Top 10 things to do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Since the late 1980s Costa Rica has been a popular nature travel destination, with plenty of national parks to explore.

Costa Rica is a country.

Costa Rica (i/ˌkoʊstə ˈriːkə/, "rich coast" in Spanish), officially the Republic of Costa Rica (Spanish: Costa Rica or República de Costa Rica, pronounced: [reˈpuβlika ðe ˈkosta ˈrika]), is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 4.5 million, of whom nearly a quarter live in the metropolitan area of the capital and largest city, San José.

Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous people before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the short-lived First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the United Provinces of Central America, from which it formally declared sovereignty in 1847. Since then, Costa Rica has remained among the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. Following a brief but bloody civil war, it permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming the first of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army.

Costa Rica has consistently performed favorably in the Human Development Index (HDI), placing 62nd in the world as of 2012, among the highest of any Latin American nation. It has also been cited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as having attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels, with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region. Its rapidly developing economy, once heavily dependent on agriculture, has diversified to include sectors such as finance, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism.

Costa Rica is known for its progressive environmental policies, being the only country to meet all five criteria established to measure environmental sustainability. It is ranked fifth in the world, and first among the Americas, in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index. It was twice ranked the best performing country in the New Economics Foundation's (NEF) Happy Planet Index, which measures environmental sustainability, and identified by the NEF as the greenest country in the world in 2009. In 2007, the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021, while in 2012, Costa Rica became the first country in the Americas to ban recreational hunting.

Overall rating: 4.7
Country
Typical length of visit: 4 days

Top 10 things to do in Costa Rica

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna is the name of a district and a small city located in San Carlos, in the province of Alajuela, Costa Rica.Originally called "El Burío", La Fortuna was founded ...

Liberia

Liberia
Liberia i/laɪˈbɪəriə/, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast to its east. ...

Palo Verde National Park

Palo Verde National Park
The Palo Verde National Park, in Spanish Parque Nacional Palo Verde is a National Park of Costa Rica, part of the Tempisque Conservation Area, that contains much of the area ...

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park, in Spanish Parque Nacional Volcán Rincón de la Vieja, is a National Park in Guanacaste Province of the northwestern part of Costa Rica.It ...

Jacó

Jacó
Jacó is a resort city on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in Central America. Located in the county of Garabito in the Puntarenas province. The city has a population ...

Quepos

Quepos
Quepos is the capital of Aguirre canton in Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica. The town is about 60 km. south from Costa Rica's capital, San José, but is 157 km from that city ...

Limón

Limón
Puerto Limón, commonly known as Limón , is the capital city and main hub of Limón province, as well as of the cantón of Limón in Costa Rica. It has ...

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a coastal town in Talamanca in Limón Province in southeastern Costa Rica, known simply as Puerto Viejo to locals. The town was originally called Old ...

San José

San José
San José or San Jose is Spanish for Saint Joseph. It usually refers to:San Jose, California, a city in the United StatesSan José, Costa Rica, the capital of Costa RicaSan ...

Monteverde

Monteverde
Monteverde, Costa Rica is a small town in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, located in the Cordillera de Tilarán. Roughly a four hour drive from the Central Valley, Monteverde is considered a ...

Uvita

Uvita
Uvita Island, or Isla Uvita , officially Isla Quiribrí, is a small island 885 metres offshore of the port at Limón on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The island is ...

Turrialba

Turrialba
Turrialba is a small city in Cartago Province of Costa Rica with an estimated population of 35,618. The main industries are textiles, agriculture and tourism. The Pacuare and Reventazón Rivers ...

Cartago

Cartago
Cartago is the name of at least three different places:Cartago Province, Costa RicaCartago, Costa Rica, capital of the province of CartagoCartago, Valle del Cauca, ColombiaCartago, California, United StatesCartago, phoenician colony ...

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is a Wildlife refuge, part of the Arenal Huetar Norte Conservation Area, in the northern part of Costa Rica twenty kilometers south of Los Chiles near ...

