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Going to Costa Rica

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Places to Go > Going to Costa Rica



2011 - 2012 Reviews


Costa Rica over Thanksgiving

July 2012

Our family, including 12 and 8 year-old boys, is thinking of a week-long trip to Costa Rica. We want the kids to see a different culture and think they would be more excited to see volcanos and monkeys than museums. Is November a good time to go (i.e. warm enough to be in the water but not too rainy)? What are the not-to-miss places? Any recommendations of mid-priced places to stay? Excited to Travel


If your trip includes Drakes Bay (southern end of CR) make sure to take the night tour with the Bug Lady! The boys will love it--it's interesting, educational, and scary! http://www.thenighttour.com/drake_bay_costa_rica__the_night_tour_bug_lady.htm anon

Costa Rica with 6 and 8 year olds

March 2011

We are planning to travel to Costa Rica in early May for 9 days as a family (son is 8, daughter is 6) and would like some advice on family friendly areas to visit, tours, hotels, activities, places to avoid, etc. Any advice is appreciated! Thanks!


We have traveled twice to Costa Rica; once as a couple and on a budget, the second time with our then 4 year old son. Everyone has different goals and budget for traveling, but here are the tips we have. Costa Rica is a fabulous place to bring children-easy, and filled with exotic plants and animals. Don't stay in San Jose. It is a big city that is difficult to navigate, and it doesn't have many sights. Our first trip w/o child, we enjoyed Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast. It's a national park with beautiful small beaches and capuchin monkeys in the trees. We did an overnight hike into the rain forest at Hacienda Baru, and our son still talks about it (four years later). My husband and I really enjoyed the vibe and food of Puerto Viejo south of Cahuita on the Caribbean coast. Travel by car is easy - the speed limit is extremely slow (like a grandmother), and you can cross the country in eight hours, so everything is fairly accessible. These are some inexpensive and low key options, but there are loads of resorts and guided tours available. Have a great trip.

Costa Rica Driver and Guide

Feb 2011

I am planning a first trip to Costa Rica with a friend. Does anyone have a driver/guide and/or a tour company to recommend. Thanks, Patty


My parents and cousins were in Costa Rica last summer and had a wonderful guide and driver through ACTUAR, Marvin Espinoza. He spoke English, but was also willing to let them practice Spanish. The itinerary was planned around their interests. They also have more 'packaged' options.

As a bonus the company works with many local people, so your tourist $$ support local people rather than large companies, and they were able to see glimpses of Costa Rican life they never would have found on their own. The businesses they work with strive to use environmentally-responsible practices and are involved in conservation efforts as well. In addition to having a wonderful vacation, my family felt their tourist $$ were spent in ways that would benefit the place they were visiting.

Eva Arauz is the sales coordinator, and can be reached at eva@actuarcostarica.com. They had better luck reaching people by email rather than phone. www.actuarcostarica.com JB


Costa rica for spring break?

Jan 2011

we are 2 parents and 2 kids (3 & 8 yrs old) looking to travel to costa rica for spring break (end of april) and need some suggestions. we have 7-10 days and about a $5000 budget. we want to be able to sightsee as well as lounge and are open to traveling to different locations. is costa rica realistic given our time frame and ages of kids? it seems that because the country is small, one could see rainforests, beaches and volcanos without feeling rushed. is this true? any ideas for things to see, places to stay, cities to visit? does it make sense to use a travel agent or just shop online for flights, lodging, etc? i'd be particularly interested in hearing from parents who have traveled to costa rica with younger children in a short time period. this is our first *big* vacation with kids and i'm feeling a bit overwhelmed! needhelp


