In this 2nd part, we continue with the list of 50 things that we recommend you do when visiting Costa Rica:
16. Try a “churchill” in Puntarenas, something very typical to do in Costa Rica
One of the most famous desserts in Costa Rica is “churchill”, a slush with plenty of ingredients. More specifically, it is typical of the Puntarenas region. It contains ice, syrup, condensed milk, and powdered milk. But you can also add more ingredients such as tropical fruits. It is quite a bomb!
Why is it called like that?
The name of this dessert is dedicated to Joaquín Aguilar, a merchant from Puntarenas who used to order slushes with very varied ingredients in the 1940s. His strange combinations became well-known in the area and the churchill was named after Joaquín’s resemblance with the controversial politician and Prime Minister of England during the Second World War, Sir Winston Churchill.
17. Hallucinate with the crocodiles of the Tárcoles River, a chilling visit to do in Costa Rica
One of the most impressive things to do in Costa Rica is to see the multitude of crocodiles that live in the Tárcoles River. An ideal point to do so is the Route 34 bridge that crosses the river. It is also known as the crocodile bridge, since when you look down you will understand why.
Although they are sighted from a considerable height, we were impressed with the number of animals that there are and, above all, their enormous size. To get there, you can take any bus that goes from Jacó to San José and ask the driver to stop right at the Tárcoles bridge.
18. Get to know the earthly paradise of Isla Tortuga
Just 1 hour’s walk from the Jacó area, there is a place accessible only by boat and without any hotel or restaurant. Therefore, you must hire a tour to spend the day there. Its white sand and crystal clear water make Tortuga Island a true earthly paradise.
Its crystal clear waters attract rays, a wide variety of fish, octopuses, dolphins, and even sharks. That is why it is an ideal place to snorkel, dive, or sight the seabed while taking a kayak trip. It is a somewhat expensive day trip but well worth it.
19. Enjoy Guanacaste and its beaches
The province of Guanacaste is ideal for beach and good weather lovers. Despite the fact that the climate in the country is very unstable, the sun usually shines there all year round and has many of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Playa Dantita, Playa Flamingo, Playas del Coco or Playa Hermosa are some examples of the most recommended places.
The only drawback that we see is that the transport there by road takes an eternity. From San José to Playa Flamingo, it takes about 6 hours, and it is only 200 kilometers! In order to save time and not waste your patience, you can make the journey by airplane. Air tickets are around US$ 60.
20. Count the shells in Playa Conchal
Without a doubt, the beach in Guanacaste that we liked the most was Conchal. Its sand is full of little shells, ideal for those of us who hate sand sticking to us. But not only is it beautiful for this curiosity, but the part closest to Playa Brasilito has a coral reef that turns the water into a pool because of how transparent and calm it is.
If you dive a few meters with glasses and a snorkel, you will see many beautiful fish. In addition, it is a very long beach, so it is always quiet even if there are many people.
21. Fall in love with a good sunset in Playa Flamingo by drinking a “pipa fría”
Fresh coconut water, served in the coconut itself, is known as “pipa fría” (cold pipe) in Costa Rica. A great way to cool off after a day at the beach is to order one and drink it while having spectacular views of the beautiful sunsets in the Playa Flamingo area. We stayed at the Flamingo Beach Resort and Spa and it was a success, right beside the beach and with very good facilities.
22. Visit the Marino Ballena National Park
This national park in the Central Pacific is one of the most peaceful. It has 4 beaches where you can relax and enjoy nature, diving to discover the coral reefs. The park is called Ballena because it is a passage area for humpback whales when they migrate August thru November and December thru April. Therefore, it is a great area for whale watching during those months.
But that is not the only explanation of the name… If you have a drone, you will hallucinate discovering the shape of a whale’s tail that creates the junction of the 2 beaches when the tide is low. Entrance to the park costs US$ 12 for foreign tourists.
23. Feeling like an explorer in Corcovado, an adventurous plan to do in Costa Rica
South of Costa Rica is one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world. Corcovado National Park is, literally, nature in its purest form. In fact, it cannot be accessed without a guide due to the dangers that this entails. You have to know the trails very well and, when the tides rise, there have already been several cases of tourists who ended up lost or trapped by a rising sea.
But, more than hazards, nature offers true gifts to behold. Walking through Corcovado Park, you will watch 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity: jaguars, crocodiles, owls, parrots, tapirs, snakes or iguanas are just a small sample of the animals that you can find there.
Admission fare costs US$ 15 per day and is usually included in guided tours. The most usual custom is to stay overnight in the park. But there is only one place to do it: in the Sirena Sector, at a price of US$ 30, plus US$ 20 for breakfast and US$ 25 for lunch or dinner. Actually, it is quite an expensive excursion but, if you are a lover of nature walks, it can be one of the best things to do in Costa Rica.
