Fun Things to Do Costa Rica with Kids (or Without) – The Best Costa Rica Family Vacations

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Looking for fun things to do in Costa Rica with kids? You’re in for a treat. We think Costa Rica family vacations are one of the best ways to spend time together. There are loads of fun things to do in Costa Rica with kids…or without.

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Things to Do in Costa Rica with Kids

Whether you visit Costa Rica with kids, with your partner, or on your own, there are amazing experiences waiting for you. Ecotourism in Costa Rica is some of the best in the world. Spend a family vacation in Costa Rica and you’ll see for yourself.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica is the biggest draw. There is hiking, diving, surfing, rafting, ziplining, and more. Read our list of fun things to do in Costa Rica and I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll enjoy. No matter how long your time in Costa Rica is, you’ll find plenty to keep you and yours occupied. Are you looking for a romantic Costa Rican honeymoon? Or are you looking at Costa Rica family vacations options? Perhaps thinking of backpacking Costa Rica on your own? Whatever your plan, this list of Costa Rican attractions will help you plan accordingly.

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Why Costa Rica Family Vacations? Why Costa Rica with Kids?

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The world is full of amazing places to travel. Spain is great year round. So are Vietnam and Japan, although they are both a little further away. Then again, Mexico is super close to many of my North American readers, and we love it there so much we’ve explored for over a year and haven’t tired of it yet!

So why visit Costa Rica with kids? What makes Costa Rica family vacations so special? For one thing, it is unique in Latin America in many ways. We recommend exploring Latin America to many travelers. That said, I highly recommend spending time in Costa Rica. Why? Because Costa Rica is safe and has an incredible amount of wildlife and activities. What’s more, it has one of the strongest tourism infrastructures in Latin America. There are so many fun things to do in Costa Rica, and it’s never been easier to do them.

There are great places to visit all across Central America, but Costa Rica has catered to travelers and ecotourism for the longest of any country in the region. In general, Costa Rican roads are better, the streets are safer, and Costa Rica ecotourism companies are more professional. You get a much wider choice of activities and accommodation. The people are more accustomed to catering to travelers and better organized to serve them.

Fun Things to Do in Costa Rica with Kids

No matter how much time in Costa Rica you plan to spend, there will be an adventure waiting for you. This list of fun things to do in Costa Rica is long, but far from complete. What’s missing?

Wildlife in Costa Rica/ Costa Rica Animal Sanctuaries

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One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is get up close to Costa Rican wildlife. The country has some of the richest biodiversity of anywhere in the world. There are wild cats, sea turtles, anteaters, many species of monkey. Costa Rica wildlife also includes hundreds of colorful birds, snakes and spiders, deer and the lovable tapir. Then there are the most famous Costa Rica animals of all: sloths and poison dart frogs.

There are a number of great Costa Rica animal sanctuaries to visit, but animals are everywhere. You’re likely to see Costa Rican wildlife any time you do any hiking, canopy tours or other outdoor activities. Heck, we saw sloths trying to cross the road three times in just a few days during our last visit to Puerto Viejo!

Costa Rican Animals to Look forLooking for things to do in Costa Rica with kids? Keep reading for tips on the best Costa Rica family vacations. Costa Rica Travel | Costa Rica Vacation | Costa Rica Beach | costa rica hotel villa | Costa Rica Travel Tips | costa rica travel things to do | costa rica travel hotels | costa rica travel pictures | Costa Rica Family Travel | Guanacaste things to do | arenal volcano | puerto viejo | san jose | costa rica rainforest | costa rica wildlife | Manuel Antonio park | Monteverde Cloud Forest

What better reason to visit Costa Rica with kids than to interact with wildlife? Costa Rica ecotourism agencies make it easy to get up close to the creatures of the sea and rainforest.

Some of the most unique animals in Costa Rica are the sloths. There are two main types of sloth: the two-toed and the three-toed sloths. To my surprise, I learned here that they developed completely separately and are biologically quite different from one another! Costa Rican rainforests are full of many other creatures you’ll likely come across. For example, in most parts of the country, you’ll see (and hear!) howler monkeys in the morning. Other simian species in Costa Rica include spider monkeys and white-faced capuchin monkeys (think Pirates of the Caribbean).

