Traveling to Costa Rica with kids! Sounds wonderful, but maybe you have some questions. Allow us to give you some practical advice on how to best approach planning your trip and what to do once you are here. Pura Vida!
How to get around when traveling with kids
Costa rIca is investing quite a bit in its roads and more are being paved every year. That being said, a short distance on the map might still take a while when you consider a lot fo roads are small, windy, steep, and some of them not yet paved. A general rule is that whatever Google Maps tells you, you should add up to 1 hour of traveling time to that. When traveling with children, any parent will confirm, the shorter the travel time the better.
Knowing the roads can be a challenge and children won’t have the patience for long and bumpy rides on the bus, we recommend either renting a car or private transfers. We can provide private transfers throughout your entire trip and ensure a faster and more efficient connection between destinations. You can also opt for renting a car and we can inform you about the most trusted and best agencies to use. Before you do, however, make sure to check out our article on driving in Costa Rica so you know what to expect on the road!
The good thing about Costa Rica is that even a short list of destinations can include every desired activity on the list. In Arenal National Park and La Fortuna, for example, you can go rafting, hiking, waterfall rappelling, canyoning, horseback riding, go kayaking on Lake Arenal, take a canopy tour and amazing zip line, … But you can also soak in the natural hot springs and swim in the La Fortuna Waterfall. Similar adventures can be had in Rincon de la Vieja National Park and here it is also geographically more interesting to visit a beach in the process.
What is the best time to travel with kids?
This very much depends on the nature of your visit. If you are planning to have some family beach time and desire those long, sunny days but not much else, dry season is your friend. Take note that the dry season on the Pacific (December to May) is different from the dry season on the Caribbean Coast (February-March and September-October). Also note that the Caribbean has more fickle weather by nature and the occasional shower even during dry season, can’t be ruled out.
If you and your family are looking for a more varied vacation and want to add some wildlife spotting and a cool hike to the mix? Don’t be afraid of rainy season! Although there is no guarantee how the weather will behave, most showers tend to be in the afternoon, leaving the morning for family activities. So this time of the year is perfect if you plan on combing exciting nature excursions with a great resort of hotel that offers on-site activities for you and your kids. That way you won’t get bored even when it rains! The prices will also go down considerably during the so called wet season and there will be far less crowds. But the biggest perk? Rainy season is when nature truly comes alive!
Is Costa Rica better for younger or older kids?
Both! Not only is Costa Rica the safest country in Central America, it also guarantees fun for all ages. From animal rescue centers to beaches, adventure parks and national parks, for education as well as adventure, there are tons of destinations and activities to choose from. Below we expand on the best destinations for families in Costa Rica and what kind of family they would suit best.
In order to make the experience all the more special for you and your family, we have various contacts in touring agencies and all of our guides are trained and licensed. Every agency will have its own focus and speciality and we will make sure to select the ones that will meet your family’s needs best and even make sure that no member of the family will feel left out. Do you really want to do a ziplining tour and want your 5 year old to enjoy it as well? No problem. We can put you in touch with agencies that provide tandem rides so you can soar above the forest canopy together! We can tell you about the best beaches for your child’s first surfing lesson and where you will be almost sure to spot a sloth!
Combine natural wonders with a cultural experience
Don’t forget you are traveling to a country with another cultural ‘and’ natural background. This means you can introduce your children to some valuable experiences along the way and have your vacation be about more than just adventure and fun. Allow your children to learn all about the local customs and values as well as the natural diversity Costa Rica is so famous for. We expand more on how to combine these for you and your family below!
Don’t forget travel insurance
This is a no-brainer! There can always be a situation that occurs and is beyond your control. Get more tips and info from our Travel Insurance page and shop around for the best packages for you and your family! Don’t forget to do this when you already have a rough idea about what your trip will be like. Vacationing at the beach will need slightly different coverage than white-water rafting on the Pacuare river!
Use on-site travel agencies for safety and efficiency
Licensed travel agencies located in Costa Rica (indeed, like us!) exist so you can allow yourself to have a more relaxing vacation especially when traveling with a family. You will have a reliable contact within Costa Rica – this means it is easier for them to intervene should you need immediate assistance or if you need to change your plans last-minute. This extra bit of help can make traveling with children not only easier but also safer. We plan a lot of trips for families so we know exactly how to help you plan a child-friendly vacation!
Best trips, tours and activities for families
Family Nature vacation
Your trip to Costa Rica will not be complete without including some of the most iconic natural destinations on the list. But which ones are right for your family? Here are our top picks for Costa Rica Nature vacations for the whole family!
- Hikes (all levels) + wildlife spotting
- Cultural tours (coffee plantations)
- A thrilling zip-line circuit
- Night tours to spot nocturnal wildlife
- Good for all ages. Zip lines for 4+
Explore the fascinating ecosystem of the cloud forest with your family! This is where you can see nature and its passionate desire to grow as well as spot wildlife. You can take a self-guided tour or hire a guide to help you sport the birds, sloths and monkeys. Here you can also take the longest zip-line tour in Latin America (complete with Tarzan swing) and even visit a coffee plantation. The butterfly garden just by the entrance to Monteverde makes for guaranteed sightings of these fast but gorgeous little birds.
