Free and exciting things to do in Costa Rica

Isn’t Costa Rica too expensive? Is it dangerous? Are people friendly? These are all concerns popping up for everyone when it comes to Latin America. Despite a few random incidents, it’s true that Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in the world to visit.

While it’s safe, you are aware that this place is way too touristic. Thereby people take advantage by increasing prices. I have to admit, Costa Rica is beautiful, but being too touristic had annoyed me a lot. The real question that should come to your mind is: “Are there free things to do in Costa Rica by saving my precious colones for other things and constantly being in a crowded touristic place?”

As everyone says “nothing in life is free”, I wanna prove them wrong and of course remove the pain of paying an arm and a leg for nothing. Considering I was on a budget while traveling in Costa Rica, I made some research in order to find free and cheaper things to do.

Although it’s one of the more expensive countries on this continent, amazingly Costa Rica still boasts an array of budget-friendly adventures sure to delight and amaze travelers.

Keep this in mind: if you go where the locals go, that’s a great way to save money and not be around tons of tourists – also a great way of discovering hidden gems. Having your own transportation is key since most of these places don’t have buses and they are only reachable by car. It’s also true when they say “All roads lead to San José”.

Following Giorgy aka G-Extreme along this read to find out free and exciting things to do in Costa Rica!

NOTICE: The information here is updated as best we can in light of COVID-19. Please check before you go anywhere what modifications have taken place to avoid any inconvenience!

#1. BE ON TOP OF THE CERRO CHATO VOLCANO

What is it?
Would you believe me if I told you that this volcano is located in La Fortuna just right next to Arenal Volcano? Unfortunately, people go to La Fortuna for Arenal, the famed cone-shaped giant, instead of visiting this intriguing sight nearby that is more worth visiting: Cerro Chato.

Why go?
This is a dormant Volcano with a stunning emerald green crater lake that looks almost out of this world (it was also really cold, but refreshing after the sweaty, muggy, and exhausting climb up).

Although this is a free hike with a rewarding of a view on the Arenal Volcano & a refreshing bath in the crater crystal lake water.. keep in mind that this is a strenuous trek: much of the trail is narrow & steep, with building tree roast to avoid and some slippery spots due to clay. Depending on your fitness level, this might take between 1,5 – 2 hours.

#2. A FRIENDLY WALK UP TO CERRO AMIGOS

What is it?
Who would like to be in Guanacaste, Alajuela, and Puntarenas provinces all at the same time? The walk up isn’t great – a steep track guyed into the hillside to let ATKs summit. Apparently 390 meters up reachable in about 1 hour.

Why go?
Although the path is not well pawed, it’s not well signed as well. Indeed I got lost a few times. Eventually, following the right path, I reached the top where there is 4WD radio tower service (if you ended up here, it means you’re at the right place). If you’re lucky enough, from here you have a clear view over the lake. ocean and all the way to Arenal Volcano.

#3. VISIT CAHUITA AND TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARKS

What is it?
The richest and most beautiful coast of whole Costa Rica is the Caribbean one dominated by two places: the Amazon-like jungle of Tortuguero in the North and the party/beach paradise of Puerto Viejo in the South.

Why go?
1 hour norths of Puerto Viejo you will find Cahuita, a small and beautiful copy of Puerto Viejo. Here you will find the only National Park in the country that doesn’t charge admission (on the other hand you can leave a donation).

Well, also Tortuguero on North of the Coast could be accessible for free. You could easily walk on the beachside and enter the National Park without paying fees by not following the pawed path (at your own risk if you get lost). So, you could save up to 18$!

Hey Goofball! I believe you could do it at any National Park, you just need to know where to enter and be sure you won’t get lost in there! Moreover, if you have a student card or let the staff believe you are one (by showing them a fake Student ID) you might pay half of the price or get free entry in a few other National parks. You’re welcome!

#4. THE TRUTH BEHIND THE HOT SPRINGS

What is it?
The Tobanon river which passed by all the hotel resort proprieties continues to flow making this pleasantly steamy accessible and free: warm water, stunning rain forest surroundings, few people, and pricey entrance free!

Why go?
Why pay more than 40$ to get into a SPA in La Fortuna when you can have the same treatment for free? Usually, every hostel (I don’t believe the hotel has it) offers a free shuttle to the easiest access to the river. So why not take advantage of it as I did?

#5. EXPLORE THE BEAUTY OF VALLE ESCONDIDO

What is it?
About 30 minutes walk from the village center of Monteverde lays this unknown little gem: where mountains meet the sky.

