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8 Great Costa Rica Family Resorts on the Sand

Does your family enjoy horseback riding, mini-golf and zip-lining excursions? These Costa Rica family resorts are sure to please moody toddlers and teenagers alike, and maybe even some moody moms and dads!

The sun is setting over the gold sand beach, making the deep blue water and frothy surf foam glow red and purple in the fading light. I am cantering along at the edge of the waves, the last in a line of horses; my steed’s hooves splashing water upwards towards my face occasionally, causing me to squeal with laughter. I am also smiling hard, because this feels marvelous. This is what Costa Rica’s pura vida lifestyle must be all about.

The teenager cantering ahead of me on the sturdy brown horse, her ponytail flying backwards in the wind, is also making her appreciation known vocally:

“OMG this is ah-mazing!” she screams into the wind.

Costa Rica is filled with family friendly adventures like this sunset horseback ride on the beach that was organized by the resort in Peninsula Papagayo we are all staying at. There are also surf lessons, and snorkeling expeditions, and zip-lining excursions through nearby cloud forests that can be easily arranged through most resort’s excursions desks. This is great news for families with young kids or moody teenagers who may need to book last minute.

Costa Rica is also home to a good selection of family friendly beach resorts, offering amenities designed with kids in mind. Here is our list of favorite places to stay with kids on the beach:

Kids Treated Like Royalty at This Ultra Luxe Peninsula Papagayo Resort

Kids are treated like celebrities at the Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo resort. Upon checking in they are personally greeted by a welcome concierge and given the scoop on children’s programs offered on site. An age appropriate gift will also be waiting in your room, suite or villa. For younger kids this welcome amenity is usually a stuffed animal, a sweet treat and sponges in the tub that spell out their names. Preteens and teens can expect a resort branded ball cap and t-shirt. There are also separate Kids and Teen Clubs with daily activities from bird watching to building sandcastles on the beach, dependent on age.

When booking this hotel, you’ll have the choice of room, suite or villa. Know that even the least expensive rooms here with at least partial ocean views and stylish decor. The three-bedroom villa works great for larger families, while the one bedroom suites are perfect for a family of up to four and boast private plunge pools.

On an isthmus that straddles two white sand beaches separated by jungle in Guanacaste, the Four Seasons location is secluded and beautiful. Let the concierge arrange for a babysitter and take in the views with dinner at one of the on-site restaurants, Pesce. It pairs classic Italian seafood, meat and pasta entrees with panoramic Pacific Ocean views and a global wine list. After dinner head to Anejo for dancing and craft cocktails.

Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Top rated
Liberia
9.0 Excellent (191 reviews)

Cool Architecture Plus Plenty of Freebies for Young Children at this Papagayo Peninsula Property

The Hotel Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort offers a number of family-friendly free extras, including a Kids Club that is complimentary and open to potty-trained children age 4 and up. Kids 5 and under also eat free at the restaurants here, which saves parents quite a bit of money as the on-site dining is pricey. The family pool in the center of the resort is also fun. Kids can splash around in the zero entry section and there are also floating noodles. Afterwards grab one of the free snow cones.

The resort sprawls across 28 lush, tropical forested and very hilly acre. If you want to get extra energy out of your kids before dinner just walk from your room to the restaurant — it is likely to be a lot of steps. If you’d prefer not to walk, however, the property runs golf cart shuttles between its amenities and rooms.

The rooms themselves are impressive affairs with walls of glass and furnished wood porches overlooking the jungle below. The beds are comfy and feature silky soft linens. There are also suites available, including some with personal plunge pools.

There are two small beaches on the grounds, but it is more fun to catch the free shuttle boat from here to the new Andaz Beach House on Nacascolo Beach. The trip takes just 10 minutes. Nacascolo is a much larger beach and the water here is very calm and shallow, perfect for kiddos to splash around in.

Hotel Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort

Playa Panama
9.3 Excellent (364 reviews)

The Animal Lover in Your Family Will Love This Manual Antonio Resort

Sloths, monkeys and iguanas are frequent visitors at Arenas del Mar Beach and Nature Resort, which is sure to delight animal loving children (and adults!). As the only property in this part of Quepos town with direct beach access, Arenas is also very family friendly. You’ll find a children’s menu in the restaurants, Playitas Beachfront and Mirador Oceanview, but if your kid would prefer to order a 1/2 portion from the grown-up menu, that is also perfectly acceptable.

While there isn’t a proper Kids Club on site, the property runs a rotating list of free in-house activities from bracelet making to movie nights. For older children and adults, surf lessons on Playitas Beach can be arranged. You can also choose to explore neighboring Manual Antonio National Park’s mangroves, tropical forests and serene lagoon with one of the resort’s naturalist guides.