Other mammals in the Costa Rican rainforest include large cats such as the jaguar and ocelot, but it’s more likely that they’ll see you instead of you seeing them. Then there’s the tapir, the odd-nosed gentle beast. One of my favorite Costa Rican animals is the Coati. Part of the raccoon family, you may run across squads of them searching for crabs near the shore.

Head to sea and another world of Costa Rican ecotourism opens to you. It’s possible to see dolphins at play, and thousands of sea turtles lay their eggs in Costa Rica every year. Go snorkeling or scuba diving in Costa Rica and you’ll see rich underwater life, including manta rays and large schools of fish. There is shark diving in Costa Rica as well, but further out to sea.

Costa Rica Animal Sanctuaries & Shelters

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With so many animals in Costa Rica, it’s inevitable that many are somehow hurt. That’s why there are some great Costa Rica animal shelters and sanctuaries to help rehabilitate injured creatures and then release them back to the wild. One of the best things to do in Costa Rica with kids is to visit these shelters. That way you’re guaranteed an up-close experience with Costa Rican wildlife.

We had an amazing experience at the Jaguar Rescue Center in Limon Province. Founded by two biologists, it continues to grow and treat hundreds of animals per year.

Read More: Our Experience at the Jaguar Rescue Center 

Costa Rica Animal Sanctuary Locations

This is not the only Costa Rica animal shelter doing good work. Here are a few more worth looking into, depending on what part of the country you visit.

West

East (all in Limon Province)

Central(ish)

Best Tours to Experience Wildlife in Costa Rica

Volunteer Program and Tour at Wildlife Rescue Center in Costa Rica

Corobici River Float Tour and Las Pumas Jaguar Rescue Center

Costa Rica National Parks – Ecotourism in Costa Rica

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National parks in Costa Rica are special for a number of reasons. For example, over 25% of the country’s total land mass is dedicated to Costa Rica’s national parks. That’s the largest percentage of any country in the world. The Costa Rican government and Costa Rican people take environmentalism more seriously than many places. And it shows. They feel a responsibility to the environment within their borders. And they have used a lot of their time and resources to keep it healthy and intact. As you might imagine, it’s difficult to recommend just a few National Parks in Costa Rica, but here goes.

Arenal Volcano National Park

One of the best National Parks in Costa Rica for many reasons, but I mean, come on: volcanoes! Am I right? There are two volcanoes in the park, actually, but Arenal is still technically active.

Best Tours to Experience Arenal Volcano National Park

La Fortuna Waterfall, Volcano and Hanging Bridges Combo

6-Hour Arenal Observatory Excursion from La Fortuna

Arenal Volcano Hanging Bridges & Jungle Walking Tour

Manuel Antonio National Park

One of the best Costa Rica National Parks for access to both nice beaches and fauna-filled rainforest. One of the best beaches in Costa Rica for kids is part of this as well.

Best Tours to Experience Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park from San Jose

Corcovado National Park

I went here during my first visit to Costa Rica and I’ll never forget it. On the country’s western Osa Peninsula, this is not the most accessible National Park in Costa Rica, but it’s been described as the most biodiverse place on the planet.

Best Tours to Experience Corcovado National Park

Tour To Corcovado National Park By Costa Rica Te Enamora

Tortuguero National Park

Located on the Caribbean coast, this is one of the best National Parks in Costa Rica for kids who want to see baby sea turtles. That’s not all Tortuguero offers, however. Best accessed by boat, the lagoons in this area are teeming with life.

Best Tours to Experience Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park One Day Tour

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Out of all the National Parks in Costa Rica, this has one of the most unique climates and environments. Expect thick moss and thicker fog. You should also expect quick temperature changes.

Best Tours to Experience Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Private Monteverde Cloud Forest Walk

Costa Rican Beaches

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For such a small country, Costa Rica has a staggering amount of pristine coastline. Beautiful Costa Rican beaches span both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country. This is a great place for a swim or a few hours of snorkeling. The water is blue and the sand is anywhere from golden to almost black. One of the best things to do in Costa Rica with kids is to spend a lazy day on the beach and enjoy the waves.

