5 Things You Must Do in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste with Kids

If your family loves animals, sun and sea…Guanacaste, Costa Rica is the place to be! Not only is Costa Rica renowned for its beauty, but also it is home to the world’s happiest people. With beautiful scenery, a laid-back vibe, and outdoor adventures galore, there’s plenty to be happy about. Located in the northwest region of the country, Guanacaste sits just below Nicaragua along the Pacific Coast. To make the most of your trip, here are five things you must do in Guanacaste with kids.

5 Things You Must Do in Costa Rica's Guanacaste with Kids
5 Things You Must Do in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste with Kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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1. Zip-line through a rain forest.

Costa Rica has become known worldwide for its zip-lining tours. Did you know zip-lining actually originated as a way for wildlife biologists to easily wind their way through forests? Today you don’t need a biology degree to get a taste of the Costa Rican jungle via zip-line canopy tour. Experiencing nature in this up-close and exhilarating way makes kids and adults appreciate our planet’s rain forests more. Our adventure with Spider Monkey Canopy Tours in La Cruz included 11 lines along which we zipped through trees, with howler monkeys hooting at us from above. (Kids must be 8 years+ to zip-line on this tour.)

Zip-lining in Guanacaste with kids
Our Spider Monkey zip-lining canopy tour in La Cruz, Guanacaste (Photo credit: Spider Monkey Canopy Tour)

2. Play in the ocean.

Activities abound along Guanacaste’s Pacific shores. Sure you could just build sand castles and sun yourself on the beach, but Costa Rica is the kind of place where you want to get your feet wet and try something new. My daughter got her first taste of snorkeling at El Jobo Beach during our visit to Costa Rica and we found plenty of fish near the huge rocks by the shore. In the sandy center of the beach, she and a friend made use of the bay’s mellow waves for a bit of boogie boarding.

Boogie boarding at El Jobo Beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Boogie boarding friends at El Jobo Beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Looking for surfing waves? Beginners and intermediate surfers should head to Playa Tamarindo for a surf lesson. Advanced surfers might appreciate some other options on this list of best surf spots in northwestern Costa Rica.

Kayaks at El Jobo Beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Kayaks at El Jobo Beach (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Explore by boat or personal watercraft.

Get a whole different perspective of the ocean by climbing aboard a boat or personal watercraft during your Costa Rican vacation. Choose a mellow but calorie-burning kayaking session, a scenic guided sailboat tour, or something a little faster, like a jet ski.

Get your heart pumping aboard a jet ski in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Get your heart pumping aboard a jet ski in Guanacaste (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

This was my daughter’s inaugural jet ski ride and I hadn’t zoomed across the ocean aboard a jet ski since I was 19 in Hawaii, where I could only steer the watercraft around and around in a roped-off circle. Things are different in Costa Rica, however. I was given a waterproof watch and was told to be back in half an hour. Beyond that, we were on our own at El Jobo Beach and could explore as far or near as we wished. The ocean looks quite different when you’re flying over whitecaps with your kid squeezing your waist and screaming, “This is awesome!” and, sometimes, “Slow down, Mommy!” (Boats, watercraft and other gear are available to rent from Amstar on El Jobo Beach. Some items, like boogie boards, are complimentary for Dreams Las Mareas guests.)

Rain forest in Bahia Salinas in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Rain forest in La Cruz in Guanacaste (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Spot wildlife.

Of course you will want to venture into the rain forest for wildlife spotting opportunities during your visit to Guanacaste with kids. My daughter and I embarked on a half-hour guided tour before our zip-lining adventure. During our short hike, we saw many white faced capuchin monkeys, a millipede, howler monkeys, a sloth, and butterflies and birds of various colors and species.

White faced capuchin (Photo credit: Vislseskogen, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0)
White faced capuchin (Photo credit: Vislseskogen, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0)

I highly recommend booking a guided tour with a naturalist who can point out, and provide interesting facts about, animals and plants you might otherwise miss. The guide will also keep you safe from potential dangers in the forest. Our Amstar guide pointed out the cecropia tree, a menacing-looking plant covered with huge thorns. It’s not just the thorns you should be afraid of, though, because these trees house leaf-cutter ants, whose jaws are powerful enough to draw human blood. He tapped the tree with a stick and it came to life with thousands of tiny red ants zig-zagging along the spiny bark.

