The main reason we planned a family trip to Costa Rica was to experience its incredible wildlife with our kids. When we heard that Corcovado National Park was one of the best places to see wildlife in the country, we made sure to add it to our three week Costa Rica itinerary with kids.
We almost didn’t go to Corcovado National Park as it’s very remote and quite difficult to get to independently. But then we discovered Sukia Travel, a local tour company which offers a multi-day family tour to Corcovado National Park based out of Drake Bay. We quickly signed up and we’re so glad we did – our family tour to Drake Bay & Corcovado National Park with kids was an absolute highlight of our Costa Rica family vacation.
There are so many exciting things to do in Drake Bay & Corcovado National Park with kids – even getting there is a ton of fun. On our multi day adventure, we went on a night tour in the jungle to seek out tree frogs, a day tour to Corcovado National Park, snorkeling and a mangrove tour. There’s so many things to do in Drake Bay for families, you’ll have trouble deciding!
Corcovado National Park with Kids
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Getting to Corcovado National Park with Kids
As mentioned, due to its very remote location on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, Corcovado National Park is not easy to get to, even with some of the recent improvements to the road to Drake Bay. Thankfully, Sukia Travel took care of getting our family to Corcovado National Park.
Begin in Sierpe, Costa Rica
Our family tour to Corcovado National Park began in Sierpe, along the southwest coast of Costa Rica. to Drake Bay. We drove to the Oleaje Hotel where parking attendants showed us where to park our rental car.
From Sierpe, the easiest and most fun way to get to Drake Bay is by water taxi. After checking in with the captain of our water taxi, we took a load off in the riverfront restaurant and enjoyed some delicious fruit smoothies. When traveling to tropical destinations such as Costa Rica with kids, fruit smoothies are a great way to keep them hydrated and sneak a little nutrition in as well.
Water Taxi from Sierpe to Drake Bay
The 1 hour water taxi from Sierpe to Drake Bay was a fun and scenic way to get to this very out-of-the-way destination. The boat trip begins at a gentle pace near the town of Sierpe, but speeds up to an exciting speed shortly afterwards. It’s a thrill for kids and adults alike to have the wind whipping through your hair as you make your way down the Sierpe River to Drake Bay by boat.
Although the water taxi from Sierpe to Drake Bay isn’t officially an exotic wildlife tour, our captain did stop the boat and get up close when we passed a large crocodile sitting on the shores of the Sierpe River.
We also took an exciting diversion through a tight canal of mangroves. To navigate through this tight passage of water loving trees, we had to go very slow. This gave our family time to watch the little crabs scurrying up the roots to safety from the boat. Some of the crabs were very exotic, with white shells and red eyes.
Shortly after the quick mangrove tour, the river widens significantly as it nears the Pacific Ocean. As the Sierpe River meets the Pacific, the boat passes through a collection of scenic jagged, rocky islands. From here, it’s about 10 minutes on the Pacific Ocean before you reach the shores of Drake Bay.
Things to know about the water taxi from Sierpe to Drake Bay:
- There is storage for large bags and suitcases at the front of the boat.
- Sukia Travel warned us the water taxi can get wet at times and advised us to put all of our valuable electronics in a watertight bag.
- There is no dock at Drake Bay, so you’ll have to take your shoes off or wear sports sandals (as we did). One of the locals advised other passengers to remove their flip flops as they will get stuck in the sand getting off the boat.
Things to do in Corcovado National Park with Kids
A remote tropical rainforest filled with exotic wildlife, there is no shortage of amazing things to do around Corcovado National Park with kids. Our family-friendly tour to Corcovado was jam-packed with exciting activities to take advantage of the natural wonders of this incredible national park.
1. Night Jungle Tour
For wildlife lovers, there are few experiences more exciting than a jungle tour at night. The jungles of Costa Rica are literally overflowing with exotic wildlife, and it truly comes to life after dark. With a trained jungle guide, you’ll experience an abundance of Costa Rica wildlife sightings.
Of course, entering a jungle at night with kids can be a little frightening for them. Our kids were a bit scared to enter the jungle at night, but once they had their own flashlight, and we saw a cute little frog right away, their fears seemed to disappear quickly. They were having so much fun being brave jungle explorers, they weren’t even phased by the scarier stuff.
