Last updated on February 25th, 2024 at 06:49 pm
Costa Rica had been on my bucket list for a long time. With its wildlife, waterfalls, and adventurous activities (plus coffee and chocolate), there’s something for everyone. As we’re based in the UK, I knew this would be a big trip for us. With lots of research and planning, here’s our 3 week Costa Rica itinerary with kids.
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First, the answers to a few questions:
Which Part of Costa Rica is Best for Families?
After a lot of research, we decided on a combination of time spent on the Pacific coast and time spent in ‘activity centres’ such as Arenal, Monteverde and Manual Antonio for our Costa Rica itinerary with kids. We thought this would give us plenty of options for things to do and also a good balance.
You’ll get to see lots of wildlife, have beaches to explore and opportunities for adventure (whether that’s horse-riding, river tubing or zip-lining). Traveling to Costa Rica with kids is a great choice as there is such a wide range of activities on offer – you’ll never be restricted, and you’ll never be bored!
What’s the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
Rainy season is from May to November in Costa Rica. However, this is also low season and you’ll face less competition for accommodation and activities and potentially better prices. It still rains in areas like La Fortuna and Monteverde once the rainy season is officially over – but the coast tends to be dry.
Costa Rica is warm all year round. High season is from December to April, with peak season being January and February. We visited in December and experienced some rain in La Fortuna and Monteverde. It felt like a good time to go, although it did get much busier in the lead-up to Christmas. Easter would also be a great time to travel to Costa Rica.
Read more about the best time to visit Costa Rica here.
Is Costa Rica Expensive?
Whether Costa Rica is expensive or not depends on where you’re travelling from and the prices you’re used to paying both at home and when away. Prices for accommodation, food, transport and trips are comparable to European or American prices. Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America, mostly due to the thriving tourist industry there.
There are ways to make your trip less pricey, however, including staying in Airbnbs, buying lunch and snacks from supermarkets and partaking in free activities instead of expensive tours. If you want to make the most of your trip to Costa Rica, though, you’ll want to budget accordingly and be prepared to spend a little more than you might at first have thought.
3 Weeks in Costa Rica – Where to Start
Here’s a snapshot of our Costa Rica itinerary (3 weeks). A day on either end was spent travelling.
1 night in San Jose
4 nights in La Fortuna/ Arenal
2 nights in Monteverde
1 night in Paquera
3 nights in Santa Teresa
3 nights in Montezuma
4 nights in Manuel Antonio
1 night in San Jose
If you have less than 3 weeks in Costa Rica (for example, if you’re looking at a Costa Rica itinerary -5 days, I would advise picking one of either La Fortuna or Monteverde (I’d go with La Fortuna), and then heading on to Manuel Antonio – as you have beaches as well as rainforest there.
If you’re looking for an itinerary for Costa Rica for 10 days then you should choose between La Fortuna and Monteverde and also between Santa Teresa and Montezuma.
Getting Around Costa Rica
If you’re travelling to Costa Rica from the United States or Europe, you’re likely to arrive in either San Jose (the capital) or Liberia (better if you want to focus on the beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula).
For families considering a Costa Rica 3 week itinerary, hiring a car is really helpful. It’ll give you freedom and independence. However, be prepared and rent a four-wheel drive. There are plenty of potholes on the roads of Costa Rica.
If you’re flying into San Jose, arriving at night and planning to head onwards the following day, I’d suggest staying in a hotel or Airbnb close to the airport. This will save you from having to drive far in the dark (we tried to avoid this wherever possible) and will avoid the city traffic. We stayed at the Alameda Cariari Boutique Hotel, which was a 5 to 10-minute drive from the airport.
The First Leg of our 3 week Costa Rica Itinerary: San Jose to Arenal
A popular choice is to head on to Arenal/ La Fortuna from San Jose. While there are things to see in San Jose, families are better off heading out of the city and to Costa Rica’s wildlife and activity centres and beaches.
