Wild animals, active volcanoes, rainforests, beaches—what kid wouldn’t love Costa Rica? Parents are guaranteed a good time as well and will appreciate the country’s myriad kid-friendly adventure possibilities as well as a culture that dotes on children.
Sights & Activities
Families could go just about anywhere in Costa Rica and be perfectly happy. Even San José, while not a remarkable city, has sights for children—but it’s best to get out of town and into the countryside. Here are some top choices for families:
- Ziplining through Monteverde’s foresty canopy. Try tour operators like the Original Canopy Tour.
- Watching groups of olive ridley turtles lay their eggs at night at Refugio Nacional de Fauna Silvestre Ostional
- Learning to surf at Mal País and Santa Teresa. Check out Jobbie’s Surf Camp for individual or group lessons for all experience levels.
- White water rafting on the Río Reventazón or Río Pacuare. Both rivers have sections with smoother runs that are perfect for families. Children must be at least 9 years old, and even older for tougher runs.
Join the discussion on the Thorn Tree forum for help choosing an operator.
- Spotting basking crocodiles while exploring the jungle rivers of Tortuguero.
Costa Rican cuisine is simple and hearty and somewhat bland (beans and rice and grilled chicken or steak are omnipresent), making it acceptable for even the most finicky kids.
- Special kid’s meals are not normally offered in restaurants, though some fancy lodges do them. However, most local eateries will accommodate two children splitting a meal or can produce child-size portions on request.
- If you’re traveling with an infant, stock up on formula and baby food before heading to remote areas
- Always carry snacks for long drives in remote areas—sometimes there are no places to stop for a bite
- Tired of juice and water? Here are some kid-friendly local drinks: batidos (fresh-blended fruit), either al agua (made with water) or con leche (with milk); coconut milk (sipped through a straw straight from the cracked-open coconut); horchata (cinnamon-spiked rice milk).
From plush jungle eco-lodges to kid-friendly beachside jungle tents, you can find the accommodation your family needs pretty much anywhere tourists go. Most midrange and top-end hotels have reduced rates for children under 12, provided the child shares a room with parents. Top-end hotels will provide cribs and usually have activities for children. Here are some of our favorite places to stay with kids:
- In Monteverde & Santa Elena, milk cows and chase monkeys at the Finca Terra Viva or relax in a cozy chalet at the Swiss Hotel Miramontes.
- On the Península de Nicoya, enjoy the garden oasis Tico Adventure Lodge or swim in the turtle-shaped pool at Hotel Las Tortugas.
- In Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean Coast, enjoy the phenomenal architecture at Tree House Lodge.
- For more family-friendly hotel listings across the country, check out Lonely Planet’s hotel listings for Costa Rica.
Tips & resources
- Children under the age of 12 get a 25% discount on internal air travel while children under two fly free (provided they sit on an adult’s lap)
- If you’re traveling with an infant, bring disposable diapers, baby creams, baby aspirin and thermometer from home, or else stock up while in San José.
This article was refreshed in June 2012