My best advice would be to use a company that specializes in travel in Costa Rica and ask them to put together a 7-10 day itinerary for your family of four that meets your budget. Using a firm with this kind of expertise, you'll design the trip of your dreams very quickly and much less stressfully. There's no reason to try to do this yourself on the internet! Check out a company like Rico Tours (google them). David
We just returned from Costa Rica with our four kids, (8-12)It was was terrific. We went with Backroads, (a Berkeley tour company) and they were wonderful. Our favorite place was a jungle lodge called Rafiki-- tent cabins, birds, a superfast waterslide, great chow, river rafting. The owner is extremely knowledgeable about the region, and took us on an amazing jungle hike, showing the kids ferns that can give you a tattoo, explaining about the local economy, pointing out vanilla beans, toucans and which plants you can eat. Backroads was fantastic! We got to focus on the animals, beach, and bond with our kids and other families, rather than stressing about passports, plane tickets and which national park to explore. Pura vida! Suzanne
I think Costa Rica would be a great first international trip with kids. I will caution that my husband and I went there before our daughter was born, so we haven't been there with kids yet, but I definitely thought at the time that it would be a great trip for kids. While we also went to other, less-developed parts of the country, I would really recommend going to the Arenal and Monteverde areas. We stayed at the Arenal Observatory Lodge (http://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com), and we saw a lot of families with pretty young kids. It has a dining hall, which makes feeding the kids easy, and it offers or will arrange all sorts of activities for you (guided nature walks, hiking, hot springs, horseback riding). Monteverde is not far away and it is a great place to see the rainforest and see wildlife, and I am sure kids would enjoy the outdoor zoo atmosphere. We also found it very affordable--we rented a place in Monteverde that slept four for $40 a night. It was not the fanciest, but if you can pay even a bit more than that you can stay in some very comfortable places. As Arenal and Monteverde are so close together, we were able to see a lot 4-5 days. As I said, these are pretty well-traveled, touristed areas, which has its advantages and disadvantages but which I think generally makes it easier with kids. Good luck! have a great trip

2009 - 2010 Reviews


Costa Rica while pregnant?

Aug 2010

Has anyone been to Costa Rica, rented a car to get around, and stayed in small, quaint places along the way? We're flying into San Jose and thinking of going to Arenal Volcano and then Quepos/Manuel Antonio State Park for a jungle/beach experience. Ideally, we hope to have some mild outdoor adventures (e.g., hiking and snorkeling, but no zip lines for me - I'll be 6 mos pregnant when we go) and plenty of R&R. We prefer small inns, cute B&B's, and cabanas with a kitchen rather than busy resorts and big hotels. Somewhat rustic accommodations are ok, as long as there is some charm. Also hoping to keep things on the inexpensive side. Looking for recommendations, especially places to stay! Dreaming of a relaxing beach vacation


My family and I (10 adults and our little boy who was 18 months at the time) visited Costa Rica in Dec/Jan of 2009 and had a fabulous time. We stayed in what we considered to be 'off-the-beaten-path' places and loved them all for different reasons. Here's where we stayed - check them out on Trip Advisor too!

* Pura Vida - http://www.puravidahotel.com/ Outside of San Jose, this was our base when we arrived for a few days as we explored coffee farms and rain forests.

* Villa Blanca - http://www.villablanca-costarica.com/ This place was truly magical and amazing. We did zip-line here, but not necessary. Most of our family did not. Lots of hikes and beautiful terrain.

* Horizon - http://www.horizon-yogahotel.com/ This was where we stayed the longest (on the beach in Santa Teresa) and honestly, I didn't want to leave. The owners are so incredible and the place is unforgettable.

* Finca Los Caballos - http://www.naturelodge.net/ This was our last stop (in Montezuma) which was also quite lovely.

Good luck! scoles


We loved the Hotel Costa Verde just outside Manuel Antonio. Very nice, and close to the park. I have also stayed at the Hotel VelaBar there which was more rustic, but still fine. If you are going to Monteverde at all, Cabanas Los Pinos are cute cabins with kitchens and very nice owners. We splurged for the fancy resort at Arenal, and it was very nice, but know that you can also get a day pass to the hot springs there without staying at the resort. Have fun and Pura Vida!

