Epic 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary For Families
The country of Costa Rica is the perfect vacation destination for families. There is so much you can squeeze into a 10 day Costa Rica itinerary for families, from rainforests to hot springs to beaches. We had such a great time in Costa Rica, and we are so excited to tell you all about it!
We visited Costa Rica in 2019, and actually spent more than 10 days in Costa Rica. But some of those days were spent working and homeschooling. In putting this post together, I decided to condense our Costa Rica with kids itinerary into activities families love and can do in Costa Rica in 10 days.
The Costa Rica 10 day itinerary I outline below is for families who only have a limited time in Costa Rica. The suggestions are based on what we did as a family, as well as additional activities we didn’t get to do. Use this 10 days Costa Rica itinerary as a starting off point for your own Costa Rica travel with kids experience.
This post was updated on January 26, 2023.
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Why do a 10 day Costa Rica itinerary with kids?
We absolutely loved our Costa Rica travel with kids experience! Among all the countries we’ve visited during our around the world trip, Costa Rica was certainly among the easiest countries to travel around as tourists.
Although we tried our best to speak Spanish to everyone we met, we were quite surprised at the number of English speakers in Costa Rica. But this turned out to be a good thing as it actually made it a lot easier for our kids to communicate with people.
Another thing we enjoyed about Costa Rica travel with kids was the amount of animals we saw. We did so many nature-based experiences! It’s really one of the most perfect destinations for worldschooling.
Costa Rica is a haven for ecotourism. Sustainable travel is so important to us as a family. And fortunately, our 10 day Costa Rica itinerary gave us plenty of opportunities to do just that!
If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, be prepared for all the family friendly activities you’ll do out in nature.
Take a look at all the fun experiences for families in this part of Central America.
Things to consider when planning your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary for families
Before setting off on your Costa Rica 10 days trip, there are a few family travel tips you need to consider.
Families need to think about the costs of traveling to Costa Rica, what supplies they’ll need to travel to the country, and how to get around during their Costa Rica family itinerary. It’s also helpful to think about how to stay connected to folks back home and the pacing of activities you’ll do during your Costa Rica itinerary 10 days experience.
Budget for 10 day Costa Rica trip: expect high prices!
First, due to the influx of American and Canadian tourism, Costa Rica is NOT as budget-friendly as it once was 15 years ago. Costa Rica is often referred to as “the Switzerland of Central America,” and I couldn’t agree more.
If you’re planning on doing some Costa Rica travel with kids, expect American prices on food, lodging, and activities. Our 10 day itinerary Costa Rica budget was roughly $218 per day for lodging, food, transportation, and activities for our family of four.
Costa Rica uses a currency called colones. At the time of this writing, 600 colones is roughly the equivalent of $1 USD. However, many places in Costa Rica also accept USD, as well as credit card. So you may not need to worry too much about exchanging money during your Costa Rica 10 day tour.
Read my post about how to do affordable world travel with your kids.
Getting to Costa Rica with kids
Costa Rica is located in Central America. It’s bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. The two international airports in Costa Rica are located in the cities of San Jose (Juan Santamaria Airport) and Liberia.
Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) services destinations like the United States, Panama, Mexico, Germany, Canada, El Salvador and Guatemala. Liberia Guanacaste International Airport (LIR) services the United States, Canada, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
Use Expedia to find and book flights into Costa Rica.
If your family itinerary Costa Rica plans have a bit more flexibility, or you’re tacking on Costa Rica as part of a Central America tour, you can enter Costa Rica over land. On the Nicaragua side, the main border crossing is Penas Blancas. The three main border crossings on the Panama side are Paso Canoas, Rio Sereno & Sixaola-Guabito.
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Getting around for your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary for families
Besides the high cost of living, the other consideration if you’re thinking of spending 10 days in Costa Rica is how to get around the country. Buses are the cheapest option, but depending on what cities you want to visit, there aren’t always direct routes.
Taking a shuttle bus may be an option, but for a family, it can get pricey. You can also opt to hire a private driver. The final option is to rent a car, but you’ll have to include the costs of insurance and car seats (which are mandatory in Costa Rica).
Use Expedia to find a rental car for your Costa Rica itinerary.
In the past, we’ve taken buses to get around Costa Rica. But during our more recent trip, we did a mix of car rental and private driver. As you’re doing your 10 days itinerary Costa Rica planning, consider what transportation option is most convenient for your family.
