Adventurous Things to Do in Costa Rica for an Epic Trip

Adventurous Things to Do in Costa Rica for an Epic Trip

April 9, 2021 8 By Kerry

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Looking for the Best adventurous things to do in Costa Rica? Look no further! Costa Rica is located in Central America and is a tourist haven for nature and animal lovers, as well as the more adventurous traveller. Ever seen a sloth in the wild? You will in Costa Rica. If you’d prefer some white-knuckle adventure and extreme thrills, kayaking and white water-rafting are just a few of the Costa Rica must do adventures.

Costa Rica has the perfect tropical climate that provides everything you need for an amazing vacation. This climate coupled with amazing nature is the perfect recipe for all the adrenaline filled activities you can experience!. It doesn’t matter how daring you are, there are many adventurous things to do in Costa Rica.

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Costa Rica is an travellers paradise for action packed adventure

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people that is always anxious and scared of things (especially heights!). However, I also know that if I don’t do it, I’ll look back and regret it.

Great things never came from comfort zones

Some of my most thrilling adventures came from my trip to Costa Rica. Now, some of that might have come from the fact I honestly thought I was going to die during some of these experiences. Then again, you don’t embark on these extreme ventures without kind of wanting to feel that way. It’s the unparalleled excitement we all crave that makes us do some of the craziest of things.

Don’t let me put you off, I feel like I’m about to die when I trip over (I’m tall and we land hard!). One thing I can say though is that all of the adventurous activities I did in Costa Rica, felt genuinely safe. In fact, it felt much safer than I’ve felt like in Europe where it sometimes feels that your money is valued more than your life.

The 5 top adventurous things to do in Costa Rica for the adrenaline junkie

If you’ve a bit of a dare devil and want an adrenaline fix from an experience you’ll never forget, check out the unique adventures in Costa Rica below:

  1. White water rafting
  2. Kayaking
  3. Zip Lining
  4. Canyoning
  5. Sky Diving

1. White Water Rafting | Adventurous things to do in Costa Rica

White Water Rafting was by far my favourite of the adventurous things to do in Costa Rica! Costa Rica has both the weather and landscape to make for a fantastic white-water rafting experience. The rain from the wet season in Costa Rica swells the rivers, enabling a steady flow and perfect conditions for white water rafting all year round. This makes white-water rafting, Costa Rica one of the best countries in the world for this adventure activity.

The best white water rafting Costa Rica

Costa Rica has several main rivers that all cater for white water rafting so it really depends on whether you’re looking for a certain level of rapid, or just want to try it out as you travel the country. Most of the best Costa Rica rafting is within the North Central Region or in relatively close proximity to the capital of San Jose.

This map displays the best locations for whitewater rafting in Cost Rica.
This Costa Rica white water rafting map is courtesy of ‘Enter Costa Rica’

Peñas Blancas River Rafting

Peñas Blancas provides more of a leisurely Costa Rica rafting experience which is more scenic and at a slower pace. This provides a better opportunity to spot wildlife such as monkeys, iguanas, birds and if you’re lucky, even sloths!

Balsa River Rafting

Basla River rafting Costa Rica has a mixture of calm, easy going waters and class II & III rapids. These rapids will give you a thrilling experience without being too intense. Perfect for a first timer or someone wanting to take in more of the scenic views. It is often one of the most popular rafting spot as it is close by the adventure capital of La Fortuna in the Arenal are of Costa Rica.

Toro River Rafting

Toro river rafting is for the adventurous, with rafts up to class IV. The word Toro means ‘bull’ in English, so as you can expect with something known as ‘bull river’, you will be gripping onto your paddle in this fast-paced, white knuckled adventure. Again, the Rio Toro is close to the adventure capital of La Fortuna area, so easy to get to.

Rio Pacuare River Rafting

Pacuare river Costa Rica is the river I rafted, which is one of the best white water rafting rivers in the world. It not only has class III and IV rapids, it also has tremendous scenery. Water is the highest between October to December, which means this will be the fastest (and therefore most exciting) time to raft. The views were stunning. Small waterfalls along the journey created the feeling of being immersed on a jungle escape. The rapids are challenging and there was a few moments we nearly flew out, but our perseverance and the skill of our guide, helped us through the day.  

You will be given the knowledge about the type of rafting you can expect in advance. An experienced guide will be allocated and will be the one steering the raft and helping to keep you safe.  The Pacuare river rafting tour will be hassle free as they include all relevant safety equipment, breakfast and/or lunch. You can also pay for the photos/videos that they take around the route. You can find out more about the prices and different options available here. The Pacuare River is seen as the best white water rafting in Costa Rica and is most definitely an adventurous thing to do in Costa Rica

2) Kayaking | Adventurous things to do in Costa Rica

When you think of kayaking, you might think of a lazy river type of experience and this might well be what you get. However, when I went kayaking, we’d experienced very heavy rain constantly and the rivers were much higher, faster and dangerous as usual. One of my kayaking trips was cancelled for this reason, but two others went ahead. One thing is for certain, don’t underestimate the skill/strength involved in kayaking, particularly on a challenging river. If you’re planning a kayaking trip make sure you pack the essentials.