If you’re heading to La Fortuna from San Jose, there are several good places to stop along your way (it’s a 3 hour drive):
Hacienda Alsacia Starbucks Coffee Farm
You’ll find the best view from a Starbucks cafe (probably worldwide) at the Hacienda Alsacia Starbucks Coffee Farm. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a coffee and snack and relax for a while, before heading onwards.
They also offer tours of the coffee farm. They last one and a half hours and cost $30 per adult and $25 per child on the door (children under six go free). We decided to just enjoy the cafe and the view and had a short walk around the parts of the farm you have access to.
Poas Volcano and National Park
Poas Volcano is an active volcano with an impressive crater filled with bright blue water. While amazing to see if the weather plays ball, I’d recommend checking the forecast on the morning you’re planning to visit as I don’t think it’s worth visiting if it’s cloudy – as it was for us (see picture above)!
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the crater with its beautiful blue water at all. It was covered completely by cloud. Poas does, however, have some nice walking trails and a visitor centre where you can learn about the volcanoes, forests and wildlife of Costa Rica. You can book tickets in advance on the SINAC website.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a popular spot with lots to do. It has an animal sanctuary, trails, an aviary, a butterfly observatory, a hummingbird garden, waterfalls and more. There’s a restaurant here if you want to stop for lunch.
You might not have time to stop at La Paz Waterfall Gardens if you’re planning on the other two stops as well. This one requires a bit more of your time to make it worthwhile – so it might be a case of choosing.
For combo tours taking in a coffee farm, Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens, book here:
On to Arenal
We began our visit to Arenal, and our first proper leg of our 3 week Costa Rica itinerary, with a one-night stay at The Springs Resort and Spa at Arenal.
We wanted to experience the hot springs and staying at one of the hotels that have them is a good way to do it. Hotels such as The Springs, Tabacon and Baldi also offer day passes so you can experience the hot springs even if you’re not staying there.
We arrived at the Springs amid torrential rain which only eased up in the evening. The next morning brought us wonderful sunshine (with a bit of cloud) and we got to experience The Springs in its full glory.
We made the most of the springs and there’s also a waterside and a large games room which is fun for the kids. The Springs also has the Club Rio Adventure Center, which offers river tubing, kayaking, and horseriding and has an animal sanctuary.
We moved to Arenal Observatory Lodge for our next few days in the La Fortuna area, and I was so pleased we did. While not a 5-star hotel, the grounds are beautiful.
Arenal Observatory Lodge is the only accommodation in the Arenal Volcano National Park. Bought in 1972 by a Canadian, it started as a place for volcanists and scientists to stay while studying and monitoring the volcano. It’s since developed into a popular place to stay for birdwatchers, but it’s great for families too.
The grounds are extensive and you could spend days exploring them. Make sure you book on to the free guided morning walk if you stay.
There’s also a night walk (at an additional cost) which takes you down to the frog pond, where you’ll see some of the resident red-eyed tree frogs. You’re likely to come across some of the other wildlife that only comes out at night too (spiders, snakes and insects).
There’s a restaurant on site which is a good thing as the lodge is a little way out of the centre and the road there isn’t in the best condition. We ate there every night but had lunch out.
TIP: On reflection, I might consider skipping The Springs and heading straight for Arenal Observatory. If you have a fairly good budget, the Springs is great – but breakfast isn’t included and activities are pricey. If you want to experience the hot springs, get a day pass, or visit the free hot springs near the Tabacon Resort (you’ll spot the area as there’ll be lots of parked cars and unofficial attendants in tabards).
Things To Do in La Fortuna
Mistico Hanging Bridges
There are definitely some wildlife spotting opportunities here but Mistico is a fun place to visit whether you go with the aim of spotting animals or not, due to its fantastic hanging bridges. Warning – in case you’re scared of heights – some are long and pretty high!
Mistico offers a range of tours which you can book via their website (these include horse-riding, night walks and bird-watching). If you want to visit by yourselves, you can book tickets here. They’re $32 per adult and $21 per teen (children under 11 go free).
Often, if you book a guide, their packages will include entrance tickets – just check with them in advance.
