The Adventurer’s Guide: 16 Unforgettable Things To Do In Costa Rica
This site uses affiliate links and we may earn a small commission when you use our links and make a purchase without incurring additional fee yourself. Many thanks for supporting this website. Please see our disclosure page for more details.
Costa Rica is known for spectacular landscape and exotic wildlife, providing the perfect playground for adventurers and nature lovers. But with so many different things you can do in a single trip, it can be overwhelming. What’s worth seeing, doing and spending money on? In this post, we highlighted 16 fun activities that promise to make your Costa Rica trip unforgettable, especially if you plan on visiting in November!
16 Unforgettable Things To Do In Costa Rica In November
1. Whitewater Rafting Down Rio Pacuare
2. Visiting a Coffee Plantation
3. Interact With Wildlife at La Paz Waterfall Gardens
4. Safari Float Down the Rio Frio
5. Soak in Arenal’s Volcanic Hot Springs
6. Explore the Jungle After Dark
7. Walk Through Hanging Bridges
8. Rappel Down Rushing Waterfalls
9. Stay Overnight at a Cloud Forest
10. Flying Across The Top of the Cloud Forests
11. Experience the Adrenaline of Fiscus Treetop Climbing
12. Search For Costa Rica’s Secret Waterfalls
13. Go Beach Hopping on an ATV
14. Partake in a Turtle Nesting Tour
15. Learn Costa Rican Cooking from a Local Chef
16. Go Underwater and Explore the Colorful Marine Landscape
1| Whitewater Rafting Down Rio Pacuare
Ready for some world-class rafting in Costa Rica? Then whitewater rafting down Rio Pacuare is not to be missed. Rated one of the world’s best whitewater rafting destinations, Rio Pacuare offers a perfect blend of pristine wilderness and adrenaline. Originating high in the Talamanca Mountains, Rio Pacuare flows through dense jungles and spectacular gorges before reaching the Caribbean Ocean.
The 108km river has 3 commonly run sections, varying in degree of difficulty from Class II to V rapids. Monkeys, sloths, exotic birds and jaguars can be spotted along the way. You can choose an action-packed single day trip or a more relaxed multi-day package with a stay at a remote eco-lodge. No matter which one you choose, the trip will give you plenty of thrills to remember!
We joined the 29km one-day run with Exploradores Outdoors, which took us through a total of 52 exciting rapids and the scenic Huacas waterfall! It was possibly one of the most exhilarating ways to view the jungles of Costa Rica!
Pro tip: There are many tour operators running the Rio Pacuare whitewater rafting tours. The 2 most popular and reputable ones include Exploradores Outdoors and Rio Tropicales. Both have bilingual guides. However, Rio Tropicales only offers transportations to/from San Jose whereas Exploradores provides transportation to/from Puerto Viejo and La Fortuna in addition San Jose. Also, Exploradores has tours almost everyday, but that’s not the case with Rio Tropicales.
2| Visiting A Coffee Plantation
Coffee drinkers, rejoice! If you want to know what good coffee tastes like, Costa Rica is the place to enjoy cups of perfectly balanced coffee.
Why is Costa Rican coffee so good? Many factors, including high altitude, fertile soil, cool climate and steady rainfall, contributed to its success. In addition, Costa Rican coffee farmers only grow Arabica – the premium beans with the best flavor!
Costa Rica has eight different coffee-growing regions, each yielding unique characteristics and distinct flavour profiles. There are several coffee plantations in Costa Rica that offer coffee tours. One of the most famous ones is Doka Estate in Alajuela. The 75-min tour (USD $22) will teach you all about the coffee production process, from growing, harvesting to processing. You’ll also get a chance to do a coffee tasting!
3| Interact With Wildlife at La Paz Waterfall Gardens
If seeing wildlife is your main goal, you will not want to miss a trip to La Paz Waterfall Gardens.