Cahuita

Cahuita
Cahuita is a small city located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.Cahuita is located in the Talamanca Canton of Limón Province. Cahuita is the capital of the Cahuita District. ...

Heredia

Heredia
Heredia may refer to:EtymologyHeredia Geography and scienceHeredia, Costa Rica is a city in north-central Costa Rica, the capital of Heredia Canton and Heredia ProvinceHeredia ...

Puerto Jiménez

Puerto Jiménez
Puerto Jiménez is the largest town on the Osa Peninsula, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica with a population of 1,780. Located on the Golfo Dulce near Corcovado National Park, it is ...

Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano National Park is a Costa Rican national park in the central part of the country, forming the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area. The park encompasses the Arenal Volcano, which ...

Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí

Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí
This article is for the town in northeast Costa Rica. For the coastal town in southeast Costa Rica, see Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, known to locals as ...

Carara National Park

Carara National Park
Carara National Park is a national park in the Central Pacific Conservation Area located near the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It was established on April 27, 1978 as a ...

Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park is a 2,711-acre national park in the Caribbean La Amistad Conservation Area of Costa Rica located on the southern Caribbean coast in Limón Province, connected to the ...

Atenas

Atenas
Atenas is the capital city of the canton of Atenas in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the distrito that includes the city.The ...

San Lucas Island

San Lucas Island
San Lucas Island is an island located off the Pacific shore of Costa Rica in the Gulf of Nicoya. It is part of the 11th district of Puntarenas Canton of ...

Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal
Lake Arenal is an artificial lake in Costa Rica, located in the northern highlands of the country. It was enlarged to its present size as a part of a 1979 ...

Sámara

Sámara
Sámara, situated along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica's Guanacaste Province, has long been a favorite vacation spot for both Costa Ricans and foreigners. The town has approximately 1500 full-time ...

Cocos Island

Cocos Island
Cocos Island is an island designated as a National Park off the shore of Costa Rica, that does not allow inhabitants other than Costa Rican Park Rangers. It constitutes the ...

San Ramón, Costa Rica

San Ramón, Costa Rica
San Ramón is a city in the canton of San Ramón in Alajuela Province in Costa Rica. The central municipality of San Ramón covers an area of 1.29 km2, and has ...

Barra Honda National Park

Barra Honda National Park
Barra Honda National Park is a national park in the western part of Costa Rica, which forms part of the Tempisque Conservation Area about 12 km from the Tempisque River. It ...

Nosara

Nosara
Nosara is a city in the Nicoya canton, Guanacaste province of Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast.Geography and demographicsDespite the Nicoya peninsula being one of the last ...

Playas del Coco

Playas del Coco
Playas del Coco is one of the oldest beach communities in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. This area is also one of the fastest growing areas of tourism in Costa Rica. ...

Alajuela

Alajuela
Alajuela is the second-largest city in Costa Rica after the capital, San José. It is also the capital of Alajuela Province.Because of its location in the Costa Rican Central Valley, ...

Grecia, Costa Rica

Grecia, Costa Rica
Grecia is the capital city of the canton of Grecia in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the distrito that includes the city. ...

Orosí

Orosí
Orosi is a town in the Cartago Province in Costa Rica, about 35 kilometers south of the capital San José. Orosi is situated on the Reventazón River in the Orosi ...

Orotina

Orotina
Orotina is the capital city of the canton of Orotina in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the distrito that includes the city. ...

Sarchí

Sarchí
Sarchí is the capital city of the canton of Valverde Vega also known as Sarchí in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica.The district of Sarchí covers an area of ...

Guanacaste National Park

Guanacaste National Park
Guanacaste National Park may mean:Guanacaste National Park in BelizeGuanacaste National Park in Costa Rica ...

Poás Volcano National Park

Poás Volcano National Park
Poás Volcano National Park, in Spanish Parque Nacional Volcán Poás, is a National Park in Costa Rica that covers an area of approximately 65 square kilometres ; the summit is ...