Essential supplies for a 10 day trip to Costa Rica
Preparing supplies for travel to Costa Rica with kids is really no different than preparing your travel must haves for any other trip. We like bringing along our favorite backpacks for traveling with kids. They help carry all the supplies we need for Costa Rica.
You’ll need comfortable shoes, lightweight clothes that are breathable in heat, and a day bag for carrying a water bottle and some snacks during hikes. Additionally, you may want to bring along reef-safe or biodegradable sunscreen. And you should also bring bug repellent, especially if you plan on hiking in the forest.
Here are a few of the travel supplies we’ve taken with us to Costa Rica that you can buy for your trip:
Learn more about the amazing family travel resources we use for worldschooling!
Internet connectivity during your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary
Lastly, the internet in Costa Rica is notoriously bad. We struggled a lot with internet connectivity while we were in Costa Rica, to the point where it severely interfered with productivity for our work.
For families planning on Costa Rica travel with kids, be prepared to suffer through slow internet connection when you’re trying to post pictures online for your friends and family back home.
Read more international WiFi tips (family travel focused) in this post.
Researching ideas for your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary
Keep these considerations in mind when you’re putting together your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary. But also take into consideration your own family’s preferences and needs. Think about what fits best with the ages and abilities of your own kids.
For our 10 day Costa Rica itinerary, we scheduled only one activity per day. We know our kids. They get tired and cranky if we try to pack in too many things into one day.
Also consider visiting places that aren’t necessarily popular with tourists. If you’re planning on spending at least 10 days in Costa Rica, you’ll have a bit more time to explore the country than just hitting the tourist spots.
Get a copy of the Lonely Planet Costa Rica guide book for ideas of places to visit.
Be sure to also take into account the time it takes to travel between cities when you’re putting together your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary.
A family-friendly 10 Day Costa Rica itinerary
Many families love travel to Costa Rica, and I know you will too. That’s why I’ve worked hard to make this itinerary the best Costa Rica itinerary for families. Many of the activities I suggest are geared towards families with kids between the ages of 5 and 12. But you can also use this itinerary if you have younger or older kids, or traveling solo or as a couple.
This 10 days in Costa Rica itinerary is a modified version of the itinerary we did when we were in Costa Rica. I’ve also included additional suggestions of activities we didn’t get to do so you can truly experience the best of Costa Rica in 10 days.
As I mentioned before, for your own Costa Rica trip itinerary, you can either choose to do this same itinerary stop by stop, or adjust it to your own family’s preferences. At the end of this post, I’ve included alternative options for Costa Rica itineraries.
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Day 1: San Jose
We flew into San Jose airport in the morning, and had the rest of the day to relax. To kick off our 10 day Costa Rica itinerary, we took a visit to Mercado Central.
The market has many stalls selling fresh produce, meats, sundries, and other everyday products. There are also several sodas (cheap food restaurants) at the market. There, you can sample delicious delicious Costa Rican coffee and muy rica Costa Rica food.
After a lunch of casado de pescado (fish with rice and beans), we took a walk through the market, and then along the nearby Avenida Central (a pedestrian street lined with shops, restaurants, and museums).
Book this San Jose city walking tour to get an introduction to the city.
Day 2: Drive to Manuel Antonio
During the second day of our 10 day Costa Rica itinerary, we rented a private car to take us to Manuel Antonio National Park. This park is located near the town of Quepos, along the Pacific Coast.
There are a couple of routes to get to Quepos. The route we took was a bit out of the way, but we purposely chose this so we could visit the Crocodile Bridge. The bridge is near the town of Tarcoles.
Crocodile Bridge sits over the Tarcoles River where many crocodiles love to sit and sunbathe. It’s a bit of a tourist gimmick, but it’s a nice way to break up a long drive.
Be careful when visiting the Crocodile Bridge, as you are literally on the side of a highway. Keep a hold of your kids’ hands so they don’t accidentally go into the road.
Day 3: Canopy tour
The canopy tour takes about two hours, and has about 10 platforms, with ziplines connecting each platform. We had a chance to zipline through all the different layers of the forest: the underbrush, the canopy, and even above the canopy!
