Family-friendly Costa Rica adventure vacations

Manuel Antonio Beach Costa Rica
White water rafting

Untouched beaches, misty rainforests, sprawling mountain ranges: Costa Rica is an outdoor adventurer’s daydream. Its name translates to Rich Coast, and that’s exactly what you’ll find on your Costa Rica family vacation: one of the most ecologically diverse places on earth, and one of the greenest, too. Your Costa Rica family adventure can take you to wild places like the majestic Arenal Volcano, the beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park, and the dreamy Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Families traveling from all over come for the kid-friendly outdoor experiences. Choose from beginner hikes, guided horseback riding, surfing lessons, and more. If you’re dreaming of a nature-centric getaway, you’re in luck—our guide to Costa Rica family vacations is here to help.

Jacó, Puntarenas

Jaco Beach sunset

Jacó Beach

Jacó is a lively beach town in the coastal province of Puntarenas, only an hour and a half from San Jose. Many travelers come for the best family surfing in Costa Rica, especially for younger kids—low tide is a perfect time for beginners to hit the waves. If you’re an experienced surfer, you’ll find the biggest swells from May to November, in the rainy “green season.”

Zipline cutting through the rainforest in Costa Rica

Vista los Sueños Adventure Park

For more kid-friendly thrills, head to Vista los Sueños Adventure Park, where a zip-lining course allows you to soar through the rainforest canopy with views of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll find many other activities for every skill level in your Costa Rica family adventure, including ATV buggy tours, horseback riding, extreme canyoning, and more.

Manuel Antonio Beach Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park

Just over an hour southeast of Jacó you’ll find Manuel Antonio National Park. If you’re planning a family-friendly Costa Rica adventure vacation, these beaches and forests are not to be missed. Dazzling turquoise waters, white sands, and an abundance of flora and fauna await. Start with a morning hike, before the high temperatures and crowds, and reward yourself after with a swim in some of the most inviting waters you’ll ever see.

Places to stay in Jacó Beach, Costa Rica

Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste

Playa Hermosa is about 130 miles from Jacó and shares the same western coast. Though there are two towns named Playa Hermosa, the real hidden gem is located in the Guanacaste province. If you’re hoping for an off-the-beaten-path Costa Rica family vacation, you’ll find it here, where tranquil beaches meet a friendly local atmosphere.

Scuba diver swimming through the water

Costa Rica dive vacations in Playa Hermosa

While Jacó offers some of the best family surfing in Costa Rica, the tides are too strong for prime scuba diving. Enter the gentle waters of Playa Hermosa. Families traveling in search of a Costa Rica dive vacation head to Rocket Frog Divers, where you can swim with marine life from schools of friendly fish to bull sharks and giant rays. If you’re traveling with younger children, you can choose from over 30 dive sites to find the perfect kid-friendly fit for you

Coffee beans on wooden tray

Coffee tours in Playa Hermosa

What would a Costa Rica family vacation be without a healthy sampling of coffee? Better yet, you can take a tour of a local coffee plantation. Tío Leo Coffee Tour offers a family-friendly, culturally immersive experience in folklore and the coffee trade. Tío Leo himself demonstrates the harvesting techniques as you sip rich coffee and taste fruit right from the garden, and the kids will love sampling all the fresh-made chocolate.

jaguar cleaning itself

Diamante Eco Nature Park

If you’re craving a high speed adventure for your vacation, head to Diamante Eco Nature Park, where thrills meet eco-tourism. Zip-line down the longest dual-line course in the country before exploring the largest animal sanctuary in Guanacaste, where rescued and rehabilitated animals thrive. You can have up-close encounters with jaguars, toucans, pumas, and a local favorite: Lucy the sloth.

Playa Hermosa vacation rentals

Lake Arenal, Alajuela

It’s true that Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. But you could spend your entire vacation exploring its lush forests and amazing mountain ranges, too. Head to Lake Arenal and you’ll be near hot springs, whitewater rafting, forests, and even an active volcano. The lake is about 120 miles from San Jose and home to some of Costa Rica’s most beloved natural areas.

Monteverde Forest in Costa Rica

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Imagine walking through a dreamy, hazy forest that’s teeming with flora and fauna. Monteverde Cloud Forest offers just that, and is a staple of any Costa Rica adventure vacation. A cloud forest is a high-elevation rainforest that gets its name—and its abundant life and beauty—from a persistent mist. You really will feel like you’re walking through a cloud as you hike along miles of beautiful trails and rope bridges.

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano

A perfectly symmetrical volcano that stands tall over the surrounding mountains: the majestic Arenal Volcano is impossible to miss. Though its activity was beloved by tourists for years, the volcano has been dormant since 2010. Still, it remains one of the most popular destinations for family vacations. Explore the surrounding area via a number of hikes and horseback riding trails, or just admire it from the shores of Lake Arenal.

EcoTermales hot springs in Costa Rica

EcoTermales hot springs

Naturally, being near a volcano means an abundance of hot springs. EcoTermales is a must for your Costa Rica adventure vacation, and after days of zip-lining, hiking, and surfing, it’s the perfect place to relax. EcoTermales is family owned and only allows a limited number of guests per day, offering five natural pools that reach up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s even an on-site restaurant, where you can enjoy authentic Costa Rican cuisine.

White water rafting

Whitewater rafting

Whether you’re careening down Class V rapids or spotting sloths and monkeys on a leisurely safari float, Costa Rica Descents offers family-friendly excursions for every skill level. With knowledgeable, friendly, and expert guides, you’ll be sure to experience the Costa Rica adventure vacation of a lifetime. Spaces sell out quickly, so be sure to book well in advance.

Lake Arenal vacation rentals







EcoTermales Hot Springs image courtesy of Constanza S. Mora