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Costa Rica is a fantastic family destination. There are so many things to do there with kids. Whether you want cultural activities or fun outdoor experiences, there’s something for everyone.
Costa Rica is a country on the Pacific coast of Central America, known for its tropical climate, natural beauty and biodiversity. Despite its tiny size, it’s packed with volcanoes, sandy beaches, thermal springs, jungle trails and national parks.
With all this to offer, it’s no wonder that there are activities that are sure to thrill kids (and grown-ups) of all ages.
Best Things to Do in Costa Rica with Kids
Things To Know About Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. Here are some things to prepare and know before booking your first ticket.
- Currency: Most travelers get by with just US dollars since most restaurants and attractions show their prices in USD. We only have a few thousand Costa Rican colones with us. This is for getting around, paying tollbooths, taxis, roadside shops, and other off-beaten destinations.
- Language: If you know some Spanish, that will help you go around Costa Rica’s off-beaten destinations. English is widely spoken in the country’s top destinations. If you want to stick to these tourist spots, you can get by asking for directions in English. Other languages spoken by the locals are Creole and other Indian languages.
- Visa: One of the convenient reasons to visit Costa Rica is the Visa requirements. For US citizens, all you need is a valid passport and a ticket to return to the US or go to another country. The exit ticket from Costa Rica should be within 90 days. Other countries can visit Costa Rica visa-free too! Check this link.
- Car Seats: If you want car seats for your kids, you can book in advance from taxi operators in Costa Rica, like Taxi Bambino. We also suggest carrying your own stroller car seat from EvenFlo Maestro. Or get the Safety 1st Guide 65 with the Go-Go Babyz Mini Travel Mate. You can find more car seats for traveling from our blog.
- Stroller: Costa Rica is sunny at most times. Bring the Uppa Baby G-Luxe for your child. It carries up to 55 lbs and has 3 recline positions. Plus, the extra wide canopy provides the best shade for your child. You can find more travel stroller choices here.
When is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica with Kids?
There are two main seasons in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica’s dry season runs from mid-November to late April. The dry season is also the high season.
Holy Week is the busiest time for tourists in Costa Rica during spring break. Rates are higher, and hotels fill up faster during this time.
The wet season runs from May to early November. It’s also referred to as the “Green season.” You’ll find lower rates, fewer crowds, and more comfortable temperatures.
In the wet season, mornings are often sunny, but there’s usually rainfall in the afternoon and evening.
The biggest drawback about visiting in the rainy season is that some roads become unpassable unless you’re in a 4-wheel drive. Even then, it makes getting around even slower than it usually is.
The best time to visit is when it’s lush and green but not raining every day, around December – January. However, the run-up to Christmas and New Year is also the peak tourist season, so booking ahead is essential.
How to Get to Costa Rica With Kids
Arrival to the country is usually through one of two international airports, Juan Santamaría (SJO) just outside San José or further north in Liberia, the Daniel Oduber Quiros (LIR) airport.
For people who love road trips, you can take the longer route by driving to Costa Rica. You need extra preparations like familiarizing yourself with the road signs, speed limits, gas stations, and driving license.
Traveling with kids and looking for tips, then make sure to click the links below and read more:
- Best Travel Gear For Kids
- How To Travel With Kids Internationally Alone
- Best Countries To Visit In The World With Kids
- Top Must Have Items When Traveling With Kids
- How To Keep Your Kids Entertained & Happy On Flights
- Everything You Need To Know About Traveling With A Car Seat
How to Get Around Costa Rica with Kids
There are many ways to go around Costa Rica’s top tourist attractions, off-beaten destinations, and beach towns. Here are some public and private transportation options via land and air.
- Buses: Costa Rica has an excellent public transport system in its buses. The service even reaches some of the more remote areas. You can also ride shuttle buses from one tourist destination to another. The cost is higher than the public buses, but it is more convenient and faster.
- Car Rental: Car rental is popular for visitors – be prepared to look out for potholes and loose animals. The cheapest time to rent a car in Costa Rica is September, while a small car’s average rental cost is around 25 USD.
- Taxi: Taxis are the best options when traveling in a group. The cost depends on the distance, capacity, and destination, whether in the countryside or the city.
- Motorbike/Scooters: Do you have a motorcycle license? Motorbikes are better options for traveling around beach towns. The daily cost is around 40 USD and goes as high as 150 USD.
