Costa Rica with kids

Costa Rica With Kids: The Ultimate 2024 Travel Guide

Heading to Costa Rica with kids? You’re in the right place. Costa Rica is a great place for family travel because its safe, it has a culture that caters towards tourism, and there are countless family-friendly activities that give your kids epic experiences that they’ll remember.

Between relaxing at the beach, hiking in the rainforest, spotting wildlife, visiting sustainable family farms and learning about how fruit, chocolate and coffee are cultivated – there’s so much to do in Costa Rica with kids.

Costa Rica waterfall
Driving in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

We have been to Costa Rica multiple times with kids (from babies up to 9 years old) and travelled extensively to all of the main popular areas. We can advise on some great things to do in Costa Rica for different age groups as a family.

Everyone travels to Costa Rica differently – some people are looking for a relaxing beach vacation, while others are seeking adventure, such as forest zip-lining. (I’m more of a lush rainforest and volcano kind of person myself.) However, regardless of which parts of Costa Rica you prefer, there are suitable family-friendly activities in each area .

So, let’s jump in – everything you need to know about Costa Rica with kids!

Is Costa Rica Kid-Friendly?

Costa Rica is very kid-friendly. There are a lot of great activities that can be done with kids, between the rainforest, beaches, volcanoes, fruit farms and adventure activities like swimming, zip-lining, whitewater rafting and hiking. There are countless kid-friendly tours related to these activities offered all over the country.

In addition, a big part of what makes Costa Rica so great as a family destination is that its purposely set up to be a place that tourists can move through easily. They have set their country up to be accommodating and welcoming to tourists. If you don’t speak Spanish, you can find a lot of people (especially those that work in tourism) speak great English.

Costa Rica with a Baby

Safety in Costa Rica with Kids

Here’s what you need to know about Costa Rica in terms of safety (crime and violence, as well as wildlife)

Costa Rica is a safe country, with a low crime rate. Its crime rate is a bit higher than its neighbour, Nicaragua, (however, this could be due to differences in reporting and keeping track of crime.) To be extra safe, be sure to keep valuables secured and locked away.

Costa Rica with Kids

Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination, and has recovered almost fully in its tourism levels since the pandemic. In 2022, Costa Rica received over 2.3 million tourists. Its almost a guarantee that you’ll see plenty of other families travelling in Costa Rica, with kids from babies and toddlers to older kids.

Costa Rica is also safe in terms of wildlife . Since its a tropical country, there are mosquitos, ants, bees, and spiders which can bite or sting, but the serious incident rate is pretty low, especially if you’re travelling to Costa Rica during the dry season (December through April.) However, doesn’t hurt to educate yourself in advance on the different bugs in Costa Rica.

Best Time to Go to Costa Rica with Kids

The best and most popular time to visit Costa Rica is during dry season, between December and April. The most popular months to visit are December and March, so things are a bit pricer during that time, and the main tourist highlights can get pretty crowded as well – so book your tours and hotels in advance if you’re travelling to Costa Rica during high season, to avoid missing out.

Monteverde Costa Rica

Travelling to Costa Rica during the wet season (May through November) is possible too; its a bit cheaper, and there are fewer tourists. It also might be buggier in some areas, and of course as the name suggests, there’s a higher risk of rain during that time.

Things to Do in Costa Rica with Kids

Whether you’re aiming for a beach vacation, or interested in adventure activities, Costa Rica has a wealth of activities that are suitable for all ages

1. See an active volcano

Costa Rica is home to over 200 volcanic formations; six of which are still active today. Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna is considered to be the most beautiful volcano in Central America, while Poás Volcano (pictured below) is one of the most impressive because of its size – a 1.5 km (1 mile) wide crater, and 900 feet deep.

Poas Volcano

You can visit both Arenal Volcano National Park and Poás Volcano National Park, with a guide or independently through buying an admission ticket from the park website. At Poás, you’re able to look right into the volcano crater. However, you can’t do this with Arenal as its not safe to climb.

Tours to Poás Volcano are commonly done from San José, where you can be picked up at your hotel and brought there safely with a guide – this is probably the best way to do it with kids.