On the Pacific side, the Nicoya Peninsula and all of Guanacaste Province showcase some of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Visiting with family? The best beach in Costa Rica with kids is probably Playa Manuel Antonio, which is part of the national park that shares the same name. The water is clear, the tide is mellow and it’s in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. On the eastern Caribbean side, head south to Puerto Viejo in Limon Province. Here you’ll find beautiful Caribbean-style Costa Rican beaches like Playa Punta Uva and Playa Manzanillo.

Keep in mind, however, that some beaches on the Pacific side have riptides, and undertow can be quite strong. Always be careful with young ones.

Scuba Diving in Costa Rica with Kids

Costa Rica scuba diving is some of the best in the world. That said, the best dive sites are far from the coast and best suited for advanced divers. Places like the Cocos and Catalina Islands off the Pacific Coast offer incredible wildlife. That includes some of the best shark diving in Costa Rica. These islands are quite a long boat ride away and in strong currents. So if you’re new to scuba diving in Costa Rica or anywhere else, sign up for a class before you go, or learn there!

Snorkeling in Costa Rica with Kids

So the idea of shark diving in Costa Rica doesn’t sound like your cup of tea? Then stay near the shore and consider snorkeling in Costa Rica instead. With so much beautiful coastline, it’s easy to snorkel in Costa Rica on both coasts. The waters surrounding the Nicoya and Osa Peninsulas are excellent places to explore the Pacific. On the Caribbean side, head to Cahuita National Park or further south into Limon Province and Punta Uva or Manzanillo Beach. The water here is warm and shallow and gives you easy access to small reefs.

Best Tours to Experience Snorkeling in Costa Rica with Kids

Cahuita Boat, Snorkel and Hiking Tour

ATV and Snorkel from Playa Flamingo

Surfing in Costa Rica with Kids

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Costa Rica surfing is some of the best in the Americas, and both coasts offer places to hang ten. On the west coast, places like Jaco and Dominical are great places to surf. Or head north to Playa Naranjo or Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula. On the east side, Limon Province has Salsa Brava, one of the best places to surf in Costa Rica. That said, if you’re not an experienced surfer, then check out nearby Playa Cocles. This Costa Rican beach has better surfing for lower levels. In fact, my son took lessons here and really enjoyed it.

Read More: Surf Lessons in Puerto Viejo  

These are just a few of the best places to surf in Costa Rica. Want to learn? There are loads of Costa Rica surf camps. You can take lessons for a week, a month or a day. Yet most of the best surf camps in Costa Rica require at least three to five days of classes.

Best Surfing Lessons in Costa Rica with Kids

Surf Lessons in Tamarindo

Surfing Lessons in Jaco Beach

Private 2-Hour Surfing Lesson in Santa Teresa

White Water Rafting in Costa Rica with Kids

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You don’t have to head to the coasts to have some wet and wild fun. One of the best things to do in Costa Rica with kids or friends is paddle through some whitecaps. There is some excellent white water rafting in Costa Rica, and for every level. Traveling in Costa Rica with kids too small for serious action? Then maybe a float down the Corobici River is what you need. But for those exploring Costa Rica with teens or tweens, then get ready for some serious adventure. Class 2 and 3 whitewater rafting in Costa Rica is easy to find in many parts of the country, but it depends on the weather.

For my son and I, we love the Pacuare River, which has class 3 and 4 rapids. It’s some of the most beautiful territories I’ve ever rafted through, and the rapids are a real thrill. We used the company Exploradores Outdoors and would recommend them without hesitation.

It’s easy to get sunburned when whitewater rafting in Costa Rica. Cover your neck and arms of course, but make sure to cover your feet and the tops of your thighs. And re-apply sunscreen often, as it gets washed off. You’re essentially sitting in the sun for 8 hours, you know.  The water is cold so you don’t feel it at first, but that tropical sun can scorch you.

Believe me, I know. Last time we went rafting in Costa Ruva I git one of the worst burns I’ve ever had and it was completely my fault. The tops of my legs were almost maroon. I couldn’t set anything on my lap for a few days. Next time I will wear longer shorts.

