Note: Some tour providers on this list may have ceased operations due to COVID-19. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.
While known for its vast species of wildlife, lush rainforests and gorgeous waterfalls, Costa Rica can be difficult to navigate when you’re not a local due to its rough roads and dispersed attractions. Opting for a guided tour may be a simpler option that yields a richer experience. U.S. News gathered the top 21 tours based on traveler opinion and expert input. Whether you want to experience Costa Rica’s wild side while zip lining or indulge in its famous chocolate, you’ll find an excursion on this list.
Adventure Tours Costa Rica – 3-Hour ATV Tour
Discover Costa Rica’s rainforests, waterfalls and beaches on this three-hour ATV excursion that begins and ends in Jacó. Along the way, you’ll make several stops for photos and even have the chance to jump off of a waterfall. Tour-takers say they enjoy their guides and that the scenery is amazing, though they recommend bringing plenty of water with you. Tours operate at 8:30 and 10 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m. daily. Tickets cost approximately $95 per ATV driver and $30 for each passenger. Drivers must be at least 16 years old with a valid driver’s license. No open-toed shoes are allowed. The company recommends bringing bug spray, sunscreen and a swimsuit. ATV Adventure Tours offers a wide variety of tours, including kayaking, rappelling and horseback riding.
El Santuario Canopy Adventure Tour
Sail across a nearly mile-long zip line near Manuel Antonio National Park while enjoying breathtaking views on this 5 1/2-hour trip. During the tour, you’ll ride 10 zip lines in total, cross hanging bridges and walk nature trails. The excursion also includes round-trip transportation from your Manuel Antonio or Quepos hotel, lunch and all safety equipment. Travelers say they feel safe during the whole trip and that the zip lines are awesome. Many add that the included lunch is tasty. Tickets cost approximately $75 per person and participants must be at least 4 years old. Tours run daily at 7 and 10 a.m.
Costa Rica Eco Journeys – Rainforest and Waterfall Experience
See a waterfall, hike through a rainforest and spot sloths in the wilds of Costa Rica on this eco tour. Lunch is included in the excursion, and the company recommends bringing sunscreen, bug spray, a poncho and hiking shoes. Reviewers say that guides are knowledgeable and that the rainforest is a hidden gem. You must contact the company to get the best price and to select your tour date. This company offers a variety of tours, including zip lining, rafting and nature tours.
Costa Rica Waterfall Tours – The Explorer Tour
On the Explorer Tour, you’ll be driven up a mountain in a four-wheel drive vehicle before hiking through the company’s private rainforest reserve along a river, across bridges and to natural pools and waterfalls. Along the trek, there will be opportunities to swim, sit under the rushing water and jump from the top of the falls. Tours are limited to 12 people and last about four hours. Patrons say this tour is a must-do. They appreciate not only swimming in the waterfalls, but also the informative guides who point out local flora and fauna. Be sure to bring water, a swimsuit and shoes that can get wet. Tickets cost about $80 per person, and tours are available daily at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. The company also offers ocean-based excursions and explorations through Costa Rica’s canyons, among other options.
Take a wild ride down whitewater rapids with Aguas Bravas.(Courtesy of Aguas Bravas)
Aguas Bravas – Eco Rafting Class II y III
Participants highly recommend this waterlogged adventure, praising both the guides and the scenery. This 2 1/2-hour trip takes you down the Sarapiqui River while rafting through Class II and Class III rapids. The excursion includes a stop for fresh tropical fruit, a quick swim and a chance to learn more about the surrounding rainforest and its inhabitants. At the end, you’ll enjoy a traditional lunch. Tickets cost approximately $65 per person, and tours run at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily. The company recommends children be at least 6 years old to participate. Aguas Bravas also operates horseback riding, zip lining, Class IV rafting and other tours.
Calypso Cruises – Tortuga Island Cruise
Spend the day cruising turquoise waters, relaxing along the sands of Tortuga Island and sampling delicious food on this daylong tour with Calypso Cruises. Start your day with a Costa Rican breakfast then set sail to Tortuga Island. Along the sail, you can sunbathe, enjoy complimentary fruit and soft drinks and watch the waves. During the stop at Tortuga Island, which lasts five hours, you can play volleyball, lounge in a hammock, snorkel or swim in the water following a four-course lunch. On the way back, you’ll take a different route to see more islands in the Gulf of Nicoya before enjoying the sunset. Reviewers rave about the outstanding service on this cruise and are particularly complimentary of the food. Others caution that Tortuga Island is overcrowded. Tickets start at $150 for adults and $90 for children ages 4 to 12, and tours depart daily. Calypso Cruises also leads a tour to Punta Coral.
