Our guide to Costa Rica for families
Costa Rica is rich in natural wonders, from the abundance of flora and fauna to amazing wildlife viewing and incredible scenery, like cloud forests, volcanoes and beautiful beaches. It’s an excellent soft introduction to Latin America, free from many of the worries of travelling with children to a foreign country. Costa Rica will surely be an unbelievable adventure for your entire family.
San Jose and the Central Valley is the perfect place to start a holiday in Costa Rica. Your family will be wowed by not only the activities on offer, but the spectacular landscapes around you. Here, your family can go horseback riding, kayaking, white water rafting down the Pacuare River and waterfall rappelling. For excitement in the jungle, walk across the hanging bridges and over volcano lava flow. On the way, you’ll have a chance to see plant life like laurel, 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 flow, you’ll have stunning views of the Arenal lake. Once you've soaked in some spectacular views, head to the nearby mineral hot springs, they’re like nature’s water park for children. Or embark on a sunset raft safari to observe how the jungle changes from day to night. Catch a peek of owls, sloths, crocodiles, bats and howler monkeys in their natural habitat.
If your kids prefer their views of the rainforest at a bit of a faster pace, then you must try the highest and best canopy tour of Costa Rica. Following an open-air gondola ride through the jungle, zipline through 1.7 miles of terrain, sure to blow your kids away.
For even more wildlife viewing opportunities, Manuel Antonio National Park is bursting with animals including sloth, monkeys and iguana. There are plenty of trails snaking through the reserve that are manageable for younger children. The excellent guides here will surely make the jungle come alive for your children. They’ll also point out the creatures quietly hiding in the tree tops that may be harder to find. These trails lead down to warm pacific waters and white sandy beaches, a great spot for a relaxing picnic after all of your family's fun-filled jungle trekking.
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 warm waters, fantastic marine life including schools of dolphins, and great surf, even for beginners. A lot of surf schools will cater to families and younger children, so everyone can be included.
Another highlight while here is the sea turtle nesting season. From September to November, tens of thousands of sea turtles come to shore to lay their eggs. We recommend Ostional Beach for some of the best viewing in the country.
And though fantastic wildlife viewing is pretty much guaranteed for your family, visiting a wildlife sanctuary will make sure of it. At centres like the SIBU Sanctuary and Refuge for injured and orphaned animals, you’ll find rehabilitated howler monkeys, coatis, racoon, opossums and porcupines that your children can get an up-close view of.
More incredible nature and wildlife lie ahead in where National Geographic described as the “most biologically intense place on earth”, the Osa Peninsula. The main attraction here is Corcovado National Park. It’s home to rare and endangered species like jaguar, puma, scarlet macaw, tapir and poison dart frogs. For sea life, the Caño Island Biological Reserve has excellent snorkelling filled with Triggerfish, Needlefish, Parrotfish, Angelfish, puffers, barracudas, rays, sea turtles and white tip reef sharks. We highly recommend going on a dolphin tour, your family will have a 90% chance of seeing a pod.
Costa Rica has it all for a safe, adventurous holiday. Perfect for nature and wildlife loving families, there will never be a dull moment during your stay.
At a Glance
For sheer relaxation, the Caribbean Coast has pristine, coconut tree-lined white sandy beaches, perfect for lounging.
Visit the 42,000-hectare Corcovado National Park to catch a glimpse of the rare and endangered jaguar.
Try your hand at surfing on the Nicoya Peninsula, it’s some of Central America’s best.
Get your adrenaline racing in the Central Valley with rafting, zip lining, horseback riding, kayaking and hiking.
Sight the profusion of flora, fauna and wildlife in Manuel Antonio Park, including the adorable sloth.
More than 25% of Costa Rica is protected by national parks and refuges.
When visiting a new destination, a key is to try something different and get out of your comfort zone! It will be these adventures your family remember most.
Coffee tasters in Costa Rica are like wine tasters in France, they go through 5 years of training.
Visit between December and April for whale watching season.
Costa Rica abolished their military in 1948 and is one of the world’s most peaceful countries.
Costa Rica is slightly smaller than the size of Lake Michigan.
If you’re interested in a family holiday to Latin America, but are concerned about travelling with younger kids, look no further. Costa Rica is a safe, small country filled with plenty of fantastic options for little ones under twelve. Many of the adventurous activities can be scaled down to accommodate children of all ages, from ziplining and surfing to white water rafting. And there are fabulous hotels that are very welcoming to younger guests, offering special children’s clubs, menus and room accommodations. It’s the perfect place to introduce the youngest members of your family to international travel.
Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort Costa Rica has a beautifully peaceful setting overlooking the sapphire blue waters of Culebra Bay. The resort welcomes children of all ages and is one of the most family-friendly resorts in Costa Rica. The Cambi Kids Club is open daily for kids aged 4 to 12 and offers a wide range of activities from storytelling, arts and crafts, exciting games, beach exploring and exercise. The family pool is made of three sections and the resort has a weekly programme of fun activities such as forest walks (look out for Howler monkeys and iguanas), yoga, kayak tours and Latin-American dance lessons. Tennis, golf, boat rentals and surfing are also on hand within the Peninsula Papagayo.
