No matter how diverse your family’s interests, our Costa Rica based travel agency can handle them! From toddlers and tweens, to teenagers and grandparents, we tailor Costa Rica family vacations to cater all ages and tastes.
Whether you have an action-packed or easy-going holiday in mind, we customize our Costa Rica family vacations to your preference.
Options are abundant. For adrenaline seekers there are various experiences, all from whitewater rafting to outdoor excursions. Andif you are looking for a more relaxing Costa Rica family vacation, there are pools and volcanic hot springs where you can lounge in peace or let the kids play.
Check out our sections on best beaches in Costa Rica for families, top 5 kid-friendly activities, easy travel with teenagers, best places to stay in Costa Rica for families, safety in Costa Rica, is Costa Rica family-friendly and more!
On this episode of Frog Pod, Adam is talking to local travel experts and resident mom’s: Jamie Looper and Anastasia Maddaloni all things family related (e.g., what are best hotels in Costa Rica for families, or is Costa Rica safe for families? etc.). It’s an important topic so that we can help you guys out and cover all those concerns or questions you might have when taking your family to Costa Rica!
It’s no secret that many beaches in Costa Rica cater to surfers. That means big waves and strong currents along both Pacific and Caribbean coasts. But non-surfers and seekers of gentle beach fun need not worry.
There are some great beaches in Costa Rica for families and kids—if you know where to look.
Below I’ve listed my best beaches in Costa Rica for families, where I love to hang out with my kids. I’ve also listed some of my favorite family hotels on the beach, places I’ve stayed in with my own children.
In the northern province of Guanacaste, Conchal Beach is a top favorite for my family.
Tiny crushed shells—not sand—make up Conchal Beach, making the beach gleam white from a distance. That means this beach is perfect for those little sweets who don’t like to get all sandy!
The shells don’t stick to you like sand does, and it’s easy to clean up afterward.
Conchal is also great for swimming with gentle waves and a sandy (okay, “shelly”) bottom.
North of Playa Conchal is Flamingo Beach, also in Guanacaste Province.
With a soft, sandy beach, Flamingo is perfect for building sandcastles and angels.
And while the kids are playing and running around in the sand, you can enjoy a cold drink and a stunning sunset. Flamingo is one of Costa Rica’s top sunset beaches.
This hotel, comprising two-bedroom luxury villas, is my favorite family hotel in Costa Rica. The best!
Kayaks, SUP boards, boogie boards, snorkel gear, and so much more are all included at the Palms. It caters to families and is one of my go-to recommendations for a Costa Rica family vacation.
Although Margaritaville sounds like a party hotel, this is another family favorite of mine. I bring my young kids here a lot because it’s so family-friendly!
They have a small, covered pool for the little ones, perfect to not worry about the hot sun. Margaritaville is also across the street from the amazing sands of Flamingo Beach.
Also in Guanacaste, further north than Conchal and Flamingo is Papagayo Bay. For many reasons, this is a truly special spot.
First, the calm waters offer a perfect beach experience for the little ones. You needn’t worry about waves knocking them over or pulling them far. Papagayo is more like a lake.
Because it’s so calm, older kids looking for activity and adventure can snorkel, kayak, and SUP board.
The rainforest views from any part of Papagayo Bay are beautiful. You have trees and wildlife, plus great shady spots to enjoy. No need to sit in the tropical sun here, worrying about reapplying sunblock every 20 minutes!
Another Guanacaste beach and perhaps the most kid-friendly one of all!
Tamarindo is excellent for those older kids to practice surfing, or for the youngsters to enjoy little waves. Plus, it’s walking distance to tons of places to eat, shop, and play!
A great resort-like hotel, right on Playa Tamarindo, the Diria offers beachfront access and kid-friendly pools.
It’s the pools that make this place great for kids. They have various pools on-site and a perfect small kids pool, the perfect depth for toddlers!
Just outside of Tamarindo, in Langosta Beach (more of a surf beach than a suitable beach for kids), Cala Luna is also all about the pools.
