Finding the Good Stuff in Costa Rica (with Kids)

To celebrate my husband’s 40th birthday, we took a family vacation to Costa Rica in early April. Below are my tips for traveling to Costa Rica with kids, including where to find the very Best Stuff if you like to include healthful meals, eco-friendly hotels, and general wellness as part of your vacation.

Best Itinerary for Costa Rica With Kids

Our vacation was nine nights long, and we broke it up as follows:

Costa Rica Felix Wolf Maia Daylon Arenas del Mar
  • Two nights near the Arenal volcano. Even though the volcano is no longer active, we wanted to stay in this region because my kids are obsessed with volcanoes. The area around La Fortuna is also famous for its naturally occurring hot springs, which I knew we would all enjoy.
  • Two nights in the cloud forest of Monteverde, which features a unique ecosystem and is where my husband spent six months working as a guide twenty years ago.
  • Three nights relaxing on the beach near Manuel Antonio National Park, which is famous for the wildlife and stunning ocean views.
  • Two nights near the airport on a gorgeous coffee plantation in Santa Barbara de Heredia.

I can confidently recommend this as an itinerary if you choose to travel to Costa Rica with kids. Of course, I don’t know what we missed by skipping other popular areas like Tortuguero and Guanacaste. (Please comment below with your experiences in other parts of Costa Rica with kids!)

While we enjoyed having nine days to spend in Costa Rica instead of seven, you could definitely “do” Costa Rica with kids in less time—I think a week would be plenty, and in that case I would spend only one night near the airport and two instead of three on the beach.

costa rica map itinerary Gimme the Good Stuff
This was the route we followed in our rented car.

Driving Within Costa Rica with Kids

Our driving route DID end up totaling 12.5 hours in the car. That said, the Costa Rican countryside was so gorgeous that none of us really minded the time spent on the road. Our longest drive (between Monteverde and Manuel Antonio) was four hours long, but we stopped along the way, and it wasn’t terrible.

Costa Rica with Kids Side of Road.png
This is what our bathroom stops looked like during our drives from one location to another.

Where to Stay in Costa Rica with Kids

We were lucky to stay in four wonderful hotels in Costa Rica–from an organic coffee plantation to a luxurious beach resort. All of them were kid-friendly and worthy of recommendation.

Near Arenal Volcano: Tabacon Grand Spa & Thermal Resort

Costa Rica Daylon Tabacon Arenal Volcano View Gimme the Good Stuff

We chose Tabacon Grand Spa & Thermal Resort for our stay in the Arenal area because it included access to the incredible hot springs for which this region is famous.

The accommodations at Tabacon were luxurious, we enjoyed spectacular views of the volcano, and the hot springs didn’t disappoint.

I was, however, slightly disappointed by what seemed like a somewhat half-hearted commitment to being environmentally friendly and toxin-free, especially compared to the other places we stayed.

In the Monteverde Cloud Forest: Hotel Belmar

When deciding where to stay in the cloud forest region of Costa Rica, Hotel Belmar was a no-brainer. Hotel Belmar is probably the “greenest” hotel I’ve ever experienced, from their on-site organic gardens to all (truly) natural bath products in the rooms.

Costa Rica belmar garden tour with Richard
Definitely take the garden tour when you visit Hotel Belmar.
Costa Rica Hotel Belmar Lake Gimme the Good Stuff
My kids loved playing in the (pesticide-free!) grass by the lake on Belmar’s property.
Belmar signs-solar panels and soaps
Hotel Belmar is one of the most eco-friendly hotels in the world.

Disclaimer: Hotel Belmar provided a reduced rate for my accommodations. 

In Manuel Antonio: Arenas del Mar

In the Manuel Antonio area, we chose Arenas del Mar for its access to the beach. The staff made our stay especially wonderful, in spite of a Halloween crab infestation in our room!

We did spend a lot of money during our four days in Manuel Antonio, but we had fun doing it! Arenas is clearly more committed to being “green” than Tabacon–from bamboo straws to water conservation efforts, it was more environmentally friendly than any American resort I’ve experienced.

Costa Rica Arenas del Mar beach Felix and Wolf
In the mornings, we were only people on the beach, besides a few groups learning to surf.
Costa Rica Manuel Antonio Arenas Del Mar Golf Cart
Golf carts driven by super friendly Arenas staffers are how you get around at Arenas del Mar.
Costa Rica Arenas del Mar breakfast Gimme the Good Stuff
Breakfast over the ocean was a perfect way to start every morning at Arenas del Mar.

Near the Airport: Finca Rosa Blanca

Our flight out of Costa Rica was at 7:00 a.m., and so I wanted our final couple of nights to be spent in a hotel nearish to the airport. We decided against staying in San Jose itself, and I was thrilled to stumble upon the breathtakingly beautiful Finca Rosa Blanca during my research.

Finca Rosa Blanca is touted as one of the most unique hotels in the world. My kids declared this room the best of our whole trip!

Costa Rica Felix Wolf play with dog Finca Rosa Blanca
My kids loved Finca’s Rosa Blanca’s sweet dog.
Cosa Rica Coffee Beans Finca Rosa Blanca Gimme the Good Stuff
The organic coffee tour was a definite highlight of my trip to Finca Rosa.
Costa Rica Finca coffee tour no plastic Gimme the Good Stuff
No plastic is involved in the production of Finca Rosa Blaca’s organic coffee!

Finca represented the coolest part of our stay—from the coffee tour to the room to getting to hear the owner, Glen’s story–which really highlighted his commitment to wellness and clean travel.

