10 things to do in Costa Rica that will make you say “Pura Vida!”

Katie Thompson is a student at the University of Michigan and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katie is currently studying and participating in service-learning abroad with ISA in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Summer Study + Service-Learning program.

1. Canyoning in La Fortuna

You rappel down waterfalls.  Really that should explain it all, but if you’re not convinced here’s a little more:  They hook your harness up, turn you around, and you have no other option but to take a leap of faith.  It feels like you’re flying and falling and swimming (due to the waterfalls) at the same time.

2. Canopy in Monteverde

This is the zip-lining you’ve heard about if you’ve researched anything on Costa Rica.  You zip from platform to platform through the forest and over tree-covered mountains.  As if that weren’t enough, you can also “Superman”, meaning you lay flat for one zip-line and truly feel as though you’re flying.  Finally, you do the Tarzan Swing…where you jump off a platform, free fall, then swing back and forth like, well, Tarzan.  Even if you scream bloody murder you’ll want to do it again right away (a…friend…told me).

3. Swim under a waterfall in La Fortuna

It would be worth the hike down just to see the waterfall; a fountain of white water springs from more greens than you think can possibly exist, and somehow the pool at the base of the waterfall is both turquoise and clear at the same time.  You can actually get in the water at the base of the waterfall too, though!  You can’t swim close enough to the waterfall for it to hurt you, and while you’re swimming below a waterfall you won’t believe this is real life.

4. Stand a Foot Away from a Monkey in Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is a natural park with forests along the Pacific Coast.  Not only are the beaches in the park gorgeous, but you can see tons of animals in the forest.  When I went I saw a sloth and her baby up close as well as a monkey a foot away from me.  Calm waters perfect for swimming, and monkeys jumping over your head, what’s not to like?

5. Eat Termites on the Caribbean Coast

The Caribbean coast is chill and when you get in the water it feels as though you’re stepping into a bath.  So you should be relaxed enough to try some termites when your snorkeling guide asks if you want some.  They taste like mint and bragging rights.

6. Climb Trees with Monkeys

Monkeys appear on the list again!  First of all, the tree you must climb is a Strangle Fig, which is a tree that criss-crosses over another tree and eventually kills it, allowing you to climb inside a tree.  Not only can you climb all the way to the tree-tops with this type of tree, you just might get lucky enough to do so when all sorts of monkeys are jumping around the trees by you.  The tree I went to was in Monteverde.

7. Hike Through a Fairytale Forest to See a Volcano

Visiting Volcán Poas is a half-day trip well worth the stop.  The forest around the volcano is mossy, green, and gnarled; basically where you would expect any fairytale to take place.  The volcano itself isn’t the classic volcano you generally imagine, but it has a green lake at its center and is still smoking, so it’s really cool (even with the rotten egg smell of sulfur).

8. Dance with Guys Who Know How to Do More than Grind

Sure, there are guys back home who can dance, but in general, if you go out to clubs or bars you’re only going to get grinding-like music and dancing.  Here guys will twirl you around on the dance floor to salsa, meringue, bachata, etc.  And, if you’re a guy, you can learn how to do all these moves…it’ll go a long way!  Take some dance classes and hit the discotecas!

9. Drink Batidos on a Hot Day

While the temperature might not rise too high, the humidity will make you feel like you’re dying.  The best medicine is a Batido, which is basically a smoothie.  They have Batido shops everywhere here, and all they do is throw fruit and ice in a blender, but somehow it’s amazing.  I don’t know how I never considered this option before!  You can also add ice cream to the mix, which tastes amazing.

10. Relax Under a Palm Tree on the Beach

White sand + clear water + shade from a palm tree = contentment.

If you’re interested in more you can check out my personal blog at https://katieslog.wordpress.com.

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