Traveling with toddlers means looking at the world as if it were for the first time. You are sure to see them enjoy each new thing like it is the most amazing thing they have ever laid their eyes on, therefore you don’t need anything too big or glorious to keep them interested and entertained. Traveling through Costa Rica with toddlers on a family vacation is exactly that and more, because every beautiful tropical flower on a trail, colorful meal at a small restaurant, animal hanging from a tree at the beach, or a nice breeze from a breathtaking viewpoint can do the trick.
Costa Rica is also a wonderful place to travel with a baby. First off, it is very safe. There isn’t a lot of crime and you don’t have to worry about if the food and water is clean. If your child is on solid foods, feel free to let him or her taste the exotic fruits and even sample the local specialties. There are also many baby-friendly things to do. From visiting the national parks and reserves to hanging out at the beach, there are plenty of places to bring a baby. Costa Rica is also a fairly small country, so it is easy to plan a trip that doesn’t require too much driving.
Family life is very important for every Costa Rican. Most people live near their parents, aunts and uncles, and they all mind everybody’s business, in a good way! That’s why everywhere you walk in with your toddler or baby, Costa Ricans will welcome him/her and give the whole family a little break as they make your baby laugh, they teach him/her something or they encourage their own children to play and interact with yours. Your kid will make friends – big and small – everywhere you go!
Some practical things to note: most, but not all, restaurants have high chairs available. They are usually not the plastic ones that you’re used to, but handmade wooden ones with Tico flair.
If you need a crib, obviously make sure to stay at a hotel that offers them. Many of the larger hotels (especially chains) have them and some smaller ones do too. If you end up staying somewhere without one, you could always bring or purchase a simple Pack ‘n Play when you get here. However, keep in mind that depending on where you’re visiting, it may not be convenient to find one and it will likely be expensive.
Car seats or booster seats are mandatory in Costa Rica for children 12 and underr. Although Costa Rica has a car seat law, it is often not enforced. You will see kids unrestrained in the back or even front seat of a car. Families even sometimes ride with their kids on motorcycles when going across town. Still, as a visitor, make sure to be in compliance, as the fine for not following the law is 198,000 CRC or about 400 USD.
One thing that is difficult when traveling with a baby in Costa Rica is the lack of baby changing stations. You will very rarely find them in restaurants, even nice ones. You can sometimes spot them at rest area-type restaurants, but it is unusual. Be sure to bring a travel-size changing pad for diaper changes on the go.
While breastfeeding in public in some places is controversial, that is not the case in Costa Rica. In fact, it is the exact opposite here. The majority of moms in Costa Rica breastfeed and do so openly.