Looking for some amazing activities to do with your kids in Costa Rica? Look no further. We’ve found some of the best family-friendly activities, along with tips, age recommendations, and more to help you figure out which activities your kids will love!
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Ziplining is often one of the first activities people think of when planning a trip to Costa Rica. And we have to agree-we definitely recommend ziplining for families with kids! It’s a pretty unique and spectacular activity to do with your kids in Costa Rica. Soaring through the air over the jungle, taking in the sights and the smells is the perfect mix of thrilling and peaceful.
Ziplining is best reserved for kids around 6 years old, or older and is not suitable for pregnant women. Different zipline companies will have different requirements. Some will allow children as young as 4, and some have weight requirements (60lbs) or only allow children over 10+. But, the most common age limit is 6 years old. Even if your child is old enough to go, you’ll want to consider how fearful your child is, and if they are able to follow instructions carefully in order to stay safe. Some kids will just be too terrified to enjoy ziplining, while others will love it!
What is it like?
Ziplining tours are typically a series of ziplines- perhaps 10-15 total lines. After getting suited up in a helmet, harness, and gloves, you’ll climb the first platform, where you’ll be connected to the first zipline and … off you go. You’ll land on a second platform, and continue on. Sometimes you’ll walk on a trail between ziplines, sometimes not. Typically everyone, including kids, will zipline alone. But sometimes, younger children will be tandem with a parent or tour operator.
Where to go
There are ziplining tour companies all across Costa Rica including Monteverde, La Fortuna, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, and Guanacaste. For families with kids, Selvatura Adventure Park in Monteverde, EcoGlide Arenal Park in La Fortuna or Ocean Ranch Park in Jaco are great! However, make sure you check the age limits and any other rules before booking.
2. Guided Walking Tours
Costa Ricans really value the environment and the wildlife that lives there. In fact, 28 percent of Costa Rica’s land is protected. And because of that, there is a lot of beautiful, wildlife-filled jungle to be seen in Costa Rica.
But the animals in the jungle are pretty darn good at not being seen. That’s where having a guide comes in.
Costa Rican nature guides are excellent at spotting superbly camouflaged creatures. Plus, they work together with other guides to make sure they know about each special creature that is out that day. Our guides have pointed out creatures expertly hiding in plain sight (that I never would have seen in a million years without his help)- tiny tree frogs, beautiful birds, lizards, and so much more. Plus, with intel from other guides, they knew to steer us in the direction of a sloth or a monkey in a different area of the park. They also bring a spotting scope so that everyone can get a closer look at whatever creature they’ve spotted as well. Guides are so incredibly valuable for spotting wildlife and keeping things exciting for the kiddos.
A guided nature walk is great for all ages. However, children under 3 years old might struggle with the spotting scope, and with spotting some of the more hidden creatures in general. And not seeing every animal may lead to boredom.
Also remember that the trails are likely not stroller friendly, and so bring a baby carrier for babies and toddlers who may not be able to walk for 2-3 hours. Our experience is that guides treat children like royalty.
What is it like?
Guided walks can be as short as 2 hours, or as long as 8-12+ hours. But we recommend choosing tours closer to 2 hours for families with younger kids. You’ll meet up with your guide at a specified location, then head out. The guide will stop frequently to point out animals, special plants, etc. and will often set up a spotting scope so that everyone can get a good view. Expect to walk most of the duration of the tour, but the pace is typically pretty slow with lots of stops. The guide will adjust based on interests of the group, what they see along the trail, and what they are hearing from other tour guides out there.
Where to go
Nature guides can be hired at nearly every national park across Costa Rica. Some areas, like Corcovado National Park, or activities, like watching nesting sea turtles at night in Tortuguero National Park, require a guide. But even when guides are not required, they are highly recommended.
In the Monteverde Cloud Rainforest, CREAR Tours offers family friendly day walks. Monteverde is a great place to see some pretty amazing birds, and if you are lucky, you may even see the rare, famous, and very beautiful Quetzel.
We love that Carara National Park is a little quieter than some of the other parks, and is known for having lots of Scarlet Macaws! This amazing guide is sure to help you find something amazing during your visit.
Manuel Antonio is a busy park, and having a great guide can make everything so much easier! We love Jason and his team for making this nature walk so fun and easy, even with kids!