If environmental impact plays a role in how you book hotel stays, note that Arenas del Mar is carbon neutral. In fact, the eco-friendly property was the first in Costa Rica awarded the Sustainable Tourism Certification Program’s highest rating. There are just 38 rooms and suites. The best ones feature wraparound porches with private hot tubs, but all come with perks like organic coffee and free local snacks in the minibar.

Arenas del Mar Beach & Nature Resort

Top rated
Quepos
9.4 Excellent (329 reviews)

The Home of Central America's Biggest Swimming Pool

The hacienda-style JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa sits right on the small but pretty Playa Mansita beach just south of Tamarindo. The beach here isn’t the largest around, but what this resort lacks in beach it makes up for with the biggest swimming pool in all of Central America.

The JW Adventure Kids Club offers free daily activities for children between the ages of 4 and 12. The resort can also organize activities just offsite for the whole family that range from horseback riding to golf. There are five restaurants and two bars on site, including The Mansita Restaurant that serves an international buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is a good option with kids — there is so much to choose from. Or you can organize a babysitter for the evening and check out Tamarine, which is open for dinner only and does good, fresh sushi.

JW Marriott Hotel Guanacaste Resort & Spa

Top rated
Santa Cruz
8.5 Excellent (339 reviews)

From Mini-Golf to Climbing Wall, This All-Inclusive Resort Has Some Stellar Adventure Amenities

Another excellent all-inclusive family choice is Barcelo Tambor Beach Resort. It has both a Kids Club and a Teen Club with daily organized activities. Other kid friendly features include multiple swimming pools with one designed especially for small children, featuring a water spray element and two that are linked by a waterfall. There is also a mini-golf course, a climbing wall and plenty of water sports options to check out. Oh and grown-ups, if you need some alone time, there is an adults-only disco on-site — just check with the concierge about organizing babysitting.

The 402 rooms and suites all come with balconies and the best feature views of Ballena Bay. The largest suites here can accommodate a family of six. There are multiple dining choices included in your rate, so you won’t get bored when it comes to eating. One restaurant serves Japanese, another offers a traditional steak house setting while a third is an international buffet.

Barcelo Tambor

Playa Tambor
7.9 Good (764 reviews)

Treehouse Style Lodging in a Wild Locale

It may not have a Kids Club or a slew of organized child focused activities, but don’t count the Tulemar Resort on the Manual Antonio coastline out when it comes to a family friendly vacay. The property features some of the coolest accommodation around for kids, thanks to its abodes in octagonal bungalows that feel akin to dozing off in a jungle treehouse. Each bungalow also features a full kitchen and washing machines, so you can cook for yourself to save some cash.

Set on 33-acres of manicured gardens surrounded by lush rainforest, the location is wild and beautiful. Spend some time on the walking paths meandering through the grounds to appreciate your surroundings. Afterwards you can relax on the sandy beach or at one of the four swimming pools. There are also four restaurants on site including Victoria’s Gourmet serving real Tuscan fare and Buena Vista Beach Grill for seafood and a real tiki bar experience.

Tulemar Resort

Quepos
9.3 Excellent (153 reviews)

All The Activities You Can Imagine

If you’re looking for a lot of choices when it comes to activity, entertainment and dining, and also dig the idea of knowing exactly what you are paying in advance of the vacation, then Hotel Riu Palace is a good choice. On a wide section of Playa Matapal, the family friendly, all-inclusive property features tons of diversity when it comes to included activities — offering everything from windsurfing to sailing, snorkeling and kayaking. Plus for an extra fee, day excursions to major attractions like National Park Rincon de la Vieja can be arranged.

For children there is a Kids Club with organized daily activities. If the little ones are occupied, parents should check out the inviting spa with a domed ceiling in its whirlpool area. There are also multiple restaurants on site, including a buffet with live cooking stations.

One of Costa Rica’s largest resorts, Hotel Riu Palace has 538 rooms and suites including some that feature Jacuzzi tubs and multiple bedrooms. The decor is more chic than one expects at a chain resort, however, and the beds are quite comfortable.

Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica

Top rated
Liberia
8.5 Excellent (1422 reviews)

More All Inclusive Family Fun on Playa Flamingo

If you’re looking for an all-inclusive family friendly property then check out Margaritaville Beach Resort on the pretty white sands of Flamingo Beach in the Guanacaste Province. The packages include food and drink as well as resort activities from salsa dancing lessons to eco walks, movie nights and painting classes.

The mid-range property is also a fair priced family vacation and the location in Guanacaste makes it easy to access from Liberia, which is a less chaotic airport than the capital city of San Jose. Rooms here come in a number of layouts but even the least expensive have balconies and partial ocean views. There is a designated children’s area to the swimming pool and numerous water sports are offered on site, including a chance to get PADI certified (extra fee), that are bonuses to staying.

Margaritaville Beach Resort Playa Flamingo

Santa Cruz
8.4 Very good (1508 reviews)