Our Guide to Costa Rica Family Holidays
In Costa Rica, families discover a captivating destination, where thrilling adventures and breathtaking natural wonders create cherished memories and a deep love for nature.
Costa Rica is the kind of place you go with kids for a family adventure and to feel a million miles from home in an unspoilt wilderness. As one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, it was also one of the first to champion eco-tourism, resulting in an astounding 30 national parks. Protected, untouched landscapes, cloud forests and steaming volcanoes give way to miles of tropical Caribbean coastline, all filled to the brim with colourful flora and fauna. In fact, everything in Costa Rica is colourful and vibrant making it an excellent introduction to Latin America.
Safe and well set up for tourists, it is free from many of the worries of travelling with children to a foreign country, meaning you can focus on having an unbelievable holiday with your family. Read on to discover the best places to go, things to do, and hotels to stay at in Costa Rica with kids.
Is Costa Rica Good with Children?
Jam-packed with abundant nature, family-friendly activities, and even educational opportunities, a family holiday in Costa Rica is fantastic for children of all ages. For babies and toddlers, the soft sandy beaches are a perfect playground shaded by palm trees, while younger children will be thrilled by the curious wildlife you’ll see. Teens will never be bored either, returning home full of stories of jungle ziplines and waterfalls to tell their friends. Costa Ricans are famous for their welcoming nature, and their hotels reflect this. From the Robinson Crusoe-style tree houses to beachside lodges with kids’ clubs, there is something very special about the accommodation in Costa Rica.
What area of Costa Rica is best with kids?
Where you go in Costa Rica with kids will depend on their age and the time of year that you travel. But with the international airport being in San Jose, the Central Valley is a natural place to start, especially if you are interested in learning about the culture of local communities. The capital city has lots of galleries, independent shops, restaurants and a fun market to explore. From here, you’re in a good spot to take day trips to cloud forests and coffee plantations.
Further north is Arenal, Costa Rica’s adventure hub, brimming with waterfalls, hot springs, nature trails, and an active volcano. Canopy walks will bring you up close and personal with friendly sloths, but there’s also quad biking, horse riding, zip-lines and white-water rafting to get the heart rates up. This is an ideal area for tweens and teens.
On the Nicoya Peninsula, you’ll find some of the brightest blue waters and the wildest beaches. It’s a secluded, stunning gem. The Pacific Coast is home to fantastic marine life including schools of dolphins and great surf – even for beginners. A lot of surf schools will cater to families and young children, so everyone can be included. If sea life is your thing, make sure you visit Cano Island Biological Reserve to snorkel with triggerfish, needlefish, parrotfish, angelfish, puffers, barracudas, rays, sea turtles and white-tip reef sharks!
Families with little children will also love the Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean side of the country. Aside from white sand and turquoise sea, the main attraction are the turtle nesting sites where little ones can learn all about the history and lifestyles of sea turtles while witnessing this unique event.
For more inspiration, view our Ultimate Costa Rica itinerary.
Best Things to Do in Costa Rica with Kids
From adrenaline-pumping jungle adventures to beautiful laid-back beaches, here's our pick of the best activities on family holidays to Costa Rica.
The 108km Pacuare River flows from the Talamanca Mountains to the Caribbean Ocean, and its aqua-marine waters are surrounded by lush rainforests, deep gorges, waterfalls, and exhilarating rapids. All of which makes this one of the best destinations in the world for white-water rafting and kayaking for those thrill-seeking teens. The beautiful rivers near Arenal also offer exciting options for water adventurers, such as canyoning.
La Fortuna is the gateway to the exhilarating Arenal Volcano, where you can walk across hanging bridges and over volcanic lava flow. On the way, you’ll have a chance to see plant life like laurels, palms, orchids, ferns, figs, and bromeliads. Kids will love trying to spot some of the 850-bird species, including the endangered and elusive quetzal. Once on top of the lava, you’ll have stunning views of Arenal Lake. While you could carry younger children across the bridges, this activity is best for those over eight years old.
With 30 national parks, you have plenty of opportunities to hike while in Costa Rica with kids. Head to Manuel Antonio National Park to combine your walk with animal spotting. The park weaves its way around turquoise coves and opens up into a vast expanse of rainforest, which is home to Capuchin, Howler, and Squirrel Monkeys, sloths, iguanas, agoutis, and hundreds of species of birds. From August to October, you can also see humpback whales off the coast there. Another great location for families to get a taste of trekking is Corcovado National Park, which is home to rare and endangered species like jaguar, puma, scarlet macaw, tapir, and poison dart frogs! Hotels near the park offer jungle hikes and night walks, which are manageable for younger children.
