Considering its size, Costa Rica has an amazingly wide range of adventure tours and activities.
Costa Rica's eco adventure tours and activities are as varied as the countryside which hosts them. Because there are so many things to do and see, it’s easy to overbook yourself.
Instead of rushing through your visit, the best plan is to spend two or three days in one place, enjoying it fully, before moving on to another (and distinctly different) area and activity. The cloud forests of Monteverde and the central highlands are as different from Guanacaste’s dry forest as they are from the rainforests and secluded beaches along the Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce. Costa Rica’s small area makes it easy to go from one ecosystem to another; and you’ll get the most out of your trip.
Cloud and rainforests
The cloud forests of Alajuela’s central highlands jump-started Costa Rica’s ecotourism boom, with backpackers making the 3-day trek from Arenal to Monteverde’s cloud forests. Arenal National Park, rich with hot rivers and warm caves, is home to some of the best hiking and mountain biking in the country. Lake Arenal is great for windsurfing, bird watching, boating and fishing. Guides can also take you and the packhorses trekking through the countryside. Biologically diverse Monteverde is one of the best-known cloud forests of Central America. The national park boasts miles of trails through thick stands of bromeliads, ficus trees and the legendary quetzal, the vividly and exotically colored sacred bird of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Canopy ziplines, flying from platform to platform, is an excellent way to enjoy the treetop inhabitants.
Exploring the Lost Canyon is a full-on adrenaline work out through Costa Rica’s natural obstacle course. Rappels down canyon walls, rock climbing, sliding down Mother Nature’s waterslides and cooling out in deep river pools are just the highlights of a trip into one of the country’s best-kept secrets.
More than any other adventure trip, whitewater rafting Costa Rica’s rivers is thrill enough to get any heart pumping but the Pacuare is one of the great rivers of the world according to those in the know. With 22 miles of Class II-IV rapids through dense jungle and deep canyons, the 2-day trip may well be the adventure of a lifetime. The Pacuare is unique in CR, running through virgin rainforest remarkable for its luxuriant vegetation and amazing biodiversity. Other rivers known for great whitewater include Río Tenorio River (12.5 miles, Class III-IV) in the Guanacaste Cordirella, Río Savegre Class (13 miles, Class II-IV) and Río Naranjo (7 miles, Class III-VI+), both inland from Quepos and Manuel Antonio, all full to half-day trips.
If you’re a natural history buff, Tortuguero’s network of beaches and black-water canals in the northeast is home to caimans, jaguars and tapirs, as well as the massive leatherback, hawksbill and green sea turtles that nest along the Caribbean coastline throughout the year. Likewise with the Corcovado National Park’s old-growth jungle of the Osa Peninsula, on the southwestern Pacific coast, with its flocks of scarlet macaws and solitary reclusive jaguars.
The surfing along Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline is legendary, making it a regular stop for those who pursue an endless summer of perfect breaks. Surf schools and rental shops dot the Pacific coast. Pavones, in the country's southwest corner has one of the longest lefts in the world—about half a mile when it's hitting right. Santa Teresa is widely touted as some of the best surf in the country, and while the pros hang ten on the big breaks, Jaco’s surf is better suited for novice and intermediate surfers.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we did not mention the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and the prolific surf breaks of Puerto Viejo, Limon. With its Caribbean flavor and Rastafarian flair, the Eastern coast of Costa Rica is not to be missed.
Sportfishing Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is famous the world over for its first-rate sportfishing, including sailfish, marlin, yellow fin tuna, wahoo, snapper and more. Fishing grounds are a short, hour cruise from the dock and experts rate the billfishing (marlin and sailfish) here tops in the world, with more than 40 fishing world records registered in the area. Sportfishing tours for beginner or expert anglers are plentiful with well-equipped fishing boats available for half or full day and weeklong charters, including equipment. Costa Rica’s Los Sueños Marina, located on the Central Pacific coast, is becoming world famous for it’s prolific sport fishing, and charters go out daily.
Don’t be tempted to try to do it all—unless you plan to stay a month or more. Choose two or three areas of the country for your adventure vacation. It’s a good idea to settle on a base camp at a top-notch eco-resort between adventures to rest up and rejuvenate before heading out on the next leg. The staff at any of the boutique hotels around Costa Rica can help you book tours and guides or advise you on the best time to visit the area.