Kayaking the Canals of Tortuguero

This part of Costa Rica is know for its turtle beaches and conversation areas so make sure to experience some kayaking while you’re there.

Kayaking here typically starts out on a large wide river where you leisurely navigate to beautiful canals. Expect to see a dense green forest canopy where you can take it slow and really enjoy the nature and wildlife. The water was flowing calmly and aside from the obstacles of hanging trees, branches and natural debris, this trip would suit someone with limited to no previous kayaking experience. I saw many monkeys, tree pythons and birds on this trip. It felt like I was in a movie, the views were that surreal.

Kakaying in Sarapiqui

Kayaking is a must do Costa Rica adventure. However, kayaking in Sarapiqui definitely is more challenging than other areas and required a much greater level of experience (which I didn’t have). We received general training on how to operate the kayak before we were let loose into the river, but the current was strong and required great strength to avoid the many large rocks, trees and rip tides that were thrown at you throughout the journey.

I capsized, not once, twice, but three times. Our guide even capsized and lost his kayak half way down the river (luckily the guide at the front managed to get it back for him). There were moments that I genuinely hated this experience (probably the times I had a face full of river water), but overall it was one of the best memories on my trip, no in fact, my life! The scenery was stunning and once you get the hang of how much thrust you need to give it to steer yourself from danger (without capsizing), it was immensely enjoyable. If you want adventure, then you will find it by kayaking Sarapiqui river.

If you’d like to look what kayaking options are available for your trip, click here.

3. Ziplining | Adventurous things to do in Costa Rica

There are a bunch of cool places to Zip Line in Costa Rica, as well as many different ways to experience the thrill of zipling. Even though I went to Costa Rica in dry season, it still rained heavy and a lot of other adrenaline experiences got called off. Not the Costa Rica zip line though! Providing it is not raining too heavily, the Costa Rica zipline is an all weather adventure.

Jaco Zipline | Rainforest Aerial Tram

If you’re looking more for a canopy tour in Costa Rica over a typical zip line experience, then head to Jaco Zipline on the pacific coast. Here you will experience the tree tops in a train carriage with the rest of your group. Imagine a jungle version of a cable car, only without the windows and much faster. The Canopy Tour Costa Rica gives you the experience of zip lining through the jungle but at a more leisurely pace where you can really take in the sights of the area.

Ecoglide Arenal Park | Best zipline in Costa Rica (in my opinion)

No trip to Costa Rica is complete without a visit to the adventure capital of La Fortuna. If you’re in the area then head to Ecoglide Arenal Park, which is think is the best Zip Line in Costa Rica. There are 12 cables, 13 platforms and the option of a tarzan swing, all within the rainforest of the Arenal Volcano. The Tarzan swing is fantastic, even if it will take all your courage to jump off the platform! It was a unique experience to get that ‘superman’ feeling, while gliding between one tree to another in such a beautiful rainforest. Better still, Ecoglide Arenal Park is the only place where you can Zipline Costa Rica at night. Take a look at other options on ‘Get my Guide’ for an idea of prices and availability.

La Fortuna Zip Line – Tarzan swing

4) Canyoning / Canyoneering | Top adventurous things to do in Costa Rica

Now this is an experience that will be heavily weather dependent. This is a good thing, the last thing you want is for the rocks / terrain to come loose while you’re canyoning! For those who aren’t familiar with Canyoning (or canyoneering), this is where you rappel down a canyon some incredible jungle waterfalls. This is for you if you enjoy hiking or abseiling or are just willing to try something new. The journey in getting to the canyons can be just as fun as the abseiling itself! Prepared to be taken on a rocky 4×4 adventure through the jungle before you get to your starting destination.

Canyoneering the Lost Canyon.

The Lost Canyon is an incredible canyon located in the Arenal area of Costa Rica (La Fortuna). You can expect to abseil several waterfalls ranging from 20-220 meters within the intense and vibrant rainforest. You will usually get transport and lunch included in your trip, as well as all the equipment and training you would expect. Look for reputable tour companies that will create an excellent experience for you.

Top adventurous things to do in Costa Rica - a group geared up ready to go canyoning in the Arenal area
Geared up ready to go abseiling down canyons and waterfalls

5) Sky Diving | Top adventurous things to do in Costa Rica

Whilst I didn’t have the time (or the wallet) to experience sky diving myself, if you want an unrivalled, spectacular view of Costa Rica, then consider sky diving. Whether it is your first time or you’re an experienced sky diver, you will have everything you need to experience the thrill of free-falling in Costa Rica. The best spot for skydiving is in the Manuel Antonio area. Gaze at the city sights as well as the lush green foliage of the Costa Rican rain forests. Sky Diving Costa Rica will certainly be one of the adventurous things to do in Costa Rica that you will never forget.

