Costa Rica is a beautifully lush Central American country that’s become increasingly popular for family holidays. You’ll find everything from idyllic beaches for surfing and snorkelling to wildlife-filled jungles where you can watch for all sorts of monkeys, sloths, jaguars, crocodiles, toucans, macaws and more. You might spend a day hiking followed by soaking in hot springs in a national park, rafting or enjoying canopy tours. There are plenty of family-friendly eco-lodges, hotels, and resorts to choose from whether you’re looking for an affordable or luxurious stay. These 13 reasons reveal why we’re sure you’ll agree – Costa Rica is the ultimate family holiday.

Costa Rica

1 – Learn how to surf

Known for its consistent, quality waves, Costa Rica is one of the world’s hottest spots for surfing, home to beautiful beaches that span 800 miles of Pacific and Caribbean coastline. Tamarindo on the Pacific coast is one of the most popular surf towns, providing outstanding breaks for beginners. Dominical, Santa Teresa and Montezuma are also favourite spots, each with their own unique appeal. Lessons are readily available and are a must to ensure you get up on the board and riding much quicker and more safe.

2 – Soak in natural hot springs

Thanks to the geothermal activity around the Arenal Volcano, hot springs can be found in abundance in this region. La Fortuna is home to many hot springs worth paying the entrance fee like Baldi, Tabacon and Paradise Hot Springs. There are fabulous soaks available for every budget, even including free options, if you Google “free natural hot springs river” for directions that will bring you to the naturally hot section on the river for.

3 – Walk through the clouds

Cloud forests are named for their nature, typically taking the form of fog, with low hanging clouds hovering around the upper canopy of the forest. One of the world’s most famous. Monteverde, is in Costa Rica. In the heart are hanging bridges that wind through the dense jungle. A walk across them is like walking through clouds in a dream – just be sure to wear a rain jacket as by its very nature, there is at least some rainfall on.

Costa Rica

4 – Enjoy close encounters with sloths and their babies

Costa Rica’s jungles are filled with wildlife, including adorable, sleepy-eyed sloths. The best places to see them in the wild are Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo, Dominical and Manuel Antonio. You might spot them snoozing in palm trees on the beach, crossing the road or up in the treetops as you drive. For guaranteed close encounters, visit the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo which rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured animals found in the wild. You’ll be able to see both adults and babies too.

5 – Go white water rafting

Whitewater rafting offers a fun, family-friendly thrill, with Costa Rica offering some of the most accessible for a heart-pounding but safe adventure. The activity can be enjoyed throughout the country, but Arenal is one of the best spots, and odds are you’ll be in the area during your trip to enjoy the many other attractions anyway. For the experience of a lifetime, consider a multi-day trip on the Pacuare River that departs from San Jose with an overnight at a riverside lodge.

6 – Visit Costa Rica’s top national parks

Costa Rica is home to many magnificent national parks, so make time for at least one like Manuel Antonio. Here, sloth and monkey sightings are common and it also hosts three spectacular beaches for watching colourful sunsets. Tortuguero on the northern Caribbean coast, accessed only by plane or boat, provides tours that can bring you deep within the rainforest to view remarkable birdlife and the world’s largest sea turtle nesting site. Corcovada lies on the Osa peninsula, unsurpassed for diversity by any region of similar size on Earth.

Costa Rica

7 – Take Part in a Heart-Pumping Canyoning Tour 

For adventurers looking to push their limits, one of the best ways to do it in Costa Rica is with a Gravity Falls tour through the “Los Canyon.” Desafio offers tours that will bring you through a lush river valley, hiking through jungle with the scenery worth the trip on its own. To get through, you’ll rock climb, repel down massive waterfalls, cliff jump and scramble over boulders for what’s arguably the most unforgettable adventure you can undertake in Arenal.

8 – Zipline above the jungle canopy

Costa Rica is one of the world’s best places for ziplining, so it is really something you should try during your trip here. You’ll find options throughout the country that will bring you flying over lush rainforest canopy and low-hanging clouds while enjoy a bird’s-eye view and the fresh air. It’s extremely safe, and worth trying even for those with a fear of heights. The initial jump may be a bit nerve-wracking, but once you do it, odds are, you’ll want to do it again.

9 – Go waterfall chasing

Costa Rica is home to so many waterfalls you could spend weeks chasing them. You’ll find everything from hidden falls, small cascades and large, powerful waterfalls. Rio Celeste spills into a stunning pool in the shade of a brilliant blue sky, tucked into a remote corner of Tenorio National Park. Nauyaca Waterfall near the beach town of Dominical is one of the largest, plunging 215 into a pool ideal for swimming. Montezuma and Llanos de Cortes are just two of the many others.

Costa rica surf

10 – Enjoy luxurious relaxation at a jungle villa

There are many luxurious villas tucked in the jungle for travellers seeking R&R, but Oxygen Jungle Villas is one of the favourites. This jaw-dropping “Balinese-style?” property hosts 12 glass villas that are surrounded by jungle, providing both privacy and stunning views of the lush greenery, the ocean and wildlife including sloths and toucans. Incredibly tranquil, there are peaceful walking paths dotted with Javanese statues, a private onsite waterfall, and a dreamy infinity pool that overlooks the endless blue of the Pacific.

11 – Get up close to volcanoes

Costa Rica is home to over 60 volcanoes, with the most famous being Arenal, which rises nearly 5,500 feet above the lush landscape. For some 30 years visitors could see lava and red hot boulders spewing from it, right from some hotel rooms, but today it’s generally limited to puffs of steam and occasional rumbles. You can hike the slopes or get a fantastic view while walking on old lava flows from the entrance of Arenal 1968 Volcano View and Lava Trails.

12 – Watch for whales

Not only can you view all sorts of jungle wildlife, but marine mammals offshore. Costa Rica is also a top spot for watching humpback whales as it sits at the intersection of two whale migrations, making it possible to see them in nine months out of the year, from around mid-July to mid-April. A group that comes from the southern hemisphere arrives in mid-July, staying through early November and then humpbacks from the north come soon after to breed their young.

13 – Witness the nesting sea turtles

There are four species of sea turtles that visit the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Costa Rica at various times of the year: hawksbill, green, olive ridley and leatherback. With so much sandy coastline, this country is ideal for the creatures to come on shore to lay their eggs. Some of the top spots include Tortuguero and Santa Rosa national parks, the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge and Ostional Wildlife Refuge. Most sites require guided visits through authorized access points, as part of the effort to protect them.

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This article was first published in issue one of the Unforgettable Travel Magazine.

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