La Fortuna Waterfall near Arenal

If you are looking for the best places to visit in Costa Rica with family, this first timers guide is for you! After nearly twenty years of designing memorable Costa Rica travel itineraries for families, I can safely say that Costa Rica is every child’s dream come true.

Volcanoes, treehouses, monkeys, zip-lines, rivers, beaches, fruit trees, turtles, nocturnal wildlife hikes, waterfalls, surfing – kids LOVE Costa Rica! Plus, a Costa Rica family vacation is a healthy way to make memories, which makes parents happy. (In fact, happiness is one of the things Costa Rica is known for!) So check out this article for our recommendations of the best places you will want to visit in Costa Rica with your kids.

This is a Guest Post by John Rabenau of Costa Rica Escapes, the very company we used to plan our first visit to Costa Rica. We had such a wonderful experience that we invited them to include a Guest Post on our blog. This post also contains affiliate links which means I receive a commission at no cost to you should you make a purchase using this link. See my disclosures.

family on beach in Manuel Antonio National Park
Family on the beach near Manuel Antonio National Park, Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Why Costa Rica For A Family Vacation

Costa Rica has become a very popular destination for families. Not only is it full of beautiful scenery, but it is also full of family-friendly accommodations and activities. There are so many unique experiences and things to do in Costa Rica with kids.

But where should you go first? Here are some of the best places to visit in Costa Rica with family.

sloth in Arenal Costa Rica
Sloth near Arenal. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano, Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Probably one of the most popular areas in the country, Arenal Volcano is often dubbed the “adventure capital” of Costa Rica. Surrounded by rainforests and with great weather most of the year, this is a location where families can participate in a wide range of activities such as zip lining, hiking to waterfalls, river tubing, visiting the hot springs, and much more. 

Additionally, the nearby town of La Fortuna is only 10 minutes away from most Arenal hotels, so after a day of outdoor adventures, families can visit the local restaurants, small shops, and art galleries to truly experience Costa Rican culture and cuisine. Arenal is truly one of the best places in Costa Rica to visit with family.

Manuel Antonio

Beach in Manuel Antonio National Park
Beach in Manuel Antonio National Park. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Another very popular location is the small beach village of Manuel Antonio which offers plenty of options for kid-friendly accommodations ranging from boutique to luxury-level resorts with multiple pools and play spaces. When people ask where to stay in Costa Rica, this is definitely one of the top areas for families! Most importantly, Manuel Antonio offers visitors an abundance of wildlife and beautiful tropical nature. 

One of the most popular attractions in this area is the Manuel Antonio National Park which is home to many exotic species, including three-toed sloths, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, white-faced monkeys, scarlet macaws, and many others. While the Park is definitely worth a guided tour visit, the animal life is ubiquitous throughout the whole village. It is quite common to see monkeys and sloths “hanging around” right at the hotel or restaurant grounds. 

monkey on porch near Manuel Anotnio National Park
Monkeys are plentiful near Manuel Antonio National Park. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Manuel Antonio is magical and an exciting entry point for your child to begin to experience the joy of traveling. There are lots of international visitors and restaurants that vary from falafel to high cuisine, and most of the hotels in Manuel Antonio are unique, with breathtaking views and situated up above the coast surrounded by lush jungle. 

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde, Costa Rica
Mondeverde, Costa Rica, Photo credit: © Monicanaranjo |

Despite its relatively small size, Monteverde is one of the most famous towns in Costa Rica. The area was settled by Quaker farmers in the 1950s, and to this day, it seems to have a quiet, peaceful simplicity about it. Kids love the canopy zip-line tours and night hikes. Parents love the misty afternoons with a cup of coffee and listening to bird songs. 

One of the best parts of Monteverde is the unique hotels and accommodations you can find there – from treehouses to eco-lodges to family-run boutique hotels. 

Guanacaste Province (Northern Pacific Coast)

Leatherback sea turtle Costa Rica
Leatherback Sea Turtle Costa Rica, Photo credit: © Stephanierousseau |

This area of the country is known for its expansive beaches, reliably sunny weather, and easy way of life. It is sometimes known as “Little California” due to the arid climate, surf-friendly waves, and sizable ex-pat community. As a result, there are plenty of restaurants and grocery stores that cater to international visitors, so if you forgot to pack something, it will be easy to find a replacement. 

