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Top 7 Things to Do in Costa Rica with Family

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Newly hatched sea turtle on the beach in Corcovado National Park

Turtle hatchling in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers the perfect blend of history, natural beauty, and tropical adventure for families with children of all ages and overflows with things to do. Instead of spending every day on the beach or hidden away in a mountain lodge, you can combine interactive education and physical fun within four percent of the world’s flora and fauna with our recommendations for the best family-friendly things to do in Costa Rica.

  1. 1. Discover the Jungle Canopy
  2. 2. Learn to Surf or Paddleboard
  3. 3. Watch the Sea Turtles
  4. 4. Take a Nature Walk
  5. 5. Go Horseback Riding
  6. 6. Try Rafting or Floating
  7. 7. Sample Chocolates
  8. More Travel Information & Tips

1. Discover the Jungle Canopy

Young traveler ziplining in Costa Rica

Ziplining in Costa Rica

The jungle canopy in Costa Rica is not just a destination but an experience for visitors of all ages. Visitors of all ages and sizes can gaze into the complex and active ecosystems on excursions where wildlife like monkeys, birds, sloths, and a variety of different plant species appear. The three most common ways to explore the canopies of Costa Rica are zip-lining, aerial trams and hanging bridges.

Zip-lining – Costa Rica is known for its fast-paced and exhilarating zip-line tours connecting elevated platforms above the forest floor. The speedy and engaging exploration of the treetops is a safe and exciting adventure during which you glide across a cable for a birds-eye-view of the encompassing nature. Young children can ride tandem with their parents while teenagers enjoy the thrill of soaring through the sky in tandem or individually.

Aerial trams – Not all visitors to Costa Rica desire the speed from gliding down the cables of a zip-line tour but crave the views over the jungle canopy at a relaxed pace. Aerial trams offer unforgettable, unobstructed views of the treetops in open-air gondolas ascending through the rainforest. The most popular aerial trams in Costa Rica are located in Arenal, Monteverde, Jacó, and Limón.

Hanging bridges – Unlike zip-lining or aerial trams, walking along the hanging bridges lets the family move at your preferred pace guided by a specialist. The trails blend suspension bridges and birds-eye-views to reveal the excellent observation platforms for birding, as well as allowing children to find frogs, snakes, lizards, ocelots, and margay. Some of the most popular hanging bridges in Costa Rica are located in Arenal and Monteverde.

2. Learn to Surf or Paddleboard

Kids getting surfing lessons in Costa Rica

Surfing lessons in Costa Rica

The two coastlines of Costa Rica are known for their consistent swells, fabulous waves, and easy breaks for oceanic conditions ideal for surfing and paddleboarding.

Learn to surf as a family with lessons focused on practical skills, including safety, etiquette in the water when entering and exiting a surf zone, standing up, and catching a wave.

Stand-up paddleboarding is common in the North and Central Pacific regions and along the shores of the Southern Caribbean. Most surf schools around the country also offer single classes. Instructors demonstrate safety, proper posture, stance, and the best paddling techniques to keep you stable. All instructors are carefully selected to help students remain safe in a fun and stress-free environment.

3. Watch the Sea Turtles

Sea turtle going into the ocean in Tortugero National Park, Costa Rica

Sea turtle in Tortugero National Park, Costa Rica

You could enjoy a guided excursion to one of the many beaches known for protecting turtles and hatchlings or spend time as a family on a turtle conservation project to help sustain the environment, patrol the coastline, and release baby turtles into the ocean. Home to endangered and threatened species of all types, Costa Rica lovingly welcomes and protects the majestic nesting grounds of four different types of sea turtles found on the Pacific and Caribbean shores.

Some of the species hatch eggs year-round in certain locations across the country while others participate in arribada, a nesting phenomenon where Olive Ridley turtles return in the thousands to lay eggs. Different turtles lay their eggs on a variety of beaches each month, with hatchlings emerging from their hidden nests almost daily. The majority of turtle nesting sites in Costa Rica require visitors to access the beach through authorized points with a licensed guide to protect adult turtles and hatchlings.

4. Take a Nature Walk

Walking path thru Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica

Walking path in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica

Guided nature walks provide your family with insight on trails accessible to young children or more challenging terrain for active teenagers, in addition to adults. The wildlife and nature of Costa Rica attract visitors from around the world interested in viewing the marvels of flora and fauna thriving in their natural habitat. The distinctive ecosystems are not zoos, and spotting the wildlife can be difficult for the untrained eye.

Guides not only have more knowledge about flora and fauna of the specific ecosystem in which you’re wandering but also have eyes trained on the movement of their surroundings to better point out the active wildlife and birdlife hidden in the terrain. With so many unique ecosystems and wildlife on display, you may be surprised how engaging this simple activity can be.

5. Go Horseback Riding

Family group horseback riding in Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Horseback riding in Puntarenas, Costa Rica

A horseback riding tour is excellent for families with children of all ages. Horseback riding offers an exciting way to explore the beaches, mountains, and jungle scenery without the stress of hiking. You can couple-up with the young children on an easy stroll through the rainforest or gallop on the shoreline, speeding past your teenagers. The activity lets you experience Costa Rica’s grandeur as you follow your guide through rushing creeks and wide streams or discover hot springs around the base of a volcano.

6. Try Rafting or Floating

Family group rafting down the Pacuare River, Costa Rica.

Rafting the Pacuare River, Costa Rica

The rivers of Costa Rica provide a blend of relaxing ambiance for scenic excursions and rushing water, perfect for thrill-seekers searching for class III and IV rapids. A family with older children and teenagers can hit the exciting waters of the Pacuare or Naranjo rivers engaging in the adrenalin rush shaping the untamed landscape. During the rainy season, the water levels rise to make the rapids less intense. When the waters lower in the dry season, the rivers rush over rocks turning intense class IV rapids.

If your family has a taste for more relaxed excursions or is traveling with younger children, you can cruise calmer waters like Peñas Blancas and the Corobici rivers. Instead of concentrating on the thrill, your excursion could focus on the brilliance of the scenery and wildlife. The slower pace allows your family to appreciate the natural surroundings.

7. Sample Chocolates

Roasted cacao beans in Costa Rica

Roasted cacao beans in Costa Rica

What better way to teach children and adults about cultural heritage, global trade, colonialism, and ecology than by disguising the lesson beneath the promise of mouth-watering chocolate? Chocolate’s rich history begins in the Amazon Rainforest and travels around the world, with links to Africa, South America, and of course, Costa Rica. Discovering the evolution of chocolate can enrich your mind and taste buds.

A tour offers insight into the cultivation of the cacao tree, the production of chocolate, and how the ancient ceremonial drink developed into a popular contemporary dessert. The kids can help grind the cacao beans before you have a chance to sample the delicious, distinct flavors of high-quality organic Costa Rican chocolate once regarded as, and still considered, “a gift from the Gods.”

More Travel Information & Tips

Family of capuchin monkeys in a tree, Costa Rica

Capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica

A journey to Costa Rica will immerse your family in the famous biodiversity surrounded by landscape steaming with volcanoes, pristine beaches, boasting agricultural heritage, and fascinating wildlife. Find more inspiration on how to enjoy your personalized family vacation by visiting our Costa Rica Family Vacation Page. You can also find more ideas on what to do with Zicasso’s Costa Rica Travel Guide. Are you planning a family trip? You can speak with a Costa Rica family travel specialist by filling out a Trip Request Form or by calling 1-888-265-9707.

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