I’m just going to come right out and say it: you should take your kids to Costa Rica. This Central American paradise possesses all the qualities that make up the perfect family-friendly destination: a safe country where people are laid-back and love children, exotic animals and gorgeous beaches abound, and tons of exciting outdoor adventures are available.
This post is not sponsored by the Costa Rica Board of Tourism, but it probably should be. Every year my husband and I have the same conversation:
Him: “I reserved a house in Costa Rica in February. Just in case.”
Me: “In case of what? Yearly trips to Costa Rica are not a God-given right! We could go somewhere else for a change…”
Him: “You know, before I met you, I went on fishing trips to Costa Rica once, twice, sometimes three times a year! Blah blah blah…” (This is where I tune out).
We love Costa Rica. We love it so much that we had our wedding on a Costa Rican beach. However, I was still a little hesitant the first time we took our kids there — traveling internationally with multiple car seats is a pain in the ass, and I wasn’t sure it would be entirely worth it. But it was. At every age, kids will find plenty of (secretly educational) fun to be had in Costa Rica. I’m convinced it’s one of the best family vacation destinations out there, for all of the following reasons.
Costa Rica Has Something for Everyone
In a family with multiple kids, you have lots of people to keep happy. In Costa Rica, the sheer density of activities means that there is truly something for everyone. Give your kids the list of possibilities and let everyone pick one they simply must do: Take a surfing lesson? Go white water rafting? Snorkel? Dive? Sunbathe on a spectacular beach? Go deep sea fishing? Swim with dolphins? Hike rainforest trails? Zip line through a canopy? Stand under a waterfall? Pet a snake (just kidding don’t do that..)? Pose with a sloth? Relax in hot springs? Ride horses around a volcano? Stay at a working farm? Go off-grid? Look for an elusive jaguar? Howl back at howler monkeys? Check birds off a list, starting with toucans and scarlet macaws? Do you want me to stop now?
Costa Rica is Safe
Once you have kids, your whole assessment of safety changes. Costa Rica has very little violent crime, and I have never been worried for our family there. Plus, they have a good medical system, and I am one of those people who is always peripherally aware of the location of the nearest hospital, just in case.
Costa Rica is Family Friendly
Ticos (Costa Ricans) tend to love children, and kids are welcome everywhere. I’m a sucker for a place where I can walk into a local restaurant and people are nothing but lovely to my kids — even when they are throwing rice on the floor.
Kids Love Animals
What kid doesn’t love animals? Costa Rica is well aware that its wealth lies in its biodiversity, and it’s fun to be immersed in a place so focused on its animals. Everywhere you go, the local guides are incredible, usually well-educated, and often with advanced degrees in biology. Whether your child wants to see a sloth, go bird watching, visit a sea turtle nesting beach, catch frogs at night, look for poisonous snakes, or hunt the tropical rare bullet ant (the insect with the most painful bite. Doesn’t that sound fun?)
Costa Rica has it all. Adventurous kids can camp deep in a rainforest, while kids who are wary of insect bites can still visit animal sanctuaries for cuddly photo ops and retreat to more comfortable hotel rooms at night.
Costa Rica is Close to the East Coast
The bummer here is that we actually live on the West Coast, so Costa Rica is not an easy destination for us. But for those of you who live on the East Coast of the US, Costa Rica is pretty easy to reach. It’s only a two to three hour flight from Miami.
Costa Rica is Fit for Foodies
Don’t expect to lose weight on this trip. Typical Costa Rican food is delicious, and you can expect a wide availability of rice and beans, fried plantains, amazing seafood, and tropical fruits. Costa Rica has become a destination for many foodie expatriates and you will find phenomenal little restaurants everywhere you go.
You’ll Fall in Love with Pura Vida
Costa Rica’s easy going “pura vida” culture encourages you take a deep breath and relax. Smile. Don’t stress. Sure, you can take a tropical vacation other places — Hawaii or Florida, for example — but none of those places will have Costa Rica’s culture, and half the reason we travel with our kids is to experience other cultures.
Costa Rica is one of the best destinations in the world for adventurous families. It manages to strike a balance between more exciting activities and the luxury of relaxing on a deserted tropical beach with a tropical drink in hand (although if you’re taking little kids, we both know there won’t be any relaxing).
So what are you waiting for? Book that trip! But before you go, check out our do’s and don’ts for family travel to Costa Rica.