After we all got our rubber boots on, our guide led our family into the jungle via a shallow stream. Water attracts wildlife, and the sightings started happening immediately. The first thing we saw on our night jungle tour was a cute, little green frog sitting on a rock near the stream. A few feet later, our guide chased down and caught a little snake that was swimming across the water!
It seemed like the Costa Rica wildlife sightings just kept coming non-stop throughout our jungle tour at night. Our guide alternated taking us up the middle of the stream, and then on land, near the stream. Each location afforded different wildlife viewing opportunities. We were grateful for our tour guide as we’d have missed a ton of wildlife sightings without him.
Highlights of our Night Jungle Tour in Drake Bay were:
- Too many big, creepy spiders – some who can even walk on water!
- Big river shrimp
- A scorpion
- Tons of cute frogs, including the famous red eyed tree frog, the blue jeans frog and a glass frog
- A big bullfrog
- Leaf cutter ants (who apparently work all day and night)
- Many lizards, including a Jesus Christ Lizard (up in a tree, not walking on water)
- And a stick bug (which our daughter spotted on our guides boot!)
Although our kids were a little afraid at first, they ended up loving our night jungle tour in Drake Bay. They absolutely loved the cute little frogs and the challenge of spotting new jungle critters at night. Don’t even think about venturing into the jungle at night without an experienced guide. Not only will they help keep your entire family safe, they are experts at spotting exotic wildlife (which is very difficult without a guide).
2. Corcovado Jungle Tour with Kids
We were very excited for our first full day in Drake Bay as we were going to Corcovado National Park with kids! Corcovado is renowned as being one of the most biodiverse national parks on the planet and the best national park in Costa Rica for wildlife viewing. Our entire family loves seeing wildlife, so our day trip to Corcovado National Park was a big highlight of our family getaway to Costa Rica.
Boat Trip from Drake Bay to Corcovado National Park
It was a very early morning for our family Corcovado tour with breakfast at a nearby restaurant at 5:20 AM. After a hearty and filling breakfast, it was a short walk to the beach to catch our boat. We wore sports sandals as we knew the transfer to the boat would include walking in the waves.
We made a few stops along various beaches in Drake Bay to pick up other people taking a day trip to Corcovado National Park. It was a thrilling, high speed boat transfer from Drake Bay to Corcovado, with the dense tropical jungle of the national park an enticing sight just on shore. From pickup to drop off, our boat transfer to Corcovado National Park with kids took just under an hour.
As with the boarding, the disembarking off the boat was wet as well. We were happy to have our sports sandals on as it was low tide and the beach was very rocky. Those walking barefoot through the surf didn’t look like they were having much fun.
After navigating the beach, we were greeted by a team of Corcovado Park Rangers who were checking passports to ensure they matched the reservations for the day. We had provided our passports to Sukia Travel prior to arriving, so we didn’t need to produce ours, but people who visit Corcovado National Park on day trips needed to have their own park reservations and a passport to match (or at least a copy of their passport).
After the park reservations were verified, visitors to the national park then use a foot washing station. This was very handy to clean our sports sandals and feet before changing into our socks and hiking shoes. We then made a quick stop at el baño and then filled up our refillable water bottles at the potable water station. (Single use plastic bottles are forbidden in Corcovado National Park).
Family-friendly Guided Tour of Corcovado National Park
The wildlife sightings began quickly as our guide spotted a Collared Peccary wandering the beach in the distance. He set up his viewing scope for us to see (which he did very often throughout our guided tour of Corcovado with kids). While we were all looking at the Collared Peccary through the scope, our guide spotted a large hawk sitting on a rock nearby. What an exciting start to our visit to Corcovado National Park with kids!
Our capable tour guide led our family through the jungle trails of Corcovado National Park for over three hours. The exciting nature walk alternated between walking through the jungle, the beach, the river or even on side trails for a specific wildlife viewing opportunity.
Our family had an incredible wildlife viewing experience at Corcovado National Park. The action was non-stop, with just minutes between wildlife sightings.
