Family Fun in Costa Rica

Combining educational options with fun keeps children (and parents) enthralled.

Birds and Butterflies

Kids helped create the Bosque Eterno de Los Niños, the largest private reserve in Central America.In San José, more than 30 species flit about in Spirogyra Butterfly Garden.

A visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, in the Central Highlands, includes an optional guided tour through the gardens and laboratory, where young tykes can learn about each stage of a butterfly’s life cycle.

El Castillo, in the Northern Zone, is home to The Butterfly Conservancy, a butterfly garden and insect museum. Selva Verde is renowned for its birdlife and has a small butterfly garden.

Glasswing butterfly, Monteverde Butterfly Garden. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Glasswing butterfly, Monteverde Butterfly Garden. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

In Guanacaste, the Monteverde Butterfly Garden features three habitats filled with hundreds of tropical butterflies. At Islita, in Nicoya, visit The Ara Project, a breeding program for endangered green and scarlet macaws; reservations are a must.

The Central Pacific region is home to Manuel Antonio Nature Park and Wildlife Refuge. Here, explore a butterfly garden, a crocodile and caiman lagoon, and exhibits on poison dart frogs.

Culture Vultures

San José’s Pueblo Antiguo and Parque de Diversiones is a Costa Rican Disney, with locales that dramatize the events of Costa Rican history.

Café Britt, in the Central Highlands, is a fun theatrical learning experience about the production and processing of coffee.

Sample fruit and learn about chocolate production at Finca la Isla Botanical Garden, on the Caribbean Coast.

At Guaitíl, in Nicoya, Chorotega artisans permit kids to make their own ceramics, fire them in a kiln, then paint them.

Parks and Reserves

Travel to the Caribbean Coast to ride the Rainforest Aerial Tram, an educational trip through the forest canopy. Or take an open-air tram through the canopy at Veragua Rainforest Research and Adventure Park before checking out the butterfly, snake, and frog exhibits.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve in Guanacaste protects hundreds of species of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Kids helped create the Bosque Eterno de Los Niños, the largest private reserve in Central America. There’s a Children’s Nature Center, a self-guided interpretative trail, an arboretum, and a visitors center. The highlight at Selvatura is exploring the canopy along treetop walkways and suspended bridges, and you’ll be bugged out by the incredible Jewels of the Rainforest Insect Museum.

On the Nicoya Peninsula, at El Viejo Wildlife Refuge and Wetlands, you can ride in amphibious vehicles and take a boat or a zip-line canopy tour. Viewing turtles nesting at night at Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas is well worth keeping the kids up late.

Safaris and Tours

Take a dolphin safari into Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge on the Caribbean Coast.

Visit the Northern Zone’s Arenal Theme Park for phenomenal volcano views enjoyed from an aerial Sky Tram.

Africa Safari Adventure Park, a private wildlife reserve in Guanacaste, features elands, camels, ostriches, zebras, antelopes, giraffes, and warthogs.

The catamaran journey to the Nicoya Peninsula’s Isla Tortuga thrills, and once you arrive, you get to snorkel and kayak.

A guided canoe or boat trip through Parque Nacional Tortuguero with naturalist guide Karla Taylor gets you up close and personal with crocodiles, caimans, river otters, and—if you’re lucky—manatees.

At Tárcoles, in the Central Pacific, take a Crocodile Safari to view crocs close up and personal.

American crocodile. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

American crocodile. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Wildlife Wonders

At La Garita de Alajuela, take the kids to Zoo Ave, where they’ll get to see animals and birds typical of Costa Rica; and, in Grecia, to the World of Snakes, where the kids can hold snakes.

On the Caribbean Coast, the Sloth Sanctuary is a great place for a précis on everything you didn’t know about cuddly sloths.

Guanacaste is home to The Bat Jungle, where kids can watch bats flit, feed, and mate. Saving and raising big cats is the mission at Centro de Rescate Las Pumas, where ocelots, jaguars, cougars, margays, jaguarundis, and “tiger” cats are on view.

Parque Reptilandia, in the Central Pacific region, is one of the best-laid-out parks in the country, with turtles, crocodiles, and snakes.

Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Costa Rica.

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