Costa Rica with Kids: Your Go-To Guide for an Amazing Family Adventure

In this post: Read insider tips for an unforgettable family vacation in Costa Rica with kids. Learn how to save on travel and make the most of your time in Costa Rica with your family. Post may contain affiliate links. 

Our first big trip with my four-year-old twins was to spend one month traveling through Costa Rica two years ago. As we plan our second month-long visit for this coming winter, I am having a blast revisiting our past trip and adjusting it for our upcoming one.

I’ll share our favorite spots to visit with in Costa Rica kids, important travel tips, and our must have travel items when traveling with kids. Consider this your go-to guide for an amazing family aventure in Costa Rica! 

Table of Contents

Why visit Costa Rica with kids?

Costa Rica is an excellent destination for families with kids because of its natural beauty, rich culture, and numerous activities suitable for all ages. Your family can explore the country’s lush rainforests, visit stunning beaches, spot an incredible variety of wildlife, and take part in many other adventure activities.

Some popular activities for families include hiking through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, visiting the Arenal Volcano National Park, experiencing the thrill of zip-lining, relaxing in natural hot springs, and surfing in the Pacific Ocean.

The country also boasts many family-friendly hotels and resorts, which offer comfortable accommodations, children’s programs, and organized tours to explore the local surroundings.

Overall, Costa Rica provides a perfect combination of relaxation and adventure for families looking for a memorable vacation.

Costa Rica with Kids: Where to visit?

Costa Rica is an ideal destination for a family vacation, and it offers plenty of activities for children such as hiking, hot springs, and zip-lining in Arenal Volcano National Park. Exploring the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is another exciting option for children. For wildlife enthusiasts, Manuel Antonio National Park is a must-visit spot to witness monkeys and sloths. The picturesque Pacific Coast has beautiful beaches, including Tamarindo and Playa Samara, where families can enjoy a marvelous beach time.

Other fun activities include white-water rafting, surfing, visiting butterfly gardens, and animal rescue centers. With its friendly and inviting culture, Costa Rica is an excellent choice for families looking to combine thrill and adventure.

Here are our favorite places to travel and visit with kids in Costa Rica:

Samara Beach
If you’re looking for a small beach town with gentle waves, a great local culture, and amazing wildlife, Samara is the ideal place for you! We spent two weeks here and enjoyed every moment of it. You can walk everywhere in town, there’s a fantastic weekly farmer’s market, and the ocean waves are perfect for young children. We loved the small-town vibe while also having convenient access to amenities such as grocery stores, excellent restaurants, and even urgent medical care (a late-night ear infection was not pleasant, but it was easily treated!) We will certainly visit Samara every time we travel to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica with kids

La Fortuna
This may be our absolute favorite place in all of Costa Rica. It is jam-packed with lots of activities to do with kids of all ages, including coffee and chocolate tours, guided sloth excursions, zip-lining, hanging bridges, and even a hot springs river to swim in. La Fortuna has everything you could want in a Costa Rican vacation.

Check out our favorite restaurants in La Fortuna when you visit:
Cafe Mediterraneo: Pizza, pasta, and a playground inside?! Add to that an epic view of the volcano, and you have our favorite restaurant in La Fortuna. My kids still talk about it two years later. You have to check it out!

Yellow Bark: Yum. I am drooling thinking about eating here. They have amazing burgers, really good fries and their aioli is seriously to die for. I cannot wait to go back. Plus I love that they have fun games on every table – it’s great to keep kids happy while eating!

Costa Rica with kids

Ostional is a renowned nesting site for Olive Ridley sea turtles that attract visitors from across the world. If you wish to witness the mass nesting process commonly known as the “arribada,” where thousands of sea turtles converge on the beach simultaneously to lay their eggs, the best time to visit is between July and November.

We visited Ostional in late January and were privileged to witness one sea turtle nesting. Witnessing this was magical. We also saw the last of the nest’s hatchlings emerge, and it was worth the trip!

There are several guided tours offered that give visitors an opportunity to see the arribada and learn about sea turtle conservation efforts. More information on these tours can be found here.

Tamarindo is a beautiful destination in Costa Rica that can be really fun with kids. We are going on our upcoming trip and cannot wait! There are plenty of activities that cater to all ages such as surfing lessons, horseback riding, zip-lining, snorkeling, and turtle nesting tours. Families can also explore the picturesque Tamarindo Beach, which offers calm waters and soft sands, perfect for swimming and building sandcastles. Another popular attraction is the local estuary, where visitors can take a boat tour to observe various species of birds, monkeys, and crocodiles. With its relaxed vibe, friendly locals, and an abundance of things to do, Tamarindo is an excellent stop for families exploring Costa Rica.

Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica is a great destination for families with kids. The park boasts a diverse range of flora and fauna, including numerous species of monkeys, sloths, birds, and reptiles. Guides are available to lead visitors through the park and provide educational information about the various plant and animal species. We have not visited yet, but it is such an amazing location I have to mention it for families who might be interested!

Favorite Tours & Activities

Costa Rica is full of amazing things to do with kids! These are some of our most memorable experiences from our past trip that are worth checking out. 

