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Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio, Arenal, Tortuguero

Places to visit with three kids, ages 9-13

We're planning a family trip to Costa Rica---my husband and I honeymooned there years ago---and would love input on the best places to see with kids. We want to see lots of wildlife, have fun on the beach, do some moderately exciting adventures (nothing too crazy), and are okay with seeing a bunch of places as long as they are all within reasonable driving distance to each other. We have about two weeks to work with and going in the summer.

We are considering: Manuel Antonio, Arenal, Guachipelin, Tortuguero, and the La Pax Waterfall Park in central Costa Rica.

9 Answers

top answer by
Rocio from Costa Rica

Hello Christina. I am a Costa Rican who enjoys spending my summer vacations traveling inside the country. I would suggest that you focus the trip on the Guanacaste, Monteverde and the Volcán Arenal. These 3 places are very close to one another and there are many attractions (for adults and kids) as those you mentioned. Guanacaste has many options of nice hotels to stay in, some of them that I can recommend are as follows: Tamarindo Diria Beach and Golf ResortWestin Playa Conchal, Jw Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa, among others. In Monteverde (where you can visit the best cloud forest in Central America), is a must. Some nice hotels are: Hotel El Establo, Hotel Fonda Vela. Please dont miss to include in the agenda a short visit to the Arenal Region area. The Arenal volcano is active (but not dangerous) and if you book a room with a volcano view this will be impressive as at night you can see the summit and the active fumarols.   I recommend the following hotels, Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, Tilajari Resort Hotel, and last but not least the Hotel Arenal Kioro.

If you want to save time, there is an international aiport located in Guanacaste, Daniel Oduber International Airport and as far as I know, United and other airlines offer daily flights.

Hope you enjoy Paradise. Pura vida!!

6 thanks

answered by
Jesse from New York City

Arenal, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Guanacaste/Tamarindo would be my suggestions!  Arenal has incredible views of the volcano and tons of hot springs, Monteverde cloud forest is a fun easy stop on the way to the coast where you could do some zip lining or hiking, Tamarindo is a great little beach town with tons of restaurants and activities -- you can do an estuary boat tour and see gators and monkeys or go to Lola's on Playa Avellanas and hang out with Lola the pig that lives on the beach!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Arenal (city)
  2. Monteverde Cloud Forest (attraction)
  3. Guanacaste (region)
  4. Tamarindo (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Mary Beth from Cullman

I would definitely recommend Manuel Antonio for the trip you are describing.  It has such a great combination of beautiful beaches and jungle.  Lots of opportunities for adventure as well.  Arenal is also an area with tons of activities.  I took some students a couple of years ago and they loved the La Fortuna Waterfall and Proyecto Asis

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Manuel Antonio (region)
  2. Arenal (city)
  3. La Fortuna Waterfall (attraction)
  4. Proyecto Asis (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Henrieke from Breda

During my visit in Costa Rica I especially enjoyed Monteverde. There are lots of activities to do such as zip-lining, coffee and sugar cane tours and walking on high bridges right through the beautiful green surroundings. The nature is beautiful and because of the hight, there are several breathtaking viewings. This place is nice to visit with children because of the large amount of activities.

One of the highlights of my visit in Costa Rica was Tenorio Volcano National Park - Rio Celeste. The blue lake and forest are absolutely stunning, but the most amazing thing to see in this national park is definitely the waterfall. The best waterfall I have ever seen with the bright blue water and green surroundings.

Enjoy your journey, the tico's are amazing.. Pura Vida!!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Monteverde (city)
  2. Tenorio Volcano National Park - Rio Celeste (park)
2 thanks

answered by
Eunice from Turrialba

Hi! Well of course there are a lot of interesting national parks for kids... but as a Costa Rican I highly recommend you spend a day or two in San José. In the  Museos Banco Central you will find an awesome gold  collection from indigenous groups in Costa Rica. The craftsmanship and details of the gold pieces is astounding.  It is a great museum with beautiful interactive games for kids. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Museos Banco Central (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Michelle from San Marcos (California)

We absolutely loved Corcovado National Park.  We stayed at Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge.  The area is a bit remote but SO worth it.  You take a boat to your lodge! (the only way to get there)  My kids LOVED the ride there, the animals we got to see, the hiking, and the ocean.  We hiked with native guides who spotted amazing animals and TONS of monkeys!  I can't say how special this place was.  We also went to Arenal Lake and Tamarindo.  Loved them also, but different.  Lots of tourists in those places.  Arenal had great zip lining and hiking on suspended bridges.  Tamarindo - we stayed at Hotel Capitan Suizo. AWESOME! it is also a monkey sanctuary for orphaned monkeys.  My kids thought it was amazing!  Writing all of this makes me want to go again!

Hope this helps

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Corcovado National Park (attraction)
  2. Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge (hotel)
  3. Arenal Lake (attraction)
  4. Tamarindo (city)
  5. Hotel Capitan Suizo (hotel)
2 thanks

answered by
Ben from Portland

Tortuguero National Park is awesome, but only reachable by boat & plane, I think, so not really driving distance to much of anything, I suspect. Volcán Arenal is a great spot as well—you can often see lava flows at night—and there are some nice towns along the lake. We made our way from Arenal to Monteverde and visited the cloud forests there. We did some hiking and birdwatching, but they also have zip lines, I believe (this was 9 years ago).

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Tortuguero National Park (attraction)
  2. Volcán Arenal (attraction)
  3. Monteverde (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Instituto from Liberia

Those all sound like great places to visit! Arenal is beautiful and Manuel Antonio is one of my favorite places! Another amazing place is Monteverde - the road getting there is rough, but it is a special pocket in Costa Rica. It is in the middle of a cloud forest which makes it a place with amazing wildlife and nature. There are many activities there, including ziplining, a snake museum, a frog museum, a bird hatchery, tours in the beautiful national park, and much more! It's a good place for kids and adults alike. 

Enjoy your trip, I'm sure it will be unforgettable. If you are considering studying Spanish during your adventure, check out Instituto Estelar Bilingue in Liberia. We offer Spanish classes for the whole family with cultural classes in dance, cooking, music, artesan, and more. We also offer volunteer activities and bilingual trips! Check us out at

Enjoy your family trip!!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Arenal (city)
  2. Manuel Antonio (region)
  3. Monteverde (city)
  4. Liberia (city)

answered by
Hoy from Costa Rica

If you have two weeks I would start off in San Jose, go white water rafting  then head to Nuevo Arenal/ La Fortuna for a few days. Cross over to Monteverde from there for a night after that head down to Santa Teresa and Montezuma to check out the beach, waterfalls, national parks and then head over manual antonio before heading back to san jose airport.  i can give you detailed information and help you out. Feel free to email me at info(at)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Jose (city)
  2. Nuevo Arenal (city)
  3. La Fortuna (city)
  4. Monteverde (city)
  5. Santa Teresa (neighborhood)
  6. Montezuma (city)

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