Adrenaline junkies of the world unite – Costa Rica isn’t just about quiet walks in the park. On the contrary, this action-packed country is full of opportunities for extreme sports, both on land and in the water. Whether you find yourself zipping across canopies or rafting rivers, Costa Rica is all about getting your kicks.

Features - Woman sliding down zipline in rainforets, rear view, close-up
Hit the canopy in Costa Rica © Jerry Driendl / Getty Images

Canopy Tours

The best way to take in the lofty heights of the canopy is put on a harness, attach yourself to a zip line and soar through the tree tops on a canopy tour in the Monteverde area.  Should your travels take you a bit further north, Arenal is also a good place to go high-flying. Although it’s unlikely you’ll spot much wildlife at these speeds, we can guarantee you’ll get a whole new perspective on Mother Nature.

River kayaking

River-running becomes all the more intense when you push your limits by maneuvering in and out of the rapids in a small kayak. One of Costa Rica’s most legendary launches for river kayaking is the small town of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí in the northern lowlands near the Nicaraguan border.

Surfing the Caribbean

One of Costa Rica’s most famous surf destinations is Salsa Brava, a fierce reef break that cuts close to shore in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca; waves here can hit heights of 7m. Although you’re going to need some serious skills here to survive with your board (and bones) intact, a successful ride will win you some well-earned bragging rights.

White-water rafting

Thanks to its dramatic landscape, numerous waterways and healthy doses of rain every wet season, Costa Rica is regarded as one of the world’s top white-water rafting spots. There’s no better place to tackle mighty jungle rivers than Turrialba – depending on your skills, you can choose from numerous entry points on Ríos Reventazón and Pacuare, which offer rapids ranging from Class II to Class V.

Features - White water rafting, Pacuare River, Turrialba, Costa Rica, Central America
White water rafters battle the rapids of the Pacuare River © Marco Simoni / Robertharding / Getty Images

Scuba diving

Costa Rica may have some stunning wildlife on land, but its underwater world is impressive in its own right. One of the best ways to get a fish’s-eye view is to strap on a tank and check out some of the famous dive spots scattered around the northern section of the Nicoya peninsula. If you move a bit further south, Isla del Caño, located in Corcovado Bay off the coast of Península de Osa, is a good place to swim with sea turtles and barracudas. A little further offshore, Isla del Coco offers a world-class diving experience, giving a divers a chance to get up close and personal with hammerhead sharks.

Surfing the Pacific

Pacific coast surfers of all levels will find some waves to ride – beginners should check out the breaks at Jacó, while the more experienced will enjoy Playa Hermosa and Playa Grande. Playa Guiones is regarded as the best beach break in the Central Peninsula, so swing by to check out the laid back vibe and top notch surf. Another one of Costa Rica’s most famous surf destinations is Witch’s Rock, a remote break that can only be accessed by boat from Parque Nacional Santa Rosa. Regarded as something of a surf haven among the international community, this world-class break will seriously test your surfing mettle.

Features - The paradise surf beach of Playa Naranjo and Witch’s Rock in the Santa Rosa National Park in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Playa Naranjo in Santa Rosa National Park is home to 'Roca Bruja' (Witch’s Rock) © Krysia Campos / Getty Images


Extreme sports in Costa Rica come at a price, so you’re going to need a bit of cash in your wallet if you want your fix. Fortunately however, there is no shortage of cheap hostels and budget hotels around, which means that shoestringers can conserve their cash for the occasional splurge.

This article was updated in June 2017.

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