Some of our favorite Corcovado wildlife sightings of the day were:
One of the things we wanted to see most while visiting Corcovado with kids was monkeys, as all four Costa Rican monkey species are found within the park. We saw three species of monkeys including howler monkeys, spider monkeys and white-faced capuchin monkeys (like Marcel from Friends). There were multiple monkey sightings throughout our tour, including a thrilling one where the capuchin monkeys were directly overhead!
Our guide led us to a sleeping mother tapir and her baby. These enormous animals are like a cross between a pig and an elephant. We all had to be super quiet as to not wake these massive animals.
We saw several toucans throughout our Corcovado nature walk. Many of the toucan sightings were so close that we could easily see the large, colorful beaks on these magnificent tropical birds.
One of our favorite Corcovado wildlife sightings of the day was an anteater. None of us had ever seen an anteater before and we had a thrilling encounter with an active one in a nearby tree.
While taking a break near the Rio Sirena, we saw a feeding bull shark jump out of the water!
Near the end of our visit to Corcovado National Park with kids, we were starting to get dejected as we hadn’t seen a three-toed sloth yet. Sure enough, moments later our guide spotted a three-toed sloth feeding in a nearby tree!
Even More Corcovado National Park Wildlife Sightings
In addition to the Corcovado wildlife viewing highlights above, we saw countless other species on our guided tour, including:
- A juvenile Jesus Christ Lizard (they can run 35 km/h across the water!)
- Hermit crabs in beach
- Pale-billed Woodpecker
- Chestnut backed antbird
- Rose eyed Hawk
- Crested guan
- Belted kingfisher
- Countless tropical bird species related to the Resplendent Quetzal (the national bird of Costa Rica). Sadly, the Resplendent Quetzal eluded us.
- Two Crested Owls perched side-by-side on a tree branch
- Night Hawk
- A few vertebrae bones from a Humpback Whale which had been recently attacked and killed by sharks in the water offshore.
- A Great Tinamou bird (kind of like a Guinea fowl)
- A very rare Putu (stick bird)
Tips for visiting Corcovado National Park with Kids:
- It gets incredibly humid in the dense jungles of Central America. Bring as much water as you can in refillable water bottles (again – plastic bottles are banned). You can refill your bottles at the station near where the boats land.
- There is no outside food allowed in the national park. Snacks are available for purchase at the Corcovado ranger station at the end of your tour.
- Wear sports sandals for the getting on and off the boats and hiking shoes with socks for the nature walks throughout Corcovado. Bring an extra day bag to store your extra set of footwear.
- Mobile phone pictures of Corcovado wildlife are very hard to get. The animals are often far away, moving and/or hidden behind leaves and branches. If at all possible, bring a proper camera with a zoom lens.
3. Cano Island Snorkeling Tour
After spending our first 36 hours in Drake Bay admiring the best land-based wildlife in Costa Rica, we changed gears to see the life underwater. For our second full day in Drake Bay with kids, we joined a snorkeling tour to Cano Island, a Biological Reserve not far off the Osa Peninsula coastline.
Our day began with yet another wet boat boarding, walking through the surf to get onto the boat. After a quick safety briefing, we were on our way towards Cano Island for our snorkeling day tour.
Boat Ride from Drake Bay to Cano Island
The boat ride from Drake Bay to Cano Island took approximately 45 minutes – our kids loved the thrill of the fast boat ride across the bay. Upon arrival, our guides took another few minutes to explain the rules for snorkeling at Cano Bay. In a nutshell – lifejackets are mandatory (included in the snorkeling tour) and touching any coral, turtles etc. will get you immediately banned from the water for the duration of the snorkeling trip.
Our 7 year old son had never been snorkeling before and got very nervous when it came time to actually get in the water. Our tour guides were understanding and agreed to drop him and Mom off on the nearby beach while the rest of us went for the first round of snorkeling just offshore Cano Island.
Snorkeling Cano Island
The water off the coast of Cano Island is surprisingly clear for the Pacific Ocean – it’s no Caribbean by any stretch, but there are large areas of water which offer really good visibility.
