When I was planning our first adventure as a threesome, I was nervous about where might or might not be appropriate to take a four-month-old baby. Is it too hot? Too cold? Too many mosquitos? Is it a Malaria area? What is the hygiene like? The list of concerns seemed never-ending! Eventually we decided on Costa Rica with a baby after having read extensively about how Matt and Jenn, who blog over at Two Weeks in Costa Rica, have travelled throughout the country with their baby. As brilliant and informative as their blog was, I was surprised that they were the only people who appear to have written about travelling to Costa Rica with a baby in tow, aside from the usual Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet forums. So I thought I’d share the details of our three and a half week trip as a guide for any families planning a similar trip in the future.
Planning your trip to Costa Rica with a baby
First of all, I will give you a few details about the planning of our trip to Costa Rica with a baby.
Travelling to any destination with children requires a little more planning than it might without children, but that doesn’t make it any less fun – it just requires a few extra hours on Google. First of all, you will need to find great flights. My go-to has always been Skyscanner, which I have been using for years to check flight prices, times etc. I find that this comparison website always finds me the best deals. I also like that it gives you an all-inclusive price for the family in the search results! If you’re looking for good deals on flights you can visit Skyscanner here. If your baby is small you will probably be fine with an infant ticket, although some parents choose to pay for a full price seat for larger babies.
Monteverde with a baby
I live in England so it’s a given that I’m not a huge fan of the rain. Usually I would avoid destinations during their rainy season, but after reading that in Costa Rica this generally equates to a daily afternoon storm, I thought this could work for us. It would allow baby Isla the opportunity to have her afternoon nap. So after stocking up the USB with films and packing our raincoats we prepared for a couple of hours a day of rain….
This is not what we found on our first stop in Costa Rica with a baby, however! Monteverde is located high in the mountains and is literally in the clouds. Whilst the views on a bright sunny morning (the clouds were generally beginning to emerge as we woke up at about 7am) are beautiful, you are more likely to spend your time watching spectacular thunderstorms than you are gazing across the mountain-scape.
Rain aside, this was actually a pretty good start to the trip for our baby. It wasn’t too hot or humid and there are lots of opportunities to go out hiking and wildlife spotting, which is one Isla’s favourite things to do!
Arenal with a baby
How many babies do you know who had been swimming in thermal jungle waters, visited a volcano and seen a huge waterfall by age five months? Well we ticked all of these off on our visit to Arenal!
There is also tonnes to do here without baby – mum and dad just might have to take it in turns! We did zip-lining, and my husband did canyoneering and white water rafting while bubba and I had a chill day at the waterfall.
Montezuma with a baby
This town reminded me of how Phi Phi, Thailand may have looked 30 years ago and it surely one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. This is a quaint little town with a cool hippy vibe. There are beautiful secluded beaches and amazing scenery. Isla loved relaxing on the beach here while mummy and daddy caught up on their vitamin D shortage after all of the rain at the beginning of our trip!
Samara with a baby
The highlight here was surfing. Obviously this was not something Isla could take part in but we took it in turns to look after her while the other rode some waves, or attempted to!
Tortuguero with a baby
This is the most remote village in Costa Rica and you have to take a motorised canoe to reach it. This was a cool experience – Isla was so engaged she had a feed and fell asleep! How many people can say they have breastfed on a canoe huh?! The village itself is very basic and I was not very happy with our accommodation here. Lesson learned: spend more money when travelling in Costa Rica with a baby as you will spend more time in your room and you will be bothered when your little one is crawling in dirt! You do get to see turtles laying their eggs though… which was really cool!
During our stay here the village had no electricity and no water for approximately 20 hours… and it was quite possibly the most humid place I have ever visited! Fortunately I think this bothered my husband and I more than it did the baby, but perhaps wasn’t the most ideal situation!
Accommodation is limited here so if you are travelling with children I would recommend you book in to one of the resorts (this is the one place that we didn’t use an Airbnb). Make sure you book early though as they fill quickly!
Puerto Viejo with a baby
This was a nice place and it was great to experience the Caribbean culture in Costa Rica with a baby- who knew it was so different from the West Coast!? Isla enjoyed dancing to Bob Marley and chilling on the beach but it wasn’t the best place that we visited in terms of suitability for children due to the strong rip currents in the sea and the general cleanliness. This part of the country was far less clean than the other areas we visited and there was a constant lingering smell of cannabis!
There isn’t much to do here aside from surfing and visiting the many wildlife refuges. We were particularly impressed though when this sloth came to say hello as we walked along the beach!
Manuel Antonio with a baby
This was the last stop on our trip around Costa Rica with a baby and was very relaxing. There is the most beautiful beach in the country here, although it was very touristy, and there were plenty of things to do in Manuel Antonio. Personally, we preferred the secluded beaches of Montezuma. There were lots of resorts here so I think many people stay around their hotel a lot of the time, especially seeing as the tide comes in so high that there is no beach in the afternoon, or at least not at the time of year we were there!
There are lots of nice bars and restaurants here, more so than anywhere else we visited in Costa Rica. Unfortunately with baby in tow we couldn’t drink too many cocktails, but we did find this unique bar that was really cool!
Tips for Travelling to Costa Rica with a Baby
All in all Costa Rica with a baby was a great choice. There was enough to keep her stimulated, without over-tiring her and the distances to travel were not too great. Here are a few lessons I learned about travelling Costa Rica with a baby!
- Roads are TERRIBLE, so make sure you have a good car seat
- Rental cars aren’t so great either so make sure you go with a reputable company and check the condition of the car thoroughly
- There isn’t a huge variety of food if you are weaning – we found we ate the same stuff a lot when self-catering. Most restaurants do have high chairs though
- There are a lot of mosquitos in the rainforest so make sure you have protection for your little one. We used these organic mosquito stickers which worked a treat – baby Isla didn’t get a single bite!
- People in Costa Rica love babies, so your little one will be adored and will get a lot of attention!
- Most places don’t have changing facilities in the toilets, but they don’t seem to care when you wipe your precious one’s dirty bum on the restaurant table…
- Accommodation is expensive and not always the highest quality, plan carefully to get the best deal
- Costa Rican bathrooms often come with a ‘death shower’. Google it, that’s all I will say…
- There are a lot of insects, so if your little one is moving around there is every chance he/she may eat a centipede, or spider, or God knows what else
- Take an umbrella with you for the sun as beaches don’t tend to have shade
Wherever you go on your next trip, whether you choose Costa Rica with a baby or elsewhere… have fun!
For more on travelling Costa Rica with children you might also find this post helpful.
Psssst! By the way, I have recently designed a flight log book to allow your kids to record all of the journeys! If you’re looking for a special way to record your children’s travel memories then head over to Amazon to take a look!