This family-friendly tour from San José will show you Poás Volcano and a nearby waterfall

2. Learn where your favourite foods come from

Costa Rica is full of family-owned, sustainable farms that produce some of our favourite items like chocolate, coffee, bananas, mangos and other fruits. Visiting these farms gives your kids first-hand experience seeing where these foods come from. There are many tours that will allow you to sample some of the food too!

Farm Costa Rica
bananas in costa rica

You will probably find tours to visit farms like these regardless of where in Costa Rica you stay. There are many of them in the La Fortuna and Monteverde regions, and that is where we did our farm tours.

The most family-friendly tour we did was Don Olivio Chocolate Farm in La Fortuna; we saw coffee and chocolate plants, sampled fresh fruit off the trees, made our own coconut water, and we also saw lots of wildlife.

3. Have a beach day

Costa Rica has a mix of beaches; some have soft sand, shallow water and calm waves- making them ideal for families with young kids; and others have strong wind and waves, which make them great for surfing.

Family-friendly beaches in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a popular surfing destination, so if you want to surf, you’re in the right place! There are surf lessons offered on many of the beaches that can be taught to children from X years old and up. However, if you’re looking for beaches with calmer waters, and suitable for younger kids, then read my post on family-friendly beaches in Costa Rica.

4. Walk on hanging bridges in the rainforest

Costa Rica has a number of forests that have hanging bridges; these are suspension bridges that are often 100s of feet in the air, allowing you to have a bird’s eye view of the jungle. You can walk on these bridges either in a guided or self-guided tour. Read my post about where to find hanging bridges in Costa Rica.

hanging bridges in costa rica
hanging bridge through the rainforest in Costa Rica

Remember to bring insect repellant for adults, and mosquito-repellant stickers for young children if you’re planning to spend time in the rainforest. These are needed anywhere in Costa Rica, but especially in the jungle where there are more bugs.

5. See sloths up close at a Sloth Sanctuary

Sloths tend to hang out very high in the trees, so they can be tricky to find. Your best chance of seeing sloths in the wild is if you book a guided tour, because the guide knows where to find them and will have good equipment (ie: telescopes) for you to get a good look.

The best place to see sloths up close is at the Sloth Sanctuary Selvatura Park, which is located just outside of Monteverde. There are tours offered throughout the day. You must do a tour in order to visit the sanctuary, you cannot do self-guided. You’re given time after the tour to walk around, admiring the adorable sloths.

6. Check out kid-friendly museums in San Jose

Many people who fly into Costa Rica land at the San Jose airport, which is the capital. If you plan to spend a night or two there before or after your flight, I highly recommend you check out some of the museums. San José has some fascinating museums that are worth checking out as a family.

Museo nacional de costa rica
Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

Here are the three museums in San José that I’d recommend visiting as a family:

  • El Museo de Los Niños (Children’s Museum)- very family friendly interactive exhibits for kids, and both locals and tourists are welcome.
  • El Museo de Oro (Museum of Gold) – An underground museum located in the main square
  • El Museo Nacional de Costa Rica (National Museum) – learn about how societies developed in Costa Rica

7. Go Zip-lining

Zip-lining is a popular activity in Costa Rica, largely because of the abundance of tall rainforest trees and jungle valleys. Costa Rica is known for its canopy zip-line tours which allow you to soar over forest valleys, giving you incredible views and also an exhilarating experience.

Children as young as 4 years old are allowed to do zip-lining in Costa Rica. Its considered safe for both young children and older adults, as the equipment is well maintained and lead by professionals who know what they’re doing.

One of the most popular areas to do zip-lining in Costa Rica is in Monteverde, because of the abundance of forests that are located there. There are also places in La Fortuna where you can do it.

Book your family-friendly zip-lining tour in Monteverde for ages 4+ here

8. Visit a butterfly conservatory

Costa Rica is home to 1,500 species of butterflies, and 12,000 types of moths. Butterflies are so important for the ecosystem (in Costa Rica and elsewhere) because they pollinate flowers, as well as buds that make food for humans, such as coffee, chocolate and fruit.

