Planning a vacation to Costa Rica? While Costa Rica may be famous for it’s beaches, you’d be amazed at all the other things Costa Rica has to offer! From hot springs to ziplining, there’s something for everyone! Discover the best things to do in Costa Rica besides hitting the beach.
Thanks so much to the Costa Rica Institute Of Tourism, Costa Rica Family Holidays and the Family Travel Association for hosting this amazing trip. All opinions are 100% my own. This post also contains affiliate links to help you plan an Costa Rica adventure of your own.
Best Things To Do In Costa Rica
Ziplining At Ecoglide Arenal Park
Mistico Hanging Bridges
Cooking Classes at Arenal Vida Campesina
Baldi Hot Springs In Arenal
Rescate Animal ZooAve
Espiritu Santo Coffee Plantation Tour
Corso Lecheria Tour
Sarchi Artisan Village
Painting Classes In Sarchi
La Selva Biological Station And Research Center
Where Is Costa Rica
Not sure where to find Costa Rica on a map? You’ll find it in Central America, nestled between Nicaragua and Panama.
Known for it’s volcanoes, coffee and beautiful beaches, Costa Rica makes an amazing vacation destination. I thought the prices were reasonable, the landscape was gorgeous and the people were very friendly.
Plus, there’s just so much to do! You can choose to just chill at the beach but then you’d missing out on some of the best things to do in Costa Rica! There are all kinds of family friendly adventures, whether you want to relax or get the adrenaline pumping. These were some of my favorites:
Ziplining at Ecoglide Arenal Park
If you like your vacations filled with adventure, it doesn’t get much better than ziplining at Ecoglide Arenal Park! You’ll start with a brief training session, then climb into the back of a truck and ride up the mountain with your guides.
I felt very safe…there are a lot of safety procedures in place, plus the guides are with you at every platform to hook and unhook your harness. This is different than ziplining courses I’ve done back home and honestly, I trust the guides more than I trust myself! Once you’re safely hooked to the line, you’re good to go.
These ziplines are so long that you really get to experience the feeling of flying through the air. It was pretty spectacular!While I didn’t find the ziplines scary at all, the Tarzan swing had me a little nervous. However, everyone else was doing it so I really wanted to give it a try. I guess we now know the answer to moms favorite question “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”. Well, apparently I would!
As if the expression on my face weren’t enough, maybe my screams give away just how freaked out I was.
I can’t even begin to describe the adrenaline rush! All I can say is that if you have the chance to do this, DO IT (yes, now I’m the friend telling you to jump). It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time and I would do it all over again!
This experience costs a few dollars more but I think it’s worth every penny. After all, how often do you get the chance to swing through the trees like Tarzan?
After the Tarzan swing, there were a few more ziplines to go before reaching the end.
Another thing that I would totally recommend it getting the photography package. Since we didn’t want to risk dropping cameras or cell phones, we each chipped in to have the Ecoglide photographer take pictures and video. He took amazing photos (these were all taking by the photographer…only the video is mine) and it was a great way to just enjoy the experience while still capturing it on film.
Like so many other activities in Costa Rica, this one is accessible as well, and the folks at Ecoglide have gone above and beyond to make sure that everybody is able to enjoy this awesome experience. If you have adventurous kids, children as young as two can zipline with a guide while ages six and up can fly solo.
See The Rainforest From The Mistico Hanging Bridges
If you want some of the best views of the Costa Rica rainforest, you’ve got to visit the Mistico Hanging Bridges. It really is one of the very best things to do in Costa Rica and you should do it if at all possible!
With a trail two miles long, you’ll see a pretty waterfall and walk through a tunnel but the 16 bridges are the reason people visit from all over the world.
Stop in the middle for beautiful views of the rainforest, though taking pictures can be tricky since the bridge is bouncy. However, it only moves slightly and doesn’t swing or sway so it’s not scary like the old bridges you may see in the movies.
There are other adventures beyond just the main trail. If you’re a bird watcher, you’ll love the bird observation trail. You can also go horseback riding or take a night walk. If you want to relax, you can take a stroll through the lush garden.
You can even have a snack at one of the tables overlooking the Arenal volcano.
