What to do in Costa Rica: from beaches to volcanoes

waht to see in Costa Rica

Costa Rica and Panama have more than their fair share of paradise. From the beaches of Guanacaste to the rainforests and jungles inland, there is so much to see and do in Costa Rica. It is one of the few remaining paradises, where untouched landscapes meet tropical beaches. The terrain is dramatic, with forests, coastal routes, and mountains. However, with so much to see and do in Costa Rica, it can be difficult to decide. Here we have compiled a list of the top activities to do in this beautiful country.

Must see and do in Costa Rica

Downtown San José

You do not need to spend a lot of time in the capital city, considering what else there is to see in Costa Rica. One or two days usually suffice but you can, of course, stay longer. San José has become quite cool in recent years and is very welcoming of tourists.

There is plenty of culture and history, so you will never be short of something to visit. It is highly recommended to spend some time walking through the streets of San José. You can see some very colourful neighbourhoods, including the main shopping street of Avenida Central. As the name suggests, this is where the majority of shops, museums, and restaurants are located.

If you are looking for museums to visit, then the National Museum is a sure bet. This details much of Costa Rica’s history, from its origins to the present day. It is one of the more interesting places to see in Costa Rica, due to the artifacts on display. The National Theater is also worth seeing in San José, due to its opulent facade. Taking several European styles and combining them to make something quite spectacular, the theatre should definitely make your travel list.

The architecture of the city clearly demonstrates European influences, from the National Theater to the vast array of museums. If the architecture piques your interest, you can also see Casa Amarilla. This is one of the more interesting things to do in Costa Rica, as you can see the colonial influences in the building. You can also find a rather curious piece of the Berlin Wall in the garden.

There is also a rather large tree in front of the building, which was planted by none other than John F Kennedy. The building is not open to visitors as it is now home to the ministry of foreign affairs. The city, whilst being large and crowded, also has plenty of spaces where you can breathe. The Parque Metropolitano La Sabana is an enormous green space and has plenty of paths and lawns where you can stop to people watch.

Visit Drake Bay

Thanks to the tropical climate and it’s stunning coastline, Costa Rica has plenty of coves and bays that are worth visiting. The most famous of these is Drake Bay. This is actually located in one of the more isolated parts of Costa Rica but is well worth the trip there. If you love nature and are looking for something relaxing, Drake Bay will have plenty to offer. In fact, the bay is the must do in Costa Rica, if you need something a little quieter and off the beaten track.

Here you can try your hand at scuba diving, as the bay has built its reputation on offering some of the best diving in Costa Rica. From here, you can head out to the island of Cano, thirteen kilometres from the coast. This a protected marine site, where it is illegal to fish.

There are plenty of opportunities to see marine life up close, including rarer fishes and corals. If you are lucky, you can also see the migration of humpback whales if you time your visit correctly. You may want to venture away from the beach at some point, so it is highly recommended that you visit La Llorona waterfalls or the Osa wildlife sanctuary. These are beautiful to visit and a real treat to do in Costa Rica.

Arenal volcano, what you really want to see in Costa Rica

The majority of tourists who visit Costa Rica do so to see the Arenal volcano. It is still extremely active and extremely high. It is currently non-active and has been for the last eight years. However, before that, it routinely destroyed villages nearby.

It still remains a real highlight of what to visit in Costa Rica. To make your trip a little safer, the best place to view the volcano is from the observatory lodge. This will allow you to see the volcano up close, without the danger. Depending on the weather, you should be able to see better during early spring. You can access the volcano from Fortuna village, the closest town. Buses or private guides can take you to the observatory. Of course, Exoticca can help you to book this in advance.

For those who are a little more adventurous, you can try ziplining which takes you directly over the tree canopy. If this does not tickle your fancy, there are plenty of bridges and walkways which allow you to see the Arenal volcanic area.

There are often tours which provide informative talks on the wildlife of this region, which is one of the cooler things to do in Costa Rica. You can begin to appreciate the might and majesty of the volcano and the variety of animal and plant life around it. There are also hot springs, due to the volcanic activity in the area, if you fancy something altogether more relaxing.

Corcovado National Park

Again, this is another must see in Costa Rica. This is the typical image of Costa Rica that remains in people’s minds when they think of the country. The stretch of land that is the Corcovado National Park contains a spectacular amount of wildlife. This can include but is not limited to tapirs, jaguars, spiders, howler monkeys and all types of birds and insects. The earlier you visit, the more likely it is that you will see something but really, you can expect to stay up to three days here.

There are also plenty of beaches nearby as the park is located close to the South Pacific coast. So, it might be worthwhile combining two trips in one and making time for some R&R too. Arranging a guide in the park is possible, but it is also completely safe to walk at will. Obviously, it is wise to remain cautious around the wildlife as these are animals in their natural habitat. However, you can be sure that this is an opportunity not to be missed in Costa Rica.


This might be just what you imagined when you began thinking about what to see in Costa Rica. Miles and miles of uninterrupted shorelines and crystal clear waters for as far as the eye can see. However, it is not just the beaches that make this a must-visit. There are volcanoes which flank the beaches on one side and the Santa Rosa National Park to the other. This is a historical and cultural must in Costa Rica, as it preserves the site of the 1856 Battle of Santa Rosa. I

f you want to explore Costa Rican local culture a little further, then you can visit towns that have cowboys. This is unique to the area and still exists today. The Rincon de la Vieja National Park is also a real draw, as it has volcanic hot springs and some stunning waterfalls. Of course, it is more than acceptable to kick back and relax on the flawless beaches. The most famous of these is Playa Carrillo, which is completely unspoiled. Surrounded by palm trees, you can feel as if you have stepped straight from your normal life into paradise.

More to do in Costa Rica

There is plenty more to see and do in Costa Rica. You might want to visit an animal sanctuary, of which there are many. One of the best is the Jaguar Rescue Centre, although it does not house jaguars but rather wildcats, owls, monkeys, parrots, and other native wildlife. Another exciting thing to do in Costa Rica is to visit one of the many waterfalls.

El Chorro is the most famous, with a beautiful beach nearby, thanks to it’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean. There is also the Rio Celeste waterfall, which has a beautiful turquoise colour thanks to its chemical makeup.

For more information on trips to Costa Rica, please visit Exoticca.

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