If you want to provide your kids with a safe environment while teaching them the importance of nature and conservation, Costa Rica is the vacation your family has been waiting for. Equipped with pristine beaches, tall mountains, unique rural communities, wellness retreats, and a myriad of outdoor adventures, deciding on an itinerary can be quite the challenge.
To help plan your memorable trip to Costa Rica, Mothering spoke to popular online travel agency Costa Rican Vacations - a company run by Costa Rican locals who regularly visit hotels and resorts across the country. Costa Rican Vacations has helped thousands of customers plan their family vacations. They match destinations and hotels to your family's needs and interests, emailing you a unique travel itinerary packed with photos, videos, and information. When you're ready to book your trip, they send reservations and payments to the hotels and tours you've decided on, making the whole booking process super easy.
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Whichever hotels and destinations you decide on, one thing is for sure: "You need to give yourself enough time to explore," Costa Rican Vacations told Mothering. "Costa Rica is a small, but mountainous country. Getting from some of the rainforest areas (including the famous Arenal Volcano region) to the beaches can take between 3-5 hours. Plan for no less than a week. More importantly, if you're coming during school breaks, plan at least six months in advance. Other families will likely be having the same ideas!"
Without further ado, here are six gorgeous family-friendly hotels as recommended by Costa Rican Vacations.
1. Lapa Rios
Words and photos can't illustrate the magic of Lapa Rios.
I spent five days here, sleeping in a glorious eco-lodge perched above the treetops. Every morning I woke up to the sound of howling monkeys and chirping birds. Surrounded by tropical forestry, I learned more about nature in five days than I ever did in my high school biology classes. Lapa Rios is an eco-lodge that sits on 1,000 acres of protected tropical lowland rainforest in the Osa Peninsula, giving visitors the opportunity to go on beautiful hikes, search for tropical birds, and learn about local wildlife.
No man-made playgrounds and water parks are necessary when your kids have 1,000 acres of rainforest to explore. You don't have to walk far to get face-to-face with monkeys, toucans, and sloths - in fact, you'll likely see them from your balcony. Local nature experts run guided tours every day and will get your entire family excited about the wildlife, pointing out animals and bugs you never even knew existed.
If you want to make the most of your stay at Lapa Rios (and try their entire delicious food menu), we recommend you stay for four to five nights.
Rated by National Geographic as one of the most unique lodges of the world, a trip to Lapa Rios will undoubtedly change your life and create memories that your kids will share with their children.
I stayed here the last night that I was in Costa Rica, and it was the perfect place to end my incredible trip. After spending days trekking through the rainforest and slapping away mosquitoes, it felt good to wind down in Xandari's Sunset Pool, which provided gorgeous views of the sun slowly falling below the Central Valley.
When you arrive at Xandari, Reception will give you a warm welcome and make your family feel right at home. They offer you coffee or tea upon your arrival and tell you everything you need to know about the property. With friendly security guards watching over the space, you know your kids are in good hands when they're exploring the surrounding tropical gardens, in search of chirping birds and colorful bugs.
Related: 10 Travel Destinations to Take the Kids Before They Grow Up
And there is so much to explore! The property features a 12-acre forest reserve with wooded trails connecting you to the different gardens, pools, and waterfalls. The resort even offers bird-watching tours, where your kids can learn about the local wildlife hands-on. If you're looking to relax, you can swim in one of three saline-treated swimming pools - two of which have solar panels to keep the water warm. If your partner is willing to watch over the kids, you can hike up to the Spa Village and enjoy a relaxing massage while taking in the gorgeous landscape.
Xandari is a short taxi ride from Juan Santamaría International Airport, which makes it the ultimate hotel when you need to spend the night in San Jose to catch an early flight. But it's also an ideal choice for people who want to spend a week relaxing on a resort that has everything - delicious food, friendly staff, safe environment, and lots to do for the whole family.
This breathtaking oceanfront resort is tucked in a tropical forest that makes you feel like you are living in a treehouse on the beach. For those looking to enjoy the natural beauty that Costa Rica offers, you won't beat the sustainable luxury accommodations in the middle of paradise. You have access to two different beaches, beautiful rainforest and amazing wildlife, and the 38 boutique rooms genuinely leave no details unaddressed.
A delicious a la carte breakfast greets you each morning, complete with the perfect cup of Costa Rican coffee. You'll love overlooking the Pacific coast as you wine and dine. You'll want to be sure you register for the free tortilla making class - you will never buy tortillas again!
And, if you take the sustainability tour, you'll find you love the place even more as you see how the hotel's green practices take care of you and the environment at the same time. Awarded a Level 5 Certificate of Sustainable Tourism, Arenas del Mar's mission to minimize its impact on the environment while helping the community is admirable, and one of which you get to be a part.
Related: 5 Reasons to Take Your Kids on An Eco-Friendly Family Vacation
4. Andaz Peninsula Papagayo
This resort is not your average resort by any means. If you're looking for cookie cutter hotel experiences, you won't find it here. It's secluded, set on a hill that lets you see all the glorious flora and fauna of Costa Rica's Guanacaste region, and still, it's modern and refined.
The Andaz seeks to give its guests world-class, one-of-a-kind service and it does so by integrating local culture and gourmet cuisine with superior service. Each room has been considered as if being designed for a family member. The artwork in the rooms is gorgeous - commissioned from local artists and making you feel as if you are part of the community that surrounds you.
It's also a hotel committed to sustainability, catering to families and couples who want to connect with nature. If you're looking for on-site activities like kayaking and paddle boarding on a beautiful beach, this is the place to be.
The Kids' Club has daily activities and free babysitting for kids aged 4-12.
5. The Springs Resort & Spa
If it's good enough for the Kardashians, it's good enough for us. This five-star luxury resort was featured in Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Bachelor. It's no surprise, either.
The Springs Resort & Spa is the ultimate getaway for families and couples. With a myriad of onsite activities and places to explore, there's no need to leave the resort - a relief if you're traveling with kids. The beautiful resort features an animal sanctuary that you and your children will fall in love with, as well as access to "Club Rio," which means you can go on guided nature walks, horseback riding, river tubing, and more.
Though it's set on 165 beautiful acres, there are only 47 rooms and villas, which makes you feel like you have intimacy and family feel in the middle of a luxurious tropical setting.
Kiddos will love the game room and the wildlife preserve, while the family will be able to enjoy seven different natural hot mineral spring pools. Your picky kids will definitely find something they'll love on the impressive food menu, and you'll be able to enjoy your unique dishes in a formal dining room that provides fantastic views of the Arenal Volcano.
6. The Westin Resort & Spa
Set on 1,500 acres of forestry along the gorgeous beaches of Playa Conchal, this all-inclusive beachfront resort is the perfect getaway for your entire family.
Equipped with eight restaurants, a kids' club that will literally have your children begging to take them there all the time and a swim-up pool bar to spend time relaxing, you'll be spoiled rotten. The best thing about all-inclusive resorts is that it really means everything is included, and with world-class service that Westin is known for, that's even a notch above what you'd typically expect.
The beachfront is gorgeous, and the surrounding lush forestry will make you feel like you are living in a fairytale.
The shuttle service takes you everywhere you want to go, and the hardest choice you'll probably have to make is which of the amazing food options you'll choose!
The Westin Resort & Spa is great for family activities and/or reunion/retreats, and it boasts the largest pool in Costa Rica - indeed something for everyone.