Costa Rica is famous for its white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, verdant jungles, and for its motto “pura vida,” which translates to pure life, but means so much more. When it comes to visiting Costa Rica, tourists who adopt that “pura vida” motto typically have the most fulfilling vacations. However, for families with young children or disabled children, it is not as easy to adopt that way of thinking.
Costa Rica has many beaches scattered across its coastline. Some of these beaches are friendly to families and some are not. When deciding which beaches to visit on vacation, parents must choose what features of a beach are necessary to their enjoyment and the safety of their children.
Lodging with budget prices can be found for around $100 or less. These hotels or hostels usually offer simple rooms and simple dining options. Mid-range hotels and lodges range in price between $125 to $200 per night. These places typically have outdoor pools and a wider variety of dining options available. The expensive resorts and hotels are more than $200 per night. These places often offer all-inclusive options and a variety of activities for kids and adults to enjoy.
The beach offering the best facilities for families with small children or babies is Tambor Beach with its fun resorts. The best beach resort area for quiet evenings is Playa Portrero. Families with children that are old enough to enjoy surfing may enjoy Playa Tamarindo for the surf lessons offered for children. The best beach for families with teenagers that has fun and safe wildlife and nature adventures is Playa Espadilla. The best beach for families on a budget is Playa Samara.
1. Playa Conchal, Guanacaste
Playa Conchal is a public beach located in the Guanacaste province on the Pacific coastline. This beach is unique because it is mostly made of seashells mixed with white sand.
It is a challenging beach to access unless staying at one of the resorts that back up to the beach area. Because it is difficult to access, most of the people who use this beach are guests of one of the resorts.
As a result of the limited access, this tranquil beach has no crowds and few vendors hawking their items for sale, and families can relax while children play in the waves.
A coral reef just offshore of the beach is a fun way for families to spend the day snorkeling in the shallow waters and observing tropical fish such as pufferfish and eels.
Visitors to Playa Conchal must walk along the shore for ten minutes from the easily-accessible Brasilito Beach. While it is not ideal, the walk is fun and easy. Snorkeling is safe and amazing in the calm cove, so the trip is well worth the effort for families.
This beach area contains several all-inclusive, family-friendly resorts with easy beach access, including W Costa Rica Reserva and the Westin Reserva Conchal. At all-inclusive resorts, families find it easier to manage vacations with children, including young ones.
Services such as babysitting or kids’ club activities are usually provided throughout the day, designed to give parents a break to lie on the beach and sip some cocktails.
2. Playa Samara, Guanacaste
Playa Samara is located on the Pacific Coast in the Guanacaste Province. The pale gray sands of the beach extend around a wide, horseshoe-shaped cove that offers calm, small waves perfect for small children.
The island at the mouth of the bay absorbs the energy from large waves, making this the ideal beach for swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling.
The town of Samara is located right next to the beach, offering many dining choices for families visiting for the day. Visitors that want to stay in this town can find several lodging options from which to choose and experience more of what the area has to offer.
A budget-friendly lodging option for families is the Pension Playa Samara. The Villas Kalimba hotel provides a convenient location for families that want to stay close to the beach while having easy access to restaurants and activities for kids.
Kid-friendly activities can easily be found in Samara and the surrounding area. Surf lessons for kids and adults can be found right on the beach. Wildlife or dolphin-watching tours by boat can be booked for a fun on-the-water experience.
The Belen Waterfall is located nearby and only requires a short hike to see it. In addition, a macaw parrot breeding center is less than an hour’s drive from Samara, a fun activity for all ages.
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3. Playa Potrero, Guanacaste
Playa Potrero is located in the Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Potrero Bay is protected from the ocean’s waves and contains clear waters, perfect for snorkeling, swimming, and paddle boarding.
The bay is surrounded by tropical vegetation and wildlife, and dark, golden sand slopes down to the edge of the calm beach waters.
For families who want to get away for a while, this beach provides the perfect escape. Distant enough from the crowds, Playa Potrero is the ultimate beach getaway for families to recharge and spend time together without distractions.
This beach is also close to busier beaches with more activities, like Playa Flamingo. Visitors can quickly travel there, spend the day, then return to Playa Potrero’s serenity.
Potrero Beach has a lot to offer families. Golf carts are easy to rent and a fun way to get around. Several restaurants offering fresh seafood are readily available and within range of a golf cart trip.
Child-friendly lodging is available at Potrero Beach. A popular, mid-range priced resort is the Bahia del Sol Hotel Beachfront Playa Potrero.
It has family suites available with a kitchen, and children aged four and under stay free. Apartments, houses, and villas can also be rented in this area within easy walking distance of the beach.
4. Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste
Costa Rica has two famous beaches called Playa Hermosa, and one of them is not a family-friendly beach. The Playa Hermosa that is perfect for families can be found in the Guanacaste province on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.
The waves of this gray-sand beach are small and calm because it is sheltered within the Bahia Hermosa, a bay that protects the beach from large waves.
Families that travel to this beach with young children enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and shell hunting in the calm waters. Older children often enjoy more thrilling activities such as sportfishing, riding jet skis, ziplining at the nearby eco-park, or going on a horseback riding tour.
Families may also enjoy touring the nearby animal sanctuary or looking for crocodiles while boating through the Palo Verde National Park.
The Hotel Bosque del Mar is a nice hotel that caters to families. While the price for this all-suite hotel is on the high-end at Playa Hermosa, the accommodations are perfect for families with children.
Both children and adults enjoy eating outside or wandering the resort while howler monkeys swing by overhead and iguanas hang out in the shade. Because the hotel opens up onto the beach, families do not have to travel far to fully enjoy their vacation when they stay here.
5. Playa Espadilla, Puntarenas
Playa Espadilla is located adjacent to the Manuel Antonio National Park in the Puntarenas province on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This beach is one of the most popular places to visit by both tourists and residents.
Playa Espadilla is one of the few beaches that have lifeguards on duty. Lifeguards are an important part of keeping visitors safe since this beach occasionally has some rip tides.
The Manual Antonio National Park that lies next to the beach provides a beautiful glimpse into the wildlife that exists in Costa Rica’s jungles. Visitors to this beach can easily access easy hiking trails through the jungle.
One of these trails is a raised platform, making this a suitable place for strollers and even wheelchairs to gain access. Species that live here and are often observed by hikers include sloths, capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, coatis, macaws, toucans, iguanas, and hummingbirds.
In addition to swimming at the beach and hiking in the national park, families can also take advantage of surf lessons, ziplining, whitewater rafting, snorkeling, and kayaking. With so many activities close by, families can stay for many days and not get bored.
Several lodging options are found in the town near the beach. The Espadilla Ocean Club and La Vela Boutique Hotel, both located near the beach and jungle, offer families a child-friendly atmosphere with a pool.
Several cafes and restaurants offer a wide variety of dishes, including American foods, to make vacations with little ones even easier.
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6. Playa Carrillo, Guanacaste
Playa Carrillo is located in the Guanacaste province, next to Playa Samara on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Playa Carrillo is a smaller beach than Playa Samara and attracts fewer people.
However, the waves at Playa Carrillo are just as gentle as those that make Playa Samara so popular. The calm waves at Playa Carrillo make it a fantastic place for small children to swim and snorkel while older kids can take surfing lessons.
When kids get tired of playing on the beach, a nearby macaw breeding center offers tours to visitors. Visitors to Playa Carrillo often pack a cooler with food and enjoy the quiet beach.
This beach is where people go to escape the crowds of Playa Samara and relax. Many visitors hang up hammocks between the coconut trees and enjoy the view from the shade.
Vendors sell shaved ice or coconut water along the beach. While few restaurant options are available at Playa Carrillo, El Colibri Hotel and Steakhouse is a favorite.
Playa Samara may have more resorts and hotels available, but Playa Carrillo is known for its laid-back lodging options close to the beach. Many of the hotels at Playa Carrillo, such as the Casa Buenavista Bed and Breakfast, have an outdoor pool, a short walk to the beach, and friendly staff.
7. Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste
Playa Avellanas is located in Guanacaste province on the part of Costa Rica that juts out furthest into the Pacific Ocean. This beach is not tucked into a small bay or cove, so it receives great waves that are perfect for surfing or bodyboarding.
It is relatively challenging to find it but well worth the effort, particularly for older children who may enjoy riding some great waves without fighting a lot of crowds. Plenty of shade on the beach creates places to spread out blankets or beach chairs.
Only a few lodging and dining options exist at this remote beach. Lola’s is a small restaurant on the beach that serves food and fun beverages during the day. Reservations for beach seating may be necessary since there are not many restaurant options.
To reach the SoulShine Hotel and Restaurant requires walking only a few minutes from Playa Avellanas. They provide the perfect place for families with small children and older children to eat or stay.
In addition, a boardwalk from the beach through the trees takes visitors to the Cabinas las Olas. This small, 2-star hotel has a restaurant and bar that serves food all day.
A surf shop at this hotel offers lessons, rentals, or entire surfing packages that include surf lessons, gear rentals, and more.
8. Playa Tortuguero, Limon
Playa Tortuguero is located in the province of Limon, near the Nicaraguan border on the Caribbean Sea. This beach is not like the other Costa Rican beaches on this list. It lies within the Tortuguero National Park and is comprised of dark, volcanic sands.
