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Adventure Travel in Costa Rica

Two people ziplining at the Diamante Eco Adventure Park
If there's one thing you can say about Costa Rica, it's that it doesn't lack adventure and excitement. In fact, alongside the nature and ecotourism aspect of Costa Rican travel, this tiny Central American country is best known for offering plenty of adventure activities to enjoy. From zip lining through the rainforest canopy to white water rafting through jungle canyons and beach sports, Costa Rica cements itself as a place to get your adrenaline fix.
And if you're seeking activity rather than simply staying poolside (don't worry, Costa Rica does relaxation well, too!), you can do far worse. Whether you’re staying in one place or doing a cross country combo, you won’t want for an adrenaline rush in Costa Rica. To get you started on your thirst for fun times, here's a bit about the whats, the wheres, and the hows when it comes to Costa Rica adventure travel.

Where Are the Best Costa Rica Adventure Vacations?

Every region in Costa Rica offers an incredible array of adventure activities. You could even stay in the city and have easy access to the kind of tour that turns your knuckles white.
The three most famous parts of Costa Rica for adventure are the Arenal Volcano area, the Monteverde cloud forest, and the Manuel Antonio area. There are also some solid adventure options in Guanacaste for those feeling like a day away from the beach. Let's look at some of these destinations below:

Arenal Volcano Area

People white water rafting near the Rafiki safari lodge 
The Arenal Volcano area of Costa Rica has the most extensive selection of activities to choose from. This part of the country is famous for being the adventure capital of Costa Rica. Thrill seekers coming to Arenal can enjoy white water rafting, zip lining, waterfall rappelling, caving, kayaking, and paddleboarding. There's also horseback riding, extreme hiking, not-so-extreme hiking, mountain biking, and ATV adventures. In short, most people come to this part of Costa Rica to get active. It's not only about seeing a lovely volcano or relaxing in hot springs.
How many adventures you enjoy depends on the amount of time you're spending in the Arenal Volcano area. If you want to experience as much as possible, we recommend doing combo tours in the morning/early afternoon, followed by a visit to the hot springs in the evening. This way, you get to experience plenty of action and have time to relax and recharge your batteries.
A combo tour usually combines two adventure tours: rappelling and white water rafting or hiking and horseback riding. They're a great way to manage your limited time and pack in as much as possible. There are even 4-in-1 combinations that will keep you entertained the whole day. These combo tours are perfect for visitors that won't spend many days in the area and still want to explore the possibilities before moving to a more relaxing pace.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde is a highland area with a distinct, cool climate, typical of a cloud forest. It's a unique part of the country, with distinctive flora and fauna such as the prized Quetzal. Because of this, Monteverde makes for a different experience for adventure travelers.
Monteverde is the spiritual home of ecotourism in Costa Rica, where bird watchers and hikers come to explore the nature that abounds here. And, fun fact: Monteverde is also the spiritual home of the zip line canopy tour. Although you can now zip line in pretty much any part of Costa Rica, Monteverde is still home to the original canopy zip line, and it boasts the highest and longest zip line in Central America. This is an excellent opportunity to see the forest from another perspective and commune with nature while gliding through the treetops.
Monteverde is also famous for its horseback riding opportunities. It's possible to travel between Arenal and Monteverde (or the other direction) partly on horseback, creating an authentic adventure out of what would be a routine transfer. If you're looking for mountain and forest adventures, Monteverde is one of your best bets.

Manuel Antonio National Park

People playing at the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park
In recent years, in our opinion, the Manuel Antonio area on Costa Rica's Central Pacific coast has become a hotbed of adventure travel. This part of the country is famous for its national park and nature tourism, but the reality is Manuel Antonio offers a lot more.
Adventure seekers get about as much as they would experience in Arenal (minus the volcano views) with the benefit of being on the ocean. Zip lining, white water rafting, hiking, horseback riding, ATVs, bikes, and more are all available for energetic adrenaline heads in Manuel Antonio. Plus, water lovers get ocean kayaking, parasailing, deep sea fishing, diving, and other beach sports. It's a great spot to stay in if you want to have adventure vacations in Costa Rica.


Travelers enjoying kayak trip in Guanacaste
The province of Guanacaste offers a variety of marine sports and activities for those seeking adventure in Costa Rica. Since most hotels in Guanacaste are on the coast, this is the best region for water sports. The sport fishing and scuba diving are world-class here, and that's just the start.
This part of Costa Rica is home to some of the most famous and iconic surf spots in Costa Rica, and there's also world-class windsurfing available. The Guanacaste coast offers plenty of opportunity for kayaking and paddleboarding, and snorkelers will also find their own taste of true adventure.
Guanacaste is also great for inland adventure. Rincon de la Vieja is about an hour away from the coast and offers tropical dry forest and volcano hikes. The most thrilling tours are zip lining over the river canyon and waterfall rappelling. Or opt instead for horseback riding or sliding 1,200 feet down a tube through the forest!
One of Costa Rica's best adventure hotels is also in Guanacaste. Rio Perdido is probably the most adrenaline-packed place to stay in the country, perfect for bikers, hikers, and adrenaline junkies. Here you can experience anything you can get in Arenal, minus the crowds. There's even a natural thermal hot springs river here.
Another great Guanacaste adventure is caving, again proving that Arenal isn't alone. Adventurers seeking a spelunking spot will find the Barra Honda National Park perfect for getting underground and exploring an array of stalactites and stalagmites.
So if you're staying in Guanacaste, don't think you've gotten off lightly when it comes to adventure. This province isn't only about poolside cocktails. It's got all sorts of activity to keep even the most ardent adrenaline seeker happy.

Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventure Travel

If you're a traveler seeking less frequented destinations with a dash of adventure, go to the Osa Peninsula in the Southern Pacific Zone or Tortuguero on the North Caribbean Coast. Getting to these locations can be an adventure in itself, traveling to remote spots where nature surrounds all.
Bring out your inner Indiana Jones as you wind through deep rainforests and mangroves to reach your hotel in these areas. Once there, options abound. Tour the national parks, visit a waterfall, or go diving and snorkeling around Isla del Caño. Do a zip line tour, and then kayak up and down the lazy rivers of Tortuguero in your quest for a perfect monkey shot.
Set out to discover Costa Rica's unique wildlife in the mangroves of the Osa and try to spot the ever-elusive tapir that lives in these parts. After spending some time off the beaten path, you'll find you have something to talk about for the rest of your life.

Personalized Costa Rica Travel Packages

Still undecided about what adventure package to pick for your vacation? There are many possibilities, and sometimes it's difficult to decide which one is best for you and your travel companions. Contact us for a personalized itinerary created by a local expert to make things easier.

FAQs About Customized Adventure Vacations to Costa Rica


What activities should I avoid in Costa Rica?

From the most ardent of thrill seekers to those solely looking for the most laid-back and relaxing vacation, Costa Rica has something for everyone. If there's something you don't want to do, there's always an alternative activity suited to your level of adventure, strength, and age. Some adventure activities accommodate travelers with various disabilities, or we can find equally fun alternatives for your group if necessary.

What should I not miss in Costa Rica? 

Costa Rica's "signature activity" is the zip line canopy tour. It's almost a crime to come to Costa Rica and not partake in one of these. However, a hanging bridge tour to experience the rainforest canopy more relaxed is a great alternative to zip lining.

Are seven days enough in Costa Rica? 

It depends on what you're looking for and what you want to do. Most of our vacation packages are around a week-long, and this gives travelers an excellent general introduction to Costa Rica and its adventure activities. We would not recommend coming for less than seven days, although it's certainly feasible.


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