- Uber: Another cost-saving option to go around Costa Rica is via Uber. You can pay via your credit card-connected payment in Uber or choose the cash payment option. Uber is a great option when planning your trip. You can estimate the travel time and be on time within or outside the city.
- By Plane: When in Costa Rica, visiting the beach destination is a must. You can book a flight to these fantastic destinations with Sansa and NatureAire, the main domestic carriers in the country. Some destinations take more than 4 hours to visit via land transportation but less than an hour via air travel. Depending on your destination, the cost can go as low as 60 USD.
Where to Stay in Costa Rica with Kids
Costa Rica offers every kind of accommodation imaginable, from luxury villas with pools to glamping on the beach or staying in a rainforest lodge.
Family Friendly Hotels In Costa Rica
- Hotel Aguti Lodge & Reserve: It is rustic yet chic and located on a hilltop just 5 minutes from Monteverde center. They have family suites and independent family bungalows in the rainforest, offering Costa Rican food and views of the ocean and the forest. Look out for animals, like howler monkeys and the resplendent quetzal.
- Monteverde Country Lodge: It is an eco-friendly hotel in the jungle serving delicious local food, 1 km from Monteverde center. The rooms are in simple wooden cabins with views of the tropical gardens, a bathroom, and a shared porch. Guests have free access to facilities at a kids club, indoor pool, gym, and hot tub.
- The Springs Resort & Spa: If your budget stretches, book a room at this enormous tropical paradise. This luxury family hotel has jacuzzis, a view of the volcano, its own adventure center, a wildlife sanctuary, a spa, and 28 thermal spring pools. They have villas, suites, and rooms of various sizes. With 5 dining facilities, you’ll not go hungry either!
- Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa: The lodge has villas, suites, and hotel rooms in a national park. The family rooms sleep 4 and have stunning views of the volcano or rainforest with access to the spring-fed infinity swimming pool. There’s a restaurant on-site, but several other restaurants are nearby if you want to eat out.
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson: Country Inn & Suites by Radisson in San Jose is a midrange family-friendly hotel that offers the perfect location in the heart of San Jose. Their family rooms sleep up to 4 people with access to 2 outdoor pools.
Things to Do in Costa Rica with Kids
Costa Rica is best known for its natural beauty, but its cities have lots to offer too. Enjoy a few hours exploring San José, water activities, and look at traditional Costa Rican dresses. There are many museums for you to choose from too.
1. Witness Sea Turtles at Tortuguero National Park
Sea turtles are a popular attraction at the Tortuguero National Park. The park offers many different activities for visitors, including tours to learn about sea turtle conservation and the area’s natural history.
If you’re hoping to see the turtles laying eggs, you’ll need to visit between July – September. Visit the beaches at night to see the turtles making their way up to bury their eggs in the sand.
Sea turtles are just one of the wildlife to watch here. Big cats, caiman, monkeys, deer, and many more animal species exist.
2. Kayaking & Canoeing in Tortuguero
One extremely popular activity is kayaking. Kayak rentals are available through tour operators in town, but you can also rent kayaks from Tortuguero’s hotels.
If you’d rather stay on land, take a walk with one of the rangers who offer guided hikes to meet the national park’s animals firsthand. You can enjoy a canoe and hiking tour of the national park here.
3. Visit Sloth Sanctuary
How can anyone not love a sloth? These adorable creatures have a safe home in the Sloth Sanctuary south of Limon on the Caribbean coast.
The Sanctuary offers guided educational tours explaining the work of the Sanctuary. Little kids will love to visit the nursery, where you can see the delightful baby sloths that have been rescued. You can book a half day tour here if you only have a couple of hours to spend on the tour.
The Sanctuary also offers a rainforest kayak trip – check their website for booking details.
If you want to stay in the area, the Sanctuary also has an Inn with rooms for couples or families.
4. Sign up for an educational tour at the Children’s Museum (Museo de los Niños)
In the past, this castle-like structure was Costa Rica’s most feared prison. Today though, it serves as a home to a cheery and educational children’s museum.
It’s one of the best things to do in Costa Rica with toddlers.
There are separate sections dedicated to science, technology, dinosaurs, marine life, music, and much more.
There’s also a cafe where the whole family can take a break from learning.
