See the best of Costa Rica on this family-oriented itinerary featuring a mix of outdoor adventures, wildlife viewing, and hands-on experiences. After a hike through a sloth habitat, kids can try whitewater rafting and learn how to milk a cow while visiting a local farm. Continue to the Monteverde Cloud Forest for jungle hikes, zip-lining, and horseback riding. The trip ends in Tamarindo with surf lessons, a snorkeling excursion, a lively cruise down a jungle river, and the chance to witness sea turtles nesting.

Highlights

  • Zip-line through the jungle at the Sky Adventures Park
  • Enjoy hands-on experiences at a local farm
  • Go whitewater rafting down a rushing river
  • See monkeys and crocodiles on a jungle cruise
  • Ride a horse through the rainforest on a guided tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Spot Sloths in the Wild La Fortuna
Day 2 Visit a Local Farm & Arenal Hanging Bridges La Fortuna
Day 3 Tour a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center La Fortuna
Day 4 Try Whitewater Rafting on the Balsa River La Fortuna
Day 5 Explore a Coffee Farm & Go on a Nighttime Nature Walk Monteverde
Day 6 Have Fun at the Sky Adventures Park Monteverde
Day 7 Go Horseback Riding in the Jungle Monteverde
Day 8 Experience Pacific Green Turtles Nesting Tamarindo
Day 9 Boat Around Palo Verde National Park  Tamarindo
Day 10 Explore Beaches & Snorkel Offshore Tamarindo
Day 11 Depart Costa Rica  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Spot Sloths in the Wild

Sloth in Costa Rica
A sloth in Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica! From the San José International Airport, your driver will transfer you and your family to your hotel in La Fortuna (around three hours, depending on traffic). 

Begin your family's adventure with some wildlife viewing. One of Costa Rica's most beloved animals is the sloth, an animal that captivates travelers with its tenderness and peculiar slow behavior. The La Fortuna area—thanks to its climate, ecological protection, and the near-absence of predators—is an oasis for sloths. They spend most of their time sleeping or eating, but your specialized guides are experts in finding them, so you'll be nearly guaranteed to see a sloth on today's tour.

Two-toed sloths are more active at night, so head out around 5:30 pm for the best chance of spotting them. The habitat features a suitable trail for families and children of all ages. 

Day 2: Visit a Local Farm & Arenal Hanging Bridges

Child feeding cow on Costa Rica farm tour
A little boy feeds a cow on a Costa Rican farm tour

Today you and your family will visit a sustainable farm that uses natural resources while promoting traditional Costa Rican farming practices. The local hosts will welcome you with a fresh fruit juice, at which point you'll embark on a property tour. This is a hands-on farming experience, and the first order of the day is learning how to milk a cow—especially fun for kids! Then the party starts (for adults) as you sample a local concoction made from fresh milk, chocolate, and homemade liquor.

Afterward, you'll also be able to visit a small ranch and archeological site to view some ancient indigenous artifacts. Then you'll take a relaxing stroll with the family through a beautiful orchid garden that abounds with medicinal plants. A guide will be on hand to point out the most interesting species. Afterward, you'll gather with the other guests, and everyone will share in a spread of freshly prepared farm favorites like coffee, tortillas, cheese, potatoes, and more.

In the afternoon, explore the jungle canopy. At the Arenal Hanging Bridges, well-marked trails lead you over suspension bridges high above the treetops for a once-in-a-lifetime view of Arenal Volcano. Later, your guide will drop you off at Baldi Hot Springs. Soothe your muscles with a dip in mineral-rich waters, a tropical cocktail in hand (and a virgin cocktail for the kiddos!).

Day 3: Tour a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center 

Help care for animals like white-faced capuchin monkeys at Proyecto Asis
A white-faced capuchin monkey at Proyecto Asis

Today you'll visit Proyecto Asis, a rehabilitation and rescue center for local animals. The tour, led by a naturalist, begins with a brief introduction to the center, followed by a walk along the trails around the reserve. You'll stop in front of each animal enclosure to learn about its residents. While the animals at the center vary, visitors will likely see anteaters, snakes, monkeys, parrots, and sloths. Volunteer tours also offer you the chance to help care for the animals during your visit, preparing food and helping to feed them—an activity that's incredibly entertaining for children.

Day 4: Try Whitewater Rafting on the Balsa River

Rafting fun on the Balsa River
Rafting fun on the Balsa River

Running through the Arenal area is the Río Balsa, one of the best rafting rivers in the entire region. You'll embark on a full-day whitewater adventure with the family in the morning. After a safety talk and paddling instructions, you'll grab your helmet and life vest and be off down the river. Expect a fun ride as you paddle through rolling rapids. There will be stops in tranquil river pools for swimming, and throughout the trip, you'll be able to spot exotic wildlife in the jungles along the banks of the river.

At the end of the adventure, you'll return to your hotel in La Fortuna, where you can dry off and spend the remainder of the day relaxing with the kids.

Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Explore a Coffee Farm & Go on a Nighttime Nature Walk

Coffee beans ready for the harvest.
Coffee beans ready for harvest

Transfer to Monteverde over water. After arriving at the shores of Lake Arenal, you and your family will board a boat and begin the journey to the other side of the lake. Upon arrival, you'll officially be in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. Enjoy a blend of Costa Rican coffee culture and wildlife spotting on a tour that starts with a walk through a local coffee farm; you'll have the opportunity to learn about the process of coffee production. Your guide will walk you through every step, from harvesting to roasting and brewing, then show you the simplest way to prepare a perfect cup of coffee.

After finishing your coffee, it's time to head into the jungle! This part of the tour takes place in a protected forest. A trail extending along a creek runs through the farm—a perfect location for kids to spot creatures in the trees and along the water. It's common to see frogs and various snake species. With a bit of luck, you could even observe forest dwellers like the two-toed sloth or the kinkajou.

Day 6: Have Fun at the Sky Adventures Park

Monteverde is popular for its canopy tours
Monteverde is popular for its canopy tours
Located in the mountainous northwest region of the country, Monteverde is famed for its sprawling Cloud Forest Reserve, home to countless wildlife species. Suspension bridges throughout the reserve lead visitors on walks high above the forest canopy. You and your family will have plenty of opportunities to spot the colorfully plumed quetzal. The reserve's marked trails pass through exotic fauna and flora, including the most significant number of orchid species on the planet (500!), with new varieties discovered regularly. 

At the Sky Adventures Park, you'll have your pick of ways to explore the cloud forest. First, you'll start with a guided Sky Walk, which combines trails and suspension bridges. Later, you'll ride in an open-air gondola for sweeping views across the mountains—an activity that's great for the whole family to enjoy together. At the end of the line, the exhilarating adventure of whizzing down the mountain begins. Connect to a zip-line cable that stretches over rainforest treetops and across clifftops, finally returning you to the starting point. 

Day 7: Go Horseback Riding in the Jungle

A relaxing horseback ride through the forest
A relaxing horseback ride through the forest

Go horseback riding with the kids along picturesque back roads through Monteverde's agricultural heartland today. As you ride, keep your eyes open for sloths, monkeys, and toucans, and enjoy learning about the area's rich cultural heritage. Your guide will also point out the coffee, banana, and sugar crops grown in the region.

Two and a half hours of riding will bring you to a secluded clearing on the river bank, where you can rest your horse under the trees and enjoy a picnic lunch. Kids will love going for a refreshing dip in the river—Marvel at the incredible biodiversity of the area and the unique tropical plant life of the cloud forests. Along the route back to the stable, you will stop at a local café for a quick beer, soft drink, or ice cream.

Day 8: Experience Pacific Green Turtles Nesting

Nighttime Pacific Green Turtle Nesting Experience
A hatchling turtle 

You'll have some free time today to relax. In the evening, you and your family will witness an incredible phenomenon of nature as hundreds of green sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. The tour's departure time is based on the tides and the park ranger's predictions for the turtles' arrival. Naturally, sea turtles operate on their own schedule, so the waiting period can vary.

As soon as some of the turtles are ready to begin laying their eggs, you will head out to the beach, making your way to the nesting place where the large sea turtles dig holes in the sand to lay between 65 to 90 eggs. With the kids, watch as the mother turtles cover their nests with sand to protect their offspring from predators. After an incubation period, the tiny hatchlings will emerge and make their way to the ocean.

Day 9: Boat Around Palo Verde National Park 

Prepare for a jungle cruise

A jungle cruise on the Tempisque River 

Outdoor adventure and wildlife experiences await the family today. First, you'll transfer to Palo Verde National Park, where you'll embark on a two-hour river trip. As you motor down the Tempisque River on this jungle cruise, white-faced capuchin monkeys swing from the tree branches on the shore while caimans and even the occasional crocodile patrol the waters.

Take in the sights and sounds of various species with the kids, including tiger herons, ospreys, ibises, and the jabiru. Afterward, you'll transfer to the small village of Guaitil. Many residents of this indigenous community make handcrafted pottery, and it's a great place to pick up some high-quality souvenirs.

Day 10: Explore Beaches & Snorkel Offshore

Sunset at Flamingo Beach
Sunset at Flamingo Beach

Today is yours to swim in crystal clear waters and relax on the sand to your heart's content. Visit Flamingo Beach, a white-sand crescent where kids can swim and play. You will then visit Grand Beach, where rare leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the sand each year. The third destination on the trip is Tamarindo Beach, the perfect spot for teens or older kids who want to learn how to surf.

One of the most beautiful spots along this 11-day trip comes at the end. Playa Conchal consistently tops lists as one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, and with good reason. Small white shells make up the beach instead of sand, making for a striking contrast to the bright turquoise waters. Offshore, the pristine water is full of colorful fish, so this is a great place to snorkel with the whole family. End your beach tour by doing just that, or kick back on the sand and relax.

Day 11: Depart Costa Rica

Sunset in Costa Rica
The trip ends today. Your family will transfer to the airport to catch your flight out. Safe travels!

More Great 11-Day Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other 11-day Costa Rica itineraries, with outdoor adventures, family-friendly trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Map

Map of Family Adventure in Costa Rica: Volcanoes, Cloud Forests & the Ocean - 11 Days
Map of Family Adventure in Costa Rica: Volcanoes, Cloud Forests & the Ocean - 11 Days