Your family trip to Costa Rica should be perfect and unforgettable. One that creates memories that the whole family relives for years to come. A trip that positively impacts your kids’ mindset, travel experience, cultural perspective, education, and sense of adventure. There is no better way to positively impact all of that at once for your kids than to come to Costa Rica on a family adventure vacation.
- A family adventure in Costa Rica will be healthy because it will allow your family to participate in healthy activities and eat great food.
- The trip will be educational because you will have close encounters with so much wildlife you will talk about it for days and days.
- The trip will be entertaining because you and the family can do all those activities and close encounters in enjoyable and safe settings.
- A family adventure in Costa Rica is fun for all ages. You and the family can take time away from the phones, computers, and tablets and explore together.
Any vacation with kids can bring good to a family, but an adventurous family vacation in Costa Rica will be unforgettable.
What Can a Family Do in Costa Rica?
Other than snow skiing, families can do pretty much everything that you can imagine in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has a tiny territory (do you know how small?), but it’s so diverse that more than one trip is needed to enjoy all the country has to offer. We guarantee you; you will want to come back!
So, what can a family do in Costa Rica? Grab that cup of coffee, and let’s discuss.
- Explore The breathtaking family beaches on the Pacific and Caribbean
- Visit mountains and volcanoes like Poas, Arenal, or Irazú
- Visit the city of San José.
- Enjoy great food
- Exhilarating canopy and zipline tours
- Adventure on a whitewater rafting tour
- Sip on some Costa Rica Coffee and take a Coffee tour.
These are a few activities we suggest, but check the article “Things to Do in Costa Rica,” and you will see plenty more.
What Would Make a Vacation with Kids an Adventure?
An adventure means having an exciting and unusual experience. Therefore, you need to add elements of surprise, unknown, and thrills to your trip!
River Rafting Adventures that Bring all the Thrills
Imagine taking your kids on a multi-day whitewater rafting trip where not only will they experience level 3 and 4 rapids (out of 5!), but they will sleep overnight under the most beautiful star-filled sky. Do not worry; this adventure is about safety and comfort so you (as a parent) can sleep like a baby, as you’ll be in great hands with tour guides.
An overnight rafting trip on the Pacuare river is considered by many to be the most incredible adventure available in Costa Rica. Imagine paddling down the river through a lush jungle while experiencing one of the most revered rivers in the world. It’s nothing short of spectacular!
Experiencing Incredible Biodiversity
Next, imagine visiting a remote corner of Costa Rica and hiking the most biodiverse place on earth, Corcovado National Park. This renowned national park is located in the south Pacific of Costa Rica, in the outer part of the Osa Península. To access the heart of the park, you can either hike more than 20 km (13 miles) or take a long-hour boat ride from Drake Bay or Puerto Jiménez. Of course, since you are coming with kids, we recommend you take the boat!
All the hikes inside Corcovado National Park are relatively easy to walk, with minimal elevation change starting at sea level. As you hike the trails, you will most like run into several species of monkeys, a herd of peccaries, inattentive anteaters, and, more common than one would imagine, tapirs and cats like pumas and jaguars.
Our Remote Costa Rica Adventure Itinerary includes both of these adventures (Pacuare River overnight rafting + Corcovado National Park hiking), especially for families with older kids. But an adventure doesn’t need to feel dangerous, as long as you incorporate an element of surprise into your trip!
A Variety of Family Adventure Activities for Your Vacation
If your family has younger kids, you probably want to feel you’re in a controlled environment. Still, if you are reading this article, you also want to see a lot of the crazy variety of landscapes and wildlife that make up Costa Rica. There are so many surprising activities you can do with your kids in Costa Rica, like seeing an active volcano, being able to feed wild birds, surfing in the Pacific Ocean, or enjoying the sunset from a Catamaran.
Please take a look at our Costa Rica Rainforest Family Escape Itinerary, where we considered all of these activities as we designed an adventure with little kids in mind, as well as the tired parents that want to have a few extra days to relax by the beach.
Costa Rica’s biodiversity, landscape, and people’s way of living can change in just a few kilometers. This is good news for those families that want to spend most of their time adventuring and not moving from one region to another.
Some iconic parts of the country, like the towns and natural areas surrounding Arenal Volcano or the southern Caribbean Coast, can offer your family an incredible array of adventures without traveling far. Check out our Costa Rica Rainforest-to-Beach Family Vacation Itinerary. We can line up for hanging bridge tours, guided hikes around a volcano, wildlife safari river floats, canyoning and white water rafting, surf lesson, hiking, snorkeling, catamaran, and more with short distances between lodging.
Is Costa Rica an Affordable Vacation for Families?
Costa Rica is known for the quality of its tourism services and the protection of its biodiversity. It is also known for having a social security system that protects all its inhabitants’ health, which guarantees access to quality education, affordable transportation, peace, and security without an army.
All of those qualities make it a country that is slightly more expensive than the rest of Central America. However, be assured that your price will turn into outstanding experiences provided by people from one of the happiest places on earth.
