Costa Rica family vacations can be quite intimidating for parents traveling abroad with kids, to say the least. What things to do in Costa Rica are appropriate for children? What could there possibly be for kids to do, and what if those things only come with a monster-sized price tag? Well, worry not, parents. A Costa Rica family trip doesn’t have to break the bank. Take your kids to see gorgeous rainforests, pristine beaches, sample new foods, see amazing wildlife and learn a little Spanish along the way.
Costa Rica has a well-developed tourism industry, and unlike the many Central and South American countries surrounding them, Costa Rica has a very stable democratic government. Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and is one of the most environmentally-conscious countries around. With the favorable currency exchange rate, the myriad things for children to do, and the warm tropical climate, family vacations to Costa Rica are the perfect tropical escape!
This Costa Rica family vacations guide is broken down by travel destination. In every popular beach vacation destination there are tons of unforgettable things to do in Costa Rica with children! Let the family trip to Costa Rica begin!
Costa Rica For Kids – Central Valley
The capital city of San Jose is located in the Central Valley and offers lots of options for a family trip to Costa Rica. While the capital is a bustling hive of activity and somewhat chaotic, there are loads of things to do San Jose Costa Rica for kids that you won’t want to miss!
- Museo de los Niños (Children’s Museum): This incredible children’s museum in San Jose is housed in what used to be military barracks. Crammed full of activities sure to entertain children of all ages, the Museo de los Niños is a must for any family vacation in Costa Rica with small children to entertain. Let your kids feel a simulated earthquake or make music by dancing on the floor! There are so many things to see and discover at the San Jose Children’s Museum.
- Simón Bolívar Zoological Park: This adorable little zoo in the center of San Jose features many of the wild animals that call Costa Rica home. While you might catch a glimpse of a toucan while zipping through the rainforest on a canopy tour or wandering one of the many Costa Rican National Parks, you and your family will be able to see these gorgeous birds, and many other animal species native to Costa Rica, up close and personal. See ocelots, jaguars, crocodiles, parrots, snakes, tree frogs, and so much more!
- Spirogyra Butterfly Garden: Your children will be amazed as they find themselves surrounded by hundreds of colorful butterflies in the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden. The beautiful flowers and the waterfall are a treat for the eyes. Be sure to bring your camera!
- Serpentario (Snake House): This little attraction features a small but impressive collection of the different deadly snakes of Costa Rica. Get close to a bushmaster or an eye-lash viper without fear of snakebites.
- La Sabana Park: Kids full of pent-up energy? Take them to Sabana Park! This huge and beautiful park features playgrounds, jogging paths, and a massive lake. There is always an assortment of street vendors selling everything from kites, toys, wallets and food! Buy some ice cream from a man with an helado (ice cream) cart and let the kids run wild while on your family vacation to Costa Rica!
- Cartago: The city of Cartago was the original capital of Costa Rica until an earthquake destroyed huge parts of the city and the capital was moved to San Jose. This nearby city is perfect for a day trip with the kids.
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Costa Rica For Kids – Pacific Coast
The Pacific coast boasts some spectacular scenery, gorgeous sandy beaches, lush rainforests, and massive groves of mangrove trees. The kids will love splashing around in the warm ocean water, but there are plenty of other things to fascinate them while on your family vacation in Costa Rica!
- Manuel Antonio National Park: This national rainforest park is perfect for families with kids! The trails through the jungle are simple and easy to navigate. Arrange for a bilingual tour guide for the best way to the Manuel Antonio National Parl. Through his telescope, the tour guide can show you all of the incredible animals hidden within the rainforest and the wonderful plants you never would have seen on your own! Witness two and three-toed sloths asleep in the trees above, see monkeys swing from tree to tree, discover colorful frogs hiding beneath leaves, and learn about the medicinal properties of the many plants in the rainforest!
- Dolphin/Whale Watching: The conditions are good for whale watching and dolphin watching almost year round in Costa Rica. Take the kids on a half day cruise and enjoy a day in the sunshine and the salty sea air. There’s an excellent chance of seeing humpback whales, killer whales (orcas), and bottlenose dolphins!