Best Tours for White Water Rafting in Costa Rica with Kids

Rio Balsa Whitewater Rafting Tour from La Fortuna

Pacuare River White Water Rafting Tour from San Jose

Canopy Tours in Costa Rica / Ziplining in Costa Rica with Kids

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Secure your helmet and pull on the thick gloves. Now your harness is secured. Next, the guide clicks you onto a thick, high-gauge metal wire. And off you go, whizzing 50 meters above the jungle canopy at an undetermined speed. Ziplining in Costa Rica is a rush, and we highly recommend it. We’ve tried ziplining in many places, and ziplining in Costa Rica may be the most beautiful of all.

Our last ziplining trip was part of a full-day Jungle Adventure Tour with Terraventuras. It also included some rappelling, a jungle swing and more adrenalin pumping fun. Oh, and we saw lots of wildlife!

Read More: Our Jungle Adventure Tour with Terraventuras 

Hanging Bridges in Costa Rica

So maybe you want to keep your feet in something solid, eh? There are also many spectacular hanging bridges in Costa Rica, as well. Each bridge gives you an incredible view of the biosphere surrounding you.

Best Tours to experience Ziplining in Costa Rica with Kids

Rainforest Canopy Adventure from San Jose

Waterfall Canopy Zipline Tour at Adventure Park Costa Rica

6 in 1 Tour: Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica

Chocolate Farms & Chocolate Tours in Costa Rica with Kids

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Who wouldn’t want to take a chocolate tour in Costa Rica? Visiting a chocolate farm is another of the many fun things to do in Costa Rica with kids. Cacao is grown all over the country and has been important to the Costa Rican economy and culture for centuries. Indeed, Costa Rican indigenous tribes such as the BriBri continue to use the cacao bean in religious ceremonies.

Lots of Costa Rican chocolate farms offer educational tours of their facilities. But it’s not just farms. In fact, some of the most interesting chocolate tours in Costa Rica are with the indigenous tribes. These can be a deeper cultural experience, as they share such a special relationship with the bean.

Best Chocolate Tours in Costa Rica with Kids

Rainforest Chocolate Tour from La Fortuna

Britt Coffee Tour and Chocolate Tasting from San Jose

Hot Springs in Costa Rica with Kids

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So a chocolate tour isn’t decadent enough for you? If that’s the case, then exploring the many hot springs in Costa Rica may add the right addition of luxury and adventure. Most of the best hot springs in Costa Rica are in the Arenal Volcano region. In fact, some of the most popular Costa Rican hot springs are in national parks or private spas and resorts.

Best Hot Springs in Costa Rica for Families

I’ve chosen these as the best hot springs in Costa Rica for families because of a more playful atmosphere and the possibility of waterslides.

  • Baldi Hot Springs
  • The Springs Resort
  • Blue River Resort & Hot Springs
  • Thermomania

Best Hot Springs in Costa Rica for Couples & Solo Travelers

I’ve chosen these as the best hot springs in Costa Rica for solo travelers and couples because of their better ambiance and more relaxing setting.

  • EcoTermales
  • Tabacon
  • Shangri-La Gardens (adults only)
  • Titoku

Best Tours to experience Hot Springs in Costa Rica with Kids

Vida Aventura Park in Guanacaste: Zipline Tour, Horseback Ride and Hot Springs

Arenal Volcano and Tabacón Hot Springs Day Trip from San Jose

Waterfalls in Costa Rica

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One of our favorite things to do in any tropical location is seeking out waterfalls. Sure, we like surfing and sea kayaking and other oceanic activities. Yet deep in our hearts, we’re more freshwater people. We love whitewater rafting and the adrenalin that comes from canyoning. Our favorite, however, is just to seek out a nice waterfall with a swimmable pool in front of it and chill there for the day

Costa Rica waterfalls are another reason to love exploring this part of the world. There are loads of beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica, and many of them are quite easy to access.

Boat Tours in Costa Rica

Whether it’s in freshwater or the ocean, there are many boat tours in Costa Rica that are fun and fascinating. There are a number of fishing trips on both the Pacific and the Caribbean side. There are also Costa Rica boat tours through places like the Tortuguero Canal. Here you’ll look for iguanas, sloths and saltwater crocodiles.