Now, it is essential to say that it is possible to plan a more affordable vacation. It would be best to find the time to research places that still offer affordable, world-class experiences. It is also essential to organize and book your trip in advance.
We at Costa Rica Escapes are dedicated to connecting you with those unique destinations, and we thrive on getting the most out of our clients’ vacation investments. Therefore, we will have plenty of suggestions depending on how many days you want to spend here in Costa Rica.
“Big Group” Family Adventure Vacations
Now, if your adventure involves a big group of people with kids of all ages, you probably need to think this through. The big kids will want the adrenaline and thrills, and the small kids need to be surprised but feel safe. Here we recommend that your kids be able to see the forest from above and the underwater world from below. Combining hanging bridges and canopy tours with snorkeling and sailing is the answer to creating the unforgettable adventure you want. We have created this trip for you with our Costa Rica Collection Family Itinerary, our most popular itinerary!
Time on Foot
Make sure to include several hikes (long or short) in your adventure through Costa Rica. Walking a national park trail, the sidewalks of a town, long sandy beaches, or the open fields and gardens where you are lodging will give you the time and opportunities to discover the unknown. For example, you might run into a crazy-colored spider working on its web between bushes or a noisy monkey hanging from a branch. You may find a charming fruit stand with a friendly Costa Rican ready to introduce you to tropical fruits or even a funny-looking gardener that can point out a hummingbird nest with little chicks waiting for food.
Is Costa Rica Safe for Families?
Yes, Costa Rica is safe to travel with families, but you must proceed with essential caution like any vacation. For example, when you are away from the hotel, ensure you put your passports, extra money, and electronics in the lock. If the hotel or Air BNB doesn’t have one, ask. Another example is ensuring you keep everything valuable in your car and on the beach. Even if you are close to your vehicle and you step away for a bit, either have someone by the car, lock it or take your valuables with you.
However, you should not lower your guard. There are still security problems in Costa Rica, like pickpocketing around tourist areas and on public transport. Also, muggings, particularly in the city of San Jose, are not uncommon, and like anywhere in the world, violent scattered events also exist. But don’t let this scare you. Just like anywhere in the world, the most important thing is to be vigilant and listen to your gut as a first step to staying away from danger.
There is one activity that could be better in Costa Rica, and that is driving. So we created a specific blog post explaining why you should consider hiring a driver instead of driving your family. The roads can be very challenging at certain times of the year and in certain places.
Another thing to consider is that weather can bring problems in certain parts of the country at certain times of the year. For example, heavy rains happen in Costa Rica, especially in September, October, and November, and those storms could lead to flooding causing road damage. Therefore you might have a more challenging time moving around the country during that time of the year.
However, prices can be lower, and there is still plenty of good weather to be experienced during that time of year. If budget isn’t of concern and you want to share the driest season, consider a trip in late December through April. The shoulder season, May through August, is a typical travel period for families due to summer vacation and provides a good balance of lower cost and enjoyable weather. Learn more in our article on the best time to visit Costa Rica. However, there are a few easy ways to stay safe in Costa Rica:
- Pick the right time of year (like spring break)
- Choose safe destinations within the country (learn more in our guide on where to go in Costa Rica)
- Avoid driving
- Stay vigilant just as you would in any big US city with your family.
Of course, working with a professional itinerary designer like Costa Rica Escapes can help ensure that your trip is planned with your family’s safety in mind.
Is the ocean safe?
If the kids are out playing in the ocean, there is generally no lifeguards at the beaches, so please keep an eye out for them if they are not strong swimmers. Some hotels will have boogie boards to rent or borrow, but please ensure that the kids are comfortable in the ocean. Also, be mindful of some jellyfish that may be lingering around. It is the ocean, as you know.
Is the water safe to drink?
Yes, it is. Our families and friends drink tap water all the time. However, you may want bottled water if you have a sensitive stomach. If you are in a remote area, ask the locals if tap water is good to drink.
These are some of the basics of being safe in Costa Rica.
Family Vacation Packages vs. Customized Itineraries
The main reason you might consider taking a Family Vacation Package is to find a more competitive price for your trip. Those packages typically take place in the crowdest areas of the country, and they usually include larger hotels that can offer lower discounts based on the high volume of visitors they see every year. In addition, these vacation packages are generally all-inclusive lodging options which we understand has several advantages too, but it also comes with a price.
Choosing to come to Costa Rica on a vacation package means giving up the flexibility of the configuration of the trip because only certain elements can be included in these packages for the itinerary to make business sense to the travel agency.
We advise you to get a custom itinerary for your Costa Rica family vacation. This way, you will have more choices regarding programming excursions and hotels. Also, the trip will be designed based on your needs and specific requests, and you are always looking for the best authentic places to enjoy with your family.
What are Resorts Like in Costa Rica?
What we see about large resorts in Costa Rica is that they lack the authentic Costa Rican feel and be very generic. Therefore, finding a resort that can offer the opportunity to see and know Costa Rica is challenging since most of them aim to please the generic traveler.