Costa Rica puts forth a lot of effort into environmental conservation and biodiversity, and they have a few different butterfly sanctuaries that you can explore. Some of the ones I’d recommend are Spirogyra Butterfly Garden outside San José, The Butterfly Conservatory outside La Fortuna, and Monteverde Butterfly Gardens in Monteverde.

9. White water rafting

Costa Rica is a great place to do white water rafting because of its variety of rivers and rapids which connect to the ocean. Different rivers have different “classes” from 1-5 which ranks them on how challengin they are. Class 1-3 is a good level for children who are on the younger side, so that the rapids aren’t too strong for them.

white water rafting

Generally, white water rafting is best for older children (minimum 5 years old) and some tours won’t accept anyone younger than 8 years old.)

Book your kid-friendly whitewater rafting tour in La Fortuna for age 5+

10. Do a night jungle tour

Many jungle animals, such as frogs, reptiles and insets are nocturnal, and your chances of seeing them are much higher at night. Doing a jungle night tour was one of the coolest things we did as a family in Costa Rica. My oldest daughter loved seeing the green tree frogs, snakes and some of the many creepy-crawlies.

night jungle tour
snake in a jungle night tour

Jungle night tours can be done in quite a few of the rainforests in Costa Rica, depending on where you’re staying. There’s a fantastic tour in La Fortuna at Mistico Arenal National Park, but you will also find others in Monteverde and the Manuel Antonio region.

Be sure to take precautions if heading into the jungle at night, with appropriate bug-repellant, (mosquito-repellant stickers for younger children) long-sleeve clothing and water. The tour you book will often give you guidelines for what you need to bring or wear for that tour.

11. Soak in a hot springs

Costa Rica with its abundance of volcanoes has a lot of pools that are naturally heated with geothermal energy from the ground. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is very famous for this, but there are a number of baths like this in Costa Rica too.

hot springs

The world’s largest hot springs is located just outside of La Fortuna, called Baldi Hot Springs and Spa. Its located in the middle of the rainforest, and has 25 different thermal pools. You can stay at their resort, or buy a day pass (no need to book online – simply show up.)

Generally, children 3 years old and up can visit the hot springs in Costa Rica. In addition to Baldi, there are dozens of other hot springs in La Fortuna, and around the country, so you have your pick!

Grab your day-pass to the mineral hot springs in La Fortuna for ages 3+

12. Look over the crocodile bridge

The Crocodile Bridge is a bridge in southwestern Costa Rica where crocodiles tend to hang out under the bridge in the Tárcoles River, giving tourists a great view of them. It wasn’t intentionally tourist attraction, but sort of became one as people discovered the amount of crocodiles that flock there. The water, sadly, is very polluted so you won’t be swimming – just watching these amazing wild crocodiles.

In addition to the bridge itself, there is a crocodile-themed Costa Rican restaurant, an ice cream place and public washrooms (at cost) in a plaza right beside the bridge. So the Crocodile Bridge makes a good stop during a road trip. There is parking just across the street from the plaza.

Crocodile Bridge is about 1 hour and 20 minute drive from San Jose, and 1 hour and 40 from Manuel Antonio National Park.

Good to Know: The crocodiles are about 100 m away from the bridge where you’re standing. The above photos were taken with a DLSR. To get good photos of the crocodiles, I recommend grabbing your best camera. Otherwise, just zoom in with your phone

13. Go birdwatching at Curi Cancha Reserve

Curi Cancha Reserve is a wildlife reserve with birds, and many other species just outside of Monteverde. It also protects part of the cloud forest. You can do guided tours, self-guided tours, and even night tours here. You will see wildlife without a guide, but if you want to be guaranteed, then it might be best to go with a guide.

Costa Rica bird

Curi Cancha is open every day from 7 am– 3 pm and 5:40– 7:30 pm. You should book your visit in advance on their website.

14. Make chocolate from scratch

In San Jose, there’s a chocolate store called “La Casa de Cocoa” (House of Chocolate.) You can visit the store to buy chocolate store, or you can register for workshops to make your own chocolate from scratch sourced with local ingredients.

