20 Costa Rica Tours

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This Central American country with coastlines on both the Caribbean and the Pacific has the reputation of being an excellent example of a country with strong ties to the environment. Its population is just around 5 million with about 350,000 living in its capital San Jose, the first place where most tourists enter the country.

Costa Rica is rich in wildlife, in its jungles as well as in the waters off its coasts. There are several species of monkey, as well as the rare tapir and jaguar. Corcovado National Park is a real jewel. The Government took a decision to reverse the policy of deforestation for which it received worldwide praise. It is one of the reasons why Costa Rica is Central America’s most popular country with tourists and the revenue that generates makes a distinct impact on the national economy.

While it is worth spending a little time in San Jose, the rich variety of tours in Costa Rica is a compelling reason to visit this lovely country. The examples illustrated below are just some of the tours in Costa Rica available. 

Costa Rica Tours

Top Tours

Monteverde: Nature Wildlife Night Tour in Tropical Forest
Exploring Curi Cancha Reserve is one of the tours in Costa Rica.

Wildlife Tours In Costa Rica

1- See Sloths In Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio or Quepos: Manuel Antonio National Park Tour
Manuel Antonio National Park is a must-see when choosing a Costa Rica tour.

Manuel Antonio National Park is a small island established by the government as part of its conservation efforts.

Although small, it receives more visitors than any other in the country.

Its variety is a prime reason for this; rain forest and wildlife, beaches and coral reefs.

Fauna known to live here number 109 species of mammals and 184 birds.

Sloths, raccoons, coatis, agoutis and several species of monkeys will be on your list of things to see.

Walking in a jungle is exciting whatever you see.

Kingfishers are common with the yellow crowned night herons another of the highlights.

2- Experience A Night In The Jungle

Monteverde: Sky Walk, Sky Tram, Sky Trek Ziplining Tour
Exploring Monteverde Cloud Forest on one of the Costa Rica wildlife tours is an incredible experience.

You may be apprehensive walking in a jungle at night but there is no reason to be with an experienced guide who knows the trails of the Tropical Forest of Monteverde well.

You are likely to be in a small group as you head off to explore and look for fauna.

Nocturnal animals that are seen more often by night than by day include Kinkajou, Olingo, Armadillos and Porcupines.

There is plenty more such as Tarantulas, Glass and Red Eye Frogs, Sloths, Owls and Toucans.

You may well see reptiles as well as snakes.

Even if you do not capture many good photos, your mind will remember the experience and the things you have seen.

3- Seek Out Dolphins And Whales

Uvita: Whales and Dolphins Experience
Whale watching is one of the best Costa Rica tours for nature lovers.

Marino Ballena National Park is on the Pacific Coast and is a great place to see marine life.

Your guide and the group will head out from Punta Uvita Beach primarily in search of the largest of this life, humpback whales which are most common between late December and late February and then from mid-July to late October.

Pacific spotted and bottlenose dolphins, turtles and a good range of seabirds also live here.

You will have the chance to snorkel to see the colourful fish in these waters.

The best water visibility is between December and April, the dry season.

In the wet season, you can swim and perhaps stop on a local beach and see the caves.

4- Explore Puerto Limon And Cahuita National Park

On the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, you can take a trip, initially to Puerto Limon followed by a boat trip in the Tortuguero Canals to see the local flora and fauna.

This is a region known for its tropical fruits sold on simple stalls as you head to Cahuita and a banana plantation where you will learn about the process of growing the fruit right up to its transportation to its marketplace.

Cahuita National Park is a chance to see more wildlife and if the weather is good, why not go for a swim?

5- Walk In Nature

There are large areas of forest within the university campus in San Jose so it is possible to see wildlife without ever leaving the city.

Trained guides can take you on a walk in those areas of forest where you will certainly see excellent birdlife, much of it migratory, and colourful flowers.

Sloths live up in the trees and experienced eyes will point them out to you.

You will enjoy the enthusiasm of the guides who are all young biologists keen to share their knowledge of nature with tourists thereby spreading the message on the environment which is so important to the country.

6- See The Forest’s Birds

More than 400 different bird species live in forests of Monteverde in the Cordillera de Tilaran Mountains.

National Geographic describes the forest as “the jewel in the crown of clouds forests.”

There are mammals within the forest but it is the birdlife that attracts most visitors and this tour provides a good chance to see everything from toucans and quetzals to a range of beautiful hummingbirds.