We can not deny that larger resorts can provide a good experience for the most part. There is a peaceful feeling when you know that logistics, amenities, and services are already taken care of, providing comfort and ease of mind. In addition, the staff at larger resorts can handle vast groups of people, which can be convenient if your family is big.
We can recommend some resorts that have made an effort to combine resort comfort with real Costa Rica in the best possible way.
An authentic experience of Costa Rican will provide kids with lifelong memories.
How can Families have an Authentic Experience in Costa Rica?
With expert guidance, you can get the comfort, security, and peace of mind that the resorts offer and still get to see and experience honest, authentic Costa Rica. That is what we do at Costa Rica Escapes. We put together the perfect family itinerary by finding the correct amenities and qualified service providers.
When we are working on designing those custom itineraries, we always look for boutique-style hotels located in places that are “off the beaten path.” At those accommodations, unforgettable trips can happen.
Smaller hotels tend to appreciate business more; therefore, they want to ensure all of their guests have the best possible time. But also, the people that run amenities at those destinations believe in personalized service within a welcoming and secure atmosphere.
The “off the beaten path” destinations and attractions also make an extra effort to look after Costa Rica’s culture and biodiversity as they share it with visitors.
Where do Families go in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has so much to offer that it is difficult to pinpoint a specific place or activity that is just everyone’s favorite, from the beach, cloud forest, volcanos, and many other options.
Generally, visiting one of the coasts is a must. However, consider visiting Manuel Antonio on the Central Pacific coast or Puerto Viejo on the south Caribbean coast to make it easy for you. These two destinations have a vast array of options when it comes to lodging, food, and activities.
You can find other suggestions in our “Where to stay in Costa Rica” blog post. There you can read about the most incredible destinations, the best places for families, the best places for couples, and more. If you want to go more in-depth about places to go with your kids, visit our “Best places to stay in Costa Rica with kids” blog post. And if you are looking for a family adventure vacation, we also have a lot of advice to share.
When should Families visit Costa Rica?
The way tourism behaves in Costa Rica is exciting. Most people want to visit during the end-of-the-year holidays and spring break when the northern hemisphere is cold and snowy, and Costa Rica is warm, dry, and sunny.
The problem with that time of year (December to April) is that it is the most expensive and crowded time to visit. Instead, consider visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season, which is summer in the northern part of the world. Not only are there fewer people, and traveling is more affordable, but it is lush green everywhere you go.
If you want to understand the tourism seasonality of Costa Rica, please visit our “Best time to visit Costa Rica” blog post. Also, read our “Costa Rica travel accommodations” post, where we break down the kind of lodging you can find in Costa Rica and the pricing by season.
Driving and Transportation in Costa Rica for Families
We already mentioned that driving yourself in Costa Rica can be challenging, and we discussed it in our blog post. However, there are many transportation options in Costa Rica; believe it or not, they could be much better than renting a car.
Having a driver take you around means peace of mind, freedom to enjoy as you look out the window, and many times having a human “Wikipedia” about Costa Rica with you. It is delightful.
Some public transportation options, like buses, trains, airplanes, and taxis, also have their charm. All of those options are safe, but they have their uncomfortable side, which usually relates to the length of the trip and scheduling, and in the case of an air flight, it can be costly.
Considerations for Kids & Toddlers When Visiting Costa Rica
The last subject we want to include in this ultimate guide to family vacations in Costa Rica, we would like to talk about traveling to Costa Rica with toddlers and young children.
The most important thing to consider is safety. Besides keeping your kids safe from crime and dangerous drivers and roads, we recommend carefully choosing activities appropriate for your children’s age. Also, make sure experienced professional companies and people run those activities. There are so many different companies offering all kinds of activities and attractions. Even though the price doesn’t necessarily reflect quality and safety, do your homework to find places with excellent client reviews.
Also, Costa Rica is a tropical country home to thousands of insects, amphibians and reptiles, mammals, and hundreds of thousands of different plants. So remember to pack mosquito repellent and ensure your kids do not bother any animal or plant that could cause them harm.
What Makes Adventure Travel with Kids Memorable?
No matter how your adventure in Costa Rica with your kids ends, remember that the best experience you can give them is learning something new that will make them better people. So make sure to explore a lot with them and point out those natural wonders that can spike interesting conversations about not only the natural world but also your life as a family and your community back home.
Take advantage of your encounters with Costa Ricans, especially if you take guided tours like white water rafting, floating, canopy tours, or sailing tours. Ticos are amicable people and will be happy to answer your questions.
Have Questions? Contact us!
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you still have questions or want to hire our services. We would be thrilled to help and ensure you have the best possible family vacation in Costa Rica.
John Rabenau has been working in the eco-tourism & adventure travel industry in Costa Rica since 2002. He has worked in a variety of capacities from Outdoor Educator & Principle Guide to Itinerary Design Manager & Business Owner for numerous organizations. He has grown Costa Rica Escapes into one of the most reputable Costa Rica travel agencies since its creation in 2006, hosting more than 5,000 people with custom vacation itineraries.