Siquirres

Siquirres
Siquirres is the capital of the canton of Siquirres in Limón Province in Costa Rica. It is a center of commerce and has most of the services for the area's ...

Escazú

Escazú
Escazú, officially San Miguel de Escazú, is the capital city of the canton of Escazú in the province of San José in Costa Rica. It is also the name of ...

La Amistad International Park

La Amistad International Park
The La Amistad International Park, or in Spanish Parque Internacional La Amistad, formerly the La Amistad National Park, is a Transboundary Protected Area in Latin America, management of which is ...

La Selva Biological Station

La Selva Biological Station
La Selva Biological Station is a protected area encompassing 1,536 ha of low-land tropical rain forest in northeastern Costa Rica. It is owned and operated by the Organization for Tropical ...

Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa National Park
Santa Rosa National Park, in Spanish the Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, is a national park, in Guanacaste Province, northwestern Costa Rica. It was the first national park established in Costa ...

Lake Cachí

Lake Cachí
Lake Cachi is an artificial lake in central Costa Rica created by the Cachí Dam , an arch dam which is located north of Tapantí National Park, to the east-southeast ...

Zarcero

Zarcero
Zarcero is the capital city of the canton of Zarcero in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the distrito that includes the city. ...

Bagaces

Bagaces
Bagaces is a town in the canton of Bagaces in the province of Guanacaste in Costa Rica.It is the administrative seat of Bagaces District. The town lies along the Pan-American ...

Cañas

Cañas
Canas or Cañas may refer to:People:Alberto Cañas Escalante, Costa Rican politicianAntonio José Cañas, Salvadoran military officer, diplomat and politicianCarlos Cañas, Salvadoran painterGuillermo Cañas, Argentinian professional tennis playerJorge Cañas, Salvadoran footballerJosé ...

Pre-Columbian Gold Museum

Pre-Columbian Gold Museum
The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum is a museum in San José, Costa Rica. It is located in a subterranean building underneath the Plaza de la cultura and is managed by the ...

National Theatre of Costa Rica

National Theatre of Costa Rica
The National Theatre of Costa Rica is the national theatre of Costa Rica. It is located in the central section of San José, Costa Rica. Construction began in 1891, and ...

Chato Volcano

Chato Volcano
Chato Volcano, sometimes called "Cerro Chato" , is an inactive volcano in north-western Costa Rica north-west of San José, in the province of Alajuela, canton of San Carlos, and district ...

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is the national museum of Costa Rica, located in the capital of San José. It is located at Calle 17, between Central and Second ...

La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica

La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica
La Fortuna Waterfall is located in central Costa Rica, in the Alajuela Province. In Spanish, it is known as Catarata Fortuna. The waterfall drops about 70−75 meters and is located ...

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano, in Spanish Volcán Arenal, is an active andesitic stratovolcano in north-western Costa Rica around 90 km northwest of San José, in the province of Alajuela, canton of San Carlos, ...

Central America Volcanic Arc

Central America Volcanic Arc
The Central America Volcanic Arc is a chain of volcanoes which extends parallel to the Pacific coast line of the Central American Isthmus, from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa ...

Museum of Contemporary Art and Design

Museum of Contemporary Art and Design
The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design , founded in 1994, is a Costa Rican museum, specialising in contemporary Central American art and design, but also representing international work in ...

Costa Rican Center of Science and Culture

Costa Rican Center of Science and Culture
Centro Costarricense de la Ciencia y la Cultura is a science and culture museum complex in Costa Rica. Located in a fortress-like building that once served as the central penitentiary ...

Celeste River

Celeste River
Celeste River is a river in Tenorio Volcano National Park of Costa Rica. It is notable for its distinctive turquoise coloration. The Celeste River also borders several hot springs and ...

San José Costa Rica Temple

San José Costa Rica Temple
The San José Costa Rica Temple is the 87th operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints .The church's First Presidency announced on March 17, 1999 ...

San Jose

San Jose
San José or San Jose may also refer to: ...