The Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is filled with golden-sand beaches, dense rainforests and an abundance of tropical wildlife. There are plenty of exciting activities for your whole family — below, we have listed 10 of our favorite things to do on a luxury Costa Rica family adventure vacation. Whatever you decide to do, we promise you will never get bored!
1. Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park may not be big, but it is the most visited park in Costa Rica. Trails weave alongside the ocean and through the forest with picturesque streams and waterfalls, and wildlife encounters are guaranteed. An experienced guide can help you pick out sloths draped in the canopy and quiet anteaters nosing through the underbrush. Chittering monkeys swing from branch to branch, while vibrant macaws and toucans swoop in the treetops. The trails are not rigorous, and you can easily find a path that is suitable for children of all ages.
Taking a break from the forest and just a few steps away from almost all trails, make sure to visit one of the park’s gorgeous beaches. Playa Manuel Antonio is one of the best family beaches in Costa Rica — it is the most famous and has been recognized as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. For a slightly less-crowded beach experience, you might want to visit Playa Espadilla Sur that lies at the end of a land bridge.
Whether you spend the day hiking through the rainforest or playing in the sand at the beach, a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park will be enjoyable for the whole family.
2. Whitewater Rafting and Tubing
One of the most exciting ways to experience the rivers of Costa Rica is through whitewater rafting or tubing. You’ll be surrounded by gorgeous landscapes — from dense rainforest to fragrant vanilla plantations. Costa Rica’s volcanic origins mean that rivers have plenty of rapids to excite the whitewater enthusiast, but there are also gentler thrills for kids.
With a whitewater rafting trip, your experienced guide can help you choose the route that best suits your family and steer your raft down the Naranjo or the Savegre rivers. Tubing is a slower alternative to rafting that still has plenty of excitement. Relax as you and your family drift down the river with low-category rapids and plenty of breaks for swimming.
No activity captures the spirit of Costa Rica like ziplining. A researcher invented the sport as a way of maneuvering around the thick rainforest canopy, and since then, the country has embraced ziplines as a source of national pride.
Ziplining is an excellent activity for the whole family. Think of it as a kind of natural rollercoaster — you snap into a harness and pull on a helmet and gloves. Then on the count of three, you lift up your feet and fly through the treetops as if you were soaring. Enjoy a warm breeze and look for monkeys and tropical birds soaring through the canopy at eye-level. If your child is unsure about ziplining alone, some tours offer tandem ziplining, where two people are connected to one harness.
5. Tortuga Island Catamaran Tour
Spend a day on a private white sand island in style with a Tortuga Island Catamaran Tour. Enjoy luxury perks like a four-course lunch, snorkeling excursions, live music and banana boat rides. Explore the beautiful Tortuga Island with your family, and soak up the natural beauty by watching the sunlight glitter on gentle waves and seabirds soar through the bright tropical sky.
6. Horseback Riding
Explore the diverse Costa Rican landscape on horseback for an unforgettable afternoon. Choose from a variety of different tours and packages, ranging from cantering over pastures, across rivers, through winding trails or along a beach at sunset.
Options are available for all levels of riders, from absolute beginners to seasoned experts. Let your guide show you a new side of Costa Rica and give your family an experience they will never forget.
Costa Rica has been internationally recognized for its plethora of environmentally-conscious tourism — 26 percent of its land is dedicated to protected lands, wildlife reserves and national parks. Take advantage of the beautiful stretches of preserved land with an ecotour, which combines education with beautiful sightseeing.
Ecotours come in a wide variety of options, from walking and rappelling to jet skiing and ATV off-roading. Try an evening kayak tour to experience a mangrove forest at night and see the owls, bats and other exciting wildlife. Enjoy a guided trek to a waterfall, or glide down a river in a jungle boat tour.
Taking a guided ecotour enhances the enjoyment for your whole family — a guide helps point out features of the area you could otherwise miss.
8. Marino Ballena National Park
For a waterside national park experience, make a day trip to Marino Ballena National Park. With uncrowded beaches and abundant sea life, the park is host to marine iguanas, bottle-nosed dolphins and armor-shelled crabs. Humpback whales migrate to the park’s ocean in both the winter and summer, and sea turtles lay their eggs in the cool evenings of May to November. When the currents are low, reefs offshore provide excellent snorkeling.
Visit Marino Ballena and enjoy a day at the beach filled with aquatic encounters!
9. Water Sports
If you love the water, there are a variety of ways you can incorporate it into your Costa Rica family vacation. Rent sea kayaks, surfboards or paddleboards and spend a day in the waves. For kids who enjoy adventure, consider taking advantage of one of the many surfing lesson packages available from shops along public beaches.
If you want some off-shore excitement, grab a jetski snorkel and explore the coastline. Look for marine life such as schools of vibrant, bright fish, eels, octopi, sea turtles and graceful manta rays.
10. Nauyaca Waterfalls
For families with older children, consider taking a trip to see the breathtaking Nauyaca waterfalls. The impressive cascading waterfall has five distinct waterfalls surrounded by beautiful lush jungle and ends in a gorgeous turquoise pool. The current can be substantial in the rainy season, so it is not advised to swim unless you are a capable swimmer. (August – November)
If you want to make the hike to the water, shuttles are available for a small fee. Another memorable way to travel is by horseback, which combines two incredible experiences in one day.
