Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica With Kids

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Costa Rica, an enchanting Central American gem, offers a ton of fantastic places to visit with kids! One of the main reasons why Costa Rica is an ideal destination for families is its family-friendly culture. Plus, thanks to the country’s wonderful conservation efforts, kids also have the chance to immerse themselves in nature’s wonders while spotting toucans, sloths, monkeys, and brightly colored frogs amidst lush rainforests or along pristine coastlines. For thrill-seekers seeking outdoor adventures suitable for all ages, there is no shortage of exciting opportunities in Costa Rica – from zip-lining through treetops to river rafting. Not to mention, the beautiful beaches! Next time you’re searching for the best places to visit in Costa Rica with kids, we’ve divided this list by region and even included places to stay. Keep reading to plan your next adventure to Costa Rica with kids! 

Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica’s ​​​​Alajuela Province with Kids

Costa Rica’s Alajuela Province is famous for housing La Fortuna de San Carlos (or, La Fortuna for short). Famous for its access to natural wonders like the Arenal Volcano, be sure to stop here during your Costa Rica family vacation, even if it’s just for a day. Keep reading to find out the best places to visit in Costa Rica with kids! 

La Fortuna

Among the best places to visit with kids in this beautiful country is La Fortuna, a lively town located at the base of Arenal Volcano. It’s also near the capital San Jose, and provides a gateway to some of Costa Rica’s best attractions, like the La Fortuna Waterfall.

The Arenal Volcano is located within Arenal Volcano National Park, which offers visitors a chance to familiarize themselves with the area with the help of a park ranger. Three main rivers near Arenal provide the perfect setting to go white water rafting, for example. There are also rock rappelling or canopy tours for older or more adventurous kids. Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa also has a 92-foot-tall observation tower in the middle of the rainforest with amazing views of the volcano. Located just outside of La Fortuna, The La Fortuna Waterfall is one of Costa Rica’s most stunning geological wonders. Families can also check out La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which has easy and paved hiking trails plus the chance to spot jungle cats, sloths, monkeys, and frogs along the way!

Don’t forget to check out the famous hanging bridge at Mistico Hanging Bridges Park, go zip lining at Arenal Ecoglide Park, or visit The Butterfly Conservatory

Where To Stay Near La Fortuna With Kids

For a truly unique stay, check out Tree Houses Hotel Costa Rica. Your kids will adore sleeping in the canopy of the Costa Rican jungle! Want immediate access to healing hot springs? Book your stay at The Springs Resort and Spa. Finally, the Peace Lodge offers a boutique hotel experience within the iconic La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park! 

Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica’s Puntarenas Province with Kids

Puntarenas Province is home to Quepos, a tiny town on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Famous for its white-sand beaches, native squirrel monkey population, and wonderful views, it’s best known as a way to access the famous Manuel Antonio National Park. Here are our recommendations on how to explore this stunning natural area as a family! 

Monteverde

Costa Rica is a country that offers an abundance of adventure-filled destinations suitable for families, and one such place that stands out for its child-friendly attractions is Monteverde. Nestled within the lush greenery of the Cloud Forest Reserve, this enchanting region has something to captivate every member of your family.

A view of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

At the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, kids will delight in spotting resplendent quetzals, howler monkeys swinging from tree branches, and brightly colored toucans! Near the entrance of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge, you’ll also find the famous Monteverde Ficus Tree, a unique hollow tree. You can also visit the Frog Pond Ranario, where kids can spot different frogs in their enclosures. (It’s a bit expensive for what it is, but it’s a good experience nonetheless.) Selvatura Park is the ultimate adventure destination close to the Santa Elena village, featuring zip-lining, treetop canopies, hanging bridges, and even a butterfly garden. Or, learn more about how coffee is made on a Chocolate and Coffee Tour

Manuel Antonio National Park

A view of the beach and shoreline in Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is a stunning showcase of Costa Rica’s natural beauty. Located in Quepos along the country’s Pacific shore, this expanse encompasses rugged rainforest, white-sand beaches, and colorful coral reefs. On the drive here, you can stop at the Crocodile Bridge in Tarcoles. Some people consider it a tourist trap, but it’s a great place to spot crocodiles! 

At Manuel Antonio, families can explore with the help of a guide. Guides will have a better idea of how to spot the animals and flora, so if kids are interested in seeing monkeys, lizards, snakes, or sloths roaming free, this is probably the best option. Companies such as Tucanes Tours offer a variety of different ways to see the park, including a combo saddle and paddle tour where you can horseback ride and go whitewater rafting! Or, check out the Jungle Walk Night Tour to see some nocturnal jungle creatures! You can also go deep-sea fishing or book a catamaran tour with Ocean Kings or Brisa Elegante. 

