Costa Rica

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One problem with Costa Rica is its sometimes bewildering range of options. With a limited amount of time to spend in the country, should you pick Arenal or Monteverde Cloud Forest for an inland foray? On the coast, should you head to Guanacaste or Manuel Antonio? We can recommend some choices.

Things to do in Costa Rica


Loll about on one of Costa Rica’s pristine ocean beaches. The tourism board recommends 43 stretches of sand suitable for sunning; most lie on the western, Pacific Ocean shores, although six, including the near-perfect Playa Cocles, are found on the country’s Caribbean coast.

Playa Cocles, 866-267-8274 (tourism board),
Tags: beach | family | editor pick | things to do | outdoors

Cafe Culture

Play at being a native Josefino and grab a cup of locally-grown coffee and a bite at one of San Jose's trendiest cafes, the ultra-chic Café Mundo.

Café Mundo, Ave. 9 and Calle 15, 011-506-222-6190
Tags: things to do | culture


Costa Rica’s world-famous offshore reefs – particularly near remote Isla de Coco – are packed with colorful sea life for scuba aficionados. Book a 10-day trip from Puntarenas to Isla de Coco on the Okeanos Aggressor, part of the Aggressor Fleet.

Aggressor Fleet, 706-993-2531; 800-348-2628,
Tags: editor pick | things to do | wildlife | adventure | sports


With such a diverse selection of waters – countless lakes and rivers in addition to the Pacific and Caribbean coasts – Costa Rica is an ideal fishing destination. Fishing trip operators are legion, but we recommend Quepos Fishing, based in the popular Pacific Coast resort town.

Quepos Fishing, 800-603-0015,
Tags: things to do | fishing | adventure

Go to Isla Tortuga

This one-day catamaran excursion to Isla Tortuga may be touristy and pricey, but the picture-perfect island destination just off the Pacific coast makes the indignity of going along with the crowd worth it. Choose a weekday trip to have more white-sand beach to yourself.

Calypso Cruises, 800-887-1969,
Tags: beach | cruise | editor pick | smart splurge | things to do | tour

Museo de Jade Marco Fidel Tristán

View breathtaking displays of pre-Columbian artifacts at this museum housing the largest collection of jade in the Americas. Open 8:30am-3:30pm Mon-Fri; Sat 9am-1pm.

Ave. 7 (between Calles 9 and 11), 011-506-2287-6034,
Tags: editor pick | art | things to do | culture | history | museum

National Theater

This opulent theater modeled on the Paris Opera was built in San Jose between 1891 and 1897 with proceeds from coffee taxes. Take a guided tour of its lavish salons, savor a coffee and pastry in the café, or catch a performance by Costa Rica’s national symphony or opera company.

Plaza de la Cultura, Ave. 2 between Calles 3 and 5, 011-506-2221-1329, (Spanish only)
Tags: historic | theater | things to do | culture | tour

Pan-American Highway

Gutsy types might brave steep car-rental premiums and speed-demon Tico drivers to tour the country on their own via Highway #1, Costa Rica’s main cross-country route. You’ll traverse rain and cloud forests across valleys, mountains, and plains. A popular drive is the so-called Route of the Saints, a 15-mile, half-hour drive from Santa Maria de Dota to San Pablo de Leon.

Budget Car Rental, 011-506-436-2000,
Tags: things to do | tour | adventure

Rainforest Aerial Trams

Skirt the treetops via open-air tramway to get up close and personal with the flora and fauna (think colorful bromeliads and croaking tree frogs) of the tropical rainforest canopy. Pick from two tramways: one at Jaco on the Pacific coast, and the other, called the “Atlantic” tram, near Braulio Carrillo National Park outside San Jose.

, 011-506-2257-5961 (866-759-8726),
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | adventure


Hotfoot it to one of the country’s volcanoes, many of which – including Arenal, its youngest, and Irazu, its tallest – are still active. As many as eight such hot spots can be visited independently or on tours. If you have to pick just one, head to La Fortuna; nighttime displays of spewing lava are particularly spectacular. Fortuna Welcome runs guided tours to the area (

Ranger station; 2 miles east of Lake Arenal, La Fortuna, 011-506-2461-8499
Tags: editor pick | things to do | outdoors | tour | adventure

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