1 month in Costa Rica with family

Costa Rica is undoubtedly THE family destination in Central America, because you can find everything there! A fabulously rich fauna within our reach, an equally exceptional flora with the added bonus of a government administration that takes care of its country, large centers with reliable infrastructure and a constant feeling of security, English spoken practically everywhere, flights direct from Montreal... for a first family trip or as a first non-all-inclusive experience, Costa Rica is definitely a safe bet!

Costa Rica with the family - Itinerary

1. Samara: 1 week

2. Monteverde: 5 days

3. Manuel Antonio: 5 days

4. Uvita: 2 days

5. Sunday: 10 days

6. Providencia de Dota: 4 days

Costa Rica with family - Budget

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

Before going into detail about what there is to do and see when you visit Costa Rica with your family, when you are planning a trip what you really want to know is “how much does it cost”?!

​💰 Overall budget

In summary, 1 month for a family of 5 like ours (3 young children including 1 baby): $13,000

🛌 Average accommodation cost: $130/day

All our accommodations were very comfortable and super well located. And we had a very important criterion = a swimming pool!!

Costa Rica swimming pool - Familleonthego

​💡 Tip

We were very satisfied with our accommodations overall. We make our reservations mainly via the Booking.com website.

🚗 Average car rental cost: $150/day

I know, it's extreme!! You have to consider that the country was in the middle of a car shortage , that we had a (small) 4x4 with 3 children's benches to rent (which did the job very well!) and that we did not rent the car for the entire duration of the trip. We rented in blocks of a few days here and there according to our needs and according to the region, therefore more expensive than renting over a long period.

Children's benches for rent - Familleonthego

​❤️ Favorite

We highly recommend Tout Costa Rica for car rental. They had the best prices (multiple quotes) in addition to offering impeccable service in French. We don't receive any commission, we just liked the service!! 👌🏻

🍽️ and 🤹🏻‍♀️ Average cost of food and activities: $60/day

We cooked a lot when accommodation allowed and we did very few paid activities. The beach, the swimming pool and the hike filled us!

Activity Costa Rica - Familleonthego

​💡 Good to know

Drinking water is accessible everywhere in the country! Running water is safe to drink in large centers, which means that ice cubes, fruit juices and other drinks containing water are considered safe and you can consume water from the tap. Choose bottled water for more remote areas.

✈️ Average cost, Montreal - San José flight: $700/person

For a round trip, non-stop flight. In our case, we decided to land in Liberia and leave from San Jose.

Flight Montreal - San Jose - Familleonthego

Costa Rica with family - What to do by region

1. Samara

Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

Arriving from Liberia airport, Samara is approximately 2 hours drive , on the Pacific coast. It is possible to use shuttle services, private or shared.

​💡 Family tip

To get from Liberia airport to Samara, we booked a private shuttle at a cost of US$160 for 2 families with Costa Rica Shuttle .

Our big favorite of the region is our accommodation. We live in a pretty 2-bedroom house, nice living room, full kitchen, a large terrace with hammock and swing, all directly facing the superb swimming pool of this... youth hostel! And yes! Not only do we find ourselves in a youth hostel, with family, but it is certainly one of the most beautiful accommodations we have rented in the country. With a yoga platform and classes offered daily right above us, we were made for each other, Tico Adventure Lodge !

We settle in, we unpack and without wasting time, we set off to explore on foot. We are 5 minutes from the beach, crossing the very charming little village. A little further, a few boho boutiques, expat cafes and a few not too Tico pasta restaurants furnish the seaside

It is here, day after day, that we will come to bask in the sun, drink fresh fruit juices and slowly soak up the Pura Vida .

​❓ Culture info

Pura Vida is a local Costa Rican expression which translates to: “ enjoy the riches that life offers ”. Over time, it has become a greeting, a farewell, a thank you, an encouragement... everything!

Samara is touristy, but not too much. Just enough to enjoy the deckchairs for rent on the beach while still feeling a change of scenery with this dense jungle that surrounds us.
1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

We took the opportunity, Rafael and I, to treat ourselves to a little mother-son outing and discover the local jungle on a horseback ride . We are referred to Melissa from Horse Jungle, a French expatriate who has always dreamed of having her own stable, which she achieved by coming to settle here, in the Guanacaste region. A ride through a dense jungle astride beautiful animals showered with care and love... It was a perfect outing!

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

Before leaving the region, we visit the nearby Carrillo beach. Oh dear! It's isolation here! No restaurants or deckchairs on the beach, just the coconut trees leaning over and the macaws flying away, coloring the sky... it's magical!

📒 Costa Rica with the family - A short guide to visiting the Samara region

🏕 Where to sleep:

🤹🏻‍♂️ What to do:

🚗 How to get around:

  • We did not rent a car for this region.

  • Private shuttle from Liberia airport: US$160 with Costa Rica Shuttle

  • Travel time from Liberia to Samara by car: 2 hours 15 minutes.

  • Travel time from San José to Samara by car: 4 hours 40 minutes.