While we didn’t see very many animals during the canopy tour, the kids did have a lot of fun. Even our youngest one was brave enough to try it out, though he always had a guide to accompany him. If your kids are on the younger side, you can request to have your child ride with a guide throughout the whole tour, like my son did.
Titi Canopy Tour is equipped to handle families, and they have harnesses and helmets for kids aged 4 and older. Expect to pay around $75 per person for the canopy tour.
Read here to learn about the many educational benefits of travel.
Day 4: Hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park
The fourth day of our 10 day Costa Rica itinerary was spent hiking through Manuel Antonio National Park.
This national park is fairly small, but it is one of the most popular parks in Costa Rica. In fact, entrance into the park is capped at 600 people per day! So it’s best to arrive early to ensure you get in that day.
When we first visited Manuel Antonio National ten years ago, my husband and I didn’t have a guide. We managed to see only a few animals while we were there.
This time around, we hired a guide through Efrain’s Nature Tours, and saw over 21 animals! While the guides are not cheap (Efrain charges $50 per person), they are definitely worth it. The guides are very knowledgeable, and know where to find the animals in the park.
Day 5: Drive to La Fortuna
After spending a few days in Manuel Antonio, we continued our 10 day Costa Rica itinerary to the town of La Fortuna. This town is situated near Arenal Volcano National Park.
Due to time considerations, and the fact that there is no direct bus to La Fortuna from Manuel Antonio, we opted once again to hire a private driver. The drive to La Fortuna winds around mountain roads, so if you tend to get car sick easily, take a few ginger pills before the drive. It takes about 5 or 6 hours to do the drive.
If you get to La Fortuna early enough, you can take a chocolate tour to learn about the cacao cultivation and the chocolate making process. During our time in La Fortuna, we did a chocolate workshop at a place called ChocoMuseo (which no longer exists in La Fortuna).
You can have a similar chocolate experience in Costa Rica by booking one of these chocolate tours:
Learn how families can incorporate learning into their travel experiences.
Day 6: Arenal Observatory Tour
A visit to the Arenal Volcano during your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary is a must. Arenal Volcano is an active volcano, and on clear days, you can see smoke seeping out of the top of the volcano! We didn’t actually hike ON the volcano, but we did do a hike around the base of the volcano.
We used Arenal Jungle Tours for our Arenal Volcano hike, but there are plenty of other companies in La Fortuna that offer the same type of tour.
Our tour lasted around 6 hours, and included a night-time visit to local hot springs. The cost of the tour is $45 per person, while kids aged 6-12 are half-priced. Children aged 5 and under are free.
Day 7: Take a river float
Another activity to do if you’re planning to spend 10 days in Costa Rica is to spend time in the rivers. La Fortuna has a handful of rafting tours that families with older kids can participate in.
But if your kids are young, like ours, than a river float, like the one we did in La Fortuna, is the way to go. While these boat rides still use the rafts, they don’t go through any rapids. So it’s easy for kids to do.
We went with Desafio Adventure Company for our river float, which offers other adventure travel tours and excursions. Our river float ride was about two hours, plus a snack afterwards, and we saw around 20 animals during our tour. The cost of the tour is $75 per person.
If your kids are in their late teens and want a little more action in their Costa Rica activities, you can book any of these tours from Desafio Adventure Company below:
Day 8: Kalambu Hot Spring
Located just outside of La Fortuna, Kalambu Hot Springs is a water park with hot springs pools for soaking, as well as water slides and splash towers for kids.
Admission to Kalambu Hot Springs ranges from 10,000 colones (roughly $17) to 12,500 colones (roughly $21), depending on the type of ticket you purchase. We spent about five hours at Kalambu Hot Springs, and had so much fun!
Love hot springs? Read about our hot springs experience in Bali!
Day 9: Drive back to San Jose
Since we had to fly out of Costa Rica from San Jose airport, we decided to head back to San Jose a couple of days before our flight in order to spend some time in the city. This time around we rented a car in La Fortuna and drove it back to San Jose.
The drive from La Fortuna to San Jose takes around three hours, so if you get into San Jose early enough, you can squeeze in a visit to Museo Nacional De Costa Rica.
The museum closes at 4:30 pm, and will take about an hour and a half to walk through and look at the exhibits. There are some interesting exhibits about the history of Costa Rica, both pre- and post-Columbian history. Entrance into the museum is $11 for adults, and free for kids 12 and under.
Day 10: Kids museum in San Jose
If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica with kids, you should plan to include a visit to the Museo de los Niños in San Jose.
This kids museum is packed with interactive exhibits, and the kids had fun pretending to fly planes, shopping for food at the grocery store, and trying their hand at an escape room style activity.
The Museo de los Niños is set in a castle, in a somewhat rough part of San Jose. But the museum itself is worth visiting. The museum is open every day, except for Monday. The entrance fee to the museum is 2,200 colones (roughly $4) for adults and 2,000 colones (roughly $3) for kids.
In the afternoon, take a visit to the Simon Bolivar Zoological Park. It's a relatively small zoo, and can take about an hour and a half to walk through.
There are mainly birds on exhibit, but you will also see some monkeys, crocodiles, and a sloth as well. Entrance to the zoo is around 3,500 (roughly $6) for adults, and 2,700 colones (roughly $5) for kids aged 3 to 12.
Alternative options for a 10 day Costa Rica itinerary
We unfortunately didn’t get to visit every part of Costa Rica during our 10 day trip. There were many places we missed that we wished we could have visited.
Below are some alternative options for your Costa Rica travel itinerary, that we wished we could have done. You can swap out our extra days in La Fortuna or San Jose for any of these great options.
Located in the Puntarenas province in the north of Costa Rica, Santa Teresa is becoming increasingly popular for surfing and yoga. It’s still fairly remote, and not easy to get to. However, the jungle backdrop makes it a favorite for travelers looking for off the beaten path Costa Rica experiences.
Another off the beaten path surf destination is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Located on the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo is known for its black sand beaches. There is also a jaguar rescue center that families can visit.
Corcovado National Park
This National park is located on the Osa Peninsula. It is the only remaining old growth rainforest on the Pacific Coast of Central America. And there are 13 major ecosystems where you can see a variety of wildlife.
Tortuguero National Park
Another park worth visiting is Tortuguero National Park. This is where you can see green sea turtles from Playa Tortuguero. The park’s canals, lagoons, and rivers are also worth touring by boat.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
For those who like to be up high, visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a must. This forest is located in the Puntarenas and Alajuela provinces, and is one of the only few remaining cloud forests in the world. Cloud forests are known for their tropical climate and frequent cloud cover.
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
If you’re in the mood for adventure during your visit to La Fortuna, visit the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. This is a privately owned park that consists of a series of hanging bridges going across tree canopies. Experience life in the trees!
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Adjusting for a shorter Costa Rica itinerary for families
Sometimes families have only a limited amount of time for their vacation in Costa Rica. How do you take advantage of the best Costa Rica family itinerary if your time is limited? Here are a few ways you can shorten my Costa Rica itinerary for families.
If you only have 5 days in Costa Rica to spend (or fewer), you can take out either Manuel Antonio or La Fortuna. Try this 5 day Costa Rica itinerary:
- First day: San Jose
- Second day: Drive to Manuel Antonio
- Third day: Canopy tour
- Fourth day: Hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park
- Fifth day: Drive back to San Jose
Or try this 5 day itinerary Costa Rica alternative:
- First day: San Jose
- Second day: Drive to La Fortuna
- Third day: Take a river float
- Fourth day: Spend the day at Kalambu Hot Springs
- Fifth day: Drive back to San Jose
A memorable 10 day Costa Rica itinerary
The best way to make the most of your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary is to take stock of what your family wants to do, and plan your activities accordingly.
Hopefully this 10 day Costa Rica itinerary will help you plan a Costa Rica family vacation that’s full of memories. Our Costa Rica trip was certainly memorable!
Have you spent time in Costa Rica with kids? Share with me your ideas for spending 10 days in Costa Rica in the comments.
Planning to visit Costa Rica as part of a bigger world adventure? Get my gap year planning guide, Hey Kids, Let's Go Travel! for useful advice, tools, and actionable steps for planning your trip.
Note: We received a complimentary nights stay in Costa Rica from Il Viaggio Tours. We also received a complimentary guided tour with Efrain's Nature Tours in Manuel Antonio courtesy of CNN, in addition to hosted experiences from Desafio Adventure Company and Kalambu Hot Springs in La Fortuna. Despite the complimentary experiences, the views and opinions in this post are completely my own.
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