Costa Rica Family Vacations and Tours
Custom Costa Rica Tours
Every day in Costa Rica is a new adventure for the family. Explore the thrilling rainforest home to sloths and toucans, active volcanoes, gorgeous waterfalls and picturesque beaches. The country offers something every member of the family will enjoy.
Costa Rica Family Vacation
Picturesque beaches, beautiful scenery and active wildlife await when visiting Costa Rica.
There are many reasons Costa Rica is great for family vacations. This Central American country offers families from around the world unforgettable accommodations, beautiful scenery, charismatic wildlife, and gorgeous beaches. Your family-friendly Costa Rica vacation will meet your family’s eclectic tastes as you ease into the thrills of exciting wildlife tours, whitewater rafting, volcano hikes, zip lining and much, much more.
Costa Rica will entertain the family no matter the age of your kids. For families traveling with young children we recommend: fruit juice tasting, local farm tours, and wildlife tours. Families traveling with pre-teens will enjoy nature night tours, waterfall walks and hikes. Those vacationing with teenagers may consider volcano hikes, forest canopy tours, and whitewater rafting.
Fruit Juice Tasting
Fruit juice tasting is a favorite activity for young children in Costa Rica.
What better way to learn about the culture of Costa Rica then by experiencing the flavors of the food? The delicious fruits of Costa Rica are near legendary for their diversity growing in tropical and sub-tropical environments resulting in vibrant tastes and sensational colors. You and your children will discover the distinct flavors of the fruit with a private guide happily leading the family on a tour focused on the different fruits of the country and the juices they create. Kids may learn about various flavors by exploring the abundant markets or roadside vendors scattered across Costa Rica.
Young children can enjoy the sweet flavors of the fruit juices. They can choose fruits to try when strolling through the bustling marketplaces. Whether sampling the sweet and sour flavor of passion fruit or finding the familiar tart taste of orange juice, the family will find new combinations and enduring favorites.
Young boy feeds cows on a farm visit in Costa Rica.
Explore the rich history of agriculture in Costa Rica where children will learn about the domesticated world of crops and livestock for a sensational view of life on a farm. During a farm visit, children will enjoy presentations of milking cows, cultivating crops, and tending to the animals. The livestock on Costa Rican farms can include water buffalo, cows, and donkeys.
Local guides with personal relationships with local farmers offer the best information, as well as introductions to the family farmers. Learn about the types of crops harvested on the property, from sugarcane to pineapples, vegetables to delicious tropical fruits. Many farms around the country also have medicinal gardens. In the open countryside deer, pheasants, and peacocks graze in the company of the wandering cows. Several tours also include an engaging lesson on how to craft handmade tortillas perfect for both kids and parents.
When you take wildlife tour of Costa Rica, your expert guides know where to spot active wildlife and will provide useful information about the habitat along the way.
Participating in a wildlife safari in Costa Rica is both fun and educational for the entire family. When witnessing wildlife in their habitat, you immediately notice your heart thumping, far different than viewing animals at the zoo. The phenomenal biodiversity of Costa Rica only makes the wildlife more prominent attracting visitors from around the world. The wilds of the landscape will peak your interest as the family searches for both species of sloth, endangered animals like the spider monkey, in addition to the majestic avifauna like toucans, parrots, and two different species of macaw. When exploring the scenic, diverse forests of Costa Rica, guides become invaluable on the winding trails leading deep inside the national parks and reserves. The top reasons for hiring a guide during a wildlife tour are:
- Local guides know where the active animals are during the day. This allows the family to view the wildlife based on your time frame as well, such as when you can enter the park and explore morning, noon, or night. This is valuable when on a hike because the habits of the wildlife may change given the time of day or the season.
- A guide has information on the flora and fauna of the national parks and reserves. Guides who often work with children can keep the entire family’s interest if no wildlife appears. A guide can also offer information on the diverse properties of the trees or point to hidden flowers growing in the canopy. Your guide will have fascinating information on the habits of the wildlife offering fun and instructive facts for a deeper connection and better understanding of nature’s astounding characteristics.
Nature Night Tour
Much of Costa Rica's diverse wildlife is nocturnal, so be sure to take a nature night tour to experience all of the country's wildlife.
