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Which is better for a family holiday - Costa Rica or Peru

Wondering which country is better for you and the kids? Find out here

Amanda

Amanda

Latin America Specialist
Published on

08 Dec 2023

Updated on

03 Jan 2024

Costa Rica or Peru banner photo

Costa Rica and Peru offer their own unique and enriching experiences for family holidays, but the better choice depends on your family's specific interests and preferences. Both destinations offer great flight options from London. British Airways fly directly to San Jose, Costa Rica and LATAM Airlines to Lima, with onward connections. Colombian airline, Avianca fly direct from London to Bogota with a connection direct to Cusco, avoiding the busy, main Peruvian hub of Lima.

Costa Rica


Costa Rica is a popular family option in Central America, renowned for its stunning biodiversity and commitment to environmental conservation. With its lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and towering volcanoes, this tropical haven offers a kaleidoscope of natural wonders. Beyond its breathtaking landscapes, Costa Rica embraces a pura vida lifestyle, celebrating a simple, happy life. With a warm and welcoming culture, the country invites visitors to explore its vibrant cities, indulge in delectable cuisine, and embark on eco-adventures, from zip-lining through treetops to encountering exotic wildlife in protected reserves.

Costa rica volcano
Arenal, Costa Rica

Weather

The best time to visit Costa Rica weather-wise is during the dry season, which typically runs from mid-December to April. This period ensures sunny days and minimal rainfall, making it ideal for exploring the diverse landscapes, and national parks, and enjoying some relaxing days by the beach. This is high season so can be busy.

Activities and Wildlife

Costa Rica is renowned for its stunning biodiversity, lush rainforests, and diverse ecosystems. Families can enjoy abundant wildlife encounters alongside activities such as zip-lining through the canopy and exploring volcanoes

Explore national parks and reserves such as Manuel Antonio National Park or Tortuguero National Park to encounter monkeys, sloths, colourful birds, and more. Venture to the Arenal Volcano region for family-friendly hikes, hot springs, and even volcano-viewing from relaxing resorts. The region is also known for its exhilarating zip-lining experiences and adventure parks offering canopy tours

With an extensive coastline and beautiful beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, such as Manuel Antonio, families can enjoy water activities such as snorkelling, surfing, or simply relaxing on the sandy shores.

Costa Rica's commitment to eco-tourism and its family-friendly atmosphere make it an exceptional destination for families seeking adventure, education, and quality time in nature.

Costa Rica Toucan 2
Toucan, Costa Rica
Costa Rica Rope Bridge
Canopy tour via hanging rope bridges, Costa Rica

Our favourite family-friendly resorts

Handily located between the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean, Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort provides family suites, direct beach access, and proximity to Manuel Antonio National Park.

The resort features two infinity pools and is only a short walk from the ocean with complimentary surf, body, and paddle boards. Back on land, nature trails invite exploration, while the games room and movie room offer alternative entertainment options for when the kids are worn out.

Located near Nosara, Lagarta Lodge is a nature-inspired retreat with family-friendly amenities, including a refreshing swimming pool, on-site restaurant, and proximity to wildlife and beaches. Families can choose from a diverse range of activities from kayaking and surfing to serene boat tours and invigorating hikes or even a language course, providing a cultural dimension to your stay.

Beyond the hotel's confines, an extraordinary highlight awaits at the southernmost beach, where a staggering half a million Olive Ridley turtles grace the shores during their breeding season—a truly spectacular and unforgettable natural spectacle.

A unique family-friendly experience, Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort is nestled in lush countryside on a coffee plantation a short distance from the main San Jose International Airport. Finca Rosa Blanca offers guided tours, a pool, and comfortable accommodations with a touch of Costa Rican charm.

Try out a coffee-tasting tour, unlocking the secrets behind the region's acclaimed beans, or join a guided bird-watching expedition led by an expert naturalist guide. Extensive gardens are teeming with birdlife, a perfect spot for wildlife lovers.

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Arenas Del Mar Manuel Antonio Costa Rica 2 min
Aerial view of the beach by Arenas Del Mar

Food

At the heart of Costa Rican culinary tradition is gallo pinto, a beloved dish of rice and black beans infused with spices and coriander, often accompanied by eggs, cheese, and fried plantains. Seafood enthusiasts can savour the freshest catches from both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, including ceviche and arroz con camarones (shrimp rice). Throughout Costa Rica, street vendors beckon with tantalising snacks like empanadas, tamales, and the ever popular "chifrijo," a fusion of crispy pork and beans that captures the essence of this culinary paradise. Kids will love the country's fruit-based treats like "batidos" (fruit smoothies).

Safety

Costa Rica is often considered one of the safer destinations in Central America, making it an attractive choice for family travel. Popular tourist destinations and resort areas tend to have a higher level of security however petty theft can happen.

Encounters with animals can be exciting however it’s essential to maintain a safe distance and follow any guidelines provided by guides or park authorities. Costa Ricans are known for their friendly and welcoming nature, and understanding and appreciating their culture can contribute to a safer and more enjoyable trip.

Blue and tellow poison sart frog Costa Rica
Poison dart frog, Costa Rica
Kid rappelling in Costa Rica
Rappelling activity, Costa Rica

Peru


Peru, a land of ancient wonders and cultural richness, invites families on a captivating journey through history and diverse landscapes. From the awe-inspiring ruins of Machu Picchu to the vibrant markets of Cusco and the lush Amazon Rainforest, this South American gem unfolds as a tapestry of traditions and Incan heritage. Warm hospitality resonates in the Peruvian spirit, creating a welcoming atmosphere for families to immerse themselves in the country's unique blend of ancient charm and modern vitality with a host of activities for all to enjoy.