2. Monteverde

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

To explore the country's mountains, we choose Monteverde. It is here that we discover the unpaved, steep, winding and almost inaccessible roads to get to our grandiose accommodation, our “granero” well buried deep in the woods. With a lovely children's play area, a table football table, a large full kitchen, 3 bedrooms and superb views of the sunset on the horizon, we're in for a treat!

In Monteverde, we hike in the Monteverde Biological Reserve which takes us into the dense Cloud Forest , we get lost through the constant mist and we shiver under the extreme humidity. It's bewitching! There are several trails for all levels.

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

👌🏻 Not to be missed

At the end of the trails , at the La Ventana viewpoint, you can see the 2 oceans, Pacific on one side and Atlantic on the other.

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

At Selvatura Park , we explore the suspension bridges during a walk of around 3 km, which was very pleasant and quite accessible with young children.... but which cost much too expensive for our tastes! An activity that cost us almost $100 CAD for 1 hour of hiking... next time, we'll do without it!

​💡 Family tip

For hikes in Monteverde, forget the stroller and recommend the baby carrier. The trails are well demarcated, but strewn with roots, stones and other natural obstacles.

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

Still at Selvatura Park , the bravest among us (that is to say, not me!) experienced ziplining , the region's flagship activity!! With its 13 cables zigzagging through the Cloud Forest of Monteverde and its Tarzan rope, there is something to please parents looking for thrills!

We discover another completely charming place in the Monteverde region, the Valle Escondido . Here, we come to hike on the cliffside near the falls for other magnificent views and refresh ourselves with a delicious smoothie at the exit. You can get supplies and even stay there. Children have large spaces to play and some toys are provided. We loved it so much that we came back more than once!

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

​❤️🌱 Favorite

The owner of Valle Escondido , an American expatriate, explains his permaculture project to us with passion. We visit its gardens and vegetable gardens, right on the site, to offer a “farm to table” menu where everything is grown, prepared and served in the same place!

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

Our last activity in the area will be a visit to the butterfly gardens of Monteverde , neighboring Valle Escondido. A short guided tour with dedicated staff takes us into the different gigantic cages where multicolored winged insects flutter, under the fascinated gaze of the babies.

📒 Costa Rica with the family - A short guide to visiting the Monteverde region

🏕 Where to sleep:

  • La Casa El Granero , 3 large bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, large kitchen... superb land!

🤹🏻‍♂️ What to do:

🚗 How to get around:

  • Car rental with Tout Costa Rica is recommended for this region.

  • Travel time from Samara to Monteverde by car: 3 hours.

  • Travel time from San José to Dominical by car: 3h45.

3. Manuel Antonio

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

We return to the coast but this time, in the province of Puntarenas, a little further south, still on the west side of the country. This region is named after the famous Manuel Antonio National Park , probably one of the most popular parks in the country. It's small, but densely populated with Costa Rica's most beautiful and prized critters, making it a highly coveted destination.

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

It was here that we saw the most animals, yes, but it was also here that we felt the most “tourists”. There were a little too many people for our liking, a lot of slightly dubious street corner dealers, fake guides dressed as “rangers” to sell their tours at ridiculous prices.... We felt a bit of a “vibe”. too arnaco-touristico in Manuel Antonio. Do your research, book online and, if necessary, work with a travel agency.

We did not use the service of a guide during our visit to the park, despite numerous recommendations to do so to see more animals. We were not disappointed, but probably the visit would have been more informative accompanied by someone who knows about it!

​⚠️ Attention

To get to Manuel Antonio National Park, there are a lot of locals blocking traffic and trying to lure tourists into their paid parking lots. Go to the end, very close to the park, for the official parking lot. It's not that well signposted, unfortunately.

Despite all this hubbub, the national park is sublime, the animals are very naughty, the magnificent beaches are perfectly suitable for swimming for little ones and what's more, there are good little funky restaurants in the region. We also visited Biesanz beach and spent the majority of our days at Espadilla Sur beach!

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

Our accommodation, Flor Tica, found on booking.com, wasn't the most fabulous, but we had a mini pool, a full kitchen and a large terrace. It's everything a family needs!

📒 Costa Rica with the family - A short guide to visiting the Manuel Antonio region

🏕 Where to sleep:

🤹🏻‍♂️ What to do:

  • Manuel Antonio Park ($18/US adult, online reservation ).

  • Espadilla Sur Beach : right next to the park. There are many restaurants with deckchairs to rent (or free if you eat at the restaurant).

  • Biesanz Beach : a small beach deep in the jungle (a short hike in the rockeries to get there) more typical with many locals.

  • El avion restaurant , where you literally eat inside a plane, or on the large terrace facing the sublime sunsets

  • Restaurant El Wagon , which is a pizzeria, same principle but on a train!

🚗 How to get around:

  • Car rental with Tout Costa Rica is recommended for this region. Travel time from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio by car: 4 hours.

  • Travel time from San José to Manuel Antonio by car: 3h30.

