5 Travel Tips For Visiting Costa Rica With Young Children




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Daddy and baby enjoying time by the river in the Costa Rica rainforest. We have NEVER regretted taking our girls on vacation to Costa Rica!

Daddy and baby enjoying time by the river in the Costa Rica rainforest. We have NEVER regretted taking our girls on vacation to Costa Rica!

Travel to Costa Rica with young children is surprisingly easy because Costa Rican culture values children and their integration into every aspect of daily life. My children have been to Costa Rica countless times to visit family, and I’ve learned a lot of insider tips from the locals about how to make traveling with kids to one of the happiest places on Earth easy and fun (and you can check out our post on best Spanish phrases for travel with kids here!)  Here are our top five travel tips for for making a trip to paradise, littles in tow, unforgettable. Be sure to scroll down for a free printable checklist to take with you for simple necessities shopping upon arrival!

  1. Don’t bring snacks from home, buy them at the supermarket! (There’s literally a supermarket on every corner). Costa Rica produces a myriad of national products that are organic, kid friendly, and can’t be found anywhere else in the world. (I recently came across a line of gluten-free snacks and one of sugar free snacks in the small town grocery store). From yummy granola bars to fruit snacks made with cane sugar (not high fructose corn syrup!) to an amazing array of cookies (buy Chiky!) for a fraction of the cost of buying the same items at home, the supermarket in Costa Rica should be your first stop when you get on the ground. Not to mention the diverse bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables grown organically and in country, your kids will NOT go hungry in Costa Rica, and will most likely ask to bring home the snack food that they ate on vacation. (Note, you will not find peanut butter in Costa Rica, so if that is an important food for your kids, you should plan to bring it from home.)
  2. Costa Rican pharmacies have EVERYTHING. There is always a highly trained pharmacist on staff, and usually a doctor as well.  At the pharmacy, you can buy teething tablets, single doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, anti diarrheal medicine, allergy pills, sunscreen, bug spray, ice packs, fluoride free toothpaste… anything. And, you can consult with the pharmacist or doctor for free if your child has a symptom you aren’t sure about.  Costa Rican pharmacies are your friend, so check them out!
  3. Waiting in line at the bank is exasperating and a waste of precious vacation time, so take cash and credit/debit cards.  There are several national and international banks housed in Costa Rica, and they have ATMs that can access cash in dollars or colones instantly.  Cash is king in Costa Rica, so make sure that you have a Visa Plus card in order to take full advantage of the ATMs.  With a Visa Plus card, (check the back and see if there is a plus sign or the word plus), you can access your money at Banco de Costa Rica, Banco Costa Rica, and BAC San Jose. Banco Nacional de Costa Rica does not like foreign credit and debit cards, so be forewarned. If you are unsure of a bank’s compatibility with your card, look for a machine that swipes the card rather than dips it.
  4. Washing clothes by hand is a pain.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my vacation washing clothes.  One of the hazards of travel with kids is that dirty clothes tend to pile up quickly, and unless you want to pack a huge suitcase, laundry is usually an inevitable part of travel with kids. Laundromats are much harder to come by in Costa Rica than in other Central American countries, and because of the humid climate and abundant rain, it is nearly impossible to get clothes to air dry before they sour.  Because of this, I insist on accommodations with laundry service for at least part of our trip.  Don’t forget to ask about this when booking your hotel.
  5. The diapers are magnificent. You can even go to a pulpería and buy just one single diaper for the equivalent of about US $0.20.  Huggies Active Sec made in Costa Rica are cheaper than diapers in the U.S., fit wonderfully, and wick away moisture in the humid climate so baby stays comfortable. I even brought a pack home after our most recent trip because I loved how they fit and the absorbed so well.  Ditto for the wipes, you can get a pretty big pack of natural wipes with aloe for sensitive skin for under a dollar.  No need to pack these essentials, just stop at a supermarket or a pañalera (diaper store…  Yes, there are stores just for diapers in Costa Rica!) Keep in mind also that there also aren’t many pools that require swim diapers, and they definitely aren’t required at the beach.  So if you aren’t worried about baby pooping in the pool… up to you.

We hope these tips give you a good start when planning your family trip to Costa Rica.  What other tips do you have?  Comment below!

Click here for our free printable checklist for the shopping tips mentioned above!

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travel tips for Costa Rica with young children


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  • Lisa Lewis, MD
    May 29, 2016 at 9:47 am

    This looks like a great trip for the kids. I’ve had Costa Rica on our bucket list. Thank you for sharing your tips.

    • [email protected]
      May 29, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Hi Lisa! You should DEFINITELY go! It’s wonderful. Thanks so much for checking out the article!
      Christa

  • Brittany
    July 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    what type of clothing would you pack for a week long trip to costa rica for a 6, 4, and 1 year old?

    • Christa
      July 5, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      Hi Brittany! Thanks so much for visiting the site! I am so excited that you are going to visit Costa Rica.. we love it! As for clothing types, it depends on where you are going to go, and where you are going to stay.
      1. For beach, I would pack shorts and t-shirts, lots of sun protection. For sleeping at night I usually put the baby in a cotton (not fleece) long sleeve sleeper in case the air conditioning is cool. I always take a long sleeve t-shirt for everyone just in case, but even when it rains, it stays pretty hot at the beach. I take socks in case feet get cold at night, but mostly just sandals!
      2. If you are in the rainforest, it can get chilly. Rain protection is a must, but honestly I just buy the $1 ponchos at the dollar store and discard them when we return. I take a fleece jacket, pants (jeans don’t dry well there at all), a long sleeve shirt. Layers are key.
      I also check if the hotel has laundry service, and how much it costs. If it does, and I feel like we can afford it, I don’t pack as much clothing and then I plan to do a wash halfway through.
      Please let me know if you have any other questions as you prepare for your trip, and thanks again for stopping by the blog! ~Christa

      • Brittany
        July 6, 2016 at 1:10 am

        we haven’t confirmed anything yet – this week hopefully – but we will be staying in Manuel Antonio, in a vacation rental by the beach. So I suppose I should back for both of the environments that you suggested? Thank you again!

        • Christa
          July 6, 2016 at 10:52 am

          Hey Brittany! Manuel Antonio rainforest isn’t in the high plains of Costa Rica… so beach attire is great! I wouldn’t pack for the cooler weather. hope everything gets confirmed and that you LOVE it! Keep me posted!