By Lisa Khajavi
Costa Rica is a great vacation destination for a wide range of travelers. But what really stands out is what an incredible place this is for family vacations.
Family-Friendly Vacations in Costa Rica
The Costa Rican people, affectionately known as ‘ticos’, love families and babies and generously express a special touch for the young, old and in-between. When you vacation in Costa Rica, you may hear “estoy para servirle”, which means “I am here to serve you”. In the Juan Santa Maria Airport in San Jose, there is even a special line for families with young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with medical or special needs.
Our first visit was when my youngest daughter was just 6 weeks old. As soon as they saw me and my bundle, older daughter of 3, and husband, we were whisked into the expedited line and sent right through. Genuine hospitality will find you, whether you are with family, children, or not. But when you’re with children and/or elders, they go above and beyond to accommodate you. I can’t think of a more enjoyable country for any family trip.
There is so much to do in Costa Rica
The whole family can enjoy the Costa Rican cloud forests, rain forests, beaches, surfing, snorkeling, whitewater rafting, hiking, horse back riding, camping, and all-inclusive hotels.
Planning a Family Vacation to Costa Rica
A Costa Rica family vacation is a great opportunity to bond with the ones you love most, away from the crazy daily races that most of us live in. I love the vacation planning process. You have a clear planning stage, beginning, middle, end, and the post-travel memories and experiences that can last a lifetime. Start by narrowing down destinations and activities. Even if you have different priorities and opinions, you can probably do it all in Costa Rica.
Get your kids to help with the vacation planning. Encourage them to document the trip by keeping a journal, taking pictures, and collecting memorabilia. Pick out some travel books together. There are beautifully illustrated field guides of flora and fauna to identify the numerous amazing creatures you see here in Costa Rica. The airports here have a nice selection, but if you do this at home, it could be a helpful part of the Costa Rica vacation planning process. Your son or daughter might decide they have a burning desire to see a Tapir, so you would then need to choose the right National Park. A Costa Rica family vacation is not only a great time together; it can be super educational as well.
Costa Rica Guided Eco Tours
I am consistently impressed with tours in Costa Rica. Just because you came to relax at the beach, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an estuary trip, or volcano excursion, or a zip-line through the cloud forest. Most places in Costa Rica offer vacationers half-day and day trips for all kinds of tours. When deciding on tours, I always recommend choosing the guided option. Generally the guides in Costa Rica are college educated, super friendly, and take great pride in their unique knowledge, which really makes the experience an excellent added value.
My husband and I took our girls for a guided waterfall hike at Lapa Rios in the Osa Peninsula, and if it wasn’t for the terrific guide we would have missed out on so much. He knew just where to find a bat in a furled leaf, the dust-like spores of a fern that left perfect imprints on our clothing, cup-like mushrooms, frogs, and so much more.
The two big highlights for us were when he scraped some sap from what he called a kerosene tree, placed it on the end of a walking stick and lit it up like a lantern and when he stopped to show us the clever spider that intentionally weaves in small twigs into its web which happens to match the body color of the spider. The spider leaves a small gap between the twigs where he can hide, making the appearance of one continuous twig-amazing! We were so enthralled that we waited to see if the spider would retreat to the camouflaged position, and sure enough we were able to see it!
My favorite places to stay with my family in Costa Rica:
Costa Rica offers great tropical weather, tons of wildlife, an incredible national park system, amazing beaches, stunning mountains, a vast array of activities. Not to mention a wide range of accommodations from exotic luxury options to nature-based eco lodges. All of these places have many tours in addition to what is mentioned below.
1. Lapa Rios Eco Lodge in the Osa Peninsula
For up close and personal nature, a truly sustainable experience, great food, views, excellent service, and luxury in the jungle, adventure. This lodge really is best for ‘outdoorsy’, somewhat adventurous families and kids 5 and older. It is my gold standard for eco-lodges.
2. Punta Islita on the Pacific Coast
They have tours, services, and even spa treatments geared for families. The spacious villas can accommodate families beautifully. The cuisine, service and views are wonderful; kids of all ages will love it. The tiny local community is a treat.
3. Harmony Hotel in Nosara
Very elegant, sustainable, healthy cuisine. Yoga for all levels. Great beach for boogie boarding, swimming and surfing. The locals and the clientele have relaxed international flair. Kids of all ages will do well; baby/toddler friendly pool.
4. Hotel Capitan Suizo in Tamarindo
This is a Swiss-run charmer on one of my favorite beaches ever. The pool and restaurant are totally family-friendly. You have the benefit of a bustling community with lots of services, amenities, and restaurants, however when you stay at Capitan Suizo you are in your own lovely little world. The beach is one of the best I’ve experienced for kids of all ages where you all can swim, surf, and boogie-board. The staff is great. There are several local surf schools that are fantastic for all levels.
Travel is good food for the soul. I don’t think there is a better way for a family to refresh, bond and create memorable experiences together. If you choose Costa Rica for your family adventure you will have memories to cherish; you will be delighted. In my experience, those that visit enjoy themselves so much they return because there is so much here to savor!