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things to do nicoya peninsula

Many parents choose Costa Rica as their child’s first international trip, and for good reason.  It’s a very family-friendly destination with amazing beaches and easy access to the rainforest.  But there’s also plenty of choices in where to go in this small country.

If you’re considering visiting the Nicoya Peninsula you should take a look at the towns of Cabuya and Montezuma.  Nicoya Peninsula mainly encompasses the Guanacaste province, with the exception of the very tip which lies in the Puntarenas province.  Cabuya and Montezuma both lie within Puntarenas.  Our family spent an entire month just in this tiny corner of Costa Rica and never ran out of things to do.  Here are 14 family-friendly activities to try on the southern Nicoya Peninsula.

1. Surfing Lessons

Good For: Any age as long as they can swim on their own

Montezuma is well known for its surfing.  You’ll find an excellent surf shop in the town center as well as plenty of companies that offer surfing lessons.  Young Vision Surf School is one such company.  They have lessons for kids of any age as well as a weeklong all-inclusive family surf camp.  We felt that Stink was a little too young for surf lessons (she can’t swim on her own yet) but when we return to Costa Rica we will definitely be getting on a surfboard…all of us!

2. Town Tours with JC’s Journeys

Good For: Ages 3 and up

I always try to incorporate educational and cultural activities in our vacations and JC’s Journeys offers just that.  You can choose from two town tours, aptly named “Let’s Get Local”, or mesh them together to create a custom itinerary.  The Cabuya tour takes you to the mysterious cemetery on Cabuya Island and to a breast cancer survivor who makes the best homemade jams and coconut oils.  Her husband will even demonstrate the local way of shredding coconut with just a single machete!  The Rio Negro tour takes you further into the countryside to a sugarcane farm where you’ll learn how to make sugarcane juice and fresh empanadas.  We spent a day doing a mix of both tours and had an excellent time.

jc's journeys review
Worms are more exciting than sugarcane juicing, at least to a 4 year old

3. Bioluminescent Kayak Tour

Good For: Ages 10 and up

Kayaking in bioluminescent water is a truly unique experience.  If you’ve got older kids who are adventurous (and they should be if you’re in Costa Rica!) then you should definitely check out the Bahia Rica tours.  The tour leaves from Paquera, a town north of Tambor.  Bioluminescent tours are best during a new moon so be sure to time your vacation properly if you want to experience this tour.

4. Farmers Markets

Good For: All ages

Every Saturday morning there’s a farmer’s market in the center of Montezuma.  There’s only a handful of vendors and can seem a little underwhelming so it’s best to combine your trip there with another activity such as the butterfly gardens (see below).  In Cobano, however, there’s a much larger farmer’s market on Friday mornings.  Here you’ll find fresh spices, honey, handmade soaps and of course lots of fruits and vegetables.  Just be sure to ask your taxi driver to take you to the feria or you might have to walk quite a way from the center of town!

kid friendly activities montezuma
The small farmers market in Montezuma

5. Horseback Riding

Good For: Ages 4 and up

Zuma Tours (and a few other companies) offer horseback riding in the Montezuma area.  Their website says that kids ages 4 and up can go but we didn’t feel comfortable letting Stink ride on a horse, especially since her only experience with riding has been on lazy little ponies at the county fair.  But Montezuma is great for riding horses, whether it’s on a trail or on the beach!

6. Goat Cheese Making with Pura Vida Expeditions

Good For: Ages 3 and up

When my mom visited us for a week we brought her along on this trip.  Pura Vida Expeditions will take you deep into the Nicoya Peninsula, to a town so small it’s usually inaccessible during the rainy season.  There you’ll meet a group of women who run a goat farm, making and selling goat cheese and yogurt.  Kids will get to feed baby goats, milk adult goats and make delicious balls of goat cheese to take home.  You’ll also get to enjoy a typical Costa Rican lunch made with locally grown meats and vegetables.  I highly recommend this tour for kids!

kid friendly activities nicoya peninsula

7. Zip Lining

Good For: Ages 6 and up

Canopy tours are popular in the Montezuma area, especially because they also include a trip to the famous Montezuma Waterfalls.  Many companies run zip line tours but the lines are owned by SunTrails.  They even have an option to purchase photos and videos of your ziplining trip.  I can tell you from personal experience that it’s VERY hard to capture decent video while ziplining!