Best Boat Tours to Experience in Costa Rica with Kids

Palo Verde National Park Riverboat Cruise from Tamarindo

Tortuga Island Cruise from San Jose

Sarapiqui River Sightseeing Cruise and Zipline Canopy Tour from San Jose

Museums in Costa Rica / Cultural Centers in Costa Rica

It’s true: most people don’t come to Costa Rica to visit museums. Indeed, they’re here to get out of buildings rather than spend a day in one. That said, here are a few Costa Rican museums worth a visit.

Museo de Los Ninos (San Jose)

The country’s Children’s Museum, it is more geared at local kids, with little English signage. Not a must if you’re used to great kids museums, but worth a stop for little ones on a rainy day.

Precolumbian Gold Museum (San Jose)

An impressive foray into the history of money and the Costa Rican economy, as well as large displays of gold objects. This is a pricey one (last I looked, tickets were USD $65 a person!) so consider carefully.

The Jade Museum

A nice primer into how jade played a role in Precolombian America. Some interactive exhibits for kids.

Getting to Costa Rica / Airports in Costa Rica

There are two main airports in Costa Rica. One in the northwest city of Liberia, while the main Costa Rica international airport is in the capital of San Jose. There are direct flights to Costa Rica arriving in both of these airports. In general, flights to the capital of San Jose (SJO, or Juan Santamaria International Airport) can be 15-30% cheaper than flying to Liberia in the northwest (LIR, or Daniel Oduber Quiros Airport). That said, if you plan to spend all your time in western Costa Rica, or prefer to pick up a rental car in a less congested city, then Liberia might be a worthy option.

Where are you coming from? Here’s a quick breakdown of how to get to Costa Rica from a few major hubs.

North America to Costa Rica

  • New York to Costa Rica Airports
    • There are flights from Newark, La Guardia and JFK arriving at both Costa Rica Airports in Liberia and San Jose. Flight time is around 5.5 hours.
  • Toronto to Costa Rica Airports
    • Flights leave from Toronto to both Liberia and San Jose. Flight time is approx. 5 hours, 15min.
  • Miami to Costa Rica Airports
    • Flights from Miami arrive in both Liberia and San Jose. Flight time is approx. 3 hours.
  • Atlanta to Costa Rica Airports
    • Flights from Atlanta arrive in both main Costa Rica airports: Liberia and San Jose. Flight time is approx. 4 hours.
  • Chicago to Costa Rica Airports
    • Direct flights from O’Hare to Costa Rica arrive in both main Costa Rica airports. Flight time is approx. 5 hours 15min.
  • Houston to Costa Rica Airports
    • Houston to Costa Rica flights takes about 3.5 hours and arrives at both Liberia and San Jose.
  • Los Angeles to Costa Rica Airports
    • Direct flights from LAX to Liberia and San Jose take almost 6 hours.

Other Places

  • Tokyo to Costa Rica Airports
    • There are no direct flights from Japan to Costa Rica. Instead, flights transfer in places like Chicago and Houston and then arrive in both major Costa Rica airports. Expect at least 17 hours of travel time.
  • London to Costa Rica Airports
    • There are no direct flights from London to Costa Rica. Instead, flights transfer in places like Madrid, Miami, and Amsterdam. Expect at least 15 hours of travel time.
  • Mexico City to Costa Rica Airports
    • There are many direct flights from Mexico City to San Jose International Airport. Flight time is approx. 5.5 hours.
  • Madrid/Barcelona to Costa Rica Airports
    • There are no direct flights from Barcelona to Costa Rica. However, there are direct flights from Madrid. Direct flights take about 11 hours, while flights from Barcelona go to San Jose in about 16 hours.

Getting Around Costa Rica

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Once you arrive in the country, there are a number of ways to get around Costa Rica. By far the easiest (and most expensive) is by car. You can rent a car at the airport or hire a driver to take you around. In general, the roads and signage are very good in the country so it’s relatively easy to get around Costa Rica by car. Self-driving in Costa Rica is a real option, even for people with little experience driving outside their home country.

Hiring a Driver in Costa Rica

There are lots of hired drivers in Costa Rica that are safe and professional. You can hire them through a company, or look for them once you arrive or through your accommodation. I would recommend booking them ahead of time, especially if you are new to this. We used Morpho Vans last time we were in Costa Rica and had a great experience. The driver was professional, the seats were comfortable and we had access to AC and wifi.