The ocean waters of this beach often contain rip currents that make it unsafe for swimming. While swimming at this beach is unsafe, it does give visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe sea turtles swimming to shore and nesting.
Families are encouraged to visit during turtle nesting season, which can occur from March through October, depending on the species. Four different sea turtle species, Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, and Leatherback, use this beach to nest.
To see the sea turtles nesting, visitors must arrange a sea turtle nesting tour after dark, with a licensed guide. Important things to remember are that tours typically last around two hours, cameras and lights are not permitted, and guests must wear dark clothing.
Visitors to Playa Tortuguero can only access this beach by boat or airplane. Despite the difficulty in reaching this remote location, Playa Tortuguero and the Tortuguero National Park is one of the most popular of Costa Rica’s national parks.
Several ecolodges and guides in the small village next to the park offer wildlife-watching boat tours through the jungle’s maze of canals.
Lodging options nearby include the Mawamba or Laguna Lodges. Both lodges have child-friendly accommodations at a mid-range price with rustic rooms, simple dining options, and an outdoor pool.
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9. Playa Pelada, Guanacaste
Playa Pelada is a small beach on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste province. This beach is immediately adjacent to the much larger Playa Nosara in the town of Nosara.
Playa Pelada is a popular beach for its calm, gentle waves. It is an ideal beach for toddlers and small children. Tide pools at low tide provide great places for them to swim and play.
Adventurous families can find endless opportunities for fun, including paddleboarding, river safaris, and ATV tours. Kids also enjoy the giant park called Gabi’s Play, located in the Nosara Kids’ Camp.
Near Playa Pelada is the Ostional Wildlife Refuge. This is one of two of the most important places in the world where the Olive Ridley turtle nests, which is essential to the species’ survival.
In addition, the leatherback and Pacific green turtles nest in this refuge. Visiting the beach during the nesting season is a popular activity for families.
A mix of child-friendly villas and hotels with outdoor pools can be found at Playa Pelada, close to the beach. However, most of the accommodations in this area are expensive compared to those at other beach locations.
Accommodations at mid-range or budget prices are much farther from the beaches in this area and often offer fewer amenities.
10. Punta Uva, Limon
Punta Uva is located in the province of Limon on the Caribbean Sea side of Costa Rica. This beach is located near the more popular and famous Puerto Viejo, well-known for its excellent surfing.
However, Puerto Viejo is not an ideal beach for families with children, unless the children are great surfers. Families with kids are better off visiting Punta Uva with its calmer waters.
A coral reef just off the beach area of Punta Uva protects the beach from the stronger rip currents found at Puerto Viejo and similar beaches. That makes swimming and snorkeling in the beach area much safer, especially for children.
Biking around town, in the jungle, or between beaches is a popular activity for families with older children. Places to go horseback riding or rent ATVs are found nearby.
Ara Manzanillo, a macaw reintroduction station located near Punta Uva, is an amazing place for families to visit. Hours of visitation are limited and reservations are required. Visitors will see reintroduced Great Green Macaws in nature.
Adults pay $20 to enter and children ages 12 and under are free. The ticket sales directly contribute to the continued conservation efforts of this organization.
Punta Uva offers a great mix of budget accommodations, mid-range lodges and hotels, and expensive resorts. Several, like the Lanna Ban Hotel or the Treehouse Lodge, are mid-range places touted as child-friendly.
These places are surrounded by jungle wildlife and fascinate adults and children with daily sightings of monkeys and sloths.
11. Tambor Beach, Puntarenas
Tambor Beach is located in the province of Puntarenas on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This beach is found within the horseshoe-shaped Ballena Bay at the mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya.
As a result, this protected beach is a terrible place to surf, but an excellent place to float and swim. The convenience and proximity of the Tambor airport make Tambor Beach one of the most accessible beaches in Costa Rica.
The area around Tambor Beach is relatively undeveloped, making this an excellent place for visitors who want to be closer to nature on their vacation. At low tide, the waters recede quite a bit and a wide expanse of beach opens up to beautiful strolls and playing in the sand.
The Panica River flows into the bay at this beach. At low tide, a scenic path becomes accessible along the river for hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife watching.
Snorkeling, diving, kayaking, golf, and sport fishing are popular activities at Tambor Beach. Several all-inclusive resorts are found within close proximity to the beach and provide numerous opportunities for both relaxation and adventure for visiting families.
The Barcelo Tambor and the Kalapiti Luxury Jungle Suites, both five-star hotels, are the most popular mid-range-priced resorts in this area, and perfect for families with children.
12. Playa Platanares, Puntarenas
Playa Platanares is located in Puntarenas province on the Osa Peninsula found on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica in Pavon Bay.