We used a guide (Daniel at La Fortuna Explorers) for both Mistico Hanging Bridges and the Sloth Trail. I would recommend you book a guide- you’ll see so much more wildlife and learn so much more if you do. With Daniel’s help, we saw bats, snakes, birds, and insects.
Sloth Watching Trail
I’m sure you have sloth spotting on your list if you’re in Arenal with kids! There are several places to try and view sloths in La Fortuna (these include the Bogarin Trail, Sloth Territory and the Sloth Watching Trail). The Sloth Watching Trail is the one our guide recommended. It’s a private trail of around 2 kilometres.
Daniel helped us to spot four sloths on the Sloth trail (one two-toed sloth and three three-toed sloths). Plus some blue jeans poison dart frogs – one of the things I really wanted to see! Daniel also took some great photos for us of the sloths through his telescope. We definitely wouldn’t have been able to get these photos without a guide.
A Note About Sloths: Sloths are obviously a big draw for tourists in Costa Rica but in terms of responsible travel, it’s worth looking into the better options for viewing. Some of the sloth parks are likely to have moved sloths onto their land, out of their natural territory. Our guide shared that he chooses to take visitors to The Sloth Trail since this remains their natural territory and is protected.
Don Olivio Chocolate Tour
Don Olivio Chocolate Tour is one of the best value and most personal chocolate and coffee tours in the area. You’re shown around the family-owned gardens and will get to try lots of different fruits and chocolate – as well as sugar cane juice, hot chocolate, coffee and rum (not for the kids)! Come hungry.
My favourite bit was tasting the cacao fruit – the pulp surrounding the bean tastes like mango which I didn’t expect at all.
We were shown around by the owner’s son who shared with us the history of cacao and coffee in Costa Rica, plus his family’s own journey into the chocolate industry. They also have a resident sloth so there’s another sloth-spotting opportunity here!
TIP: Views of Arenal volcano are often impacted by the low-lying cloud in this part of Costa Rica and the weather can be unpredictable. Be prepared not to see the volcano in its full glory, and bring your raincoat!
Where to Eat in La Fortuna
We ate at our hotels (The Springs and Arenal Observatory Lodge) most of the time, but there was one stand-out place we did have lunch at and that was Jalapas. The food is as good as the view – try and go for sunset.
La Fortuna to Monteverde
Having made a dent in our 3 week Costa Rica itinerary, we headed on from La Fortuna to Monteverde. The only way to travel this route by car is around Lake Arenal.
Although a popular route, it makes for painstaking driving due to the potholes in the roads. We were told that, three years ago after they were redone, the roads were in great condition. However, the roads weren’t laid as well as they could have been and have not weathered well.
If you’re someone who gets car sick, you may want to think about skipping this segment of the trip. If you haven’t rented a car, there’s a jeep-boat-jeep option across Lake Arenal.
There are a few decent stops along this route if you do decide to travel it -which help to break the journey up. These include The German Bakery and Cafe Macadamia. We picked up some great pastries and pretzels from The German Bakery.
We stayed at Camino Verde Boutique Lodge in Monteverde and organised our tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest through the lodge. It’s a fantastic, central base with nice rooms, a fabulous breakfast and good views.
Things To Do in Monteverde With Kids
Monteverde is arguably the best spot to try zip-lining when you’re in Costa Rica, although you’ll find zip-lining companies all across the country. We chose to book with The Original Canopy Tour – which, yep you guessed it, was the first company to start zip-lining tours over the forest canopy in Costa Rica.
There are other companies who offer more extreme zip-lining experiences (such as Monteverde Extremo Park). However, I’d recommend The Original Canopy Tour for families (children aged 5 years and up can take part) if you’re in Monteverde with kids. It felt very safe, the guys who accompanied us took their job seriously and were also friendly and reassuring.
The fun thing about The Original Canopy Tour was the additional activities which included a Tarzan swing, rappelling and a climb up the hollow interior of a ficus tree.
