Adventure Travel

14 Bucket List Things To Do in Costa Rica

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A couple of weeks ago I came to Costa Rica for a vacation, which was supposed to last six days. Well, I’m still here. Mainly because there is literally an endless list of things to do in Costa Rica.

Being here has made me want to share my experiences with everyone. Literally, I wish I could FaceTime the world right now (internet is limited here, or I probably would). Anyway, if you decide to make the trip, here’s your 14 Bucket List of Things To Do in Costa Rica

1. Catch a surf lesson.

I know, I know, but you don’t need one. Let me tell you, a lot of people get hurt that way out here. It’s worth spending the extra money to get a few great tips that will make your experience a helluva lot better. The best one in Tamarindo is Iguana Surf. Bonus: cute surf instructors.

Things To Do in Costa Rica

2. Take a national park tour and get a guide. 

A guide so you can spot the animals. We went to Manual Antonio and also Monte Verde. I’d say Monte Verde is the best. It’s got those core jungle vibes that you’re after. Manual Antonio is awesome  because it has a lively town and gorgeous beach, but it is not as dark and rainforesty as Monte Verde.

Things To Do in Costa Rica Manuel Antonio

This little lizard is doing his thing in Manual Antonio

If you do go to Monte Verde, be careful when you drive there. The roads are sketch. And you might want to bring a pancho.

3. Beach hop. 

Seriously. The beaches here are not all the same, explore a little. Here are few of the ones that I have been to.

  • Tamarindo. I live a 10-minute walk from this beach. Super cute surf town, great waves, lots to do, and there’s a big nightlife scene. There are always surfers on the beach, little bars and restaurants along the coast, and people selling mangos, jewelry, and drugs (so be careful). Reminds me of my days living in Breckenridge. You got your crazies, your hard core pros, people with tons of money, people with no money, friendly girls, sketchy dudes, vice versa, some families, tourists, Ticos (locals) and everyone in between. The water is light aqua blue most days.

    Things To Do in Costa Rica

    Tamarindo Beach on a hot sunny day

  • Playa Grande. This beach is super mellow and low key. Literally, you just drive up, park, and chill. No restaurants, no shops, nothing except beautiful coastline. Muy tranquilo.

    14 Bucket List Things To Do in Costa Rica

    Playa Grande

  • Playa Conchal. Super cute little beach in a nice part of Costa Rica. You don’t really go to this beach so much for surfing, but more so for building a campfire on the beach and chilling … can do a little swimming or snorkeling if you want.

    14 Bucket List Things To Do in Costa Rica

    Sunset at Playa Conchal

  • Jaco. This beach town is even bigger than Tamarindo, or it appears that way anyway. Similar in vibes, with super clear water. The nightlife in this town was fun. We went to a hole-in-the-wall bar, the bar tender did not understand that I was trying to get a vodka with club soda and a lime. So he brought just me all the ingredients separately, and I made it myself. Pura Vida. 
    14 Bucket List Things To Do in Costa Rica

    Relaxing on Jaco Beach

    Jaco Costa Rica

    Jaco as the sun sets

  • Hermosa. Think, black sand. When we pulled up, Red Bull was hosting a surf comp. Didn’t spend too much time here because the waves were way too huge (for me, anyway). If you are going to surf, and think that you are a pro surfer, then go here.

    Playa Hermosa Costa Rica

    Playa Hermosa’s got some big waves

  • Playa Avellanas. This is my #1 favorite surf spot. It’s about a 20-minute drive from Tamarindo, and it’s another one of those places that is just a beach in what seems like the middle of nowhere. There’s not many people here, so you don’t have to worry about running into other surfers on the water, and the waves are perfect for beginners to intermediate surfers.

    Playa Avellanas Costa Rica

    Playa Avellanas

  • Beach at Manual Antonio. Teal. Warm. Perfect. We went inside the park, took a tour, and at the end of the tour, the guide dropped us at this private beach. So bring your suit if you do go to the park. This was probably my favorite beach to swim in because the scenery is unreal.

    Manual Antonio

    Manual Antonio

I’m probably forgetting some.

4. Eat and drink the local food.

Because they’re awesome. These are my favorites:

  • Platano fritz. They are these cooked banana things. I have noticed a lot of people don’t really like them, but I can’t get enough of them. They come with all the traditional meals. 
  • Pinto. National dish of Costa Rico. Rice and beans and an egg. I’ve eaten this like 5 times since I’ve been here, and every time I do, I smother it in hot sauce. My guess is that I’ll eat it 25 more times before I leave. Breakfeast, lunch, dinner, this is what you eat here.
  • Drink Imperal (beer) if you are surfer. Pilsen if you are a cowboy. Apparently. Imperial is lighter, Pilsen is darker and has a higher alcohol content. I like both, which is frowned upon.

    Cheersin' with Imperial

    Cheersin’ with Imperial

  • Cafe chorreado. Holy shit this coffee is amazing. It tastes like chocolate and coffee but it is so smooth and light, and it doesn’t actually have chocolate in it — it’s just really fresh and made differently. I have mine with milk. Con leche por favor. 
  • Caz juice. This local fruit taste is not like anything you’ve had before. This fruit juice is crack.

5. Stay in hostels over hotels.

You’ll meet more people. Book them in advance.

6. If you are going to drive, drive in the night.

It’s faster. A lot of the cars here don’t really go fast, because, they can’t, and since there are less cars on the road, this is your best option.

Costa Rica - VIRTVE

It doesn’t matter how well you know me, I’m singing in the car.

Also, a lot of times renting a car is cheaper than taking the bus. Although, you can take the bus.

7. Buy some shit. 

  • If you are going to surf, buy a tight ass bikini and a rash guard. The waves will push your bottoms up your butt if you don’t. The rash guard is basically just a lightweight top that feels like second skin. I  think its function is pretty summed up in the name. I got a cute Volcom one that I wear everyday.
  • Sunscreen. All day erryday.
  • Bug spray. Lots of mosquitos here, and lots of ankle biters too.

8. See the sunset. 

Right now, it’s the the rainy season — even thought it doesn’t really rain that much. The sun, does go down, however around 5:45pm so the days feel like they go by really fast.

Tamarindo Beach

Sunset in Tamarindo. Don’t forget to breathe.

After working (I’m working remote right now on my computer), I’ll usually book it down to the beach to catch it. Then, darkness. And then …

9. Check out the stars on the beach. 

Keep your fingers crossed for a clear night.

10. There’s a lot of yoga here. 

Kaitlyn Schlicht

Namaste.

Do a drop in.

11. Go ziplining. 

I’ve gone a couple of times now. I went to Pura Adventura and also did a one-day combo tour called One Day Adventure Combo Guachipelin around the Rincon de La Vieja. This allowed me to go ziplining, take a dip in some fantastic hot springs, cleanse the body with a mud bath, and do some mellow tubing all in one day. And lunch was included, so it was a no brainer for me.

12. Hot springs, 13. rafting, and 14. mud bath.

One Day Adventure Combo Guachipelin

One Day Adventure Combo Guachipelin

I could go on and on, but I’m always curious to know what other travelers do too. What are some of your favorite things to do in Costa Rica?

Photos: Byron Vargas / @byreeze_

Always in search of worldly knowledge and broader understandings, Kaitlyn has been freelancing while traveling since 2015. She's passionate about digital content, being environmentally friendly, and surfing. 16+ countries and counting.