Costa Rica has some of the most stunning rainforests in the world making exploring the trails one of the most dynamic experiences you and your family can have, especially when in the dark. Families with children of all ages enjoy searching for frogs, bats, snakes, insects and several nocturnal mammals. Scientists estimate more than 60 percent of wildlife in tropical forests are active between sundown and sunup making the family’s nighttime exploration of the forested landscapes of Costa Rice an exclusive wildlife safari experience. The dark brings the animals into new focus with the remarkable biodiversity engaging young children, teenagers, and parents of all ages, delighting in the discovery lit by flashlights in the search for wildlife hidden in the dense, pitch-black forest. Your family will gain a deeper understanding of the habits of active, colorful frogs, noisy insects, gigantic toads, camouflaged birds, and sly mammals known for their life in the dark, illuminating some of Costa Rica’s most elusive wildlife.
With so many waterfalls in the country many family friendly options are available.
Accessibility to Costa Rican waterfalls will depend on your child’s age and ability to hike. Several waterfalls have short pathways without strenuous hikes making them accessible for families with young children. The scenic cascades across the country account for the wonderful scenery and create enchanting panoramas embodying Costa Rica’s natural beauty. The falls often filter into waterholes where locals and visitors dip their toes into the water or indulge in a refreshing swim after a long trek into the jungle terrain.
Some of the natural pools have heavy currents during the rainy season. Be advised when swimming with small children or those without a strong swimming ability. The season can also affect the stream of the waterfalls with some cascades maintaining thinner torrents in the dry season which also causes the pools to shrink. Do not attempt to dive into the pools at any point during the dry season, especially if you have not experienced the depths or texture of the pool’s floor where possible rocky outcroppings exist.
Waterfall hikes should be selected based on your child’s age and skill level to prepare for the best experience.
Best hikes for families with small children (aged 7 and under):
- Nauyaca Waterfalls, South Pacific Coast
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Cloud Forest
Best hikes for families with pre-teens (aged 8-12):
- Rio Celeste Waterfall, Guanacaste
- Bajos del Toro Waterfall, Cloud Forest
Best hikes for families with teenagers (aged 13-17):
- La Cangreja Waterfall, Guanacaste
- Bijagual Waterfall, Jaco
The famous Arenal Volcano located in La Fortuna.
Volcanoes remain an inspiring source of power and an incredible attraction along the skyline of Costa Rica’s landscape. A hike to an active volcano is thrilling for the entire family, as it offers unique views of the countryside and insight into the formation of Costa Rica’s fabled landscape. The volcanic activity around the country creates different attractions including bubbling mud pots and glowing crater lakes. Various hikes lead to a selection of hot springs perfect for a relaxing soak. Trails consist of easy, moderate, and intermediate levels great for the different family experiences such as breathtaking panoramas, fascinating flora, and active fauna dependent upon the volcanic path you follow.
The variety of volcanoes in Costa Rica draw families for many reasons including the panoramic views, mud pools, hot springs, and active fumaroles. These characteristics also mean you should know the challenges involved in hiking around the volcanoes for an easier excursion on you and your children.
Young children may have difficulty trekking the steep and rugged trails to the volcano peaks around Costa Rica. The best volcano hikes for families with children under the age of 10 in Costa Rica include:
- Irazu Volcano – where you can drive close to the summit and walk two or three minutes to the crater.
- Arenal Volcano – The crater itself is inaccessible, but easy trails around Arenal National Park provide exceptional views of the picturesque summit, such as Las Coladas Trail and Los Heliconias Trail.
The challenging trails and fantastic views over the landscape will keep the family’s interest during the best volcano hikes for children over 10 and teenagers in Costa Rica, which include:
- Cerro Chato located southeast of Arenal Volcano offering sensational views over the national park.
- Turrialba Volcano has more rustic and challenging trails accounting for less visitors during an isolated adventure into the cloud forest.
Zip Line and Forest Canopy Tours
Zip-line and forest canopy tours are an excellent way to view the canopy.
Since the first recreational zip-line tour started in Costa Rica in 1997, sailing through the canopy has become one of the best-known activities for tourists in the country. The preserved canopies of Costa Rica lead the family into distinctive ecosystems where 40 percent of all life on earth exists, including a variety of flora and fauna endemic to the country spreading from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts. The forest floor provides a different opportunity for viewing the wilds of the forested landscape but scouring the treetops allows the family to absorb the art of nature and the thrill of flying. The guided tours provide a safe aerial adventure in which you can traipse through the canopy. Eager children and hesitant parents can have the time of their lives speeding through the cloud forest or trekking through the trees on a network of sky-bridges.
