Is the small Central American country of Costa Rica the perfect holiday playground? For families who love adventurous activities and world-class wildlife experiences, we think so!

An eco–tourism hotspot and one of the most ecologically diverse countries on the planet, Costa Rica has for many years led the way in helping to conserve its many natural wonders. Visit here, and your holiday backdrops range from pristine jungles to paradise beaches (on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts), soaring volcanoes, tumbling waterfalls, and serpentine rivers.

Arenal, Costa Rica with kids adventure

With an active volcano and a myriad of exciting activities on offer, Arenal is a hot family favourite

No wonder, then, its wildlife has benefitted and thrived, in nature reserves and national parks. You’ll see sloths, whales, turtles, howler monkeys, tree frogs, tropical birds, butterflies, and more on your Costa Rica with kids’ holiday.

Costa Rica is also a fabulous self-drive holiday destination, and one of our most popular Family Road Trips in the World.

Want to know more? Here’s our Costa Rica with kids holiday hotlist.

Our top 10 things to do in Costa Rica with kids

1. Spot wildlife everywhere – sloths, turtles, frogs & more

Easter family summer holiday in Costa Rica with kids - girl with huge blue butterfly

The list of species in Costa Rica is  phenomenal and any trip will be full of wildlife experiences

Costa Rica is a wildlife-lover’s paradise. From spotting sloths in the forest canopy (or even just ambling slowly along some telephone lines without a care in the world) to standing still whilst an impossibly beautiful butterfly lands on your hand, you’ll be endlessly wowed by your wildlife encounters. Dolphins, whales and turtles can be spied off shore, and the rainforest is alive with monkeys,  crocs, flitting hummingbirds, poison dart frogs, iguanas and so very much more. If you’ve a budding naturalist in the family, take a look at our World’s Best Family Wildlife Encounters for further inspiration.

2. Go white-water rafting on the Balsa River

Family white-water rafting in Costa Rica

Thrill the family with high-octane rafting, with trips suitable for all levels

What better way to bond with your older kids and teens (and impress them, too) than going white-water rafting? After a brief introduction, you and your family are accompanied by an expert guide on a thrilling descent through impressive rapids. It’s huge, adrenaline-fuelled fun but you’ll also be able to enjoy the scenery around Arenal and La Fortuna during more gentle sections. A great addition to your trip to Costa Rica with the kids!

This activity can be included on either our Costa Rica Summer or Costa Rica Easter & Christmas tours.

3. Relax on the beach – Pacific or Caribbean 

Family beach time in Costa Rica. Young women in circular swing

Famous for its beautiful beaches, Costa Rica has stunning coastlines on both the Pacific and Caribbean

If wildlife is Costa Rica’s number one draw card, its exquisite beaches come a close second. Rolling waves, swaying palm trees and stunning views are the perfect way to round off your trip! If you are travelling during July and August we’ll recommend that you head over to the Caribbean coast for your beach time, as on our Costa Rica Summer Itinerary. If, on the other hand, you’re heading off at Christmas or Easter, you might want to stick to the Pacific coast as on our Costa Rica Easter and Christmas Itinerary. Take a look at our When to go to Costa Rica guide for more information.

4. Zipline above the jungle canopy

Boy zip lining in Costa Rica

Strap up and get ready for the family adventure of your life when holidaying in Costa Rica with kids

Costa Rica is covered in rainforest and cloud forest with huge swathes of immaculately preserved and stunningly beautiful tree-clad hills. Boasting over 2,500 plant species, 100 species of mammals, and more than 400 species of birds, what better way to enjoy it than walking at the same height as the forest canopy on a hanging bridge? For a high-octane thrill, why not zipline your way across the valley on a series of descending ziplines for the most exhilarating experience you can have on a Costa Rica with kids’ family holiday? Woooo Hooooo!

See what our customers have to say about their favourite experiences in Costa Rica.

