Choose from 58 Fun Things to Do in Costa Rica
Lazy travelers can traverse the highway snapping photos of lush landscapes from the comfort of their car seats, while those eager to get back to nature can embark on one of the miles of trails leading to the waterfalls, open pastures and mountain stations that dot the rainforest. An Aerial tram on the eastern side of the park offers open gondola rides through the dense understory and canopy of the woods, where its possible to spot the sloth and other forest creatures that call Braulio Carrillo National Park home.
Most notably, Carara is home to one of Costa Rica’s last remaining populations of scarlet macaws, who you’ll likely see gossiping and preening in small groups throughout the park. The Rio Tarcoles, which forms the park’s northern border, is well known for its enormous population of huge crocodiles.
There are two short, 1km (.6mi) interpretive trails through the wilderness and waterfalls, perfect for families and less active travelers. A longer, 4.5km (2.7mi) trail follows the Rio Tarcoles and mangrove marshes, where both the crocodiles and scarlet macaws settle in for the evening.
There are scores of other animals in residence, hailing from both forest ecosystems straddled by Carara: sloths, peccaries, deer, monkeys, armadillos, and even big cats. Birders will appreciate the bounty most, with some 400 species easily spotted in this relatively small area.
How to Get to Puntarenas
If you are lucky, your ship will dock right in Puntarenas; other cruise ships may dock at Puerto Caldera, which is 20 minutes away from Puntarenas by taxi. In Puntarenas, you will arrive at the base of the Paseo de las Turistas, the main tourist drag.
One Day in Puntarenas
Without much to see in Puntarenas itself, you will most likely spend your day on an excursion. The Monteverde Cloud Forest, Poas Volcano National Park and the Carara National Park are all popular day trip destinations and possible activities include horseback riding or hiking through the rainforest, kayaking, whitewater rafting, birdwatching and ziplining.
If you are looking for a slightly more relaxing way to spend your day, you might try a visit to the town of Sarchi, about 40 minutes from Puntarenas. The drive itself is pleasant and the town offers a variety of unique souvenirs including colorful crafts and leather goods. Or, arrange an excursion to a local coffee plantation, where you can learn about the coffee-making process and sample some of Costa Rica’s best brews.
For those who opt to hang around town, you can stroll along the Paseo de las Turistas, a beachfront walkway that is bursting with shops, open air food counters and restaurants.
Spanish is the official language in Costa Rica, but those in the tourist industry will likely speak and understand some English. The local currency is the Costa Rican colon, but most merchants and taxi drivers will accept US dollars, giving you change in colones.
For less-fit travelers and those in search of more leisurely strolls, the forests of Chirripo National Park offer plenty of opportunity to explore the unique flora and fauna indigenous to Costa Rica. Its scenic passes, lush pastures and minimal elevation gains are accessible for the entire family.
- Arenal Volcano tours from San Jose can last upward of 12 hours.
- Many tours include hotel pickup and dropoff from the La Fortuna area.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes suitable for uneven ground.
- Although the volcano’s summit is closed for safety reasons, there are plenty of hiking trails closer to the base.
The Costa Rica Children’s Museum is an interactive fun experience for all the family.
Housed in a gaily painted toytown castle, that’s actually a historic old military prison, the museum’s hands-on exhibits range across all manner of topics.
Kids will love the 40 exhibits exploring outer space, old-fashioned fun on the farm, history, music, science and ecology and everyday life in Cost Rica.
The Costa Rica Children’s Museum is housed in a striking red and yellow fort on Calle 4, above Avenida 9, a little north of downtown San Jose.
- Closed-toe shoes are required in Mistico Park; wearing sandals is not permitted and you will be refused entry.
- The Sal & Pimienta Restaurant, on the park grounds, is open daily from 7:30am to 4pm.
- The rain forest is home to a hearty bug population; insect repellent is a good idea.
- Children under 10 years old receive free admission.
- Bring a bathing suit, sun protection, bug spray, and comfortable shoes.
- Swimming is allowed, but only in pools well away from the potentially dangerous currents produced by the falls, especially during the rainy season.
- Keep in mind that the staircase down to the falls is steep and sometimes slippery.