Costa Rica is easily the best country in Latin America to travel with kids. It’s an adventure playground for families, with beautiful beaches, tropical jungles and wildlife galore.
It’s a spectacular destination, and it’s a place that will not only entertain the kids (and the rest of the family!) but educate them too. There’s so much to see and to do in Costa Rica all through the year, and it’s easier now than ever before to travel here and to travel around the country as a family.
Most importantly, it’s totally safe to travel to Costa Rica with kids. This is the most developed country in the region, a country so safe that the Costa Ricans don’t even feel the need to have an army!
To inspire your next holiday, here’s everything you need to know about travelling to Costa Rica with kids.
Costa Ricans live their lives with the simple saying, pura vida. Literally, that means pure life, and for Costa Ricans, it’s a mantra and a way of living that gives the country its laidback and chilled-out lifestyle. Things are easier in Costa Rica and the pura vida way of life crosses over into every aspect of life in Costa Rica, including travel.
Costa Rica is one of the easiest countries in Central America to travel to. Even with your kids in tow, it’s not difficult at all to have a fantastic family holiday. You don’t even need to stay in one place, but will easily be able to take the kids to a few great spots across the country, be it the rainforest, the Caribbean or Pacific coastlines, or even a steaming volcano.
Costa Rica has the best infrastructure in the region, it has the highest standards of living in the region and, of course, it’s one of the most beautiful destinations in the region too. If there’s anything you might be worried about, then the Costa Ricans have probably already got it covered. There’s great healthcare, great transport, and great international flight connections.
Most nationalities, especially UK, EU and US citizens, don’t need visas to travel to Costa Rica, and the international airport at San Jose has direct flights to North America and plenty more onward connections to the UK and Europe. That means that from most places, you can be in Costa Rica with just one change of plane. By Latin American standards, that’s pretty good.
As the safest destination in Central America by a long way, travelling to Costa Rica shouldn’t leave you with much to worry about, aside from the fact that your kids might not want to ever leave.
The Best Time to Travel to Costa Rica with Children
The best time to travel to Costa Rica will always be the dry season, because this is when the weather is at its best. You’ll soon realise that Costa Rica can be a peculiar country, not in a bad way, it’s just things happen a little differently here. This counts for the seasons too. While Costa Rica is located in the northern hemisphere, they consider their summer season to run from November through to April (the same time you see summer in the southern hemisphere!). The summer is also the dry season, so for families looking for the best weather, November to April is the best time to visit.
But summer will be busy and it’s also a much more expensive time to visit Costa Rica than the winter rainy season. Christmas and Easter in particular are renowned for being super busy and super expensive.
From May through to October, you can expect rain, although typically of a tropical country the rains can be unpredictable and short-lived at the best of times. Rainfall varies across the country though, and if you’re looking to save money and avoid the crowds, this is a great time to visit.
Just remember that inland roads and many of the national parks can become waterlogged and difficult to visit during the wet season. The Caribbean coast, on the contrary, sees little rainfall in comparison to anywhere else in Costa Rica and makes for the perfect off-season getaway.
How to Get Around Costa Rica with Kids
Costa Rica is a relatively easy country to travel around. The capital, San Jose, where most international flights arrive, is well connected to the rest of the country through the local bus network. Public transport is cost-efficient and comfortable – and usually on time.
Taking the whole family on the bus might take some forward planning though, and in the busier seasons you will need to book in advance. If you’re comfortable driving in foreign countries, then hiring a car for your stay might be the best idea. You can easily road trip across Costa Rica, and you’ll have a lot more opportunities to uncover hidden gems than if you take the bus.
Of course, if you don’t want to drive but don’t fancy taking public transport, then a guided tour is always a great option to consider.
Independent or Guided Tour best When Travelling with Kids in Costa Rica?
Choosing between an independent or guided tour when you’re travelling with kids can be a tough decision, because each option has its perks and downfalls.
Costa Rica isn’t a difficult place to travel around independently. It’s safe and there’s plenty of public transport and travel information. If you’re just looking for a beach holiday or perhaps to visit just two or three destinations during your stay, then it’s easy to get around the country by yourself.
You’ll save money and you can travel at your own pace, but you’ll sacrifice the opportunity to make your holiday with the kids even easier and you’ll miss out on having a guide. Costa Rica has such a wealth of diversity, history and culture that you need a little bit of local insight to really get under the surface of things. It might cost a little extra, but you’ll come away with a great experience that will leave a lasting impression on the kids.
For that reason alone, it can be worth investing in a guided Costa Rica family tour package, even more so if you’re looking to explore lesser-known parts of the country and to visit multiple attractions in a short space of time. A guided tour will not only take away any logistical challenges leaving you free to simply spend time with your children, but it can open a whole new world of opportunities for you in Costa Rica so you can really begin to understand the meaning of pura vida.
