bucketlist experiences to have in Costa Rica

Bucketlist experience in Costa Rica – there are many to be had, but in this blog post I will introduce you to my favorite ones. 

Make sure to not miss out on any of them during a visit to Costa Rica. 

bucketlist experiences in Costa Rica

1. Spot a sloth

If you haven´t seen a sloth while in Costa Rica have you even been there? Spotting a sloth is one of my favorite bucketlist experiences in Costa Rica and it should be a pretty easy one to tick off your list.

The sloth is the most common mammal in Costa Rica. Both species, three-fingered sloth and two-fingered sloth call Costa Rica their home. So there are MANY sloths all over Costa Rica, along with loads of other wildlife.

Compared to all other Central American countries I have been to, I have seen BY FAR the most wildlife in Costa Rica!

Usually sloths are “active in the morning” and feeding on the leaves of a tree or big bush and chilling/ sleeping the rest of the day high up in a tree.

So yes, the best time to see sloths is in the morning.

Whenever walking around places with trees, try to look up as much as possible, you should be able to spot a sloth pretty fast!

Some of the best places in Costa Rica to find a sloth:

  • Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Cahuita National Park
  • Tortuguero National Park
  • Puerto Viejo
  • La Fortuna

However, also in pretty much all other areas in Costa Rica it´s very common to see sloths, so keep your eyes open!

Taking a guided tour in one of the above mentioned areas will increase your chances of seeing a sloth, in case you are unlucky trying to spot them by yourself.

The guides also have good binoculars that can be used, so you can see the sloth from close up, even though it´s quite far away. 

sloth along the road in Puerto Viejo
sleeping sloth at Cahuita National Park

2. Soak in a hot spring

Being obsessed with hot springs in general, this is one of my personal favorite bucketlist experiences to have in Costa Rica. 

The hot spring capital of Costa Rica is La Fortuna. Due to the volcanic activity in this area, there are many natural hot springs around. These days, most hot springs are part of a hotel or resort and you have to either stay at the place ovenright or get a day pass to be able to soak in their hot springs.

Prices for day passes vary a lot at the various resorts.

The cheapest place I found was 5000 colones for the day (about 9 USD) and the most expensive around 80 USD.

The El Choyin river is naturally heated by volcanic activity and is accessible to the public for free. The river is located right by the famous Tabacon resort and even though the access to the hot river is free, locals have made it a business to charge for the public parking at the hot springs.

I have heard about people paying everything from 1000 colones (2 USD) up to 5000 colones (about 9 USD) for the day.

In order to avoid the ridiculous charge, you either come super early in the morning (I was there from 06.30 AM to 07.30 AM and nobody was there to charge for parking yet) or you tell them that you paid 1000 colones yesterday and chances are pretty good that they will at last let you pay 1000 colones instead of 5000.

List of hot springs in and around La Fortuna: 

  • Tabacon Hot Springs (most famous and most expensive, but best photo spots)
  • Baldi Hot Springs
  • EcoTermales Hot Springs
  • Titoku Hot Springs
  • The Springs Resort Hot Springs
  • Paradise Hot Springs
  • Los Laureles (cheapest I found for about 10 USD per day)
  • Los Lagos Hot Springs
  • The Royal Corin Hot Springs
  • Arenal Manoa Hot Springs (exclusive for hotel guests)
  • Kalambu Hot Springs

And there are many more, hot springs in the area, there are signs literally everywhere along the road.

Make sure to check at least one of the hot springs out while you visit La Fortuna. Personally, I would do the free one and one paid option. As for the paid option it would be the Tabacon hot springs for me. 

the only free hot spring in La Fortuna

3. Walk over a hanging bridge

You have probably seen many pictures and videos with hanging bridges in Costa Rica. It sort of belongs to the country and I therefor thought it was worth adding it to my bucketlist experiences in Costa Rica.

Indeed there are some very famous hanging bridges in the country – Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges.

This place is a private reserve and features a total of 6 hanging bridges.

They also have hiking trails, a waterfall as well as a lot of wildlife.

I have personally not visited (yet), but am planning to do so once I am back in Costa Rica in about a month.

Advance reservation is required under www.misticopark.com and the entrance fee is about 30 USD.

There are also several guided tour options available within the park, specifically for wildlife viewing.

BUT there are also some other, less popular and smaller hanging bridges in Costa Rica that are an alternative to the relatively expensive and touristic Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges.

The only ones I have visited are part of Paraiso Manantiales in Bajos del Toro, a place with 8 waterfalls, 1 hanging bridge and a view point. Check out my blog post about Bajos del Toro for more detailed information about this hidden gem area of Costa Rica. 

Below a list with other hanging bridges in Costa Rica:

  • Sky Adventures Park Arenal
  • Sky Adventures Park Monteverde
  • Selvatura Park Monteverde
  • Rainmaker private reserve near Quepos / Manuel Antonio
  • Heliconias Rainforest Lodge Bijagua
  • Las Hornillas Miravalles
  • Tirimbina Lodge & Reserve Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui

There are probably quite a few more throughout the country, but that´s some of the more popular and easier accessible ones. 

hanging bridge at Paraiso Manantiales

4. Visit a waterfall

Now this might be an obvious one, but due to how many insane waterfalls there are in Costa Rica, I thought it was worth mentioning it here and adding it to my list of bucketlist experiences in Costa Rica.

This country is home to many incredible waterfalls. Some more popular and some less.

My favorite area for chasing waterfalls in Costa Rica is the less touristy area around the small town Bajos del Toro.

The area is home to MANY waterfalls of different sizes, shapes and colors. Check out my detailed blog post about the area HERE.

Some of the most popular waterfalls around the country are:

  • La Fortuna waterfall
  • Rio Celeste waterfalls
  • La Paz waterfall gardens
  • Nauyaca waterfalls
  • LLana Cortez waterfalls

My personal favorite and an incredible hidden gem in Bajas del Toro is Catarata Vuelta del Canon. An insanely beautiful waterfall and also hidden gem, hardly visited!

If you are interested in visiting, check out this detailed blog post about my hike there.

At most of the listed waterfalls it´s possible to swim as well, with some exemptions like Catarata del Toro.

Catarata Vuelta del Canon
Catarata Vuelta del Canon
Nauyaca waterfalls
Nauyaca waterfalls
Blue Falls: Cataratas Las Gemelas
Blue Falls: Cataratas Las Gemelas

5. Explore a cloud forest

Costa Rica is home to multiple cloud forests, he most famous being Monteverde.

Cloud forests feature lower temperatures and usually foggy/ cloudy or rainy weather. The vegetation in cloud forests is due to their climate, quite different from other parts of the country as well.

The cooler climate and different vegetation make it a great place hiking.

If you are into adventures and like a good hike, definitely make a stop in one of the cloud forests.

There are also the following cloud forests in Costa Rica:

  • Bajos del Toro – a paradise for waterfall chasers
  • Braulio Carrillo
  • Los Quetzales
  • Tapanti
  • Turrialba
  • Miravalles
  • Cerro Chirripo
  • Tenorio

If you need a break from hot weather at Costa Rica`s coast, visiting a cloud forest is the perfect contrast.

cloud forest in Bajos del Toro
cloud forest in Bajos del toro

I hope this bucketlist experiences in Costa Rica inspired you to add some of them to your to-do list. 

Make sure to check out other Costa Rica blog posts to help plan your perfect trip: