Costa Rica with Kids

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Traveling to Costa Rica with a 9 year old

Jan 2016

I am planning a trip to Costa Rica with my husband and 9 year old son. We plan to go for 2 weeks. Can anyone recommend places to go and stay? We would like to spend some time in the jungle and some on the beaches. Is it worth going to the volcano? We do not speak Spanish. kg

The volcanoes in Costa Rica are most definitely worth visiting! Any one of them will be the highlight of your trip. My favorite volcano is Rincón de la Vieja in Guanacaste. It's not too far from the Liberia airport. You can stay at the Hacienda Guachepelin, which is as close as you can get to the volcano. The hacienda is rustic, but they have every kind of adventure tour you could possibly want right there (zip line, rappelling, tubing, horseback riding, hiking, etc), not to mention hot springs. My son was about 10 when we went and he loved it. I found the tours to be higher quality and the guides to be much friendlier than at other tourist spots we visited.

Volcan Arenal is stunning too. It's closer to San Jose and there are hot springs -ranging from basic to luxurious- everywhere you look. Plus it's near a lake that has all the regular lake activities.

Volcan poas and volcan irazu are day trips from San Jose, although I have combined irazu with the valle de orosi and cartago, which I really enjoyed. Volcan Miravalles is more remote, but it turns the water of the Rio Celeste a stunning blue, which is spectacular. Costa Rica is an amazing place, and 100% kid friendly. No matter what you choose to do, you will have a great time. Pura vida

Costa Rica in April with two children 6 & 9

Oct 2012

Hello. My family is thinking about taking a trip to Costa Rica in April 2013. We have two children ages 6 and 9. Do you have any must sees, favorite activities/hotels/destinations to share? We have never visited Costa Rica but it looks like a lovely place for a family adventure! Thank you. trip planning mom

If you are able to go on a 'family adventure' with other families (usually about 4 or so families) I have two fabulous companies we have enjoyed: Austin Lehman and Thomson Safaris (which has a family adventures division that goes to Costa Rica. We are travelling with them to the Galapagos and went with them on safari). I took a group of high school students to Costa Rica to study sea turtles and we had a blast. Very family friendly country and we always felt safe. cocosar

My family, including two girls 3 and 5, spent the majority of this year in Costa RIca, on the Pacific Coast. We had a blast, and I am pretty sure you will too. A few must visits - Volcan Arenal, don't miss the Tabacon Hot Springs resort at least for a soak. Another option, more economical and with the best views of the volcano - Arenal Observatory Lodge. Monteverde - seeing the rainforest is a must. Manuel Antonio National Park - a great place to see the beach and many animals. We stayed mostly in Tamarindo - a coastal town on the Pacific Coast with an extensive beach, and lively atmosphere. Touristy, yes, but also a lot of fun. If you end up there, do let me know and I can provide references for tours, or even a trusted sitter so the adults can go out at night.

But really, wherever you end up, you will love Costa Rica. It's a really easy country to travel around. Everyone in the tourist industry speaks english, and everything is very well organized and safe. milena

Costa Rica with 6 and 8 year olds

March 2011

We are planning to travel to Costa Rica in early May for 9 days as a family (son is 8, daughter is 6) and would like some advice on family friendly areas to visit, tours, hotels, activities, places to avoid, etc. Any advice is appreciated! Thanks!

We have traveled twice to Costa Rica; once as a couple and on a budget, the second time with our then 4 year old son. Everyone has different goals and budget for traveling, but here are the tips we have. Costa Rica is a fabulous place to bring children-easy, and filled with exotic plants and animals. Don't stay in San Jose. It is a big city that is difficult to navigate, and it doesn't have many sights. Our first trip w/o child, we enjoyed Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast. It's a national park with beautiful small beaches and capuchin monkeys in the trees. We did an overnight hike into the rain forest at Hacienda Baru, and our son still talks about it (four years later). My husband and I really enjoyed the vibe and food of Puerto Viejo south of Cahuita on the Caribbean coast. Travel by car is easy - the speed limit is extremely slow (like a grandmother), and you can cross the country in eight hours, so everything is fairly accessible. These are some inexpensive and low key options, but there are loads of resorts and guided tours available. Have a great trip.