Costa Rica is one of the most accessible countries you can visit and the Mistical Hanging Bridges features a fully accessible trail for visitors with disabilities. Visitors can travel a one mile trail with six fixed bridges and cross two additional ones if they choose. The trail has anti-slip concrete, protective railings and no stairs.
Take Cooking Classes At Arenal Vida Campesina
There’s no better way to learn about local cuisine than by cooking it yourself. First you’ll tour the organic gardens at Arenal Vida Campesina to learn more about the unique fruits and vegetables native to Costa Rica.
Afterwards, you’ll get lessons on how to prepare a traditional Costa Rican dinner.
While we were busy chopping veggies, another group worked hard making a gazillion tortillas.
Besides cooking, you’ll also learn some fun Costa Rican slang, see how to turn sugar cane into a sweet juice, and drink a little “adult” juice too.
Shots aside, this kids will love this too, making it a great family friendly experience to enjoy in Arenal.
Baldi Hot Springs
If you’re looking for a little relaxation on your Costa Rica vacation, you’ll want to check out the hot springs. Some of the best are in Arenal and we had a great time at the Baldi Hot Springs.
Baldi has 25 thermal water pools that get progressively hotter as you make your way up the mountain. ranging from lukewarm to so hot you can barely stand it (which is just the way I like it). Families will love it because there are saunas and swim up bars for the parents and a mini water park for the kids (though I’ve heard it might be wise to be weary of the water slides).
Though the Baldi Hot Springs are part of a larger resort, you don’t have to stay there to enjoy the hot springs. Buy a day pass and have some fun before you head off on your next adventure.
Rescate Animal ZooAve
With a name like ZooAve, you may thing this place is a zoo but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Founded over 30 years ago, Rescate Animal ZooAve is an animal wildlife rescue center near San José. Their mission is rescue rehabilitation and conservation breeding and animals that can’t be rehabilitated can live here for life. I don’t think this sloth minds!
Rescate Animal ZooAve also plays a big role in environmental education. Visitors learn how Costa Rica wildlife each has it’s own place in the ecosystem and hopefully are inspired to help protect the wildlife as well.
There are over 125 types of birds, mammals, reptiles and other species at Rescate Animal Zooave. We saw everything from colorful parrots…
…to an ostrich that loved posing for pictures.
You’ll also see gigantic iguanas everywhere you look, from the paths to the trees.
The paths are not only scenic but they’re also fully accessible and Rescate Animal ZooAve has complimentary wheelchairs available to those who need them.
If you don’t feel like dragging the stroller along, you can rent a cute wagon for the little ones (it’s a big place so I’d highly advise it if you have toddlers).
Espiritu Santo Coffee Tour
Costa Rica is known for their delicious coffee. As a coffee lover (seriously, I’m obsessed!) I was pretty excited to find out I’d be touring the Espiritu Santo coffee plantation. This cooperative was established over 40 years ago and is made up of over 2,500 regional farmers. If you’re interested in finding out how Costa Rica’s world famous coffee is grown and harvested, you’ll want to take this tour.
Though kids typically don’t drink coffee, they’ll have a great time here too. The tour starts at an old-timey coffee plantation house where the guide gives a demonstration on how coffee has been traditionally brewed.
Kid (and adults) can help plant a coffee bush and compete to see who can pick the most coffee beans in an allotted amount of time.
I had no idea how much went into making coffee and I found the process pretty interesting. I also never knew just how much of our coffee comes from Costa Rica…it’s a lot!
At the end of the tour, you’ll hit the coffee shop, where you don’t want to miss the yummy samples of chocolate covered coffee beans. You can also pick up a bag or two of coffee to give as gifts or keep as a souvenir. Don’t worry…they’ll make more!
Kids will love a trip to Corso Lecheria in Alajuela. For starters, they can run around on a playground surrounded by cows (and that’s before you even start the tour!).
The cows are definitely the top attraction her and I had no idea just how up close and personal we were going to get. This city girl actually milked a cow!
After visiting the greenhouse to learn how they grow their strawberries, we enjoyed a cheese and strawberry tasting.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a dairy farm without milk!
Tour The Sarchi Artisan Village
If you’re visiting the Central Valley, you won’t want to miss the Sarchi Artisan Village.
Sarchi is famous for it’s colorful oxcarts. Originally used to transport coffee beans, you’ll see them more often these days in parades and religious celebrations.
