A Family-Friendly Adventure to Costa Rica

Advisor - Jen Barnes
Curated By

Jen Barnes

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  • Costa Rica

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Family Travel

  • International Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Outdoors

  • Mountains

  • Coastal

large green mountain with cloudy skies
Curator’s statement

Costa Rica is the ultimate destination for family adventures. If you want your teen to really get excited about a vacation, then Costa Rica is THE perfect spot. Costa Rica has incredible outdoor activities that include zip lining, swinging bridges, kayaking, surfing, wildlife tours, deep sea fishing, canyoning, hot springs and more. It's imperative that you experience both the interior of the country as well as the coast to get the most out of your "pura vida" trip.

The Fora Difference

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Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay in Costa Rica

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Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

Luxe resort and spa near Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

El Establo Mountain Hotel

Set close to Costa Rica's famed Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, this relaxed hotel offers casual rooms, an indoor pool, on-site activities and a laid-back restaurant.

The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal

Luxurious thermal spa resort with rustic-chic rooms, natural hot and cold springs and waterfalls.

Fora Perks
  • $125 spa credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

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Advisor - Jen Barnes

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Things to do in Costa Rica

bridge surrounded by trees during daytime

In La Fortuna, I recommend spending at least one day relaxing at the natural hot springs, whether at your own hotel or booking time at another hotel. Combine this with a spa treatment if you like. Make time to get near the volcano for kayaking, paddle boarding or hiking. The scenery is magnificent and the lake provides lots of nonmotorized water sport opportunities. Other options in La Fortuna include zip-lining excursions and canyoneering/rappelling down waterfalls as well as wildlife hikes to look for sloths. Depending on how adventurous your teen is, there is no lack of finding things to do in this area.

Next, head to Monteverde to the cloud forest. Don't miss the swinging bridges through the rain forest or the zip lining through the clouds, both epic adventures. Many of the hotels offer nighttime wildlife excursions with knowledgeable guides on all of the nocturnal animals in the region.

Finally, head to the coast for stunning beaches. The entire Papagayo Peninsula and Guanacaste province offer luscious backdrops and beautiful beaches. Take surf lessons and enjoy the warm waters for swimming and splashing. If you are an angler, you will want to take advantage of the deep-sea fishing tours available here. If you prefer land, do an ATV tour or a horseback ride.

I always encourage families to get a taste of the interior with lots of adventure and then end at the coast for some relaxation before heading home. Teens love Costa Rica for the mix of both. I've really enjoyed this trip as a one-on-one adventure with my son. So many memories to be made together!

Places to eat & drink in Costa Rica

chairs and tables next to large trees during sunset

Costa Rica isn't necessarily known for its cuisine, but what it lacks in innovation it makes up for in home-style cooking. Enjoy breakfast at your hotel, usually with fresh fruits, eggs and pastries. In La Fortuna, try Soda la Parada for authentic fare, and super cheap too.

Luigi's Pizza is great for a quick lunch or an inexpensive dinner.

Don Rufino is great for a more upscale restaurant experience and has a sommelier. If all else fails, you can never go wrong with the traditional arroz con pollo dish that is offered nearly everywhere you go.

Monteverde is very hilly and the towns dotted through the province are small. In Santa Elena, check out Restaurante de Lucia for a variety of options like vegetarian lasagna or sea bass. For a fabulous ribeye steak, try The Green Restaurant, just a few blocks away from Lucia.

In Papagayo, Poro Poro offers outdoor seating and live music at certain times. At the Andaz, Chao Pescao is a favorite. At the Four Seasons, Anejo is a winner.

Need to Know

In my opinion, I would not plan a vacation in Costa Rica for less than 7 days. The best way to experience this gorgeous and friendly country is to do the interior and the Pacific coast. Families with teens should make this a priority vacation on their bucket list. There is not a family I know that hasn't had an amazing time in Costa Rica.

For more travel tips, check out my guide to Colorado: Active Long Weekend Getaway to Vail, Colorado.

Advisor - Jen Barnes

Travel Advisor

Jen Barnes

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Costa Rica and our larger series on nature escapes.