The cocoa used to make the chocolate comes from sustainable Costa Rican chocolate from nearby farms. So not only are you supporting a small business, but sustainable farming as well. Not to mention, bringing home chocolate that you made yourself!

The chocolate making workshop is $30 per adults and $20 for kids. Visit their website to book a chocolate-making workshop or to arrange a visit.

Driving in Costa Rica

How to Get Around Costa Rica with Kids

There are two main ways that people tend to get around Costa Rica, especially if they have kids in tow.

1. Stay in one place, and do tours

Many tourists in Costa Rica opt to stay in one central place and take private tours and shuttles to the different places they want to visit. The other option (what we did, was we drove around the country. San Jose – Fortuna – Monteverde – Manuel Antonio and then back to San Jose.)

2. Rent a car

Many tourists get around Costa Rica by renting a car. Driving in Costa Rica is generally safe, and a very popular way for tourists (including families) to get around. Keep in mind that there are some areas that have uneven, dirt roads with potholes. This is especially true if you’re heading to the Monteverde region.

Children in Costa Rica are required to be in a safety seat until the age of 12. There are height and weight requirements that factor into this too.

Age of childWeight and Height of ChildType of car seat needed
Infants up to one year oldup to 28.5 pounds/13 kg or 29.5 inches/75 cmRear facing car seat
Babies and children ages 1-4 years old20-40 pounds/9-18 kg or up to 43 inches/110 cmFront facing carseat
Children ages 4-633-55 pounds/15-25 kg or up to 57 inches/145 cmBooster seat with a back
Children ages 6-12 48.5-79 pounds/22-36 kg or up to 57 inches/145 cmBooster seat without a back

What You Need To Know about Costa Rican Food

Between picky eaters and allergies, you may want to have some idea what kinds of foods your kids will be able to eat in Costa Rica. Overall, you will find typical Costa Rican options, but since its a touristy country, there are a lot of options that cater to American tourists as well.

Costa Rican Restaurants

In Costa Rica, you’ll find a mix of “sodas” (traditional Costa Rican restaurants, often frequented by locals) and restaurants that cater to tourists, and offer several North American-style favourites. Traditional Costa Rican restaurants don’t usually have specific kids menus.

Soda Costa Rican restaurant
Our favourite “soda” restaurant in La Fortuna

If you’re travelling with younger kids, be aware that there are usually high chairs in Costa Rican restaurants, but sometimes the safety features may not be what you’re used to. My baby daughter sat in a few that probably wouldn’t be allowed at home. Another option is to bring a portable high chair.

Both types of restaurants (Costa Rican and Western style) will serve some Costa Rican traditional beers which the adults may be interested in trying.

Typical Costa Rican Food

Traditional Costa Rican food consists of rice and beans, often with egg, meat, tortilla and/or veggies on the side. Its not spicy, so generally its not difficult for Western children to be able to eat it.

Gallo Pinto

Here are some of the typical dishes you’ll find on a Costa Rican menu:

  • Gallo Pinto (Costa Rica’s National dish, normally a breakfast food) consists of fried rice with egg and fruit on the side
  • Casada (meaning “married”, usually a lunch or dinner dish) rice, with salad, choice of protein, and fried plaintans on the side

In high-end resorts and tourist-style restaurants, you’ll find tons of Western favourites that you’re used to – hamburgers, fries, pizza, and things like that. We did a mix of both in Costa Rica – eating in traditional “sodas” as well as some tourist-centred restaurants.

Costa Rica has a wealth of freshly grown tropical fruit which we normally only eat after its ripened on the trucks at home. Be sure to take advantage of fresh bananas, avocados, mangos and papaya. You can enjoy these in restaurants, or even buy them from supermarkets.