4. Uvita

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

We're taking a short 2-day stop here, just to go see the whales! We stay in a superb villa , perched in the mountains to offer us a first-class view of the Marino Ballena park , the famous beach shaped like a whale's tail.

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego
Uvita is known for its famous beach shaped like a whale's tail and it is at this precise location that you can see large cetaceans almost all year round!

During our boat excursion, we had the chance to meet a few mothers and their calves, in addition to taking a lovely walk along the coastline.

​💡 Tip

To book our boat tour, we went there, directly to the Marino Ballena National Park . We took the next departure with the first company that was there, without thinking too much. In the end, this way we paid much less than others who had purchased online beforehand. We may have been lucky, but it might be worth a try!

📒 Costa Rica with the family - A short guide to visiting the Uvita region

🏕 Where to sleep:

🤹🏻‍♂️ What to do:

🚗 How to get around:

  • Travel time from Manuel Antonio to Uvita by car: 1 hour.

  • Travel time from San José to Dominical by car: 4 hours.

  • Car rental with Tout Costa Rica is recommended for this region.

5. Dominical

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

We're stopping here for a little "vacation" within our trip , in a resort, the Villas Rio Mar Dominical , a little outside the center where we find 2 beautiful large swimming pools, play modules for children, an on-site restaurant... Everything! We'll settle into our mini cabana and enjoy the puraaaa vidaaaa without leaving here too much.... That was the intention. But in reality, since we're a little too fidgety 😅 we went out quite a bit every day!

Dominical is a very endearing little village. Many expatriates have come to settle here for the good surfing but also for the relaxed-vegan-artistic atmosphere. An invented word that sums it all up!

In the village of Dominical, we mainly head to the superb children's play area directly by the sea, but sufficiently shaded by coconut palms and other fruit trees. We discover charming little restaurants, organic stores, local artists, the public market for artisans from here and elsewhere... Details in our guide 👇🏻!

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego
True to form, JP gets his hair cut at the market, standing there, among the energy crystals and macramé jewelry!

We visit the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary , a refuge that rescues, cares for and releases animals from the surrounding jungle. The organization is 100% funded by donations and guided tours, like the one we did.

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

📒 Costa Rica with the family - A short guide to visiting the Dominical region

🏕 Where to sleep:

  • Villas Rio Mar Dominical , breakfast included, 15 minutes walk from the village of Dominical and 20 minutes from the beach

🤹🏻‍♂️ What to do:

🚗 How to get around:

  • We did not have a car for this region, as everything can be done on foot, from the resort to the village.

  • Travel time from Manuel Antonio to Dominical by car: 1 hour.

  • Travel time from San José to Dominical by car: 3h40.

6. Providencia de Dota

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

This is where you feel like you’re discovering the real Costa Rica! Connect with people, try to jabber Spanish, discover their ways of life...

When we travel, we like to soak up culture. By opting for homestay accommodation, you feel like you are helping a family directly. We have a front row seat to observe their way of life and even give them a helping hand!

​❤️ Favorite

To find our “homestay”, we came across Christophe from the Maro Experiences agency by chance who, after knowing our tastes and needs, matched us with the Renata family in Providencia. He offers excellent service in English, French or Spanish!

So we climb into the mountains of Providencia, in a small farming village of less than 500 inhabitants, accessible by 45 minutes of bumpy and crooked dirt roads... you NEED a 4x4!

On site, we are welcomed by the Renata family. The son, David, will be our guide for the week. He is the only one who speaks English. He will take us to visit the neighboring farms, hike near the pretty falls but above all, he will invite us to follow him in his farmer's routine.

We stay in a house adjacent to the main house. A lovely large bedroom upstairs is for us, with mattresses on the floor for the children and a large bathroom. There is even a 2nd bedroom with bunk beds, but we prefer to sleep together!

For meals, we will join the family in the main house. It's the mother who will cook for us. Obviously, we are received like kings!

We eat local products, grown by the family: trout splash in a fountain in their backyard. The milk and cheese come from Chumica, their current dairy cow. The Renata family owns several avocado lands, which are their main sources of income. They also have a lot of coffee plantations and other fruit-vegetable crops in smaller quantities. The Renata family owns one of the 2 (!) shops in the village, this is where they sell cheese (from Chumica!), milk, some fresh fruit and vegetables and above all, imported products... like candy! To the great joy of the children 🍭😋

Every morning, we got up at dawn to go milk Chumica 🐮. We came back home to make cheese with milk, and a hearty breakfast awaited us. We then left with David to visit the attractions of the region, or neighboring farms, or the family's plantations for some picking.

I could talk about this experience for hours... it's so rich in content. But the best thing is to live it!

1 month in Costa Rica with family - Familleonthego

📒 Costa Rica with the family - A short guide to visiting the Providencia de Dota region

🏕 Where to sleep:

🤹🏻‍♂️ What to do:

🚗 How to get around:

  • Travel time from Dominical to Providencia by car: 2h30.

  • Travel time from San José to Providencia by car: 2 hours 40 minutes.

  • Car rental with Tout Costa Rica is recommended for this region.