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Costa Rica is a perfect family destination because it’s both endlessly entertaining and phenomenally relaxing. In a country that’s home to six percent of the world’s biodiversity, Costa Rica family vacations offer an immersive learning experience for your children—in the most exciting way. The country has 29 national parks, reserves, and wildlife refuges, which means more than a quarter of the landmass is zoned to protect the natural Costa Rican splendor. For a family vacation, that translates to days filled with hiking, snorkeling, and ziplining. In short, it translates to exploration.
If you’re considering a trip to Central America this year, here are the best Costa Rica family vacations to book:
Guanacaste Province has stunning Pacific-side beaches, lively towns, and family-friendly activities galore. Stay at W Costa Rica - Reserva Conchal, which opened in November 2018, and book their over-the-top suite: the “E-Wow Suite” with an ocean view and two large bedrooms. W Costa Rica - Reserva Conchal will also customize an itinerary for your whole family that shows off the best of the northwestern part of the country. Ask to speak with their W Insider to organize an off-roading excursion, or a day of snorkeling and jet-skiing at Playa Conchal, the resort’s on-property beach.
Poás Volcano National Park
One of the most famous spots to visit in Costa Rica—and for good reason—is the Poás Volcano. In the Poás volcanic crater, you’ll see the “hot” lake—a bright, blue-green, sulfuric lake with steam rising off the top. Poás Volcano National Park also has a myriad of hiking trails through cloud forests. While visiting Costa Rica’s central valley, stay at El Silencio Lodge & Spa, the first property in the Relais & Châtaeux Central America collection. El Silencio is about an hour and a half from San José in Bajos del Toro “on a 500-acre private cloud forest reserve flanked by the Juan Castro Blanco and Poás Volcano National Parks.” Book a two-bedroom suite or two-bedroom private villa at the lodge, and speak with El Silencio’s eco-concierge to map out a scenic waterfall hike for the whole family.
Manuel Antonio National Park
On the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, south of Guanacaste, is Manuel Antonio National Park. Within the park, you’ll find an abundance of activities that will expose you and your companions to Costa Rica’s natural beauty. If the family is up for it, hike Cathedral Point alongside Costa Rican wildlife like monkeys, iguanas, lizards, and birds. Families can also go jungle and river tubing or rafting in the park with H2O Adventures. When planning a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park, stay right on the beach at Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort, which is the only luxury resort in the park.
About three hours by car from Poás Volcano National Park, you could easily tack Monteverde on to a week-long family vacation. Monteverde is a great ziplining destination—and Mistico Park can curate a zipline tour for your family, bringing you to the area’s best sights. Monteverde is also known for the quintessential Costa Rican hanging bridges and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. It’s an ideal destination for the family who loves to hike and spend most of their vacation outdoors. Treat your family to a high-altitude treehouse stay in Monteverde at Hidden Canopy Treehouse—their six treehouse chalets are 5,000 feet up.
On the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica, Limón Province is home to Cahuita National Park, a popular snorkeling destination with 120 species of fish and more than 40 crustacean species. In Cahuita, stay at Hotel La Diosa Resort, an eco-friendly property right on the water. Also within Limón Province, about a three-drive from Cahuita, is Tortuguero National Park. If your itinerary allows, Tortuguero National Park, an archipelago of volcanic islands created to protect endangered turtles, is a perfect three-day excursion for your family. July to October is turtle nesting season, which you can witness firsthand as your family tours the lagoons, rivers, and rainforest of Tortuguero.
For a family surf vacation, the place to be in Costa Rica is the Gilded Iguana Surf Hotel. The surf hotel is in Nosara, a beloved surf destination known for one of the best beaches in Costa Rica: Playa Guiones. Nosara as a region is all about fresh-caught seafood, eco-tourism, relaxing, and finding the best waves. At the Gilded Iguana’s Surf Club, you can book private surf lessons, or opt for semi-private or group surf lessons if your whole family wants to learn to surf together.