Chocolate and Coffee Tours
If you didn’t manage to fit in a chocolate and coffee tour in La Fortuna, Monteverde also offers some great options. Since Monteverde is cooler and shadier than much of the rest of Costa Rica, it’s an ideal place to grow coffee so you’ll have lots of choice when it comes to tours and it’s a good place to do one.
Don Juan has outlets in both La Fortuna and Monteverde.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
The big draw in Monteverde, however, is its cloud forest. There are three reserves you can visit. The most popular is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. If you’re looking for smaller, quieter locations then you might prefer the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and Santa Elena.
We chose to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and booked an early slot as we’d heard you have a better chance of spotting wildlife earlier in the morning.
As usual, you’re much more likely to see wildlife- and learn about the flora and fauna (plus Costa Rica generally) if you hire a guide.
We were lucky and managed to see the resplendent Quetzal (one of the most famous birds in the world) – and some spider monkeys playing. We wouldn’t have seen either without our guide. As guides have large telescopes with them; you’ll get a brilliant view of the animals and can get much better photos taken through the lens.
By the entrance to the reserve, there’s the Hummingbird Gallery and Colibri Cafe. Make sure you stop by here to see all the different species of hummingbirds getting their fill from the sugar water feeders.
Where to Eat in Monteverde
The town is compact and easy to get around, with some good shops and restaurants. The Treehouse Restaurant is great for a drink and a fun place to go with kids. Rico Y Tico is good for authentic Costa Rican fare (they also do burgers and pizzas) and Raulito’s Pollo’s empanadas are a good option if you’re after a snack or quick lunch.
TIP: Monteverde can be considerably cooler in temperature than much of the rest of Costa Rica, especially in the mornings when you’re likely to be doing your tours. It can also be really windy. Make sure you bring a sweater and a Rain jacket. You might also prefer to wear trousers rather than shorts for your tour (also a great way to avoid insect bites).
Travelling on to Paquera
Next up we headed to Puntarenas, around 1 hour 45 minutes from Monteverde, to catch the car ferry to Paquera. There are usually eight ferries per day. Check the current times and book your tickets ahead here. You can purchase them at the port, but you’ll get on the ferry much quicker if you buy in advance. For full details on the Puntarenas to Paquera ferry, head here.
The ferry journey lasts 70 minutes and takes in some impressive scenery so grab yourself a seat on the top deck and enjoy.
TIP: We had trouble booking our ticket on the English version of the site. If you experience the same or it implies tickets are sold out, try the Spanish version. It worked for us!
Our main reason for visiting Pacquera was to try and experience the bioluminescence in this area. We settled on Bahia Rica Fishing and Kayak Lodge (a couple of minutes drive from the ferry terminal) and their bioluminescence kayaking tour. I’d read consistently good things about them – and the tour. We also booked to stay the night to avoid driving in the dark afterwards.
We stayed in El Yayo which would be great for large families or groups with three bedrooms available (it can sleep up to eight). They also have a small cabin available which sleeps two.
You can read more about the bioluminescence tour here.
Bahia Rica also rents out kayaks and SUP boards plus you can arrange to go on a fishing trip with them or out to Tortuga Island (a more personal experience than the larger tours going from Montezuma or Santa Teresa).
We had dinner at the restaurant next door after the bioluminescence tour – an authentic Costa Rican restaurant with good food.
After pancakes for breakfast, we took some time to chill out in the hammocks down by the water, and my daughter and I took a double kayak out around the bay (a bit easier and a little less scary than at night time)!
We loved our one-night stay at Bahia Rica – a hidden gem on a quieter spot of the Nicoya Peninsula. Owned by a Norwegian couple who love fishing and wanted to create employment opportunities for locals, it’s a special place.
Next Stop Santa Teresa
Next on our 3 week Costa Rica itinerary was Santa Teresa (approximately 1 hour 20 minutes away from Paquera), a spot on the coast popular with surfers, young expats and travellers on the hunt for beautiful beaches and magical sunsets.
