6 Once-In-a-Lifetime Experiences to Try in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Bridge

Costa Rica is truly a paradise location. You get thick rainforests, white sandy beaches, amazing wildlife, and friendly people all in one lovely place. You’re essentially guaranteed to have a fantastic time no matter what time of year you go and where you stay. Make that trip even more memorable by incorporating one (or all) of these eight once-in-a-lifetime experiences in Costa Rica. 

1. Hike an Active Volcano

Costa Rica is a country of volcanoes. In total, this country has five active and 61 dormant volcanoes. Costa Rica’s most well-known one is the Arenal Volcano which stands over 1,600 meters high. The volcano is thought to be about 7,500 years old and was considered dormant for a long time until it unexpectedly erupted in 1968. 

The volcano has been inactive since 2010 after a long period of activity. Arenal has one of the longest duration volcanic eruption periods on record lasting from 1960 to 2010. 

Today, you can hike the active (but currently dormant) volcano! You can follow the Arenal 1968 Volcano View or the Lava Trails, where you get to walk on old lava flows and take in beautiful views of the volcano.  

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

2. Visit Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge 

This wildlife refuge is the third most important wetland in the world. If you love wildlife, you’ll be swept away by all the endangered and diverse birds, fish, reptiles, and plants in this refuge park. Along with over 200 species of birds, this Costa Rica refuge is home to jaguars, river turtles, monkeys, pumas, stocks, iguanas, and more. Book a tour guide to talk you through the wetlands, taking you to the places where you’re most likely to spot your favorite animals. 

Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica
Via @naturemanmike on Instagram

3. Explore the Monteverde Hanging Bridges

The Monteverde “Cloud Forest” is Costa Rica’s dense rainforest located just a three-hour drive from San Jose. This massive forest is home to over 100 mammals, 400 bird species, and over 1,200 species of reptiles and amphibians. This forest is also one of the few remaining habitats in the world that’s home to all six species of the cat family – jaguarundis, jaguars, ocelots, oncillas, pumas, and margays. 

And, you can experience this beautiful, lush rainforest in a once-in-a-lifetime way – through a tour of hanging bridges. Monteverde has six long suspension bridges that take you through the forest. Seeing everything from above gives you a perspective on how vast the rainforest really is. It also allows you to observe the natural wildlife from above without disturbing them. 

This tour lasts two hours, isn’t too strenuous, and takes groups of 10 people or less at a time. It’s a wonderful day to spend an afternoon in the jungles of Costa Rica. 

The Monteverde Hanging Bridges in Costa Rica
Via @sandrakisic on Instagram

4. Visit the Sloth Sanctuary

Even if you’re an avid traveler, it’s probably unlikely that you’ve come across a lot of sloth sanctuaries. Well, you’re in luck because Costa Rica has one of the best sloth sanctuaries in the world. Open since 1992, the foundation was originally a B&B. When the owners were given an abandoned baby sloth to take care of, the idea for the sanctuary began. 

Since then, the sanctuary has helped to care for over 100 hurt, misplaced, and abandoned sloths. 

Visitors can tour the facility, see all the sloths, and learn more about these species. You can also feel good about this activity, as your tour fee will help further the mission of this sanctuary. 

Trust us – you’ll love seeing these adorable, slow-moving animals in person for yourself! 

A sloth hanging in a tree

5. Soak in Natural Hot Springs

Costa Rica is abundant with natural hot springs, with a lot of them being close to the Arenal volcano. You can opt for a soak in a hot spring in the wild (that’s free) or book a stay at a high-end resort that includes access to a hot spring pool. 

Our recommendation is to save the hot spring soak for the end of your hike of Arenal. Just a 15-minute drive from the volcano’s base is Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort. This luxurious resort has all-natural hot springs that are made up of 97 percent rainwater and 3 percent magma. If you don’t want to book a stay at the expensive resort, you can pay for day access to the hot springs! 

A view of the hot springs at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort
Via @tabaconresort on Instagram

6. See Sea Turtles Nesting

Costa Rica has several areas known for an abundance of turtle populations and sea turtle nesting. Las Baulas National Marine Park has a large population of protected leatherback turtles. Tortuguero National Park boasts one of the largest turtle nesting populations in the world. And the Playa Pacuare Reserve has multiple types of turtles – leatherback, hawksbill, and green sea turtles. 

If you visit one of these spots at the right time, you’ll get to see hundreds of turtles springing from the Caribbean ocean to lay their eggs. Or, later on, you can witness the eggs hatching and the baby turtles making their quick journey into the water. If you’re lucky enough to witness it, this is just one of those experiences you’ll remember for the rest of your life. 

You can reach out to a conservation program to learn when the best time to visit, so you can watch this beautiful adventure happen without disturbing the turtles. 

A baby turtle in the sand

Costa Rica has so much to offer you in terms of a vacation full of nature, wildlife, and unique experiences. The only question that remains is – how quickly can you book a trip to get there? 

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