- Mangrove Forest Tour: The Pacific side of Costa Rica boasts some incredible mangrove forests! Mangrove forest tour guides will take you by boat through the incredible labyrinth of mangrove roots. See crocodiles, amazing birds, basilisk lizards that can walk on water, and so much more!
Costa Rica For Kids – Caribbean Coast
The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is warm, vibrant and beautiful. Even during the dry season, the Caribbean coast still receives some rain. This wetter climate allows for some amazingly lush rainforests, gushing waterfalls and massive tropical plants for you and your kids to explore while on a family vacation in Costa Rica.
- Tortuguero National Park: Mother turtles make the annual trip to the beaches here to lay their eggs in the sand. From July to September, these massive mother turtles can be seen at night burying their eggs in the sand. Tortuguero National Park is a beautiful reserve full of jungle vegetation and incredible Costa Rica wildlife. See monkeys, crocodiles, tiny bats sleeping beneath leaves, lizards, and some amazing insects like leafcutter ants!
- Braulio Carrillo National Park: This national park has something special to offer parents and kids alike. Braulio Carillio National Park is home to the Rainforest Aerial Tram! This awesome aerial tram whisks you and your kids through the canopy of the rainforest, allowing you a closer look at some of the incredible wildlife and plant life from the tree tops. Children of all ages can ride the aerial tram—kids under 5 are even given special safety seats for the ride.
Costa Rica For Kids – Arenal Volcano
The most active volcano in Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano almost always has something to show off. Spitting lava, ash, and volcanic rock intermittently, Arenal Volcano will be a source of fascination and awe for your children. They can even fall asleep listening to the rumble it makes at night.
- Arenal Volcano National Park: This incredible national park allows you to hike right around the base of Arenal Volcano. As you wander the paths, you may hear the volcano rumbling or see it belching smoke and ash. See huge black lava rocks and explore the visitor center for more information about things to do with children in Arenal and the surrounding area.
- Tabacon Hot Springs: This resort features 3 natural hot springs and beautiful views of Arenal Volcano. Let the kids run around and splash in the warm water. There are even waterfalls of heated water to play in!
- Horseback Riding: The areas surround Arenal are perfect for horseback riding with the kids. There are tons of horseback riding tours for your family to choose from!
Costa Rica For Kids – Monteverde
Monteverde is best known for its incredible cloud forests, which are forests at higher altitudes where water vapor hugs the land in the form of billowing mist. With the clouds moving thick and fast in the sky above, this is one of the coolest places to visit in Costa Rica with children. Monteverde is located in a slightly remote location, but your kids will enjoy the bumpy roads that lead there. Monteverde also has a wealth of things for kids to do in Costa Rica.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: Visiting Monteverde National Park will be a unique experience that you won’t want to miss on your family vacation in Costa Rica! Experiencing the cloud forest is a mystical journey that you and your children will remember forever. The billowing clouds of the forest create a mysterious ambiance that your kids will love. Hire a tour guide to accompany you through the forest and point out incredible animals and plant life and give you interesting facts about the cloud forests. If you do plan to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, remember to pack some long pants and sweaters—it can get chilly! Having some bug spray handy is also a good idea for you and your kids!
- Children’s Eternal Rainforest: In 1987, after hearing about threat of deforestation and the destruction of rainforests, a group of school children in Sweden raised money to buy a piece of rainforest land in Monteverde. Today, the Children’s Eternal Rainforest boasts over 50,000 acres of rainforest, and children from all over the world still contribute money to keep the area preserved. The Children’s Eternal Rainforest features some short paths perfect for children to explore.
- Sky Walk: The Sky Walk is a circular path with a series of massive suspension bridges. The bridges have handrails and are screened and therefore completely safe for kids and toddlers. The Sky Walk offers some of the most incredible views of the Monteverde cloud forests. The Sky Walk also offers Sky Trek—a fantastic, fun canopy tour through the rainforest. Fly along zip lines and feel the ultimate sense of adventure! Younger children can be harnessed to parents for this exciting journey. However, if the first zip line frightens your little one too much, you can simply walk down the first landing platform and walk along the suspension bridges instead.