Arenas del Mar has been built in harmony with its natural surroundings and is renowned for its sustainability. Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica’s most famous National Park and a great destination for families looking to experience the rainforest. The National Park consists of tropical jungles, rainforest, paradise–like beaches, mangroves, an estuary and a lagoon. Arenas Del Mar Beach & Nature Resort is the perfect place to enjoy a few days of adventure and fun, offering board games and boogie boards, delicious children’s menu options in both restaurants, and tours & activities suitable for the whole family. Offerings include white water rafting, mangrove and ocean kayaking, boat tours, guided rainforest hikes, catch and release sport fishing, canopy tours, surfing at the nearby Espadillas Beach and horseback riding excursions.
Children are given a warm welcome at the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Papagayo Peninsula. The ’Kids for all Seasons’ programme offers exciting adventures for children aged 4 to 12 years led by qualified staff. Children can go in search of local insects, reptiles and plants, hunt for hermit crabs, go treasure collecting on the beach, build sand castles and play soccer or splash in the outdoor kids’ pool. Indoor fun includes movies, games and puzzles and a recreation room. Teens will enjoy the Tuanis Center. The teen concierge can arrange adventure excursions such as zip-lining, white-water rafting, jungle adventures, snorkelling, sunset kayaking and volcano hikes. Teens can also get manicures and pedicures at the Spa, take golf or tennis lessons or learn cooking, Latin dance and scuba. The resort is nestled among two large sandy beaches with complimentary watersports such as kayaking, stand up paddle boards and snorkelling equipment. Tropic Surf experienced instructors organise surfing lessons for all abilities and ages.
Your teens will never be bored while in Costa Rica. They’ll return home bragging to their friends about all the adventures they went on and curious wildlife they saw. In Nicoya, they can surf their days away while you relax with a book on the beach, or the entire family can go on a high-flying adrenaline-fuelled zip-lining expedition through the jungle. Getting a bird’s-eye view over the canopy is a thrilling, new perspective. Older kids are better equipped for longer and more strenuous jungle treks where your family will have the opportunity to spot sloths, macaws, howler moneys and maybe even a puma. A must do when travelling with teens, is hiking to one of Costa Rica’s waterfalls. Your family can jump in the refreshing pools, try your hand at repelling down the falls and will surely snap some incredible family photos.
The Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort is located in La Fortuna de San Carlos, in the rainforest at the Arenal Volcano National Park. This central region of Costa Rica is one of the world’s most topographically diverse; and plays host to a range of exciting outdoor activities such as white-water rafting, trekking, horseback riding, kayaking and various canopy tours high above the treetops. the resort boasts naturally occurring hot springs (originating from the Tabacon River) a short distance on foot from the property where you can soak and unwind, in addition to two bars and three separate restaurants, which feature cuisine varying from casual to upscale. Room service is also available 24 hours a day while babysitting, laundry and concierge services can be arranged upon request.
Pacuare Lodge is a unique jungle hideaway set deep inside the rainforest on the banks of the Pacuare River, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful and exciting stretches of white water anywhere (class 3-4 rapids). It is a luxury eco lodge completely surrounded by nature in its most virgin form, and guests here can truly savour the spirit of the rainforest with its wildlife and exhilarating activities. Getting here is half the fun - either by white water rafting on the Pacuare River or by road, while activities at the lodge range from immersive jungle hikes to nearby waterfalls, soaring through the canopy on the magical zip-line canopy tour, canyoning, bird watching and horse riding to visiting some of the local Cabecar Indian communities. At the end of a day exploring one of the most bio diverse rainforests in the world, why not relax with a massage on the veranda of your luxurious jungle retreat.
Cala Luna Boutique Hotel, Villas & Spa is a relaxed getaway surrounded by nature and set back from Langosta Beach on the outskirts of Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula. Cala Luna is steps from Langosta Beach and adjacent to Tamarindo Beach which is Central America’s Mecca for surfing. Offshore sport fishing (sailfish, marlin and other prized species) is highly recommended. Exceptional scuba dive sites dot the stretch of Pacific coastline and several PADI dive shops service the property. Easy-to-access daily activities include an 18-hole golf, tennis, relaxing horseback riding and a thrilling canopy tour at Cala Luna’s finca (farm). There are plenty of activities for children such as kayaking, mountain biking, canopy tours and surfing to name a few, as well as villa style accommodations. Nanny services and babysitting are also available, should parents want to indulge in a spa treatment or yoga class.
One of the best things about travelling in Costa Rica is that it offers something for every member of the family, at every age. There are stretches of stunning, sandy beaches, lapped by turquoise ocean waters perfect for sunbathing, while more active members of the family can take a surf lesson, go kayaking or snorkelling among a myriad of colourful marine life. A trip here offers the perfect combination of relaxation with adrenaline pumping activities, all with the flexibility to do everything at your own pace. This, combined with incredible luxury villas, large enough to comfortably accommodate the entire family, makes Costa Rica an incredible destination for your next family getaway.