This 70-acre eco-park is home to 5 picturesque waterfalls and the world’s largest butterfly observatory. With 3.5 km of walking trails, you can venture deep into a cloud forest and a rainforest, giving you an opportunity to see some of Costa Rica’s most exotic animals, including free
Note: None of the animals in La Paz Waterfall Gardens has been captured to be exhibited. All are rescued animals and cannot be released back into the wild.
4| Safari Float Down the Rio Frio
A leisurely way to see wildlife is going on a safari float! Compared to whitewater rafting, this is a much calmer experience, giving you plenty of time to observe wildlife!
The tour typically begins early in the morning because that is when the birds and animals are the most active. You will be picked up from your hotel and taken to Rio Frio in the Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve.
On this nature and wildlife tour, you will float down the tranquil river on a rubber raft, manned by a naturalist guide. A wide array of birds and animals will welcome you to the tropical forests. You may see howler monkeys, Jesus Christ lizards, caimans, iguanas, toucans, kingfishers, and more. Don’t worry if you can’t recognize any, the professional guide pay close attention to the jungle and make sure you don’t miss a thing!
There are a few tour operators you can go with. We booked ours with Jacamur and loved how knowledgeable our guide was! After the tour, we even paid a visit to a local villager’s house and enjoyed some traditional Costa Rican snacks!
5| Soak in Arenal’s Volcanic Hot Springs
Taking a soak in the hot springs is a good way to relax your muscles after a day of exploration. Costa Rica is home to five active volcanoes so there is no shortage of hot springs you can visit in the country!
The most well-known hot spring area is the La Fortuna (Arenal) region. Thanks to the nearby Arenal Volcano, there are a number of natural hot springs throughout the area. In fact, many hotels feature hot springs and thermal pools onsite. The one we highly recommended is The Springs, which boasts 28 spring-fed pools of varying temperatures and sizes! Hotel guests have free access to the pools. Alternatively, you can purchase a Hot Springs Day Pass (starting at $60 for 2 days).
6| Explore the Jungle After Dark
One of the most unforgettable things to do in Costa Rica is exploring the jungle at night. Because more than 60% of the wildlife in Costa Rica are nocturnal, a guided night walk gives you a good chance to see unique creatures that you would otherwise never witness.
Night walk at a rainforest or at a cloud forest? That’s a tough question. Kev and I went on a night walk in Arenal and Monteverde, and we saw completely different animals.
In Arenal, we ventured into the rainforest after dark and came face-to-face with red-eye tree frogs, spotted blue-jeans poison-dart frogs, and encountered a northern cat-eyed snake. We even fed an adorable 2-toed sloth! In Monteverde, we followed the local guides from Finca Modelo and explored the cloud forest’s wide variety of biodiversity. Kinkajou, nine-banded armadillo, scorpions, Alston’s mouse opossum, orange-kneed tarantula were just a few creatures we found at night!
7| Walk Through Hanging Bridges
Another way to immerse yourself in nature and search for wildlife is to go on a nature walk through hanging bridges. Most of the hanging bridge networks are found in Arenal and Monteverde. The beautiful series of suspension bridges and trails in Monteverde and La Fortuna will take you deep into the forests to discover what nature really has to offer.
If you’re in La Fortuna, we strongly recommended a visit to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. The 3.2km-long trail through a private rainforest reserve overlooks the Arenal Volcano and is surrounded by nature and wildlife. Along the way, there are 16 bridges, 6 of which are suspension bridges. You can choose to tour the park at your own pace or join a tour with a naturalist guide. To get the most out of your visit in the rainforest, we advise you to explore with a naturalist guide who will teach you all about native plants, birds, insects, and animals!
8| Rappel Down Rushing Waterfalls
Have you tried waterfall rappelling? If not, get on it!
Waterfall rappelling is one of the boldest adventures you can experience in Costa Rica. Imagine hiking deep into a rainforest and cascading down refreshing waterfalls and jungle walls! The spectacular scenery will make a feast for your eyes and get your heart pumping!!
