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200 Must-Have Experiences In Costa Rica (And Photos) In Honor Of Costa Rica’s Bicentennial

200 Must-Have Experiences In Costa Rica (And Photos) In Honor Of Costa Rica’s Bicentennial

Last updated on June 7th, 2022 at 02:08 pm EST

Happy Bicentennial Birthday, Costa Rica!

Costa Rica celebrates 200 years of independence today, and while Ticos nationwide partake in lively events with proud hearts, the day is also a time to reflect on what makes the country so well-loved. From a tourism perspective, there’s a lot that travelers can do, see, touch, taste, smell, and learn in Costa Rica, and each of these experiences provides a reason to visit. Consider two, ten, twenty, or all of the experiences listed below, and you’ll quickly learn how easy it is to love Costa Rica, not to mention how much you should explore the destination ASAP!

Below you’ll find a list of 100 Costa Rica experiences plus 100 related photos that we snapped from our own Costa Rica travels. Feel free to leave us a comment at the bottom of the list if you’d like more information about where or how you can have one of the experiences we mention.

Must-have experiences in Costa Rica

Nature experiences in Costa Rica

  • Explore the rainforest or cloud forest canopy while crossing a series of suspension bridges
  • Stand at the edge of massive craters that sink into the tops of active volcanoes
  • Rise early to hear the sounds of the rainforest or the cloud forest at dawn
  • Hike to and swim at a remote waterfall
  • Stand atop the Continental Divide inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
  • Soak in mineral-rich, thermal-water rivers and pools
  • Tour a national park
  • Camp overnight inside a rock beside a waterfall
  • Touch a mimosa pudica plant and watch its response
  • Take a refreshing dip in a tide pool
  • Go horseback riding
  • Head out into the forest after dark on a night tour
  • Marvel at rainbow-colored eucalyptus trees
  • Peer up at the giant trees that form the rainforest, especially century-old ceiba trees
  • Hunt (with a magnifying glass in hand) for some of the world’s tiniest orchids hidden in vast cloud forests
  • Feast your eyes on one of Costa Rica’s bright-blue-hued rivers (Rio Celeste and others)
  • Float down peaceful, slow-moving rivers in a canoe or a raft
  • Climb atop and around volcanic rocks that once erupted from the Arenal Volcano
  • Admire the unique structures of heliconias and bromeliads
  • Ride an aerial tram to capture a bird’s eye view of the rainforest or the cloud forest
  • Tour a beautiful, aromatic botanical garden
  • Rejuvenate yourself with volcanic mud at a mud bath
  • Plant a tree to help reforest the land
  • Eye and learn about the ingenious, ruthless root system of strangler fig trees

Adventure experiences in Costa Rica

  • Brave the white-tipped rapids of the Pacuare, Sarapiqui, Tenorio, Naranjo, or Savegre Rivers during a rafting tour
  • Zip-line through the rainforest or the cloud forest
  • Experience the added thrill of a Tarzan swing (controlled freefall) or a Superman cable (forward-facing zipline)
  • Hike to Costa Rica’s highest peak, Cerro Chirripo
  • Scuba dive among bull sharks and manta rays off the northern Pacific coast, or among hammerhead sharks off the central Pacific coast
  • Surf Costa Rica’s lineup of gnarly surf breaks
  • Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and explore Costa Rica’s canals, mangroves, or coastlines
  • Snorkel crystalline waters around Isla Tortuga or Isla del Cano
  • Hike to a mountaintop lookout
  • Complete an outdoor, rainforest-wrapped obstacle course
  • Try the new, adrenaline-inducing sport of waterfall jumping
  • Rent a mountain bike and pedal to hilltop lookouts with ocean views, or over mounds of volcanic rocks around the foothills of active volcanoes
  • Rappell down rock walls beside rushing waterfalls
  • Ride an ATV around off-road trails
  • Ride a waterside through the dry forest
  • Explore the hollows of the Terciopelo Cave inside the Barra Honda National Park
  • Have a blast tubing down a river

Bird, wildlife, and marine life experiences in Costa Rica

  • Spot the long, magnificent tail of a male quetzal, ideally as it floats through the air mid-flight
  • Stop and watch a sloth move around its natural habitat (spoiler alert: they’re not as slow as you might expect!)
  • Listen for toucan calls shortly after rainfall
  • Gaze at more than 40 species of jewel-toned hummingbirds gathered in one place
  • Marvel at the strength and teamwork exhibited by leafcutter ants as they travel down trees and across the forest floor
  • Watch speedy capuchin monkeys play among the treetops
  • Visit a wildlife rescue center to help fund wildlife rehabilitation projects
  • Listen to the delightful, symphonic trill of Costa Rica’s range of songbirds
  • Watch caimans and crocodiles bask on riverbanks
  • Spy on colorful scarlet macaws and rare great green macaws snacking on almonds
  • Watch a humpback whale breach off the Pacific coast, ideally from a boat as part of a scuba diving, snorkeling, or whale-watching tour
  • Listen to howler monkeys define their territories with raw, bellowing calls
  • Search for dart frogs around the forest floor
  • Watch sea turtles bury their eggs on beaches, or visit a waterfront turtle hatchery
  • Eye the shimmer of a magnificent blue morpho butterfly
  • Watch playful dolphins leap joyously over waves as you sail past them on a catamaran/boat tour
  • Search for tapirs, jaguars, and other elusive species deep in the jungle
  • Gaze at resident and migratory waterbirds as they gather in groups among Costa Rica’s wetlands