Set on a 1000-acre private property which is only accessible by boat, the exclusive Playa Cativo eco lodge has the feeling of a private home and offers seven beautiful guest rooms, including an inviting private casita nestled close to the beach. During your family's stay, you will have the opportunity to take part in plenty of adventurous activities such as hiking in the Piedras Blancas National Park, self-guided walks, nature tours, fishing, sea kayaking, whale and dolphin watching, nocturnal rainforest expeditions, snorkelling and stand up paddle boarding. For those looking for relaxation, the sandy beach by the lodge is a wonderful retreat, or the inviting fresh-water swimming pool and gardens or yoga platform surrounded by the sights and sounds of jungle and lapping ocean.
Enveloped by acres of pristine jungle and enjoying 180-degree ocean views, Villa Manzu is a truly luxurious private villa which is guaranteed to make any occasion special. Inside Villa Manzu there are eight spacious bedrooms, each with ocean views and plenty of space for relaxing. Facilities at Villa Manzu include a gym, two swimming pools, a bar, Jacuzzi and access to a nearby golf course and beach club. The attentive staff can customize your stay so that all meals and activities are age-appropriate, as well as catering to fussy children. A full team of dedicated staff ensure that everything is taken care of; chefs will prepare every meal based on your requirements, butlers and waiters will look after the finer details and divers and adventure specialists are on hand to help customise your stay and introduce you to the highlights of the area. Surfboards, paddleboards, kayaks, bikes and fishing equipment are all available and the best ways to explore the peninsula.
Costa Rica is an oasis for active families and outdoor adventure enthusiasts. The country offers enough explorations for many holidays. Take in the lush jungles on an exhilarating, fast-paced zipline, or go horseback riding on the beaches and through the rainforest, taking in the interesting flora, fauna and wildlife that call the wilds home. There’s also excellent hiking, surfing, kayaking, white water rafting and snorkelling. The activities here are sure to wow kids and parents alike.
The family-friendly Arenal Nayara is an elegant hotel with beautifully decorated casitas and suites and incredible views of the majestic Arenal volcano. This central region of Costa Rica is one of the world’s most topographically diverse and plays host to a range of exciting outdoor activities. Arenal has become a mecca for adrenaline junkies and those wanting to be active. Activities close to the hotel include white-water rafting, trekking, horseback riding, hot springs, canyoning, rappelling, kayaking, zip wiring and canopy tours as well as Fly Boarding on Lake Arenal. For those with something more sedate in mind, there is the spa and bird-watching.
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, set in Central America’s last remaining lowland tropical forest, is the perfect hideaway for guests looking for comfortable and eco-friendly lodging, incredible wildlife viewing and a wide range of wonderful outdoor excursions. There is abundant wildlife and the private reserve offers excellent opportunities to see thousands of species of trees, plants, birds, insects and mammals. Many excursions within the reserve are included during your stay led by a team of expert naturalist guides. Choose from night walks and nature hikes where you’ll encounter miles of private, uncrowded trails in prime rainforest home to wild waterfalls and pristine beaches. Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale watching season in the world (August-October) so catching a glimpse of these magnificent marine mammals is more than likely and dolphins are regular visitors to the bay. Other activities in the area include zip-lines, waterfall rappelling, kayaking, surf and stand up paddle board lessons, horseback riding and community tours.
Time to unwind
Though Costa Rica is an outdoor adventure paradise, there’s also plenty of opportunity for rest and relaxation. There are 800 miles of coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific for you to laze your days away on and many luxurious accommodations 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.
Flor Blanca is located on 7 acres of beach, hidden among almond and plumeria trees. There is a lovely two-tiered swimming pool with landscaped waterfall set amongst lush gardens, a bar, an alfresco restaurant, an art studio and a teak-floored dojo in the garden for Pilates and yoga. There is also a fantastic spa, largely constructed of bamboo, surrounded by waterfall filled pools and lush vegetation. The Bamboo Spa boasts four treatment rooms, a giant Jacuzzi and offers a wide range of massages, facials, wraps, rubs and scrubs. Wake up to a delicious freshly ground Costa Rican coffee or why not try some of the mouthwatering Pacific Rim fusion seafood in the hotel's Nectar restaurant. Guests can enjoy hikes to the nearby waterfalls at Montezuma, guided nature tours of the Cabo Blanco Absolute Wildlife Refuge, surf lessons (lessons for children under 12 are complimentary), fishing and horse riding.
The Xandari Plantation is located on the outskirts of San Jose, north of Alajuela, overlooking Costa Rica’s Central Valley, surrounded by exotic gardens and a fruit orchard. The villas are built in a contemporary style and decorated with colourful artwork, are spacious and have large terraces and secluded patios. The restaurant serves a variety of cuisine, with many of the ingredients grown at the hotel’s orchard and organic vegetable and herb garden. Activities include horse riding, rafting, and visits to Poas Volcano and biological reserves. After a leisurely stroll along the properties forested trails and visiting nearby waterfalls, indulge in a treatment at Xandari's Spa Village or take a dip in the pool or Jacuzzi.