In Arenal, we challenged ourselves with waterfall rappelling for the very first time! We had our fear and doubt at first, but the guides at Pure Trek Canyoning did a fantastic job keeping everyone safe and putting our minds at ease. We conquered 4 rappels and a monkey drop in half a day. It was a blast!
Pro tip: Make sure you wear proper outfit for rappelling, which includes closed-toe shoes (such as keen sandals) and quick dry clothing. Also, bring a towel and a spare change of clothes.
9| Stay Overnight at a Cloud Forest
A trip to Costa Rica is not complete without a visit to the cloud forests. It is a true paradise with an astoundingly diverse wildlife. Although you can visit the forests in a day, the best time to see wildlife is in the early morning so an overnight stay is definitely preferable.
Staying at a cloud forest will leave you with unforgettable memories. You will see clouds floating just outside your windows, hear birds chirping early in the morning, and sometimes you will even spot monkeys climbing a tree! Aside from that, there are so many adventures available in the cloud forests (continue reading below)!
If you fly into San Jose, consider making a trip to Asclepios in the nearby city, Alajuela. There, you can experience cloud forest up close. In Monteverde, Hotel Belmar is our top choice!
10| Flying Across The Top of the Cloud Forests
You can zipline in many different places throughout Costa Rica, but nothing beats flying directly through the clouds and seeing the forest canopy up close!
In Monteverde, Kev and I had the time of our lives braving the longest zipline in Latin America with 100% Aventura. From one end of a mountain to the other side, we soared through the jungle on 8 ziplines and flew like a Superman on 2 cables. The most thrilling part was screaming our lungs out over the Mega Tarzan swing, which swang to a height of 45m!!! You can see why this clinched the top spot on our list of the most unforgettable things to do in Costa Rica!
11| Experience the Adrenaline of Fiscus Treetop Climbing
If you’re looking for something unique, try fiscus treetop climbing!
Fiscus tree is the coolest tree we’ve ever seen: it’s hollow inside with aerial roots entwined in the form of a vertical tunnel. The easiest way to get the top of a fiscus tree is by climbing through the inside. Most people choose to do it another way: through the metal rings on the outside of the tree. This requires a lot more energy. If you want something more intense, try ascending through a suspended rope. It is a total body workout!
In Monteverde, we took on the exhilarating challenge of treetop climbing with Finca Modelo Ecologica and did not regret giving it a shot! We were secured with safety harnesses during the whole time. When we arrived at the top of the 40m-tall fiscus tree, the view of the misty cloud forest was gorgeous! It’s an aerial forest adventure not to be missed in Costa Rica!
12| Search For Costa Rica’s Secret Waterfalls
There are so many incredible waterfalls in Costa Rica. Famous ones include La Fortuna Waterfall, Rio Celeste Waterfall, and La Paz Waterfall, just to name a few. With an influx of visitors, these beautiful spots have become easy to get to, but the downside is that they are super touristy. Imagine other people blocking your shots? THAT is a big no-no.
Want to escape other tourists and get that perfect Instagram picture? Why not explore hidden waterfalls? Before setting off on our 2-week Costa Rica road trip, we did an in-depth research online and found a waterfall in Guanacaste that’s hidden away. Some consider this little oasis Costa Rica’s most beautiful waterfall and we couldn’t agree more!
I won’t reveal the name of the waterfall here as we’d like to keep it hidden. Shoot me a message if you’re REEEEALLY planning to check it out.
13| Go Beach Hopping on an ATV
We’ve covered the jungles, now off to the ocean! For an unforgettable journey, you have to go beach hopping in Costa Rica!
Costa Rica has spectacular shorelines on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides. Plenty of untouched beaches are waiting for you to uncover. However, as previously mentioned in my Costa Rica trip planning post, the beaches in Costa Rica do not connect with each other. So you can’t really drive along the coast from one beach to another.
