Fun & Effortless: Best Family Destinations in Costa Rica

In recent years, Costa Rica has become an increasingly popular destination for families and groups of varying ages, activity levels, and interests. With its pleasant year-round weather, friendly locals, excellent safety record, and diverse landscape, there truly is something for everyone in this little slice of paradise. Costa Rica’s two international airports (SJO in San Jose and LIR in Liberia) are also very quick and convenient, with flights from major USA cities.
So what areas are best for family travel? It just depends on the dynamics of your travel group! Below we will explore some of the most popular regions of Costa Rica for families and groups, with highlights for each location.

Arenal Volcano: Adventures in Nature

First up is the Arenal Volcano region, properly known as La Fortuna. This is one of the most-visited sites in all of Costa Rica. With the iconic cone-shaped volcano omnipresent in the distance, this is a wonderful place to experience the raw natural beauty of the country’s tropical landscape. This is also Costa Rica's “adventure capital” for a good reason.
Families with big kids and teens come to La Fortuna because they can participate in multiple adventure activities. There is canopy ziplining, hanging bridges trail hikes, rafting, waterfall rappelling, caving, horseback riding, and more! After a day of exploring, you can soak in the healing volcanic hot springs to soothe sore muscles.
Families with younger children can also enjoy the region. There are easy hikes to see sloths, frogs, monkeys, and waterfalls while learning about the rainforest and local culture. Some of the other favorite tours for the little ones include safari floats and local farming tours! Many resorts in this area are also quite family-oriented with on-site restaurants, pools, and green areas.
Dining is also very convenient in this location, as is bopping around town. There are over 40 easily accessible restaurants in the town center, as well as a sweet little church in front of a park. Arenal is truly a perfect location for families who love the outdoors and want a mix of convenience, adventure, and relaxation.

Manuel Antonio: Rainforest and Ocean Combo

Moving on to Costa Rica’s top beach destination, Manuel Antonio! This area embodies what most people imagine when they think of Costa Rica. Lush, tropical coastline with jewel-toned waters and light-sand beaches next to towering trees where the sloths and monkeys roam free!
This is where you can get up close and personal with all four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica. Squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, white-faced capuchins, and howler monkeys all call this tiny area home. Sweet, sleepy-faced two-toed sloths dangle in the trees, sometimes right outside your hotel balcony! Scarlet macaws soar overhead and iguanas scale the nearby trees.
Groups and families with kids of all ages will enjoy Manuel Antonio. It’s impressive to see how this area has all the amenities families like (such as multiple restaurant options, pharmacies, ATMs, souvenir shops, and supermarkets) while at the same time being totally wild and teeming with wildlife. Major attractions in this area include the world-renowned Manuel Antonio National Park, Damas Mangroves, multiple waterfall hikes, river rafting, and ATV adventures.

Guanacaste: Costa Rica’s Golden Coast

If we shift our sights to the northern region of Costa Rica, conveniently located near the Liberia Airport (LIR), we’ll find Guanacaste’s beaches. These beaches are not as lush as Manuel Antonio, but they are stunning in their own right. Two of the most popular beaches in this area are Conchal and Tamarindo. Both beaches are just 30 minutes apart, but they are entirely different and offer drastically different experiences.

Resort Relaxation in Conchal Beach

Conchal Beach is totally isolated. It can only be accessed through some high-end resorts located in the Conchal Nature Reserve, which helps reduce the crowds. There are no restaurants or shops on the beach, only some local vendors selling their wares during daylight hours. The beach is pristine with light powdery sand (and a combination of shells) and transparent turquoise waters.
This is a great location for groups or families with young children who are looking for a relaxing resort experience where everything is available right on-site. The reserve also preserves local wildlife and it is common to see (or hear) howler monkeys throughout the day.

Beachside Fun in Tamarindo Town

Tamarindo Beach has become extremely popular in recent years. It has also had something of a boom in terms of housing, hotels, shops, and restaurants. This is a great area for teens and adults as it’s a totally walkable town with a diverse offering of daily and nightly entertainment.
The sunsets are jaw-dropping and the beach is so long, you could walk for hours. This is also a world-renowned beach for beginner and intermediate surfing due to its small consistent waves throughout the day. Popular excursions in this area include sport fishing, catamaran sailing tours, snorkeling, ATV adventures, and horseback riding!

Osa Peninsula: Walk on the Wild Side

The final location we will discuss is an off-the-beaten-path gem for those adventurous families who seek unique and authentic experiences: the Osa Peninsula! Located in the southern Pacific region of the country, Osa embodies the real Costa Rica. Just getting to the hotels in this region is an adventure. Typically it requires boat rides on the open ocean and small domestic flights (an experience I highly recommend during your stay).
National Geographic called the Osa Peninsula one of the “most biologically intense” places on the planet, and we think that does the area justice. Lush green rainforest ridges, towering volcanic rock formations, small scenic coves, islands, and jewel-toned seas make for an other-worldly landscape. Every time I’m in Osa, I say a little prayer and ask that it not be the last time I visit. This is a once-in-a-lifetime destination that will leave a lasting impression on your and your family.
Hotels in the Osa Peninsula typically include all of your meals, so although you are pretty off-the-grid, you still have everything you need. Many also include on-site and off-site excursions like visits to the world-famous Corcovado National Park. It’s a sprawling 10,300 acres of protected habitats including mangroves, rainforests, rivers, and coral reefs. Some of the most popular species to spot in this area are sloths, tapirs, ocelots, jaguars, scarlet macaws, and kingfishers!
Costa Rica is blessed with a variety of microclimates and diverse landscapes. These are some of the most popular places for families and groups with kids, but there is much more to explore! If you are looking for a different kind of experience for your family, we have a team of expert travel consultants ready to help you make your dreams come true.


About the Author

Anastasia McCulloch

Travel Consultant at Costa Rican Vacations    
Anastasia came to Costa Rica in 2009, when this little country changed her life forever. She has been planning vacations for over a decade, sharing with others the love she feels for Costa Rica. 
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