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This perfect week-long itinerary will maximize fun and minimize drive time. Get ready for 7 days in Costa Rica with kids!
About Traveling To Costa Rica With Kids
Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world to visit with kids because Costa Ricans value family so heavily.
Costa Ricans (or ticos as they are known in Spanish) travel in their country, and they travel with the whole family. It’s not uncommon to see grandma and grandpa, all the aunties and cousins, and little kids sharing space on vacation.
This means Costa Rican hotels and restaurants are used to catering to groups of all ages, and that makes it easy for visitors to plan their trips with kids.
Additionally, Costa Rica is super safe. There is no standing army, and firearms are extremely difficult to get. Peace is the name of the game, and you can feel comfortable traveling with your kids throughout the country.
What is a little difficult about your Costa Rica trip is the travel time between different travel destinations and landmarks. You might check Google Maps and see that the distance between one place and another is, for example, 10 miles. But the drive time may be a good hour!
So it is important to know how to navigate Costa Rica in a car, or to hire a private driver or other private transport. Even though it’s a small country, you need to know how to navigate it!
Finally, Costa Rica is the first international destination for a lot of families which makes sense because it is such a beautiful country. The biggest question I get is about the water and the food. Yes, you can drink the water, and the food is great for the whole family– you’ll find kid’s menus with chicken nuggets and fries just like you do in the United States.
Moving to Costa Rica? Look at the best places to live in Costa Rica.
About This 7-Day Itinerary
This itinerary is one of the most common that I give to families who are just visiting Costa Rica for the first time and want to experience its natural beauty. (I have a consulting business where I create custom itineraries for those traveling to Costa Rica with their kids. If you are overwhelmed with planning a trip, just call me!)
I always recommend renting a car when you go to Costa Rica with kids and bringing your own car seats and boosters. This itinerary relies on a car rental for transportation.
I like to fly into the San Jose International Airport and fly out of the Liberia Airport, so this itinerary uses that method. However, because I’m staying in the middle of the country, you can fly into and out of the same airport– you’ll just add a little drive time.
Related post: Costa Rica Packing List (For Families)
7 Days in Costa Rica
Day 1- Arrival in San José
You’ll most likely arrive at night, and we book the Adventure Inn hotel because they provide a shuttle to the hotel and it’s close to the airport. The hotel restaurant is open late so you can get some food when you arrive.
They also have an amazing breakfast in the morning, and a great swimming pool. Finally, I work with Adobe Rental Car, (this link gives you 10% off)and Adobe works with Adventure Inn. This means you can get your rental car in the morning right at the hotel and go on your way.
I like to do it that way because it saves me an entire day of rental car costs. Plus, the rental process can take up to an hour, so the kids swim in the pool with my husband while I deal with the car.
Day 2- Travel To La Fortuna
La Fortuna is home to the Arenal Volcano National Park, as well as countless hot springs, zip lines, and hanging suspension bridges. The Arenal area is my favorite place in the whole country, and I hope you fall in love with it too.
Your drive time here is about 3 hours, but we are going to break it up. Makes sure you have Waze app on your phone and put in this route!
Head out of San Jose towards Naranjo, where you’ll do the Espiritu Santo Coffee Tour- it’s fun for the kids and totally bilingual. It’s a great place to view the high mountains of Costa Rica and to learn about the entire coffeemaking process. High season for coffee is December, so if you can time your trip to December you’ll see the coffee actually being picked.
You could also go to Hacienda Alsacia- the Starbucks coffee tour, but you would spend about 2 extra hours in the car on this itinerary.
You’ll then head to San Ramon for some amazing food before settling in for a scenic 1.5-hour drive to La Fortuna.
Have dinner at the Volcano Lodge or any of our favorite La Fortuna Restaurants. Swim if you want at your hotel, and head to bed.
Day 3- La Fortuna
Wake up ready to go! We’ll head to Arenal Mistico hanging Bridges. They are great for kids because they aren’t quite as long and high as others, and because they have all kinds of trails where you can spot wildlife. We always take along this wildlife guide so the kids can follow along with what we are seeing.
Grab some lunch and head to your favorite hot springs. We love Baldi, but Kalambu has great lunch or dinner that’s included with the price of admission. Plus they have water slides and a big bucket that dumps warm water onto the water feature. You want to go to natural hot springs in the afternoon/evening because it’s not so hot so it’s a good time to soak. Plus there’s a better chance of rain in the afternoon, and the hot springs in the rain are magical.
Related post: 15 Top Arenal Costa Rica Activities (For Families)
Day 4- Arenal National Park /Beach
Grab some breakfast and head to Arenal Eco Glide for an early morning of zip lining through lush rainforest. This is the best way to zip line with kids because they offer specific guides assigned to your kids. This means your child won’t get stuck halfway across the zip line and get scared. Plus, it’s 100% Costa Rican-owned. Make sure to get on the first tour of the day so you can drive afterwards. This is one of your longest travel days on the itinerary.
If you are feeling more adventurous you can rappel or do canyoneering with Maquique Adventures- it’s a perfect tour for teens. If you want something calmer you can also do horseback riding. Nature lovers will enjoy every one of these options.
Get into the car for a long trip to the beach! It’s about 3.5 hours, but there are some stops along the way. I just love to drive around Lake Arenal and the surrounding areas, and this is one of my favorite trips even though it is a little long.
You can stop at Las Pumas Wildlife Sanctuary where you can see the big cats of Costa Rica. You can also stop at Llanos de Cortez waterfall for a 1 km hike to the falls.
You can always plan for a quick lunch in Liberia- just off the main highway before you turn onto the beach road there’s a fast food court that saves some major time.
Day 5 – Flamingo Beach
Spend the day relaxing on the beach, or beach hop. A few of my favorite (and most beautiful beaches) in this area of the Pacific Coast are La Penca, Playa Danta, and Brasilito/Conchal.
There’s good food in the area, so we would probably choose the breakfast-only option at Margaritaville.
Day 6 – Flamingo Beach
Another day relaxing and exploring the beach before you head home! To enjoy your free time, I recommend walking into the small town of Flamingo at some point, and then spending the rest of the day relaxing at the pool! The best time to head to Flamingo is in the early evening just after sunset.
Check out our favorite luxury hotels for families if you are looking for a different option from the Flamingo Beach option.
Day 7- Head Home! 😭
Get up early and head straight to the Liberia Airport for your flight home. Flights are usually in the afternoon but still plan to spend about 45 minutes dropping off the rental car. If you are flying out of the San Jose Airport again, you’ll need to add an extra day to this itinerary, or cut off a day at the beach You’ll drive about 5 hours today and spend the night in the Adventure Inn again before heading home.
Pro tip- every tour company tells you to be at the international airports 2 hours early for international flights. This means a flood of people arrive exactly two hours before and lines are very long. Plan to arrive 2.5 hours early and you’ll be golden. There isn’t much to eat in Liberia airport, so make sure to pack some snacks.
I’m totally biased, but I can’t think of a more perfect week in Costa Rica with kids. We have done this itinerary countless times and we love it.
If this isn’t the perfect itinerary for you, then make sure to reach out to me and we can make the itinerary of your dreams. I don’t sell you anything, I don’t make any commissions. I just use my unique expertise about Costa Rica with kids to create the perfect family vacation for you! Book a custom Costa Rica travel consult here.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a former high school teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. I love all things Spanish and bi-cultural, (especially travel and food!) and you’ll find my observations on life here. Thanks for stopping by