The best solution is renting an ATV. Hop on a four-wheeler and get ready for some serious off-road fun! You will wind through hidden trails and scenic vistas on your way to some of Costa Rica’s most secluded beaches!
14| Partake in a Turtle Nesting Tour
Turtle nesting is a highlight for animal lovers, and Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world to witness this natural spectacle!
Turtles nest along both the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines. Of the world’s 7 sea turtle species, 5 can be seen in Costa Rica. These include Leatherback, Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, and Loggerheads. Each species has its own season and preferred nesting grounds. For this reason, you can observe turtles nearly year-round!
Tortuguero National Park on the northern Caribbean coast, Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge on the southern Caribbean coast, Ostional Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Grande just north of Tamarindo, Ballena National Marine Park along the Central Pacific coast, and Osa Peninsula are some of the hotspots to see turtles.
To protect the turtles, most turtle nesting sites require visits with a certified guide. The guide will take you on a nighttime walk on the beach to search for turtles coming ashore to lay eggs. While you’re waiting, you will learn fascinating facts about sea turtles.
Note: sighting is not guaranteed. If you’re lucky enough to encounter a nesting turtle, make sure you watch from a distance and don’t disturb it!
15| Learn Costa Rican Cooking from a Local Chef
If you think Costa Rican cuisine is all about rice and beans then you’re wrong! There are many other delicious local eats that people don’t talk about. Why not learn to cook these traditional dishes from a local chef?
When in Costa Rica, Kev and I took a cooking lesson at Casa Chameleon. We had the opportunity to connect with a Costa Rican chef who demonstrated 3 authentic Costa Rican dishes while we relaxed and enjoyed the feast! Now, we have a basic knowledge of how to prepare a Costa Rican meal, we are eager to replicate at home.
16| Go Underwater and Explore the Colorful Marine Landscape
Costa Rica not only has a rich biodiversity on land but also in the ocean! Thanks to the clear waters in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, you can spot all kinds of marine life underwater – from puffer fish, dolphins, to giant manta rays!
Kev and I went diving with Deep Blue Diving in Playa del Coco, Guanacaste and were amazed at the abundant schools of fish we saw. The marine animals were very unique, compared to other dive locations we had been to in the world!
Even if you don’t scuba dive, we highly recommended snorkeling. Popular locations to snorkel and scuba dive in Costa Rica include Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, Cahuita National Park, Cano Island, Catalina Islands, Gulf of Papagayo, and Golfo Dulce.
This list highlights all the activities we did in Costa Rica in November. With so many unforgettable things to do in Costa Rica, there’s no doubt your trip to Costa Rica will fill with fun memories!
Which activity are you looking forward to trying the most?
Disclaimer: This post is written in partnership with Asclepios, Finca Modelo Ecologica, Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, and 100% Aventura. As always, all opinions on For Two, Please are my own and I only recommend brands that I 100% stand behind.
Costa Rica really does live up to its name (rich coast). It’s so lush and perfect for the traveler that enjoys nature. I would love to do all the outdoorsy stuff and drink that lovely Arabica coffee every day!
Wow! There is so much to do in Costa Rica. I would love to indulge in those adrenaline rush adventures and explore the underwater life. Those rescued animals look so unique and beautiful. Staying in a cloud forest sounds interesting. Oh those hot springs I would so love to soak in them! Such a lovely place!
I LOVE Costa Rica! And whoa you did soooo much while you were there – I maybe did a quarter of these haha. My favorite was definitely ziplining in the cloud forests in Monteverde – such a crazy climate! Bookmarking this for my return trip forsure.
I really want to visit Costa Rica one day. It looks like the perfect destination for a cool adventure. I love waterfalls and your pics are dreamy. I would be very keen to do the waterfall rappelling – although it looks super impressive! I did abseiling in a waterfall once and found it super hard because it was slippery.
I love those blue jeans frogs but was never lucky enough to see one in the wild. You’ve made me want to hop back on a plane to Costa Rica and do some of the things I missed! The rappelling looks amazing!
