Costa Rica is a bucket list item all in itself but this is the perfect Costa Rica Bucket List for you and your next visit to Costa Rica. From lush jungles to beautiful oceanside, you will find something on this list that speaks to your sense of adventure.
This Costa Rica bucket list has something for everyone. Whether you are a first-time traveler backpacking Costa Rica, a couple on a Costa Rica honeymoon, or a family heading on a summer vacation to Costa Rica, this bucket list is for you.
This Costa Rica bucket list includes unique things to do in Costa Rica, ziplining in Costa Rica, places to visit in Costa Rica, and more!
When we first visited we wanted to do as much as we possibly could but found that these 11 bucket list experiences in Costa Rica were the absolute best of the best! You can’t miss these when planning your Costa Rica vacation!
This post is all about the perfect Costa Rica bucket list that you have to try on your next trip!
COSTA RICA BUCKET LIST:
1. SEE WILD ANIMALS
You absolutely cannot miss the beautiful wild animals when visiting Cost Rica! They are one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, especially given their size. The best animals to see in Costa Rica are sloths, toucans, agoutis, monkeys, turtles, and iguanas. Most of our encounters with these gorgeous animals came completely randomly and we were just lucky to be keeping an eye out. We saw our first sloth in a traffic jam. It was trying to cross the street and a lady got out of her car and picked him up and moved him over to a tree. He was so cute!
2. ZIPLINE THROUGH THE TREES
Costa Rica is an adventurer’s dream! They have some of the best adventure sports around from white water rafting to bungee jumping or sky diving. They are most well-known for their ziplining. And for GOOD REASON! The landscape is so stunning in every direction and a zipline adventure is the perfect way to fly through the trees and see some spectacular views.
We did the Canopy Adventure Tour with El Santuario Canopy Adventure because they have the longest zipline in Central America. We’ve been ziplining a few times and this was our absolute favorite. Their longest zipline was over 4,300 ft (1,300 m) and lasted nearly 2 minutes! It was absolutely spectacular!
3. LEARN TO SURF
No Costa Rica bucket list is complete without surfing. They are one of the most well-known and popular surf destinations in the world. Missing out on a surfing lesson (even if you are a beginner, like us!) would be a shame! We tried our hand at self-teaching in San Manuel at Espadilla Beach. This was a great beach for beginner surfers as the waves were calm and it was relatively empty.
The best beaches for beginner surfers:
- Playa Tamarindo
- Playa Espadilla
- Punta Uva
- Playa Guiones
- Playa Jaco
> Book this gorgeous Playa Grande Surf Camp for all levels that we wish we would have done!
The best beaches for advanced surfers:
- Playa Tamarindo
- Playa Guiones
- Witch’s Rock
- Playa Santa Teresa
- Playa Grande
> For the advanced surfers, check out this highly-rated Witch’s Rock Surf Camp!
4. VISIT A CLOUD FOREST
Cloud forests are such a unique landscape where there is basically a magical forest that is perpetually hidden in the clouds because of its altitude and location. There are only XX cloud forests in the world and Costa Rica is home to a few beautiful ones. There are often hanging bridges, hikes, and even some adventure sports within the cloud forests.
> Check out the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve for some spectacular sights!
5. CHASE WATERFALLS
I promise you, you cannot go to Costa Rica and not go to at least one waterfall. You will be missing out. They are perfect to play in after a long, hot morning hiking or exploring. They often have some insane photo opportunities and good food and drink.
Best waterfalls to visit in Costa Rica:
6. SEE A VOLCANO
There are currently six active volcanoes in Costa Rica and over 50 dormant or extinct volcanoes. One of the most popular is Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna. Its stunning shape jets out of the horizon and offers stunning views from all around. There is plenty to do in and around Arenal Volcano but just finding as many unique and beautiful views of it was enough for us.
Best Ways to See Arenal Volcano:
- Arenal Volcano National Park Walk with Optional Hot Springs Tour
- Arenal Expedition Combo Tour – Safari Float, Waterfall, and Volcano Hike Tour
- The Arenal 1968 Park Trekking Tour
7. CROSS THE HANGING BRIDGES
Hanging bridges are quite popular in Costa Rica as they traverse some beautiful jungles with plenty of wildlife and beautiful scenery. We visited the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park and were lucky enough to have most of the park to ourselves. We spent the morning sheepishly crossing the wobbly bridges, searching for monkeys, and admiring the views of Arenal Volcano. It really was a magical experience. And we ended the morning with a picnic lunch at one of their picnic benches overlooking the valley and volcano, but the restaurant smelled absolutely divine.
> Book your tickets to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park in advance to ensure they don’t sell out!
8. SOAK IN NATURAL HOT SPRINGS
One of the coolest things about having a massive volcano so close to town is that there are plenty of natural hot springs to enjoy! The heat from the lava warms the water and is perfect for an evening swim. Many hotels in the area have built pools and pump up the natural hot spring water to them. They are honestly like hot tubs (although they have other cool pools, too) so we found that going in the evening or night is best since it is so hot during the day in Costa Rica.
These are the best hot springs in Costa Rica:
- Los Lagos Hotel Spa & Resort (pictured)
- This one is not advertised as much which means it’s less crowded and still beautiful!
- Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa
- The Springs Resort & Spa
9. DRIVE THE COUNTRYSIDE
We were so happy that we rented a car for our travels through Costa Rica because some of our favorite moments were just driving and looking around. On our first day in Costa Rica, we tried to drive to three different attractions around San José and they ended up all being closed because it was a Sunday. Even though we didn’t do anything we had planned, it was still such an amazing day because we drove through these gorgeous mountains overlooking insane valleys and volcanoes. The lush vegetation was everywhere and we even came across this beautiful waterfall by complete happenstance!
> We rented our car through Hertz Costa Rica and had an absolutely amazing time!
10. EAT IN A SODA
Soda’s are small cafés or delis that are ALL OVER Costa Rica. It’d be a shame if you didn’t try at least one! They are small, family-run shops that sell typical Costa Rican food and are absolutely delicious. You probably will need to know a little bit of Spanish to get by at these places but it was so worth it. We ate at El Angel Soda in Manuel Antonio and had a delicious fish dish. It was amazing and everyone was so friendly to us. Pick one that has lots of people or good reviews on Google! They really are everywhere!
11. WATCH THE SUNSET OVER THE PACIFIC OCEAN
We celebrated Nate’s birthday in Costa Rica (pretty epic, right?) and we were luckily in Manuel Antonio off the Pacific Coast. For dinner, we went to XX on the cliffside overlooking the ocean and the sunset was unlike any we have seen in a long time. The colors were absolutely stunning and water and rocks just set the perfect scene. It is a must for any Costa Rica bucket list, to sit and watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
> Book this gorgeous Sunset Catamaran Tour on the Pacific Ocean for the best views!