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Where to Stay, Eat, and What to Do on a Family Trip to Costa Rica


Traveling with kids is no easy feat. There’s so much to consider—like safety, kid-friendly hotels and finding activities that everyone will love.

While Costa Rica may be known as an adventurer destination full of thrilling experiences like volcano tourism and jungle treks, families shouldn’t shy away from an opportunity to be one of the 1.7 million tourists that visit the country each year.

Check out our in-depth family guide to Costa Rica and plan your trip today. Your kids will thank you for an unforgettable eco-focused vacation.


Courtyard by Marriott San Jose Escazu
The outdoor pool at the Courtyard by Marriott San Jose Escazu.

Families may want to consider staying near San Jose and explore Costa Rica via one-or-two-day trips, as it provides an opportunity to explore the capital, the countryside, and not be too far from things like hospitals, embassies, or the airport. It also prevents the need to rent a car and drive in a foreign country.

With that in mind, Courtyard by Marriott San Jose Escazu is a good option.

Not only is it located in an area with a lot of English speakers, but it offers large affordable suites for families and a playground and pool for kids. It’s also renowned among locals for their BBQ Fridays and dining menu full of Costa Rican dishes—it’s also just a 20-minute drive from the city center.

Even if you prefer to book a stay in an area outside of San Jose, like Manuel Antonio or near one of the many volcanoes, you may want to book one night at the Courtyard by Marriott San Jose Escazu on the day of your arrival.

Direct flights to Costa Rica can take anywhere from three to six hours of flight time from the U.S., and driving to most of the popular destinations from the airport takes about two or more hours, which can be hard on the little ones. One night’s stay will refresh everyone for the next day.

Similarly, consider staying in the Courtyard by Marriott Airport Alajuela Hotel the night before your departure from Costa Rica, as it provides you and your family a chance to move closer to the airport for an easier departure experience and a free shuttle every 30 minutes to the airport.


Costa Rican Casado Dish
Typical Costa Rican dish called Casado. (photo courtesy of iStock / Getty Images Plus / gmirandah)

Costa Rica is a very international country, and most restaurants reflect this with menu options like hamburgers or pasta. But if you’d like your family to try some local dishes, here’s what to consider:

Chifrijo is a local dish that involves a bowl of beans, rice, and spiced pork served with tortilla chips, pico de gallo, and guacamole. It’s like a burrito bowl, but tastier, and one that’s sure to feed about two people in your family.

Don’t forget to try Gallo Pinto. It’s a simple dish of rice and Tico beans, served at almost any meal of the day. Add some plantains on the side that are sliced and grilled or finely chopped potatoes call picadillo de papas and you’ve got yourself a tasty selection of options.

If you prefer to get a taste of everything Costa Rican, go for the platter that’s called “Casado.” Casado translates to “married” in Spanish, which makes sense when you see that the dish is a combination of rice, beans, a meat like fried fish, chicken, or steak, and plantains.

For something sweet, try a bowl of the fresh local fruit like mango or papaya, or order arroz con leche, which is a rice pudding sweetened with milk and cinnamon.


Walking on hanging bridges in Cloudforest - Travel destination Costa Rica (SimonDannhauer / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
PHOTO: Walking on hanging bridges in a Costa Rican cloud forest. (photo via SimonDannhauer/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

If you have a day in San Jose, explore all the best sights with a double-decker bus tour with VIP City Bus. This tour is great because you won’t have to drive, it will fit the entire family, and you can see all of the best sights like the National Theater, Metropolitan Cathedral of San Jose, and Mercado Central, in an air-conditioned bus with bilingual guides that offer insightful knowledge and fun aspects like folkloric songs and opportunities to buy souvenirs.

Manual Antonio Park has an affordable entry fee and beautiful beaches for families to enjoy. Plus, the hiking trails are paved and easy to navigate with kids and allow for opportunities to see tons of wildlife like monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, and raccoons.

Families with older kids may want a high-energy adventure like white water rafting on the Sarapiqui River or zip lining and climbing a ropes course at the Jaco Ropes adventure park near Jaco Beach.

Costa Rica is renowned for their jungles and volcanoes, and families won’t want to miss an opportunity to see these. The Poas Volcano has an easy-to-navigate paved path to the crater while hiking the Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is a unique jungle adventure with free admission for kids under 10 years of age.


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