10 amazing experiences for families in Costa Rica
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If your family has been looking for a sanctuary to travel during COVID, look no further than Costa Rica. Social distancing is easy when you stay at an upscale ecolodge in the Cloud Forest. Even the curious wildlife keeps a distance of six feet.
Living in Costa Rica is a hands-on activity. Zipline, take a horseback ride through rainforests, and take family selfies with an active volcano, but put down your binoculars because wildlife will certainly be in sight. When planning your family’s vacation to Costa Rica, don’t leave any of these amazing experiences behind.
1. Become a Sabanero
Unknown to many, Costa Rica has a rich cowboy culture. Head to Guanacaste and La Fortuna in the north to be fully immersed in this culture and surrounded by cowboys and cowgirls, otherwise known as Sabaneros, Take the family to a cattle ranch for the day and learn about Sabanero’s life, learning ancient farming techniques and how to make sugar, as well as cooking a traditional meal.
All over Costa Rica you will find cattle ranches and natural lodges offering horseback riding tours through rainforests, beaches, waterfalls and hidden lakes. This is the opportunity to approach hidden creatures and reptiles.
2. Learn to surf
The Pacific coast is full of spectacular surfing areas. The majority of them are in Guanacaste, in the northwestern part of Costa Rica. Dominical Beach near Manuel Antonio National Park and the Nicoya Peninsula to the north are home to large surf communities and are known to have some of the best surf schools in the world taught by locals. Whether you have no experience or consider yourself an experienced surfer, there is a school for all levels and ages.
There are also excellent surf spots in the central and southern areas, as well as on the Caribbean coast. One of the most visited beaches by surfers is Puerto Viejo, due to its huge tubes and world-class waves like Salsa Brava. Only experienced surfers should try this spot.
3. Explore the canals of Tortuguero
Located in the northern Caribbean, the Tortuguero Canals are one of Costa Rica’s most iconic tourist spots. Far from the city and made up of a vast network of rivers and winding streams, access is only possible by small boats. Explore the canals with your family for a half or a full day. Boats allow you to weave through the deeper parts of the rainforest and get up close to amazing wildlife. Tours are organized by locals. They know where to look and can spot wildlife easily, so they’ll make sure you leave after seeing something amazing.
Take an afternoon to visit the small communities around the protected area, such as Barra del Tortuguero and San Francisco. You will find souvenir shops and quaint, family-run bars. Life here is heavily influenced by Caribbean culture, which is very different from the rest of Costa Rica. This is where you can enjoy amazing Caribbean flavors, like spicy jerk chicken and coconut infused fish dishes.
4. Visit an active volcano
Costa Rica is home to 200 volcanoes, six of which are classified as active.
Poás is one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the country, followed by the Irazú volcano. In one of the dormant craters of Poás is Laguna Botos, which can be seen as the cloudy part, especially earlier in the day. The best time of year to visit Poás is during the green season, which runs from May to November. Meanwhile, it’s easy to get a clear view of the active Poás crater. Nearby, visitors can explore La Paz Waterfall and the local coffee plantations.
The Irazú Volcano, a short drive from Costa Rica’s capital, San José, is located in Irazú National Park. It is the highest volcano in the country, reaching 3,432 meters high, and also one of the most popular in Costa Rica due to its breathtaking panoramic views.
Arenal is the most famous active volcano in the country. Located in a beautiful eponymous natural park, visitors can hike the area and have stunning views of the volcano, or head just outside the park for canopy and zipline activities. Another attraction in this region is Lake Arenal, Costa Rica’s largest lake, with an area that covers almost 33 square miles (85 square km) and a depth that reaches around 200 feet (60 meters).
5. Take an aerial view of Costa Rica
The best way to see Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes and biodiversity is from above. Ziplining, canopy walks, and hanging bridge tours are the most popular aerial activities.
Fly through the clouds on a zipline in the Monteverde Cloud Forest or around Arenal National Park. Arenal National Park is a popular place to visit in Costa Rica due to its spectacular views of the active Arenal Volcano.