This beach is often regarded as an untouched paradise that does not receive many visitors. It is the perfect place for families to escape the crowds found on many of Costa Rica’s beaches and reenergize themselves.
Many families take advantage of Playa Platanares and its pristine beaches and tranquil scenery. This beach is often empty. When that happens, visitors can easily see wildlife and go bird watching on the shoreline and amongst the mangroves along the river that runs parallel to the beach.
Children enjoy swimming in the waters of this calm beach. In addition to swimming at this secluded beach, the biggest draw to this area is the Corcovado National Park. It is famous for being the best place to spot wildlife in all of Costa Rica and is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. A tour guide is recommended for any adventure into the park.
Few accommodations are found at Playa Platanares, so visitors that wish to stay near this beach may find it easier to stay in the nearby town of Puerto Jimenez.
However, Playa Platanares does have the Iguana Lodge Beach Resort & Spa and the Agua Dulce Beach Resort. These accommodations do provide child-friendly, but simple, accommodations that include an outdoor pool and a restaurant.
13. Playa Azucar, Guanacaste
Playa Azucar has many names and may be confusing to tourists. It is sometimes referred to as Sugar Beach, Playa Pan de Azucar, or Sugar Bread Beach. This beach is located in Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica near several popular and crowded beaches.
While there are no hotels or resorts on this quiet, secluded beach, some can be found nearby. Playa Azucar is a wonderful place for families to swim or snorkel in the calm waves.
Boogie boarding is also a popular activity for visitors who want a little more of a thrill. Tourists can also rent a kayak or standup paddleboard and visit the nearby islands.
At low tide, families can explore the tide pools and walk between the beaches along this shoreline. One never knows what kinds of interesting sea creatures may be stranded in the tide pools at low tide, making this an exciting adventure for children, young and old.
Visitors looking for a nearby inland adventure can visit the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, the Tenorio Volcano National Park, or the Palo Verde National Park.
Tours to these parks can be booked with a guide service or families can rent a car and drive to see these spectacular natural areas.
14. Playa Tamarindo, Guanacaste
Playa Tamarindo is a popular surfing beach located in Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The nearby airport makes Playa Tamarindo easy for people to reach.
This area has a wide range of accommodations available, budget-friendly to expensive, depending on the type of experience desired. Many places are child-friendly, especially resorts like the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa which offers babysitting and kids’ activities.
The beach at Playa Tamarindo is perfect for kids and adults who want to learn how to surf or improve their basic surfing skills. Surf camps and surf lessons can be found everywhere for all skill levels.
In addition, surf-oriented lodging accommodations are popular at this beach, including Witch’s Rock Surf Camp and Pueblo Dorado Surf Hotel.
Families enjoy traveling to Playa Tamarindo because there are many activities available for children, even if they are not interested in surfing.
Horseback riding, fishing, and sailing are popular activities for non-surfers or surfers who need a break from a day spent riding the waves. Several hotels and resorts also offer jet skiing, water skiing, and biking.
Nearby canopy tours are a fun way for families to see the jungles of Costa Rica. The Monkey Jungle Zip Line Canopy Tour and the Pinilla Canopy Tours are two places that tourists enjoy visiting, especially with children.
These safe, fun experiences allow kids and adults to see jungle wildlife while experiencing an epic adventure.
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15. Jaco Beach, Puntarenas
Jaco Beach is located in Puntarenas province just outside the mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya, which empties into the Pacific Ocean.
This beach is a short, 90-minute drive from the nearest airport. Jaco Beach is the first handicap-accessible beach in Costa Rica as well as the first to have universal access in Central America.
Many families, especially those with older children, enjoy Jaco Beach for the available surfing, horseback riding, and kayaking adventures. In addition, families can enjoy inland tours to see wildlife from an ATV or zipline.
The NeoFauna Wildlife Sanctuary nearby provides organized tours to hike through the jungle and see some fun wildlife.
This town has created a place for visitors with disabilities to enjoy a beach vacation, no matter their limitations. A 63-meter handicap accessible pier made from recycled plastic allows wheelchairs to access the ocean.
In addition, accessible restrooms and reserved parking for people with disabilities are available at the beach. The Carara National Park, a short drive from Jaco Beach, also has a universal access trail through the rainforest designed for people of all abilities.
Several budget-friendly and mid-range priced accommodations at Jaco Beach are easy to find and offer child-friendly accommodations. In addition to the vast number of child-friendly places, many places are also generally accessible to people with disabilities.
The most popular all-inclusive resort for people with disabilities is the Best Western Jaco Beach. They offer handicap-accessible pools and other facilities. Many hotels like Hotel Ibiza also offer accessible accommodations.