A coati climbing a palm tree at Dreams Las Mareas in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
A coati climbing a palm tree at Dreams Las Mareas (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

You need not necessarily venture far to see wildlife in Costa Rica. In the mornings at our resort, Dreams Las Mareas, we heard howler monkeys hooting their welcome to the day. Also, one day on the resort’s lush grounds, I spotted an adorable and fearless coati, a relative of the raccoon. We even saw a troop of black faced capuchin monkeys in the trees along the road to our resort.

A joy-inducing waterslide at Dreams Las Mareas in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
A joy-inducing waterslide at Dreams Las Mareas (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Enjoy la pura vida.

La pura vida translates from Spanish to English as, “the pure life,” but it means so much more than that. La pura vida is the Costa Rican equivalent of the Disney-fied Swahili phrase, “hakuna matata.” It basically means, life is wonderful~enjoy! It can be used as a greeting or as a well wish to others. It also embodies the overall Costa Rican attitude of enjoying life to its fullest. When in Costa Rica, live like the Ticos (Costa Ricans) do, and enjoy la pura vida. Relax. Have fun. Smile a lot. Indulge in what makes you happy.

Toasting la pura vida at Dreams Las Mareas in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Toasting la pura vida at Dreams Las Mareas with a pina colada for me and a banana chocolate smoothie for my daughter (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

For a hotel that will instantly become your happy place, book a stay at the luxurious, all-inclusive Dreams Las Mareas. After a few days here, my daughter and I felt blissed out in every way. From the swim-up pool bar with unlimited smoothies and cocktails, to the infinity pools, joy-inducing waterslide, dive-in movies, water activities aplenty, incredible spa and so much more, if you can’t find la pura vida here, I don’t know where you will!

Read more about Dreams Las Mareas on TripAdvisor.com.

How do you enjoy la pura vida? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: Thank you Dreams Las Mareas for hosting our stay. 

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  1. Great post! We just got back from Tamarindo and the kids loved surfing – they did surfing lessons with Iguana Surf and LOVED IT! Then we did a morning snorkeling tour on the Dream Chaser boat – its a new boat in town and the kids had a blast and saw whales and turtles, jumped off the boat, played on a SUP, tried snorkeling….love it! Highly recommend it if you head to Tamarindo.

  2. Costa Rica is indeed THE place to relax with the children. We are local ticos running a surf school at Avellanas Beach for over 20 years now. Most of our clients are families with kids. It’s such great feeling to watch they smiling faces while ridding the waves. It’s super safe for the at mid tide coming in. I truly recommend you to stop by next time you are in Costa Rica with your kids. Look for us at Lolas: Avellanas Surf School.

    1. Hi Dialan – Thanks for your comment. We will definitely keep your surf school in mind should our adventures bring us to Costa Rica again.

  3. Thank you for sharing!!! We go to dreams at the end of the summer with our son! With reading all the reviews and everything from the worst experience of their lives and the trashing the beach etc. I’m am happy to have ran across the blog to remember to just take a breath…your going to Costa Rica it will be amazing. With you sharing the information it is greatly appreciated! Also where can we tidepool?? Going to search for that now! Lol

    1. Shaolynn – We didn’t do any tide-pooling in Guanacaste but I bet Dreams would be able to help you find some great local spots. Enjoy!

  4. I’m in the process of planning our filly vacation to Costa Rica but there are soo many options I’m undecided. Should we fly into Liberia or San Jose? Stay at one hotel or try to hit the beach and rainforest? All inclusive or al la carte? Ahh, the decisions!

    1. Jan – How exciting! I flew into Liberia, which make much more sense if you plan to stay in Guanacaste. You can stay at the beach and easily travel to the rain forest for a tour/hiking/zip-lining. The nice thing about an all-inclusive is that it’s easier to budget and then you don’t have to worry once you’re on vacation – you can just relax and enjoy! I hope you have a wonderful time, no matter what you decide to do!

  5. Hi Colleen, Marvellous website here and kudos to you for doing it with children, a lot of my mates have young kids and feel they can’t travel to too many places with them and still have fun. It’s nice to see blogs like this breaking the mould and writing so positively about it. Safe travels. Jonny

  6. Great Post! Zipline experience is great. I have heard a lot about zipline in Costa Rica. It is one of the great experience you have. Good one

  7. Excellent Post,Costa Rica’s is the good place for children s adventure. most of the children s love to do Zip-line and watercraft.

    Thanks for Posting Good Adventures Places for Children s !!…