Pivot Journeys’ Guide to Costa Rica: Your Pura Vida

Planning a vacation can be stressful and overwhelming.  

Where should I go?
What are the must-see things?
How do you decide where to eat?
What do I pack?

We’re all about making your life easier here at Pivot Journeys. We've gotten a lot of questions in the lead up to our Pivot Costa Rica trip about the best things to do when visiting Costa Rica. 

Here’s our list of must-do activities and places to visit, and what to eat, in Costa Rica:


Sleepy sloths in the cloud forest

All of Costa Rica is a nature lover’s paradise. Pretty much no matter where you go, there are opportunities to see awesome wildlife, gorgeous vistas, and hear nature’s soundtrack all around you.

In particular, our favorite place Monteverde. In the central highlands of Costa Rica, Monteverde is over 26,00 acres of cloud forest. It’s got six ecological zones, and a ton of biodiversity with over 2,500 plant species, and over 500 species of mammals and birds. If you love orchids – this is the best place to see the most in a single place.

A typical tree in Monteverde

If flora and fauna are your thing, this is a must on your to-do list for your visit!


Arenal Volcano

Arenal is the youngest and most active volcano in the northwestern part of Costa Rica.

So yes, the volcano and its cone shape are the most impressive of the hundreds of volcanoes in the country, but there are a lot of other great activities in the town that Arenal is in - La Fortuna.

Situated on a lake with hiking trails nearby, there is plenty more nature to get lost in.

The Disneyland of hot springs!

Our personal favorite is a day or evening trip to the Baldi Hot Springs!

The hot springs are 25 thermal water pools filled with crystalline waterfalls that are a relaxation experience extraordinaire. Think water park and spa combined.  



Manuel Antonio beach

Definitely one of the most famous national parks in the country, Manuel Antonio is full of beautiful white sand beaches, rainforests, and coral reefs. Hey, there’s a reason it’s a national park!  

The diversity of wildlife – endangered species, birds, tropical plants – is really impressive. And there are hiking trails throughout to explore. If you’re looking for a good mix of landscapes, plus some monkeys or sloths, this is your place!


What yummy food is unique to Costa Rica?

Here are some of our favorites:

Comida Typica

  • Gallo pinto, rice and beans with garlic, cilantro, onions, eggs, sausage.
  • Casado, or 'Comida Typica' as it might be referred to, is a combo of rice, beans, fried plantains, cabbage, tomato and either fish or meat.
  • Tamales, dough mixed with vegetables, meats and cheese and then steamed or boiled in a banana leaf.
  • Tres Leches, a yummy dessert, it's a spongy, buttery cake soaked in three (tres) kinds of milk – evaporated, condensed and heavy cream. Mmmmm.

And of course you’ve got amazing chocolate. Costa Rica’s cacao beans are found in the jungle, and throughout the country you can find really great quality hand-crafted, organic chocolate.


How many times have you seen photos of people zip lining through the forests? It’s become one of the most popular adventure activities for tourists all over the world.

But did you know that it was first started in Costa Rica in the 1990’s?

So what exactly is this zip line canopy experience? You’re hooked into a harness that’s secured onto suspended cables of various lengths that are connected to the trees. You glide through the trees from a small platform on one tree to a platform on another tree.


What an amazing experience! You’ll feel like a bird as you soar through the treetops of the forest.

There are tons of places within Costa Rica to do a canopy tour and it’s definitely on our list of the must-do activities!


Have you ever tried surfing? It’s harder than it looks.

Surfing is a very popular activity in Costa Rica, especially on the Pacific coast.  And there are a ton of companies and resorts that offer surfing lessons, potentially right outside your door.

Surfers on the Pacific coast

If you want to try something new, and bungee jumping or zip lining is a bit too adventurous for you, surfing might be just what you’re looking for. You never know, you might be talking about the wave type and quality like a pro in just a few days! 

Some of the most popular spots for surfing are in Nosara, Tamarindo, Jaco and Mal Pais. 


With the number of fruit juice options, this is worthy of it’s own section.

Possibly the best coffee you'll ever taste is in Costa Rica.

Star fruit, cas, guanabana, mango, passion fruit, blackberry, papaya, pineapple, tamarindo! If there’s a fruit, there’s probably a juice to go with it. All fresh and healthy. 

And of course, the coffee! With the perfect climate for growing coffee beans, and the rich volcanic soil, Costa Rican’s have some of the best java on the planet. It’s one of their biggest exports!


“Pura Vida” is Costa Rica’s national slogan, which translates to ‘pure life.’ It’s how Costa Rican’s greet each other and say goodbye, and you’ll find them saying it to you with their warm, welcoming nature.

It’s really a state of mind around living life to the fullest. And it also ties in with their strong culture of eco-tourism.

Costa Rica is one of the world’s countries that’s most focused on sustainability and aims to be carbon neutral by 2021. If you like to travel with a light footprint this is one of the best countries on the planet to visit.

Ready to pack your bags? 

Check out Pivot Journeys' upcoming trip to Costa Rica, December 3-10.

You'll be able to cross a bunch of these activities off your to-do list and have a career self-discovery experience of a lifetime. Read more about our upcoming Pivot Costa Rica Journey.