica, you’ll find one of the country’s most beautiful national parks. There, you get this perfect mix of hiking trails, pristine beaches, and wildlife. Despite the park’s small size, it’s home to a surprising variety of plants and animals. So grab your binoculars (or just do that thing where you pretend your hands are binoculars), pick a trail, and get your trek on.
EF Ultimate Break Trip Consultant Vivian is a fan: “Manuel Antonio is the epitome of what our travelers look for when they go to Costa Rica. Lush gardens, tall trees, sloths and monkeys. And at the end of the walkway, you see this beautiful private beach that is just beyond gorgeous.”
5. Zipline in Monteverde
There are over 900 species of birds in Costa Rica. 901 if we count you, flying through the rainforest at speeds of up to 60 mph. Ziplining, in my experience, feels a lot like what I imagine being a bird feels like. You can’t go to Costa Rica and not zipline. That would be like going to Disney World and not eating a giant turkey leg. Okay, maybe that’s just me, but you get it.
There are plenty of options for ziplining in Costa Rica, but our favorite place to go is Monteverde. You’ll fly from platform to platform, surrounded by thick jungle and views for days. It’s likely that the only thing soaring higher than you at that moment will be your adrenaline.
6. Discover a Cloud Forest
Deep in what feels like an alien planet, there’s a place where clouds brush your face, plant life thrives, and birds serenade you better than your college a cappella group. We’re talking about the Monteverde Cloud Forests. This area records up to 12 feet of rain per year, creating a unique ecosystem, perfect for experiencing Costa Rica nature.
Allow EF Ultimate Break trip expert Jesse to take you on a virtual journey: “You'll drive up from sea level to the mountain top overlooking the stunning, rolling Costa Rican countryside, only to emerge on the other side of the peak in a permanent misty "micro-climate" surrounded by wildlife and dense rainforest. Walk through the clouds, forest floor and canopy bridges, exploring this mountain oasis in the heart of Costa Rica." There are a lot of things to do in Costa Rica, but Jesse and I agree, this one is a must.
Yes, Costa Rica is perfect for the adventurer—I think we’ve made that much clear. But maybe you’re not a thrill-seeker. Maybe you’re a cocktail-sipping-beach-lounger, or a town-hopping-coffee-enthusiast. Or maybe you just want to expand your horizons and experience something new. No matter what, Costa Rica will accept you with open arms. And if planning all of this seems like too much work, check out Costa Rica Adventure, and let us plan it for you.
Written by Kevin McGraw
Kevin is a copywriter at EF Ultimate Break. He loves drinking chocolate milk, looking at photos of his parents’ dog, and, for some reason, running for hours at a time. His favorite place in the world is Mürren, Switzerland.