Hit the hot springs
Recuperate after all the adrenaline with a dip in one of Costa Rica’s hot springs. A natural water park for kids and a spa for adults, the mineral-rich, flowing springs are found all around Costa Rica. Some are hidden amongst waterfalls, while others require a ticket to enter. Our top picks are Ecotermales and Tabacon located in Arenal.
Zipline through Monteverde Cloud Forest
Swoosh through the treetops like Tarzan in Monteverde Cloud Forest while harnessed to ziplines. This high-flying adventure will take you over the staggering views below, controlling your speed as you whiz between wooden platforms looking out for monkeys, sloths, and birds as you go. For a final rush of adrenaline, the tour ends with a 25m rope swing tied to a tree. Launch yourself off it, if you dare, and swing through the air like a pendulum. For younger kids, or to take things at a slower pace, suspension bridges are hanging 60m above tree level too. The ziplines cater to different ages, and children as young as five can take part.
Learn to surf
Costa Rica is a surfer's paradise, whether you’re a pro or just starting out, there are waves for everyone. You can surf from most of the beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula and there are plenty of camps for children and adults who’d like to learn. Manuel Antonio is ideal for beginner and intermediate levels, while Nosara offers up enough to keep expert wave catchers on their toes too (and you might find yourself swimming alongside dolphins and turtles). Santa Teresa has some world-famous spots with consistent swells, making it another good option for surfing on a family holiday in Costa Rica. Meanwhile, Tamarindo’s warm, gentle waves ease novices in kindly. If your children are strong swimmers, the surf schools welcome them from four years old.
Tortuguero National Park, on the Caribbean coast, is one of the most famous turtle nesting sites in the world. It's home to several species, including green turtles and leatherbacks, who come onto the beach to nest between July and October. To witness arribada – the spectacular sight of mass nesting – head to the Ostional Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula, or Playa Nancite in Santa Rosa National Park. During this remarkable phenomenon, thousands of olive ridley turtles congregate on the beach to lay their eggs, something your children will delight in seeing. It happens all year-round but the best time to watch is between September and November. This is a heart-warming activity for kids of all ages.
Snorkelling enthusiasts and nature lovers alike flock to Cano Island Biological Reserve, a pristine marine sanctuary located just off the Osa Peninsula's Pacific coastline. As you plunge into celadon waters, you'll be greeted by an explosion of vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. Beneath the waves are schools of colourful, tropical fish, graceful rays gliding through the water, and gentle sea turtles serenely grazing on seagrass. Lucky snorkellers may even encounter reef sharks and playful dolphins frolicking in their natural habitat. We recommend snorkelling for children aged six and over, but the whole family will love going on a dolphin tour, where there's a 90% chance of seeing a pod.
La Fortuna Waterfall in Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the most breathtaking in Costa Rica. Reached via a fairly challenging hike through the lush rainforest, this magnificent cascade plummets from a height of approximately 75 metres into a pristine turquoise pool. This is an excellent spot for swimming and cooling off after the hike (for strong swimmers) while viewing platforms provide vantage points for admiring the waterfall from further away. Nicoya Peninsula has its fair share of waterfalls too, including Montezuma and Santa Teresa. The latter is great for younger children as it’s easy to reach following a short walk through the forest. More adventurous waterfall hunters can tackle the scenic route through lush jungle terrain, crossing streams and climbing over rocks to get to Montezuma. There you’ll find three waterfalls, the third one being the tallest and most impressive, rewarding its admirers with a gorgeous clear pool to dive into - a true highlight while in Costa Rica with kids.
The natural beauty and energy of Costa Rica’s beaches have been inspiring people for decades. Whether that’s through surfing, environmentalism or creativity, there is something almost ethereal about them. With a coastline about 800 miles long, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, you are spoilt for choice the beaches. Papagayo Peninsula has some of the best in Costa Rica for families, the waters are calmer than some of the more popular surfing beaches offering up a calm and peaceful haven.
Best Places to Stay in Costa Rica
Ingenious, imaginative and with eco-tourism at their hearts, Costa Rica’s family-friendly hotels offer the best of all worlds. Children will squeal with delight at the prospect of staying in a treehouse, while luxurious beachside resorts ensure you have a holiday too.
With Younger Kids
With interconnecting rooms or family suite options, these hotels ensure everyone gets a good night’s sleep. They are well placed for activities better suited to younger children, such as days exploring the beach, kayaking, canopy tours and gentle forest walks. Throw into the mix special children’s clubs and menus and they become the perfect place to introduce the youngest members to an exciting family holiday in Costa Rica.
A collection of safari-style tents deep among nature with toucans and parrots flying overhead and sloths spying from the trees. Sustainable and luxurious, the tents come with private plunge pools and are big enough to fit the whole family in. This is also a fantastic hotel option for children of all ages.