3. Night Walk
Night walks are similar to daytime guided walks, except, of course, that they are at night. They are special because you get the opportunity to see nocturnal creatures, sleeping birds, and anything that is just easier to spot at night.
What is it like
Night walks in the jungle are a pretty neat experience. The jungle looks completely different at night, and can feel a little bit eerie at times. but the guides are great and have always made us feel safe.
Night walks are similar to day walks but typically a bit shorter- usually never longer than 2 hours. Night guides are experts at spotting animals, even in the darkness, and helping everyone in the tour see them as well! Guides bring very strong flashlights so you can see up in the trees.
There is plenty of walking, but typically at a slower pace with lots of stops. Depending on time of year, or tour location, dress for cooler temperatures as temps will definitely drop at night.
Where to go
We love the night tour in Tortuguero National Park by Tortuguero Eco Experiences where you’ll see animals that hide during the day- snakes, lizards, frogs, spiders, and, during turtle season, nesting turtles!
In the Monteverde Cloud Rainforest, we previously recommended CREAR Tours for its day walks, but they also offer great night walks!
4. Hanging Bridges
Walking hanging bridges is another quintessential Costa Rican activity we love for families. Viewing the jungle from above is a really neat experience and an opportunity to see things you wouldn’t see from the ground.
Hanging bridges is great for all ages. There are a few caveats, however.
First, the hanging bridges are sturdy and well made. However, they do move a bit when you walk on them, and many are pretty high in the air. Children, or really anyone, who is particularly fearful of heights may not enjoy the experience. I am pretty fearful but I have been able to convince myself we are safe on the bridges and enjoy the views, but I didn’t linger in the middle of the bridges.
Secondly, there is typically quite a bit of walking involved to see all the hanging bridges. And the trails connecting the bridges are typically not stroller friendly. You’ll want to use a baby carrier for babies and toddlers who can’t walk 1-2 miles, depending on which hanging bridges you chose.
What is it like?
Hanging bridges are just as they sound- walking bridges without center support. They are typically 4-5 feet wide with hand rails and mesh wires on the sides to keep everyone walking safe. However, the bridges do swing a bit as you walk across. Hanging bridges are built in a series- maybe 10 bridges with walking trails in between, and give a great view from above of streams, trees, etc.
Where to go
Hanging bridges are primarily found in Monteverde and nearby Arenal.
In Monteverde, we recommend the hanging bridges at Selvatura Park– it’s great place to spend the day and explore hanging bridges, plus tons of other activities (ziplines, sloth sanctuary, amphibians exhibit, and butterfly garden)
In Arenal, check out the amazing Mistico Park Hanging Bridges– you’ll even get to see a waterfall on your walk!
5. Hot Springs
Perhaps the best side effect of volcano and thermal activity in Costa Rica is the hot springs. The natural mineral water feels so different than standard pool water and really is so much more relaxing! It’s a super fun and special thing to do with your family in Costa Rica. We just KNOW your family will love it as much as mine does!
Hot springs are perfect for all ages- babies, kids, parents, grandparents will all love this activity equally.
What is it like?
There are lots of different ways to visit hot springs. You can hike into a public natural hot springs and enjoy it the old fashioned way. Or visit a 5 star resort with beautiful hot springs, pools, and swim up bars. Or anything in between. For families with kids, we recommend choosing a paid hot springs for simplicity and safety.
The hot springs are special because they have natural spring water, mineralized and heated only by the volcanic/thermal activity underground. Each hot springs is different. Some have trails leading to natural warm water pools in the river. Others use filtered natural spring water in a traditional pool.
Where to go
Because hot springs require thermal activity, they’ll be found primarily near Arenal Volcano, in La Fortuna. There are TONS of hot springs to chose from, depending on your preferences and budget- check out this great list to help you chose.
Our top pick is Tabacon because it has a mix of natural hot springs, a really amazing waterfall you can sit under, and a wonderful traditional pool with a swim up bar. The pools are surrounded by beautiful jungle foliage, and the resort is clean. It’s a great place for families to relax and have fun together!
Looking for more tips for traveling with kids? Start here for TONS of great tips and tricks!
6. Coffee and Chocolate Tours
Chocolate and coffee are both important crops in Costa Rica. Cocoa was once considered sacred by indigenous people in Costa Rica, and was even used as currency for a time. And coffee, still a huge part of Costa Rican culture, was Costa Rica’s #1 cash crop for many years. Today, Costa Rica produces about 1% of the world’s coffee and is well known for its quality.