Wow! Costa Rica is already high up my travel list, I think you might have just bumped it to the top! I don’t even know where to begin with which activity sounds the most fun. I love adventure stuff, so definitely white water rafting, the beach ATV and finding waterfalls would be up there. This is an awesome post, you must have had one hell of an amazing trip 🙂
To be honest, I was not very into Costa Rica but reading your post I kind of change my mind! I could do EVERYTHING from your list! From night safari to chasing beautiful waterfalls! So much adventure, exactly the way I like to spend my holiday! Hopefully one day!
My 10-y.o. son told me he wanted to go to Costa Rica to see this frog (maybe it’s the one in your post) and exploring the rain forest jungle. After reading your post, I realize there are so much to do and see in that country. I personally like the zip line and the tree climbing. I wonder why they’re not really rank high for country to visit if you live in the U.S.
The waterfalls, turtle nesting, hot springs, and beaches look amazing! Such fabulous adventures. I need to book several weeks for Costa Rica to see everything on your list.
I see why my friends who are thinking of moving to Costa Rica see. That hot spring is amazing and Costa Rican coffee is one of hubby’s favorites. And I love dart frogs. I know they are poisonous but they are so beautiful with all their brilliant colors. And those beaches and waters! I could just go on gushing over your photos and descriptions. Thanks so much for creating such a comprehensive guide.
Wow I can’t believe how many adventures you were able to pack into your time! Costa Rica is definitely an amazing place for the adventurous traveler. I love the idea of seeing the wildlife at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, walking through the hanging bridges, and then soaking in the Arenal hot springs to relax. 🙂
Costa Rica is indeed a pristine paradise. The stuff that dreams are made of. There is so much to see and experience there. One of the things I would love apart from trekking in the jungles of Costa Rica is discovering the hidden waterfalls. Sounds so thrilling.
I went to Costa Rica for the first time last year and can’t wait to make another visit. I would love to go to a Hot Spring. I am all for relaxing on vacay!! The Springs sounds amazing and the day passes are reasonably priced 🙂
So many things to do in Costa Rica! How long do you need to stay there just to do all those activities? I’d love to do the zip line through cloud forest and the cooking class.
Wow! These are some of the amazing things to in Costa Rica. The Wildlife at La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the safari sound so much fun. The cloud forest sounds dreamy indeed would love to visit.
Cloud Forest has won me over as, I have a fascination for white clouds and blue sky. Staying in cloud forest must be like stay in heaven. Even Costa Rica has many other interesting things to do like taking dip in volcanic springs, wildlife tour, with ziplining over cloud forests. Now I am adding Costa Rica to my wishlist.
Costa Rica seems like an exceptional place and a unique travel destination which I soon hope to cross off my bucket list, Cat! I would love to try whitewater rafting there. How many days would be enough to stay in Costa Rica to explore all of these adventures!
Wow!!! I feel like I’d need a few months to explore all the fabulous things you’ve found to do! I have toured coffee plantation in Costa Rica but didn’t get to see the volcanoes. I though about zip lining, but I think I’d really like to partake in the turtle nesting experience.
You convinced us. We’re going to Costa Rica… In two weeks. It was cool that you did the tree climbing tour. We had friends that went and said it was the highlight of their trip. I just love how much adventure is available in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has got to be one of the most adventurous places on the planet for sure. My favourite thing to do there was take a horseback ride through the rainforest and then end up in a mudbath!
What a wonderful and comprehensive post! There are so many wonderful things to do on your list, it makes me KNOW I need at least two weeks when I go to Costa Rica. From the night time walks, to doing cooking lessons with a local chef, to your scuba diving — I’d love to do them all!
That night walk through the jungle sounds incredible — poison dart frogs?! I had no idea sloths came out at night too! And I didn’t realize the diving off the coast of Costa Rica was so unique. Thanks for the tips!
