Costa Rica is the perfect Central America destination for families. Costa Rica with kids does not need to be limited to staying in resorts. It’s definitely possible to visit multiple destinations and find plenty of things to do that the entire family will love.
I have to preface this article by saying that Thomas and I do not personally have any kids. So, we are by no means experts on traveling with children. However, we have traveled extensively in Costa Rica and feel confident in advising you on traveling within the country with children.
We created this guide to help you discover the best areas for families, some great activities, and safety tips.
Let’s get to it!
Best Areas of Costa Rica with Kids
To be honest, most touristy towns in Costa Rica will be great for children. However, there are some places that just stand above the rest. These are the towns where you will feel safe, will have no problem finding tons of activities for people of all ages, and have calm swimmable waters on the beaches.
La Fortuna is the perfect jungle destination that everyone of all ages will love. In fact, my grandmother in her mid-eighties had a great time here with plenty to do.
We suggest this area for families because it is a good jungle spot to offset all the beach destinations. You will have no problem of finding accommodation options for all price ranges in La Fortuna.
Some of our favorite family friendly activities in this area are; visiting a hot spring, zip lining, walking on hanging bridges, and going on a cacao tour.
Playa Hermosa is a nice beach area that is located only about 20 minutes from Liberia International Airport. We suggest this area for families due to its calm waters and proximity to the international airport.
There are plenty of very nice resorts located just north of Playa Hermosa, but for a more affordable option you can stay in the neighborhood next to Hermosa.
The Hermosa beach is great for kids because the waters are generally very calm. In fact, they even have a small roped off area specifically for swimming.
Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular towns for tourists to visit in Costa Rica. Keep in mind that during the dry season it can be very crowded. However, we like this area for families because there is plenty to do for kids including visiting the Manuel Antonio National Park and enjoy the calm waters of Playa Biesanz.
Plus, it is only a 3.5 hour drive from San Jose Airport on well maintained highways.
Great Kid-Friendly Activities in Costa Rica
Obviously, how kid-friendly an activity is will somewhat depend on the age of your kids. However, there are definitely some things that all ages will enjoy. Here are 15 great suggestions….
Go to the Beach
One of the best kid-friendly activities in Costa Rica is to go to the beach. However, keep in mind that all beaches are not created equal. There are places in the country with strong rip currents and big waves which are not suitable for swimming.
A few great kids friendly beaches that we love are: Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste, Playa Biesanz in Manuel Antonio, Playa Cocles near Puerto Viejo, Playa Blanca near Jaco, the beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park, and Playa Flamingo.
Visit a Hot Spring
La Fortuna is home to many amazing hot springs. Each has a different vibe. Some are geared towards families and others cater more towards couples. Our picks for families are;
Baldi Hot Spring: A more high end hot spring option with beautifully manicured grounds and dining options.
Kalumba Hot Spring: A mid-range hot springs with multiple pools and waterslides
Termalitas Arenal: Our favorite budget-friendly hot spring. There are picnic tables here, with grills for guests to use. Just bring some charcoal and some tasty food and enjoy a fun-filled day here.
Also, note that the website makes it seem like you need to stay at their hotel to use the hot springs. That is not true. Outside admission is about $8 for adults.
Go on a Chocolate Tour
Our favorite chocolate tour is Rainforest Chocolate in La Fortuna. However, there are multiple tours throughout the country. Just check in the area you are staying and you might find one.
At Rainforest Chocolate you will learn how chocolate is made from planting the cacao tree all the way to the final production.
The guides make the whole tour super interesting for all ages. Plus, they allow you to eat as much chocolate as you could possibly want. And, what kid doesn’t love that?
Visit a National Park
National parks are a great activity for the whole family. Our favorite family-friendly national parks are Manuel Antonio National Park, Cahuita National Park, and Curu Wildlife Refuge.
Manuel Antonio National Park has wide paved paths in most of the park that are stroller friendly. There are two great beaches with calm waters for swimming and plenty of wildlife. If your kids are interested in wildlife it might be a good idea to hire a guide. The guides often carry large telescopes so you can see wildlife up close that may otherwise be difficult to see.
Cahuita National Park is great because the trail is flat and runs parallel to the beach. There are plenty of picnic tables if you would like to bring a lunch and make a full day of it. You can also hire a guide here to spot wildlife up close.
I suggest hiring a guide for an hour and then continuing further on the trail alone or stopping after your guide departs and enjoying your picnic lunch and a swim before returning to town.
Curu Refuge is located on the way to Montezuma and Santa Teresa. It is not a well-known reserve, but it should be! There are maps here that show the different trail options and their difficulty level. There is also a really nice calm beach for swimming.
Go to a Waterfall
There are plenty of amazing waterfalls in Costa Rica. However, keep in mind that most of them require a lot of walking or steps to get to. One of our favorites for families is Llanos de Cortez which is located near Liberia airport in the northwest part of the country.
