It’s easy to find fun and safe activities for families in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is known for having a huge variety of tours and experiences despite being such a small country. That’s one of the things people love us for! You can snorkel in the Caribbean one day, soak in the hot springs near Arenal a day later, and horseback ride on the slopes of the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano in Guanacaste the next.
Of course, family-friendly tours have special requirements, ranging from safety measures to equipment sizes. You might not want to take your toddler on a surfing tour, unless they’re the next surfing prodigy!
What’s Involved in the Best Activities for Families in Costa Rica?
First of all, it all depends on how old your kids are. Older children and toddlers, or even babies, require different kinds of tours. As we go through the list, we’ll do our best to recommend what ages each experience is best for. However, at the end of the day, you know your children better than anyone. Keep in mind that different tour operators will also have different rules regarding what ages can participate in their tours.
#1 Rainforest Ziplining
Ziplines offer an excellent dose of adrenaline that is safe for almost anyone. This exciting adventure takes you over and through the treetops, connected to strong cables from the safety of a harness. It’s an unforgettable family journey as you fly through the air one-by-one, or sometimes two at a time on side-by-side lines.
Throughout the country, you can find ziplines for any adrenaline-preference. Some ziplines offer more of a graceful float through the trees, while others let you pick up a little speed. Never fear, the braking system on all our zipline tours are top notch and fail safe. This is one of our favorite activities for families in Costa Rica: letting you enjoy nature in a completely different way.
Where can you find family-friendly zipline tours in Costa Rica?
Some of the most popular locations for family zipline tours include:
- The Arenal Area – Northern Central
- Monteverde – Puntarenas
- Guanacaste – Nicoya Peninsula
- Sarapiqui – Northern Central
- Turrialba – Central Valley
- Just about anywhere in the country!
Most zipline tours allow children 6 and up to participate.
Experience nature first hand in this team, aka family, activity. You will have to work together on this wild ride. Rafting comes with the physical advantages of exercising and reducing stress, while discovering parts of the landscape that only other rafters ever see.
Not all rafting has to be “white water”, which is why this fun activity is on the list of safe activities for families in Costa Rica. In fact, you can find Class II and Class III rivers throughout the country, like the Sarapiqui River and the Corobici River. On these rivers, both older kids and even grandparents can have a lot of safe fun.
Where can you find family-friendly rafting tours in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is blessed with so many different rivers, but here are some of our recommended ones for family rafting experiences:
- Sarapiqui River – Sarapiqui Area
- Corobici River – Guanacaste
- Pacuare River – Limon Area
- Balsa River – Arenal Area
This differs greatly between rivers, classes, and tour operators, but generally you can find rafting for ages 7 and up.
#3 Banana Boat
Want to enjoy the warm waters of Costa Rica’s ocean in a different way than usual? With the banana boat tour, the whole family can enjoy together. It’s a lot of fun as the motor boat leads you around the calm waters. Half of the fun is trying not to fall off the inflatable, though life jackets make the activity as safe as possible.
Where can you find banana boat tours in Costa Rica?
You can find banana boat activities almost anywhere there is water and tour providers in Costa Rica. Such as:
- Manuel Antonio
- Tortuga Island
The main age consideration for banana boat tours are who can grip the inflatable and be okay in case they do fall off. The sizes of available life jackets are also an important factor. Generally ages 8 and up are permitted on these tours.
Just about anyone can snorkel, from young kids to elders. If you can swim, you can snorkel. And guess what, even if you can’t swim, there are always life jackets and floating devices to help you float. It’s easy to learn. A few minutes of practice with the diving mask and snorkel, you’ll get the hang of it.
Then the whole family can start swimming and floating around with their faces just below the surface of the water to see what’s underneath. Cortez angelfish, parrot fish, pufferfish, yellowfin surgeonfish, rays, and colorful coral are all common sights, depending on where you’re snorkeling.
Where can you go snorkeling in Costa Rica?
Your family can enjoy snorkeling off just about any beach in Costa Rica, though some spots are more famous than others. We recommend snorkeling in:
- Caño Island – Osa Peninsula
- Marino Ballena – South Pacific
- Cahuita National Park – South Caribbean
- Manuel Antonio – Central Pacific
We want to make sure everyone is as safe as possible with these more hands-on tours. Recommended ages differ between tour providers and areas, but generally are allowed for kids over 3, though some require participants to know how to swim.
#5 Dolphin Watching
You don’t have to be an aquatic enthusiast to enjoy dolphin sighting. There are dolphins all around the coasts of Costa Rica. Join your family on a boat tour to learn about dolphins in their natural habitat. Since dolphins aren’t completely predictable, each and every trip is different and memorable. Everyone will love this ride- kids, teenagers, adults, and older! Watching a dolphin jump from the waves is as good as it gets.
Where can you find dolphins in Costa Rica?