Children will love the main pool here, and if you stay in one of their villas, you’ll have a private pool all to yourself.
It’s also worth pointing out that although Langosta Beach is more about the surf, you’ll also find some great tidal pools here for the family to relax in.
In the Central Pacific zone, Manuel Antonio offers fantastic beaches for the family.
The main Manuel Antonio beach, Espadilla Beach, has lots of activities for all ages and small fun waves to play in.
Biesanz Beach, another beach in a very calm bay, is also excellent for smaller kids. You’ll also find kayaks and snorkel gear that older kids and parents can enjoy right on the beach.
Although not beachfront (few Manuel Antonio hotels are beachfront), Si Como No is amazing for families. It could well be the best hotel for families in Costa Rica.
The beach is still close, less than seven minutes away, and Si Como No provides a free shuttle for you. They also have a family-style pool area with a big water-slide, which kids love. And the views aren’t too bad either!
Again, not beachfront, but Tulemar has its own beach area, great for young kids to swim and play! Kayaks, boogie boards, and snorkel gear are available, and Tulemar’s beach is perfect for these activities.
South of Manuel Antonio, in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone, Ballena Beach—also a national park—is unique.
The flat sandy beach makes running and playing so much fun along with the whale’s tail, to snorkel from. The amount of wildlife here (monkeys, macaws, whales, iguanas, and more) is also an amazing addition!
Different from countries like Mexico or Jamaica that are covered with all-inclusive resorts, there are actually only a handful of real all-inclusive resorts located in Costa Rica. They are all tucked up in the Guanacaste region of the country as well, so they are pretty specific.
Of the handful of options, there are three costa rica all inclusive family resorts that stand out as my personal favorites. And like the rest of Costa Rica, there is a style to match every traveler. Which style is right for you?
This is by far one of the most popular resorts in Costa Rica and for good reason. It is located on the beautiful Conchal Beach and it has one of the largest pools in the country, as well as an exclusive adults-only portion of the property that makes it perfect for families and couples. There are several restaurants on-site that are included that offer a wide range of food, so you won’t tire of the same dishes during your stay. Not to mention, they also have a kids’ club for those families with younger travelers.
This resort actually offers all-inclusive or just breakfast included. I like this option though, because it is a more “authentic” and secluded resort. The beach that it is located on is not as populated as Conchal Beach (where the Westin is), so you feel a little more like a local. The design of the property is subtle and the beach is a beautiful dark sand beach from the volcanic sand. It tends to have a more “couple-y” vibe, but is still a good option for families and it is located very close to the Liberia Airport, which cuts down on drive time during your trip.
Yes, the name sounds a bit cheesy but this hotel is a great value option! Again, this hotel offers all-inclusive or breakfast only. Flamingo Beach is another beautiful beach like Conchal and the hotel is quite small so you won’t be overwhelmed by the large resort feel that The Westin can have. It does have fewer options for dining included in the all-inclusive but to keep your budget low while still having all of the benefits of all-inclusive, it is a win-win!
There is something to do for everyone in Costa Rica—kids and adults alike!
Costa Rica offers so much to fit everyone. There are tours the whole family can enjoy together without worrying if the littles can keep up.
My favorite kid-friendly activities in Costa Rica include waterfall exploring, light hiking through national parks, exploring the rainforest by boat, snorkeling, catamarans, zip-lining, and more!
Everything is an adventure here. From walking the beaches to hiking in the jungle, Costa Rica has so much to see and do. You can turn anything small into something big with the right attitude!
If your kids are animal nuts—and most kids are at some point or another—then Costa Rica is perfect. Sloths and monkeys abound, and even creepy-crawlies, spiders and snakes fascinate the little ones.
Take them snorkeling to spot bright-colored fish under the waves or even dolphins if they’re lucky.
And did we mention sloths? Everyone adores the sloths!
Costa Rica LOVES LOVES LOVES kids of all ages.
