A Guide to Costa Rica’s Most Emblematic Adventure Activities

Adventure Activities Near La Fortuna and Arenal

The Arenal Volcano area has the widest variety of adventure activities in the country. A veritable explosion of activities in recent years has catapulted the Arenal area into the forefront of Costa Rica’s adventure industry.

Rafting

The Tenorio River is the most popular option. This class-III and -IV river takes you along a series of heart-pounding rapids, amid a spectacular natural setting. Most put-ins are around an hour from La Fortuna, making the Tenorio a popular option for locally based tours. The Sarapiquí River is another popular option, and many companies have daily departures towards this class II-III river.

The Río Balsa is a popular class II-III river close to Fortuna. You will certainly see a lot of wildlife on the Balsa.

Stand up paddling at Lake Arenal, northern zone of Costa Rica. Photo: Andrés Madrigal
Stand up paddling at Lake Arenal, northern zone of Costa Rica. Photo: Andrés Madrigal

Stand Up Paddling
Stand Up Paddling looks exactly as it sounds: you stand up on a large, wide, super buoyant board (similar to a surfboard) and use a long paddle to move yourself along. You’ll feel like you’re walking on water! This tour is great for all ability levels, and first timers are welcome.

Photo courtesy of Desafio Adventure Co.
Photo courtesy of Desafio Adventure Co.

Canyoneering

The region’s newest sport, canyoneering allows participants to combine rappelling, hiking and climbing as they explore river canyons. Desafío Adventure Company offers a stunning tour of the Lost Canyon, which includes six waterfalls, the last of which is over 200 feet high!

Horseback riding, northern zone of Costa Rica. Photo: Andrés Madrigal
Horseback riding, northern zone of Costa Rica. Photo: Andrés Madrigal

Horseback Riding

A number of outfitters offer horseback riding tours. You can explore the local countryside, or even go all the way to Monteverde. When booking a horseback riding excursion, make sure that your outfitter has healthy, properly cared for horses. Most professional tour agencies deal only with responsible companies; however, some “freelancers” you might meet in the street are less than scrupulous.

Mountain biking near La Fortuna, northern zone of Costa Rica. Photo: Andrés Madrigal
Mountain biking near La Fortuna, northern zone of Costa Rica. Photo: Andrés Madrigal

Mountain Biking

There are routes available for all levels, from easy jaunts to Lake Arenal to rigorous treks all the way to Monteverde. The region’s volcanic geology (and looming Arenal Volcano), coupled with some truly exotic wildlife, make for a great biking experience.

Gravity Falls Jumping Tour. Photo courtesy of Desafio Adventure Co.
Gravity Falls Jumping Tour. Photo courtesy of Desafio Adventure Co.

Gravity Falls

Deep in the rainforests around La Fortuna you can engage in one of the most thrilling adventure tours in Costa Rica. You’ll leap off of canyon cliffs into crystalline waters, rushing rapids, and tumbling waterfalls.

Kayaking

With Arenal Volcano standing like a sentry at one end of the lake, and the gorgeously bucolic setting of Lake Arenal, kayaking is a popular and picturesque activity here.

Windsurfing

Lake Arenal is a world-class windsurfing destination. The lake’s warm waters, year-round activity and strong seasonal winds make this the perfect place for windsurfers off all ages and ability levels.

Adventure Activities in Sarapiquí

The Sarapiquí River is the region’s lifeline, and forms the backdrop to many of the dramatic adventure activities this area offers.

Rafting

Less than an hour and a half from the capital, the Sarapiquí River is one of the most popular rafting rivers in the country. Several outfitters offer day trips along this class II-III river. While the rapids are indeed exciting, the natural beauty of this rushing whitewater river is nothing short of breathtaking.

Horseback Riding

The best way to explore Sarapiquí’s countryside is on horseback. The lowland Caribbean rainforest is teeming with wildlife, and the unobtrusive nature of this mode of transportation makes for a much closer commune with nature.

Rappelling

Hacienda Pozo Azul offers a rappelling tour of the Sarapiquí River canyon. You descend a 90-foot rock wall at the confluence of the Sarapiquí and Pozo Azul rivers.

Adventure Activities in Turrialba

Turrialba has long been one of Costa Rica’s most popular adventure destinations. What began as a whitewater rafting hotspot has grown into a true adrenaline junky’s paradise.

Rafting

Two of Costa Rica’s best rafting rivers run through Turrialba. The Pacuare is a class III-IV river that is considered one of the top five best runs in the world. The exhilarating rapids combine with a tropical backdrop unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The Two Mountains Canyon is a favorite, and you’ll see dozens of waterfalls plummeting from the river banks along the way.

The Reventazón is another popular class III-IV river. This was the first commercially run river in Costa Rica, and it features great rapids and exciting wildlife.

Canyoneering

Nearly a dozen canyons are open to tourists in Turrialba. You can descend down rocky cliffs, streaming waterfalls and into the heart of Costa Rica’s outback.

Hiking

You can explore terrain ranging from 300 meters (985 feet) to 3,820 meters (12,530 feet), all within a short distance of each other.  Dramatic rainforests, mountains, valleys and rural villages all form part of an unforgettable backdrop to your hike.

Mountain Biking

A large segment of Costa Rica’s internationally famous race, the Ruta de los Conquistadores, passes through Turrialba. Varied terrain, plenty of trails and small country roads and some spectacular scenery await cyclists.

Throughout Costa Rica: Canopy Tours

You will undoubtedly find many options for canopy tours throughout Costa Rica. On a canopy tour, you are attached via harness and pulley to a cable suspended between rainforest trees, often hundreds of feet above the forest floor.  You leave an elevated platform by gliding along the cable, where you can observe the treetops, take in the bird’s-eye view and enjoy the miracle of flight. Every region around the country has canopy tours. The difference between them is in the number of cables, the distance and speed between cables, and the different types of views. Ask your tour provider about his or her favorite ones.