Visiting Costa Rica with Kids

Costa Rica is such a cultural and naturally beautiful area of Central America. Almost anywhere you stay you will have breathtaking views and amazing experiences. Getting around in Costa Rica is a bit different than many other places, as the roads are small, and the traffic can be heavy at times. To our traveling family, what makes the best Costa Rican vacation with kids is choosing a place to stay that has a great location for everything on your agenda.

Conchal Hotel Visit Costa Rica

Must Stay in Costa Rica

Conchal Hotel

Our first stay while on this epic vacation was at the Conchal Hotel in Playa Brasilito. It was the perfect oasis with a great central location near several beautiful beaches, lots of amazing restaurants and many other attractions. It was affordable, quaint, and had a very delicious restaurant, Papaya, right upstairs. Our breakfast was included in your stay, which was very helpful when we were trying to hit the road early for our daily adventures. I do want to note that their “typical” breakfast at Papaya was absolutely amazing!!

Conchal Hotel Family Travel Room

This hotel was great for kids, it had a nice swimming pool and lots of wildlife to keep an eye out for. The Conchal offered self-check in and free cancellation up to a week before our scheduled visit. The price for a room runs in the neighborhood of $124/night with everything you need for a comfortable stay. The very friendly and gracious owners live onsite, and all of the staff treated us like family. We had such a wonderful stay there that it was a little bittersweet when we had to leave for the second part of our journey.

Conchal Hotel Costa Rica Travel

Los Lagos Spa & Resort

As we traveled North to Arenal, we stayed at the Hotel Los Lagos Spa & Resort near La Fortuna. This resort is immaculately groomed across the entire property. Its lush landscape and proximity to the beautiful Arenal Volcano makes this destination one of our all-time favorites. The Hot Springs area is on another level, and it easily rivals the other popular hot spring attractions nearby. Exploring the property is an adventure in itself, as it sprawls over 1,000 acres of tropical forest with spectacular views to Arenal Volcano, tropical gardens and an abundance of wildlife. I can’t say enough about the beauty of this resort and the quality of its amenities. 

Los Lagos Hot Springs Guide Costa Rica

The rates start at a shocking $135 a night and offers access to all of its amazing actives like water slides, various temperature hot springs, walking trails, koi ponds, swim up bar, and a secret observation area and access to Arenal Volcano National Park. They also offer a full-service spa, zip-lining, room service, and concierge services for onsite and offsite adventures. The breakfast buffet is included, and it was something we looked forward to each morning with great coffee, fresh fruits and a selection of typical Costa Rican fare. The Los Lagos Resort is the same one we visited 15 years ago, and it was just as special sharing it with our girls this time around. One of the best resorts in all of Costa Rica for kids!

 

Los Lagos Pool Slide

 

Must Eat in Costa Rica with Kids

The food in Costa Rica is absolutely amazing. From the fresh fruit smoothies and craft cocktails to the delicious breakfasts and delectable dinners, the food in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica is highly underrated. The fruit was so delicious and readily available, that the girls enjoyed slices or fresh squeezed juices every day. I feel like each restaurant we tried, whether highly recommended by the locals or one that we newly discovered, was just outdoing the next. We said to ourselves many times throughout the weeklong trip how much we were enjoying every meal and eating healthy as well. I definitely miss our breakfasts the most!

Pico Bistro Costa Rican Family

I’ve listed a few of our favorite breakfast options here: 

Papaya

The first, I covered earlier in the post, but certainly worth mentioning again. At the Conchal Hotel in Brasilito, Papaya is open every day from 6:30am until 8:30 pm, except for Wednesday’s when they have shorter hours, 10 am until 8 pm. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. Our favorite was the daily breakfast, which was included in the stay at the hotel. It included unlimited fresh juices and local coffee, an assortment of fresh cut fruits and a choice of a few breakfast plates. My personal favorite was the Typical Breakfast which was a fried egg served with plantains, rice and beans., and their special sour cream. There’s something special about that one.

Costa Rica Papaya Restaurant with Kids

Surf Box

While in the Guanacaste area, Surf Box is a must. They have great breakfast or brunch options. They offer dine in or take out. With this being a breakfast shop, they close earlier, with hours from 8am until 3pm. The owners of this shop also own another local restaurant called Cafeteria which is equally fab! It offers similar hours of 9am to 4pm. 

Pots & Bowls

Pots & BowlsPlaya Grande is a great option if you are in the area of Playa Grande and Las Catalinas. It has daily hours of 7:30 am until 8:00 pm. It is considered a breakfast and brunch restaurant. But it also sells local plants. So if you’re a plant lover, check this place out. 

Pico Bistro

That next day while exploring, we enjoyed brunch at Pico Bistro in Tamarindo. Pico Bistro is a beach-front bistro and coffee shop. It has the most gorgeous views of the beach and offers some up close and personal wildlife encounters. It offers online ordering, carryout, and delivery. It is open daily from 7 am until 9 pm. Everything we had was exceptional. The drinks were very fresh and naturally sweet. The Sweet and Spicy Buddha Bowl was by far my favorite with so many interesting flavors. The House Ceviche was so good and the smoothies were something special.

