Costa Rica: An Age-by-Age Guide to Traveling with Kids
By Jamie Pearson
Costa Rica is a near-perfect family vacation destination. Not only does it have exotic wildlife, jungles, and volcanoes, it's easy to get to, warm, and safe for tourists —all in all a perfect entry-level adventure trip.
Thinking of venturing to Costa Rica with your family this year? Here's a guide to the best kinds of trips for babies, teens, and everything in between.
Infants and Toddlers
When traveling with very young children, it's best to make convenience your highest priority. Fortunately some of the most beautiful parts of Costa Rica are relatively easy to reach by car. Wherever you decide to go, stop briefly at Volcan Po ás before you head out. Since you can park nearby and walk right up to the crater, it's perfect for families.
Consider: Basing your family in a place with both jungles and beaches, such as Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast. Proximity to the national park means you'll see lots of monkeys, toucans. Proximity to the beach means you'll see lots of iguanas and dolphins too.
Avoid: Long drives, small planes, and overly remote locations. Traveling with very young children is tough enough as it is —don't make it harder than it has to be.
Remember: Staying in one place makes for a more relaxing experience.
Kids this age are seldom still for long. Take them somewhere with a different family friendly activity for every day of your trip. Hike to waterfalls, traverse the forest canopy on suspension bridges, and burn off all that energy.
Consider: The charming town of Santa Elena near the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Just five hours from San Jose, it's a lush and diverse paradise where everything is larger than life.
Avoid: Driving yourself. Hiring a driver guide is surprisingly affordable in Costa Rica, and really takes the pressure off.
Remember: You can't appreciate the scenery if you're navigating potholes and arguing with your spouse.
Grade school-aged kids
Most kids are reflexively passionate about saving the environment and slowing global warming. If I had a dime for every time my daughter has stalked into a room and turned off the light (leaving me in the dark), I'd have a lot of dimes.
Consider: Taking your kids to Tortuguero (the front line of conservation in Costa Rica), where four species of sea turtles clamber ashore from July to October to lay their eggs. Manatees, sloths, coatis, and howler monkeys make their home here too, as well as the more elusive jaguars and ocelots.
Avoid: Hiring someone to take you turtle watching outside of the allowed February-November season. Turtles are very sensitive and easily spooked.
Remember: To bring good rain gear in any season —this region is notoriously soggy. Also, there are no roads in, so you'll have to make peace with small propeller planes to get here.
Tweens and Teens
Kids this age can easily keep up with you as you explore the more remote parts of Costa Rica. Activities like surfing, scuba diving, horseback riding white water rafting, and kayaking are readily available all over the country.
Consider: Getting way off the beaten path. The beautiful and remote lowland rainforests on the Osa Peninsula aren't easy to get to, but once you arrive you'll never want to leave. Fly into Puerto Jim énez and take a water taxi to one of the beachfront lodges.
Avoid: Exploring the jungle without a naturalist guide. Although animals are everywhere, they're very good at hiding in plain sight.
Remember: Always look before you step, touch, wade, or swim. This area is teeming with wildlife, including venomous snakes, bullet ants, crocodiles, and bull sharks.
About the Writer
Jamie Pearson is a writer and mother of two. She sees the funny side of family travel, and blogs about it at www.TravelSavvyMom.com.
Photo courtesy of jilly12, Fodors.com user
Member Comments (1) Post a Comment
I live and work as a Naturalist guide in Costa Rica, full time. Ms. Pearsons article was very good with respect to accommodating children and their needs. I have seen many families get their trips ruined by not having enough activities for children. I often end up as the childrens guide so that the parents can have some pool, or hammock time alone. Granted the adventure gauntlet is a little rigorous, even for the most athletic. Most peoples first problems come from the humidity and heat.This thrown in with a couple of days in Monteverde in the cold, and at high elevation usually gets people sick. The stay put theory is good because you lose a day for every location you go to. Unless you fly, which is expensive especially for a large family.The first thing I try to get people to do is to stay longer! I mean 7-10 days instead of the tipical 4-5 days. Why? The first day you are beat and if you dont stay in San Jose/Alajuela before driving to the beaches you will be to tired to do anything. The same goes for the return trip, much easier say at 4a.m.from a nearby hotel with a shuttle. Also don't overbook each day with 2-3 activities, you won't get an overall good time.
Fodor's Top News & Features
- 15 Festivals to Attend Before You Die
- 10 Best National Parks to Visit This Winter
- Fodor's 2013 Holiday Gift Guides
- Fodor's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Under $100
- World's 10 Best Ski Towns for Foodies
- Fodor's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers
- 10 Cheeses Worth Traveling For
- Incredible Private Pools at 7 Worldwide Hotels
- Top 15 Warm-Weather Resorts for Families
- 7 Quirky American Winter Festivals
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Fodor's Go List 2014: Where we are going in 2014
- World Cup Fever: Start planning your trip to Brazil!
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- $449 & up -- 5-Night Bermuda Cruise on Royal CaribbeanAmerican Express Travel
- $257 & up -- Riviera Maya All-Inclusive Adults-Only ResortExcellence Riviera Cancun
- $419 & up -- 4-Night Caribbean Cruise to CozumelRoyal Caribbean
- $1599 & up -- 'World's Best' Caribbean Cruises, over 60% OffWindstar Cruises
- $894* -- Fly to Exotic Cook Islands from West Coast, R/TAir New Zealand