You can take a tour to see the artisans creating their next intricately designed masterpiece.
You can also take a peek inside the factory where all the magic happens. The detail that goes into these pieces is pretty amazing.
I’d never thought of wheels as beautiful before but Sarchi changed that!
You’ll find more than just oxcarts though. The Sarchi Artisan Village has everything from brightly colored wheelbarrows…
to decorative tea kettles.
Even the trash cans are painted. These pretty bins are just another sign of how environmentally friendly Costa Ricans are, something I noticed a lot as we toured the country.
Be prepared to spend some time in the gift shop! There were so many great things to choose from that I could have spend all day there. You can buy everything from full sized oxcarts to small Christmas ornaments, and I thought the prices were very reasonable. While you’re shopping, be sure to keep an eye open for the giant 3D picture on the wall…it makes a great photo op!
Take Painting Classes In Sarchi
If seeing all these beautiful works of art has you feeling a little artsy yourself, why not take a painting class?
It’s a great family friendly experience and we had both kids and adults in our class. Even if you’re not super artistic, the instructor gives detailed directions (and it’s easier than it looks).
You’ll start with a blank wagon wheel that has a simple outline to follow.
The instructor handed out paint colors as we worked on our masterpieces.
Not only was it a lot of fun but I had an awesome souvenir to bring home with me (and the best part is that it doesn’t take up much room in the suitcase!)
La Selva Biological Station And Research Center
If you want to be one with nature, there’s no better place to do it than La Selva Biological Station. Located about 1.5 hours from San Jose, scientists visit from around the world to study tropical ecology. The good news it that you don’t have to be a scientist to visit.
The trails here are gorgeous and I could have walked them all day. They were so picture perfect that at times it felt like I were walking through a fairy tale.
Like many other places in Costa Rica, La Selva Biological Station has accessible trails that everyone can enjoy.
I loved our guide because he found animals that I never would have seen, like this tiny frog.
Be sure that you’re not just looking around you but that you’re looking up into the trees too. You never know what you’ll find…
I couldn’t have been more excited! Monkeys were at the top of my list of things to see in Costa Rica! Keep walking and you’ll stumble upon more gorgeous views overlooking a lake.
If you climb the viewing tower, you’ll get a great view of the Arenal Volcano.
While you can visit for an afternoon tour, there are also cabins available for families to rent if you’d like to stay longer. While they’re not extravagant, it’s a great way to become one with nature, if only for a day or two.
Where To Stay In Costa Rica
Villas Del Rio just outside San Jose
If you’re traveling with the family, you’ll want to check out Villas Del Rio near San Jose. Not only do these apartment size accommodations give families plenty of space, you’ll save money by having your own kitchen to cook in. It also makes a great starting point for adventures in and around the city.
It includes a buffet breakfast with yogurt, fruit cheese and more. You can pay a little extra to get eggs as well.
Arenal Paraiso In Arenal
I loved the cute cabins at Arenal Pariaso Resort. It felt roomier than a standard hotel room and would have been plenty spacious enough for my family of four.
Awesome views overlooking the Arenal Volcano don’t hurt either.
Amenities include 13 hot springs (one with swim up bar), a restaurant and a spa, It’s also a great location if you’re planning to explore the sights of Arenal.
Because Costa Rica is so environmentally friendly, you’ll even get the chance to plant a tree to erase your carbon footprint.
How To Plan A Costa Rica Vacation
Costa Rica has been a bucket list trip for a long time but now that I’ve been, I realize what a great family friendly destination it is. I can’t wait to go back for a family vacation and now I know just how to do it…I’m letting Costa Rica Family Holidays do all the work.
They’ll customize your family vacation based on the ages of your family members (whether it’s a family trip or multigenerational) and what type of experience you want to have. Not only that, you’ll have your own personal tour guide to show you around. I can’t recommend Emilio enough. He was friendly and knowledgeable with a side of silly and he definitely made it an amazing experience!
It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling with babies, teenagers or planning a multi-generational trip, they’ll work with you to make sure you have the best vacation ever. Not only that, they also specialize in accessible travel and have worked hard to help to make Costa Rica one of the leading countries in accessible travel.
Are you ready to plan your own trip to Costa Rica? Which of these things would you do first?
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