Costa Rica

 

Spring Break Getaway – 11 Days/10 nights 

Upclose and personal: “Why did we like Costa Rica?”

Yana: “Seeing the all the amazing animals in their natural environment”

Chris: “Animals and the surrounding scenery”

Zach: “An action packed adventure”

Maya: “A lot of animals”

Ady:  “Seeing the sloths”

 

And also because ….

Costa Rica is home to 500,000 species, accounting for 4% of the world’s biodiversity. In a country the size of West Virginia, this gives you a pretty high probability of wild life encounters.

Zip lining – a right of passage when visiting Costa Rica.  I may have been an only person who missed on that experience. Even our then 6 year old did it.  There are numerous companies that offer zip lining, no matter where you are staying.

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Night crawlers tours – we enjoyed this tour, booked through Arenal Observatory Lodge, hiking up the Arenal Volcano and coming back when the dusk sat in. We also saw these tours being offered in Manuel Antonio.

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Waterfalls, Nature hikes and Suspension bridges

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Chocolate tours – we did a tour with Rainforest Chocolate Tour in La Fortuna

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Horse riding 

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Swimming and water sports

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Hot Springs in La Fortuna

Baldi Hot Springs with 25 thermal water pools with different temperatures, and one especially designated for toddlers and younger kids, would definitely be my choice.  You need to buy a daily pass to enjoy the springs.  I heard that it can get crowded on the week-ends and over the holidays, so I guess, plan your visit around week-days.

Our itinerary

There are two major international airports, one in Liberia and one in San Jose.  Which airport to fly into depends on your travel itinerary and your preferred airline choice.  We flew into Liberia Int’l Aiport (LIR) and out of San Jose (SJO)  to cut down on travel time.

Rented a car with National and drove for about three hours to our first destination, Arenal. The distance is roughly 84 miles, the road is windy, one lane, the drive is pretty easy and scenic, but plan on arriving to Arenal before dark. If your flight lands later, it is best to arrange for a driver or spend a night in Liberia.

Arenal Volcano/La Fortuna

Hotels

Arenal Observatory Lodge is a wonderful choice for families.  We stayed at the White Hawk Villa, with a full kitchen, a full dining and living room on the main floor and two bedrooms a floor bellow.  The house can sleep up to 8 people.  It is a short drive away from the main building and the restaurant, but we enjoyed our stay there.  You need a car for AOL, it’s about 10-15 minutes ride on dirt road once you get off the main road to get to the lodge.  The onsite restaurant is ok, but expensive and unless you have a car, it is the only place to eat. Bring a flashlight for walking around at nights. Free wifi, but seemed to get really slow at night.

Lost Iguana Resort another good family option with Villas Junior Suites that each have 2 bedrooms.

Tabacon Hot Springs a luxury resort, with hot springs on-site.  There are adjoining rooms as an option for larger families.   Guests receive complementary passes to the hot springs, but you can also buy a day pass to enjoy the thermal experience if you are not staying on the property.

La Fortuna, is the main town.  The first time I drove in, I almost drove right through without even realizing I was actually in a center of La Fortuna.  There isn’t really that much to town itself, except a few restaurants, pharmacy, a supermarket and a plethora of tour companies.

We spent 3 days in the Arenal Area and thought it was sufficient to do most of the activities that we were interested in: Horse riding to La Fortuna Waterfall,  Trail Hikes, Chocolate Tour, Zip Lining, Hot Springs, Night Crawler/Arenal Volcano Hike.

Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio National Park and the town of Quepos are located on the Central Pacific Coast.  In addition to the above listed activities, you have a choice of beaches and water sports to keep busy.

Manuel Antonio National Park

There are three beaches inside the park, which takes about 30 minutes hike through the rainforest.  You can go by yourself, or with a guide (recommended) as the park boasts with wildlife – monkeys, sloths, birds, insects and it helps to have someone point them out to an untrained eye, and explain the amazing flaura and fauna facts.

You need to bring your own towels and watch your stuff as monkeys do run up to the beach and can steal your food.

Parking is very sparse by the park entrance and most visitors take either public or Hotel shuttles.

Line to get into park can get long, so keep that in mind and arrive early to avoid crowds.

Quepos

Small town, nothing really special or memorable. It’s a pathway to Manuel Antonio National Park.

Hotels

Gaia Boutique Hotel is impeccable.  We stayed in the family unit, which is a two-level  suit.  Upper floor with a queen size bed, and a queen pull out couch on the first level with a roll away cot.  It was definitely tight quarters for the five of us, particularly after enjoying the whole villa in Arenal, but having a pool right outside our door (there is also an adult-only pool in a different part of the property) and Gaia’s staff hospitality really made up for any inconveniences. Gaia is also a home to Macaw reserve and we have enjoyed seeing the birds when we came and left the property.

The Falls Resort a three star hotel, gets great reviews on TA and is very popular with the families

Si Como No  is a great option with the kids, and without.  They have a family pool with a slide and an adult pool.  The hotel is walking distance to restaurants and bars.  There is a butterfly garden and crocodile pond across the street.  They do not have TVs in the rooms, which was a essentially a deal breaker for our family.

There are also a variety of private lodging options that are worth investigating.