Those looking for more adrenaline rush can take the so-called “one minute challenge”. Located in the Central Valley, the one-minute zipline stretches nearly a mile with its highest point at 328 feet (100 meters). The ziplines here are capable of reaching speeds of up to 55 mph (90 km / h)!
6. Discover the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
This breathtaking biological reserve is famous for its cloud forests. Clouds are produced by humidity and haze is found at an elevation of 1,600 meters above sea level. Humidity creates a thriving ecosystem below, which is home to 2,500 species of plants and 1 500 animal species. It is one of the most diverse and richest tropical cloud forests and is home to both the resplendent quetzal and the rare bell bird.
Live a unique experience by land or air. On land, your family will have the choice between hiking or horseback riding to get closer to the biodiversity living under the clouds. Visitors can also visit the butterfly and bird houses. By plane, kids and adults can soar through the clouds on ziplines set at varying heights or experience what lives in the tallest trees on a canopy tour.
The entrance fee to the park is US $ 12 for students and children aged 6 to 12, and US $ 25 for adults.
7. Face the rapids
The rivers of Costa Rica offer rafting and tubing adventures throughout the year. Rapids enthusiasts will want to visit from mid-May to the end of March, which is considered an optimal rafting season. Riding the rapids is one of Costa Rica’s most exciting and unforgettable experiences. Beginners and experts alike have many choices, ranging from gentle Class I rapids to class VI extremes.
Located on the Caribbean side, the Río Pacuare (class III-IV) is considered one of the best rafting rivers in the world. The Rio Sarapiqui (Class II – III) is the longest river in the country and is best explored on a two-day trip. It offers excellent rafting and a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The track is suitable for experienced rafters and new to whitewater.
Rio Reventazón has two sections. While the Tucurrique section (class III) is quite easy for beginners, the Pascua section (class IV-V) is very wild and requires previous rafting experience.
8. Watch the turtles hatch
Green turtles, hawksbill turtles and leatherback turtles nest on the beaches of Tortuguero, located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. It is possible to see individual turtles at any time of the year. The nesting season, however, only takes place during specific months. The nesting season for green and hawksbill sea turtles runs from July to October, with a peak in August. Leatherback turtles nest from February to April.
The nesting experience is truly a magical chance for families to observe nature in progress. At night, children sit quietly on their parents’ knees on the black sand, watching the female turtles approach and begin to create their nests. All the ecolodges in the region offer tours organized by the locals to generate income for the city. To avoid overcrowding and not disturb the turtles, only a small number of tourists can go there each night.
9. Travel guilt-free
As one of the leading countries in sustainability, Costa Rica is proud of its ecotourism initiatives. Many hotels and accommodations across the country are approved by CST, a sustainable tourism certification awarded by the Costa Rica Tourism Board.
Staying in an ecolodge allows you to immerse yourself in nature while having the comforts of home. There are many ecolodges across the country offering a range of accommodation, from luxury tree-top suites to intimate settings. Most ecolodges are based in and around national parks.
Ecolodges are designed to offer all the luxuries one could possibly need without harming nature. The bedrooms are well appointed with all the amenities you would expect from 5 star accommodation, such as comfortable beds, wardrobes and outdoor showers. As you walk through your bedroom door, you will encounter curious monkeys, birds, iguanas, butterflies, and other exciting wildlife.
The price of a night in an ecolodge varies depending on what you are looking for as a family. Treehouse or luxury accommodation? You choose!
10. Watch out for lazy people
Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that has both two-toed and three-toed sloths. They live in trees all over Costa Rica. You just have to look up and take a close look. They tend to blend in with branches and hang out high on taller trees. Manuel Antonio National Park never disappoints when it comes to finding a cheeky sloth.
Fearless fun for families
An unforgettable family adventure taking you to all the highlights of Costa Rica.
Classic Costa Rica 13 days from £ 3,885 per person including flights, transfers, accommodation and excursions.