What do flaming-red sunsets, meditative sea turtles, and big-adventure, helmets-required jungle waterslides have in common? They’re all on our list of can’t-miss Costa Rica travel experiences: the adventures, journeys, and can’t-quite-describe-them moments that will mark your trip, move you deeply, and become forever memories that you carry home.
From true-blue rivers and volcanic mud baths to quiet mangrove estuaries and high-flying ziplines, we’ve pulled together 7 you-just-have-to-have-them moments you can only experience in Costa Rica. Go home with memories, not FOMO.
7 Can’t-Miss Costa Rica Travel Experiences
Can’t-miss is personal, we know. But we’ve been to a lot of places and done a lot things – and we’ve helped thousands of visitors to do the same – so we thought we’d pull together a list of seven slightly outside-the-box Costa Rica travel experiences we think you may want to work into your itinerary.
Experience #1: Rainforest Waterslide
What would come mind, if we said rainforest waterslide?
What if we added that it measures 420 meters – about a quarter-mile? And that it wends and winds through dense, lush rainforest? And includes a tunnel? (And, maybe, howler monkeys to cheer to you on!) And that it’s so extreme, you’ll even wear a helmet… ?
Welcome to one of the most adrenaline-fueled, yet smack-in-the-middle-of-nature Costa Rica travel experiences: the jungle waterslide at Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. Oh, didn’t we mention? You’ll be on the slopes of an active volcano. And your tour will also include a rainforest zipline, horseback riding, and volcanic hot springs and mud baths. “Quitnessential” or even “must-have” don’t quite cover it, do they?
Experience #2: Sea Turtle Nesting (or Hatching)
Have you ever experienced a moment that was just so striking, so momentous, so spectacular that it took over your senses, forever embedded itself in memory, and make you want to run out and tell everyone all about it?
But then, when you did, your words or your photos or your recollections didn’t quite relay the breadth and depth of how moving the experience really was?
We get it. Because, sea turtle nesting – and, on the flip side, baby sea turtle hatching – is one of just those moments. There’s something extraordinary about huddling on the beach, with only the pitch black and the stars to accompany you, as your guide walks you hither and thither. You don’t know where you’re going but you know why you’re there. And then, suddenly, you stop. Your guide flips on a red-light flashlight (so as not to bother the turtles’ eyes) and she is revealed: this huge, lumbering sea turtle mother, her fins in a frenzy as she digs a hole for her eggs. And then, a tranquil, almost meditative sea turtle mother, as she lays hundreds of her future babies.
It’s a moment that makes time pause. You’ll have to remember to inhale and exhale. To shake yourself back to reality, to the here and now. Because, while words cannot adequately describe the majesty and wonder of a sea turtle nesting tour, the experience will make clear the magic of this moment.
Experience #3: Sunset Catamaran Cruise
Think back to the greatest sunset of your life. Go ahead, really think about it. Let the memory wash over you: Where you were. Who you were with (or weren’t with). The colors of the sky. The shape of that cloud. Every sound, made more vibrant with a new swipe of Mother Nature’s sky brush.
A sunset catamaran cruise offers the opportunity for another of these indelible moments: Surrounded by sea and sky, gentle waves lapping at the boat, and pelicans calling for their supper. The orb of the sun, bigger than it’s ever been, bursting into flame in a single moment – fiery hot, glowing orange, dipping ever so slowwwwwwly behind the distinct line of the horizon. Inch by inch. Second by second. Breath by breath.
Sunsets are a quintessential Costa Rica travel experience, even more so, when you’re at the beach. But, somehow, sailing just a few hundred yards out from the sand and into the sunset – well, it takes you to a place that feels so much closer to the sun. Maybe it’s the sway of the waves, the call of the gulls, the legacy of the sun’s warmth on your skin. But something, well, something moves you when you’re out there.
Experience #4: A Beach All to Yourself
Costa Rica’s beaches are all public, by law. So having one all to yourself (or nearly so)… well, it’s a moment to savor!
As Costa Rica travel experiences go, beach-hopping is a must. And as you hop, you’ll quickly notice something: the country’s beaches often follow a somewhat staccato pattern – bits and pieces, dropped here and there, separated by jutting rocks and cliffside waterfalls. Because Costa Rica’s beaches don’t always flow from one to the next but rather, leap and hop down staggered coastline, secreted into nooks and coves and crannies.
And herein lies your opportunity to tour our area’s most secluded beaches and explore a side of Guanacaste that few tourists ever experience: pristine, isolated, and, sometimes, without another soul in sight. And, did we mention? To stroll and snorkel, sunbathe and splash… and finish it all with a picnic beneath the sea almonds?
Experience #5: Mangrove Estuaries
From the outside looking in – or, should we say, from the mangrove bank looking down – estuaries and mangroves appear so… tranquil. Sure, the mangrove’s roots drape and reach like a tangle of wooden fingerlings. Yes, your ears can make out the trill of birdsong. And maybe there’s a monkey rustling in the trees.