Brunch at Pico Bistro Tamarindo Cota Rica

For dinner we had some great experiences, here’s our favorites:

Patagonia del Mar

Our top dining experience had to be at Patagonia del mar. Have to start by saying that this place had the best margaritas. They had such a great environment for the kids, with swings, an open play area with bean bags, and even a pool. The pool seemed to be closed at nighttime, as there was a more trendy and sophisticated vibe for dinner, still fun for the kids. The decor is gorgeous. A couple of dishes to highlight were the Fried Whole Fish, Red Snapper and the Seared Tuna. The Patagonia has daily hours from 7am until 10pm. Their breakfast menu is also highly rated and they were always crowded.

Bahia del Sol

Our favorite dinner at the beach would have to be at the Bahia del mar in Potrero. This place had the most breathtaking and endless sunsets I have ever seen. The food was very good, but the music and the scenery was the best part by far. The property is right across from the popular, Hemmingway’s, and has a couple of it’s own restaurants to choose from. Great for appetizers and drinks for sunset any day of the week!

Costa Rican Sunset

Other restaurants worth mentioning:

  • El Mercadito is a great food court with amazing smaller restaurants. The hours of this location are 11am until 8pm. This area offers such a cozy casual atmosphere. This food court offers a variety of cuisines in a casual dining experience and has delicious desserts. 
  • If you’re looking for a fine dining experience while on vacation, Sentido Norte is worth the stop. It is located inside the Casa Chameleon hotel in Las Catalinas and is a local favorite. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner options and have corresponding hours for each menu.
  • Hemingway’s, which I mentioned earlier, is located at the Costa Rica sailing club and is a great option for lunch or dinner. It’s an oceanfront restaurant with a pool and is a fun atmosphere for kids. Hemingway’s offers dine-in and takeout and they are open from 12pm until 9pm. Note that it gets very lively in the later hours and may be best for adults at that point. Looked like a good time!

Costa Rica Travel Sunset

Must Do in Costa Rica with Kids

Explore Local Area

One of our absolute favor things to do in Costa Rica is to explore the local shops and markets in each of the little towns. Each place has its own unique vibe and the people are absolutely wonderful. This is a really good way to experience the culture and get a chance to try some local snacks and drinks you wouldn’t find elsewhere. The street corn was something we always looked forward to.

Surf Lessons

The most thrilling thing we did while in Costa Rica was taking surf lessons. I’ve done in the past, but really struggled so I was reluctant to try it again. This time we did it with our 3 girls, so it was worth the risk for me. I’m so happy that I did, as it was such a positive experience and I really surprised myself. The girls did extremely well and were catching waves all the way to the sand. They made it look soi easy!

We took surf lessons with Iguana Surf. They offer lessons for a variety of skill levels. From beginners all the way to a weeklong surf camp, Iguana Surf shop has been around and have great staff. Depending on what type of lessons you are looking for the prices vary. For the 2-hour instructional class we took, it was around $80 per trainer. This is something every family should do together, the kids will love it!

Iguana Surf Lessons Tamarindo Costa Rica

 

Surf Lessons in Costa Rica with Kids

 

Rio Celeste

The Rio Celeste waterfall was probably the most eventful experience while we were on vacation. On the 2 hour drive we enjoyed many views, even if it was on an actual highway. Once you purchase your tickets from the ranger station, which are $12 USD for adults, and $5 for children, you can enter the park and enjoy.  The 6km (3.7 miles) trail to the waterfall is marked very well and can take you anywhere from 2-4 hours. this is all depending on weather, hiking speed, and how often you stop to take pictures.

The waterfall isn’t the only highlight of the hike, although there is no real way to describe how beautifully blue this water is. There is also towering canopies, abundant wildlife, bubbling hot springs, and wooden bridges that would are the perfect place to stop for a photo! While you aren’t allowed to swim inside of the park, about 4 minutes outside of the park there is a great swimming hole that would be perfect. 

Rio Celeste Waterfall Costa Rica

La Fortuna 

Not to be outdone by the previous waterfall, The La Fortuna waterfall was equally as beautiful. This area is heavily commercialized but rightfully so. For $18 for adults and $5 for children you can take the beautiful 500 step journey down to a gorgeous waterfall. Some of the more daring people also jump in and swim very close to the falls. My husband and I did take the leap and it was exhilarating!

I would not suggest that the kids go in, as the water and current can be quite intense. So they are not feeling left out, just to the left of the falls is a little river that is perfect for little kids to go swimming. It has a great view of the waterfall and there are plenty of fish to see as well. When you are done with the falls and make the climb back up, there is a souvenir store, cafe, bathroom, and changing rooms that are very nice.