5. Explore the life of dinosaurs at the La Salle Museum
If your kids didn’t get enough dinosaurs at the children’s museum, head to Museo La Salle – the Natural Sciences Museum.
They have different sections covering mammals, birds, fish, butterflies, reptiles, and many other creatures, including dinosaurs!
6. Discover Costa Rica pottery, coins, and other artifacts at the San Jose Gold Museum
The subterranean museum is under the Plaza de la Cultura. It’s owned by the Costa Rica Central Bank and displays their collection of Pre-Colombian gold.
It’s not all gold – there are contemporary art exhibitions there too.
7. Experience good coffee and nature at the Doka Coffee Plantation
Doka offers various visiting tours, from simple coffee tours and tasting to a tour of their hydroponics, butterfly garden, bonsai garden, and entrance to the Poas Volcano National Park. They also arrange transport to and from San Jose.
The coffee tour takes you through the seed germination process, to the coffee plantation, and finally, to the roasting room. They also have a restaurant that’s open for breakfast and lunch. Book the tour here!
8. Walk through the trail to La Paz Waterfall Gardens
This beautiful spot also boasts a 5-star hotel, wildlife sanctuary, and nature park. If you’re planning on just visiting for the day, don’t miss the 5 waterfalls lining the hiking trail. Visit Peace Lodge Gardens too, when you book this trip!
Expect to see a host of wildlife as you wander through the lush vegetation, including sloths, butterflies, monkeys, snakes, and frogs. For fishing fans, cast a line in their trout lake – equipment is available to hire. Children are encouraged to learn how to fish here!
9. See endangered species at Rescate Animal ZooAve
Sloths make a happy home at Rescate Animal ZooAve, but they’re not the only animals protected here. This is Costa Rica’s oldest animal wildlife rescue center and practices both rescue rehabilitation and conservation breeding.
ZooAve loves to teach people about wildlife. Visitors can learn about and see over 125 types of animals native to Costa Rica, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and other species.
The rescue center is on the outskirts of San Jose, just 20 minutes from the International airport.
10. Learn tropical ecology at La Selva Biological Station And Research Center
Scientists come here to study tropical ecology, but you can be something other than a scientist to visit and learn. It welcomes visitors to enjoy observing the natural beauty of its surroundings.
The center is a 1.5-2 hour drive from San Jose. If you’re not planning to rent a car, get a bus from San Jose.
The center has over 1600 hectares of lowland rainforest. Visitors can book many family-friendly activities, including Birding Walks, Night Walks, Natural History Walks, Educational Tours, and Boat Tours.
11. Get close to Arenal Volcano
The area around the Arenal Volcano in the north of Costa Rica is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Go hiking in the mountains, white water rafting, and kayaking in the rivers, fly through the jungle canopy on one of the many zipline adventure centers, or explore the area on horseback. Book tickets to the Arenal Volcano here.
If you prefer quieter tours, relax in hot springs, or go fishing. There’s also a sky tram offering gorgeous views through the rainforest.
14. Brew coffee the traditional way at Espiritu Santo Coffee Tour
If you’re in the area of the Arenal Volcano, don’t miss the Mistico Hanging Bridges. There are 15 bridges at Mistico, 6 of which are hanging.
Book a twilight or night walk at Mistico to see an entirely different view of Costa Rican wildlife. You can also explore the forest during the day, but the guided night tours offer the chance to see nocturnal animals such as frogs, snakes, lizards, owls, and more. The tour takes about 2.5 hours.
Although the Bridges are open to all ages during the day, kids under 10 are not permitted on the night tour. Other activities on offer include bird watching and horseback riding.
13. Taste different kinds of chocolates in Don Olivo Chocolate Tour
For chocolate fans, a visit to Don Olivio is a must. Skip the line and get the tickets here.
The whole family can learn about the food cultivated in Costa Rica – not just chocolate! This farm has been producing organic chocolate for almost 100 years. There are over 1600 trees on the plantation alone.
Go on a guided property tour and learn about the different plants. See how the different foods are processed to become the same products we buy at the supermarket. Try fresh fruit, coffee, and of course, chocolate!
If you really love it, stay on the plantation in their Airbnb.
14. Brew coffee the traditional way at Espiritu Santo Coffee Tour
Go on a guided tour and watch coffee made the old-fashioned way at a coffee plantation in Costa Rica. While your kids might not drink coffee, there’s plenty for them to enjoy at Espiritu.
