Things To Do in Costa Rica with Kids (at the beach)

Drake Bay is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica

(By José R. – O CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia)

Planning a trip to Costa Rica with kids to hit the beach? We’ll share the best places to visit in Costa Rica and help you plan your Costa Rica vacations at the beach.

Costa Rica with Kids

A family vacation in Costa Rica is sure to be filled with adventures and experiences that you remember for a lifetime. It’s a country lined with beaches, topped with volcanoes, and rich in biodiversity. In fact about a quarter of the country is protected jungle. The rainforest is home to lots of wildlife, including spider monkeys, quetzal birds, jaguars, and sloths.

Where is Costa Rica? This Central American country has coastlines on the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans. It borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.

There are so many things to do in Costa Rica including wildlife tours, surfing, zipling, volcano hiking, snorkeling, and relaxing at one of the beachfront homes in Costa Rica. Costa Rica points of interest include the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum in San José, Corcovado National Park, Arenal Volcano, peaceful Playa Sámara (beach), and Turrialba home of some of the craziest whitewater rafting in Central America. But we are going to focus on the best beaches and the best beach activities.


Read about the time I went white water rafting in Panama and got dumped out of the boat repeatedly. 


Are you wondering what to do in Costa Rica? Keeping reading. I’ll share where to go in Costa Rica and what you need to know about Costa Rica tourism to plan a great family trip.

Best time to go to Costa Rica: The dry season is mid-December through April, which is ideal for playing at the beaches and exploring Costa Rica’s rainforest. Of course, it is also high tourist season and the most expensive time to visit. Prices are lowest between May and November, so it’s a great time to go if you don’t mind getting a little wet. Weather varies throughout the country, with the Caribbean side being more humid and less hot than the Pacific side. See this site for a month-to-month breakdown.


Top Things to do in Costa Rica at the Beach

Corcovado National Park is ideal part of Costa Rica with kids

Explore the Beaches

When you visit Costa Rica, you probably want to soak in some beach time, whether that means sunning on the beach, participating in water sports, or watching wildlife. Some of the best places to stay in Costa Rica are right on the beach. Whether you choose an all inclusive resort in Costa Rica or rent a beachfront house or apartment, being close to the sea can make your trip extra relaxing or put you close to the action. I think trips to Costa Rica must include some time at the beach.


Best Beaches Costa Rica

With two coastlines, there are a lot of beaches to explore in Costa Rica. Here are what I consider to be six of the best beaches in Costa Rica.

Playa Flamingo
  • Where: Pacific Ocean, Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste Province
  • What: soft sands, gentle slope, upscale
  • Why: family-friendly, scuba diving, sailing, sport fishing
Tamarindo
  • Where: Pacific Ocean, Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste Province
  • What: most developed tourist town, laid back vibe, variety of budgets, surrounded by Las Baulas National Park
  • Why: surfing, fishing, beach lounging, nightlife
Manuel Antonio
  • Where: Pacific Ocean, Central Pacific
  • What: a 30-minute hike through Manuel Antonio National Park to the beach
  • Why: wildlife, especially monkeys, calm water makes it one of the best beaches for families in Costa Rica
Cahuita
  • Where: Caribbean Ocean, Limón Province
  • What: laid back, Creole culture, gateway to Cahuita National Park
  • Why: snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, beach lounging
Drake Bay
  • Where: Pacific Ocean, Osa Peninsula, South Pacific
  • What: Can be challenging to get to – may need a river taxi unless you fly, adjacent to Corcovado National Park
  • Why: best snorkeling in Costa Rica, scuba diving, swimming, kayaking, horseback riding, sport fishing, bird watching, beach combing

Best Snorkeling in Costa RicaWhere to snorkel in Costa Rica

One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is snorkeling or diving. Snorkeling is especially nice because you don’t need to be certified in order to go. Just put on the mask, snorkel, and some fins and start swimming. There are many places where you can snorkel right from the beach. Alternatively, you can take a Costa Rica tour on a boat to a coral reef.

If snorkeling is priority for you, be sure to visit during September through December when water clarity is at its best.

Whether you should snorkel on the Pacific side or Caribbean side is up for debate. The Caribbean should have better snorkeling, but runoff from banana plantations has damaged many of the reefs. Plus, rivers running into the sea cloud the water and lower visibility much of the year. That’s not to say you can find great places to snorkel on either side of the country.

You’ll notice some of these spots match up with my choices for Costa Rica best beaches.

You might see a loggerhead turtle in Costa Rica

Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge

The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge may be one of the best places for snorkeling in Costa Rica.

  • Where: Caribbean Coast
  • What to look for: sea turtles (nesting from March to July), fish, manatees, crocodiles, and dolphins
Caño Island Biological Reserve

The Bio Reserve surrounds the tiny island of Caño off the coast of Drake Bay and is high on the list for best snorkeling in Costa Rica.

  • Where: Pacific Ocean, Osa Peninsula, South Pacific
  • What to look for: devil rays, white-tipped reef sharks, bull sharks, more fish than you can imagine, and sea turtles
Cahuita National Park

This Park is perfect for casual snorkelers because you can walk straight from the beach into the ocean and start seeing marine wildlife. Visit in September or October for best visibility.

  • Where: Caribbean Ocean, Limón Province
  • What to look for: 35 species of coral, over a 120 species of tropical fish, 120 species of mollusks, 40 species of crustaceans, sea horses, and anemones.