The ocean floor around Cano Island has large areas of rocks, which attracts many colorful species of fish. During our first snorkeling session of the day, we followed our guide around these underwater rock formations. We saw many beautiful tropical fish of many shapes and sizes.
After 45 minutes of snorkeling, we got on the boat and went ashore to a beautiful beach on Cano Island. We got to rest up, and enjoy the tropical vibes of the beach for about 30 minutes. The many kids on this family-friendly snorkeling tour got to know each other playing in the surf.
Given our son practiced his snorkeling safely off the beach, and upon hearing glowing reviews from his older sister, our son mustered up the courage to go on the second round of Cano Island snorkeling. His timing was good as our underwater sightings were superior.
During our second 45-minute snorkeling around Cano Island, we saw several massive schools of fish, along with large amounts of individual tropical fish swimming through the rocky areas. The highlight of the day was seeing a very large sea turtle swim right underneath us – the kids were so excited (as were we!!).
Unfortunately, as the snorkelling session was nearing completion, our daughter got stung by a jellyfish and needed to leave the water immediately. Our tour guides gave her prompt medical attention and took extra good care of her. By the time our boat arrived at Playa Sanjosito for our final stop of the tour, she was already starting to feel better.
Playa Sanjosito Beach Stop
As a bonus, we stopped at Playa Sanjosito on our way back to Drake Bay from Cano Island. At Playa Sanjosito, our guides prepared us a snack of fresh tropical fruit, cookies and local beverages. It’s a beautiful beach (which Mel Gibson apparently once tried to buy), which the kids really enjoyed playing on.
Despite the unfortunate jellyfish incident, we were very happy with our snorkeling day trip to Cano Island. It was a successful introduction to snorkeling for our kids – we’ll need to get our daughter out again to show her that jellyfish incidents are really quite rare.
4. Mangrove Tour from Drake Bay to Sierpe
On our final day of our family tour to Corcovado National Park, we thought we’d get back to our rental car the fun way. Rather than simply take a fast water taxi from Drake Bay to Sierpe, we booked a 5-hour mangrove tour from Drake Bay to Sierpe instead.
The mangroves between Drake Bay and Sierpe are teeming with exotic wildlife and seeing them by boat is a fun and relaxing way of watching Costa Rican wildlife – a nice change of pace after a pretty active couple of days around Corcovado National Park.
After departing Drake Bay by boat for the very last time, our first stop on our kid-friendly mangrove tour was Islas Violincitas. These deserted islands are home to a large number of sea birds, including frigate birds (one of my favorite birds – they look kinda like pterodactyls!) and brown boobies. We were even lucky enough to spot some baby pelicans sitting in a tree near the water!
Sierpe River Mangroves
From the Islas Violincitas, we turned back and headed up the Sierpe River. This time, instead of rushing high speed all the way back to Sierpe, we took our time and explored the many small side channels looking for the Costa Rica wildlife which makes the Drake Bay area so special.
Our tour guide suggested that our mangrove tour would be excellent for wildlife viewing, and he was right – we saw tons of wildlife on our way back to Sierpe. It began modestly enough with many sightings of shoreline birds, such as blue herons, white ibis, white egrets, etc., but it didn’t take long for a more exciting animal encounter.
While exploring one of the mangroves through Isla Violin, we discovered a large group of squirrel monkeys. We were so excited to finally see squirrel monkeys as they were the only species of Costa Rica monkeys that we didn’t get to see while visiting Corcovado National Park.
We stayed and watched the small and incredibly cute squirrel monkeys for a long time. Our kids loved how playful the spider monkeys were – jumping from tree to tree, chasing each other, etc. It was great fun!
Other highlights of our Drake Bay to Sierpe mangrove tour with kids included:
- Seeing so many crocodiles, we lost count. Our favorite was a very young croc who slithered into the water as our boat neared the shore.
- Spotting a brilliant colored toucan feeding on a branch near the water
- Seeing many additional exotic tropical birds such as a red bellied trogon, two scarlet macaws, a very rare stick bird (our second in Drake Bay!), a purple Gallinule, an Amazon Kingfisher and a Black Crowned Night Heron.
