The top seven things to do in Costa Rica with family offer the perfect blend of history, natural beauty, and tropical adventure with children of all ages.
Instead of spending every day on the beach or hidden away in a mountain lodge, you can combine interactive education and physical fun, from zip lining to wildlife spotting, surfing to whitewater frafting.
Embrace a unique adventure in a country known for hosting four percent of the world’s flora and fauna by using our list of recommendations for the best family-friendly things to do on your Costa Rica trip.
The jungle canopy in Costa Rica is not just a destination, but an experience. Visitors of all ages can gaze into the complex and active ecosystems on excursions to places where wildlife like monkeys, birds, sloths, and a variety of plant species appear.
The three most common ways to explore the canopies of Costa Rica are zip-lining, aerial trams and hanging bridges. The speedy and engaging exploration of the treetops is a safe and exciting adventure during which you glide across a cable for a bird’s-eye view of nature.
Aerial trams offer unforgettable, unobstructed views of the treetops in open-air gondolas ascending through the rainforest. Unlike zip-lining or aerial trams, walking along the hanging bridges lets you move at your preferred pace, guided by a specialist, as well as allowing children to find frogs, snakes, lizards, ocelots, and margay.
Best Places for Aerial Tours: Arenal • Monteverde • Jaco • Diamante • Limón
The two coastlines of Costa Rica are known for their consistent swells, fabulous waves, and easy breaks for 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.
Best Places for Water Sports: Tamarindo • Jaco • Dominical • Hermosa Beach • Espadilla Beach
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 sea turtles found on the Pacific and Caribbean shores. Some species hatch eggs year-round in certain locations, 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.
Best Places to See Sea Turtles: Tortuguero • Tamarindo • Gandoca Wildlife Refuge • Camaronal Wildlife Refuge
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 wildlife can be difficult for the untrained eye. Guides not only have more knowledge about the flora and fauna of the specific ecosystem in which you’re wandering, but also have eyes trained on movement in their surroundings to better point out the wildlife and birdlife hidden in the terrain.
With so many unique ecosystems and animals on display, you may be surprised how engaging this simple activity can be.
Best Places for a Nature Walk: Corcovado National Park • Monteverde • Arenal National Park • Manuel Antonio National Park • Cahuita National Park
A horseback-riding tour is excellent for families with children of all ages. It offers an exciting way to explore the beaches, mountains, and jungle scenery without the stress of hiking.
You can couple up with 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.
Best Places for Horseback Riding: El Silencio • Arenal • Alajuela • Monteverde • Jaco Beach
The rivers of Costa Rica provide a blend of relaxation 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 to engage 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, becoming 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.
Best Places for Rafting: Puerto Viejo • La Fortuna • Toro River • Sarapiqui River
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”.
Best Places for Chocolate-Tasting: Alajuela • Guanacaste • Talamanca • Puntarneas
A journey to Costa Rica will immerse your family in the famous biodiversity surrounded by landscapes steaming with volcanoes, pristine beaches, agricultural heritage, and fascinating wildlife.
Find more inspiration on how to enjoy your personalized family vacation by viewing our featured Costa Rica family vacations. You can also find more ideas on what to do with Zicasso’s Costa Rica travel guide.