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Costa Rica Family Vacations: Top 12 Destinations to Visit

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With its pristine wilderness and excellent ecotourism system, Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world to adventure as a family. Venturing outdoors tends to inspire adults and kids alike, and in this country, cloud forests, tropical jungles, and sunny beaches won’t disappoint. Plan your next trip with our list of top destinations for family vacations in Costa Rica.

1. Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal is a great destination for hiking, relaxing and exploring
Arenal Volcano is located inside the Arenal Volcano National Park.
Kids at Arenal Volcano
Abundant natural wonders will thrill the entire family at Arenal Volcano National Park.

 A trip to Arenal Volcano National Park will leave the whole family thrilled with its abundant natural wonders and adventure activities throughout volcanic terrain. Lake Arenal, sitting at the base of the volcano, doubles the fun with plentiful water play. Further sweetening the deal, the surrounding area is home to multiple hot spring resorts offering sumptuous pools for a little relaxation time and family-friendly pools equipped with water slides great for adrenaline pumping and splashing around.

Family tours such as this one provide activities in and around Arenal Volcano National Park that are suitable for all ages.

Cool things to do

  • Visiting the town of La Fortuna
  • Hiking around the Arenal Volcano
  • Boating, canoeing, fishing, paddle boarding and kayaking in Lake Arenal
  • Nature walking and wildlife spotting in Arenal Hanging Bridges
  • Swimming and waterfall rappelling and La Fortuna Falls
  • Exploring the Venado Caves
  • Relaxing in the hot springs near Arenal Volcano

2. Sarapiquí

Family rafting in Sarapiqui River.
The rapids of Sarapiqui River are ideal for whitewater rafting.

Nature enthusiasts should plan a Costa Rica family vacation to Sarapiquí, one of the fastest growing destinations for adventure travel. Situated at the mouth of the Sarapiquí River, this town is the gateway for thrilling river excursions, waterfall hikes, and wildlife preserves.

Cool things to do

  • Rafting in Sarapiqui River
  • Visiting chocolate plantations and farm tours in Puerto Viejo
  • Wildlife tours, hiking, horseback riding in Braulio Carrillo National Park and Tirimbina Biological Reserve

3. Manuel Antonio National Park

Family Vacation in Costa Rica, ziplining
Manuel Antonio can be a destination for activities like ziplining.

For a family trip to Costa Rica that offers both land and sea adventures, Manuel Antonio is a top choice. Tropical jungle, palm-lined beaches, spectacular coral reef, and mangroves create endless opportunities for fun in the sun. The local area surrounding is home to Central America’s longest zip line, amongst other action-packed activities. Many of the outdoor activities are easily accessible to children as well.

Cool things to do

  • Discovering the quaint town of Quepos near Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Hiking and exploring the mangrove swamps of Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Swimming, snorkeling, surfing, paddleboarding and fishing at Playa Manuel Antonio, Playa Espadilla Sur, Punta Cathedral or Playa Biesanz
  • Ziplining in El Santuario
  • Horseback riding to Mulguri Waterfall
  • Canoeing, kayaking or taking a boat tour around Damas Island

4. Tortuguero

Little turtle hatchling in Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica
A tiny hatchling runs across the beach towards the sea in Tortuguero National Park

A Costa Rica family vacation wouldn't be complete without a trip to Tortuguero, a truly unique opportunity that will inspire the family for a lifetime. Here, you can maximize the enjoyment of the outdoors while experiencing the traditional local life of a small Costa Rican village. With a focus on wilderness protection, ecotourism opportunities here are excellent. Some tours even offer visitors the opportunity to search for massive nesting sea turtles.

Since getting to Tortuguero can be challenging due to its limited access via a canal, planning this stop as part of a Costa Rica all-inclusive family tour is a good option. This 7-day tour is a great way to discover Tortuguero National Park.

Cool things to do

  • Turtle viewing in Tortuguero National Park
  • Hiking in Cerro Tortuguero (Tortuguero Hill)
  • Exploring the Caribbean Conservation Corporation Visitor’s Center and Museum
  • Fishing, birdwatching and boating tours in Tortuguero canals

5. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde Reserve is an ideal place to go on expeditions with the family
Skywalk through Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

For an unforgettable adventure, take the family on an expedition through Costa Rica’s cloud forest in Monteverde with a tour. You’ll navigate through the lush canopy on hanging bridges and zip-lines or walk interesting trails along the continental divide. Adults and kids alike will develop skills of true explorers navigating the dense rainforest, sighting interesting wildlife, and enjoying simple pleasures of the surrounding rural countryside.

Cool things to do

  • Ziplining, skywalks, sky-tram riding, ATV Tours, and bungee jumping in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  • Hiking and horseback riding through the cloud forest 
  • Visiting the Monteverde Butterfly Garden, the Bat Jungle, Monteverde Orchid Garden, and Frog Pond Ranario
  • Farm-stays in Santa Elena

6. Cahuita

Sloth in Cahuita, Costa Rica
The Sloth Sanctuary in Cahuita is home to rescued sloths.

Cahuita is a small village on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica with a unique cultural history. With a strong Afro-Caribbean heritage, the town’s vibrant Creole culture is just one of its charms. Nearby you’ll find exotic black-sand beaches and one of Costa Rica’s most treasured spots, Cahuita National Park, which sports spectacular coral reef and pristine rainforest. Snorkeling in the waters of Cahuita also provides great opportunities to discover historical shipwrecks.