I have two young kids and we can’t go anywhere without people commenting on how beautiful or fun they are! Even with my youngest, who is a baby, Costa Ricans always want to hold and love on them.
Costa Ricans are also accommodating to kids—you get to the front of the line everywhere with kids under five. They care and love our next generation more than any other country I’ve visited.
In addition, most hotels are VERY family orientated and have sections dedicated to children, like kid-friendly pools or on-site playgrounds.
I love how being here in Costa Rica helps our young people realize what a big world it is.
From speaking Spanish to wildlife and sustainability practices, there is always something for kids to learn and take with them for the rest of their lives. These are just a few reasons why family trip to Costa Rica is a great vacation choice.
When it comes to bringing children under 10 to Costa Rica, opinions differ. There’s a solid school of thought recommending to wait a while, until the kids are older before coming down here. You’ll see that opinion expressed all over the internet.
But I disagree. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy a wonderful family vacation with your younger children here.
So if you have young children and don’t want to wait, you don’t need to. Sure, your little ones won’t be rafting class IV rivers, rappelling through waterfalls, or surfing the Salsa Brava.
There are plenty of activities for children under 10 in Costa Rica to enjoy. Here are some of my favorites.
One thing my clients with small children nearly always ask me about is sloths.
“Can I see sloths?” “Where’s the best place to find sloths?” “My little girl is desperate to see a sloth!” These questions are common. And as a mom of small children myself, I get it. My kids love sloths, too.
What’s not to love? A survey I’ve must made up says the reason most people bring small children to Costa Rica is to see sloths.
Although not rare, sloths aren’t exactly super-common either. You won’t see them everywhere like, say, geckos or street dogs. And they can be hard to spot, sitting up there doing nothing in the trees.
But when your kids actually see a sloth, it’ll make their day and they’ll love you forever for giving them the privilege. That’s the idea, anyway.
Costa Rica is a surfer’s paradise, but it’s not only for the experts. Sure there are big waves unsuitable for small kids, but smaller waves with nice beach breaks also exist. So it’s possible, if you surf yourself, to enjoy some quality time in the water with your younger children.
You can give your kids surf lessons. If you can’t teach them yourself, use an expert! The best beaches for children to learn to surf are Tamarindo and Espadilla Beach in Manuel Antonio. Both beaches are safe and sandy and perfect for beginners.
If your small kids start young, they might well discover a passion for the ocean to last their entire lives.
If you’re with small children, it’s likely you’re not going to get into any extreme hiking or mountain climbing. You won’t want to get too far off the beaten track.
Luckily, here in Costa Rica, you don’t have to. So many hotels have their own nature trails on their grounds, places to see sloths and other animals. A nature walk with the kids is easy and some places have their own naturalist guides, too.
Lots of kids love insects and spiders as well, so try out a night hike to check out tarantulas. Night starts at 6:00 PM here, so we’re not talking late bedtimes or anything!
On the surface, zip lining might seem unsuitable for small kids. In fact, many zip line outfits—the more reputable ones who we work with—allow children under 10.
A reputable zip line company will allow a child over the age of 5 to ride tandem with a guide. Kids between 7 and 10 can ride tandem with each other.
Children under 10 can enjoy this most quintessential of Costa Rican activities. And the really small ones can still enjoy the rainforest canopy from hanging bridges or gondolas.
While your children under 10 won’t be rafting hardcore rivers, that doesn’t mean they can’t get wet. Costa Rica has tons of river activities available for small children, from crocodile tours to safari floating through jungle rivers.
Out in the ocean, kids can enjoy the water, too. They’ll love sailing trips to check out whales, dolphins, and turtles. Take them snorkeling and watch their faces as they swim with bright-colored fish.
I guarantee your children will love splashing around in the thermal hot springs you get here in Costa Rica. They might not love bath time at home, but this is a whole different thing!
If you want to give the little ones a treat, take them to a resort in Arenal, where they’ll have hot springs to choose from, as well as a ton of other kid-friendly activities to enjoy.