Why go?
This hidden preserve has to offer varied hiking trails, majestic vistas from diverse platforms over a virgin river, waterfalls, getting lost watching wildlife’s life around you, and more! This is all for free.

The most beautiful thing? At the end of the trail, you’ll end up in this beautiful hammock garden! Be sure of bringing a picnic, rest, and watching butterflies or, as I did, taking a nap.

#6. FREE WALK TOURS IN SAN JOSE’

What is it?
There are guys waiting for you at the main square downtown ready to show you around, San Jose. Costa Rica’s vivacious capital serves as a nice middle-of-the-town point for exploring the city.

Why go?

“All roads lead to San José”.

For every new destination you encounter, you have to stop in San José anyways. Therefore it’s nice to know you can walk around the city on a guided tour in order to know more about the capital (it’s not really free, at least you decide how much to pay the guide).

My guide becomes my free guide to the adventure to Tortuguero National park, here few stories about it tho.

#7. WATCHING SUNSETS AND SUNRISES

Don’t be silly, who doesn’t love sitting down watching the sky turning into wonderfully multi-colors? Or waking up early in the morning to see how the day startup?

Not only in Costa Rica this is free, but also on the terrace/balcony/patio of wherever you are at.

#8. COOLING OFF IN THE SWIMMING HOLES

What is it?
Who doesn’t love cooling off in a swimming pool? What if these are created from mother nature and uncrowded by people?

Why go?
So far my favorite one is El Salto. Here you may find waterfalls, rocks, cliff jumping, also rope swing (have fun I would say) – a perfect stop after hiking the Cerro Chato (clean the mug and sweat away).

You can also decide to go further down the river to find a peaceful spot, here where I saw a hummingbird’s creating its own nets.

#9. SODAS ~ YOU ARE GOING TO MISS THOSE ONCE BACK HOME

What is it?
Please keep in mind that Sodas are fundamental for your trip to Costa Rica. These are not free but absolutely cheaper and completely local cuisine.

Why go?
Why spend a bunch of money in a fancy restaurant when the real food stands in the Sodas?! It’s not free, on the other hand, it’s cheaper, delicious, local.. what else?

#10. SIT BACK, RELAX… IT’S BEACH DAY!

What is it?
Just going to the beach is doing something!

Why go?
Whether you’re having a picnic, playing football, swimming, sunbathing.. at the end of the day, you’re tired of the day. Some places to stay even have natural visitors: sloths or monkeys. I’d rather have sloths visiting me instead of a monkey trying to steal my stuff!

#11. PRETENDING TO BE A TICA

What is it?
Giorgy trying to convince you to impersonate a local is a good way to save a lot of money!

Why?
This worked well for me until I opened my mouth. I mean, people noticed my Spanish accent sounds a bit weird to them. At least it worked out when I smiled and they headed me the local price instead of the touristic one.

Hey Goofball! Not to be racist but if you have blond hair, really light skin, blue/green eyes… don’t even try. Unfortunately, they are going to recognize you as a tourist!

#12. WATCH CATARATA LA PAZ FROM THE BOTTOM

What is it?
Let’s face it, Costa Rica is full of hidden Waterfalls gems, but I wanna talk about La Paz in particular.

Why go?
Did you know you could see it for FREE without spending 60$? You just need to drive further 10 minutes from the entry, you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the waterfall.

#13. FARMER MARKETS

What is it?
Most Costa Ricans do their weekly shopping at one of the Country’s farmer’s markets.

Why go?
Why not follow the locals and end up buying a great deal of fresh-from-the-farm products? I went once to the Cahuita market and I found the biggest avocado ever. It was bigger than my hand & I literally paid it 1$ (Shame on me for not taking a picture of it).

#14. IMMERSE LEARNING SPANISH

What do I mean?
There are plenty of free ways of learning a foreign language. One method is trying to speak with locals even tho you might make mistakes. Latinos in general are really open-minded and friendly.

Why does it?
Don’t be afraid of putting yourself out of your comfort zone! If I made it, I’m pretty sure you could do it too! It will pay off in such wonderful ways.

In case you feel still a little bit unsure, you can take this little translator which can help you through the whole trip.

I am pretty sure after these inspirational words, you are already booking your Costa Rica ticket! I won’t blame you, it’s such a beautiful place to be immersed by nature. If you are into it, help yourself by reading Costa Rica Travel Guide.

These are my free and exciting things to do while in Costa Rica. If you have ever been, would you add anything else to this list? Let me know in the comments below! 

 

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