24. Discover La Fortuna, one of our favorite activities to do in Costa Rica
One of our most recommended visits to do in Costa Rica is going to the La Fortuna de San Carlos area. We found it a magical place for its views of the spectacular Arenal Volcano, its hot springs, and the countless activities related to nature that can be done nearby.
25. Be fascinated by the incredible La Fortuna Waterfall
Just 5 minutes by car or taxi, from La Fortuna downtown, there is an impressive waterfall with more than 70 meters of free fall. The water power leaves you speechless! In addition, unlike other waterfalls, it has a small natural pool where bathing is not dangerous at all. That is why we encourage you to bring a swimsuit and a towel; it is always a pleasure to cool off in that blue water after descending more than 500 steps to reach the waterfall.
Here, admission fare is US$ 15. Taking a taxi there, from La Fortuna, costs around 5,000 colones (US$ 9), although it can also be reached on foot with a somewhat long walk. In addition, you can book an excursion to Arenal and La Fortuna Waterfall from San José. For us, it is an essential visit to do in Costa Rica.
26. Taste a real “casado”, something essential to do in Costa Rica
One of the most popular dishes on Costa Rican tables is “casado” (in Spanish, it means married). In any cafeteria or restaurant they will have it, since it is made with widely consumed basic ingredients. It is a kind of dish combined with rice, beans, fried banana, salad and meat or fish of your choice. Besides being delicious, it will give you a lot of energy for the rest of the day.
By the way, there are many restaurants and stores that do not accept credit cards. Therefore, it is essential to have Costa Rican colones to pay in cash. We always change comfortably with Ria Currency Exchange. They have a great exchange rate and they send the money home safely.
27. Go on an excursion to the Río Celeste, one of the best attractions to see in Costa Rica
Another waterfall that is worth sighting is the Celeste River. It is not impressive because of its height, but because of the turquoise color of water. But we clarify you that this beautiful bluish tone is not originated in the water itself, but it is an optical effect caused by the reflection of sunlight on the rocks at the bottom of the river. They are coated with a mineral compound of aluminum, oxygen and silicon, thus creating that magical color.
To get to the waterfall, you have to walk for half an hour along a path that is not too difficult as long as it is not wet. When it rains, a lot of mud forms which creates a very slippery surface.
Unfortunately, the forest around the waterfall is badly destroyed by a big storm. You should also bear in mind that it is a very humid area where there is usually a lot of mud. Therefore, wear shoes that you do not mind getting dirty. If not, you can rent some wellies at the beginning of the trail.
Getting there by public transport is practically impossible, so if you don’t rent a car you will have to book a tour. If you arrive on your own, the entrance costs 12 US$.
28. Visit the hanging bridges of Arenal surroundings
Something fun to do in Costa Rica is cross hanging bridges. You can find one in almost any corner of the country, but when you get to Arenal there is a park with 14 bridges of that type. Besides being a different activity, we liked knowing the history behind the creation of the park. The owners wanted to create a tourist complex, but given the impossibility of cutting down the trees and displacing the animals from their habitat, they decided to build these bridges, which are perfectly integrated with the environment.
There, you will be able to watch a great variety of animals. We sighted a toucan, a snake, a tarantula, and many different types of birds. We recommend hiring a guide to have more opportunities to sight these animals. They know nature very well and, if we had gone by our own, this experience would not have been so good.
Caution: This is not a recommended activity if you suffer from vertigo. There are bridges at a height of about 45 meters, and it can make a lot of impression as a simple grid through which everything below is seen.
Admission fare is US$ 26. If you have a car for rent, it is easily accessible and there is a parking lot with many places. If you do not have a vehicle, then you can hire a guided tour that will pick you up right at your accommodation.
29. Go to the Arenal Volcano observatory
At the foot of the Arenal is the Arenal Observatory Lodge. Yes, it is a hotel, but access is free and it has a terrace with incredible views of the volcano and Lake Arenal. There is also a small museum about the history of the volcano and its activity. You can see photos of the eruptions, the animals that live there and even a seismograph that records all the movements that occur.
Several trails start from the same enclosure. One of them ends in a small waterfall where you can cool off. We recommend you go in the afternoon and watch the sunset having a drink after the walk.
30. Enjoy free hot springs in the Chollín River, a great plan to do in Costa Rica
After passing through the Arenal observatory, there is no better way to end the day than having a bath in the Río Collín thermal waters. It is a public space, so it is usually very crowded, especially by different groups of tourists. But it does not mean that it stops being a very relaxing experience to do in Costa Rica.
To get there, you will need a flashlight, since the path is very dark and somewhat slippery. We recommend that you take only a towel and flip-flops and leave your other belongings right in the vehicle, because there is no safe space to leave them.