A Guide to Discovering Costa Rica's Rainforest for Families

Rainforest mascot
Rainforest mascot | © Tom Lee / Flickr
Jenn Parker

Costa Rica is famous for its beaches, eco-tours and adventure excursions, sustainability and green practices, and of course its biodiverse and exquisitely beautiful rainforests. With 25% of the country protected by national parks and reserves, the rainforests of Costa Rica are pristine and teeming with life. You cannot come to Costa Rica without stepping foot in at least one of its many rainforests. Here’s what you and your family need to know.

What to Bring and Wear

As the name implies, the rainforest is a wet place. If you don’t experience a rain shower while in the rainforest, you will definitely still feel the dense moisture in the air, the wetness of the earth, and dewdrop-covered foliage. Bring a rain jacket. The ground is typically uneven and oftentimes slippery, muddy, and dotted with rocks, fallen tree debris, and other hazards, so closed-toed shoes with traction are an absolute must. There are also thousands of species of insects, including ants, spiders, and mosquitos, that you will want to protect your skin from, so lightweight long pants and long sleeves are needed.

Everyone in the family should always be wearing bug repellent. Also make sure that each member of the family has their own bottle of water (please use a reusable water bottle, and avoid single-use plastics), as Costa Rica is very hot and staying hydrated is crucial. And don’t forget your camera and binoculars! A waterproof bag is also recommended to keep your electronics and other belongings safe and dry.

It’s always wet

There are so many rainforests in Costa Rica! If you only have time to explore one, make sure you and your family check out Manuel Antonio National Park, Corcovado National Park, Arenal National Park, Monteverde, or the Tortuguero National Park. There are rainforests on both coasts and inland in Costa Rica, so regardless of where you are staying, access to the rainforest is never too far away. The above parks are ideal for families because there are many different types of tours and activities available. Some of the more remote parks, like La Amistad International Park, aren’t very kid-friendly because they require a lot more treacherous hiking.

Rainforest rainbow

What to Do

Aside from just marveling in wonderment while, there are quite a few kid-approved and family-friendly activities and tours to take in the rainforest. Some of the most popular activities are canopy zip lining, waterfall repelling, bird watching, guided nature walks, guided nighttime nature walks, self-guided hiking, walking along the hanging bridges, horseback riding, river boat tours, and swimming in the natural springs and in the ocean. The best way to experience the rainforest and have the best opportunity to see the most wildlife is with an expert naturalist. This option is available in all of the rainforests; indeed, some rainforests, such as in the Corcovado National Park, require visitors to have a guide with them at all times.

Walk along the hanging bridges

What to Look for

Costa Rica is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity. There are hundreds of species of birds, thousands of inspects, over 200 species of mammals, over 200 species of reptiles, and over 200 species of amphibians. Many of these animals live in the rainforest. Some of the most famous rainforest species are the monkeys (four species), wildcats (six species), sloths (two species), scarlet macaws, resplendent quetzals, poison-dart and red-eyed tree frogs, blue morpho butterflies, and toucans. An expert naturalist and guide will be able to point out creatures that the untrained eye would totally miss. Experiencing the rainforest and all the incredible wildlife with your children is an experienced unmatched by any other!

The elusive ocelot
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