A visit to Costa Rica is almost always synonymous with zip-lining. It’s easy to see why with the cloud forests, jungle, and mountains, not to mention the adrenaline-pumping side effect that will make anyone feel like they can conquer the world! But zip-lining isn’t for everyone. Some may have a fear of heights, disinterest in the sport, or maybe it’s something they’ve done in the past.
So what else can a person do in Costa Rica that does not involve zip-lining? Well, there are countless activities! This article will take you to three wildly different parts of the popular Central American country and show you activities that can be found in each place.
Here is a list of 7 things you can consider doing if you end up visiting:
Things to do in Monteverde:
Located in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range, Monteverde is a special place. This mountainous town is known for its mystical cloud forests, where low-hanging clouds hover above the forests, almost like a fog, and rain is usually imminent. It’s quite mesmerizing to watch the clouds go by here.
There are a couple of must-do activities while in Monteverde: hanging bridges canopy tour and a coffee plantation tour. Let’s have a look:
Take a self-guided walk along eight sturdy hanging suspension bridges through the cloud forest on this canopy tour. The bridges range in length from 170-560 feet and are held up with several thick cables, only allowing slight movement as you walk along. Between the bridges, you’ll walk along a path through the forest. If you’re lucky, you may see some native critters, perhaps a sloth or coati. You can go zip-lining above the trees at this park as well if you’d like. Canopy tour prices are $39USD for adults.
Book a tour at this family-owned and operated coffee plantation, which costs a worthwhile $35USD. Check-in is at the gift shop where all tours. Along the way, your tour guide will walk you around the plantation, making many stops along the way. You’ll see a field of banana plants and sugar cane, sample some of the fermented sugar drink (liquor) called GUARO, learn the entire coffee-making process from plant to bean, and even sample some coffee fruit.
Chocolate is also part of the tour and you will have the opportunity to taste-test cacao in both powder and paste form as you learn the chocolate-making process. You may also take an ox-cart ride, but only six people are allowed to go on it. They will teach you how to make sobado, a fudge-like caramel that you can take home. The tour ends at the family’s large kitchen where you will have a traditional Costa Rican meal prepared by the family. All-in-all, this is an incredible tour with loads of sampling for the price. I highly recommend it!
Things to do in La Fortuna:
The small town of La Fortuna is located near the Arenal Volcano Park which has two volcanoes. One volcano has active lava flows giving way to hot springs at the base. Its picturesque scenery, quaint downtown, and choices of adventurous or cultural activities make La Fortuna one place in Costa Rica that you should not miss. Here are a few activities I suggest for when you visit.
3.- Baldi Hot Springs –
There is no shortage of hot springs in this volcanic town and the gorgeous Baldi resort is a popular choice at the base of the Arenal Volcano. Whether you stay here at the resort’s hotel or not, anyone can pay to use the hot springs. There are 25 thermal pools on the property, some with swim-up bars. Baldi also has the largest sauna in the country, waterfalls, and waterslides all surrounded by lush vegetation. What an oasis!
4.- Cook Like a Local Costa Rica Cooking Class:
Cooking classes while traveling has to be one of the most underrated activities. Food is a massive part of most cultures and taking a class will give you a better understanding of the place you’re visiting. The local tour company, Desafio Adventure Co., offers dozens of activities such as canyoneering, white water rafting, horseback riding, and other adrenaline-pumping things to do. But if you love food and learning about a culture, I urge you to book a cooking class in La Fortuna.
Desafio will bring you to the farm for the local culinary class up a nearby mountain. Upon arrival at Granja Eco Turistica Victoria, you will get a tour of the place before cooking. Then it’s off to the kitchen to learn how to help make picadillo, a traditional Costa Rican dish. They may also hand you glasses of guaro to drink. Learn the process of cooking this local dish by watching the instructors and helping out when they ask you to chop vegetables, measure rice, add spice, etc. It is a great experience and you’ll get to stay and eat the food afterward!
5.- SUP Boarding –
Another Desafio activity you can choose is stand-up paddleboarding, also known as SUP boarding. The tour company will drop you off at Lake Arenal, which is the largest lake in Costa Rica at 33 square miles. From there, you will hop onto a boat that will bring you to an area in the lake to start the activity. The instructor will teach you how to get onto and stay up on the paddleboard and how to use the oars. It’s such a fun workout! In the end, you will head back to the boat where the guide will have snacks, water, and beer waiting.
Things to do in Manuel Antonio:
With a rainforest, coral, reef, white-sand beaches, and a national park, Manuel Antonio is a place to come for both relaxation and adventure. This beach town is an absolute dream with its picturesque scenery and all there is to do here. The bustling road leading down to the beach is home to plenty of shops and restaurants where you can have a meal and party the day or night away if you choose. Go for a tour and a hike through the rugged Manuel Antonio National Park where you can view plenty of plant and animal species. Or just lounge on the beach, which is always an excellent option!
6.- Beach Playa Espadilla –
On the outskirts of Manuel Antonio Park at the end of the main road of the town sits this beautiful public beach. The Pacific Ocean views will take your breath away! Bring cash to rent chairs with umbrellas – you’ll want some shade from the intense sun. Local vendors will come around asking if you’d like some fresh coconut water. For $1USD, it’s totally worth it! Cool off with an ocean swim or take a surf lesson. You can relax or have as much adventure as you want on this beach! And if you step off the sand to the billboard just before the park, you may be able to see some monkeys – we saw several the first evening we were there. Watching the sunset here is also a must – it’s spectacular!
7.- Parasailing –
On the beach, you can watch the parasailers all day or go parasailing yourself. The cost for this adventurous activity is around $60-$70USD. You’ll be given a life vest and sit in a harness that’s attached by a long rope to a boat. The ride lasts about 20-30 minutes.
Once you are harnessed, a parasailing operator will instruct you on how to get airborne…1. run, 2. move your hands from the bar the rope is attached to, and 3. lift your legs when you get to the water. It’s an incredible feeling being up so high up in the sky and you’ll have epic birds’ eye views of the Manuel Antonio coastline. If you can get one of the last parasails of the day, you’ll be treated to an incredible sunset.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Costa Rica without having to go ziplining. But if ziplining is something you want to do, it’s everywhere…and I hear it’s incredible!