Flying to Europe for a family of four or more can seriously set you back. Instead of waiting for the exchange rate against the pound or euro to skyrocket, how about skipping Europe altogether, in favor of another destination closer to home, with just as many exciting things to see and do. Latin America and Costa Rica specifically offer all you could want in a family vacation.
Parents.com lists the country as a top pick for its family-friendly vacations. The criteria included destinations considered safe and easy to get around in, with developed infrastructure to support tourism without being overly developed. Costa Rica fits most moderate vacation budgets, and it’s easy to find cheap flights.
The major airport serving this region, Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, has undergone major renovations that make Costa Rica’s Pacific coast more accessible. At this time, you can get a direct flight from Miami, New York, Houston, Dallas, Toronto, Atlanta, Newark, Charlotte, Chicago and Denver. If you live within driving distance of these airports, pack up the family and head on down.
What it Feels Like
What will bring you to Costa Rica and what will you take home? More than likely it was one of the following:
- To lie happily on pristine beaches or surf the righteous waves
- To hike up ancient volcanoes, then soak in geothermal springs
- To enjoy the natural environment with its many rare birds and monkeys
All this is in the Pacific northwestern corner of the country. The northwestern corner of Costa Rica packs in all this and more in one trip.
Pure life is a concept millions of people across the globe strive to achieve. In Costa Rica, Pura Vida, also means that life is good, expressed with a thumb’s up. Costa Ricans appreciate the beauty of their country and are friendly and helpful to tourists and to each other. This isn’t the case in every country that you could visit, some are exceptionally the opposite. This workaday, live and let live vibe sets Costa Rica apart as special.
Although some years are dryer than others here, everyone goes to the beach in hot summer days. Even the locals continue to appreciate the spectacular Pacific views. The sun is brightest along the northwest Pacific coastline, where the nation’s secrets lay hidden, including a pirate cove, a huge carless beach community with modern amenities, and everywhere sprawling blue-green ocean cloud-dotted azure skies.
These beaches and accompanying waves attract surfers from all over the world and yoga classes and individual yogis often dot the beaches at sunrise. The beaches are something the whole family can enjoy without resorting to cell phones and tablets for entertainment. In fact, why not boycott them for the entire vacation. You can bring a yoga mat or a book while the kids snorkel and learn to surf in Costa Rica’s crystal clear waters.
Costa Rica for Kids
This little country can be a family travel playground. Whether your three-year-old wants to see an iguana or your teenagers want to explore a jungle trail, there is truly something for everyone. If you can talk the less adventurous members of your family into it, you should try to go whitewater rafting or zip lining.
Costa Rica is world renowned for its whitewater rafting. There are a wide variety of trips that your family can choose from for rafting adventures. Packages will include single or multiple days. Both single day and multi-day excursions include a selection of difficulty levels. The rivers can vary from calm streams to river rapids with classified difficulty levels (Class 1 being mild and Class 5 containing treacherous risks). So, you get to decide between a float down a calm river to look for endangered species or to stare at the sky. You could also challenge each other face to face and see who will really do it.
Ex-pat surfers, mainly Americans, moved to Costa Rica’s beaches in the late 80’s and 90’s. Since then, the locals have picked up the love of the sport and great skills that go with it. This is the perfect place to enjoy surfing for the first time as a family with instructor-led lessons. Our surf camps in Costa Rica are designed to be family friendly and are appropriate for both beginning and experienced surfers.
As well as booking trips for just one activity, you can bundle trips by combining. In the national forests, there are options to zip line, ride horses along the beach and other activities that can be mixed and matched to suit your family. The important thing with any packages will be planning ahead to ensure availability on your travel dates, just contact our team and we can make all the arrangements for you.
Costa Rica is also a fantastic nature experience for families. If you don’t consider yourself a nature enthusiast, you should consider employing a guide to tell you where to go and what to see. You have to look closely into the greenery to see these camouflaged natives:
- Poison Dart Frogs
- American Crocodile
- Golden Orb Weavers
- Howler monkeys
- Black (often called garrobos) and green iguanas
- Mot mot (a colorful bird with a fun name)
You, your kids and virtually anyone can sign up to zip across the canopy of Costa Rica’s beautiful jungles. This is not a stressful activity. You are placed in a secure harness and then attached to a thick cable. Your family will fly through the canopies high above the ground and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the natural surroundings. Plan to spend more than 3-5 hours on this excursion. They zip line come rain or shine all year long, and the tour is led by bilingual guides.
Day Trips to Tenorio or Rincon de la Volcano
Costa Rica’s most spectacular sites are the national parks, including the one holding the Tenorio Volcano. Tenorio Volcano National Park is one place you really should spend some time getting to know. It’s blue lagoon will have you and your kids mesmerized by its natural beauty.
Within Tenorio, the star attraction is the Rio Celeste. The river has luminous blue waters as a combination of a chemical reaction of copper sulfate, sulfur and silica. A magical place, it has a number of lagoons and waterfalls you can see if you hike along the rivers.
As a side trip, visit Rincon de la Vieja to the north which is surrounded by tropical dry forest, with miles of unspoiled wilderness for hikers and horseback riders. Meanwhile, geysers and thermal mud pools will be found along trails. The place is teeming with wildlife, such as hummingbirds, howler monkeys, tapirs and pumas.
This is one of the places that make Costa Rica an easy win with kids.
Seek Professional (Travel) Help
These days, Costa Rica has become very popular, and it has the infrastructure to support the expected tourism. Nonetheless, you should make sure you have a guide to help you wiggle your way through the complexities built into the system. Our team is knowledgeable on how to get around Costa Rica and will put together a kid-friendly itinerary that includes downtime and freedom for older children to explore.
Costa Rican Food and Water
The water in Costa Rica is clean and safe to drink.
Here are two foods you’ll want to try when you’re ehre”
- Cas Fruit. Costa Rica has many foods that are unique to the country and that you can’t really get anywhere else. You can stop at pretty much any restaurant or road side stand to get these as smoothies and shakes. One of the most popular Costa Rican juices is without question the small, acidic sour fruit called cas. Ticos will most often eat the fruit with salt, but if you want it sweet, try it in a juice.
- Casado. This is a Costa Rican signature dish, well more like an entire carb-loaded meal. It includes white rice, beans, plantains, picadillo, salad paired with a meat (chicken, fish, pork or beef). You can get casado almost anywhere. It’s generally a lunchtime meal.
Common Saying Spanish to English
In Costa Rica, many locals will speak some English, but it couldn’t hurt to learn a little Spanish to get around. Here are a few phrases to get you started.
¿Dónde está…?= Where is…? Useful when asking for directions or where something is (¿Dónde está el baño? Where is the bathroom?)
¿Cuanto cuesta? = How much does it cost?
¿De donde eres? = Where are you from? Los Estados Unidos is the United States; Canadá is Canada. Remember that America is used to describe North, Central, and South America.
¿Habla Inglés?= Do you speak English? Some Ticos might reply un poco (a little).
Your whole family will love Costa Rica, with its gorgeous water, mountains and sheer volume of things to do once you get there.
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