Costa Rica Finca Rosa Blanca Maia and Glenn Gimme the Good Stuff

Disclaimer: Hotel Belmar provided a reduced rate for my accommodations. 

Where to Eat in Costa Rica with Kids

Overall, my kids ate pretty healthfully during our trip. There was plenty of fresh fruit, avocados, rice, and beans. You could get fruit smoothies everywhere, and they never had weird syrups or juices the way they do in America. Of course, every restaurant also offered dedos de pollo (chicken fingers), so they ate plenty of those as well.

Costa Rica Orchid Cafe Smoothies Santa Elena Gimme the Good Stuff
Orchid Cafe in Santa Elena is worth a stop for lunch if you are in the Monteverde area.

As for the adults, I can’t say that Costa Rican cuisine is something I’ll be seeking out now that I’m back (not that any Costa Rican restaurants exist in New York City, as far as I know). That said, I did enjoy some good meals there, and it was easy enough to find vegetarian options.

Costa Rica Arenas del Mar Dinner Casado Gimme the Good Stuff
I loved the vegetarian Casado at Arenas del Mar.
Costa Rica Belmar garden wolfie eats a flower
My children discovered edible flowers at Hotel Belmar!

Some meal highlights of our trip:

1) The food at dinner at Belmar, from the organic juice and smoothie bar to their excellent on-site restaurant.

Costa Rica Hotel Belmar Sorbet Gimme the Good Stuff
This pineapple/mango sorbet was a revelation. Nothing but those two ingredients, frozen, and put through this blender/creamer thing. We had them several times a day.
Costa Rica Hotel Belmar Avocado Toast Gimme the Good Stuff
I mean, have you ever seen a more stunning piece of avocado toast?!

2) The snacks at Finca Rosa Blanca.

Costa Rica Finca Rosa Blanca chip plate
These chips were all made from on-site, organic crops, from regular potatoes to yucca to yams!

3) The Green Room in Jaco (an otherwise kind of yucky surf town outside of Manuel Antonio).

Costa Rica Jaco The Green Room Gimme the Good Stuff
My husband finally found beer he was willing to drink in Costa Rica.
Gimme the Good Stuff The Green Room Casado Gimme teh Good Stuff
The best vegetarian casado I had was at the Green Room.

Wellness & Eco-Tourism in Costa Rica

Obviously, Costa Rica is known for being a major eco-tourism hub, and indeed the country as a whole has an obvious commitment to sustainability. Costa Rica was also was a full of Good Stuff–from healthful food to wellness services.

Of the four hotels we visited, Hotel Belmar and Finca Rosa Blanca were the most impressive in terms of a true committement to sustainability, non-toxicity and wellness.

Here are some highlights from our trip.

Costa Rica belmar cloud forrest yoga
At Hotel Belmar, I enjoyed a private yoga session, taught—at my request–entirely in Spanish!
Costa Rica Arenas del Mar beach recycling Gimme the Good Stuff
Arenas del Mar had recycling right on the beach.
Finca Rosa Blanca Costa Rica spa reflexology Gimme the Good Stuff
I had a great reflexology treatment at Finca Rosa Blanca’s spa.

What to Do in Costa Rica with Kids

Here are some of the activities we enjoyed most.

Felix on zipline
Ziplining at Selvatura, in Manuel Antonio area.
Costa Rica Selvatura Felix and daylon ziplining
Costa Rica James Family Arenal Waterfall Gimme the Good Stuff
The La Fortuna Waterfall near Arenal volcano was a hike easy enough for us all.
Costa Rica Selvatura Wolfie Butterfly Garden Gimme the Good Stuff
Wolfie loved the butterfly garden at Selvatura, near Monteverde.

Where to Shop in Costa Rica with Kids

Belmar Gift Shop Costa Rica
The gift shops at Hotel Belmar and Finca Rosa Blanca were standouts, with tons of local, natural products.
Costa Rica Hotel Belmar Gift Shop Gimme the Good Stuff
Finca Rosa Blanca Gift Shop Costa Rica | Gimme the Good Stuff

The Bottom Line on Costa Rica With Kids

Costa Rica is a perfect place to travel with kids, thanks to to its wide array of wildlife, kid-friendly hikes and outdoor activities, and access to the beach. If I you have a car sick-prone child, the roads around Monteverde are pretty brutal, but the driving otherwise wasn’t bad. If you’re committed to clean luxury travel, definitely consider a stay at Finca Rosa Blanca or Hotel Belmar. And if you want to relax pool- or ocean-side, my top pick is Arenas del Mar.

Costa Rica Arenas del Mar Poolside Gimme the Good Stuff

Please share your own experiences in Costa Rica with kids below.

Costa Rica Tabacon breakfast walk with wildlife

Stay sane,

Maia, Founder & CEO


  1. Happy New Year ..Hello I loved your article on Costa Rica travel with kids. My family (7yr old & 13 yr old & husband) and I will be visiting in April. I booked one night at finca Rosa Blanca as our final stop before we return home. We fly out late Sunday night from San Jose. I only booked Saturday night there but I’m thinking I should add Friday as well. In your opinion is there enough to see & do there for 2 nights? Kids love nature & animals – thank you in advance Maureen

  2. I read your blog from time to time and really respect your opinion. My daughter was just bit in the face by a dog. Do you have any recommendations on what I should but on her wounds for scarring? I am using Manuka Honey and Aragon oil. Is there anything else you have learned that may help? Thank you, Kristen

Leave a Reply