The first aerial walkway opened in Costa Rica in 2011 offering curious visitors a new way to experience the forest canopy. Enjoy your time high above the forest floor for better views of the wildlife, flora and fauna. Zip line tours and canopy tours restrict children under the age of eight years old or under approximately 50 pounds from the excursion. The age restriction also depends on the various companies providing tours.
Commercial rafting is a thrilling activity for the family.
When considering which type of rafting experience your family would prefer, consider your children’s size, age and experience. The quieter rapids include tracks on the Pacuare or Naranjo rivers with more intense rapids located at Sarapiqui, Corobici, and Reventazón rivers.
The classification for commercial whitewater rapids ranges between Class I and Class IV with Class I being the calmest water and Class IV representing the most demanding water. The system is not based on the thrills of riding a rapid and instead measures the difficulty and danger of the rapid. The rapids do have minimum age requirements to protect participants. The whitewater rapids classification consists of:
- Class I (minimum age of 7 years)– Moving water with little to no obstructions and small waves.
- Class II (minimum age of 7 years)– Small waves easily maneuvered with clear channels, accessible channels.
- Class III (minimum age of 12 years)– High, irregular waves with narrow passages requiring precise maneuvering.
- Class IV (minimum age of 16 and prior rafting experience)– Long rapids with constricted passages demanding complex movement in turbulent water. A regular course is hard to determine requiring scouting before the trip.
A few excellent beaches to take the family include: Playa Blanca, Punta Uva, Manuel Antonio, Playa Hermosa de Guanacaste, and Nosara (pictured above).
The best family-friendly beaches in the country include Playa Blanca, Punta Uva, Manuel Antonio, Playa Hermosa de Guanacaste, and Nosara.
- Playa Blanca – The white sands of the beach on the Caribbean Sea hosts gentle waves rolling along the coastline near the entrance to Cahuita’s National Park. The relaxed beach ambiance is perfect for young children eager to play on the soft shore and run along the waterline. Its proximity to the untouched forest makes it a prime spot for spotting howler monkeys hooting, foraging, or resting in the trees. Stay alert for hungry raccoons if you decide to picnic at the tables nestled between the shoreline and entrance to Cahuita National Park.
- Punta Uva – The quiet Caribbean coast hosts the white sands of Punta Uva running amid towering cliffs and nestled between the lapping water and emerald jungle trees. Young children enjoy the soft, warm sands and refreshing water. Older kids and teenagers can snorkel or kayak on the Caribbean Sea. For those kids seeking more exciting excursions, you could hike the trail to the blue grotto leading the family up a modest, lush cliff dividing the beach in two and revealing the turquoise glimmer of the water.
- Manuel Antonio – Famous Manuel Antonio National Park is often at the top of every visitor’s wish list due to its accessibility and serene beaches. The white sand beach attracts families with children of all ages eager to enjoy the waves, warmth, and proximity to the verdant rainforest bordering the shoreline. Older kids can surf the waves edging the park’s popular beach or snorkel in the quiet current. Scuba diving adventures, kayaking excursions, and horseback riding tours become memorable outings for the entire family combining the splendor of Manuel Antonio National Park with the unforgettable beauty of the beach.
- Playa Hermosa de Guanacaste – The family-friendly beach of Playa Hermosa de Guanacaste has waters fit for children of all ages due to the mild lull of the waves. Only 14 miles away from the Liberia Airport, the beach’s soft golden sand is easily accessible and provides a smaller crowd than the more-popular neighboring beach of Playas del Coco. Its central location makes sightseeing easy around the Guanacaste province while offering fantastic jaunts for sport fishing and snorkeling. Surfers will not find their paradise at Playa Hermosa de Guanacaste, but toddlers will enjoy the mellow waters whiles teenagers seeking an adrenaline rush may ride jet skis, snorkel at a nearby secluded island, or partake in a stand-up paddleboard adventure.
- Nosara – The appeal of Nosara Beach derives not only from the soft golden sands of the shoreline along the northwestern province of Guanacaste but also the beach’s access to incredible activities around the secluded corner of Costa Rica. Nosara town is known for yoga and surfing, but if your family prefers to stay away from surfboards and yoga mats, the region offers activities for visitors of all interests ranging from toddlers to adults. River safaris can take the family up Nosara River in search of the vibrant wildlife, while ATV tours will excite the thrill-seeking kid. Try stand-up paddle boarding on the calm waters or enjoy time at a large play park. The family could also take surf lessons when not watching endangered sea turtles nesting and hatching at Ostional Wildlife Refuge.