Coffee and chocolate are probably my two favorite things. So I love that you can do a combined coffee and chocolate tour to learn about both. (And lets be honest, my kids would DEFINITELY not tolerate spending a day talking about coffee- but add in chocolate, and they are sold!).
While coffee and chocolate tours typically allow all ages and are totally kid-friendly, I’d think about skipping if I was traveling with a wiggly toddler. The tour guides are great about making kids feel included, and making it fun. But for toddlers, it is likely going to be too much talking, making it difficult for parents to listen and enjoy the tour. Tours are about 2.5 hours, and include lots of hands on activities.
What is it like?
Tours are typically 2-3 hours, and include lots of hands on activities. You will tour the fields and get to see the coffee and cocoa plans, and maybe even some animals. You’ll see some of the steps along the process, from plant to product and learn about the history of chocolate and coffee in Costa Rica and around the world. You may even get to participate in grinding coffee or making chocolate from cocoa. And, of course, there is lots of opportunity for tasting!
Where to go
Excellent chocolate and coffee are grown throughout Costa Rica, thanks to the fertile volcanic soil. However, the best coffee and chocolate tours are in Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio.
We love the 3 in 1 coffee, sugarcane, and chocolate tour at Don Juan in Monteverde. The tour is family friendly, with tons of hands on activities. One note- only the coffee is grown on site, so you won’t be able to see the cocoa and sugar cane plants, just the crops brought in.
In Manuel Antonio, we love Chocolate Tour Manuel Antonio, which includes both chocolate and coffee. Tour guides are great for all ages, and you’ll get to see coffee, cocoa, and sugarcane plants and learn a TON.
7. Explore the Mangroves
Mangroves are amazing trees that can grow directly in brackish or salt water along coastlines. They are super important because of the ecosystem they create, and for the coastal protection that they provide. And that ecosystem means TONS of interesting creatures living there, making them super fun to explore.
Mangrove tours can either be in a motorized boat or by kayak. And the two options make for very different experiences.
For kayaking tours, check with your tour operator. They may have age requirements. We recommend no younger than 8, and many 8 year olds may not have the stamina or maturity for a kayak tour.
Check with your tour operator for age requirements. Some boat tours are all ages, and some have age requirements (typically over 4 years). You’ll also want to get information on the boat. Some are very small- just enough to sit (which is not going to be a ton of fun with little ones), and others are large enough for a little more movement.
You’ll definitely want to opt for a shorter tour if you decide to take your younger child. Spotting animals can definitely keep a kids attention for awhile!
What is it like?
Mangrove tour can be kayaking tours, where you will need to paddle around to explore, or a boat tour where you are just along for the ride. For families, we recommend going for the boat tour.
Mangrove tours can be all day (8am to 3-4pm), or just a 2-3 hour tour. All day tours will typically include lunch and breaks. While you’ll be able to get out deeper into the mangroves and see more with an all day tour, shorter tours are great for keeping the attention of younger kids.
If you chose a kayaking tour, you’ll get set up in a single or double kayak, and then head out. Double kayaks SEEM easier but the reality is you have to work with the other paddler and paddle in sync, so it can be frustrating. Your guide will lead you through the mangroves and stop periodically to point out creatures, special plants, or teach you about the mangroves. At times, you may be paddling through tight spaces, or expected to paddle hard to keep up with the group.
If you chose a boat tour, bour tour guides will drive the boat around and tell you a bit about the mangroves, and which creatures live there. They’ll stop to explain and examine creatures and special features, and what makes the mangroves special. The boat tours are typically casual with a tour guide answering questions and explaining what you are seeing, and taking time for questions.
Full day tours will break for lunch on shore. Kids will be able to stretch their legs and just take a break before heading back out.
Be prepared for a lot of sun, insects, and tons of animals. Be sure to dress comfortably for warm temperatures and bring sun block and insect repellent and plenty of water, if your guide does not provide.
Where to go
Mangroves can be found all over Costa Rica’s coast- where ever fresh water meets salt water. Many of the largest and best mangrove forests are near the Oso Pennisula, either to the north in the Terraba Sierpe National Wetlands, or south near Gulfo Dulce.
