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 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!
Don’t Pack Snacks!
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. There are yummy granola bars to fruit snacks made with cane sugar (no high fructose corn syrup!).
There’s also 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.
The Pharmacy Is Your Friend
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!
All About Money
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.
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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.
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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 they 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.
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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!