Want the best odds of seeing a dolphin on your marine tour? Look for tours in these areas:
- Central Pacific
- Osa Peninsula
There are usually no age limits for dolphin sighting tours! Just check that the tour provider will have the right size of life jackets if you are bringing babies or toddlers along.
#6 Volcano Trips
Of course Costa Rica is known for its wide variety of amazing volcanoes. It’s one of the most remarkable sites for anyone coming to Costa Rica. Costa Rica has more than 112 volcanoes, 6 of which are active. Active volcanoes in Costa Rica include: Irazú, Poás, Turrialba, Arenal, Rincón de la Vieja, and Tenorio.
As small as Costa Rica is, you can actually visit more than one volcano in one day. There are several just around the central valley where San Jose is. Your family can actually drive or ride up to the Irazú and Poás Volcanoes and see the craters on clear days. Helicopter tours let you enjoy volcanoes from the air as well. It’s one of the most extraordinary family activities in Costa Rica.
What are the best volcanoes to visit in Costa Rica?
Note that not all volcanoes have tours that let you go right up to the crater. Even so, there are plenty of tours, hotels, and areas around these volcanoes where you can appreciate their majestic slopes and occasional puffs of steam. The most regal volcanoes in Costa Rica are:
- Arenal Volcano – Northern Central
- Irazu Volcano – Central Valley
- Poas Volcano – Central Valley
- Rincón de la Vieja Volcano – Guanacaste
- Miravalles Volcano – Guanacaste
- Tenorio Volcano – Northern Central
#7 San Jose Downtown
The best way to learn about Costa Rican people and daily culture is to take a walk through San Jose’s downtown area. Walk along the Central Avenue, a pedestrian only street that takes you past magnificent locations like the National Theater, Democracy Plaza, and the Central Market. There are several beautiful city parks around our small, but intimate downtown area. Depending on the time of year, you can enjoy art festivals, artisan products, and street musicians.
The Central Market is especially interesting. Entering it is like entering a labyrinth. Wind through the passageways around small 2-6 table restaurants, produce vendors, hardware stores, pet shots, and herbal remedy shops. Whether you’re shopping for souvenirs or just experiencing Costa Rican life, you and your family will get a kick out of this area.
Another activity to do in San Jose is visit museums. There are so many interesting museums here, that we thought this activity deserved its own section. In guided tours, you and your family can learn more about the ancient history of Costa Rica and the many beautiful artifacts that can be seen. It’s an excellent activity to add to your itinerary.
Most museums include experiences made especially for younger children who might not be as into history as older children and adults. There are some unique experiences to be had!
What museums can I go to in Costa Rica?
What museums can I add to my itinerary for touring San Jose?
- Pre-Columbian Gold Museum
- Jade Museum
- National Museum of Costa Rica
- Museum of Costa Rican Art
- Children’s Museum
#9 Hanging Bridges
What do you imagine when you think of Costa Rica? If the tropical rainforest isn’t near the top of your list, then you’ve probably never seen many pictures of our lovely country! Indeed, Costa Rica is covered by hundreds of acres of gorgeous primary and secondary rainforest. Additionally, you can find areas with the unique cloud forest. Guanacaste is known for its tropical dry forest, the opposite of the humid rainforest.
What better way to explore these forests than on a walk with hanging bridges? While longer trail hikes might not be best for younger kids, there are many areas where you can find shorter walks with hanging bridges dispersed throughout. The bridges themselves look impressive. The experience is great too, since it lets you see trees, plants, birds, and rivers from above. As you walk across the bridges, they swing and roll, making it like a mini tame rollercoaster. Your kids will love it and you will too, since the bridges on our tours are all extremely safe and regularly maintained.
Where can you find hanging bridges in Costa Rica?
There are several different parks where they’ve built hanging bridges. Try these:
#10 Horseback Riding
Another great way to enjoy the tropical splendor is on horseback! It’s also a great idea if you’re not a fan of walking too much. Horses can take you places that aren’t as accessible as well, such as up hills and mountains where you can enjoy a gorgeous view most never get to see.
Horseback riding is a fun activity, as well as an opportunity to teach animal responsibility to your kids. You have to respect the animal carrying you, after all. Even if you don’t have any experience riding horses, you can still probably enjoy this tour. Most horseback riding tour providers have a range of horses, including the most docile ones for beginners and kids. It’s the perfect activity: transportation, adventure, and life lessons, all in one.
What are the best places for horseback riding in Costa Rica?
A positive horseback riding experience depends on going with a responsible stable and a beautiful area. The best combinations can be found here:
- Manuel Antonio – Central Pacific
- Arenal Area – Northern Central
- Guanacaste – Nicoya Peninsula
- Monteverde – Puntarenas
- Corcovado – Osa Peninsula
This depends on the tour provider, but generally horseback riding is allowed for kids aged 5 and up.