8. El Higueron Banyan Tree

Good For: All ages

This is an activity you could easily do on your own.  El Higueron is a gigantic strangler fig tree that’s found on the main road from Montezuma to Cabuya.  There’s a sign and a small area to pull over so you can’t miss it.  It’s said to be the largest tree in Costa Rica.  Keep an eye on your younger kids, though.  Between the large roots and the numerous crab holes it’s easy to trip and fall!

things to do nicoya peninsula

9. Snorkeling at Tortuga Island

Good For: Ages 3 and up

This is an activity we did twice because we loved it so much the first time!  We chose Zuma Tours for both of our trips and I highly recommend them.   Stink was NOT interested in snorkeling (she hates getting her face wet) but she really enjoyed floating around in her life jacket and floatie while Brandon and I took turns snorkeling under the water.

If your child doesn’t want to get in the deep water at all then you can always have your tour company drop you off at Tortuga Island while everyone else snorkels.  Tortuga Island has a wide beach of soft sand, perfect for building sandcastles.  You can also seek out the resident pig or find the half-tame parrot that likes to visit the island.  He really enjoys chunks of coconut!

kid friendly activities nicoya peninsula
By the way, I LOVE my full face snorkel mask

10. Cabo Blanco and Curu Reserves

Good For: Ages 4 and up

There are two popular nature reserves in the Puntarenas area: Cabo Blanco and Curu.  Cabo Blanco sits on the very tip of the Nicoya Peninsula and offers hiking trails, remote beaches and even shipwrecks (unfortunately scuba diving isn’t allowed in these protected waters).  Curu is a privately owned wildlife reserve that you can visit to see some of the more rare mammals and birds of Costa Rica.  They have cabins and a restaurant on-site or you can just visit for the day.  Both reserves have long and sometimes rough hiking trails (depending on the season) so this activity is only suitable for children who like to hike!

11. Butterfly Gardens

Good For: All ages

The Mariposario Butterfly Gardens just outside Montezuma is a perfect activity for children of all ages.  It doesn’t take too long to visit so it can be combined with other activities in the area or simply enjoyed on its own.  At the butterfly gardens you’ll see some pretty large butterflies: blue morphos and owl butterflies, as well as the beautiful green Malachite butterflies.  Stands of overripe fruit are placed along the trails so it’s easy to see butterflies up close.

kid friendly activities montezuma

12. Cabuya Island

Good For: Ages 5 and up

Cabuya Island is a tiny island situated right off the coast of Cabuya.  It’s accessible via a rocky sandbar during low tide.  There’s nothing on the island except for the town cemetery so there’s a spooky vibe to it.  You can experience some good snorkeling around the island but your visits have to be timed just right.  The walk to the island is about 45 minutes and you certainly don’t want to get stuck out there when the tide comes back in.  I recommend this activity for children ages 5 and up because it’s a long and precarious walk along the rocks to get to Cabuya Island.  Carrying your kid back to shore because they got tired will be extremely exhausting for you!

13. Tidepools

Good For: All ages

At low tide the beaches of Montezuma and Cabuya may not look like much.  Jagged rocks dot the coastline and the water is far beyond them and too choppy for swimming.  But don’t worry! This is a great time to explore little rock pools on the beach.  Kids will discover sea snails, hermit crabs, regular crabs and sometimes little fish.  I highly recommend getting good water shoes for this activity.  Flip flops or swim shoes just won’t cut it.  You’ll need good stiff soled shoes like Crocs or Keen’s to explore the tidepools.

things to do montezuma
Tiny sea snails!

14. Baby Zuma Rock Band

Good For: All ages

The cafe Organico in Montezuma has live music almost every night, including an open mic night.  During our stay we discovered that they recently started a weekly music session just for kids.  Stink attended one and absolutely LOVED it!  The kids belted Bob Marley songs while strumming ukuleles and beating drums.  The restaurant also serves delicious pizza so parents can order a pizza and a drink while the kids play.  The only problem is wrangling them away from the stage to sit down and eat dinner!  Baby Zuma Rock Band isn’t something that’s advertised so it may be a little hit-or-miss.  Ask around when you’re in Montezuma to see if it’s still going on when you visit.

As you can see there’s so much more to the Nicoya Peninsula than beaches and swimming.  You don’t have to visit the major tourist areas like Tamarindo, Jaco or Manuel Antonio National Park in order to experience the beauty and culture of Costa Rica.  It’s everywhere you go!

14 kid friendly activites near Montezuma, Costa Rica on the southern Nicoya Peninsula

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