Beach in Costa Rica - Traveling out of Liberia

June 2010

We will be traveling to Costa Rica in August. We are looking for a beach place to stay with kids. We fly out of Liberia so ideally the place would be near Liberia. Looking for an eco-friendly spot. Thanks!


We love Costa Rica and took our 15 month old for the first time in December. We usually stay at Las Olas in Playa Avellanas. It's a beautiful no fuss type of place with friendly staff and lots of monkeys in the trees. Avellanas is about 20 min. (depending on roads) south of Tamarindo. We found on this trip that it was a little rough with a toddler to be without a/c even though it wasn't particularly hot for Costa Rica while we were there. We ended up moving to Mauna Loa across the road and with the a/c and two pools, one adult, one baby, onsite Italian restaurant it was low key (nothing fancy) but it made for a comfortable, affordable, and peaceful stay. We could walk to the beach. You can spend the day lounging in front of the surf at Lola's or go to Hacienda Pinilla's beach club, it's open to the public, and they have a nice pool, two restaurants and beach access so it's a relaxing spot. There are larger fancier places around but I wouldn't call them eco-friendly. Don't miss the Peruvian restaurant and the french bakery in Playa Negra just down the road. Have a great time! ali

2007 - 2008 Reviews


Costa Rica with Curious 1.5 yo

June 2008

We just bought tickets to Costa Rica and the anxiety and excitement is kicking in. We are wondering about baby gear and if there are places we can rent items like car seats, stroller, playpen, etc. Better yet, does anyone have a recommendation of a place that caters to toddlers? We are definitely looking to stay near the beach, no preference of which coast at this point. Both my husband and I are accustomed to backpacking so this is a new challenge for us to balance out the actual needs of a toddler versus the luxuries and conveniences of American lifestyle. Thanks!


We have been to Costa Rica with our son when he was 1.5 yo. We had a good time but we couldn't do a lot of cool stuff because it was not appropriate for a child. The beaches are just fine; a good place to relax but not great. Mother
We went to CR with our four year old. We also were backpacking travelers before our child. Don't count on renting a car seat. Sometimes airlines will give you a bag for your carseat but you can also bring a big plastic bag and check it. The piece of mind is worth it. If you have time and plan on moving about, car rental is cheap. Navigating is hard in CR, but drivers move quite slowly and safely. I suggest you stay outside of San Jose your first night or two. SJ is big awkward city. Alejuela (spellling?) has good accommodations. Our favorite beach location for a low key vibe was Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast(Casa Verde hotel is inexpensive, lovely and has a pool). But, it is far away. Manuel Antonio might be easier with a toddler. Have a great trip.

Going to Costa Rica with kids 10-13

Feb 2008

We're heading to Costa Rica this June and I have a couple of questions I didn't find in the archives. Seems like all of the flights out of the bay area are at night.....true?? If not when did others fly out and what airlines? Of course we want the least amount of stops and to fly during the day but I'm not sure I'm being realistic. We're traveling with four kids between 10 and 13 so we want to see some fun stuff and kick back and swim. Did you have a favorite destination that you would recommend? Any and all info much appreciated. Diana


My husband and I went to Costa Rica and really enjoyed ourselves. Manuel Antonio nature preserve (in the southwest) was great for both rainforest and ocean. Also loved Monteverde and the Cloud Rainforest where you can do a zipline canopy tour which is fabulous. Tabacon hot springs at the foot of the Arenal volcano (North)was awesome and relaxing. We saw the volcano erupt at night! Because the roads are so challenging, you may prefer to stick to one area, but those destinations were all wonderful! I also recommend checking out: www.costaricanadventures.com for lots of info and ideas about place to go. They are a great, small, Bay Area-based eco-travel company. Seems to me we were going to fly at night but elected to get bumped and then traveled by day. That was 5 years ago, so options might have changed.
There are lots of options for daytime flights to Costa Rica, from both San Francisco and Oakland. While there are no nonstop flights to either San Jose or Liberia (the two international airports in Costa Rica), many carriers offer service with one stop. American, Continental, Delta, USAirways, and Frontier all have daytime flights with one change of plane. TACA, United, and Continental have overnight flights.