La Fortuna Waterfall Travel Costa Rica

Sloth Tour

And I think # 1 on Hazels list this trip was Sloth’s Territory. With an incredible view of the Arenal Volcano this is the best tour in La Fortuna. Sloth Territory offers 3 different activities, all great. Observation tours from 8am-10am and 1pm-3pm. A Night hike experience that starts at 6 pm. And a bird watching experience, this tour starts at 5am. Each of these usually lasts around 2 hours, which is a perfect amount of time for most children. They vary in prices from $17 for kids and $28 for adults. 

Sloth Tour Costa Rica Family

Hot Springs

And I must mention again, the Los Lagos Hot springs that are both lots of fun and very relaxing. They offer about 11 pools all with different temperatures, the higher up you go, the hotter it gets. Ranging from a super-hot 104 degrees to a much cooler 68 degrees. They also had a few, pretty fast water slides that we all loved. We enjoyed ourselves so much each day we spent time there, and the food was pretty good as well. It was the best mix of offerings for our whole family. We will be sure to return on our next trip. 

Must See Beaches in Guanacaste 

Conchal Beach and Playa Flamingo are considered some of the best beaches in the Guanacaste Region with public access. 

Playa Conchal 

Conchal Beach gets its name from the Spanish word for shell “concha”. The white sand and shells lining the shores make it one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. The beautiful turquoise and calm waters make it a great visit. The water can be crystal clear and makes a perfect place to snorkel or just spot fish from above. There are lots of vendors selling cold drinks, sweet treats, and cute little souvenirs. This is the ideal beach for relaxing and taking the kids swimming, but also very popular and can feel overcrowded at times.

Conchal Beach Kids in Costa Rica

Playa Flamingo

Playa Flamingo is a beautiful u-shaped beach covered in white sand and surrounded by warm waters. When the sun hits the beach at certain times it can appear that the sand is pink, which is where it gets the name flamingo. The area is known for deep sea fishing but is also perfect for sailing, scuba diving, or just relaxing and enjoying the scenery. While visiting Playa Flamingo you may spot a sea turtle or even some tropical fish in the crystal-clear water. 

Tamarindo

Tamarindo Beach is one of our favorites in all of Costa Rica. Tamarindo lives by the motto, “Surf, eat & party.” There’s so much energy here in this town that is so much fun for families and it is very rich in culture. Tamarindo is one of the top places to surf in the region and if you’re into it, you could just watch all day. They also have a long list of great shops and lively restaurants along the beach and in the town. The beaches are long and there are many activities for everyone. This is a must see, especially for your kids.

Playa Langosta

To the south is a more private beach known as Playa Langosta. This is a resort area with beautiful white sand beaches. There is a nice swimming area and also several places that is good for surfing.  The mini beaches of Langosta are broken up by scenic rock formations. This makes for nice hikes and beachcombing with children in tow. 

Samara Beach

Another beach that everyone talks about is Playa Samara. To access this beach, you must be a guest of the Villas Playa Samara Beach Front Resort. Starting at $359 a night for a stay at this resort, you will be able to enjoy the wide-open fabulous views this beach has to offer. This beach allows you access to kayaking, snorkeling, and sightseeing the beautiful wildlife. 

 

Other Great Attractions in Costa Rica

A few things worth mentioning that were highly recommended that we didn’t get a chance to do… 

Baldi Hotel and Spa has their own hot springs park. Rooms start around $265 per night and breakfast is included. 

Rio Chollin Natural Hot Springs. Here you can visit the natural hot springs for free. Though it is crowded, it is a lot cheaper than visiting an expensive resort to enjoy the hot springs. 

Many companies offer ziplining in the La Fortuna area of Costa Rica. The prices vary from $30 to $120 per adult depending on the length of the trips and the skill level. Los Lagos also has a very fun and challenging course on property.

Playa Grande in the Guanacaste region is another one of the highest rated beaches for families.

Hiking the Lava Flow trails on the volcanoes. You can hire a guide to take you along the paths made by the most recent eruptions.

Pack your bags and hike over to Proyecto Asis to help support the animal sanctuary. This is one of the only animal sanctuaries to take in injured wild animals, or that were once pets. You can either schedule a guided tour or volunteer to help prepare and feed the animals. 

Hiking and exploring the Arenal Volcano National Park. Between the months of February and April are the best months to visit this 26,692 Acre Park. Any other time it can be covered in a thick layer of fog, but still well worth a visit. 

The longest Jungle water slide is another popular attraction. The most exciting 400 meters you will experience. Starting at $15 you can enjoy sliding down the longest mountain water slide in Costa Rica. 

Covid restrictions while visiting Costa Rica:  

Complete the digital form called HEALTH PASS that can only be completed within 72 hours prior to arrival. 

You must either provide proof of vaccination or purchase a travel policy for the duration of your visit. 

While traveling back to the United States from Costa Rica, all airline passengers ages 2 and older must provide a negative covid-19 viral test. This test must be taken within one calendar day of travel and is required regardless of your vaccination status or citizenship. 

I really hope you enjoyed this Family Travel Guide on Visiting Costa Rica. If you would like to learn more about our trip head to the Travel section on the website. If you have any great experiences in the places we traveled, please share below.

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