It’s finally summer–exactly what you’ve waited for all year! Now is the time to enjoy sunny days, long evenings, and pack the kids up and spend some quality family time together. It’s not too late to get in on our last-minute specials and bring the gang to Costa Rica! Once a destination only for adventurous backpackers and surf safaris, Costa Rica has evolved into a top family vacation destination.
Families come in all shapes and sizes, but the great thing about Costa Rica is that although it is a small country, it has something for everyone. We’re the local experts on Costa Rica family vacations and will help you tailor your trip to fulfill everyone’s expectations.
Planning your Costa Rica family vacation is going to require you to make some choices. Costa Rica is full of amazing things to see and do, and you aren’t going to be able to see or do it all in one trip. Decisions can be tough, but fortunately, we’re here to give you some guidance and pertinent recommendations.
Our first recommendation for the best family vacations in Costa Rica is to divide your trip of 5 to 10 days between no more than two places. Too much shuffling around takes the restfulness out of the experience for parents, and can be overwhelming for the kids. If you’re able to get away for 10 or more days, you can up the number of destinations to three, but we really don’t recommend trying to see the whole country in a little time as possible. Delve deeper into fewer places and have a much more profound and delightful experience.
Destination 1 of 2: The beach!
Of course one of the two stops on your trip is going to be a beach! The beaches are what makes Costa Rica famous, and there are more beautiful beaches here than–but if you will allow us to make a recommendation, our top pick is Tamarindo.
Tamarindo beach is gorgeous, it’s family-friendly and safe for swimming, surfing is good, there are lots of grocery stores, restaurants, and pharmacies, and of course, there are our Tamarindo vacation rentals. We are the local experts in family fun because we live here too, are raising our families here, and are confident in our ability to help you make great choices and have a fabulous time!
If you’re set on Costa Rica’s Carribbean coast instead of Guanacaste, visit Tortuguero and watch the sea turtles nesting or swing to the south and take a few days at Cahuita and Puerto Viejo. Cahuita national park is famous for its giant coral reef and the marine life it houses.
Kid-friendly beach activities:
This list varies according to the ages and personalities of the little ones, but we generally recommend surf lessons, half-day fishing trips and/or an estuary boat tour. In Tamarindo, for example, surfing is safe for children. Our surf instructors are trained and experienced, and many of them have taught their own little ones to surf! If your child can swim and is comfortable in the water, Tamarindo’s sandy gentle beach is the perfect place to give surfing a try. Half-day fishing trips are another fun option for kids of all ages.
A whole 7-hour day on a fishing boat can be overwhelming for anyone besides hard-core fisherman, but everyone can enjoy getting on the boat in the early morning and speeding out to sea for a few hours of trolling, watching for dolphins, and reeling in fish. Half-day tours are usually back by lunch time when everyone is ready to be out of the sun for a few hours! The estuary boat tour takes about two hours and is available according to the tide schedule. Birds, monkeys, colorful land crabs, and sleepy crocodiles are the attractions on this beautiful boat ride into the estuary that is Las Baulas National Park.
Destination 2 of 2: The forest!
For the second destination on your family vacation in Costa Rica, pick a cooler, higher place in the shade of Costa Rica’s tropical dry forest, rain forest, or cloud forest. The most frequently-visited picks are the Arenal Volcano and the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Both places are fabulous Costa Rican forest choices–you can’t pick the wrong one.
The Arenal area, due to volcanic activity, has hot springs and warm geothermal pools that your family can enjoy together. Monteverde has a dense rain and cloud forest with swinging bridges suspended over revines and canyons that will take your breath away. Combined with a few days and nights at the beach, a visit to either of these places will make for the best family vacation in Costa Rica.
Option Off-road: La Carolina Lodge
A unique mountain experience in Costa Rica is La Carolina Lodge. La Carolina functions off the grid. Dine by candlelight, eat meals created with foods that are grown on the farm and cooked over a wood fire, and sleep in rustic but luxurious cabins that are built out of locally grown and harvested wood. Hiking to the Rio Celeste waterfalls, swimming in the river, horseback riding, and relaxing in the hot tub are favorite activities at La Carolina. After a great night’s sleep, get up early and your family can help the farm hands milk the cows!
Kid friendly forest/farm activities:
Don’t leave Costa Rica without taking your family on a zip line canopy tour–that’s everybody’s favorite! Hikes are something families of all ages can enjoy, along with visits to animal refuges and butterfly or hummingbird gardens. If your youngsters are old enough to enjoy horses, don’t miss this opportunity to ride with a guide who can help you notice and appreciate the plants and animals along the leafy trails. Adventure centers exist throughout Costa Rica that make family vacation planning easy by offering packages that can be modified to include a day of your family’s favorite activities all in one location.
Costa Rica family vacation Do’s and Dont’s, provided by your vacation experts:
1 Don’t try to do everything.
You can’t do everything fun or see everything amazing in Costa Rica in one vacation. If you try to pack too much into your vacation, you’ll run yourselves ragged trying to have fun.
2 Do plan some down time.
Don’t forget that your vacation rental will have a pool your kids will want to play in, and don’t miss the miss joy of a beach walk together or a lazy afternoon in the hot springs or jacuzzi while you’re in the mountains.
3 Don’t bring the kitchen sink!
Costa Rica has first-world pharmacies and American-style grocery stores, so it’s not necessary to try to bring everything you could possibly need. You may pay more than you’re used to for a tube of after-insect-bite cream or Junior’s favorite breakfast cereal, but so what? You didn’t come on vacation to save money. You came to relax, enjoy each other’s company, and take things as they come.
4 Do pack sunscreen and insect repellent.
Now there are two things that you are for sure going to need, and you can buy them cheaper at home than you can here. Throw some extra in the bag. If you don’t need all of it, sunscreen and insect repellent are excellent gifts for the local friends you make during your vacation.
5 Do limit technology/screen time for yourself and your children.
Just a thought. Parents have different ways of addressing the challenges presented by technology in the hands of youngsters, and you are the expert on your own family. But consider making your family vacation in Costa Rica an experience of limited screen time and unlimited adventure, interaction, and attention to your surroundings. You can all get back on line when you get home.
Contact us today and let’s get busy on your vacation plans!