Green Vacations Costa Rica – Nature Lovers Combo
Ideal for those looking to explore the wild side of Costa Rica, this nine-hour tour brings participants to three of the top outdoor excursions in the nation. Cross 15 hanging bridges (perfect vantage points for spotting wildlife), climb up and down a waterfall, and take a hike that offers stunning views of the Arenal Volcano. Reviewers recommend this tour and say they enjoy spotting wildlife. They advise bringing water shoes for the challenging stairs by the waterfall. Tickets cost about $150 for adults and $120 for children; infants can participate for free. Tickets include pickup and drop off from La Fortuna, as well as admission fees and lunch. Tours run at 7 a.m. daily. Green Vacations Costa Rica offers many tours, including chocolate tours, a night walk and a volcano hike.
Native’s Way Costa Rica – Guachipelin Adventure Combo
Ideal for travelers who want to experience the adventurous pursuits Costa Rica is known for, including zip lining and river tubing, this daylong tour is a hit with reviewers. Along with a variety of heart-pumping activities, the tour also includes a buffet lunch, a volcanic mud bath and a dip in hot springs. Tour-takers say they feel safe and that guides are helpful. They also appreciate the stop at the hot springs as the tour’s finale. Tickets start at $125 per adult and $110 for children ages 6 to 11. Tours include pickup and drop off at your hotel; you’ll be picked up between 6 and 7:30 a.m., depending on your hotel’s location. Native’s Way Costa Rica operates a variety of other tours, including excursions to the Monte Verde Cloud Forest, fishing, scuba diving and more.
Learn how cocoa is harvested and made into chocolate during the Rainforest Chocolate Tour.Getty Images
Rainforest Chocolate Tour
Satisfy your sweet tooth and learn all about chocolate, including its history, its origins and the production process on the two-hour Rainforest Chocolate Tour. You’ll also learn about the ceremonial chocolate drink of the Mayans and of course, enjoy a sample of organic chocolate. Chocolate lovers say they learn a lot about chocolate on this tour and enjoy tasting the various samples. Tours, which take place in La Fortuna, are available at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.; reservations are required. Tickets start at $26 for adults and $18 for children. All ages are welcome.
Wave Rafting – White Water Rafting Class II and III from Arenal Volcano
Families will appreciate this rafting experience on the Balsa River that takes travelers through mild Class II and Class III rapids. Ideal for participants ages 8 and older, the trip takes travelers out on the water for two hours. A break filled with fruit and swimming opportunities allows you to take a better look at the surrounding flora and fauna. After rafting, enjoy lunch at a country estate. Participants rave about their experienced guides and say the trip is perfect for novice rafters. Tours are available daily at 10:30 a.m. and last about six hours, not including pickup and drop off at area hotels. Tickets start at $75 for adults and $67 for children ages 8 to 12. In addition to whitewater rafting, Wave Rafting also offers river float trips and tours that combine a variety of activities, including horseback riding and hiking.
Pure Trek Canyoning – The Ultimate Waterfall Rappel
Rappel, rock climb and zip line in a waterfall canyon that’s filled with wildlife on this thrilling half-day tour near La Fortuna. Depending on the time of day, participants enjoy a traditional lunch either before or after their tour. Families say this tour is great for kids, that they feel safe and highly recommend the “monkey drop” portion (rappelling to the canyon floor). Tickets cost approximately $105 per person; children must be at least 5 years old to participate. There is a morning tour with pickups starting at 7 a.m. and an afternoon tour with pickups starting at noon. The company also offers tours that combine rappelling with rafting, a trip to a farm and more.
Arenal Mundo Aventura – Big AMA
Fly high above La Fortuna waterfall via zip line on this adrenaline-fueled excursion. You’ll also sail along a 2-mile zip line leading to the Pino Blanco waterfall, which is surrounded by canyons. If you want more thrills, you can return to the departure point via horseback (for an additional fee). Participants say the views are amazing and that they feel very safe throughout. Tickets start at $70 for adults and $53 for children, who must be at least 7 years old; 3 feet, 10 inches tall and weigh 51 pounds. There is a minimum of two people required to book the tour, and transportation is included for some area locations. Tours operate at 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Arenal Mundo Aventura hosts a variety of zip lining, hiking, rappelling and horseback riding tours.
Barrio Bird Walking Tours will take you through San Jose to discover spots frequented by locals.(Courtesy of Barrio Bird Walking Tours)
Barrio Bird Walking Tours – The Bird’s Nest
See the highlights of San José on this two-hour small group tour that’s limited to just eight participants. There are more than 40 stops along the 2-mile walk, including major attractions like the National Theatre of Costa Rica, the Metropolitan Cathedral of San José, art galleries, as well as secret spots favorited by guides. Guides also share insight about the daily life of locals and issues currently affecting the country. Tour-takers say they learn a lot about the “real” San José thanks to the terrific guides. Tickets start at $32 for adults and $10 for children ages 6 to 12. Tours are available daily, starting at 10:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Barrio Bird also offers other tours focused on food and art, among other options.