Another great option is the natural thermal rivers in Guanacaste.
It’s well known that teenagers can be the most difficult of travel companions. Let’s face it, they’re too old to enjoy being stuck with their parents on vacation and too young to travel with their friends.
We’ve all been teenagers ourselves and can identify, right?
But Costa Rica is different. It’s got tons of things for teens, tons of things to make them forget how embarrassed they are to be with you.
In fact, a trip to Costa Rica might be the best thing you can do to maintain your “coolest parents in the world” rep.
All those things unsuitable for little ones – rafting, rappelling, caving, tubing, surfing decent waves – are perfect for teenagers. They can ride quad bikes and paddle their own kayaks.
And they’ll get an education, too.
Teenagers can learn about cultural differences and environmental practices in a more profound way than small kids. Take them volunteering for a day somewhere.
And if you have the type of teens who want to do nothing except stare at their phones poolside, that’s okay, too.
If you are wondering Where to stay in Costa Rica with family when your kids are glued to their phones, worry no more—most hotels have great WiFi! And sooner or later they’ll start Instagramming their jealous friends back home about how awesome their vacation is. Even if they don’t tell you themselves.
The only downside to bringing teenagers to Costa Rica is having them complain about why they can’t live there once you’re back home!
It’s one thing to talk about all the amazing beaches for children in Costa Rica, and the awesome hotels for families to stay in. But Costa Rica is more than the beach.
When coming to Costa Rica, you want the beaches, sure. But you also want to introduce yourself and your children to the rainforest.
There are quite a few excellent hotels for families that will provide the perfect family jungle experience. Yes, monkey’s included. Here are my top picks among Costa Rica family resorts set in the lush rainforest:
Near the Arenal Volcano, the Tabacon has a true jungle vibe.
Check out the amazing on-site natural hot springs. While bathing in these hot springs, you feel immersed in the rainforest.
Plus, Tabacon has all the luxuries and amenities we all enjoy when traveling with kids.
Rafiki Safari Lodge is a total jungle hotel, comprising luxury tents settled way back in a remote valley, well off the beaten track.
When here, you feel so removed from everything, and there are tons to do for kids. Activities like rafting, horseback riding, and waterfall hiking are all at Rafiki. You can also explore lots of on-site trails on your own.
In the Papagayo Bay, this hotel still has an amazing jungle vibe.
The wildlife spotting opportunities from your breakfast table are unmatched! Monkeys, birds, iguanas, and more!
I love the view from the pool – you’re eye level with the jungle stretching out over the beach. And your room will look out over the lush green jungle across Papagayo Bay.
This is also another true jungle property excellent for families.
Way down in the Osa peninsula, Copa de Arbol is one of the few hotels with a pool in that remote part of Costa Rica. This is perfect for kids to relax and play after a fun day of hidden beach exploring!
Although sloths are not the official “national animal” of Costa Rica, they might as well be. Pretty much everyone thinks they are, which might well leave the actual national animal, the white-tailed deer, feeling a little unloved.
Sloths are the most asked-about animal in Costa Rica, at least among my clients. Everyone tells me their kids want to see sloths, and they all are hoping to get a good picture of one hanging upside down or munching on a leaf.
If sloths are one of the highlights for your Costa Rica vacation, there are ways to get close to them to snap that photo and learn more about them and their habitat. So where are the best places to check out these cute creatures?
Like monkeys, sloths are not rare in Costa Rica, so it’s not very hard to see them if you’re in the right place. Both the Manuel Antonio and Arenal areas are famous for having sloths in their rainforests.
The problem is that they don’t move much, making it easy to miss them. This is why it’s always worth taking a national park or nature reserve tour with a naturalist guide in Costa Rica. These guys are expert sloth spotters and will find them for you.
There are also rescue centers for sloths in Costa Rica. The most famous is the Sloth Sanctuary, in Cahuita on the Caribbean coast. This place has been rescuing and rehabilitating injured and orphaned sloths for over 20 years.