5. Learn to surf on either coast

Young woman surfing in Costs Rica

What better place to practice your surf moves than in the warm seas of Costa Rica

We can’t think of many places more magnificent to learn to surf than Costa Rica with kids. Hawaii and Navarre this isn’t (you’ll be glad to hear!). However, with surf, swells, and breaks on both sides of the country, on the Pacific and Caribbean, Costa Rica is perfect for total beginners or intermediate surfers, which is probably most of us! For more information on the best beaches in Costa Rica (not just for surfing), take a look at our Places to visit in Costa Rica

6. Find time for some serious family bonding 

Mother and daughter bonding when holidaying in Costa Rica with kids

Float down the Peñas Blancas River near La Fortuna for a wonderful family-friendly experience

One of the best things about Costa Rica is the sheer variety of activities. There’s something for everyone – teens, tweens, and toddlers. Let your children choose what excites them most (whether that be sea kayaking, ziplining, rafting, horse-riding, mountain biking, sloth-searching, or swimming) and you can be sure to create some much-longed-for happy family time. Drifting down a river, against a backdrop of screeching monkeys and spotting crocs basking in the sunshine on the river banks will create memories to last a lifetime. Check our Places to Visit in Costa Rica page to decide where to take your family.

7. Go tubing down the Rio Celeste in Tenorio

Family tubing on Costa Rica with kids holiday

From gentle down-stream floats to thrilling rapids, tubing in Costa Rica is fun for all the family

In the north of Costa Rica, away from the more well-trodden tourist track, is the small Tenorio National Park. The Celeste River cuts through the area, the colour of the water a strangely brilliant turquoise. What better way for the whole family to enjoy a Costa Rica with Kids experience than spending time floating leisurely downstream together (although there are a few rapids)? En route, you’ll be transported through a beautifully verdant landscape, where creepers and lianas flank the edge of the river. Heaven!

8. Explore Costa Rica on horseback 

Man and family riding in Costa Rica

All the family can enjoy exploring the countryside on four legs, including Dads!

Whether you are an experienced equestrian or an absolute beginner, a great activity when in Costa Rica with kids is to take to horseback for a ride into the countryside. Take a scenic coastal ride or head into the lush verdant landscape around La Fortuna with stunning volcano views. This activity can be included on either our Costa Rica Summer or Costa Rica Easter & Christmas tours.

9. Enjoy kayaking in the mangroves

Kayaking in Costa Rica

Experience pura vida kayaking on the ocean or exploring the natural channels of the mangroves

Glide silently through the water, with birds and butterflies flitting overhead, and monkeys cavorting in the trees above your head. What better way to enjoy the peace and serenity of the mangroves than to explore by kayak. With single and double kayaks available to suit all ages, you’ll make your way through the tangled mangrove forest with wildlife all around. The main destination where we can arrange this is in Manuel Antonio, which you will visit on our Costa Rica Easter & Christmas tour. If travelling during the summer you can explore the idyllic canals around Tortuguero; they may not be mangroves but you’ll still need to keep your eyes peeled for sloths and monkeys along the way!

10. Take a dolphin-watching boat tour

Dolphin watching in Costa Rica with kids

Spot dolphins year-round on the Pacific coast

The waters of the Pacific Ocean, off Costa Rica’s west coast, are packed full of wildlife, from bottlenose dolphins to Pacific dolphins, turtles, pelicans, and frigate birds. Take a boat ride offshore and the kids will be delighted by the dolphins that come to play around the boat, leaping into the air and darting around.

This is also one of the world’s best whale-watching destinations. Whilst sightings are not guaranteed, if you travel between July and October you may be able to spot southern hemisphere humpback whales as they gather in the Marino Ballena National Park to breed and raise their calves. From late December to the end of February, it’s the northern hemisphere humpbacks’ turn, where you’ll see them breach, tail slap, or clear water from their blowholes and more on your Costa Rica with kids trip.

Costa Rica with kids next steps

Want to know more? Take a look at our Costa Rica Family Holiday page, which has different itinerary suggestions and pricing depending on what time of year you want to visit, Costa Rica Summer Tour or Costa Rica Easter and Christmas. If you want to combine a trip to Costa Rica with Panama, take a look at our 2 week Costa Rica with Panama sample itinerary, too.

Costa Rica is a wonderful self-drive destination too, ideal for a family road trip. See how our sales manager, Charlotte, faired on her self-drive adventure with her Dad. And take a look at our Costa Rica photo blog which is packed with inspiring imagery from our customers!

Young photographer awards - sloth

Costa Rica’s adorable sloths are a huge draw and we couldn’t resist including this photo taken by a young Stubborn Mule traveller

Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
I’d love to hear about your experiences of travelling to Costa Rica with kids so do email me at [email protected].