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Things to do in  Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica

Bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica spans just 170 miles (274 kilometers) coast-to-coast, yet contains six percent of the world's biodiversity. Postcard-perfect beaches; lush, protected rainforests; and a proud history of promoting conservation and eco-tourism have helped make the country a veritable paradise for active travelers and nature lovers—as well as Central America's top travel destination. Many tours begin in Costa Rica's "Golden Triangle" and string together the most popular destinations: Arenal Volcano National Park and nearby La Fortuna, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and Manuel Antonio National Park. In this region alone, there are enough outdoor activities to fill several vacations, ranging from ziplining through the rainforest canopy, to whitewater rafting, to rainforest safaris, and perhaps even a glimpse of the Arenal volcano in action. Many tours offer family-friendly options, and proximity to the Pacific coast makes it easy to include plenty of beach time. Off the beaten path, consider a private tour of Tortuguero National Park, a protected wilderness reserve and seasonal sea-turtle nesting ground that's home to monkeys, crocodiles, and more than 300 species of birds. If you have some time in San Jose, the capital offers a wealth of museums, including the National Museum, the Gold Museum, the Jade Museum, and the Children's Museum. Or tour the lively Central Market to shop for handicrafts. Everywhere you go, Costa Rica casts its spell—don't be surprised if you fall in love with the "pura vida" lifestyle and never want to leave.

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Top 10 attractions in Costa Rica

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
#1

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

While zip-line tours that take you swishing through the treetops at squeal-inducing speeds certainly have their charm, there are other ways to appreciate Costa Rica’s wondrous wilderness. Unbeknownst to most tourists, the life of the rain forest largely takes place overhead, in the thick jungle canopy of sunlight and opportunity. Most of Costa Rica’s birds, monkeys, giant anteaters, sloths, snakes and amphibians spend the better part of their lives in the distant treetops, far from the snapping cameras of junior photographers. The key to seeing these creatures (and getting the best shots) is ascending into the trees yourself. Hence these 16 elegantly constructed Arenal Hanging Bridges—some suspended high above gorges and others stretching far across jungle floors—that line the winding paths of this epic Costa Rican hike and stretch a total of 2.6 km (1.6 miles) across the steeply pitched landscape....
Rincon de la Vieja National Park
#2

Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Rincon de La Vieja National Park is one of the country’s most diverse ecological areas. Surrounding two volcanoes, Rincon (active) and Santa Maria (dormant), the park is also home to an extraordinary display of local flora and fauna, while being a part of the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste World Heritage site. While the plant life is impressive on its own, especially considering the enormous concentration of purple orchids here, it’s the concentration of volcanoes that really wows visitors. The Rincon de La Vieja volcano gave rise to the park’s name and contains nine separate but contiguous craters. It is one of the largest of the five volcanoes in the Guanacaste region and is believed to be over a million years old. Despite being considered active, it has not erupted since the early 1980s. The park does see a lot of volcanic activity, including vents, fumaroles and boiling mud pots and has at least 32 rivers that flow down its sides....
Tamarindo Beach
#3

Tamarindo Beach

Once the site of a quiet fishing village, Tamarindo Beach has become one of Costa Rica's most popular stretches of golden sand. Surfers travel from across the globe to ride Tamarindo's waves, but you don’t need to be a pro to hang 10 here. There are spots nearby that are calm enough for first-time wave riders to learn....
Braulio Carrillo National Park
#4

Braulio Carrillo National Park

The vast protected forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park may be divided by one of the nation’s busiest highways, but this just means easy access for travelers, as well as the possibility of picturesque views without ever having to leave the car. Lazy travelers can traverse the highway snapping photos of lush landscapes from the comfort of their car seats, while those eager to get back to nature can embark on one of the miles of trails leading to the waterfalls, open pastures and mountain stations that dot the rainforest. An Aerial tram on the eastern side of the park offers open gondola rides through the dense understory and canopy of the woods, where its possible to spot the sloth and other forest creatures that call Braulio Carrillo National Park home....
Jaco Beach
#5

Jaco Beach

Jaco Beach is known for its black sand beaches and close proximity to Costa Rica’s capital city. But it’s also widely recognized for its diverse landscapes, breathtaking beauty and endless options for outdoor fun. The vast shores and crystal blue waters attract as many out of town travelers as they do locals. Travelers can learn to surf, snorkel and swim in the clear ocean waters off the coast of Jaco. And those who want to experience the diversity of Coast Rica’s ecological landscapes can tour nearby Manuel Antonio National Park, the Carara biological reserve or the Damas Island Estuary. There are rain forest canopy tours, whale watching trips and beach side horseback riding adventures, too. Whether visitors are looking to unwind or eager to explore the shores of Jaco Beach offer the best of both worlds to travelers....
San Jose Central Market (Mercado Central)
#6

San Jose Central Market (Mercado Central)

The lively San Jose Central Market was founded in 1880. For free entertainment and a real taste of the local atmosphere, there’s no better place in the city! The market has more than 200 stalls, selling everything under the sun from souvenirs and cowboy boots to herbal remedies and handicrafts. Inside you’ll also find cafes and bars for a welcome break between browsing. Pick up some coffee beans for a tasty souvenir....
Selvatura Park
#7

Selvatura Park

Selvatura Park is a popular nature-adventure park in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. Located just outside Monteverde, the park contains over 850 acres (344 hectares) of ecologically diverse forest. Attractions include zipline and suspension bridge tours, hummingbird and butterfly gardens, natural history walks, and reptile exhibitions....
Venado Caves (Cavernas de Venado)
#8

Venado Caves (Cavernas de Venado)

These ancient caves were carved by tectonic movement and water currents passing over limestone for millions of years. Inside this deep network of tunnels, visitors will find stalactites, stalagmites, rock formations, and subterranean rivers and caverns. There’s also a chance to spot wildlife, including bats, fish, insects, and frogs....
Palo Verde National Park
#9

Palo Verde National Park

Set on the banks of the Tempisque River, Palo Verde National Park (Parque Nacional Palo Verde) contains more than 15 topographical zones, including mangrove swamps, evergreen forests, and tropical dry forests. The park is a haven for migratory birds, bats, and 250 species of bees, plus mammals like jaguarundis (cat) and howler monkeys....
National Theater (Teatro Nacional)
#10

National Theater (Teatro Nacional)

Perhaps the most famous (and certainly most prized) public building in all of San Jose, the National Theater of Costa Rica in the city’s Catedral district, is home to the nation’s cultural community. Classical music, theater and dance performances take place several times a week. And while it’s always worth catching a show, the theater’s traditional Renaissance architecture, breathtaking ceilings and grand interiors make it a must-see stop even if you can’t get tickets for the symphony. Free tours of the historic building, which was built in1897, take place daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and the theater’s highly regarded café with picturesque San Jose views, is a perfect spot to grab lunch before exploring the rest of the city....

Trip ideas

Top Hiking Trails in Arenal Volcano National Park

Top Hiking Trails in Arenal Volcano National Park

Where to Go Bird-Watching in Costa Rica

Where to Go Bird-Watching in Costa Rica

How to Spend 2 Days in San Jose

How to Spend 2 Days in San Jose

Frequently Asked Questions