A trip with your family is a big deal, nobody wants unexpected problems of any kind, but we all want pleasant surprises. That is why we dedicated time to create the (simpler) Costa Rica Family Travel Guide for you to find all the necessary information, to make your Costa Rica trip pleasurable. This Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica Family Vacations, however, not only gives you updated information, but it provides deeper insights and links to all the valuable recommendations that we have created for you to explore.
But before we go into the details, our first advice is always the same, to look for expert advice! The fact that you are reading our post is already a great start, but consider going further and let us organize the trip for you. When it comes to having an unforgettable time in Costa Rica, nobody knows better than us.
Our second piece of advice is to take the time to research as much as possible about Costa Rica. That is the only way you will be able to find the perfect match of destinations, accommodations, and experiences that will fit your expectations and needs. It is not chance that Costa Rica is listed first at Conde Nast Traveler’s “40 most beautiful countries in the world“, which means the possibilities are many (possibly too many) and without an informed view, you might miss the perfect trip.
What can a family do in Costa Rica?
Let’s start by saying that families can do basically anything in Costa Rica but skiing. LOL!
Costa Rica has a tiny territory (do you know how small?) but it’s so diverse that one trip is never enough to enjoy all the country has to offer. We guarantee you…you will want to come back!
Culturally, the country has a lot to offer too. Different from the rest of Central America, the influence of indigenous groups is not as strong, even though it does exist, and it is fascinating. Also, Costa Rica has turned into a “nursery” for musicians, plastic and design artists, actors, chefs, and more, which means you will also have a lot to choose from in this area.
So, what can a family do in Costa Rica? A family can enjoy the breathtaking beaches in the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, mountains and volcanoes like Poas, Arenal or Irazú, the city of San José. And when it comes to specific activities, your family can enjoy great food, exhilarating canopy and zipline tours, some of the most exciting whitewater rafting in the world, as well as learning experiences like coffee tours. This is just to mention a few different attractions there are in the different regions of the country.
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 the health of all of its inhabitants, for guaranteeing access to quality education, affordable transportation, and 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 the price you’re paying 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. To do so, you need to find the time to research for the places that still offer very affordable, world-class experiences. It is also important to organize and book your trip in advance. We at Costa Rica Escapes are experts in finding those unique destinations, and we thrive on getting the most out of our clients’ vacation investment. So once more, consider working with experts!
Is Costa Rica safe for families?
We already mentioned that Costa Rica is considered one of the happiest countries in the world…several times it has ranked as the happiest country in the world. To us, this can mean only that Costa Ricans do feel safe in their territory. Sadly, the region of Central America differs from Costa Rica’s reality, and many other countries suffer from violent realities.
In spite of this, 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 listening to your gut as a first step to stay away from danger.
There is one activity that is not the safest in Costa Rica, and that is driving. We created a specific blog post to explain why you should consider hiring a driver instead of driving your family yourself. But let us summarize it by saying that the “pura vida” spirit that characterizes the “ticos” doesn’t exist when they are behind the wheel. Also, the roads at certain times of the year, and in certain places, can be very challenging.
Another thing to consider is that weather can bring some problems in certain parts of the country at certain times of the year. Heavy rains do happen in Costa Rica, especially in September, October, and November, and those storms could lead to flooding causing road damages. Therefore you might have a harder time moving around the country during that time of the year.
However, prices can be cheaper 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 experience the driest season, consider a trip in late December through April. The shoulder season, May through August, is a common travel period for families due to summer vacation and provides a good balance of lower cost and enjoyable weather. Learn more in our articles on the best time to visit Costa Rica and Costa Rica’s rainy season.
So…pick the right time of year, avoid driving, and stay vigilant just as you would in any big US city with your family. Check! Let’s move on.
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 at the most 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. These vacation packages are generally all-inclusive 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.
That is why we will always advise you try to get a custom itinerary for your Costa Rica family vacation. This way, you will have more choices when it comes to programing excursions and hotels. Also, the trip will be designed based on your needs and specific requests and always looking for the best authentic places for you to enjoy with your family.
What resorts are like in Costa Rica?
Like we said before, the problem with large resorts, in Costa Rica and everywhere else in the world, is that they lack the real Costa Rican feel and be very generic. It is tough to find a resort that can actually offer the opportunity to get to see and know Costa Rica 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 and have been created to provide comfort and ease of mind. Add to that that staff at larger resorts are used to handle very large groups of people, which can be convenient if your family is big. We at CR Escapes can actually recommend some resorts that have made an effort to combine in the best possible way resort-comfort with the real Costa Rica.
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 the real 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, and therefore they want to make sure 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?
This is a challenging question to answer. As we discussed, Costa Rica has so much to offer that it is difficult to pinpoint a specific place or activity that is just everyone’s favorite.
In general, we can say that a visit to one of the coasts is a must. To make it easy for you, consider visiting Manuel Antonio in the Central Pacific coast, or Puerto Viejo in the south Caribbean coast. 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 coolest destinations, best places for families, 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 very interesting. Most people want to visit during the end of the year holidays, and spring break, when in the northern hemisphere is cold and snowy, and in 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 of the year to visit. We highly recommend you 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 better 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 breakdown the kind of lodging you can find in Costa Rica and the pricing by seasons.
Driving and transportation in Costa Rica for families
We already mentioned that driving yourself in Costa Rica can be a bad idea, and we go in detail about it in our blog post. You should know that there are many transportation options in Costa Rica, and believe it or not, they could be much better than renting a car.
Choosing to have a driver take 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.
Some of the 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, scheduling, and in the case of air flight, it can be costly.
Considerations for Kids & Toddlers when you are visiting Costa Rica?
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 that are appropriate for the age of your children. Also, make sure those activities are run by experienced professional companies and people. There are so many different companies offering all kinds of activities and attractions, and even though the price doesn’t necessarily reflect quality and safety, make sure to do your homework in finding those places that have many great client reviews.
Also, remember that Costa Rica is a tropical country home of thousands of insects, hundreds of amphibians and reptiles, mammals and hundreds of thousands of different plants. So remember to pack mosquito repellent and make sure your kids do not bother any animal or plant that could cause them harm.
Have Questions? Contact us!
If you still have questions or want to hire our services, please contact us. We would be thrilled to help, and we’ll make sure 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.