Also on the Caribbean side is the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo. They do the same sort of work as the Sloth Sanctuary and also have their own release center nearby.
In Manuel Antonio, there’s the non-profit Sloth Institute, which is more about research and rescue. They are not open to the public, but they do run guided sloth tours in the grounds of the Tulemar Hotel, which is where they release many of their sloths.
Outside of the parks and nature reserves, I’ve seen sloths in many places. After all, they live in the country, and they might show up in unexpected or less secluded areas.
The Hotel Parador in Manuel Antonio, for example, has sloths living in its grounds, as does the Nayara in Arenal. You’ll find sloths all over the place in the Caribbean towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo, too. I’ve even seen sloths in San Jose, in the Escazu Mountains!
I get a lot of people asking me about holding and cuddling sloths.
I get it. Sloths look super cute and cuddly. They are gentle, peaceful creatures who love eating and sleeping. There’s a lot to love.
Keep in mind, however, that these are still wild animals. They are not dangerous, but touching and holding sloths stresses them out a lot. It terrifies them, in fact. It’s cruel to pick up sloths for the sake of a selfie.
In addition, it’s also safer for you to admire them from a distance. They’re full of algae and insects that lay eggs in their fur. This is all good for them, as this is their natural condition, but for little kids, it might be better not to risk that contact.
Take photos and admire them from afar, and please avoid any institute or guide that allows you to pick up and touch sloths.
The usual rules about staying safe apply when traveling to Costa Rica. You know, don’t have valuables on you, don’t wander around at night, and all that stuff. But if you have kids with you, you’re likely not going out partying every night. You’re likely not getting yourself into “situations”.
So what are some more safety tips in Costa Rica applicable for children? We have a few things to keep in mind to ensure you and your family have as safe and stress-free Costa Rican family vacation as possible.
Costa Rica is a hot sunny country near the equator. The sun can be brutal, especially on fair skin. Bring decent sunblock with you (it’s expensive in Costa Rica) and keep your children covered in it at all times, especially if they’re in or on the water. Better to keep them covered in a t-shirt, too.
We already talked about some of the best beaches in Costa Rica for kids, but even on these beaches, don’t be complacent when it comes to your child’s safety.
Keep a watchful eye on them at all times and if they’re not strong swimmers, don’t let them enter the water unaccompanied. Look our for signs about rip tides and crocodiles, and if in doubt, ask a local. If no-one’s swimming on a beach, or if people are only surfing, there’s a reason why.
Also be aware that lifeguards are nonexistent on Costa Rican beaches.
Costa Rican food is healthy, nutritious, and delicious. But that doesn’t mean your child’s more sensitive stomach might not feel the affects of, well, eating something different. Any initial reaction to new food should dissipate in a day or so, but bring something for an iffy stomach nonetheless.
The water in Costa Rica is fine to drink for the most part, but again, those different microbes might catch up with your kid. Bottled water is available everywhere.
Bring repellent to Costa Rica and slap that on your kids in the evenings, once you’ve washed off the sunscreen from the day.
Being eaten alive by mosquitoes is miserable and they love young, fresh Gringo flesh! The chances of picking up a serious mosquito-borne disease are small. But even so, if your child is itching and complaining during the vacation, it’s not nice for them or for you.
Long sleeves and bug spray will help avoid that.
“I cannot possibly express what a wonderful time we had. The trip that you put together for my family will stay in our hearts and minds forever... Our 7-year-old laughed and screamed all the way through the waterfall rappel. We saw sloths, toucans, monkeys, frogs, tarantulas, butterflies and so much more... All of it has stayed with me and I find my mind wandering back to our trip while I'm at work each day.”
I moved to Costa Rica over six years ago. I love to travel, even if it’s not too far away, and I love exploring this amazing country and love being able to plan trips for people, making really unique experiences that make for the most memorable trip!
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