Read More: Our Review of Morpho Vans / Private Drivers in Costa Rica  

Buses in Costa Rica

Are you a budget traveler? We frequently are. Then consider using the Costa Rica bus service for long-haul drives. It’s much, much cheaper, of course, and the buses are safe and clean. That said, the Costa Rican buses I have taken had little or no air conditioning. That’s ok when you’re moving, but a sauna when the bus stops or goes slowly. Another tip for riding buses in Costa Rica: line up early. And in some parts of the country, be ready to defend your spot in line. Sometimes, people will casually try to break in line in front of you.

Taxis in Costa Rica

Taxi service in Costa Rica differs on where you are. In smaller places like Puerto Viejo, the taxi is actually more like a tuk-tuk in Thailand. On the other hand, bigger cities like San Jose have large taxi companies. Taxis are red. Make sure to only take official taxis in cities like San Jose and Liberia. There is Uber in Costa Rica too, but I’m not sure if it’s countrywide. We have used Uber in San Jose and had a good experience.

Costa Rica Weather

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Weather in Costa Rica is tricky to explain since different regions have different wet and dry seasons. You have the Caribbean coast, which tends to skew much warmer than the Pacific coast. Then you have high mountains and volcanoes in between. The result is that the country has many microclimates. In other words, each area has its own unique weather patterns.

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

In general, the best time to visit Costa Rica depends on where you’re going. The best time for western Costa Rica is between December and April. You’ll find the least amount of rainfall during this time. In contrast, the best time to visit Costa Rica’s eastern Caribbean side is either February and March OR September and October. There is more year-round rainfall on the Caribbean side, but you’ll find less rain during the times advised here.

Of course, you can visit during the wet seasons as well, but it may limit what you can do. You’ll find some steep discounts in Costa Rican hotels during the rainy season. Then again, some of the best things to do in Costa Rica with kids may be off limits during that time. For example, if you want to go rafting, the river levels may be too high.

Costa Rica Facts – Costa Rica with Kids

Costa Rica is a fascinating country in many aspects. Don’t believe me? Well here are a few Costa Rica fun facts. Before you visit Costa Rica with kids, discuss a few of whatever may be age appropriate:

  • Costa Rica occupies around 0.03% of the Earth’s surface (that’s smaller than Lake Michigan) yet it contains 5% of the Earth’s biodiversity.
  • In an area of the world known for past military warfare, Costa Rica disbanded its army in 1948.
  • Costa Rica gets most of its power from renewable resources.
  • Nearly 99% of its population is literate and the country has one of the longest average lifespans in the world.
  • There are five active volcanoes on Costa Rican territory.

These are just a few Costa Rica facts that make this place so interesting and unique. Do a little digging for yourself and you’ll find plenty more.

Costa Rican Food

I think it’s fairly easy to eat in Costa Rica with kids. Even picky ones. It may come as no surprise, but the main ingredients you’ll find in Costa Rican food are rice and black beans. For example, there is the country’s most common dish, gallo pinto, a beans-and-rice concoction that fuels the entire country. Unlike some Latin Americas countries, Costa Rican food doesn’t rely on lots of chiles, although they do have a fondness for garlic.

Expand from this and Costa Rican food can include lots of meat: pork, beef, chicken, and seafood. Typical veggies include tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, and squash. Then there are plantains, which are often fried to make patties called patacones. Many other vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, and cabbage are common.

You’ll find plenty of fresh fruit in the Costa Rican diet, as well. The staples are typical tropical fruits such as bananas, pineapple, limes, and coconut. But you should definitely try some of the more exotic Costa Rican fruit while here. We like passion fruit and star fruit, but we love rambutans and mangosteens. They remind us of Thailand and Malaysia. Guava and soursops are fantastic also. You’ll find them as fresh juices everywhere (usually called naturales or refrescos). If you’re in Costa Rica with kids, then fill them with fresh juices every chance you get.

