By Ashley Harrell
August 25, 2014
Dave Lauridsen

With its fascinating wildlife, tame adventures, and safe environment, Costa Rica is the perfect baby-step out of the U.S. for the whole family seeking a soft adventure not too far from home. But before you book hotels, make sure the kids are welcome: Many lodgings in the country do not allow guests under 18. Then again, many are geared especially toward traveling families and stocked with kid-centric amenities: connecting rooms, game centers, babysitting services, jungle gyms, etc. Others are located on secure properties that feature on-site, stress-free outdoor activities that are entertaining for the whole family. For instance, mini jungle hikes. Or boogie boarding on a nearly private beach in front of the hotel.

The most important factor in a family vacation, of course, is that it runs smoothly, and some hotels in Costa Rica are more dedicated than others to making this happen. Here are the top five spots for you and family members to enjoy a hassle-free and memorable stay.

Tulemar Bungalows & Villas

Manuel Antonio’s Tulemar has topped the Trip Advisor lists of family-friendly hotels in Costa Rica and the world, and for good reason. The beachside, jungle compound is totally secure and offers a range of accommodations—including connecting rooms—that sleep up to 10 people. There are also programs for kids, a pool, and hiking trails frequented by toucans.

Peace Lodge and Waterfall Gardens

Hilton Papagayo Resort

For a large family, it’s a huge relief when all the food is taken care of. That’s the case at Hilton Papagayo, an all-inclusive on Costa Rica’s opulent Papagayo Peninsula, where you’ve got a choice of six places to eat and a whole lot of included activities: for example, tennis, dance lessons, aerobics. Should parents want to spend a day at the spa or on the golf course, the bilingual staff at the Kidz Paradise Club supervises kids while they do arts and crafts, play video games, and slide down a “mini volcano.”

Lapa Rios Ecolodge

Hotel Villa Caletas

Despite what some guidebooks may tell you, Jacó is not a family destination. But Hotel Villa Caletas, which sits on a mountaintop above the seediness with its own Greek Theater and large infinity pool. The highly secure property features rooms in all sizes and decorative styles, and couches can be swapped out for cots. A shuttle brings guests down the mountain to a private beach.