- A boa constrictor sunbathing on a large branch near the shoreline of the mangrove.
- Several Jesus Christ Lizards – alas none of them ran across the water for us though
- It was a big thrill for our kids when we stopped to rescue some Corcovado park rangers whose boat got stuck on a sandbar.
- Several large iguanas and a flock of bats sleeping under a bridge.
- Two groups of white-faced capuchin monkeys, including one group that was very close to our boat.
We stopped for a potty break and refreshments in Sierpe about halfway through the mangrove tour. Our guide bought us coconut water inside freshly cracked coconuts. The kids loved when they cracked open the shell after so we could eat the fresh coconut flesh inside.
Conclusion Drake Bay Mangrove Tour
Overall, the Drake Bay to Sierpe mangrove tour was a huge success. It was way more exciting than the traditional way of simply taking a water taxi between the two. The amount and variety of Costa Rican wildlife we saw on our mangrove tour exceeded our expectations.
One note for parents who are considering the mangrove tour from Drake Bay to Sierpe: A 5 hour tour is a little long for kids to be stuck in a boat looking at wildlife. The monkeys and crocodiles are always a hit with the kids, but to be honest, the repetitive birds get a little boring for them. We totally recommend the mangrove tour with kids, but bring them some quiet entertainment like a book to keep them occupied while you enjoy the wonders of Costa Rica wildlife.
Staying in Drake Bay with Kids
Given it’s remote location along the Costa Rica Pacific Ocean coastline, Drake Bay is still a relatively small town, which is beginning to develop its tourist infrastructure. There are no chain hotels or restaurants to be found in Drake Bay, and the experience is so much better for it.
The majority of the accommodation in Drake Bay is in the form of vacation rentals, which is excellent for families. Vacation rentals are usually very family friendly with separate bedrooms, cooking facilities and sometimes even laundry.
Accommodations many vary, but Sukia Travel put us up in a very fun vacation rental a few minutes walk from town. The kids loved the hammock, while we loved that the main living spaces were outdoors (with ceiling fans), so we could see and hear the steady stream of macaw parrots flying overhead.
The bedrooms were indoors with air conditioning, giving us a comfortable place to escape to and have a pleasant nights sleep.
Eating with Kids in Drake Bay
Finding kid-friendly food is often a challenge when traveling with kids, especially when you visit a remote jungle destination such as Drake Bay, Costa Rica. The Sukia Travel family wildlife tour takes care of this problem by including every meal, with the exception of two dinners.
Breakfast was served at a charming restaurant near our Drake Bay accommodations. Our kids wolfed down their pancakes and fruit every morning, while we enjoyed the option of a traditional Costa Rica breakfast.
Although we didn’t stay at the Sukia Hostel, we enjoyed many of our lunches there. The food was typically a very large plate of traditional Costa Rican food, which was always delicious. It’s fair to say our kids didn’t clean their plates each meal, but there was always enough between the many different dishes to make sure the kids had a good meal. They typically enjoyed the meat and the fried plantains, along with some salad or rice.
There are plenty of family-friendly restaurants in Drake Bay for the evenings which you need to find your own food. You can find virtually anything your family desires at the restaurants along the beach or in town.
Sukia Travel Drake Bay Wildlife Tours for Families
We are so grateful that we discovered Sukia Travel’s 4-day wildlife tour to Drake Bay & Corcovado National Park. We thoroughly enjoyed the wide variety of nature experiences which were included in this kid-friendly nature tour and were absolutely thrilled with the amount of wildlife we saw, both in the tropical rainforest and in the Pacific Ocean.
If you are considering visiting Corcovado National Park with kids, we highly recommend the Sukia Travel family wildlife tour to Drake Bay. They take care of all the little details which make a family visit to the national park so difficult on your own. All you need to do is show up and have the family getaway of a lifetime!
Please note, that due to the complexities of getting park reservations, etc., we recommend you contact Sukia Travel as early as possible in your family vacation planning – a month or more is recommended.
If our post inspired you to visit Corcovado National Park with kids through Sukia Travel, please mention you read this on “Family Can Travel” to let them know we referred you.