Costa Rica Driver and Guide

Feb 2011

I am planning a first trip to Costa Rica with a friend. Does anyone have a driver/guide and/or a tour company to recommend. Thanks, Patty

My parents and cousins were in Costa Rica last summer and had a wonderful guide and driver through ACTUAR, Marvin Espinoza. He spoke English, but was also willing to let them practice Spanish. The itinerary was planned around their interests. They also have more 'packaged' options.

As a bonus the company works with many local people, so your tourist $$ support local people rather than large companies, and they were able to see glimpses of Costa Rican life they never would have found on their own. The businesses they work with strive to use environmentally-responsible practices and are involved in conservation efforts as well. In addition to having a wonderful vacation, my family felt their tourist $$ were spent in ways that would benefit the place they were visiting.

Eva Arauz is the sales coordinator, and can be reached at eva [at] They had better luck reaching people by email rather than phone. JB

Costa rica for spring break?

Jan 2011

we are 2 parents and 2 kids (3 & 8 yrs old) looking to travel to costa rica for spring break (end of april) and need some suggestions. we have 7-10 days and about a $5000 budget. we want to be able to sightsee as well as lounge and are open to traveling to different locations. is costa rica realistic given our time frame and ages of kids? it seems that because the country is small, one could see rainforests, beaches and volcanos without feeling rushed. is this true? any ideas for things to see, places to stay, cities to visit? does it make sense to use a travel agent or just shop online for flights, lodging, etc? i'd be particularly interested in hearing from parents who have traveled to costa rica with younger children in a short time period. this is our first *big* vacation with kids and i'm feeling a bit overwhelmed! needhelp

We just returned from Costa Rica with our four kids, (8-12)It was was terrific. We went with Backroads, (a Berkeley tour company) and they were wonderful. Our favorite place was a jungle lodge called Rafiki-- tent cabins, birds, a superfast waterslide, great chow, river rafting. The owner is extremely knowledgeable about the region, and took us on an amazing jungle hike, showing the kids ferns that can give you a tattoo, explaining about the local economy, pointing out vanilla beans, toucans and which plants you can eat. Backroads was fantastic! We got to focus on the animals, beach, and bond with our kids and other families, rather than stressing about passports, plane tickets and which national park to explore. Pura vida! Suzanne

I think Costa Rica would be a great first international trip with kids. I will caution that my husband and I went there before our daughter was born, so we haven't been there with kids yet, but I definitely thought at the time that it would be a great trip for kids. While we also went to other, less-developed parts of the country, I would really recommend going to the Arenal and Monteverde areas. We stayed at the Arenal Observatory Lodge (, and we saw a lot of families with pretty young kids. It has a dining hall, which makes feeding the kids easy, and it offers or will arrange all sorts of activities for you (guided nature walks, hiking, hot springs, horseback riding). Monteverde is not far away and it is a great place to see the rainforest and see wildlife, and I am sure kids would enjoy the outdoor zoo atmosphere. We also found it very affordable--we rented a place in Monteverde that slept four for $40 a night. It was not the fanciest, but if you can pay even a bit more than that you can stay in some very comfortable places. As Arenal and Monteverde are so close together, we were able to see a lot 4-5 days. As I said, these are pretty well-traveled, touristed areas, which has its advantages and disadvantages but which I think generally makes it easier with kids. Good luck! have a great trip

Beach for kids in Costa Rica - Traveling out of Liberia

June 2010

We will be traveling to Costa Rica in August. We are looking for a beach place to stay with kids. We fly out of Liberia so ideally the place would be near Liberia. Looking for an eco-friendly spot. Thanks!