You should have your binoculars ready and if you are a keen bird watcher you may well have a camera with telephoto lens to create an album of the colourful birds.

7- Admire Costa Rica’s Turtles

Turtles are a threatened species all over the world.

They lay large numbers of eggs but the chances of many reaching adulthood as slim.

When they hatch there are usually plenty of predators waiting to stop them reaching the sea.

Even when they do, there are plenty in the waters that regard them as food.

Playa Minas beach is one of the country’s most important nesting sites and an organised tour is a great way to see them.

They migrate from the ocean anytime between October and March and the walk in the dark to the beach is well worth it to see females head up the beach to lay their eggs or later in the season, the hatchlings heading to the water.

The Leatherback is the largest of the turtle species, weighing anything up to 1,200 lbs (544 kilos) and they can be seen here, although rare.

Activity Tours In Costa Rica

8- Go Rafting

La Fortuna: Arenal Rafting Balsa River Class 2 3 Rafting
A river rafting experience is one of the Costa Rica adventure tours for an adrenaline rush.

The rapids on the Baha River near La Fortuna are measured as Classes 2 and 3.

If you join a rafting tour, 2.5 hours long, you will get a safety briefing before putting on your life jacket and getting on board.

Previous experience of rafting is not essential because you will have someone with you who has navigated down the river many times.

There is plenty of wildlife on the banks as you proceed.

Sloths and monkeys as well as a range of birds live here and you are likely to see them.

There is a break halfway down and the chance to swim and enjoy snacks such as fresh fruit.

9- Get An Adrenalin Rush

Monteverde has more to offer than its birdlife and mammals: a Sky Walk, Sky Tram, and Sky Trek zip lines will give you a whole new perspective of the forest below.

This is also a region of volcanoes and you will get an excellent view of them.

Your tour begins with the Sky Walk in which there are suspension bridges and trails to follow.

The Sky Tram takes you through the forest with regular stops to allow you to take in the whole setting.

The real adrenalin rush comes from the zip lines which all together measure more than 2.5 miles through the forest.

You will reach a speed of 40 mph (64 kmph) in places.

10- Walk The Arenal Hanging Bridges

Mistico Park near La Fortuna, north west of San Jose is famous for its hanging bridges.

There are six in all along established trails.

You will enjoy the nature that surrounds you as you walk, flora and fauna.

Waterfall Bridge is the most famous of them and there are some great views when you are there.

This adventure tour is led by an expert in the nature of the region so you will learn about the history and geography of the park, and of course its wildlife.

The Arenal Volcano is a great sight on a sunny day. It is 1,633 metres (5,360 feet) high and is very much active.

11- Hike To A Waterfall

If you are an experienced hiker, you will enjoy the challenge provided by this trek to La Leona Waterfall.

The location is Curubandé, Guanacaste close to Rincon de la Vieja Volcano and a walk near the Blanco River through forest.

The source of the river is the volcano itself.

Along the way, there are even small ladders to climb and ropes before you can get into a large cave to see the waterfall.

It is 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) in total, there and back.

You will be in a group of anything up to 20 so as well as the challenge, the day will involve making new friends from different parts of the world.

12- Spend Time On A Horse

Horseback Riding Tour to the Oropendola Waterfall
Horseback tours in Costa Rica are a great way to explore nature.

Trekking is not the only way to access the beautiful environment of Costa Rica.

A guided tour on horseback is an option, along well-worn trails.

All of the horses are well-trained and know the trails well.

Oropéndola Waterfall is the aim with lovely scenery as you proceed.

The waterfall is within a forest so the final stretch is on foot.

The waterfall is 25 metres (82 feet) high with the pool below it very tempting to swim and cool off.

It is within a canyon that you are welcome to explore before the return to your horse and the ride home.

13- Kayak In The Mangroves

When it is high tide, you are can enjoy kayaking, single or double, through the mangroves within Manuel Antonio Park on the Central Pacific Coast.

You will be amazed by the wildlife, especially the range of marine birds.

The precise location of the mangroves is Damas Island with the route being the natural channels.

The birds you are likely to see include herons, frigates, kingfishers, and ospreys.

The tour lasts around two hours with refreshments available before and after.

Even a complete novice can enjoy this and youngsters will love this but the minimum age for kayaking in a single is eight years old.

Marine Tours In Costa Rica

14- Enjoy A Tour To Tortuga Island

San Jose: Tortuga Island Tour with Lunch Hotel Transfer
Exploring Tortuga Island is one of the Costa Rica tours to tick off your list.