If you want to explore at your own pace and possibly relax seaside, Manuel Antonio National Park contains three beaches where you can spend the afternoon sunbathing with snacks. Playa Manuel Antonio is the most popular one, but families also like Playa Biesanz, Playa Espadilla, and Playas Gemelas. 

Best Places To Eat Near Manuel Antonio National Park

If you need somewhere to eat near Manuel Antonio National Park, check out these suggestions! 

  • Emilio’s Cafe offers great views of the park and phenomenal breakfast food, from cakes to eggs and more fuel to keep you going throughout the day. 
  • El Avion offers kids the ultimate experience: the chance to eat inside an old airplane! This quirky restaurant serves steak, seafood, etc. but most people come here for the ambiance. 
  • El Patio de Cafe Milagro is a casual spot with great coffee for adults and breakfast food that kids will love, plus some more inventive items like avocado soup. 
  • Karahe Restaurant, the on-site restaurant at the Karahe Hotel, lets families eat with their toes in the sand. It’s located in Playa Manuel Antonio, so it’s convenient for families visiting the park. 

Where To Stay Near Manuel Antonio National Park With Kids

Need a home base near Manuel Antonio National Park? Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort provides the best of Costa Rica at your fingertips. From beach access with loungers and umbrellas to resident monkeys and sloths to quick access to some of the best hiking in Costa Rica, a stay here will lead to a divine balance of adventure and relaxation. Then, your family may also enjoy Tulemar Resort. This gated, residential resort is centrally located in Manuel Antonio! 

Dominical/Uvita Area

Two baby anteaters at the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary in Costa Rica
Photo Courtesy: Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

When planning a family vacation in Costa Rica, the Dominical/Uvita area should definitely be on your radar. Located on the southern Pacific coast, this region is renowned for its pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and abundant wildlife. 

Playa Dominical has many restaurants, shopping, and a playground for kids to play. Plus, it’s a great place to go surfing. Kids can sign up for beginner surf lessons with Sunset Surf School Dominical. Playa Dominicalito, Playa Dominical’s little brother, also has low tides that are great for beginners. Or, check out the more secluded Playa Ventanas around a half hour south. For those looking for some adventure, explore Marino Ballena National Park and catch a glimpse of humpback whales during their annual migration season. Another must-visit spot is Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge. Take a guided tour through dense rainforests teeming with wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, and tropical birds! Families can also check out Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary or visit Parque Reptilandia to experience all of Costa Rica’s reptiles in one place! 

The Nauyaca Waterfalls are another must-visit attraction in this area. Accessible via a 3.7-mile hike, families can swim in crystal-clear pools beneath cascades or simply relax amidst beautiful natural surroundings. Uvita Paradise Adventures also offers fun activities like zip lining or tree rappelling. 

Best Places To Eat Near Dominical/Uvita

Need somewhere to eat near Dominical/Uvita? Check out these options!

  • Cafe Mono Congo is a cute cafe with great views of the jungle, giving families a chance to spot the famous monkeys the cafe is named after! 
  • Gusto offers families Italian food in an authentic setting. It’s a fantastic place if you’re looking for pizza, pasta, etc. in Costa Rica! 
  • Scala serves up a variety of seafood that families will love, including lobster! Families craving lobster can also check out La Langosta Feliz, famous for its mariachi bands that play during mealtimes. 
  • Aracari Restaurant, located at the La Cusinga Lodge, serves a mixture of local cuisine combined with international flavors. Meanwhile, La Parcela is great for fine dining. 

Santa Teresa

A view of the waves and rocks on Playa Cocalito
Photo Courtesy: Costarica.com

Situated on the southern Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa has earned a spot on our list of the best places to visit in Costa Rica with kids! While the area’s vibe is better suited for young adults, making it better for older kids, another alternative for families is to stay in nearby Mal Pais, a traditional fishing village. 

Kids will love watching the fishermen come in on their boats in Mal Pais. Playa Santa Teresa is also popular with surfers, as it’s on the Pacific Side and has some hollow, low-tide waves. For this reason, it’s a great place for kids to take surf lessons, whether they’re beginners or intermediate. Check out the Tiqui Surf Academy, Pura Vida Surfers, or some other local-owned surf companies along the beach. Or, if you’re a bit adventurous, take the two-hour hike to Playa Cocalito and El Chorro Waterfall. At the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, kids can marvel at exotic wildlife species like howler monkeys and coatis while traversing lush rainforest trails. Finally, don’t forget to check out the Montezuma Waterfall, which is accessible via a hike, or visit Curu Wildlife Refuge

Looking for more things to do in the area? A 90-minute boat ride from The Nicoya Peninsula, families can visit Tortuga Island to snorkel and see some amazing marine life! 

Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica In The ​​San Jose Province with Kids

San Jose is Costa Rica’s capital, so expect a bustling city filled with historical attractions, delicious restaurants, and shopping boutiques. On the outskirts of the city, in the greater San Jose Province, you’ll also find a few fun outdoor activities for little ones to enjoy. Keep reading to find out the best places to visit in Costa Rica with kids!

San Jose

A family floats down Rio Celeste on large red tubs in Costa Rica.
Photo Courtesy: Nate Federman

San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital city, is another one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica with kids. While the center of the city is charming, there’s not much to do beyond that, so we would only recommend stopping here briefly as part of a larger Costa Rica family itinerary. 

​​One great thing to do in San Jose with kids is to visit the Children’s Museum (Museo de los Niños). Located downtown, it has interactive exhibits where children can learn about science, technology, art, and history through play and discovery. Another must-visit spot in San Jose is Simón Bolívar Zoo (Zoológico Simón Bolívar), which houses over 300 different animal species from all around the world in a naturalistic setting. There’s even a specific children’s discovery area and a reptile area. Additionally, La Sabana Park is an urban oasis perfect for outdoor family fun! Right outside of San Jose, families can also visit Poás Volcano National Park to see the burnt holes where the lava last erupted! Or, visit Tenorio Volcano National Park to see the famous Rio Celeste!

Where to Stay Near San Jose With Kids

Families looking to stay in San Jose Province won’t be disappointed! These centrally located accommodations will put you within a short drive of almost everything on your itinerary. If you’re seeking a glamping experience immersed in the jungles of Costa Rica, try Rafiki Safari Lodge! Here, you’ll enjoy a 618-acre private reserve along the Savegre River and quick access to Manuel Antonio National Park (less than 20 miles). 

Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province with Kids

Nestled along the Pacific Coast, you’ll find Guanacaste Province. About 4-5 hours from San Jose, this area offers a fantastic array of water sports and opportunities to hit the beach, including surfing, deep-sea fishing, and more. Embracing surf and sand along the Pacific Coast is definitely one of the best things to do in Costa Rica with kids!

Tamarindo

Among the best places to visit with kids is Tamarindo, a charming coastal town on the Pacific coast. From surfing to exploring nearby national parks, it’s one of the most popular places to make your home base in the Guanacaste region.

A young girl holds the hand of a surf instructor while walking toward the water in Costa Rica.
Photo Courtesy: Lisa Lossie

Tamarindo Beach is a fantastic place for beginners to learn how to surf with local surf schools like Iguana Surf. Adventurous families can also take an ATV tour, a catamaran tour, or go deep-sea fishing with companies such as Papagayo Sportfishing. For more wildlife encounters, take the youngsters on a thrilling boat tour along Las Baulas National Marine Park, where you can see the sea turtles from February through October. Rincon de la Vieja National Park is home to a volcano that last erupted in 1995; ​​The Las Pailas section features a short hike through the boiling mud pots. If you don’t want to make the drive up to Arenal, the Rio Negro Hot Springs are a fantastic alternative. 

Tamarindo is also an hour away from Liberia, where Costa Rica’s 2nd international airport is. Most people don’t stay here but use it as an access point to the Northern Pacific Coast (Tamarindo, and the Nicoya Peninsula, La Fortuna, and Monteverde). For more things to do near Liberia, hike to the La Leona Waterfall or visit Hacienda Guachipelin & Adventure Center for ziplining and more fun. 

Best Beaches Near Tamarindo For Families

For more beaches near Tamarindo for families, check out these best places to visit in Costa Rica with kids! 

  • Playa Langosta is around 1.2 miles south of Tamarindo, but it offers a much calmer vibe. There are some rocks here, so it’s not amazing for swimming, but the sand is very soft and it’s often peaceful. 
  • Playa Hermosa is a charming beach town around an hour north of Tamarindo. It has a lovely vibe and plenty of restaurants, shops, and other places for families to explore. 
  • Playa Negra is a great destination for kids who love surfing. It’s not much of a touristy beach, but features great waves and breaks. 
  • Playa Avellana is a 30-minute drive from Tamarindo, showcasing a long stretch of sand, calm waves, and a tranquil atmosphere. 