We love Costa Rica and took our 15 month old for the first time in December. We usually stay at Las Olas in Playa Avellanas. It's a beautiful no fuss type of place with friendly staff and lots of monkeys in the trees. Avellanas is about 20 min. (depending on roads) south of Tamarindo. We found on this trip that it was a little rough with a toddler to be without a/c even though it wasn't particularly hot for Costa Rica while we were there. We ended up moving to Mauna Loa across the road and with the a/c and two pools, one adult, one baby, onsite Italian restaurant it was low key (nothing fancy) but it made for a comfortable, affordable, and peaceful stay. We could walk to the beach. You can spend the day lounging in front of the surf at Lola's or go to Hacienda Pinilla's beach club, it's open to the public, and they have a nice pool, two restaurants and beach access so it's a relaxing spot. There are larger fancier places around but I wouldn't call them eco-friendly. Don't miss the Peruvian restaurant and the french bakery in Playa Negra just down the road. Have a great time! ali

A week in Costa Rica with my daughter

Jan 2008

My daughter and I will be travelling to costa Rica in April. We only have one week and I am not used to travelling like a tourist. We have done more rugged travel and hope to find some special places that are not so touristy nor so far out that we spend tons of time on the road. I'm hoping to find some very economical places to stay too. We fly into San Jose late at night and will need a place that eve. From there I hope to travel out to jungle and coast. Any suggestions or personal experiences would be great to hear. Thanks

I love Costa Rica! It was one of my favorite trips. The guidebook Key to Costa Rica is great, you should invest in that and do some reading on the activities that interest you most. We also arrived rather late and made arrangements in advance to stay in Alajuela, just outside of San Jose, near the airport. The hotel, which I can recommend highly, was La Rosa de America (they have a website, like many many places in CR: It's run by a couple of Californians, but they have lived in the area for a long time and can help you with plenty of arrangements. The cab to their place is quick and cheap.

Our son was younger (five) when we went, so we didn't go in for anything very rigorous. We did love the ''canopy tour'' of the rain forest -- they put up a zip line way up in the trees, put you in a harness, and you get to fly from tree to tree! This was near Arenal, which is touristy, but it's also so rural that it's not offensively touristy. The naturally heated hot baths in that area are also fantastic. We went on a river raft tour to see sloths, monkeys, beautiful little poisonous frogs, and caimans (crocodile-like creatures). We had the whole river to ourselves with the guide. And we went down south by plane to stay on Drake Bay and see the dolphins. Costa Rica is small, and you can see a great deal in a short time; we flew down to Drake Bay because there aren't really any good roads in that area.

Have fun! la vida pura

Hi, My husband and I and our 6 1/2 year old daughter, went to Costa Rica for the first time in August. We booked it thru a travel agent (which we don't normally do) but since it was a spur of the moment trip between last day of camp and first day back to school we didn't have lots of time to research. We used Costa Rica Connection -Tel (805) 543-8823 and the agent was Jose Brenes (very knowledgeable.)

Since it was our first trip, we hit several of the countries highlights, and we did more touristy things than we would normally do. Since it was our first big adventure like this with our daughter, we wanted to be extra cautious and make it an easy trip. We landed in San Jose and the next day and we went to Aranel Volcano area, hung out in some nice hot springs, next stop was Monte Verde/St Helena cloud forest (touristy but glad I went)and then went out to the coast and went to Manuel Antonio (very touristy- but this is where we got to hang out with monkeys). We stayed in nice cabinas, didn't pay more than $125 a night but that was in the ''green'' season so rates were slightly lower. At the coast we stayed at Costa Verde and had a room with an amazing view. We had private drivers included in our package so we didn't have the stress of driving around not knowing where we were going. Our package was suppose to include semi-private transportation but we never shared a ride!

We want to go back and do less touristy areas the next time which are more remote and probably you have to spend time to fly into them. Hope this helps. laura

We've been to Costa Rica twice, once without kids and once with a two year old. Where I enjoyed most that's off the beaten track was Cahuita and the carribean coast. You do need to take malaria prevention in much of that area, but I think the risk is still pretty low. Cahuita is a very mellow town that borders on a national park -- you can sit on the beach and see monkeys in the trees behind you. With kid we went to Nosara, on the Nicoya peninsula, which was definitely off the beaten track but not very kid friendly (or even friendly period). Kate