Go Zip Lining
Ziplining is a thrilling adventure that most kids will likely enjoy. Each zip-lining company in Costa Rica has different minimum weight and age requirements. These age requirements depend a lot on the harness and pulley system the company has. However, I know that some places allow kids as young as 4 to zipline when attacked on the harness to an adult.
Visit a Butterfly Garden
Visit an Animal Park
There are several animal parks in Costa Rica. Most are dedicated to taking in injured wildlife and assisting in their rehabilitation. This is a great way for kids to see the wildlife of Costa Rica in a controlled environment. One of our favorites is La Paz Waterfall Gardens located near the San Jose airport.
Tour a Volcano
Go to a Museum
If you find yourself with a few days in San Jose, there are plenty of great museums. With children, our choice would be the Children’s Museum.
See Sea Turtles
It is possible to see sea turtles throughout the country on beaches. Our personal favorite spots are Ostional and in Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast. At both locations, it is necessary to go with a guide to watch the momma turtles come in from the ocean to lay their eggs. It is definitely an experience that the whole family will love.
Take a Wildlife Boat Ride
Our favorite place to take a wildlife boat ride is in Tortuguero. Here you can take an early morning canoe ride with a guide through the calm river waters surrounding Tortuguero. Your guide will point out plenty of animals along the way. We have seen monkeys, sloths, tons of birds, and caymans on our past tour experiences.
Visit Isla Tortuga
Thomas and I took a day trip to Isla Tortuga recently and had a great time. We thought it had the potential to be really touristy, and it was somewhat, but it was also a perfect day trip filled with speed boat rides, snorkeling, tasty food, and relaxing on a beautiful beach. This would be a great trip for people with kids of all ages.
In fact, this one couple on our boat brought their nine-month-old child on the tour. We thought they were crazy, but their daughter was the happiest most content baby I’ve ever seen.
In most beach town it is possible to find snorkeling tours for a few hours or even a full day. Usually all snorkel gear will be provided as well as snacks and drinks. These tours are often to very calm warm waters. If your kids enjoy swimming and seeing sea life, they will love this.
Tour a Coffee Plantation
Although coffee is probably not be something your kids are drinking, they will still likely enjoy a coffee plantation tour. Most coffee tour companies put in a lot of effort to make their tours geared to the entire family.
One of our favorite family friendly coffee tours is from Britt Coffee. This tour is located not too far from the San Jose Airport.
Safety with Kids in Costa Rica
In general, Costa Rica is a safe country. However, petty crimes do sometimes occur. As far as safety with kids, one of the most important things to be aware of is not crime-related safety but more so safety while participating in activities.
Often, things are not regulated in the same capacity that you might be used to. For example, often the waterfalls will have signs saying be careful of slippery rocks, but there won’t be any guards or railings blocking off slippery areas. It is up to you to keep an eye out for these kinds of things.
Our Tips for Traveling Costa Rica with Kids
-Pack entertainment for the kiddos for long car rides. Typically drives in Costa Rica can take longer than expected.
-Almost all gas stations will have public restrooms if you need a bathroom break during your drive.
-We suggest opting for private/ shared shuttles or a rental car for transportation throughout Costa Rica as a family. The public buses might be too much of an adventure with kids and flying between locations can be pricey for everyone.
-If you opt to rent a car, we have a 10% discount plus other perks for you with our favorite rental car company, Adobe. One of those perks is free usage of booster or car seats for your trip.
-For your Costa Rica family vacation we suggest sticking to only one or two places within a 7 day time frame. As I wrote above, it just takes so long to drive between places that it is best to minimize your destinations in order to get the most out of your trip.
I suggest visiting one jungle destination and one beach spot. If you are flying into Liberia airport Playa Hermosa and La Fortuna could be two good destinations. If flying into San Jose, I suggest Manuel Antonio and La Fortuna.
-Keep in mind that things don’t always go as planned in Costa Rica. It is not unusual for weather, traffic, people etc. to effect your travel plans. Also, people from Costa Rica tend to be very relaxed. Sometimes tours will start later than planned.
I know this can be difficult with kids. Just try to adopt the Costa Rican mindset of “Pura Vida” and take it all in stride.
– Definitely consider staying at an Airbnb. We like Airbnb because it is possible to get an entire house to yourself. This is great for us because we can save money by cooking our own meals and have a refrigerator to keep whatever we need cold.
Also, you can often find places with private swimming pools for you to use. If you need some tips, we have a full guide to staying in Airbnb’s.
-There are plenty of great kids friendly resorts in Costa Rica. In fact, we have a full guide to staying at resorts if you need some tips on the best family-friendly places. Several family resorts offer kids camps. This will allow you to enjoy some time alone while your kids are enjoying a fun time in the kid’s camp.
Do you have any questions about traveling in Costa Rica with kids and family? Feel free to leave them in the comment section below and we will help you out. Although we don’t personally have children we have helped countless families decide the best places and activities for their family travel.
Also, if you have traveled in Costa Rica with children, we would love to hear about your experience. It will definitely help future travelers.
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