The only challenge to planning a trip to the Guanacaste Province is that there are an endless number of beautiful beaches, boutique accommodations, and kid-friendly activities to choose from, which is why we suggest having a Costa Rican family vacation itinerary to make the most of your time. 

Drake Bay for Families with Older Children

Drakes Bay Costa Rica
Drake Bay, Costa Rica, Photo credit: © Atosan |

Drake Bay is located in the southwest corner of Costa Rica in the Osa Peninsula, which National Geographic once termed “the most biologically intense place on earth” due to its high density of biodiversity. Any family who loves nature will love Drake Bay!

But due to its remote nature, it requires careful planning to visit, and we recommend it primarily for families of older children (12+) as most of the activities, such as hikes in Corcovado National Park and scuba diving, are ideal for teenagers and older. 

With enough advanced notice to secure reservations, Drake Bay can be a great holiday trip for a family or even an intergenerational group. 

Poas Volcano Area

Poas Volcano Costa Rica
Poas Volcano, Costa Rica, Photo credit: © Wollertz |

In a country with six major volcanoes, it can be hard to decide which volcano is worth a visit. However, the Poas Volcano National Park has some definite benefits for families traveling with kids, and it’s one of the best places in Costa Rica to visit with family.

For one thing, it’s close to San Jose. It also has a huge water-filled crater that kids can look down into, and it is surrounded by a protected forest. And it is conveniently located near other kid-friendly attractions like the La Paz Waterfall and the Starbucks coffee farm. 

It is important to keep in mind that the Costa Rican national park system requires purchasing tickets ahead of time, and most parks are closed on Mondays. 

Tortuguero with Older Children

Tortuguero Costa Rica
Tortuguero, Costa Rica, Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

For families who love nature and want to explore a more remote area of Costa Rica, Tortuguero National Park is a great option. Located on the north/central Atlantic coast of Costa Rica, the only way to reach it is via boat, adding to the magical nature of the place.

The area is famous for the leatherback, hawksbill, and green sea turtles that lay their eggs on the beaches. The best time to observe this marvel of nature is at night, but in order to protect the animals, there are careful regulations on when and how turtle-viewing tours can take place.  

To visit Tortuguero, families will need to allocate at least 2 nights of their trip. 

Puerto Viejo & the Caribbean Coast

Surfer in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, Photo credit: © Nalukai |

There is a famous folk song in Costa Rica that goes “Nowhere like Limon…”, referring to the easy-going, slow-paced, and beautiful southeastern coast of Costa Rica. This area is definitely unique to the rest of the country.

The people of the region are mostly of Afro-Caribbean descent, which means that visiting Puerto Viejo (the main town) is an exciting way for families to experience different cuisines, languages, and cultures. The ecosystem is a “low-land jungle”, sloping down to long coastlines. The beaches vary from some of the best surfing in the world to calm, lapping waves and tide pools, perfect for little children to splash around in. 

This is a great part of the country for a family that wants to take it easy. It tends to rain year-round, but there is a relatively dry season each year between September-November. 

Tarcoles River Cruise Costa Rica
Tarcoles River Cruise, Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Final Thoughts On The Best Areas Of Costa Rica With Family

As you can see in this list, Costa Rica is a place that has so much to offer families traveling with kids. From volcanoes to beaches and everything in between, Costa Rica is magical and a great place to make lasting memories.

One thing that you won’t see on this list, but which is just as important as nature and wildlife, is the way the Costa Rican people care for and revere children. It won’t take you long to see that babies and children are considered some of the most important parts of Costa Rican society. People will go out of their way to make sure that a mother and baby go to the front of a line or that a father and toddler have a seat on the bus.

That same value for families is extended to the families who visit Costa Rica. Your family will feel right at home, which is just one more thing that makes this country so special and unique!

About The Author

John Rabenau

Costa Rica Escapes Author Image John Rabenau
Photo credit: John Rabenau, Costa Rica Escapes

John Rabenau is the co-founder of Costa Rica Escapes. He spends his time between Turrialba, Costa Rica, and Park City, Utah. John has been planning family vacations to Costa Rica since 2006. They are one of the most trusted boutique travel agencies that plans authentic trips to Costa Rica.

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