Visiting Oso Peninsula & Drake's Bay with 8 year old

June 2006

I'm traveling to Costa Rica in August with my 8 1/2 year old daughter. We want to visit the Corcovado National Park and the Caro Wildlife Refuge in the Oso Peninsula Drakes Bay . There are many different lodges and packages on the net. Has anyone visited this region and have recommendations of where to stay, and reasonable length of time to visit the area. I would like to stay at one of the cheaper lodges if possible madelene

We traveled to Costa Rica a few years ago and loved it. The side-trip down to Drake's Bay was definitely one of the high points, as it is wild and beautiful there. We stayed at Delfin Amor, and I have both good and bad things to say about that resort. We chose it because we wanted to go out on the bay to look at the dolphins and whales. Delfin Amor has lovely but simple cabins in the jungle just a bit up from the beach. There is a generator on-site for electricity, but of course power is limited, there are no phones, etc. We didn't find that a problem. They have good cooks and the guests eat in a wonderful lodge with plenty of room for lounging on the deck, a fridge stocked with cold drinks to be bought on the honor system, etc. A fantastic place to hike, relax, and hang out at the beach, though there are also activities (dolphin watching, cruises to a nearby island for birdwatching, etc) at an extra cost.

Some of our problems were related to the weather. We went in June, which is the rainy season. We were nearly stuck at the resort when it poured the entire night before we were supposed to leave and washed out the tiny airfield. We had to be rushed out of bed, into a boat, and taken up the Rio Sierpe to an alternative airfield a couple of hours away. Fortunately the people at the lodge were very on top of things, but I can imagine easily a situation where we could have been held up for several days or more. It is winter in June, and this means that the seas are rougher and higher. Everyone who didn't take Dramamine (including my husband) and some people who did were miserable on the dolphin cruise. Lots of vomiting kind of put a pall on the fun. But the really bad part was that we had a near disaster trying to return to shore. A storm came up and the waves were really high. A small boat was supposed to ferry us from the dolphin cruise boat to shore, and it could take only a few people at a time. My husband, small son, and I were first, and the waves swamped the boat before we could get to shore. We had to claw our way up on the beach, getting slammed into the ground, and I had a couple of moments where I thought that we wouldn't be able to fight the waves and get there. Our boatman was preoccupied with trying to save the motor of the boat. The remaining guests had to be kayaked to shore and that was pretty hair-raising, too.

The real problem with the above episode (aside from the danger and terror) was the attitude of the resort's proprietor, Sierra, who is an ex-pat Californian in love with dolphins. She was somewhat reclusive during our stay, and when she guided us on the dolphin tour she was knowledgeable but seemed unconcerned about the (dis)comfort of her guests. She kept wanting to search for dolphins and whales quite a while after everyone else wanted to return to shore -- and the storm was coming up. I ended up taking a vote among the passengers and it was unanimous that we wanted to go in; she somewhat grudgingly gave in.

Finally, when we were slammed into the beach and my son was both terrified and hurt by the rocks on the shore (his feet were bleeding), she didn't bother to ask us how he was or say anything to any of us about the incident, which affected all of the guests on the tour. Her staff rushed to bring my screaming son bandages and hot cocoa, but I was unimpressed by her behavior.

It is a fantastic place and just as gorgeous as the website promises, but I had to put in those caveats about our particular experience. Linda

Vaccinations for Costa Rica trip

April 2006

We are traveling to Costa Rica with our 2 girls in May. Kaiser recommends that the 4 year old have a typhoid vaccine and that both kids take 7 weeks of an anti-malarial (methloquine, I think). Right now I am thinking they will take the antimalarials but am iffy on the typhoid. Has anybody taken kids to Costa Rica recently? Any advice? Also, I am looking for an effective, but not-too-toxic insect repellant. Thanks, Jill

Check out the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website to see what they reccommend.

I travelled all over Africa and did not take malarial medication. I have heard HORROR stories, the kind of thing to ruin your trip. So, think twice. I was very careful to apply strong insect repellant constantly, and to keep my tent zipped up. A woman that I travelled with that took the malaria pills got malaria.. probably when she was drunk one night and didn't take precautions. So, in short, the pills are not 100% effective and you still have to use repellant! don't do it...