6) Surfing the Costa Rica waves

Another adventurous things to do in Costa Rica is surf. The best thing about surfing in Costa Rica is that the water is warm all year round. You will be able to experience surfing on most beaches across the pacific. I admired the waves from afar in Tortuguero and spent my time on the beaches looking for turtles. If you’re a beginner to Surfing, Costa Rica has some great (and cheap) options to learn:

  • Surf lessons in Tamarindo – Tamarindo is located in the North West, on the Pacific Coast and has beaches that are famous for their surf. Practice all the skills needed on the sand and close to the shore. If you’re travelling with a family then this is a good option for the youngsters too.
  • Surf lessons in Santa Teresa – Santa Teresa beach is a smaller beach located 150km west of San Jose. Experience the Pura Vida life. Similar to Tamarindo, you can expect excellent waves that will entice you to learn to surf in Costa Rica.

For a more inclusive experience consider developing your skills as a Costa Rica surf camp.

7) Diving or Snorkelling Costa Rica waters

If you’re heading to the beaches, then you will find many adventurous things to do in Costa Rica that involve diving or snorkelling. Costa Rica is famed for its various species of sea turtles! If you’re heading to Costa Rica in nesting season (Mar – Oct) you might be lucky enough to come face-to-face with one in the water. Tamarindo is a popular spot for snorkelling boat tours, as well as diving refresher courses. Take a look at all relevant tours and trips for ocean and sea-life lovers.

8) ATV Tours

You will be able to find ATV tours and similar type of excursions in most popular locations throughout Costa Rica. You can typically choose beach or jungle rides, so it just depends how adventurous you are. The key locations for ATV in Costa Rica are:

If you’re interested in Costa Rica white water rafting too, there are tours where you can book both ATV and rafting together! A combi is definitely a fun way to experience the adventurous things to do in Costa Rica.

9) Hiking through the tropical rainforests, mountains and volcano’s

Where can’t you hike? Hiking is something you can find everywhere in Costa Rica. It might not be the most adventurous things to do in Costa Rica, but it still is a fantastic experience. A lot of the activities I’ve already mentioned have an element of hiking included, but if you want longer, more strenuous hikes, then you will be able to find them in most popular destinations.  La Fortuna and Arenal will be your best bet – take a look at your options for guided hikes to see if there is anything that you fancy. Hiking will be one of the best opportunities for a Costa Rica wildlife adventure. Especially if you want to find sloths!

Adventurous things to do in Costa Rica - girl at the top of Irazu volcano balancing on one foot
Hiking to the top of Irazu Volcan Costa Rica

10) Explore the Costa Rica Rain Forest by Horseback

It’s one thing to do adventurous things in Costa Rica by foot, but how about you discover the tranquillity of the Costa Rica rainforest by horseback? There are two main locations you can do this unique adventure in Costa Rica:

Costa Rica Travel & Tours

I came across a lot of these adventurous things to do in Costa Rica whilst I was on the Costa Rica Kayaking Adventure tour from G-Adventures. If you’re interested in travelling to Costa Rica and want the stress taken out of your trip, then consider taking an organised group tour. The travel, accommodation, itinerary and a lot of meals are taken care of for you. Better still, you will meet other like-minded travellers that will become friends for life. Some of the other popular Costa Rica G Adventures tours are below, but there are many more to suit all budgets and interests:

If you’re going to make your own trip, then compare the best travel, hotel and car deals. If you’re looking to broaden your trip across Central America, then take a look at the best hostels in the Americas.

I hope that you have read this and feel inspired for your trip to Costa Rica. I strongly recommend that you head to Arenal, the adventure capital of Costa Rica. You can find out all about the things to do in Arenal, La Fortuna in my post.

Whether you’re taking an adrenaline filled holiday full of extreme activities, or taking it a little easier but still want adventure, then you will find the best adventurous things to do in Costa Rica.

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Tips for when you do adventurous things in Costa Rica

  1. Book in advance – these activities book up quick, therefore book early so you don’t miss out.
  2. Take a dry bag – a lot of the activities will provide these, however it rains a lot in Costa Rica and its always good to have your own for when you need it.
  3. Carry disposable ponchos – you might be lucky, but the chances are it will rain heavily at least once and it might be when you least expect it.
  4. Take extra clothes – it sounds obvious but you will need to change several times a day if you’re doing these activities. Don’t find yourself short for dry, clean clothes.
  5. Invest in a go-pro – while you can buy photos/videos of your adventurous activities, the costs soon rack up. Make your own memories with your own kit.

What do you think of the top adventurous things to do in Costa Rica?

Are you a seasoned adventurer, seeking out the next thrill or extreme activity? Or are you thinking of making the first steps towards some heart racing experiences? I’d love to know! Please let me know in the comments.

There’s so much more than adventurous things to do in Costa Rica, look at my full 10 day Costa Rica Itinerary, for more ideas.

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