Callidryas Tours – Sloth Tour
Discover sloths in their natural habitat on this three- to four-hour walking and driving excursion. A naturalist guide will lead you on a mission to find as many sloths as possible; the company even guarantees you will see wild sloths. In addition to the tour’s namesake, you could also see toucans, frogs, iguanas and monkeys. Participants rave about the number of sloths spotted on the tour and praise the guides. Tickets cost approximately $60 for adults and $30 for children; transportation and snacks are included. Tours begin at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Callidryas Tours also operates an Arenal Volcano hike, as well as a frog-watching night walk and various other hikes.
Urban Adventures – San José Bites and Sights Tour
Discover San José with a local on this tour from Urban Adventures, which focuses on traditional cuisine, drinks and coffee while wandering through several of the city’s markets. Foodies say they learn a lot about Costa Rican foods and that their guides are personable. Tickets cost approximately $40 per person for participants ages 6 and older, while children younger than 6 can tour for free. The three-hour tours, which are limited to 12 people, start at 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. and are available Monday through Saturday. Urban Adventures also offers a variety of other tours of San Jose, including a bike tour, a craft beer tour, a shopping tour and others.
Horse Trek Monteverde – Mountain and Farm View Costa Rica Horseback Ride
During this 2 1/2-hour horseback ride, you’ll traverse through rural villages; banana, sugar and coffee plantations, and along the cloud forest with fantastic views and bird sightings along the way. Those who have limited experience riding horses say they feel comfortable on this ride and praise the guide’s passion for horses. Tickets cost approximately $50 per person, and children must be at least 6 years old to participate. The maximum weight to ride is 200 pounds. Rides are available both morning and afternoon with pickups from Monteverde-area accommodations, beginning at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Horse Trek Monteverde offers a variety of horseback riding tours in different settings.
Manuel Antonio National Park is home to many different species of wildlife.Getty Images
Costa Rica Jade Tours – Manuel Antonio National Park Guided Group Tour
Discover the diverse flora and fauna of Manuel Antonio National Park, including its beaches, coral reefs and rainforest, with an in-the-know local by your side. During the three-hour trip, guides share the park’s history and information about the park’s inhabitants, including monkeys, sloths, iguanas, toucans and more. Reviewers say guides are incredibly knowledgeable and that they see lots of wildlife on the tour. Tickets, which include round-trip transportation from Quepos City, cost approximately $60 for adults and $35 for children younger than 12. Tours, which have a maximum of 10 participants, start at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The company also operates tours all throughout the country, including Jacó, Arenal Volcano and Guanacaste, among other locales.
Explore a cacao tree farm, sample handcrafted chocolate and agua dulce (a drink made from sugar cane), as well as fresh fruit grown on the farm on the approximately two-hour Don Olivo Chocolate Tour. Participants will also learn about cacao trees, plants and seeds and how they are made into chocolate. Tourgoers find the experience interesting and say there is a lot more to see, learn and sample on the tour than just chocolate. Tours are available daily at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., but need to be reserved online in advance. Contact the company for pricing information and know that you must pay upon arrival.
Sail along the Manuel Antonio coast on this four-hour cruise past area islands and Manuel Antonio National Park, spotting dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays and (possibly) whales along the way. You’ll also have the opportunity to snorkel and enjoy a gourmet meal on board. Throughout the trip, guides share information about marine life. Reviewers say that the crew is personable, the boat clean and comfortable, and the food excellent. Tours start at 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets cost around $95, which includes transportation from hotels in Quepos and Manuel Antonio, snorkeling gear, a meal and snacks.
Lazy Lizard Sailing – Tropical Sailing Sunset Tour in Playa Flamingo
Sail along the Costa Rican coast from the Guanacaste province aboard a catamaran with a stop for water activities like a guided snorkeling tour, kayaking or swimming in a secluded inlet on this four-hour cruise. Afterward, enjoy a picnic-style lunch and beautiful views of the sunset. Reviewers say the food served on board the cruise is delicious, and describe the sunset as stunning. Tickets cost approximately $90 per adult and $65 for children 11 and younger. Tours are available daily at 2 p.m.; the company also offers a morning catamaran tour.
Bahia Aventuras – Hiking Corcovado National Park Day Tour
Travelers can explore the vast biodiversity of Corcovado National Park on this approximately eight-hour tour, which features two guided nature hikes each about two hours. The adventure also includes a picnic lunch between hikes, as well as a boat trip from Punta Uvita beach to Corcovado National Park, where passengers may spot dolphins, whales and turtles from the boat. Participants applaud the tour for the knowledgeable guides and variety of wildlife on view. They also recommend motion sickness medication for the boat ride. Tickets cost approximately $145 for adults and $90 for children ages 4 to 10, which includes entrance fees to the park. The tour is not recommended for children younger than 4. Tours start at 7:30 a.m. and require a minimum of two to six people, depending on the season. Bahia Aventuras offers a range of tours, including whale watching, snorkeling and sport fishing.