If you’re looking for a beautiful, exotic, tropical destination for a family trip, we highly recommend Costa Rica. We took the kids there (ages 9, 6, and 3) recently on an epic 10-day family travel adventure! I already shared some reasons why we think Costa Rica is one of the BEST exotic international destinations you could go with young kids (read that post here –> Traveling to Costa Rica with Young Kids). So, now I thought it was time to share our favorite activities to do with the kids while you’re there! Truly, the hardest thing about planning a trip to Costa Rica is just narrowing down your itinerary and activities since there is such a plethora of amazing things to see.
If you have older kids or teens, then you might want to check out some of the many adventure activities that Costa Rica is known for- like ziplining, white water rafting, horseback riding, surfing, etc.. We were traveling with young kids though and those activities just weren’t doable for us this time. Instead, we sought out some amazing activities that people of all ages could enjoy- including young kids. So, here are the ten things that I think should be included on any trip to Costa Rica, especially one with young kids!
10 Must-Do Costa Rica Activities:
1. Beach hop –
You can’t go to Costa Rica and not enjoy some of the incredible beaches there. There are SO many and they’re so diverse, so we really recommend leaving space in your itinerary for beach hopping. We especially enjoyed Playa Carrillo near Samara and the beaches of Manuel Antonio2. Boat Trip – Catch Some Ocean Waves
While you’re near the beach, plan a boat trip! Seeing the coast line from the water is fabulous! Many boat trips will do wildlife watching (dolphins, whales, etc) and some include snorkeling or diving. So, this was a really fun thing to do with the kids! We took a trip with Iguana Tours out of Quepos (near Manuel Antonio). We all LOVED it! (side note – if you don’t want to do an ocean boat tour, then plan to take a real-life jungle cruise on one of the rivers! We did one of these too – on the Tarcoles River to do some crocodile spotting. Very cool! ) 3. Get up-close with a waterfall –
There are no shortage of incredible waterfalls in Costa Rica – quite the beautiful site for any age! We did a family hike to La Fortuna Waterfall, all the way down 400+ steps to get to the bottom. The trail was well-paved and we felt safe there with the kids. The river and water area just down from the falls was SO great – our kids played there for quite some time! If you have young preschoolers, toddlers, or babies though, just make sure you have a good baby carrier (affiliate link) for the hike down and back up. 4. Hike the Hanging Bridges
It’s an incredible experience to see the rainforest from IN the trees instead of just on the ground! Though some of the other adventure activities weren’t an option for us, hanging bridges were! And they were SO cool! There are quite a few different options for this while you’re in the country, so be sure to check the area(s) you’re in. We ended up doing the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park and it was incredible! We even had a true rainforest experience there, getting caught in an incredible thunderstorm in the jungle – wild! Just be sure you have closed-toe, covered shoes for this activity (no sandals)! 5. Trek through the Jungle
In addition to hiking through the canopy, you do also need to experience hiking through jungle on the ground. It really helps give you a sense of the immensity of the trees and how the rainforest works. Examining what’s on the forest floor was so cool – our favorites were the different jungle millipedes and centipedes! Our 3 favorite jungle hikes were the night hike at the Children’s Eternal Rain Forest in Monteverde, a good wildlife-spotting hike in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and our hike through Manual Antonio National Park. This strangler fig family photo is in the Monteverde Cloud Forest – what a sight that was! 6. Wildlife Watching!
This may have been our favorite thing! As a former high school biology teacher, seeing the various wildlife and biodiversity here was phenomenal! Did you know that Costa Rica is actually one of the 20 countries that account for the greatest biodiversity on Earth?! AMAZING! We saw both species of sloths, various species of monkeys, toucans, parrots, crocodiles, frogs, snakes, insects…it was INCREDIBLE! This was such a phenomenal educational experience for our boys and something I can’t recommend enough. To really get the most out of spotting wildlife, I encourage you to higher a guide in at least one or two areas/parks that you might go. Monteverde and Manuel Antonio were the two areas where we saw the most animals. But, we also had great luck seeing animals at Ecocentre Danaus (a biological reserve) in the Arenal/La Fortuna area! You can see our whole Costa Rica Mammals Wildlife Photography here. 7. View an Active Volcano
If you want to view a real-life, ACTIVE volcano, Costa Rica is a fantastic place to do just that. There are actually many volcanoes around the country you can see. But, perhaps the most famous is Arenal. For many years, Arenal Volcano was spectacularly active with red lava flows viewed almost daily. However, the lava suddenly stopped in 2010. It’s still an active volcano though, with puffs of smoke still seen frequently. See that sort of gray cloud around the top? That’s not regular clouds, that’s gas from the volcano!
We stayed at the INCREDIBLE Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa Hotel (where we had that spectacular view above). It was amazing waking up to that volcano view. And nearby is the Arenal Volcano National Park. Taking a hike to the sight of the most recent eruptions and large lava flows was a really cool experience and very educational for the kids! 8. Soak in a Hot Springs
While we’re on the subject of volcanoes, you should plan some time at the hot springs. Thanks to all the geothermal activity from the volcano, there are a number of hot springs in the area. We LOVED the hot springs at the Arenal Kioro Suites Hotel. How cool is it to relax in the hot springs with a volcano in the distance? We didn’t find them to be to hot for the kids. The boys thought it was a pretty fun experience! We enjoyed these both nights of our stay there! 9. Take a Coffee Tour
For another great educational experience with the kids, I highly recommend doing a local coffee tour. We did the Don Juan Coffee and Chocolate Tour in Monteverde. It was really well-done and great for all ages. The boys loved sampling some freshly made hot chocolate and pressing sugar cane. It was also fun for them to learn about the different coffee and chocolate plants. Then, of course, the adults loved sampling various coffees and hot chocolates as well!
10. Sample the local cuisine – Casado (plato típico de Costa Rica) y Batidos Naturales
I feel like it’s SO important to eat the local cuisine as much as possible when visiting another country. And, the food in Costa Rica makes it another really easy place to visit with young kids. The typical “casado plate” served for lunch or dinner has some standard things (like rice and beans) that most kids will eat. And the fresh fruit drinks were SOOOoooo good! The boys wanted a batidos naturales at every meal. In fact, it was so good that I had to come home and make our own watermelon “batido” because we were missing them. YUM!
As you can see, there are SO many great actvities to do in Costa Rica. This list barely scratches the surface of all the possibilities, but should at at least give you a good start for planning what you can do (even with young kids) on a trip to this fabulous little country.
What activities look great to YOU? Or, have you been to Costa Rica – if so, is there anything you’d add to our list?
For more from our trip, you can check out the hashtag #CRFamilyFun on Instagram. And, if you’re interested in planning your own trip to Costa Rica, be sure to check out the Visit Costa Rica site for all kinds of information! We were proud to partner with Visit Costa Rica on this trip (as such, accommodations, transportation, and some food/activities were paid. All opinions are entirely our own). You can also check out our other Costa Rica related posts below:
Costa Rica Travel Related Posts:
- 10 Costa Rica Trip Planning Tips
- Costa Rica Travel Photography
- Costa Rica Trip – Traveling with Young Kids
- Batido de Sandía Recipe
- 25+ Rainforest Animal Crafts
- Must-See Mammals in Costa Rica – Wildlife Photography