- Hikes (all levels) + wildlife spotting
- Aquatic adventure (white-water rafting, canyoning, tubing)
- Natural Hot Springs
- Horseback riding
- Good for all ages. Rafting for 8+
Arenal and Rincon de la Vieja have it all… Beauty, adventure, relaxation and an active volcano! Both parks are famous for having amazing adventure tours but also offer natural hot springs for some much-needed relaxation after all the excitement. Both destinations are also a great place for a horseback riding tour with the entire family. You will get a chance to spot many birds and monkeys like the howler monkeys in the area. In Rincon de la Vieja you can follow the many trails heading to the waterfalls where you can hop off for a refreshing dip in the water.
Safe waters – Guanacaste and The Gulf of Papagayo
- The calmest waters in the country
- Horseback riding
- All-inclusive vacations in top resorts
- Good for all ages but especially very young children
Are you traveling with very young children and are you concerned about rough waters or rip tides? Then the Gulf of Papagayo is the place to be! Playa Panama especially feels like you are stepping into a big pool. This is the perfect place for super safe waters as well as those favoring an all-inclusive vacation!
- Snorkeling and scuba diving
- Catamaran tours
- Close to rescue center Kids Saving the Rainforest
- Good for all ages
Offering one of the most gorgeous beaches in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio is also a treat for the children who wants to spot all the colorful birds and other creatures this country is known for. Make sure to arrive there early though! It can get very crowded. Manuel Antonio is also a great place for the family out for adventure with rafting trips, zip lines and even surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving.
- Boat tours and wildlife spotting
- Turtle conservation work (volunteering for older kids only)
- Cultural introduction into a remote Caribbean town
- Good for all ages
We shouldn’t forget about the Caribbean Coast! Tortuguero is one of those magical and slightly remote places in the country. Rather than hiking, you will take a boat tour through the canals and see crocodiles, caimans, many species of birds, monkeys, and of course turtles. The perfect place with a rough around the edges kind of charm and full of life!
Family Culture Vacation
A trip to a new country is not complete without introducing your kids to a new culture in the hope their own lives will be richer because of it. Let us tell you about the best ways to enjoy Costa Rican culture with your family and turn your children into aware and wise travelers!
Tourism is highly developed in Costa Rica and you will have no problem at all enjoying international cuisine and even many restaurants serving vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. But a large part of Costa Rican culture can be experienced in its food. Ticos are very proud of their national dishes and it will be a great way for your children to build on their cultural awareness.
For breakfast, why not all enjoy a Gallo Pinto, a delicious mix of rice, beans and spices served with eggs, cheese, vegetables, whatever you like. For lunch, a Casado is the most traditional dish to savor. Rice and beans are served separately with a salad and meat or fish.
A trip to the farmer’s market can teach you and your kids all about Costa Rican fruits and vegetables. The fruits especially are varied and delicious and can be enjoyed fresh or as a juice during lunch.
This is not only a popular phrase, but also the essence of the Costa Rica philosophy. If you would like your children to really experience the Pura Vida lifestyle, the Nicoya Peninsula is a great destination to put on the list. The Nicoya Peninsula has been voted part of the Blue Zones of the world and is noted for its health, longevity, its pure life.
Volunteering is another great way for kids to have a culturally rich experience during their vacation. You can stay at farm and learn all about the local ways of life as well as agricultural pursuits, or what about a local school or orphanage where your children can spend some valuable time with kids their own age?
This can easily be combined with a family nature vacation in the sense that you can volunteer in natural parks and rescue centers. Visit Tortuguero and learn all about the sea turtles or go to Kids Saving the Rainforest and teach your children the value of reforestation and the environment. Read our article on volunteer vacations for families and learn all about it – from tips for younger as well as older kids!
We may forget about it in favor of all those wonderful animals and natural wonders, but Costa Rica also has a rich history. Did you know Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world without an army and do you know how this came to be? Did you know they gained independence without bloodshed and exactly how this happened? Did you know San Jose was not the first capital of the country but which one was? Do you know what the most haunted place in the country is and why? Did you know Costa Rica still has some indigenous culture inhabiting the country? Do you know which ones they are? These are questions you and your family would love to learn the answer to!
Speaking of history and culture, … did you know you can experience a vastly different one on the Caribbean Coast? If you visit places like Puerto Viejo or Cahuita, you will be introduced to the Afro-Caribbean culture that defines the Costa Rican east. Life is even more laid back here than the Pura Vida Pacific and the cultural influence is strongly defined by the black residents. If you are traveling between the 11th and 22d of October, you can even experience the Caribbean Carnival. A colorful and explosive festival that commemorates the arrival of Columbus in 1502.
Visit Costa Rica for a large variety in nature as well as culture!
Is Costa Rica Safe?
Short answer? Yes.
Long answer? It is a lot safer when you are properly prepared. We have a safety article on which we expand on natural safety as well as some practical tips to ensure you are ready to go! But be assured that Costa Rica is the safest travel destination in Central America – and also the most beautiful!
Are you getting excited about your Costa Rica vacation? Let us help you devise the perfect family itinerary! From the pristine beaches to the lush jungle and the metropolitan city to the small harbors, we can advise you on everything you need to know about Costa Rica travel!