Even if you’re looking to travel independently between different destinations, such as taking the bus from San Jose to Tamarindo or road tripping along the Caribbean coast from Tortuguero to Limon, it’s well worth investing in day tours when you arrive at a new destination to learn more from local guides.
The Best Places to Stay in Costa Rica with Kids
Papagayo is one of Costa Rica’s most popular resort areas, found along the coast of Guanacaste Province.
While it’s a pricier destination than others, it’s also great for families because there are so many resorts here. You can enjoy great beaches and scenery and all the comforts you would want on a family holiday.
Tamarindo is also found on the Pacific Coast of Guanacaste, and it’s a great place for families.
Known for its beaches, it’s a beautiful, eco-friendly destination. You can surf, snorkel and explore the national parks, while there is a whole range of hotels for any budget.
Monteverde is an ethereal place, known for its biodiversity and scenic surroundings.
This is where you’ll find the world-famous Monteverde Cloud Forest, where you can walk on suspended walkways that hang from the rainforest as you’re engulfed in clouds.
Manuel Antonio National Park
One of the most popular national parks in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park is well suited for kids and families.
Explore the rainforest and get close to all kinds of local wildlife, from sloths and monkeys to big cats.
Arenal Volcano is the most iconic volcano in Costa Rica, and there are lots of great family-friendly eco-resorts where you can stay in the shadow of this mighty natural attraction.
Where to Eat in Costa Rica with Kids
Costa Rica has some great restaurants and some great local food. Even if your kids are picky eaters, there’s guaranteed to be a tasty dish that they’ll love.
Costa Rica is known for its fruit, and a local tradition is to enjoy a smoothie. It’s refreshing and healthy, and you can pick them up almost anywhere.
If you’re staying in hotels or homestays, then you’ll likely be served a big breakfast of gallo pinto to set everyone up for the day. This is Costa Rica’s national dish, consisting simply of rice and beans mixed with colourful vegetables and seasonings. It’s healthy and filling.
Casado is another local favourite, featuring meat, usually grilled, served with more rice and probably a few beans too. If your kids have a sweet tooth then they can chow down on arroz con leche, a sweet rice pudding, or flan for dessert.
Of course, in touristy areas such as Papagayo or Tamarindo, there are plenty of international restaurants, if you’re starting to crave other foods.
Things to Do in Costa Rica with Kids
Tortuguero is the place to go for turtles, because this is the home of a huge resident sea turtle population.
Alongside spectacular white-sand beaches and colourful coral reefs, kids can learn all about these majestic creatures. In the right season, you can even see the turtles nesting on the beaches.
With such rich marine life off the coast of Costa Rica, snorkelling is a must-do activity.
You can find marine reserves on both coasts, and there’s plenty of colourful and unique coral and marine life waiting to be discovered.
With two long coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it’s no surprise that Costa Rica is a great place for whale watching.
The largest and most common whale is the mighty humpback, which can be seen for up to eight months of the year.
Costa Rica has made a name for itself as a zip line pioneer, because it’s one of the quickest and most exciting ways to get through the rainforest.
If your kids are adventurous, then you can’t beat a zip line for thrills or views. It’s a guaranteed winner of an activity.
What to Pack for a Children's Holiday in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a tropical country and it’s hot all year round, even in their so-called winter. That means you’ll want to pack plenty of shorts and t-shirts – and don’t forget the swimwear.
In higher altitude areas, such as the volcanoes, make sure you bring a jumper for the evenings and always have a raincoat or an umbrella handy in case there’s an unexpected downpour.
Sunscreen and sun hats are a must. You might also want to consider bringing a basic first aid kit for any minor illness or cuts and bumps, as there are a lot of adventurous activities to try out in Costa Rica.
Safety in Costa Rica when Travelling with Children
Costa Rica is an incredibly safe country to visit, and it’s often seen as not only the safest country in Latin America, but the most peaceful too.
Of course, as with any Central American country, some parts of the capital are best avoided, but only certain suburbs. In touristy areas, you shouldn’t have any problems.
With such a wealth of nature, there are natural hazards to look out for. Be careful of currents and tides in the ocean, and if you’re exploring the national parks always be respectful of the wildlife.
Practical Tips for Travelling with Children in Costa Rica
Learn the language or at least learn a few Spanish phrases to get by. Outside of the touristy areas, English can be hard to find.
Take out family travel insurance for peace of mind; you never know when an accident might happen.
Book your hotels and flights in advance, especially if you’re travelling in peak season.
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