There’s also lots of coffee in the gift shop for those who want to take some home as a souvenir or gift for coffee fans back home.
15. Learn to surf in Guanacaste
From 2-hour surf lessons to 3-day surfing bootcamps, Guanacaste offers a perfect environment to learn to surf. All equipment is included, and there’s a choice of qualified instructors to choose from. Book a the 3 day classes here.
16. Sunset Sailing and Snorkeling in Tamarindo
Book a sunset sailing trip on a catamaran; if you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins, sea turtles, flying fish, and maybe even a whale.
The 4.5 hour trip includes a light meal and snorkeling equipment. There’s a bar on board with drinks for adults and kids. Swim in the bay or walk along the white sandy beach.
It’s a barefoot tour – no shoes on deck! Remember your towel.
17. Experience outdoor activities with the whole family at Cascada del Zorro
Costa Rica is home to water destinations and sports, and you can enjoy both at the Waterfall del Zorro. It has been the best place for hiking, horseback riding, ATV jungle trip, and other sports excursions. You can also see the 35-foot waterfall and take photos of this natural beauty.
18. Surround yourself with flowers and waterfalls at Pura Vida Gardens
Pura Vida Gardens is the best place if you love outdoor activities or walking outdoors. You can find flowers and orchid varieties in the 50-acre garden. There are four waterfalls, and you can even see the Pacific Ocean.
19. Go sightseeing and do water sports at Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio is a famous coast village and the home of the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, or the Manuel Antonio National Park. You can spot different animal species of snakes, frogs, and more.
Visiting here lets you and your kids enjoy outdoor activities like surfing, swimming, or hiking on the Manuel Antonio trails.
20. Paragliding near Jaco Beach
Besides enjoying the beach on the famous Jaco Beach, you can also glide on the nearby forest. The paragliding lasts for 20 minutes at 900 feet high, with views of the beach and the lush forest. Remember to bring a sunblock lotion for the whole family! Book a paragliding flight for your trip here.
Where to Eat in Costa Rica With Kids
One of the challenges families face traveling to another country is the food. Luckily, Costa Rica has many restaurants serving delicious dishes from other countries. There are tons of food options to satisfy your children’s tastebuds!
- PAN PAY
- Restaurante 1910
- Pizza Oliva
- Bread and Chocolate
- Rico Tico Jungle Grill
- El Novillo Alegre
- Spaghetti Factory
Tips for Visiting Costa Rica With Kids for the First Time
Costa Rica is one of the best places to enjoy the beach or a getaway for tourists during the winter. Travel to the country weeks before December or Christmas to avoid the peak season, but at the same time, they are the best months to see the lush forest without the crowd.
Always look out for unofficial taxis and their taxi medallion license. You may have to pay more than the typical public taxi rates when you ride them.
Taxi is the most ridden public transport for tourists in the country. You can get a rough estimate of how much you need to pay by checking Uber. When you get the estimated cost, expect the total to be slightly higher when you ride taxis.
Costa Rica With Kids Itinerary
The best places are always the coastal towns, but they can be far apart. So here are some itinerary guides based on towns and distances to ensure your experience in Costa Rica is worthwhile.
- Arrive in Alajuela
- Dine at Spaghetti Factory
- Doka Coffee Plantation
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens
- Cascada del Zorro
- Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls
- Manuel Antonio
- Sleep in
- Paragliding at Jaco Beach
- Rescate Animal ZooAve
- San Jose Gold Museum
- Dine at El Novillo Alegre
- Museo de los Niños
- La Salle Museum
- La Selva Biological Station And Research Center
- Get Ice Creams at POPS
- Arenal Volcano
- Mistico Hanging Bridges Park
- Don Olivo Chocolate Tour
- Espiritu Santo Coffee Tour
- Learn to Surf at Guanacaste
- Sunset Sailing and Snorkeling
- Dinner at Falafel Bar Tamarindo – Mediterranean Cuisine
- Sea Turtles at Tortuguero National Park
- Kayaking & Canoeing in Tortuguero
- Visit Sloth Sanctuary in Limon
- Flight Back Home (Airport)
Thoughts on Traveling to Costa Rica with Kids
Costa Rica is seen as a getaway for adults during the winter season but also an excellent destination for families. The outdoor activities, lush forests, and beaches are just places and things to do in Costa Rica with kids.
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