Check out the Kokopelli Mangrove Tour for a slightly larger and more comfortable boat, wonderful guides, and a perfect spot for spotting tons of animals. It’s a great options for families with kids- even younger kids!
Prefer kayaking? Check out this Manuel Antonio Experiences Kayak tour for a great tour of the Damas Mangroves. The tour guide keeps things fun, and being closer to the water gives a different experience vs a boat tour.
8. Hike to waterfalls!
Costa RIca has some beautiful waterfalls, some with beautiful turquoise water that are great for viewing, and others that are perfect for swimming. And visiting them can be a wonderful and memorable experience for you and your family.
There are waterfalls and hikes that vary widely so age recommendations really just depend on where you go. However, beware that most of the trails, even the short ones, involve lots of steps, and wet, slippery surfaces. I’d recommend keeping babies and toddlers in a sturdy carrier. Be prepared for slippery terrain for your younger kids.
What is it like
Some of the waterfall hikes are quick jaunts that will take just a few minutes and others are a couple of miles hike in. Some will allow swimming, and others are great for viewing.
Because of the splash from waterfalls, everything around it will be slippery and wet. Plus, you are typically hiking down, or uphill. Conditions can be slippery, muddy, and dangerous so be mindful and be aware of your families limitations. It’s better to have to turn around early than to end up badly injured or worse.
If you’ve gotten used to the warm ocean water off Costa Rican coasts, you might be surprised by how cool the freshwater streams and pools feel!
Where to go:
The La Fortuna Waterfall is beautiful and you can even swim in the beautiful turquoise water! The walk to the waterfall isn’t long, but it does have 500 steps down, and they can be slippery and uneven in places. The entrance fee is $18 for everyone age 9 and up, and free for children 8 and younger.
The La Paz Waterfall Gardens, located at the Peace Lodge about an hour north of San Jose, is a beautiful nature walk where you can see five waterfalls in the rainforest. Also onsite, there is an animal sanctuary where you can see rescued birds, jungle cats, snakes, butterflies, and tons more.
Costa Rica has some very beautiful beaches. And, to make them extra special, you can often see some pretty amazing wildlife while playing on the beach. I don’t know about you, but for my family, that’s a pretty good day.
Beach days are great for all ages. But, beware that some of Costa Rica’s beaches are known for being great surfing spots, so not so great for littles swimming. Pick a beach with calmer waters if you want to swim, or just enjoy the sand and perhaps splash a bit in the shallows.
Where to go
There are great beaches all over Costa Rica. But if you are traveling with kids, you may want to skip the beaches that are famous for their giant, perfect surfing waves. We love visiting quiet bays for snorkeling and swimming with kiddos.
Some of the best, family-friendly beaches in Costa Rica can be found in the Guanacaste Province, in the northern Pacific side of Costa Rica.
Samara Beach crescent shaped beach surrounding a small bay. One end is well protected, keeping the water calm and great for families to play and swim. The other end has larger waves. There are a number of beach-side restaurants as well. Check out the shells on the beach or do some snorkeling in the reef here.
Right next to Samara Beach is the beautiful Carrilla Beach. It is a similar crescent shaped beach with a protected bay, perfect for families. There are fewer services there (and no bathroom), but perhaps this makes the beach a bit more serene?
A bit farther up in Guanacaste, Conchal beach is another great option. This beach is a bit quieter, and there is a great beachside restaurant and restrooms. Plus you can snorkel right off the shore.
Other great beaches
Not heading up to the Guanacaste Province? There are several other great beaches.
Do your kids enjoy jumping in the waves? Farther down the Pacific Coast, the south end of Jaco Beach has some great, smaller waves. This is perfect for kids who love to jump in the waves or body surf, and parents who want to avoid dangerous conditions. This beach is huge and beautiful. But keep in mind that the town of Jaco is a bit of a party town, so things may get a little rowdier in the evenings.
Manuel Antonio Beach is such a beautiful special beach. It is located inside of the Manuel Antonio National Park, so you can only visit by paying park admission and getting a reservation. It’s in a protected cove and is great for swimming and checking out wildlife.
Whale’s Tail at Uvita Beach is another wonderful beach. Check out this great article for all the details. This beach is fun because it’s in the shape of a whale’s tail, with tons of tide pools at the end of the tail. Additionally, this area is where humpback whales congregate every year. Your best chance of spotting a whale is Sept-October.
What is your favorite thing to do with kids in Costa Rica?