Money in Costa Rica

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Many places in Costa Rica accept US currency, but we highly suggest that you keep a little of both with you at all times. One reason is that you’ll definitely want to see Costa Rican money — called colones. I think it’s one of the most beautiful in the world. In general, I suggest using colones for small things like taxis and juice stands. For larger transactions, try to use dollars or your credit card. Places with registers and/or a card reader will give you the right exchange rate. Credit cards are accepted all over, but not everywhere, so be ready with a backup payment plan.

Costa Rican ATMs

You can also get colones at an ATM, but there may be a line here as well, and some places limit the amount you can take out. Take into account that you may only be able to take out USD $200 maximum per day. And you may have to do it in two separate exchanges (with whatever fees apply).

It’s worth planning out. Things to do in Costa Rica cost less than they would in the San Francisco or London, perhaps. But relatively speaking, Costa Rica is not cheap. For example, a rafting trip down the Pacuare River for two is — you guessed it — about USD $200. They take credit cards, but you get the idea. Local ATMs can run out of money, too (happens to us here in Mexico, as well). Especially if it’s a local holiday or other time when more people are on the move.

Don’t Change Money at the Airport!

Learn from my mistakes: don’t exchange money at a Costa Rica airport. They have the worst rates (I found out later). This means that you may have to spend a little extra time finding an ATM or local bank.

Tipping in Costa Rica

There isn’t a real tradition of tipping in Costa Rica, and most locals don’t. There is already a 10% servicio fee attached to most restaurant bills. You can leave more if you feel like it or feel like they deserve it. As for taxis, I feel that this is much more up to your own judgment. I usually don’t tip taxis in Costa Rica, but I have when the service warranted it: useful local advice, help with luggage, etc. As for tour guides, this is more or less expected. It should be your choice, of course, but unless it’s awful, 10-15% is the norm.

Phone & Internet in Costa Rica

Costa Rican internet is some of the best in Central America. Yet it depends on where you are in the country how much access you’ll have. There are internet cafes in most cities and any decent hotel or guesthouse has Wi-Fi, but speed will vary.

If you have an unlocked smartphone, then I suggest picking up a SIM card at the airport. There are a number of telecom companies vying for your money. But Kolbi is the 800-pound gorilla in the Costa Rican market and I go with them. There’s a booth in the San Jose airport and you can switch out your SIM cards right there. Make sure it’s working before you leave.

Understand that because of Costa Rican geography, there are plenty of dead zones. For example, going across the mountain range from San Jose to the Caribbean coast, we had no signal for about an hour.

Is Costa Rica Safe?

Lots of people look at Costa Rica on a map, look it its neighbors, and then ask “Is Costa Rica safe?” The short answer is yes, relatively. It is not a utopia, but it is one of the safest places in Central America and Latin America as a whole. So are its neighbors Panama and Nicaragua. Seriously. Crime exists, for sure — it would be foolish to think otherwise. But if you play it smart then you are very unlikely to brush against it.

Costa Rica Safety Tips

These are the same kind of safety tips I’d give to anyone traveling in many parts of the world. Whether you’re in Paris or Port au Prince, the same safety rules apply.

  • Don’t flaunt expensive items. For example, don’t wear a flashy watch or carry an expensive handbag around downtown at night.
  • Take only what you need for the day. For example, don’t walk around with all your cash, credit cards, and passports. Leave what you don’t need in the hotel safe.
  • Know where you’re going. And if you don’t, then act as if you do. Plan your route beforehand when you can, and don’t stumble around looking at your phone GPS or a map. If you need to reassess your route, then walk into a cafe or restaurant and do it there.
  • Don’t leave your bag or purse hanging on your chair.

Any More Tips on Costa Rica Family Vacations?

Have you been to Costa Rica with kids? Where did you go? What did you do? Tell us all about your Costa Rica family travel experience so we can add those travel tips here!

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which cost you nothing. However, when you use our links, we might receive a small commission if you book a Costa Rica hotel or buy something for any upcoming Costa Rica family vacations. My opinions on Costa Rica family vacations are my own and I only recommend the best things to do in Costa Rica with children. Whether you’re interested in surfing, snorkeling or general ecotourism in Costa Rica, I hope this post has been helpful.

Image Credits (thanks to Flickr Creative Commons): #12, #13,

Comments

  1. Harold Fukubayashi says:

    Like to know the reasons why colorful birds exist in tropical climate?

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