My visit to Costa Rica was an adventure binge. I set out to experience the rural areas of tropical rainforests, warm pacific beaches and authentic Costa Rican culture. I visited majestic volcanoes and flowing hot springs, hiked to natural waterfalls, fished with local fisherman, swam along the coast and zip lined through the lush canopy.
While the drive through Costa Rica was an excursion and bucket-list trip in itself, the activities in each city made the drive well worth the effort. Tourism companies offer the same activities throughout the country, which makes it tricky when deciding where to do what activities. Over-prepare then go with the flow is my motto when approaching this. I did my research before arriving in Costa Rica, but didn’t schedule reservations until there. I loved all of the activities I decided on, check out my Costa Rica excursions below.
Tabacon Grand Spa Resort Hot Springs
Fresh off the plane I traveled from San Jose to La Fortuna, home to the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna hot springs. There are a handful of resorts offering hot springs throughout La Fortuna, we selected Tabacon Grand Spa Resort, which was highly rated across tourism sites. The grounds are beautifully designed with an endless maze of hot spring pools tucked into a tropical garden. The grounds also offer a pool and bar area to their visitors.
On the way to Tabacon I stopped to admire the Arenal Volcano just off the side of the road.
La Fortuna Waterfall
Heading out of La Fortuna we stopped at the La Fortuna waterfall, one of the “must see” spots while there. The hike down to the waterfall leads visitors through the forest on a steep set of stairs, while offering lookouts with views of the falls along the way.
Although I’ve seen photos of people swimming the pool beneath the waterfall, it’s intensity and force during our visit made it difficult. The trek to the picturesque oasis is still well worth it.
Tamarindo is on the western coast of the country, boarding the Pacific Ocean. The town is known as a prime surfing spot with the best surfer friendly vibes in Costa Rica. Avoiding the touristy excursions, I opted for a relaxing beach day and surfing. The surfboard rental was $10 per person, there are plenty of surfers along the shore to rent a board from as well as lessons. Being that it looks so easy, I decided that lessons were unnecessary- after thirty minutes of surfing I came to the conclusion that surfing is much harder than it looks. I got my ass kicked. I still maintain that surfing in Tamarindo is a must, but purchase lessons if you’re not a strong surfer.
Private Boat Tour
Also in Tamarindo, I took a private boat tour through Discovery1. The boat fits up to ten people and includes fishing, snorkeling and tubing, as well as refreshments, alcohol and snacks. This excursion made our visit in Tamarindo; it is the best way to see the coast and the beauty of the surrounding areas. Our guide Willy, a Tamarindo local, sport fisherman and jack-of-all-trades was phenomenal. He set up four fishing poles for my group, patiently teaching us as we fished. I caught (taking all the credit) a huge 15 pound Mackerel which was an amazing first-time catch!
After gutting fish we cruised along the rocky cost of Guastasitino. The view was spectacular, showing off the natural beauty of the region spotted with shallow islands and lush jungle.
I explained to my guide that I was interested in snorkeling in the best area to see beautiful oceanic wildlife. After arriving at the location we jumped in the water (your guide is equipped to direct you need be). He patiently swam with us, making sure we were safe and comfortable, while also diving deep to the caves of the coral reef to retrieve puffer fish and starfish we would have not likely spotted on our own. It was one of my favorite excursions and experiences while in Costa Rica.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio is on the outskirts of Quepos and is known for The Manuel Antonio National Park and dreamy secluded beaches. Before entering the park we encountered rather aggressive local tour guides looking to sell their services, I characteristically said no so I could enjoy the park at my leisure. In contrast to what I was told by the tourism companies- animals were easy to spot throughout the park, even to the inexperienced eye.
We took our time enjoying the walk through the forest to the Manuel Antonio Beach. The beach itself is small but gorgeous. The water is a perfect blue and as warm as a bath.
Zip Lining, El Santuario Canopy Adventure, Manuel Antonio
I’ve had the opportunity to zip line while in the Philippines and Tulum, Mexico so I wanted make sure my experience in Costa Rica would offer something new and exciting. I chose El Santuario Canopy Adventure because they are the recognized as the longest zip in Central America, as well as being highly rated across the board. The only aspect that wasn’t appealing to me is that they don’t offer private tours; their tours run in groups at specific times so we were mixed with other tourists. Despite that one detail, my experience was fantastic. The guides were knowledgeable and upbeat, and they gave the option of soaring upside-down on two of the cables, which set this experience apart from all the other zip lines.