Costa Rica has won the world’s happiness index for the happiest country in the world several times, including in 2012, 2014 and 2016. It even ranked in the 2018 Gallup World Poll – a measure for self-reported happiness in each country – and Costa Rica scored 13th in the world, and first in Latin America. It is also the most popular country for ecotourism in the world. Those are just two reasons for the 50,000 United States retirees making their homes there. The country’s economic and political stability and affordable health care are also big factors. Many who relocate to Costa Rica do so to find a tropical paradise to call home. There’s plenty to do for when you get tired of too much relaxing on the beach, the weather is warm and nature is all around you! If you’re thinking about a trip to Costa Rica, or you want to suss it out as a possible new home, you’ll have some exploring to do first. Here are 5 things to do in Costa Rica before you make that choice.
Explore San Jose
San Jose is Costa Rica’s largest city, and also its capital city. It is the country’s economic and political center, and as such, is one of Costa Rica’s most important cities. It is also a great place to start your trip, because you can travel to volcanoes and beaches from its convenient location (it’s also where you’re likely to have flown in). Walk down San Jose’s Central Avenue to get a feel for the city life and local culture. You’ll see that the city livens up at around 4-5pm when the locals are getting off work. There are lots of shops and restaurants, as well as street musicians and performers. While you’re in the city, be sure to visit the National Theater for a tour of the historic architecture, the Central Market for trying lots of traditional foods, and take the beer tour! Costa Rican craft beer is a growing trend, and you can visit Costa Rica’s Brewing company to sample it.
Take Day Tours from San Jose
The capital city is located just an hour away from many of the things to do in Costa Rica. That’s why visitors choose it as a travel hub. You can go ziplining, hiking, visit a volcano, and much more! Check out Tortuga Island for gorgeous beaches and water activities, Rio Pacuare for whitewater rafting (one of the best locations for this in the world), take a coffee tour, and be sure to visit the Irazu Volcano.
Visit Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
This reserve is one of the most famous destinations in the country (maybe even in the world), and if you’re looking for things to do in Costa Rica, you’d be remiss to skip over the opportunity to see it for yourself. This forest is a must-see sample of the rich wildlife/biodiversity Costa Rica has to offer. The forest is located in the Northern Plains, about a three-hour car ride from San Jose. When you visit the forest, you will wander along hiking trails that wind through the 25,000-acre reserve. You’re likely to see some of the wildlife, including hundreds of types of tropical birds and thousands of plant species. There are hanging bridges for sky walks, and ziplining tours within the forest, and you’ll feel like you’re walking among the clouds. While this is a strenuous trek not meant for the faint of heart, it is an adventure you shouldn’t miss if you can help it.
Relax at La Paz Waterfall Gardens
These falls are located in the rainforest, where there are colorful orchids and butterflies, along with croaking frogs and spider monkeys, all under a leafy green canopy. Time at the falls is known to be a very peaceful experience, in which you can take in the nature around you. The entrance fee is steep, at about $40 USD, but those who visit the falls say it is worth every penny. You’ll find there are friendly and knowledgeable guides who can lead you along and tell you about the rainforest.
Admire the Arenal Volcano
Visiting this volcano should probably be nearer the top of your list for things to do in Costa Rica. That is, if the weather holds up. The Arenal Volcano is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and stands over 5,000 feet high. You can visit the Arenal Observatory Lodge for a great viewing spot. It is best to visit this location between the months of February and April for the best view, so that the volcano isn’t hidden under a thick layer of fog, but be warned that the weather can have a big impact on whether you get to see Arenal at all. You can hike the trails around the volcano on your own, or choose to go along on a tour to learn more about the volcano’s history and the wildlife that grows around it.
Things to do in Costa Rica
Of course, the list goes on, but these 5 locations will really give you a feel for what Costa Rica has to offer. Visit the capital city, and then dive into the biodiversity and ecotourism so that you won’t miss a thing.