Costa Rica is a pioneer of eco-tourism, and a quarter of the country is made up of protected reserves and national parks. This makes it the perfect adventure playground for children and parents alike. Begin your family holiday in Costa Rica by heading for the Caribbean coast, taking in waterfalls and the world’s largest butterfly collection en route. Travel by boat into Tortuguero National Park to discover the rich jungle and marine life of this coastal rainforest. Between July and October, sights include the rare green turtle, which comes ashore to nest on the beaches. On the subject of turtles,
during Costa Rica family holidays, nature calls the shots. Your children will watch, enthralled, as a sloth descends a tree trunk in slow motion, then gasp as they spot hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower. Close encounters with playful monkeys and cheeky toucans elicit delight, but rushing down a white water river will have them screaming for more. Cloudforests offer an education too: seeing tiny fluorescent tree frogs and the mating dance of the manakin will give them a taste for biology classes when they return home. And watching a live volcano smoking before their eyes might make them long to become volcanologists. Wherever you go in this serene and lovely country, the bountiful landscape kindles a sense of natural wonder.
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What can you find on a Costa Rica family holiday that you won't find anywhere else?
This small Central American country is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, crammed with a greater variety of plants and animals than you can shake a stick at – although we don't advise that. Anyone, whatever age, who has a keen interest in the natural world, will be as happy as a squirrel in a nut shop in Costa Rica.
In the north of Costa Rica, the majestic Arenal Volcano is one of the highlights of the country. The eruptions, though frequent, are moderate and you can often view them from safe distances, allowing your family to witness a spectacular sight – especially at night when the glow from the crater stands out in the darkness. River safaris, white-water rafting, horse riding, mountain biking, wallowing in natural hot springs or windsurfing on Lake Arenal are some of the huge range of activities available in this region. The Arenal Hanging Bridges are a hugely memorable experience, allowing the kids to get to grips with the fascinating and colourful world of the rainforest canopy during Costa Rica family holidays.
Adrenaline seekers should head to the cloudforest of the central highlands, where you can swoop through the treetops on zip wires, or if you prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground, take part in a nocturnal nature walk. Costa Rica has a combination of dramatic scenery and wildlife, such as squirrel monkeys, tree frogs, mud turtles and the rare quetzal bird. However, no family holiday to Costa Rica is complete without spending a few days relaxing on the sandy beaches of the Pacific coast. Head for the sheltered coves of the northern Papagayo Peninsula or the tropical bays of the Golfo Dulce for some quality family time and the chance to unwind. And if youngsters start to get restless, the epic surf breaks of Nosara can cater to beginner wave-riders or we can arrange humpback whale watching in Ballena National Maritime Park.
The Caribbean coast boasts plenty of family-friendly treasures of its own; Playa Bonita and Playa Chino are laid-back pictures of paradise, complete with local eateries serving traditional fare (the tropical fruit smoothies are bound to appeal to even the fussiest of eaters). Tortuguero National Park is another spot which promises wondrous wildlife experiences, as its beaches are a prime nesting ground for endangered green turtles. Accompanied by a local guide, watch the adorable turtles hatch and scuttle along the golden sand towards the sea.
Best Time to Visit for Costa Rica Family Holidays:
Family holidays in Costa Rica are bound to feature their fair share of adventure activities and wildlife watching, and choosing the best time to visit will ensure you can make the most of the great outdoors. Costa Rica’s dry season runs from December to April, with temperatures firmly in the mid-30s, so this is generally considered the optimal time to visit. The wet season takes place between April and November, although there can be benefits to visiting during this period and braving the showers. Known as ‘green season’, the rainfall nurtures the country’s abundant landscapes and the jungles are exceptionally verdant and lush. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the turtles in Tortuguero National Park, it’s best to visit in July or August; the turtles arrive to lay their eggs in July and continue nesting until September. To complicate things further, the country also sees regional variations of the wet and dry seasons – visit our guide page for an in-depth breakdown of the best time for a family holiday to Costa Rica, based on where you plan to travel to.