Possibly the most well known country in Central America, Costa Rica packs a lot of adventure into such a small space. Most tourists visit for the stunning National Parks system which takes up almost a quarter of the space in the country.
Aside from this, Costa Rica also has a vibrant capital – San José – and unique culinary attractions worth exploring.
A great way to explore these is to take guided tours. These allow you to visit natural hiking trails safely, or gain a deeper local insight into how the cultures function. These are the 15 best tours you can take in the country.
1. Combination Tour: Top 4 Activities in Arenal – One Day Tour
If you’re only in Costa Rica for a short amount of time, you can combine all of the main activities in the Arenal region in one day with this excellent tour.
You will start off by hiking along Arenal Volcano Park, bringing you up close to the famous Arenal volcano. The tour will then take you to the La Fortuna waterfall – one of the highest waterfalls in the country, with a small swimming area at the base.
You will also be able to hike along the Arenal Hanging Bridges, before finishing in a hot spa. This tour also includes a lunch stop in La Fortuna.
2. Adventure Transfer between Monteverde and La Fortuna
Are you travelling the country at a slower pace? This boat will help take you across Lake Arenal from Monteverde to La Fortuna and comes with a fun twist – it also works as a tour.
The boat is manned by a knowledgeable guide who can tell you all about the Lake Arenal region. You will also have a dedicated area to safely store your luggage whilst you embark on the three and a half hour expedition.
Van transfers from the towns to the lake are also included, and you will be treated to a spectacular view of Arenal volcano.
3. Monteverde Hanging Bridges Day Trip from San Jose
Another great option for those short on time is to use one city as a base and explore further through day trips.
Costa Rica is especially good for this as it is quite a small country. This tour takes you to the Monteverde Hanging Bridges from San Jose – the capital of Costa Rica.
The hanging bridges pass through the Cloud Forest – an incredibly lush and dense rainforest area in the heart of Central America. You can also enjoy views over the Nicoya Gulf, and potentially even spot some monkeys if you are lucky.
4. Blue River & Tenorio Volcano National Park Hike
Keen hikers will be delighted by the number of excellent trails kept throughout Costa Rica’s national parks. This tour takes you through the lush Costa Rican forest that grows on one of the major volcanoes in the country.
You will be able to find captivating views over crystal clear waterfalls, and the turquoise blue water of the Celeste River. This nine hour hike is completely guided, making it a good option if you are worried about safety.
Your guide will also be able to talk to you about the unique ecosystem of Costa Rica, and the history of the volcano.
5. Chato Volcano: 10-Hour Extreme Hiking Adventure
If you are a more seasoned hiker you will enjoy this challenging, but very rewarding, hike.
You will be taken through some of the densest forests in Central America as you explore the base of the Arenal and Chato Volcanoes. Chato Volcano is extinct, so you will also be able to safely explore the crater whilst on your hike.
At the end of the hike you can check out Arenal Observatory and learn all about the ecosystem. You will finish off the tour with the chance to enjoy a volcanic mud facial in the natural hot springs, complete with a complimentary cocktail.
6. Coffee Plantation Tour at Café Britt from San José
Are you an avid coffee drinker? You can take this tour to learn all about the journey required for an average cup from planting to brewing.
You will be taken on a tour of the coffee plantations at Café Britt where you can learn all about the care and precision required at this early stage to ensure high quality coffee beans for roasting.
After this, you will get the opportunity to check out how the beans are roasted, and learn about the different ways each technique influences the flavour. Finally you will have the opportunity to learn about brewing, and will be able to brew your very own cup of coffee.
7. Manuel Antonio National Park from San José
This coastal national park has everything the average Costa Rica tourist could ever want.
From lush national forests, to unique wildlife, to miles long strips of white sandy beaches. At the beaches you will have the opportunity to explore the nearby reefs with a snorkel.
No vehicles are allowed in the park, so once you reach the entrance you will be guided on a hike to all of the main recreational areas. This experienced guide also gives you the time in each area to explore at your own pace.
8. Poas Volcano & La Paz Waterfalls: Day Tour from San José
You will first be taken to Poas Volcano where you can take in the breathtaking volcanic landscapes, and also discover the unique sulphur fumaroles – small pools of hot sulphur that emit from the volcanoes.
You will be guided through coffee plantations, lush forest and flower farms. After the volcano you will be taken to La Paz Waterfalls – the most famous waterfall in the entire country.
These are very easy to access for novice hikers, and you can even take a photo from behind the waterfall.
9. San José: 5-Hour Vip City Bus
Many visitors go to Costa Rica for the natural beauty, often meaning they miss out on the vibrant city of San José.
This city has a very interesting and powerful Latin American culture, and this five hour bus tour shows you all of the highlights. The double decker bus will of course take you around the most important sites in the city, but it comes with an added cultural twist.
You will be treated to national drinks served by waiters on board, and a culturally significant meal if you opt for the upgrade. The tour finishes off with an introduction to marimba music and dancing.
10. Lost Canyon Adventures Canyoneering
For adrenaline junkies, this is a very exciting and unique option for exploring the natural beauty of Costa Rica.
Canyoneering allows you to get into parts of the rainforest that regular hikers cannot access, giving you even more exclusive views of Central American nature without all of the tourists.
You will be able to abseil down into the depths of the forest canyons, and engage in a 4×4 adventure through the dense vegetation. This tour also includes a local cooked meal as well as equipment.
11. Full-Day Rio Celeste Tour from La Fortuna
This tour takes you to the Rio Celeste – a gorgeous blue river that Tenorio Volcano National Park.
You will see two different rivers merging to create a beautiful mix of colours that make unique photo opportunities. This tour involves a lot of hiking, though it is guided so we suggest at least a moderate fitness level for you to fully enjoy it.
A full lunch is included at the end of the hike for you to refuel after a long, but rewarding day of hiking.
12. Welcome to San José: Private Tour with a Local Host
If you are looking for a private tour of the capital city, this is a great option allowing you to go at your own pace and focus on the things that interest you most.
The tour is guided by a knowledgeable and passionate local who can show you some of the more unique local spots and secret places across the city.
It can be fully customised to your itinerary, however they also offer preset tours if you want something more general. You will be picked up from wherever you are staying, and then taken on a walking tour of the main areas within your itinerary.
13. Mangrove Kayaking Tour
Kayaking is a great physical activity to engage in whilst travelling as it allows you to explore smaller areas that cannot be accessed by a larger motorboat. This kayaking tour takes you through the mangroves of Damas Island.
It is a safe way to discover Costa Rica’s vibrant wildlife including the silky anteater, as well as a whole host of other mammals, reptiles and birds.
The guide will help you to safely explore the region, and you are provided with a meal at the end.
14. Traditional Nights from San José
This very unique experience takes you into the heart of traditional culture in San José in a way that no other tour can.
The tour begins at night by showing you some of the most important cultural and historical monuments in the city of San José. You will then be taken to enjoy a traditional Costa Rican meal whilst you watch a performance by local musicians and dancers.
The tour guide will take you on a journey through Costa Rican heritage from the native cultures, to civil war and right through to modern times.
15. Monteverde: Full-Day Horseback Riding
Enjoy scenic Monteverde at a more leisurely pace with this horseback riding experience. Expert guides will show you around the area and talk about the most important aspects of the region all whilst you get to enjoy a ride on the horses.
The horses used in this tour are well looked after, and you are provided with all of the equipment you need to safely ride them.
The guide is somewhat of a local celebrity for his past as a jockey on some of the most well-known horses in the country. The tour begins at his farm.