Vinicunca
Vinicunca, Rainbow Mountain

Weather

The best time for favourable weather conditions in the Andes is during the dry season, which spans from May to October and is Peruvian winter. The days are generally clear, with minimal rainfall and pleasant temperatures however nights can be chilly, especially at higher altitudes. Cusco is situated at 3400m altitude, so we recommend a day or two to adjust to the thin mountain air.

Peru, with its rich historical and cultural tapestry, offers families a captivating journey through time. Historical and cultural richness makes Peru an extraordinary destination for families.

Activities

Peru is home to some of the most iconic archaeological sites in the world, including the legendary Machu Picchu. Exploring this ancient Inca citadel together allows families to witness the ingenuity of a bygone civilization while enjoying panoramic views of the Andes. Older families can embark on the iconic the classic or shorter version of the Inca Trail to reach the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) overlooking Machu Picchu.

Journey to mystical Machu Picchu from the historic city of Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire. The compact city features well-preserved colonial architecture built upon Inca foundations. The city is also the base for many traditional festivals such as Corpus Christi or Inti Raymi on 24 June. These lively events feature colourful parades, music, dance, and a palpable sense of community spirit.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru offers a multitude of family-friendly activities, combining breathtaking scenery with experiences offering a perfect blend of adventure, history, and cultural exploration. Adventure activities in the Sacred Valley include kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, bike trips, white water rafting or horseback riding.

Key sites families can enjoy in the Sacred Valley include Ollantaytambo fortress for spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding valley, the circular Moray agricultural terraces and the Maras salt ponds. At Maras, witness the traditional salt-evaporation process that dates back to Inca times.

Families can explore traditional villages such as Chinchero with its lively market with local artisans and witness traditional weaving techniques. Engage in cultural workshops where families can participate in activities such as pottery-making or traditional Andean music lessons.

Llama Machu Picchu Peru min
Llama at Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru

Our favourite hotels

A perfect base in the Sacred Valley is the Sol y Luna Hotel situated between Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. The charming architecture blends seamlessly with the surrounding valley and is enveloped in lush, colourful garden where hummingbirds and butterflies flutter among indigenous flowers. Families can indulge in a variety of fresh local cuisine with its farm-to-table concept or enjoy a Peruvian Paso horse show.

One unique aspect is the Sol y Luna Association, a non-profit organisation with its primary focus is on bringing positive change through education and social development programs for children and families in our region. The Association aims not only to uplift lives but also to enrich the cultural experience for visitors seeking meaningful interactions.

Beyond the Andes, the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest introduces families to indigenous cultures and ancient traditions. Guided tours offer insight into the medicinal uses of plants, local customs, and the vibrant biodiversity of the region.

Easily accessible from Puerto Maldonado airport, Refugio Amazonas is an excellent choice for families seeking an immersive and family-friendly experience in the Peruvian Amazon. This eco-lodge is situated in a pristine rainforest setting, providing a balance of comfort, adventure, and educational opportunities.

The lodge offers comfortable and spacious accommodations, including family rooms and interconnected cabins, providing flexibility for different family sizes. They organise a variety of guided excursions suitable for families including wildlife spotting tours, jungle walks, canopy tours, and boat trips, allowing families to explore the diverse ecosystems of the Amazon.

Refugio Amazonas often provides educational programs specifically designed for children focusing on teaching kids about the flora, fauna, and cultural aspects of the Amazon in an engaging and age-appropriate manner. Children can witness various species of birds, monkeys, and other Amazonian wildlife with the guidance of knowledgeable naturalist guides.

Families have the chance to engage with the local community through cultural experiences. Interaction with indigenous communities allows families to learn about traditional customs, crafts, and daily life in the Amazon.

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Peru Amazonas Refugio Canopy tower 1200x675
Sunset at the Refugio Amazonas

Food

Food in Peru is a highlight of any trip due to its rich and diverse culinary heritage, blending indigenous flavours with other global influences. The country's unique geography and climate contribute to a vast array of fresh and exotic ingredients, resulting in a culinary scene that is both culturally significant and a delight for the taste buds. Savour a delicious Lomo Saltado (marinated stir-fried beef, vegetables, chips and rice) or a child friendly dish of Salchipapas (hot dog style sausages and chips, topped with tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard).

Safety

Peru is generally a safe country to travel however it’s best to check vaccinations are up to date before travel and be aware of the effects of travelling at altitude. Allow time to adjust and stay well hydrated. Familiarise your family with local customs and cultural norms to show respect for the locals and be cautious with valuables and avoid displaying expensive items in public.

Be careful with water consumption and choose reputable restaurants and street food vendors.

Peruvian women at Taquile Island Lake Titicaca Peru
Peruvian women at Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca
Traditional Peruvian clothing at market Peru
Traditional Peruvian clothing at a market in Peru

So which is better? Peru or Costa Rica?

Costa Rica and Peru are both great destinations for a family holiday, each with its own unique appeal. Take into consideration, the age of your children, their interests and what will keep them entertained. Trekking in Peru and other activities are more suitable for older children and teenagers, whereas children of all ages will love the unique wildlife in Costa Rica.

Why not speak to one of our specialists - we create every trip from scratch so can work with you to find the perfect family holiday depending on when you are looking to travel and what else you want to do. Call us today on 01768 603715.

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  • Amanda

    Amanda

    Latin America Specialist

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