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Esterillos Este: a Costa Rican Vacation with Kids

Thinking of vacationing in Costa Rica with kids? Consider Esterillos Este. When we decided to plan a trip to Costa Rica with our 3 children, all our research led to this wonderful destination. It is a small (very small) beach town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the Puntarenas province.  To the north is Jaco and Playa Hermosa. To the south is Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park.

Looking for shells on Playa Esterillos Este
Looking for shells on Esterillos Este

There were some specific criteria we were considering when choosing a Costa Rican destination for kids. Walking distance to the beach was very important. We were looking for a quiet place that wasn’t too touristy, but also one that had different options for food. We also needed to be close enough to the airport so that my kids wouldn’t be too exhausted when we got there. My impression of Costa Rica was that there are some fantastic locations to visit, but many of them took a very long time to get to. Esterillos Este was ideal in that it is only a 2 hour drive from the airport.

Shooting some pool at the Hotel Pelicano in Esterillos EsteRestaurant at the Hotel Pelicano in Esterillos Este

We rented a small house on the property of the Hotel Pelicano. It was really fantastic and had everything we needed. It had a semi-private pool and was also steps to the beach. There was a bar and restaurant on the premises, so it was always easy to obtain a meal. The hotel included a breakfast each morning, which was delicious – fresh fruit, eggs, and gallo pinto, which is the traditional Costa Rican preparation of rice and beans.

Private pool at the Hotel Pelicano
Private Pool, Hotel Pelicano
Pico Gallo for breakfast in Esterillos Este
Pico Gallo for breakfast

There were plenty of other options for dining. The Alma Del Pacifico was a short 5 minute walk away and this was a great place for a sit down dinner (a little more fancy than the hotel restaurant.) Beautiful grounds. Another small resort with a restaurant, Encantada, was right next door. The town center was also a short drive away. This had a handful of restaurants as well as a market with basics such as food, booze, sunscreen, etc. Further up the road was a small town called Parrita, which had some local stores and restaurants. A good place to explore if you want to get away from the touristy stuff and just see what it’s like to live in Costa Rica.

There were many activities for the kids. Surfing lessons with Alfredo. He sets up on the beach right in front of Encantada. The waves were outstanding, and my 8 and 11 year olds really enjoyed it. We also spent an amazing afternoon zip-lining at a place called, The Park at Ocean Ranch. We had originally planned to go to Manuel Antonio Park, but we never made it there. My kids were not motivated to get in the car and make the one hour drive. We did drive to Jaco for an afternoon. It has a bustling main street with lots of shops and food; a good place to buy souvenirs.

For a week’s vacation there is plenty to do, or plenty not to do if you just want to relax and enjoy the wide, empty beaches! And I do mean empty. You can walk and walk and barely see a soul, except for maybe a few clusters of people around the resort, and also the occasional group on horseback. The weather was perfect. We traveled in March and it was sunny and warm every single day. The best time to travel is mid-November to December, as it’s the end of the rainy season. Someday I would like to go back and explore more areas of Costa Rica, but for now we are happy to return to Esterillos Este.

Another amazing Esterillos Este sunset
Another amazing Esterillos Este sunset