We stayed at The Bohemia Experience, which offers both treehouse apartments and tents (you’ll need a 4×4 as it’s up a very steep windy hill). This place has been outfitted beautifully with real attention to detail when it comes to furnishings and aesthetic. Kids will love the ladder up to a small second floor in the treehouse, suitable for one person to sleep on.
Bohemia offers free yoga sessions at 7am (suitable for all the family and a great way to wake up before breakfast) and other events such as Tapas and Cocktails (amazing) and Soundbath sessions. There’s a definite hippy vibe here, and in Santa Teresa generally- which I loved.
Prices in Santa Teresa seemed a little more expensive than in other locations in Costa Rica, likely because this is a popular destination with a certain image! I wouldn’t let that put you off – it has lots going for it too- especially the beaches and sunsets. But if you’re looking for somewhere a little more understated (and perhaps a bit more family-friendly, then perhaps try Montezuma or Samara.
What To Do in Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is a great place for kids to try beginner surfer lessons, or stand-up paddle boarding. There are lots of instructors in this area ready and willing to help you. Costa Rica Surf and SUP offers kids lessons as well as group and private lessons for beginners.
Boards and rash vests are provided; remember to pack your sunblock!
Visit Playa Hermosa
Play Hermosa has slightly calmer waves than the main beach (Playa Santa Teresa). The current is still strong though, and probably not suitable for younger children.
Keep your eye out for signs signalling riptides. You’ll be amazed at the vast expanse of this beach though – people certainly aren’t packed in like sardines here! It’s a great place to play some family games too so bring a ball, frisbee or whatever your jam is.
You’ll most likely be able to find a bit of shade – there are plenty of palm trees lining the edge of the beach and some shelters dotted along the shore made from dried palm fronds.
TIP: Try the tidal pools of Mal Pais if you prefer gentler water and an opportunity to swim and snorkel. More information can be found here.
Hire an ATV
If you haven’t hired a car, and you’re brave enough, hiring an ATV is a popular thing to do in Santa Teresa and the surrounding towns. Renting an ATV allows you to travel between beaches and towns with lots of flexibility. There’s normally plenty of space to park.
You need to be 18 years old to rent an ATV in Costa Rica, but kids can ride on them as passengers. ATValerios and Pacific Dirt Road have good reviews. You can also arrange organised tours with them (for example to the nearby Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve).
Where to Eat in Santa Teresa
There are some upmarket restaurants here with lots of amazingly fresh seafood and pina coladas on tap.
The Bakery is pricey but the savoury pastries and cookies are to die for.
We loved Brekkie for brunch – beautifully presented dishes and (mostly) healthy too.
Uma is the place to head for a drink or dinner at sunset. The only problem is you won’t want to leave.
A Short Jump Over to Montezuma
We had only a short drive to get to our next stop on our 3 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary – Montezuma. Around 30 minutes away, Montezuma is a smaller and more relaxed town than Santa Teresa. I think that’s probably part of its charm.
We stayed at Sunshine Sanctuary Boutique Jungle Lodge which was a little more rustic than a couple of the other places we stayed but with perhaps the best views of the whole trip. Watching the sunrise here was a highlight – I don’t think I’d ever get bored of the view from our little balcony there.
Sunshine Sanctuary has an outdoor yoga studio (they sometimes have teachers but if not, it’s free for you to use as you wish) and a small pool.
There’s a rope bridge which takes you to the road into town, but as with so many places we visited, it’s so much easier to have a car unless you’re staying very centrally. There are some seriously steep roads/hills here!
Another perk of this hotel is that it offers free access to the trail heading to the upper part of Montezuma Waterfall (just show your room key). This is a lovely short hike which we did twice.
In Montezuma as in Santa Teresa, ATV’s are a popular way of getting around. If you feel happy using this mode of transport (I wouldn’t really recommend it if you’re travelling with young kids) then there are plenty of companies you can rent them from in town.
Walking is a definite option in these two towns, if you are staying fairly centrally. It’s not fun facing those steep hills in the heat if you’re staying higher up and outside of the town (although, that is, of course, where you’ll get the best views)!
