Best Things to Do In Costa Rica

Best Things to Do In Costa Rica

Costa Rica has no shortage of adventure activities, and you can do nearly any of them year-round By: Mindy Poder
Ziplining is a year-round activity in Costa Rica. // © 2013 Thinkstock
Ziplining is a year-round activity in Costa Rica. // © 2013 Thinkstock

Costa Rica has no shortage of adventure activities, and you can do nearly any of them year-round. But there are certain things that every travel agent selling Costa Rica needs to know. For example, different times of the year cater to different skill levels. Particular regions are better for certain activities, and each activity offers its own unique experience with Costa Rica’s gorgeous surroundings. Costa Rica experts share their favorite adrenaline-pumping ways to explore different parts of the country.

An ex-pat from Texas, Brett Schroeder has taught surfing for 10 years and has logged more than 3,300 surf lessons in that timespan. He is the founder and a surf instructor at Brett’s Board Rentals & Surf Lessons.

“Costa Rica has been blessed with waves 365 days per year, and the coastline lends itself to a range of skill levels, from novice to pro. Receiving swell energy from the northern and southern hemispheres, Costa Rica is a perfectly positioned surfing mecca.”

Secret surf spot: There are plenty of world-class waves all over Costa Rica, but, in the Central Pacific, you can enjoy fewer crowds and plenty of options within a one-hour drive.

Best time of year: Advanced surfers will enjoy the bigger south swells between May through October, while the smaller waves of summer, December through February, deliver fun surf for everybody. 

Whitewater Rafting
Courtney Hazleton is currently the Innovation Coordinator at G Adventures, but worked in Costa Rica for several years, leading hiking, rafting and surfing trips. The first product she designed for G Adventures was a 12-day tour highlighting unknown active destinations in Costa Rica, called Trek Hidden Costa Rica.

“Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful rivers in the world. The scenery is so green and lush. There are several rivers with great canyon sections, and I frequently spot monkeys and toucans from the raft. It’s just magical.”

Favorite rafting locations: The Upper Balsa River, the Savegre River and the ever-popular, two-day trip along the Pacuare River.

Rivers by region: Most travelers will raft out of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (the Pacuare River), La Fortuna (Toro, Balsa and Upper Balsa Rivers) and Quepos/Manuel Antonio/Dominical areas (Savegre River).

 Whitewater rafting selling points:
-    Rapids: you can find anything from Class II to Class V high-quality rapids being run commercially
-    Scenery: see animals and beautiful nature from the water
-    Temperature: The always pleasant temperature of the water means that there is no need to ever wear a wetsuit.
-    Guides: The level of skill by the guides in Costa Rica is one of the best around. They have a long tradition of running rivers and there is an excellent level of safety followed by companies.

Best time of year: For temperate weather, between December and April and, for higher water levels, between May and November.

Irene Edwards is a native of Costa Rica and a co-founder of Greenspot, a travel agency based in Montana that specializes in Costa Rica and green travel around Central and South America. Greenspot has been featured as a Top Travel Specialist by Conde Nast Traveler every year since 2006.

“Whitewater rafting was the adventure activity that first put Costa Rica on the map, and there is nothing like splashing through narrow tropical canyons on the Pacuare River. However, ziplining above the jungle canopy is my favorite adrenaline rush. Seemingly flying above the trees at almost 50 mph on a cable more than a half-mile long — with the sounds of howler monkeys and colorful birds all around — is incomparable.”

Best point of view: The area around Arenal Volcano, with the towering volcano on one side, vast views of the Costa Rican countryside in the other direction and a dense rainforest directly below (sometimes way below).

Zipling selling points
-    Reputation: Well-known as the pioneering destination for zipline forest canopy tours  
-    Safety: Combines the best safety measures from years of experience
-    Scenery: Dramatic views of mountainous tropical rain forests and cloud forests create a complete adrenaline experience

Best time of year: Swinging through the rain during rainy season is a great experience.

Worst time of year: Ziplining is a year-round activity, but the only time I might recommend against it may actually be the peak tourism weeks of Christmas and New Year’s, as the wind tends to blow heavier than other times of the year.

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