Cultural experiences in Costa Rica

  • Pick coffee beans at a small-scale, family-run organic coffee farm
  • Attend a local futbol game, ideally one played at the National Stadium in San Jose
  • Taste natural cacao at a cacao farm before it’s processed and becomes chocolate
  • Attend a local civic festival where you can eat fair food, witness bull-riding, and experience other events
  • Sign-up for a cooking class or a dance lesson
  • Play the Costa Rican lottery, ideally “El Gordo” if you plan to visit at the end of the year
  • Witness and learn about precious petroglyphs inside national monuments
  • Taste delicious Jamaican-inspired food, dance to calypso and reggae music, and get to know Costa Rica’s Afro-Costa Rican population who enliven the Caribbean coast
  • Practice Spanish with locals, especially the phrase “Pura vida!”
  • Purchase indigenous artwork, ideally directly from an indigenous artist, an indigenous community, or a fairtrade shop that has close ties to indigenous populations in Costa Rica
  • Extract sweet liquid from sugarcane at a trapiche (sugarcane mill)
  • Tour Costa Rica’s National Theater
  • Listen to music that features the marimba—Costa Rica’s national instrument
  • Check out local street art
  • Donate in-demand supplies to a local school or resource center
  • Learn how traditional oxcarts are built and decorated
  • See and learn about pre-Columbian artifacts on display inside the Gold Museum, the Jade Museum, and other museums in Costa Rica
  • Admire the beautiful architecture and design of ornate churches
  • Visit and learn the history of ancient ruins
  • Carry a farole (lantern) through the streets in the evening on September 14th alongside other Costa Ricans celebrating the near arrival of their nation’s birthday (September 15th)
  • Attend an Independence Day parade (September 15th)

Food and drink experiences in Costa Rica

  • Dine at a local soda restaurant, ideally one with a buffet bar so you can try a variety of new foods
  • Prepare coffee in a traditional chorredor
  • Indulge in a naturally sweet and refreshing tropical fruit smoothie
  • Order a vigoron from a street vendor (Puntarenas area) or a bowl of ceviche (served nationwide) from a restaurant or a beach vendor
  • Taste the beloved, tangy condiment known as Salsa Lizano
  • Fish for your own trout and have it for dinner
  • Treat yourself to a sweet, chilly churchill (Puntarenas area) or copo (served nationwide)
  • Sip subtly sweet coconut water from a chilled pipa
  • Try unfamiliar fruits like mamon chinos or manzanas de agua, which can be purchased at grocery stores, farmer’s markets, or from street vendors

Other experiences in Costa Rica

  • Sunbathe on glorious beaches
  • Practice responsible travel by staying at eco-friendly accommodations, supporting businesses that work toward sustainable tourism, and finding other ways to reduce your carbon footprint while abroad
  • Rent a car and explore Costa Rica’s bucolic backroads at your own pace
  • Snooze in a hammock
  • Stay at a hostel, ideally one in a coastal community with a lively vibe
  • Volunteer your time in Costa Rica or financially support local initiatives
  • Walk around town centers to get to know destinations from a local perspective
  • Ride the local bus
  • Check out Costa Rica’s nightlife in San Jose, Playas del Coco, Tamarindo, Jaco, Quepos/Manuel Antonio, or Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
  • Take a domestic flight so you can witness Costa Rica’s stunning landscape from above
  • Ride the ferry that travels between Puntarenas and port communities on the Nicoya Peninsula, taking in panoramic views of the calm Nicoya Gulf and its collection of islands along the way

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: What are your must-have experiences in Costa Rica?

Pura vida!

Nikki’s pick:

“The sky tram ride!”

Ricky’s pick:

“The hummingbirds!”

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200 Must-Have Experiences In Costa Rica And Photos (In Honor Of Costa Rica's Bicentennial)
Article Name
200 Must-Have Experiences In Costa Rica And Photos (In Honor Of Costa Rica's Bicentennial)
In honor of Costa Rica's bicentennial (200-year) birthday, we compiled 100 photos and 100 top experiences to have in Costa Rica. Enjoy, amigos!
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The Official Costa Rica Travel Blog
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