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Costa Rica is an adventure playground. Hike the trails that weave through jungles, around volcanoes and along some of the world’s most spectacular coastline. Stop en route to see the exotic birdlife or soak in the hot springs. See turtles hatching and making their way to the sea or get that adrenaline rushing by rafting the rapids. This isn’t called pura vida for nothing. Here’s 10 things everyone should do on their first trip to Costa Rica.

Scuba diving in Cocos Island

The UNESCO Cocos Island lie 300 or so miles off the coast of Costa Rica and is undoubtedly the best scuba diving spot in the country. Huge schools of colourful fish dart around coral, while white-tipped sharks, manta rays and even whale sharks can often be seen. It’s best explored for a few days on board one of the many live aboard cruise boats.

Soak those weary bones in hot springs

Arenal Volcano is a marvel to look at. If you’re lucky, this active volcano often spits out lava which oozes down it’s slopes. This is particularly spectacular at night from the safe distance of your hotel as you watch the natural firework show. There is, however, another bonus to having the volcano. It’s geothermal energy creates bubbling pools, the perfect place to soak those weary bones after a long hike.

Horse riding to La Fortuna waterfalls

La Fortuna town nears Arenal Volcano in the centre of the country. Though the volcano is the star of the show, nearby La Fortuna waterfalls are also well worth the visit. Best reached by horse, the easy ride brings you in contact with plenty of wildlife from monkeys and coatis to toucans and hummingbirds.

Take a catamaran cruise

The waters of southern Costa’s Ricas Manuel Antonio National Park are paradisiacal. Picture postcard tortoise waters brimming with turtles, parrotfish and other exotic marine life. The best way to explore is by catamaran which stops frequently to give you time to snorkel and swim. If you’re lucky, dolphins are known to follow in the boat’s wake.

See the wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park

sloth manuel antonio costa rica

Flickr: Thowra_uk

Manuel Antonio National Park lies on the southern shores of the country. The lowland jungles are teeming with over 200 recorded species of birds and over 100 species of mammals. It’s the best place in the country to spot howler, capuchin and squirrel monkeys as well as sloths.

Surf in Playa Jaco

Surfing in Costa Rica is big. The year-round constant swells that hit the Nicoya Peninsula make it an excellent place for both beginners and pros. The white sandy palm-fringed beaches and good tourism infrastructure make it a good place to hang out for a few days, even when you’re not surfing.

Look down over Poás Volcano

A visit to Poás Volcano is best done as a day tour from San Jose or en route to your next destination. Located at a dizzying 9,000 feet above sea level, when you arrive it’s possible to hike around the rim of the volcano’s crater and look down into its bubbling active core.

Go whale watchingwhale watching costa rica

Humpback whales migrate through the rich waters between December and March. There are plenty of small boats offering trips out to get up close to these gentle giants. Best seen in Guanacaste, the Nicoya Peninsula or Osa Peninsula. Orcas and bottlenose dolphins are also a common sight.

Hit up the rapids

Get the adrenaline rushing by rafting down the Pacurare River. There’s almost 20 miles of rapids and cascading waterfalls, fringed by lush jungle. If you can take your eye of the rapids for a second, it’s possible to see monkeys, ocelots, parrots, toucans and sometimes even jaguars.

Observe nesting turtles

Turtles nest in many of the beaches of Costa Rica. Typically, the best time to see them is between July and November. They will emerge from the ocean and haul themselves up the beach where they will dig and lay their eggs. It’s a magical experience to see the young hatchings making their perilous journey along the beach and into the sea.

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