This 15-day tour takes you to all of Costa Rica’s highlights including Cahuita National Park.

Cool things to do

  • Hiking in Cahuita National Park
  • Snorkeling in Playa Cahuita and Playa Negra
  • Visiting the Sloth Sanctuary
  • Swim and relax on the beaches of Playa Blanca and Playa Negra

7. Osa Peninsula

Family snorkeling in Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
The Osa Peninsula is a great place to go snorkeling.

Unwind as a family while discovering the treats of one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. In this oasis in the southern end of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, you’ll find some of the last remaining virgin rainforests in Costa Rica, breathtaking bays, secluded beaches and enticing rivers. The Osa Peninsula balances a slower pace with unmatched wildlife-viewing opportunities that will nurture everyone’s appreciation of life’s simple joys.

Cool things to do

  • Hiking, wildlife tours, night jungle tours and bird watching in Corcovado National Park, Piedras Blancas National Park and Campanario Biological Reserve
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving in Caño Island Biological Reserve
  • Surfing and boat tours in Drake Bay
  • Rappelling in San Pedrillo Waterfalls and La Llorona Waterfall

8. San Jose

Start a family vacation in Costa Rica from San Jose.
The National Monument in San Jose

San José, Costa Rica’s capital, is often overlooked as quick pitstop for taking flights and arranging tours. But those who spend a bit more time exploring this historic town will be happily surprised by the great number of appealing attractions, vibrant culture, and range of things to do nearby.

If you are going for a tour in San Jose, try these short city tours or this 4-day tour in Costa Rica’s capital.

Cool things to do

  • Visit Irazu Volcano National Park
  • Shopping in Mercado Central
  • Take a gastronomic tour in Barrio Escalante
  • Urban Walks in San Jose
  • Visit the National Theatre and learn the cultural significance of neoclassical culture
  • Museum tours in the National Museum, pre-Columbian Gold Museum, Children’s Museum del Niño, Parque Diversiones, INBioparque (National Biodiversity Institute) and Museum of Insect

9. San Isidro

Lying south of the bustling city of San José, San Isidro is a peaceful town with rolling valleys and serene mountains. Known for its importance as an agricultural center, this is an excellent stop for families seeking authentic tours of working farms (think coffee, sugar, and fruit), protected wildlife areas, and treks up Costa Rica’s highest peak. It’s also an absolute must for birding enthusiasts.

Check out this tour and hike from San Isidro to Piedras Blancas along with other wildlife destinations like Dominical, Diamante Verde and Uvita.

Cool things to do

  • Bird watching in Los Quetzales National Park and Los Cucingos Neotropical Bird Sanctuary
  • Hiking Mount Chirripo in Chirripó National Park
  • Wildlife tours in Cloudbridge Nature Reserve
  • Swimming in Nayaca Waterfalls

10. Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Family Vacation in Costa Rica Rincon de la Vieja
Take a 'bath' in the mud pools of Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Take the kids on a fascinating geological expedition, wandering through a volcanic paradise. This park sports two volcanoes, nine craters, rivers, streams, hot springs, geysers, and spectacular trails. The kids will marvel at the steam vents and bubbling mud while you enjoy some much-needed healing in the natural spas.

This tour takes you from Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast to the Pacific Coast passing through the jungles of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park.

Cool things to do

  • Get mud baths and relax in hot springs near the volcanoes of the national park
  • Coffee farm tours in Santa Maria
  • Camping and horseback riding in Ponderosa Adventure Park in Liberia

11. Nicoya Peninsula

If a coastal adventure is in the cards for your Costa Rica family holiday, you won’t want to miss the fabulous beaches of Nicoya Peninsula. This expansive 80-mile coastline is a haven for water-sports and beach-combing on idyllic bays. With a fair share of national parks, wildlife reserves, and jungle-lined coastline, there are plenty of opportunities for land-based exploration too!

Take a Costa Rican Vacation through Arenal and Nicoya Peninsula with this tour and experience the highlights of Costa Rica such as beaches, volcanos and rainforests. 

Cool things to do

  • Surfing, kayaking, boating and paddle boarding in Malpais, Samara, Tamarindo and Montezuma
  • Turtle watching in Las Baulas National Marine Park
  • Snorkeling in Tortuga Island

12. Uvita

Whale watching on out in the sea
Uvita is a great place to go whale watching.

Board the boats and head out for a day of family fun in beautiful Uvita. This town is one of the best-kept secrets for sea-loving travelers while the beaches provide much needed time to lay back and relax for the entire family. The bays are excellent for swimming and you’ll have a whale of a time spotting humpbacks and dolphins.

Cool things to do

  • Swimming, snorkeling, scuba-diving, kayaking, paddle boarding and surfing in Uvita Beach
  • Whale watching and boating in Marino Ballena National Park
  • Horseback riding in Rancho La Merced Wildlife Refuge
  • Hiking to Santa Lucia Falls and Uvita Waterfall
Family vacations in Costa Rica map
Destinations to visit on a family vacation to Costa Rica.

Family vacations in Costa Rica provide unimaginable levels of excitement and joy. With activities and sites for a range of ages and interests, your experiences in this serene country will create lasting memories for the whole family to enjoy.

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