Renato Granieri / Alamy
Ashley Harrell
October 24, 2014

For families with a healthy sense of adventure and an appreciation of nature, Costa Rica may well be the world’s top destination. We’ve got sprawling rain forests, turtle nesting beaches, and thriving coral reef communities. Our tiny, conservation-minded country is one of the most bio-diverse in the world, with monkeys swinging, sloths lazily dangling, and toucans hopping around in the treetops.

No matter what your itinerary looks like in Costa Rica, you can explore a variety of habitats and encounter plant and animal species found almost nowhere else on the planet. Hikes, snorkeling trips, beach walks, canopy tours, and rafting adventures are among the most poplar eco-tours.

And unlike other untamed paradises, many of Costa Rica’s wildlife excursions are very accessible, relatively safe, and kid-appropriate—just ask the experts. The tiny travelers I’ve met almost always have something to say about the amazing creatures they’ve seen and the adventures they’ve taken.

Watch Sea Turtles Lay Eggs in Playa Ostional

An arribada—or massive gathering of egg-laying turtles—happens at Playa Ostional each month around the last quarter moon. Kids won’t be the only ones marveling as the sea turtles start swimming up to the beach by the hundreds, dropping their eggs off, and returning to the sea. Arribadas happen throughout the year, but are particularly well attended from July to December.

Wander the Cloud Forest in Monteverde

One of the top eco-tourism destinations in a top eco-tourism country, Monteverde is replete with cloud forest reserves, hanging bridges, zip-line tours, and family-friendly accommodations. Families with young whippersnappers will love Selvatura Park, which includes a canopy tour and butterfly garden, and Children’s Eternal Rainforest, a conservation project featuring exhibits and hikes geared specifically toward little ones. 

Spot Wildlife at Manuel Antonio National Park

The smallest national park in Costa Rica also happens to contain multitudes of wildlife, which is super convenient for families looking for a contained and easy eco-stroll. The park includes beaches and jungle habitats, and if you bring a guide along, you’re almost sure to spot monkeys and sloths on your walk. 

Hike at Cloudbridge Reserve

For the slightly more adventurous family, a trek in the Talamanca mountains may be in order. And while I don’t recommend Chirripó (the tallest mountain in the country), its neighbor the Cloudbridge Reserve is highly suitable for hikers of all ages and endurance levels. This off-the-grid experience includes twisting cloud forest, majestic mountains, tropical birds, and picturesque waterfalls. 

Snorkel at Tortuga Island

About a 90-minute boat ride from the mainland, this small island boasts white-sand beaches and swaying palms, along with vibrant coral communities right off the shore. It’s scuba diving and snorkeling sites regularly produce sightings of stingrays, sharks, spinner dolphins, and octopi. Those who scuba dive can also visit three sunken boats below the surface. 

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