Do your kids like animals? Of course they do! Everyone does!
Costa Rica’s unique biodiversity, its fauna, flora and wildlife, is among the top reason why families chose this popular destination. In fact, Costa Rica is considered to possess the highest density of biodiversity of any country worldwide, with nearly 4% of the total species estimated in the world.
Choosing the right park to introduce your little ones to this incredibly varied wildlife is important, especially if you don’t have time to visit all 3. In all of those parks you can witness the evergreen primary and secondary forests.
Here are the 3 best parks to hike with your kids in Costa Rica.
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, La Fortuna
The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is located near La Fortuna, and it is a tropical moist forest: there’s between 2000 to 4000 mm of precipitation annually. So it’s wise to bring a raincoat and wear closed shoes too, even though the temperature is usually comfortable.
Offering more than 350 species of fauna, 700 species of flora, 120 different species of mammals and 250 of reptiles and amphibians, your hike in the park will be much more interesting if you are guided by a naturalist. The park is rarely crowded, and it is a peaceful place to hear the animals’ sounds.
There’s a lot of different activities that you can do in the park (horse rides, zorbing, etc.), but hiking the trails and crossing high hanging bridges is among the most suitable for young children. What’s nice about the 6 hanging bridges is that the view isn’t blocked by the fencing of the bridges’ handrails, so even the little ones can enjoy the vistas.
The view from the different bridges is impressive, especially the one where you can spot the Arenal Volcano in the distance. There is also a charming waterfall.
There are restrooms at the entrance of the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, but none along the trails, and no food is allowed in the park. There’s a restaurant with a great view of the Arenal Volcano right after the entrance, that serves a delicious nacho.
Cost of a guided tour
11 to 18 years old: 28$USD
6 to 10 years old: 12$USD
2.5 hours, 1.9 miles
The Cloud Forest, Monteverde
Monteverde’s variable climate and high altitude have helped produce an extremely high biodiversity. It is home to more than 400 species of birds, over 100 species of mammals, thousands of insect species and around 2500 species of plants. It also offers the largest number of orchids in the world.
All this wildlife unfortunately cannot be discovered extensively from the hiking trails and hanging bridges of the Sky Walk from Sky Adventures, since most of the adventure happens at canopy level. So you won’t be spotting a lot of animals from up there. Nevertheless, the view from the top of the trees is breathtaking, and while going across the 6 high hanging bridges, get your camera ready for a memorable family picture.
The Cloud Forest, on the other hand, is fascinating to admire. A guided tour is worth it, as you can pair your adventure with a great learning experience for everyone. The trails are also simple to hike. I would recommend a baby carrier if you are not sure that your child can walk the whole time. You can also experience the Cloud Forest with the Sky Tram, a gondola ride that offers a panoramic view all the way to the Pacific Ocean, on a clear day.
Be prepared for a rainy and chilly day, since you will indeed be discovering a cloud forest! The weather is very unpredictable, so even if it is sunny in the morning, it might rain later that very same day. Closed shoes are also a must.
There are restrooms at the entrance of the Sky Adventures, but none along the trails. There’s also a Café in the entrance building, and a play area for the kids right by it.
Cost of a guided tour
Under 25 years old with student ID: 32$USD
2 hours, 1.5 miles
The Manual Antonio Park
This park, located in the Puntarenas province, is probably the most crowded park in all of Costa Rica. And for good reasons: the Manual Antonio Park is where it’s easier to see wild animals (monkeys, iguanas, sloths, frogs, spiders, deers, and the list goes on). In fact, there are 109 species of mammals and 184 of birds in the park, waiting for you to discover.
If you want to spot a plethora of wildlife, it is better to take a guided tour of the park. We decided to visit the park on our own, and we were lucky to spot a sloth moving around tree branches with her baby on her stomach!
Another great reason to visit the Manual Antonio Park is its numerous white sand beaches backed by an emerald evergreen forest. So it is the perfect spot to stop for lunch, swim in the crystal clear Pacific Ocean and build sand castles.
Please take note that being almost at sea level, the temperature can get hot during the day in the Manual Antonio Park. The trails are very well maintained and easy to walk for everyone. You could even bring a stroller if you would like to, although some trails have segments of stairs. There are baños (restrooms) at certain locations (near Manual Antonio Beach, for example), but no food to buy. So you have to bring your own lunch. I recommend you keep a close watch on your food because the monkeys will take it and eat it without asking! Finally, the park is closed on Mondays.
Cost of a guided tour
So tell me, which park have you visited? Which one did you like the most?