This laid-back escape sits where the rainforest meets the ocean among 11 green acres of nature reserve that is heaving with wildlife. Particularly well-suited to kids of all ages, Arenas del Mar has interconnecting bedrooms, super-fun activities, and the beach feels remote and calm – perfect for little ones. What more could you ask for on a family holiday to Costa Rica?
With Older Kids
As your children get older the long list of requirements for a family holiday starts to get shorter, until all you really need is for them to be entertained. Costa Rica has everything you could want to fire up the energy and enthusiasm levels in your teens. High-flying, adrenaline-fuelled zip lines, jungle treks, surfing, quad-biking, horse riding and competitive waterfall jumping (who will dare the highest?) will keep them away from their phones and grinning from ear to ear. Set deep amongst Costa Rica’s natural landscapes, these hotels offer up all the activities teens could ask for, as well as opportunities to immerse yourselves in local community life.
The only hotel on Tortuguero with its own private nature reserve, this eco-lodge is right on the river’s edge surrounded by rainforest. Spend your days taking nature walks with naturalist guides, visiting turtle nesting sites, or on boat rides and kayak trips up the Tortuguero River. When staying at Tortuga Lodge, you won’t hear a whisper of ‘I’m bored.’
Children aged 13 and over are welcome at Amor Arenal, creating a grown-up vibe that would suit teens wanting to feel like adults. With a swim-up bar playing reggae and hot springs to kick back in after a day of hikes and waterfalls, Amor Arenal brings the cool factor to your Costa Rica family trip.
For Multi-generational families
One of the best things about travelling to Costa Rica is that it offers something for every member of the family, at every age. It is the perfect blend of relaxation and high octane, all with the flexibility to do everything at your own pace. If you’re planning a multi-generational family holiday to Costa Rica, check in to one of these properties, which are large enough to comfortably accommodate the entire family and have spaces to escape when you need a bit of solitude.
Seaview bedrooms, family-sized suites, or casas with space for everyone provide the ideal location to reconvene with the family after days spent snorkelling, surfing, playing golf, paddle boarding or exploring the local area. Then there’s the Explorer’s Club and Tuanis Teen Centre for them, and the Prieta Beach Club, with its cool design and private cabanas for you.
For Active Families
Costa Rica is an oasis for active families and outdoor adventure enthusiasts. The country offers enough explorations for many holidays combined. To be right in the heart of the adventure, check in to one of these hotels which are in the best locations to experience all the fun Costa Rica has to offer. Surrounded by rainforest, beaches and waterfalls, there are no better places to stay to take in the country’s epic sights and sounds.
A 20-suite eco-hotel hidden among the pristine wilderness of Costa Rica's Pacuare River, Pacuare Lodge embraces its remote location by offering helicopter and white-water rafting transfers to the hotel. It even has a treetop restaurant reached by zipwire. Surrounded by lush forests alongside fast-flowing rivers, cloud forests and volcanoes, you’re perfectly situated to dive right into the area’s exciting activities.
El Remanso is a place that beckons adventurous souls. With its mix of adrenaline-pumping activities like zip-lining through the rainforest canopy and jumping down hidden waterfalls, chance encounters with quirky wildlife and pristine Pacific beaches, this is the kind of place you’ll remember forever.
There’s plenty of opportunity for rest and relaxation when in Costa Rica with kids. There are 800 miles of coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific for you to laze your days away on and many luxurious hotels featuring world-class spas with rejuvenating therapies like massages, facials, and wraps. Costa Rica also provides the perfect peaceful retreat for yogis – meditate to the sounds of the rainforest in your own private haven. Many of the hotels and resorts also offer childcare should you need some alone time.
Set in a laid-back surfer’s paradise on the Caribbean coastline, Aquas Claras sits among swaying palm trees and beach shacks. Combining the old-fashioned charm of a plantation-style house with a modern beach club vibe, this is a stylish hotel, which welcomes children over eight and is better for families with tweens and teens. There are two-bedroom bungalows, with small kitchens – but the call of the restaurants is hard to resist for most guests. Complimentary bicycles come with the rooms, or you could head off barefoot in search of juice bars and empty spots on the beach. There’s yoga, surfing, and the Talamanca rainforest nearby.
Beachfront villas and bungalows create a home away from home with hotel services at this eco-lodge with a heart. Nantipa’s roots lie firmly in the community, pioneering social and environmental outreach programmes from its beautiful location. Reconnect as a whole family in this carefree beachside living. Hit the waves, collect fresh coconuts, and watch the sun go down over another beautiful day in paradise.
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