Best Places to Surf in Costa Rica for Families
There are many places to learn to surf in Costa Rica

(By Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Costa Rica is known for surfing. There are plenty of mellow breaks perfect for families learning to surf, as well as big waves for experienced surfers. It’s hard to pick the best beaches for surfing in Costa Rica, so I am going to narrow it down a little by noting the best family friendly surf spots for beginner surfers.

Playa Guiones
  • Where: Pacific Ocean, Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste
  • What: There are a lot of surf schools in the area, so you know it’s ideal for beginners. But, this is also a place expert surfers come to practice tricks when high swells come in. This spot has some of the cleanest water in Costa Rica and over 300 days of consistent, surfable waves. The sandy bottom and beach break make it great for beginner surfers.
Playa Jaco

Playa Jaco is great for beginners at low tide and like many other surf towns, there are plenty of things to do in Jaco Costa Rica in addition to surfing.

  • Where: Central Pacific
  • What: Playa Jaco is home to more surf schools and surf shops than anywhere else in Costa Rica. It’s also home to many renowned surfers. Waves are consistent here and break over a sandy bottom.
Playa Tamarindo
  • Where: Pacific Ocean, Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste
  • What: Like I said in the best beaches section, Tamarindo is one of the most popular spots in Costa Rica, partly due to the white sand beaches and consistent waves. There are more surf camps than you can shake a long board at. Go watch the surfers on the big waves at nearby Playa Grande after your lesson. It’s a great place for kids to learn to surf in Costa Rica.
Playa Samara
  • Where: Pacific Ocean, Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste
  • What: Great chest-high waves perfect for beginners at high tide. The small beach town lacks fast food, chain stores, and multi-story buildings (that’s a big plus, in my opinion). Because of a recent earthquake and subsequent rising of a reef, the surfing here is for very beginners, not those hoping to take their surf game up a level. Good for kids learning to surf.
Playa Cocles
  • Where: Caribbean Ocean
  • What: Not as well known as some of the other surf spots, Playa Cocles has a consistent beach break and mellow, fun waves. Get there in the morning before the wind blows it out.

Hope this guide helps you plan your vacation in Costa Rica. Of course there are many other things to do besides play at the beach, including: looking into volcanoes, soaking in hot springs, trekking through the jungle, and white water rafting, just to name a few.

Let me know what your favorite beach spot is in Costa Rica.

Planning a trip to Costa Rica with kids? We’ll share the best places to visit in Costa Rica and help you plan your Costa Rica vacations at the beach.


More Posts from Central America

Thanks to Luxury Retreats for sponsoring this post.

 

18 thoughts on “Things To Do in Costa Rica with Kids (at the beach)

  1. Suzanne

    Just reading your post about Costa Rica reminds me so much of my home country of Trinidad and Tobago. I would love to visit just to make some comparisons! It looks so lush and beautiful for swimming and appreciating marine life. I’m also happy you mentioned those animal reserves. Animal conservation is important and when done properly, can be a viable source of eco-tourism.

    1. Mel Post author

      I bet it is similar to Trinidad and Tobago. I should have mentioned that Costa Rica is known for their eco-tourism and was one of the first countries doing it.

  2. Abigail Sinsona

    This is one of the countries I’ve wanted to visit in Central America. It sounds like (based on your list of recommendations) like a true tropical paradise. I love going to tropical destinations and enjoying nature when I travel, rather than going to the big city kinds of destinations. It is so nice that you can take your kids too!

  3. Lydia Smith

    So much to see in Costa Rica. Snorkeling seems to much fun, I’d love to snorkel with friends or meet friends snorkeling. Hahaha. I should mention Costa Rica to my extended family, the littles ones would be so happy on the beaches. Thanks for the detailed post.

  4. Mel Butler

    I have never been to Costa Rica but it is definitely high on my list of places to go, even more so now than before. I do not have children but I would definitely do all these activities myself like the Snorkeling just off the beach, as it looks great. All those places sound and look like paradise and you could stay there forever.

  5. Lisa

    Costa Rica has been on my list for forever, but I can never seem to find a cheap enough ticket – I’ve heard it’s quite expensive there. I love to snorkel, so I’d take your advice and go between September to December. That said, I’d also like to see the manatees and dolphins from March to July! So hard to decide 😀

    1. Mel Post author

      I think it is more expensive than other Central American countries, but certainly less expensive than Europe. I think the moral of the story is, that it’s almost always a good time to go to Costa Rica.

  6. Bee

    so many beach activities to do in Costa Rica! they all seem amazing and i love how they have a wildlife sanctuary there too. it sounds like the ideal vacation for any traveller!

  7. James

    I’ve been to Costa RIca alone many times but never with kids. Now I have a daughter I see Costa Rica would be the perfect place to visit with kids. The close access to all those beautiful and unique beaches you mentioned. I’d love for her to see the wildlife too, so many birds and animals she’s never even seen in a book!

    1. Mel Post author

      It’s the perfect place for a kid (or adult!) interested in rainforest wildlife. Like you said, it accessible and so biodiverse.

  8. Suzannah

    This is so extensive and helpful so thank you very much for that! Snorkelling is something I’d absolutely love to do, and it’s great that children can get involved and have a great time!

  9. Manjulika Pramod

    It would be fun to snorkel or explore the beaches and the forests of Costa Rica with kids.
    I do not have kids but I wil pass this to my friends. Also, I liked the way you have put down the post mentioning, What, Where, Why and What to look for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *