It’s been almost a week since we left Costa Rica, but I’m still reminiscing about our days hanging out in the rainforest of Manuel Antonio and the Kalambu hot springs of La Fortuna. Since we had such a great time there, I thought I’d share with you our 10 day Costa Rica itinerary.
We actually spent more than 10 days in Costa Rica. But since we were working while we were in Costa Rica, half of our days were spent hanging out in our Airbnb doing homeschooling or work. Our full Costa Rica itinerary probably wouldn’t be very useful for the average family, which is why I condensed the itinerary into 10 days.
The 10 day Costa Rica itinerary I outline below is for families who only have a limited time in Costa Rica. I’ve included suggestions of what to do based on what we did as a family. You don’t have to follow it activity by activity. They’re merely a starting off point for you to make the most of your Costa Rica travel with kids.
This post was updated on May 22, 2020.
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Why we loved doing a 10 day Costa Rica itinerary with our kids
We absolutely loved our Costa Rica travel with kids experience! 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! Costa Rica is a haven for ecotourism, and our 10 day Costa Rica itinerary included a lot of activities focused on ecotourism. If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, be prepared for all the family-friendly activities you’ll experience out in nature.
Things to consider when planning your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary
For families planning a trip to Costa Rica, there are a few things you need to consider. First, contrary to what the travel magazines say, Costa Rica is NOT a cheap country. 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 to pay American prices on food, lodging, and activities.
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. The next best option is renting a car, but you’ll have to include the costs of insurance and car seats (which are mandatory in Costa Rica). You can also opt to hire a private driver.
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.
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. You should also take into consideration your own family’s preferences and needs. There are many choices when it comes to activities you can do with your kids in Costa Rica, so think about what fits with the ages and abilities of your own kids.
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.
We didn’t get to visit the Caribbean side, but I hear it’s very fun to visit. I’ve also heard that Corcovado National Park is worth a visit as well. 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.
Our 10 Day Costa Rica itinerary
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. We also either used a private car or a rental car to get from city to city. This wasn’t necessarily the cheapest transportation option, but it was the most convenient for us.
As I mentioned before, for your own trip to Costa Rica, you can either choose to do this same itinerary stop by stop, or adjust it to your own family’s preferences. Many of the activities in this itinerary are geared towards families with kids between the ages of 5 and 12.
Day 1: San Jose
We flew in to 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 all sorts of stalls selling fresh produce, meats, items for the home, and other everyday products. There are also several sodas (cheap food restaurants) where you can sample Costa Rican 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).
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, 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 that we could visit the Crocodile Bridge, near the town of Tarcoles.
This 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
For our first full day at Manuel Antonio, we booked a ziplining tour with a company called Titi Canopy Tour. Our friends at Il Viaggio Travel helped organize the 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.
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 decided to continue our 10 day Costa Rica itinerary in the town of La Fortuna, situated at the base of the Arenal Volcano. 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 took about 5 or 6 hours to do the drive.
If you get to La Fortuna early enough, you can catch one of the chocolate workshops at ChocoMuseo, located near Fortuna Park. The workshop is kid-friendly, and you can learn how to make chocolate by hand, from the bean all the way to the chocolate bar. ChocoMuseo offers workshops throughout the day, the latest one is offered at 8pm. The workshops cost $29 for adults, and $18 for children under 12.
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 a 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
If you are planning to spend 10 days in Costa Rica, then consider doing a river float. 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 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 excursion. 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.
Day 8: Kalambu Hot Spring
A visit to La Fortuna, Costa Rica wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the hot springs. One of our favorite things about our Costa Rica travel with kids was spending the day at Kalambu Hot Springs. 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!
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 one of our favorite ones that we’ve visited. We loved the interactive exhibits, and the kids had fun pretending to fly planes, shopping for food at the grocery store, and even 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.
If you have time and energy in the afternoon, you can also 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.
Making the most of your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary
There are so many activities to choose from if you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica with kids. The best way to make the most of your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary is take stock of what you and your family want to do, and plan your activities accordingly. In reality, 10 days in Costa Rica is not enough time to really experience the country. I’m sure you could spend months in Costa Rica and not be able to see everything!
We really enjoyed our Costa Rica travel with kids, and hopefully this 10 day Costa Rica itinerary will help you and your family plan your own Costa Rica vacation.
Have you spent some time in Costa Rica with your family? Share with me your ideas for spending 10 days in Costa Rica in the comments.
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, Kalambu Hot Springs, and ChocoMuseo in La Fortuna. Despite the complimentary experiences, the views and opinions in this post are completely my own.
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