Things To Do in Montezuma
Day Trip to Tortuga Island
We booked a one-day snorkelling trip to Tortuga Island with Zuma Tours. Their head office is in Montezuma, but they’ll pick you up from surrounding towns such as Santa Teresa.
The trip includes two snorkelling stops, all snorkelling equipment, drinks on the boat and lunch and drinks on the island. You’ll have a couple of hours to relax on the island before returning. You can rent a sunlounger or kayak if you want, and you can also pay extra to do a nature tour if you wish. Beware the wild pigs on the island – someone from our group received a nasty bite from one of them.
We really enjoyed this trip although the water wasn’t as clear as we’d hoped for the snorkelling. We were told that, because it had been windy a few days earlier, the water was cloudier than usual. Make sure you try a coco loco on the island too!
Read more about the Tortuga Island Day Trip here.
Watch Baby Turtles Being Rehabilitated
If you’re lucky, you should be able to catch volunteers releasing baby turtles back to the sea from the ASVO centre. We checked at the centre whether they’d be releasing any during our stay.
On the first day, we were told “manana”, and happily we did get to witness the wonderful sight of the baby turtles making that arduous journey to the water’s edge the following day.
If you fancy taking part yourself, they do offer volunteer experiences if you can commit to at least 5 days. Find out more information here.
It’s free to visit Montezuma waterfalls and the main entrance is in the middle of town – you can’t miss it. Wear some good walking shoes though, as it isn’t an easy hike (particularly with kids).
If you want to reach the top level, which is quieter, follow the path next to the Sunshine Sanctuary Boutique Jungle Lodge, where we stayed.
You can jump off a ledge into a large pool here, and although I did see someone do it, I wouldn’t necessarily advise it.
Where to Eat in Montezuma
We ate at a couple of good sodas (traditional, cheaper Costa Rican restaurants) in Montezuma, including Soda Naranja (the kids loved the pasta and garlic bread) and Soda Tipica Las Palmeras (slightly outside of town).
For something more special and a lunchtime treat with a view, head to Playa De Los Artistas (it’s only open at lunchtime four days a week, so check before you go).
Last Stop Manuel Antonio
Our last stop on our 3 weeks in Costa Rica itinerary was Manuel Antonio. To get there from Montezuma, we headed the short distance back to the ferry terminal in Paquera. From Puntarenas, it’s just over a 2 and a half hour drive. En route, drop off to stretch your legs at the Tarcoles Bridge.
The Tarcoles River is known for its snappy inhabitants – we saw a dozen of them in the water below when we went for a quick peek.
It’s a bit touristy here, but I did find a really cool shop selling brightly coloured Costa Rican wildlife-themed towels, and some beautiful large scarves. It’s worth popping by and having a look. There are also a couple of coffee shops and places to grab something to eat.
In Manuel Antonio, we stayed at Hotel Naoz. We loved this place: it’s modern, clean and a little tropical oasis in the middle of a busy town. They have a decent pool and serve lunch and dinner as well as breakfast if you want it. We made use of this and popped back for lunch, a dip in the pool and a rest once our morning activities were over.
Manuel Antonio is one of the most visited parts of Costa Rica but, personally, I didn’t feel it was overly touristy. It has the benefits of having both rainforest and beach, plus some great activities and fun places to eat. The reason for its popularity is the fact that it has a bit of everything!
Things To Do in Manuel Antonio
Visit Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is the most popular national park in Costa Rica. Book ahead for your tickets- especially in high season.
Unlike other parks in Costa Rica, this one actually sells out and if you leave it too late, you may not be able to get a ticket). If you can, pick an early time slot, as the beach tends to fill up later in the day. If you go early, you’ll have it almost to yourselves!
We booked a tour with Manuel Antonio Nature Tours. You’ll have to purchase your tickets to the park separately. You can also book guided tours on the park’s website itself. The park is closed on Tuesdays, so keep this in mind when planning ahead.
We saw lots of lizards during our visit and a fearless troop of monkeys too. The beach here is worth a visit alone though.
