An admission. Tonight, we were supposed to press “publish” on a long and comprehensive list of the very best bits of Costa Rica, that glorious emerald land of cloud forests, toucans, sloths, and long, lazy beaches. However. That was before five children went to bed two hours late, before Dinner for Grown Ups still had to be cooked, and before preparations for an almost-eleven-year-old’s birthday tomorrow looked likely to keep us up until the wee hours.
And so, with the help of our Costa Rica expert, mother-of-two and top music publicist Kim Juneja, we have compiled a short, and highly subjective list, of our fave CR stays with kids. Some are luxe. Some aren’t. All are tried, tested, and make for an incredible, fabulous time in that most winsome of Central American countries. Pick several from this list on your Costa Rican travels, and you won’t go wrong. Stay tuned, meanwhile, for our full Costa Rica guide.
Now back to that birthday cake….
- Tamarindo: Hotel Capitan Suizo Run by a lovely Swiss family (hence the name), this wonderful beach-front retreat with its lovely, airy bungalows (and one four-bedroom suite, if you’re a huge family) and nice pool for when – if ever – you want a change from the beach is the place for respite outside otherwise busy Tamarindo. Children are warmly welcomed.
- Nosara: The Harmony Hotel Set a two-minute walk from super-quiet Playa Guiones beach, the Harmony enchants with its airy white bungalows and laid-back vibe. Take the little ones surfing: conditions are perfect for beginners. It’s not the cheapest hotel choice, but it’s worth it.
- Samara: Hotel Samara Pacific Lodge A fab family hotel (every room has an extra room attached, with a single or bunk bed), this simple place might not be beside the sea, but it’s nevertheless wonderful. A nice salt-water pool, basic but spotless rooms, and walking distance to the beach and Samara town -yet far away from its madding crowds. Great value.
- Montezuma: Ylang Ylang Beach Resort Arrive by taxi boat, and stay beside the sea in this gorgeous set of bungalows and family suites, amid lovely gardens and hidden away from the Montezuma action (an added bonus: the great veggie, vegan and raw food on offer).
- Mal Pais/Santa Teresa: Casa Noche del Mono We almost don’t want to divulge this dreamy vacation rental (bookable through VRBO and shhh: secretly our fave of the whole bunch), hidden high up in the hills above the southern strip of the Nicoya Peninsula. It’s huge, magical, and the perfect family escape from the world, with abundant wildlife and a beautiful pool. Just don’t tell anyone else….
MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK
- La Mariposa Situated on the tip-toppermost spot for full benefit of the incredible coastal views, La Mariposa is a real little jewel. Nice modern rooms with jaw-dropping sea views, along with a double connecting room and ground-floor two bedroom apartments offer a few options for families, whilst the outdoor terrace restaurant is renowned. There’s a lovely cliff-top pool, and easy access to the incredible Manuel Antonio National Park.
- Arenas del Mar It certainly ain’t a cheap choice, but lovely Arenas del Mar lives up to the hype it receives from returning guests, and as such is worth the splurge. Set on a pristine beach, but just minutes away from the national park, this place has it all: plush rooms, great food, 8 acres of private nature reserve, and even a resident naturalist. Ocean View Premium and Ocean Breeze suites can accommodate families.
- Puerto Viejo: La Costa de Papito Cute, colourful and funky, La Costa, on Cocles beach, 1 1/2km from Puerto Viejo town, is a delight. Airy, jungly bungalows are fab for families (one even has five rooms!) and the prices are extremely budget-friendly (with family breakfast thrown in for free). Our very favourite choice for exploring CR’s Caribbean coast.
- Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge Stay in luxury deep in the rainforest at amazing Bosque del Cabo, whose green credentials will satisfy even the fussiest young naturalist. Classic cabinas all have two double beds, whilst the array of houses on offer are even more spacious. Not that, with all that hiking, beach-time, horse riding, kayaking and wildlife-watching (all of which can be tailored to children), you’ll be spending too much time in your room…
ARENAL & MONTEVERDE
- La Fortuna, Arenal: The Springs The host hotel for the reality TV-show The Bachelor‘s Costa Rican episodes (but don’t hold that against them), The Springs is a luxury resort with all the bells and whistles. Great views of the Arenal volcano, four restaurants, on-site hot springs…you name it, if you’re looking for a good dose of R&R before, or between, more adventurous family travels (albeit at quite a stiff price), this is your spot to get it.
- La Fortuna, Arenal: Tabacon Another stunningly located resort spa, Tabacon – like The Springs – is the place to rest up weary young travellers. Thermal pools and waterfalls throughout the grounds, and a strict eco-code (the hotel is carbon neutral) complete this very pretty picture.
- La Paz: The Peace Lodge The sweet, cozy Peace Lodge makes the perfect stay at the beginning or end of a CR sojourn, being just an hour by road from San Jose’s international airport. Tucked into the rainforest, within La Paz Waterfall Gardens, it’s a magical little spot. All rooms can accommodate roll-away beds for little ones.
- Monterrey: Leaves & Lizards More affordable than many other options in this area, lovely Leaves & Lizards offers atmospheric cabin lodging on 26 acres of wildlife-filled land, with amazing views of the smoking Arenal volcano. All cabins have extra beds (many also have bunks), and though there’s a three night minimum stay, you’ll likely wish you were staying even longer.
- Near La Fortuna: Finca Luna Nueva Lodge Both rainforest lodge and bio-dynamic organic farm, Luna Nueva makes for a laid-back stay, with its great, simple family bungalows, lovely spa, solar-heated jacuzzi, and ozonated pool. Our pick for budget-friendliness, and a fascinating, working farm vibe.
- Monteverde: El Sol A simple log cabin that sleeps up to four, six horses, a spring-fed swimming pool, and fresh-baked bread on a cloudforest farm with breath-taking views. Need we say more?