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The best things to do in Costa Rica

Famous for its eco-tourism and stunning wildlife, Costa Rica is a country that should be high on every nature lover’s bucket list. It’s also stunningly diverse! From culture in the capital, to the Caribbean beaches of the east coast, to the lush rain and cloud forests, there’s simply so much to discover. Here’s a one week itinerary for Costa Rica to help you see as many different sides of the country as possible.

San Jose

San Jose

Costa Rica’s capital gets an unfair reputation as little more than a layover destination, but San Jose is actually a very interesting city with lots of cultural gems to uncover. Don’t miss the bustling city markets, full of colour and tasty tropical fruits, and the stunning colonial architecture in the city centre. If you have time, a trip out to the nearby coffee plantations is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Don’t miss:

  • Sunday farmer’s market in Zapote
  • Precolumbian gold museum
  • National Theatre – particularly the mural by Aleardo Villa

Recommended time to spend in San Jose: At least one full day and night


Over on the Caribbean coast, Tortuguero is an important wildlife reserve which does some great work protecting and conserving the local sea turtle populations. This is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica to watch sea turtles hatching and laying eggs, and depending on the time of year you may be able to see both in one night. The quickest way to reach Tortuguero is by air, which takes around 30 minutes from San Jose.

Don’t miss:

  • Night time turtle hatching tour
  • Kayaking tour in Tortuguero National Park

Recommended time to spend in Tortuguero: Two nights

Arenal and La Fortuna

If you’re looking for the lush rainforests that most people picture when they think of Costa Rica, Arenal is the place to visit. Arenal is the country’s youngest and most active volcano, and it’s set within some of Costa Rica’s most fertile land. Which means plenty of jungle and wildlife to explore.

Don’t miss:

  • Jungle tour in Arenal National Park
  • Lake Arenal
  • Zip lining above the rainforest with Sky Adventures
  • La Fortuna waterfall
  • A trip to the local hot springs

Recommended time to spend in La Fortuna: Three nights

San Ramon and the Cloud Forest

Cloud forests are ecological zones found high in the mountains, and are wrapped in clouds and mist most of the year. Thanks to the cooler, wet climate, this part of Costa Rica is incredibly lush and full of amazing wildlife. It’s the perfect place to come if you want to see animals, especially sloths, monkeys, and maybe even jaguars. The nature reserve at Villa Blanca outside of San Ramon is also well known for it’s many species of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Don’t miss:

  • Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel and Nature Reserve
  • Cloud forest hike and wildlife tour

Recommended time to spend in San Ramon: At least one full day and night – longer if your schedule allows.

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