Rappelling on the Original Canopy Tour
We heard that Costa Rica was an amazing place to travel, but somehow it still surprised us with just how good it was as a family destination. In fact, we were so pleased, we couldn’t help but put together a list of out top ten reasons why traveling with kids in Costa Rica is an excellent idea!
1. Amazing Accommodations, Reasonably Priced: As a family we’re all about finding cool, independently owned hotels on a budget – that’s what we do as the founders of Darn Good Digs. We learned Costa Rica is hard to beat in terms of the quantity of small little amazing digs at prices we could afford. For between $50 and $120 we stayed at art-filled bed and breakfasts, garden-surrounded cabins, and ocean-view bungalows, and kids were welcome everywhere, unlike many bed and breakfasts in the States.
2. Swimming Pools: Somehow on our previous vacations, we had missed the boat on this one, but now we’re wiser. Swimming pools were the answer for how to entertain our kid when we came back exhausted from the day’s activities. Whether hiking, surfing, or sightseeing, we could return home mid-afternoon to swim and relax for a couple hours before dinner. Or, we’d go for a dip before breakfast. Or maybe after dinner. The possibilities were endless!
3. Plenty of Nature Packed in a Small Area: We were stunned by how quickly we could go from cloud forest to volcano to sandy beach to dry forest. Take hiking in Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Here you can literally hike from rainforest to dry desert within a few meters, with steaming volcanic vents along the way. Then get in a car and be at the beach in under an hour and a half!
4. Didn’t Get Sick: Before we had our son we’d been to the South American Andes and South Asia and we know how to appreciate amazing places, even after being laid out with a stomach bug for 48 hours. This is an experience we would not wish on our worst enemy, let alone our little boy. So we were thrilled that no one got sick in Costa Rica. Maybe we would have been fine either way, but we did stick to bottled water and milk-based fruit shakes.
5. Felt Safe: We had heard about tire slashing robbers and mustard-squirting pickpockets, but we never experienced anything of the sort. Granted, we took the recommended precautions, such as never leaving anything in our car and holding tightly to our bags in San Jose. Those just seemed like common sense ideas for travel pretty much anywhere.
6. Kid-Friendly Adult Activities: We want everyone to be happy on vacation, not just our kid, and Costa Rica did not disappoint anyone. Beaches – we’re all good. Volcanoes, yep again. How about river safaris or ziplining? Perfect. On some of the longer rainforest hikes, we did have to get a little creative to keep Benjamin enthusiastic – making up scavenger hunts with us looking for coati, howler monkeys, and loads of colorful birds. And, if anyone finds the elusive resplendent quetzal, ice cream sundaes for everyone!
The Orchid Garden in Santa Elena.
7. Green Season: Our summer is Costa Rica’s “Green”, aka rainy, season. At first we figured, do we really want to spend our vacation waiting for the downpours to end? As it turned out, it barely rained during our 19 days in Costa Rica. And when it did rain, it was usually in the evenings after we had settled in. Some people told us it was El Niño; others said La Niña. We’re not sure what the deal was, and maybe it was an anomaly, but the weather was pretty much perfect. To top it off, we got to take advantage of appealing Green Season discounts all along the way.
8. Casado: How many times can someone eat the same dish? Allison took to Arroz con Pollo with a vengeance, and I couldn’t get enough of my daily casado de pollo – with plantains, rice, chicken, and green salad. Benjamin survived on breakfast (his favorite meal) plus fruit shakes, french fries, and pizza. He’s a picky eater, so it wasn’t all that different from back home! And, we splurged a few nights in places like Gingerbread, near Nuevo Arenal, where the food and service were phenomenal – rivaling many a New York City hip restaurant for half the price and no wait.
Building sand castles in Playa Carillo, near Samara.
9. Non-Stop Flights, Two Airports: Granted we live in New York, so we have the benefit of flights to pretty much anywhere in the world right outside our doorstep. Still, we definitely appreciated the five hour, relatively affordable (under US$500) non-stop flight into San Jose airport and out of Liberia. Easy-peasy.
10. The Roads (w/ 4WD): For everything we read about how awful the roads were, maybe we just had low expectations. We drove around Costa Rica thinking the roads were no problemo. Where the roads were paved – main drags like the Pan American highway – we found the pavement in good shape . Where they were a dirt mess, like the roads around Monteverde or on the Nicoya Peninsula, our 4WD handled everything just fine (including fording a shallow river). Our main recommendation, though? Stick to driving during the day.
All in all, we had a fabulous vacation. And we’d do it again in heartbeat. Here’s our 19 day itinerary, including the Darn Good Digs where we stayed. And below, let us know if you’ve ever traveled with kids to Costa Rica.