If you’ve been a parent for, say, five minutes, you probably already know that keeping the whole group happy on a family vacation is no small task. This is especially true when there are big differences in age or interests between family members. The trick, then, is to choose a destination that provides a little something for everyone — the beach for relaxing, adventurous activities for those who like getting active, and lower-key educational experiences for anyone who wants to learn more about the world around them. Choosing a destination known for its eco-friendly practices and beautiful canopy of rainforests doesn’t hurt, either, which is exactly why you should consider a Costa Rica family vacation the next time you get the itch to travel.
You Can Try a Family Surf Camp
Yes, there are lots of places all over the world where you and your family can learn to surf, but you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a better spot to learn than the sandy-bottomed beaches along the Guanacaste Province in and around Tamarindo. In fact, Tamarindo itself is known as one of the best locations for beginners to learn to surf because of its easy, consistent waves and the forgiving sand found under the water. Not to mention, the warm, tropical conditions make surfing a little more fun, especially for anyone who cringes at the idea of spending the day in cold water. In Tamarindo, all you need is a swimsuit and rash guard to get started — the water is warm enough that you don’t need a wetsuit.
While there are lots of shops set up to provide private, semi-private, and group surf lessons, your best bet for catering to the needs of the whole family is to sign up for a family surf vacation in Costa Rica. For example, Iguana Surf’s Epic Surf Camp features pretty much everything you need to tackle the adventure as a group. When you purchase this package, you receive 7-night’s accommodation in a Deluxe Private Suite that sleeps up to seven people, fresh breakfast every morning, five surf lessons for every member of your group, including a surf trip to a nearby break, and enough free time to explore the city and nearby rainforests on other tours. Iguana Surf will even manage a private transfer for your whole group from the nearby Liberia airport to Tamarindo, taking the stress away from driving or navigating the roads after your plane touches down.
You Can Search for Sloths, Iguanas, Monkeys, and Sea Turtles
There’s something thrilling about spotting wild animals in their natural environment, and with almost a third of Costa Rican land protected as national parks, preserves, and refuges, there are endless opportunities for spotting and watching some pretty sweet beasts. Even just strolling around town you’re likely to spot a few howler monkeys or iguanas lounging in the trees, but if you want a guarantee to see the fauna of the rainforest, there are tours to help you do that. For instance, the Tamarindo Estuary Boat Tour gives you a chance to spot crocodiles lounging on the riverbanks or swimming through the waters. The Tamarindo Turtle Tour, available from October through March, gives you the rare opportunity to see black turtles (and sometimes leatherbacks!) nesting along Playa Minas. And if you want to be guaranteed the chance to see sloths, jaguars, and monkeys, plan to spend a couple hours at Diamante Eco Adventure Park with the Animal Sanctuary Discovery Pass, which gives you the chance to visit one of the best wildlife education centers in the country.
The Terrain is Perfect for Adventurous ATVing
If you’re not afraid of getting a little muddy, there’s nothing quite like exploring the beaches and mountains while careening around on a 4-wheeler. On this guided, equipment-provided tour, you get to explore the local beach communities (and by “explore,” we mean fly through muddy creeks and kick up some sand along the beaches) before stopping to snorkel in the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. Just remember, it’s best to wear clothing you don’t mind getting dirty.
The Location Offers Access to Lots of Beaches
If your vacation lands you in a central, bustling spot like Tamarindo, you may decide you want to break away from the often-busy Playa Tamarindo to explore more of the coast. Luckily, with lots of car rental shops right in the center of town, it’s easy to rent a car for a day or two to branch out to other areas. Playa Flamingo, and Brasalito are both beautiful beaches that are often less crowded than Tamarindo, both within about a 30-minute drive. Playa Hermosa and Coco Beach are a little farther away, at roughly 45 minutes to an hour, but both feature calmer waters, making them a great option for paddle boarding, snorkeling, or just splashing along the shores.
There’s More to the Coast Than the Beach
After a couple days on the water or in the sand, a few people in your group may be ready to take a break from the beach. In bustling tourist towns like Tamarindo, there’s still plenty to do to keep everyone occupied. The main drag, Calle Central, is lined with shops, restaurants and open-air vendors offering everything from stuffed sloths to handmade jewelry and the best coffee Costa Rica has to offer. You can even find a movie theater at the north side of town.
Then, if you veer off onto Calle Corona, a road tucked back a bit from the main drag, you can find kid-friendly fun like mini golf and soccer, as well as the Green Papaya Taco Bar, where roughly half of all the seats are swings suspended from the ceiling. In the same area of town, there’s a Saturday Farmer’s Market offering fresh fruits, vegetables, locally-made products. Or if you can’t make it to the Saturday version of events, a little bit farther up the road, there’s the Night Market open every Thursday evening, which features live music and entertainment in addition to local vendors.
Rainforest Canopies Make for the Best Ziplining
No Costa Rica family vacation is complete without taking the whole crew sailing through the rainforest on a zipline. These two-hour tours give you the chance to fly from tree to tree, seeking closer glimpses of the flora and fauna that enliven the canopies. If you’re lucky, you might spot parrots or sloths in their natural environment. But even if you don’t, you’ll remember the exhilaration of the wind in your hair and the beauty of the world around you. And those are the types of memories that make family vacations great.