Samara

A young boy signing 'hang ten' stands on the beach wearing a swim suit and straw hat.
Photo Courtesy: Allie Reed

Popular among surfers, ex-pats, and immigrants, Sámara is a compact and walkable beach town with a health-conscious vibe. It’s only around a 10-minute walk from Main Street to the beach, aka Playa Sámara, so you could easily vacation here without a car.

Since the waves are mild here, kids can learn to surf through a local surf school like Choco’s Surf School. Families can also take a Kayak and Snorkel Tour to Isla Chora or see the tide pools at Izquerida Beach. Or, go horseback riding on the beach with a company like Explore Samara Tours. Around an hour away, families can also visit Ostional Wildlife National Refuge, one of few places in the world where turtles congregate en masse. Barra Honda Caverns National Park is another fantastic day trip about an hour away. Here, you can explore the Caverna Terciopelo via tour, or go hiking. Families can also visit the nearby Palo Verde National Park to see monkeys, iguanas, and more animals in their natural habitat! 

A family sitting on a boat in Samara, Costa Rica.
Photo Courtesy: Allie Reed

A few waterfalls in the area that are worth visiting include the Belen Waterfall and the La Roca Waterfall. Other things to do in Samara with kids include hiking through the Werner Sauter Biological Reserve or visiting the nearby Macaw Recovery Network

Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica’s Limón Province with Kids

Costa Rica’s Limón Province houses the small town of Tortuguero, which is famous for its sea turtle population. From here, you can access the diverse ecosystems within Tortuguero National Park, where you can see these turtles up close! Then, remember to stop in Cahuita during your family vacation to Costa Rica. Here’s what you’ll need to know about exploring Limón Province with kids! 

Limón

A sloth hanging upside down at the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica.
Photo Courtesy: Sloth Sanctuary

One of the best places to visit in Costa Rica with kids is Limón, a vibrant coastal province on the country’s eastern side. While the actual city of Limon itself is a bit dangerous, Puerto Viejo down to Manzanillo is beautiful and great for tourists.

A hand holding coffee beans on a Don Olivo Chocolate Tour.
Photo Courtesy: Don Olivo Chocolate Tour

Learn how chocolate is made on a Chocolate Tour in Puerto Viejo, where you can taste the chocolate and see the process from bean to bar. Animal lovers can’t miss Tortuguero National Park, the best place to see turtles in Costa Rica. Take a walking tour with a ranger and learn more about the turtles and their history. Or, consider checking it out via canoe for a different perspective. Of course, don’t miss The Sloth Sanctuary! Located near Cahuita, this family-friendly attraction is the world’s only sloth-centric preservation center. Kids can get a glimpse at how sloths live and then even meet some. The Jaguar Rescue Center is also popular among families, as is visiting Cahuita National Park, where you can snorkel and hike. Or, go snorkeling at Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, a beautiful but secluded nature reserve. 

Best Beaches In Limón For Families

A mother and a child on the beach in Costa Rica.

If you’re looking for some of the best beaches in Limón, here are some suggestions! 

  • Playa Puerto Viejo, aka Chino Beach, is the main beach in Puerto Viejo. As such, it can be crowded at times, but it also has amenities like places to eat nearby. Kids will appreciate the smaller waves. 
  • Punta Uva is south of downtown Puerto Viejo and offers a quieter experience than other beaches closer to the tourist strip. It’s a great place to swim with kids because the water is calm and there are also plenty of picnic areas. 
  • Playa Cocles is another fantastic and more remote beach just south of Puerto Viejo. It has wide shores, making it ideal for playing and building sandcastles, but not much shade. 
  • Playa Manzanillo tends to be more secluded because you can only access it by walking through a small patch of jungle. Still, there’s plenty of space to spread out and it’s a great place for surfing and spotting wildlife like sloths. 

Where to Stay in Limón With Kids

If Tortuguero National Park is your main draw to Limón, you’ll want to stay nearby. Located along the Caribbean coast, the Tortuga Lodge & Gardens provides luxury amenities and stunning views of the Tortuguero River. Eco-conscious families will also love its rustic lodge feel, which was built with the immediate tropical environment in mind. 

Happy Travels!

Two kids playing on the beach near Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo.
Photo Courtesy: Gujan Prakash

We hope you liked this list of the Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica With Kids! From volcanos to snorkeling and spotting wildlife, this Central American country truly has it all. Enjoy your vacation to Costa Rica with kids! 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.