Sample Itinerary for Your Luxury Family Vacation in Costa Rica
Planning a trip to a Costa Rica can seem overwhelming at first — there is so much to do and see, and you only have a short time! But don’t worry. Fitting the must-sees into a one-week trip is possible. Below, we have included a sample itinerary of a luxurious but fun-filled family vacation to Costa Rica:
Day 1: Arrival at San José and Travel to Your Villa
Arrive at the San José airport and travel to Villa Punto de Vista. Once you reach your private villa, spend the rest of the day unpacking and exploring your home away from home. For a relaxing afternoon, let our staff prepare beach equipment for you to spend a few hours on your exclusive beach. In the evening, venture into Manuel Antonio and choose from the wide variety of local restaurants or have your butler order food to the villa.
Day 2: Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is almost at your doorstep, so it is a natural first stop on your Costa Rica vacation. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day wandering a few trails. Start your trip surrounded by wildlife — watch for tropical animals such as sloths and howler monkeys high in the trees. End up on one of the park’s lovely beaches for a real beach day, and finish up by watching the sunset over the Pacific horizon.
Day 3: Explore Manuel Antonio and Book an Ecotour
Spend your third day exploring the small community of Manuel Antonio. Wander through shops and stalls, and be sure to taste the local food! Once the sun begins to set, arrive at your nocturnal ecotour through a mangrove forest. Spend a few hours under the stars and see a whole new side of Costa Rica.
Day 4: Zipline Through the Canopy
After an evening spent among the mangroves, your family will probably want a low-energy morning to sleep in and enjoy your villa. In the afternoon, book a zipline adventure for a thrilling and once-in-a-lifetime experience. Laugh and shout together as you fly through the trees, high above the forest floor.
Day 5: Catamaran Tour to Tortuga Island
For a purely relaxing and engaging day, sit back and enjoy a catamaran tour to nearby Tortuga Island. Spend a day snorkeling, tubing on a banana boat and exploring the island. Both you and your children will love cutting through the waves and seeing Costa Rica from the ocean!
Day 6: Day on the River
Spend the next day on the river. Hurtle down whitewater rapids on a raft or take a slower approach in tubes. Either way, you can be sure that floating down a Costa Rican river will end in laughter and family bonding. For the rest of the day, relax in your private pool or hot tub and soak up the last evening in your villa.
Day 7: Return to San José
After packing, spend a couple of hours in the waves on one last trip to your private beach. After you say goodbye to Manuel Antonio, travel back to San José for your return flight. If you have enough time, consider seeing some of the sights around our capital city — with an abundance of museums and other attractions, San José has something for everyone.
Tips for Traveling With Children
Visiting Costa Rica with your kids can provide a plethora of memorable family experiences, but an international vacation will look different depending on their ages. Traveling to Costa Rica with a 2, 3 or 4-year old requires a different approach than traveling with a middle schooler. Here are some of our best tips for planning a smooth vacation with your family:
1. Traveling With Toddlers
Taking your toddler on an overseas adventure will be full of rewarding moments. To make sure your trip is as snag-free as possible, try implementing these ideas:
- Be Strategic With Vaccinations: Routine child vaccinations can lead to unpleasant side effects like fevers, rashes and more. If possible, schedule your child’s vaccinations so that they are administered over a week before you fly.
- Ask About Empty Seats on the Flight: Most likely, your toddler will be able to fly for free — but that means they will be on your lap. During long flights, this can be tedious. Before takeoff, ask the gate agent and flight attendants if the flight has any empty seats and if they would be willing to rearrange seating a little so you and your toddler can sit side-by-side.
- Pack Snacks and Extra Clothes: To head-off meltdowns, make sure to come supplied with plenty of snacks to keep your toddler happy and occupied while traveling. If they are full, they will also be more likely to nap, which will only make the trip easier.
When planning your Costa Rica itinerary with a toddler, be sure activities are age-appropriate and pack what you’ll need for the day, such as snacks, towels and extra clothes.
2. Traveling With Young Children
Try these tips for a smooth vacation with young children:
- Make Sleep and Food Priorities: Kids who are well-rested and well-fed are happier and better travelers. If possible, plan flights around sleep schedules, and make sure to include downtime in between adventures.
- Keep Home Routines: Whether it includes bedtime rituals or favorite snacks, keeping some routines the same while traveling will help your kids not be overwhelmed by the new culture and setting.
- Give Them Options: When you are planning your trip, talk the itinerary over with your children and give them some activity options to pick from each day. This will give them ownership over the vacation and will go a long way to make the experience fun for everyone.
Traveling with your family is an incredibly worthwhile experience. With only a little preparation, you can minimize meltdowns and increase your family’s enjoyment of the trip.
Villa Punto de Vista: Your Costa Rica Family Vacation’s Central Location
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all Costa Rica has to offer, but it is a glimpse of what you and your family can expect on your luxury family vacation. At Villa Punto de Vista, we are dedicated to making your family stay in Costa Rica as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Contact our pre-arrival concierge to arrange travel plans and get recommendations for the best tours and services. Our on-site staff will work to make your luxury tropical vacation a once in a lifetime memory for you and your family!