But, when it comes to must-have, can’t-miss, once-in-a-lifetime Costa Rica travel experiences, this isn’t one of them – is it? Well, actually, it is! Because Costa Rica’s mangrove estuaries are teeming with life. Life of the kind that you can’t observe anywhere else. Life of the kind that will titillate, surprise, and inspire.
For here, the Pacific Ocean feeds the Tamarindo estuary, where five species of mangrove weave their rooted borders and create perfect hidey-holes for a wide variety of striking flora and mysterious wildlife – from American crocodiles (up to 500 pounds!) and nesting sea turtles to howler monkeys and basilisk lizards, which can walk on water (literally!).
Explore it all on a motored boat tour or kayaking expedition. If you’re up for it, though, we really recommend the kayaks, as they’ll allow you to nose into quiet corners and get up close and personal with privileged estuary views.
Experience #6: Celeste River Waterfall & Hiking
You’ve probably seen the photos: A bluest-of-the-river or a roaring white waterfall, tumbling into a turquoise pool below. Travelers, meet the famous Río Celeste, or Celestial Blue River.
So, what’s in a name? Well, in this case, it’s the truth – no Photoshop required! Thanks to a mineral mix of sulfur and calcium carbonate, Río Celeste is really and truly blue. The kind of blue that, if you scoop it into your hand, it’ll still be blue.
Here, several natural wonders come together to create something spectacular: an active volcano, a river dyed blue, a dense rainforest, and natural hot springs. As prelude to the main event, nature introduces you to exuberant vegetation, animals and melodic birdsong, as you hike along trails that lead to the river and its spectacular waterfall.
As you hike through the forest, you’ll come across many natural wonders – each and all, must-visit Costa Rica travel experiences: the teñideros, or dyed river waters; the borbollones, the convergence of two differently-covered rivers that join to create the eponymous celestial coloration; as well as a scenic lookout point, a scenic lagoon, natural hot springs, and the famed waterfall. Even better – you can visit them all in just one three-hour hike.
Experience #7: Zip Lining
There’s a reason ziplining is such an iconic, oft-wishlisted Costa Rica travel experience: It’s amazing, simply put. This is your chance to experience the forest canopy, as a bird or a monkey or a butterfly – soaring, flying, and gliding airborne, finally free.
Even better: Ziplining is such a popular activity in Costa Rica, that there’s now a flavor, an adventure, and an adrenaline rush for every type of traveler. Want to zig-zag over moss-covered river canyon? Seeking the absolute highest bird’s-eye views? Want to indulge your need for speed? Care to fly past an active volcano?
You can do it all. Yes, you. Because, whether you’re an active senior, or visiting with young kids, or just looking to get in some nature hiking between platforms, there’s a canopy tour that will fulfill all your high-flying dreams. And trust us – you’d really regret returning home before you found “the one.”
Blue Water Adventures: Our Promise to You
In 2021, we were proud to transition Blue Water Adventures to new ownership. Please visit them at Blue Zone Experience.
At Blue Water Adventures, we work every day to do things a little differently. Sure, we trek the path already traveled. We indulge in the most popular recommendations. We enjoy the Costa Rica that everyone else visits.
But, we also carve out our own little niche of this tropical paradise. We’ve lived here for so long and traveled so widely, that we also crave newness. We want to take the long hike to an unnamed waterfall or discover a new underwater cave. So, we ask around. We network. And we put on our hiking boots.
Along the way, we’ve beaten a bit of a path – just enough to take you there, too. And so, we want to share our promise to you:
- You Can’t Beat Our Quality: We don’t cut corners, ever. And we settle for nothing less than the best tours, adventures, and journeys out there.
- We’re Fully Permitted: Our tours are fully permitted, our guides are fully insured, and we do everything above board and by the book. Because you, our travelers, deserve this level of accountability.
- Our Rates Are Very Competitive: We believe in pairing the highest quality with the best value. So, we offer very competitive rates with discounts for both groups and kids.
- We’ll Take You Where Others Won’t: We own our own vans and employ dedicated drivers, which means we have a lot more flexibility when it comes to what we offer. Let’s put it this way: We don’t have to take you to the same waterfall, the same zip line, the same sportfishing spot as everyone else. Together, we’ll forge a more authentic, more personalized path down the road less traveled.
- Our Bilingual Guides Have Serious Experience: Our expert guides not only know their stuff (they’ve been at it for years), but they’re also trained to have your back, in every eventuality.
Tell Us About Your Costa Rica Travel Experiences Wishlist
At Blue Water, we’ve built a reputation for 5-star service – from our incredible guides and off-the-beaten-path adventures, to our great communication and helpful concierge services – and we make it our mission to re-earn that reputation, with every adventure we take you on.
At Blue Water Properties of Costa Rica, we’re proud to offer some of the best Costa Rica Real Estate. We have both condos and homes, land and businesses for sale.
So, please get in touch. We’re sticklers for responding within 24 hours. Yes, even if you’re reading this post into the wee hours; we’ll respond within the day! And we look forward to it!