Going on vacation to Costa Rica with children under 5 years old doesn’t mean that you’ll be sequestered to only ‘kids stuff’. We have lived in Costa Rica for over 1 1/2 years with our children (ages 3 and 1) and feel like we are the experts on places to go in Costa Rica with children under 5 that are also interesting for adults. Costa Rica is a perfect place for a family vacation. It is a safe, friendly country that adores children. Here is a short list of places that we have enjoyed as a family that isn’t on the typical tourist map.
The central park of Zarcero begs kids to come out and play. The entire park has beautifully carved topiaries and green hedges shaped into fantastic shapes. It looks like something that Dr. Seuss would have in his backyard. Weave in and out of the topiaries, stop and have some ice-cream at the various little shops around. It’s a nice stop on the way to and from Volcan Arenal.
2. Zoo Ave
(La Garita, Alajuela). Just 20 minutes west of the capital is a wildlife conservation park that is a top notch zoo. You’ll be able to see animals local to Costa Rica that are hard to spot in the wild. Zoo Ave houses all 4 types of monkeys that make Costa Rica their home, some that will swing over your head. You’ll also find a variety of exotic birds, crocodiles, turtles and more. All up close. This is a perfect morning and afternoon outing for children. The zoo itself is big enough to have a large variety of animals yet small enough to not tire half way through.
3. Barcelo Playa Langosta
The Barcelo Langosta Beach is one of our favorite all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica. The pools have 2 beach entry zones and are nice and perfect for little children. Near the pool is a sectioned off kids activity area where Barcelo staff will entertain your children while you sit by the pool enjoying a delicious banana daiquiri, all while being able to see your child. The resort is right on the beach for when you want to dip in the ocean or explore the abundant tide pools that are present in low tide. All drinks and meals are included so that means no having to decide where and when to go to dinner. The food is delicious. The staff is super friendly and will treat you special when you travel with little children. Barcelo Playa Langosta is also a favorite vacation spot of Costa Ricans, creating a nice mix of locals and tourists. If you’re lucky, you’ll see macaws and monkeys in the trees. Prices are also very reasonable, with near 1/2 price specials in the off season (May-Nov).
INBioparque can be a half or full day trip. The entrance into the park has a large tunnel made up entirely of soda caps. It’s super fun to run through. There is a lot to see and do in this educational conservation park. Our favorite part was the petting zoo, where kids get to pet and hold goats, ducks, bunnies and more. There is a maze, a big caterpillar slide, and meandering paths. You’ll be able to touch real snake skin, see the nocturnal frogs of Costa Rica, and enjoy the huge tropical plants that surround you. We had a fun morning and afternoon exploring INBioParque.
5. Ojo de Agua Waterpark
This isn’t a waterpark in the traditional sense, but rather a series of pools that are all fed from a bursting spring. The “eye of the water” spring feeds 5,000 gallons per minute of refreshingly cool water down a waterfall to the various pools. There is an Olympic size pool with diving boards, 2 other big pools and 2 kiddie pools. The property also has a lagoon with kayaks and paddle boats, a park, soccer fields. It’s easy to spend an entire day there. An ice-cream shop and restaurant cafe are available for food purchase or you can bring in your own. Ojo de Agua is centrally located near the airport, 15 minutes from Escazu and 10 minutes from Alajuela. You probably won’t see any tourists here, but it is a favorite among locals (so don’t go on the weekends). Entry is under $3 US per person. Find more information on Ojo de Agua here.