Las Pumas Wildcat Sanctuary:
Inevitably you will end up driving a good amount if you tour around Costa Rica. We loved stopping at this wildcat sanctuary on our way from La Fortuna to Sámara. It broke up the drive, and it was cool seeing so many animals native to Costa Rica! 

Butterfly Conservatory
In La Fortuna there is an amazing butterfly conservatory where you can see tons of native frogs, crocodiles, butterflies, and more. The guided tours are super cool and give you a closer look at all the amazing animals living there. This was definitely a favorite for my reptile-loving-daughter. 

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges
People cannot get enough of the hanging bridges, and this was a really beautiful park. You walk up in the canopy of the rain forest and see so many amazing plants an animals. Real talk though? I am terrified of heights, so even though the whole family loved this, I had to push myself to get through this one! It was definitely worth it though. 

There is so much still that you can do and find! These three were our favorites but definitely look for a coffee, chocolate, or sloth tour that looks fun too. Our kids were too young for zip lining or horse back riding, but we will do that one day in the future. 

Costa Rica with Kids: Need to Know

Costa Rica is super welcoming to families, and in general easy to travel. Here are some tips to make the most of your family vacation:

1. Plan ahead – research activities and accommodations, consider the ages and interests of your children, and make reservations in advance.

2. Embrace the outdoors – Costa Rica is known for its natural beauty, take advantage of its national parks, waterfalls, and beaches.

3. Consider staying in an airbnb rental versus a hotel- many families prefer the flexibility and comfort of their own home. It’s nice to be able to cook quick and simple meals at home for lunch or breakfast, which helps save money!

4. GET THE 4 WHEEL DRIVE VEHICLE. If you are renting a car, get the best possible one you can afford. I’m talking SUV, 4 wheel drive, and all the insurance. The roads in Costa Rica can be rough, we had to drive through several rivers (yes…rivers), so make sure you have a car that can keep up. 

5. Bring dramamine. Your kids will get car sick, they will vomit, it will be awful. Bring dramamine just in case (learn from our mistakes.) 

6. Don’t forget insect repellent and sunscreen – Costa Rica is a tropical country, so be prepared for the high humidity and sun exposure.

Our favorite Insect Repellent & Sunscreen with Kids!

Traveling with Kids & Babies: What to bring

In general, I try to be a light packer, which isn’t always easy with kids and babies. Aside from the basics, these are my favorite travel essentials for little ones. 

1. Slumberpod – If you have babies or toddlers who need complete darkness for sleeping, please invest in one of these. They don’t take up a lot of space, and will make sure everyone gets a good night sleep. I won’t go anywhere without mine now that my baby boy is born and traveling with us. 

2. Portable Blackout curtains -For bigger kids I still will bring portable blackout curtains to help make their rooms darker. Can you see a trend? Prioritize sleep above all else when traveling with kids! These are super easy, pack up small, and suction cup to any window. 

3. Inflatable bed rails: No one wants to hear a thud in the middle of the night. These help add piece of mind when my kids are sleeping in new beds. These aren’t necessary, you can stuff some pillows or blankets under the fitted sheet too, but these are more foolproof for younger kids. 

4. Travel bed: Some rentals have cribs, but I love having my babies or toddlers sleep in the same bed every day for night and naps. It really makes a big difference. These travel beds have gone all over the world with us over the years. They are super easy to set up and are light weight. Definitely worth the investment!

5. Travel Sound Machine: We love our sound machines and Hatch just came out with a super cute portable one that is amazing. We bring ours everywhere we go when we travel. 

6. Travel High Chair: You never know if your rental will have a high chair, so I try to bring this along anywhere we go! It packs down pretty small and is super convenient to take while traveling.

7. Narrow Car Seat: Rental cars are always tight on space! Especially if you’re fitting in a booster too. Of course you can rent a car seat, but after we had a bad experience with this once, I won’t risk it again. This is one of the narrowest car seat on the market and it fits in our tiny car with two boosters too!

8. Narrow Boosters: If you’re trying to fit three across, these are super narrow and really light-weight. We fit them side by side with the car seat above even in a smaller car and it works!

9. Travel Car Seat Bags: Most airlines will let you check car seats for free! We use these to keep them safe and secure when we check them. 

10. Travel Games for Kids: These are a must when going on any adventure with kids. We always try to have a new game or activity in their backpacks to help keep them busy. 

Overall, Costa Rica offers an exceptional combination of thrills, education, and relaxation, providing parents and children with unforgettable memories. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning all about my tips and tricks for visiting Costa Rica with Kids. 

Stay tuned for feedback from our next trip this winter! 

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Want to save on travel?

How do we save on travel with kids? One way is to use reward points from the best travel credit cards. Whether we you get free or discounted flights, deals on rental cars, or free hotel stays – reward points definitely make it easier! Check out my new favorite travel credit card from Chase to get a 60,000 (!) point sign up bonus when you meet the qualifying purchases. This is the best starter card to get when you want to save and using rewards to travel. 

Learn Spanish before you go!

Want to learn Spanish before your trip?! Check out my nature-based Spanish courses for families and my Spanish learning freebies