The luxurious accommodations including Barcolo Tambor Beach Resort, Rafiki Safari Lodge, and Tortuga Lodge are top hotels fit for the whole family.
1. Barcolo Tambor Beach Resort (Pacific Coast)
Barcolo Tambor Beach Resort in the western province of Puntarenas is perfect for families with young kids and teenagers with active excursions, a fantastic beach, numerous pools, and kid-friendly water features. Young children between four and 12 can hang out in the kids club while teens ages 13 to 17 can have time away from the family in the teen club. Both clubs offer you the opportunity to relax by the pool, stroll along the sands, or have a romantic dinner. The rich biodiversity of Costa Rica encompasses a quarter of the resort landscape with protected wilderness and onsite activities, including water sports, tennis, miniature golf and a rock-climbing wall. The property also provides access to the Marvelous wildlife of Parque Nacional Curu, a hidden gem amongst Costa Rica’s celebrated suspension bridges, dense forests, and mangrove trees.
2. Rafiki Safari Lodge (Inland)
Rafiki Safari Lodge in the province of Savegre is a luxury eco-lodge providing families immersive wilderness experiences, a pool with a waterslide, and nearby rafting or kayaking excursions. Families can enjoy upscale “glamping” in lavish safari tents equipped with modern amenities within the lowland tropical rainforest, as well as an annex on the sandy beach of Playa Matapalo. The wilderness becomes the centerpiece for your family’s stay amid the 843-acre private reserve crossing over the rushing waters of the Savegre River. Tropical birds and monkeys become daily visions from your accommodations or within the trees near the main lodge before the family enjoys excellent excursions like whitewater rafting, hiking to local waterfalls, horseback riding through the jungle terrain, kayaking, or soaring through the trees on a zip-line adventure.
3. Tortuga Lodge (Caribbean Coast)
Appreciate the breathtaking views from Tortuga Lodge on your next Costa Rica vacation.
The secluded Tortuga Lodge located on the northeast Caribbean coastal province of Limón offers families the charms of Costa Rica’s pristine wilderness in Tortuguero National Park. The lodge is located on 50 acres of private landscape designed to blend into the surrounding environment encouraging sustainable growth. The unique location along on the canals leading into the Caribbean Sea lets your family search for wild caiman and active monkeys on a boat excursion into the national park, kayak through the waterways for a more intimate look at the wilderness, hike the crisscrossing trails around the protected scenery, search for nesting or hatching turtles on the beach, and meet with locals in the community for insight into life in the remote region. The resort offers a slower, cozier experience for the family than resorts on the west coast with inspiring access to the splendor of the Caribbean jungle terrain.
Protect coral reefs by selecting a reef-safe sunscreen.
- Sunscreen is one of the largest contributors to pollution in coral reefs. When traveling to Costa Rica wear reef-safe sunblock from brands such as Thinksport, All Good, Babo Botanicals, Suntegrity, Badger, Raw Elements, Stream2sea, Loving Naturals, Mama Kuleana, Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian, Manda Naturals, and Raw Love.
- Tap water in Costa Rica is safe to drink.
- Car rentals do provide car seats, but their condition is not guaranteed so bring your own if you would like assurance.
- Those traveling with infants should be sure to pack necessary supplies such as formula, diapers and more. These supplies may not be available in more remote destinations.
When traveling with the family be sure to pack hats, sunscreen and bug repellent.
One of the hardest parts of a family vacation is packing for every contingency both for yourself and for your kids. The most important rule of packing for a family vacation to Costa Rica is to bring enough sunscreen and bug repellent for everyone. Even when shaded by dense canopy cover, the tropical environment has sunlight stronger than what many visitors are familiar with, especially when on white sand beaches known for reflecting sunlight.
Make sure to pack strong waterproof sunblock, hats, and light long-sleeved shirts. Plan to pack for multiple, diverse activities. Many accommodations in Costa Rica have laundry services, making it much easier to pack light. Spending more days in a single location is a great time do laundry and replenish your clean clothes, rather than lugging heavy suitcases around the country. Other items you should consider packing for the family include:
- Quick dry clothing (like dry shorts, dry t-shirts)
- Tennis shoes or light hiking boots
- A sweatshirt (especially if traveling to the cloud forest where it can get cold at night)
- Bring one and a half pairs of underwear for every day of your trip
- Reusable water bottle