What to Bring to Costa Rica with Kids

  • Swimwear, for the beach, pool and/or hot springs
  • Mosquito repellant. For young kids or adults, consider buying these stickers so you don’t have to worry about spraying chemicals on the body or the scent of it afterwards
  • Decent hiking shoes that are waterproof if you’re planning on doing any rainforest hikes. The jungle terrain can be uneven, and sometimes wet
  • Light rain jacket or poncho. You want it to be VERY lightweight like this one, because it can still be very hot and humid in Costa Rica, even when it rains
  • At least one long sleeve clothing, especially if you’re heading to Monteverde as it can get chilly there at night
  • A mineral sunscreen (mineral because its coral reef friendly.)
  • A reusable water bottle
  • A sun hat
Costa Rica rain forest

Best Areas to Go in Costa Rica with Kids

Overall, most tourists in Costa Rica stick to the areas along the Pacific coast, and the Central Valley (which includes San Jose, La Fortuna and Monteverde.) The Caribbean side of Costa Rica isn’t as popular for tourists, and some parts of it aren’t very safe.

The best place in Costa Rica for a family vacation depends on what kinds of activities you’re interested in doing. In a nutshell, here are the main tourist areas, and what they’re known for:

Costa Rican RegionWhat its Known for
Guanacaste regionBeaches and all-inclusive resorts (there are resorts all over Costa Rica, but especially in this area.)
La Fortunabeautiful views of the Arenal volcano, Mistico National Park rainforest, hot springs
Monteverdea mountain village sitting at 4,600 ft above sea level, incredible views, location of one the most famous cloud forest in the world – Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Manuel Antonio regionA mix of rainforest and beaches. Location of one of the most famous rainforests, Manuel Antonio National Park
San Jose The largest city in Costa Rica with museums and some things to do with kids, close to Braulio Carillo National Park, a butterfly garden, and the Poaz Volcano

The things you do in Costa Rica with kids depend largely on what area of the country you’re visiting and what you’re interests are. Let’s go over what you need to know about each of these four main tourist areas, and things to do in those areas with kids.

Places to Stay in Costa Rica with Kids

There’s a huge variety of places to stay in Costa Rica as a family, including high-class resorts, eco-lodges, AirBnbs, and budget-friendly hotels. We’ve done a mix of all of these things during our trips to Costa Rica – all of them can be done safely as a family with children. Check out my post on best family-friendly hotels in Costa Rica .

San Jose, Costa Rica

Costa Rica with Kids: FAQs

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about travelling to Costa Rica on a family vacation, and things to do with kids in Costa Rica

Is Costa Rica cheap or expensive?

Costa Rica can be both, cheap and expensive. Costa Rica is the most expensive Central American country to visit, but its still cheaper than Canada and the United States. If you’re looking for Costa Rica family vacations on a budget, then you could consider going during low-season, and stay in eco-lodges as opposed to resorts. You can save some money by following some good family budget travel tips.

Is Costa Rica a good vacation for families?

Costa Rica is a great vacation for families. It offers a mix of natural beauty, adventure and culture into one trip, and and also a number of fun family-friendly activities such as zip-lining, swimming at the beach, or hikes in the rainforest.

Is Costa Rica a good place to take kids?

Costa Rica is a great place to bring kids of all ages. Depending on how you plan your trip, Costa Rica can be the perfect mix of fun and educational for kids. Costa Rica allows children to explore things that they’ve never seen before but heard about (volcanoes, tropical animals and birds) and learn about some of the origins of their food such as their favourite fruits or chocolate. Furthermore, Costa Rica has a good commitment to sustainability and protecting the planet; visiting there could inspire kids to want to care for the planet the way Costa Rica does.

Costa Rica with Kids: Conclusion

By now , you hopefully have an idea of what kinds of things you want to do in Costa Rica on a family vacation, and where in the country you plan to visit and how to get there.

The main exciting things to do in Costa Rica with kids are: beaches, farm tours, hikes in the rainforest (guided or self guided), bird and wildlife watching, hot springs, whitewater rafting, zip-lining and gondolas, visiting volcanos, and exploring some of the towns and villages. Its the perfect place for a family adventure.

It is truly my opinion that Costa Rica is one of the best places you can travel to with your kids when they’re young. Its a diverse country, with so many opportunities for your kids to see and experience amazing things first hand: often things that they’ve only previously heard about in movies or books – volcanoes, rainforests, sloths, monkeys and tropical fruits on trees.

Buen Viaje!