TIP: If you do leave it too late and can’t get a ticket for Manuel Antonio National Park, it’s worth speaking to a tour operator and seeing if they have any availability. Many of them purchase extra tickets and have some spare.
Head to Biesanz Beach
Also known as Secret Beach, you need to walk 5-10 minutes down a path to get to Biesanz beach. It’s worth it though. It’s a small but beautiful beach and surprisingly well-served.
You can rent kayaks, snorkels and SUP’s plus there’s a place to get food and drink.
The tide comes pretty far in so I’d advise turning left when you get to the beach and finding a space by the trees, rather than sitting by the rocks to the right of the beach. The water here is calm and really warm – hubby stayed in for around 40 minutes and that never happens.
Go For A Drink At El Avion
El Avion is without a doubt a unique and very cool place to eat or have a drink. It’s a C-123 Fairchild cargo plane which has been converted into a two-level bar and restaurant.
But it’s the sunset here that’s the real draw Get here by 5pm to get a table and enjoy the view.
Head To Rainmaker
Rainmaker is around a 30 minute drive from Manuel Antonio. Privately owned, Rainmaker is a stunning hike past waterfalls and on hanging bridges through the rainforest.
It’s quite steep and wet in parts, so you need to be relatively fit. I didn’t see any kids have any issues but if you’re travelling with someone who is not so mobile, they may find it difficult.
The best bit for me was the main waterfall – go in your swimsuit and jump in – it’s so refreshing after the uphill hike to get there.
Back to San Jose
We travelled back to San Jose for one night before our flight home. If you have a bit of spare time in San Jose, make sure you stop by the Nahua chocolate factory to pick up some Costa Rican chocolate.
San Jose airport is also a great place to pick up last-minute gifts and souvenirs (if a bit pricier) plus you can get free tasters of Britt coffee and chocolate!
What To Pack For Your 3 Weeks In Costa Rica Itinerary
It’s going to be hot, but you’ll also want to be covered up whilst near water or in the forests. While there is a low risk of malaria in most parts of Costa Rica (areas such as Limon on the Caribbean coast carry the highest risk), the mosquitoes are large in numbers, and bites from other insects are a possibility too.
Cotton and linen trousers and shirts are a great idea. Plus, make sure you have trainers or walking boots and socks for any hiking you’ll do.
Take binoculars (we ordered these mini binoculars) for walks and boat trips.
What Food To Expect in Costa Rica
Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) is the traditional Costa Rican breakfast. It’s usually served with scrambled eggs, fried plantain, cheese and/ or avocado.
Many hotels and guest houses will also serve pancakes and an American-style breakfast too, which kids might prefer. We loved the traditional breakfast though – it definitely sets you up for the day!
Casados are the order of the day for lunch (and sometimes dinner too). They usually consist of chicken, beef or fish with rice, plantain, vegetables, beans and salad. You should be able to find a vegetarian option too.
Also on offer is Chifrijo which is broth with beans with pork belly, served with tortilla chips and crispy pork skin.
Another great option for lunch, if you’re on the go, is to pick up an empanada (they usually come with a chicken or cheese filling). I loved them! Supermarkets also sell savoury pastries and mini pizzas which are good for kids.
You’ll find such a wide range of restaurants and cuisines for dinner. From Italian to Japanese, you won’t have to settle for Costa Rican food if you’d prefer to go for something else.
Sodas are the most cost-effective option when eating out, but they usually offer burgers, pasta, sandwiches and pizzas too – so there’s something for everyone. If you’re on the coast, make sure you try the seafood – especially the ceviche. This was one of my favourite dishes in Costa Rica. Happy Eating!
I hope this 3 week Costa Rica itinerary has been helpful in planning your trip.
In the meantime, if you’re thinking about other adventurous travel options with kids, why not check out my Borneo with Kids and the Perfect Family Itinerary post?
Or, since you’re likely to be planning a road trip, have some fun with my 90 Trivia Questions for Road Trips suggestions!