This is such a great list Cat! I definitely want to visit when we move back to the States, so I’m bookmarking this to revisit. Your photos are stunning. xx
WOW! I got tired just reading about the great list of adventures you had in Costa Rica. We would definitely want to visit a coffee plantation. We are a bit of coffee snobs and always on the lookout for great coffee. We loved the colourful birds and frogs we saw when we visited Costa Rica. But I am not sure I would want to walk in the rainforest at night! I did not realize that Costa Rica was volcanic and had hot springs. Definitely a great idea for relaxing after a busy day. Costa Rica is definitely on our list for scuba diving. Thanks for sharing this great list.
Wow you guys have had a blast in Costa Rica! I went rappelling in Ecuador and seriously underestimated it. I don’t know that I’d do it again haha but ziplining and the cloud forrest sound up my alley!
Birds and the nocturnal tours would pull me into Costa Rica but the waterfalls, bridges and ziplining would be wonderful as well. I’ll just have to plan a long visit!
Costa Rica sounds like an adventure lover’s paradise! I’ve only been whitewater rafting once in my life, but it is was such a thrilling experience. I would love to try it again, especially if Rio Pacuare is one of the world’s best places to do it! The wildlife at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens looks amazing!! So cool to see these exotic animals close up. The Rio Frio safari also looks wild! I’ve always wanted to see a Jesus Christ lizard running on top of the water! A cooking class, snorkeling, and zipling would also be awesome. Thanks for all this awesome info on things to do there!
Costa Rica has so much to offer and we are going to love everything here. Esp. the Hummingbird picture is so so beautiful and colorful. Exploring jungle in dark and rappelling through the gushing waterfall is already giving me goosebumps. Walking through hanging bridges will be awesome. Soaking in hot springs to relax muscles will be just lovely.
There really is so much to do in Costa Rica! Turtles are very high on my list when I go later this year, I will also look into volunteering with them or doing something to help protect them too, it’s easy to forget how fragile they are when you see one!
I enjoyed Costa Rica. I definitely want to go back and do some things that I didn’t get to do. Beach hopping on an ATV sounds fun. I already got to do a horseback ride on the beach there. Cloud Forest sounds awesome and looks pretty. The volcanic springs sounds relaxing.
Costa Rica is such a magical place. I’ve been twice and I still haven’t done all the things I would love to do. I hope that I can return and do the cooking class, love learning about new cuisines.
This ia one of the reasons I love Costa Rica. Of all the countries, we had the most. Adventure in CR. There are soooo many things to do. It’s a nature lovers ideals vacation. I am glad to read about the cooking class. I didnt really enjoy Costa Rican food. But hoping to take a class next time. And that could change.
I really want to visit Costa Rica one day. This is such a great list Cat! I definitely want to visit when we move back to the States, so I’m bookmarking this to revisit. Your photos are so attractive.
Pingback: Two Weeks In Costa Rica: An Action-Packed Itinerary For First-Timers | For Two, Please
Oh I want to see the wildlife, visit the coffee plantation and stay in a cloud forest! I see why Costa Rica is so incredibly popular. It’s gorgeous and enchanting.
What an incredible itinerary! I’d love to see Costa Rica one day, and you’ve provided the perfect guide. Not sure I can stomach the treetop activity, but the Arenal hot springs, absolutely! I can’t wait to see this for myself one day.
I have noticed you don’t monetize your website, don’t waste
your traffic, you can earn additional cash every month because you’ve got hi quality content.
If you want to know how to make extra $$$, search for: Ercannou’s essential
Pingback: Sky vs...A Life Outside My Comfort Zone - Sky vs World
Wow! I am planning a 1-week trip but from the looks of your blog im going to need more time in Costa Rica! The blog was GREAT! Thanks so much for all the information! I’d really love to know the name of the secret waterfall!
Thanks again for all the awesome information
Pingback: 15 Dos and Don'ts When Planning A Trip To Costa Rica | For Two, Please
Love the info, currently in costa rica and looking to try them all … fingers crossed I have enough time.