It is perfectly feasible to take a day trip to either of Costa Rica’s coastline from San Jose.

This tour to Tortuga Island on the south east coast is one such example of heading to the Caribbean.

You will pass other islands before reaching Tortuga where breakfast is served on the beach.

This is your chance to swim and snorkel or even hire a jet ski.

The marine life is very colourful so snorkelling is a great decision.

Above the waves you may well spy dolphins and even whales while turtles also swim in these waters.

If you wish you may simply stretch out on the sands and relax.

Lunch and cold drinks form part of a lovely day before your return to the city.

15- Sail And Snorkel From Tamarindo

Tamarindo: Afternoon Sailing Tour with Meal and Snorkeling
Spending time on a beach such as Tamarindo beach is on the itinerary of some Costa Rica tours.

Tamarindo is on the Pacific and there is the opportunity of sailing offshore in an afternoon.

After boarding your 40-footer, the sails are hoisted and you are off.

You can decide sun or shade as you sail along with the crew serving drinks.

The sea breeze is lovely in the hour before you anchor in a cove for snorkelling and swimming.

The water is warm and clear with plenty of marine life if you decide to snorkel.

Happy hour is fun, with rum punch, beer etc served by the crew.

You can dance to anything from rock music to Latin as you make your way back to harbour as the sun begins to set.

16- Take A Sunset Cruise

You can join a catamaran tour with an open bar spending afternoon sailing and enjoying secluded beaches before getting wonderful views as the sun goes down.

On board, there is snorkelling equipment and paddleboards although you may just prefer to swim and relax on the beaches.

Playa Minas, Playa Huevo, and Piratas Bay are anchoring options with the weather dictating the precise itinerary.

The open bar and excellent buffet on board both prove popular with guests with background music never too intrusive.

You are back to sailing at sunset as you head towards Playa Tamarindo and the end of the tour.

17- Experience An Eco Adventure

Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is famous for its wildlife in its jungles and ocean.

You can expect to see both whales and dolphins with a good range of seabirds ever-present.

You will anchor in a sheltered bay where you can snorkel to see what is under the waves.

There are waterslides and a trampoline on board incidentally.

You will be picked up and returned for this 3.5-hour cruise with a route passing jungle and impressive rock formations.

The gourmet lunch is a delight with fresh fruit, juices and coffee for passengers.

Other Tours In Costa Rica

18- Learn All About The Real San Jose

San Jose is an interesting city and it is worth spending a day there even if your main interest is to see the jungles and explore the coasts.

A local guide will introduce you to life in the city with local food and herbal remedies part of the day.

A coffee near the Central Market is a good start with a stroll through the market to see the colourful exotic fruit great fun.

Snack on empanadas as you enjoy sites such as the Cathedral, the National Theatre and the city parks.

Coffee and chocolate are part of Costa Rican life and you will visit a special store where women will show you how to make a good cup of coffee and show you how to prepare local favourites, tamal plantain empanadas.

19- Satisfy Your Love For Chocolate

You are certain to enjoy visiting a cocoa farm within the rainforest.

Arenal Volcano is in view but the main reason for this tour is to learn everything about cocoa from how it is grown to the process of making chocolate.

You can eat as much as you like and involve yourself in the activities which range from harvesting to drying and grinding.

Cocoa has always been important in the region.

It was a ceremonial drink in days gone by and was even a form of currency at one time because of its value.

20- Get Advice About The Local Cuisine

San Jose by Night is a fun tour involving visits to local markets and dinner with excellent wine.

The Central Market is where you will learn about local food and roots and herbs used in medicines.

Everything you need for dinner is here at the Central Market.

From there, go down Central Avenue seeing the National Theatre on the way.

Walk through Morazán Park to visit Mr. Sloth Coffee Shop for el “Morenito” a coffee cocktail.

An old neighbourhood in the city, Barrio Amon is next and dinner.

It will be things that predate the arrival of the Spanish with wine and craft beers on the menu.

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Steve Smith is a widely travelled man who has lived on the South West Coast of Turkey since 2008. He hails from North East England where he lived most of his life but has been to every continent of the world, with a particular love for Southern Africa and its wildlife. He lists Argentina, India, and Vietnam as other favourite places that he enjoyed greatly while sport is also a passion, cricket and golf as a participant, rugby union and soccer as a spectator.