Costa Rica is an excellent spot for travelers of all kinds. Families with kids are no exception. In fact, Costa Rica could be considered the perfect choice for parents contemplating their first international trip with little ones in tow. It’s easy to navigate, the people are kind, and the laid-back culture will make it hard to find yourself sweating the small stuff that’s impossible to avoid when you travel with kids. Madison and I were invited as guests of Costa Rica Family Holidays to experience Costa Rica, and I’ve got to say that our experience surpassed what we thought it could ever be.
If you do plan to visit Costa Rica with kids, you will want to put some thought into your plans before you arrive. It isn’t too hard to build a kid-friendly itinerary, but a little planning goes a long way in making sure everything goes smoothly during your trip. From adventurous activities that’ll get your heart pumping to more relaxing experiences, there’s something for everyone – you just need to figure out what’s right for you and your crew.
As a starting point, here are some of my suggestions for easy ways to have fun with kids in Costa Rica:
If ziplining is on your bucket list, there’s no better place to experience this exhilarating activity than here – in Costa Rica. In some areas, you’ll find yourself ziplining through the lush, green canopy of the rainforest. In others? You’ll be soaring through the clouds. You won’t soon forget the feeling of flying through the sky – whether you love it, or you hate it – making this a great experience to add to your travel plans.
If you’re in the Arenal area, then I highly suggest EcoGlide; their staff are amazing, and Madison, who is deathly afraid of heights, mastered ziplining like a pro thanks to their expertise. However, as long as you do your research and choose a reputable company, ziplining is a fun and safe way to get an adrenaline rush, and you don’t have to be particularly athletic to try it, so it’s accessible to most travelers.
ADMIRE THE ARENAL VOLCANO
Did you know Costa Rica is home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes? This imposing volcano has quieted over the last decade, but for a while, it was one of the most reliable spots to glimpse lava in person. Situated just over three hours outside San Jose, it’s a trek for many visitors, but the opportunity to witness the Arenal Volcano and adjacent Lake Arenal is well worth the effort for many.
Aside from merely admiring the volcano, there’s plenty to see and do in the area. There are a variety of hikes through the Arenal Volcano National Park to enjoy, as well as hot springs for a relaxing soak at the end of a long day. Rather leave the planning to the professionals? You can find several guided tours and activities, from rappelling to horseback riding in the area, and I highly recommend staying at the beautiful Hotel Montaña De Fuego Resort, which also offers horseback riding and a myriad of activities for kids.
COOL OFF AT A WATER PARK
Are you looking for a great opportunity to let the kids burn off some energy and have a blast? Check out one of Costa Rica’s water parks. There are a few scattered across the country – mostly in areas where tourists tend to visit – and they’re well worth the price you’ll pay to get in. From thrilling water slides that send riders shooting down narrow chutes into pools below to more relaxing attractions, like lazy rivers and wave pools, you’ll find something for everyone in the family to enjoy. Madison and I were fortunate enough to visit the Bali Hot Springs Resort, which has fantastic hot springs for the adults and a water park for the kids. Coincidentally this is also located in the Arenal area.
TOUR THE TORTUGUERO CANALS
The village of Tortuguero is accessible only by boat; however, I recommend if staying in Tortuguero, that you stay at the deluxe Pachira Lodge. Discover the flavors of Costa Rica with breakfast at the lodge, before going a walking tour of the lodge’s private trail. From the lodge, you’ll be able to take a canal tour with expert local guides, through the marshes and rainforest where you may be able to spot gators, blue herons, iguanas, spider monkeys, and many more birds and wildlife. The excursion can take as long as two hours and is actually very calming. It was so calm that the kids fell asleep after about 20 minutes into the tour.
HAVE A BLAST ON THE BEACH
The beach can bring out the inner child in all of us, so it’s no surprise to see it’s on the list of kid-friendly things to do in Costa Rica! After all, the country is known for its beaches, and you’d be missing out if you didn’t incorporate at least a few beach days into your itinerary.
Unlike beaches in America, you won’t find many lifeguards here, so it’s important to keep an eye on your kiddos as you play – especially if they aren’t strong swimmers. Whether you choose to have fun in the water or stick to the shore, you’re guaranteed to make great memories together at the beach.
SPOT SOME LOCAL WILDLIFE
If your little ones are interested in animals, tell them to keep their eyes peeled! Costa Rica is home to all kinds of incredible wildlife, from mischievous monkeys and colorful birds to wild creatures like the tapir.
In many cases, you can spot these critters and creatures as you explore the country. Be on the lookout for coatimundis tucked away in the trees, toucans flying down the Caribbean coastline, lizards hidden in bushes, and spider monkeys watching from above. If you see wildlife, be careful not to approach or disturb it – it is, after all, wild.
However, if you want to guarantee you’ll get to see some of these creatures up close while you’re in Costa Rica, consider visiting a zoo. Costa Rica’s eco-friendly tourism industry means that many of their zoos are well-maintained and designed with the preservation and animal welfare in mind, like Zoo Ave, which got its start as an animal rehabilitation center.
GO FOR A CASUAL FLOAT
While older kids and teens may love the thrill of white water rafting, there’s a safer and easier alternative for those who would prefer a more laid-back experience on the water. Sign up for a river tubing adventure, and you’ll be treated to a leisurely float down one of Costa Rica’s many rivers. This is a favorite activity for locals and tourists alike, and it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours outdoors doing something you won’t find in many other places!
Don’t just head to a river, inner tube in hand, and expect to go tubing! Instead, look up a local company that can set you up with everything you need. Most tubing tours include transportation to your drop-in point and back from your pick-up point, as well as tube rentals and an experienced guide. You and your kiddos will get to spend a few hours on the water, which offers plenty of time to kick back, relax, and admire the gorgeous Costa Rican nature that surrounds you. Our lodge, the La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge in the La Fortuna area, offers tubing; however, due to the heavy rains at the time of our visit, we were unable to experience this event, but we were able to do the next best thing: take a dip in the pool. We do hope to be able to tube the next time we visit Costa Rica.
Whether you’re planning your child’s very first trip abroad or your little one is already well on their way to filling their passport with stamps, you’re guaranteed to have a great time as a family in Costa Rica. With no shortage of kid-friendly stuff to do that’ll also entertain the grown-ups in your group, you’ll have a blast exploring this fun and friendly country.