The one advantage of an overnight flight is that you can continue straight on to your final destination without spending the night in San Jose. There's nothing terribly wrong with San Jose, but it's not as nice as the rest of the country. Personally, I hate overnight flights, so I prefer to fly in, spend the night in San Jose, then head out to the beach or the cloud forest the next day. I have never flown in to Liberia, but if your final destination is along the north-west coast, it might make sense to fly in and out of Liberia.

Whereever you land, and whatever airport you use, Costa Rica is wonderful! Beautiful country, friendly people, and easy to get around. You will have a great time! Emma


I've only been here as an adult, but Manuel Antonio is awesome. It's in a little beach town with little Inns to stay at. There is a National Park there that is a tropical forest (surrounded by ocean) filled with habituated monkeys, iguanas, cute little crabs, etc. There is a larger town called Quepos nearby with more to do. I just hung out and ran around the beach and forest but a friend who went there jet skiied and did other exciting things. It's so beautiful! http://www.govisitcostarica.com/region/city.asp?cID=258 http://www.manuelantoniopark.com/mapk/default.asp Andi
We took American Airlines which was a day time fight with one layover. We loved Monteverde and the Monteverde Reserve. In the morning we took guided tours which is a must if you want to see anything. Those guides are amazing at finding all the birds and animals and they carry binoculars so you can see! Just book a guided tour the day before through your hotel since they sell out the day of. And in the afternoon we did the zip lines. It was scary at first but so much fun. Don't miss Morpho's Cafe for their food. It's excellent and has reasonable prices. Elaine

A week in Costa Rica with my daughter

Jan 2008

My daughter and I will be travelling to costa Rica in April. We only have one week and I am not used to travelling like a tourist. We have done more rugged travel and hope to find some special places that are not so touristy nor so far out that we spend tons of time on the road. I'm hoping to find some very economical places to stay too. We fly into San Jose late at night and will need a place that eve. From there I hope to travel out to jungle and coast. Any sugeestions or personal experiences would be great to hear. Thanks


I love Costa Rica! It was one of my favorite trips. The guidebook Key to Costa Rica is great, you should invest in that and do some reading on the activities that interest you most. We also arrived rather late and made arrangements in advance to stay in Alajuela, just outside of San Jose, near the airport. The hotel, which I can recommend highly, was La Rosa de America (they have a website, like many many places in CR: www.larosadeamerica.com). It's run by a couple of Californians, but they have lived in the area for a long time and can help you with plenty of arrangements. The cab to their place is quick and cheap.

Our son was younger (five) when we went, so we didn't go in for anything very rigorous. We did love the ''canopy tour'' of the rain forest -- they put up a zip line way up in the trees, put you in a harness, and you get to fly from tree to tree! This was near Arenal, which is touristy, but it's also so rural that it's not offensively touristy. The naturally heated hot baths in that area are also fantastic. We went on a river raft tour to see sloths, monkeys, beautiful little poisonous frogs, and caimans (crocodile-like creatures). We had the whole river to ourselves with the guide. And we went down south by plane to stay on Drake Bay and see the dolphins. Costa Rica is small, and you can see a great deal in a short time; we flew down to Drake Bay because there aren't really any good roads in that area.

Have fun! la vida pura


Hi, My husband and I and our 6 1/2 year old daughter, went to Costa Rica for the first time in August. We booked it thru a travel agent (which we don't normally do) but since it was a spur of the moment trip between last day of camp and first day back to school we didn't have lots of time to research. We used Costa Rica Connection -Tel (805) 543-8823 and the agent was Jose Brenes (very knowledgeable.)

Since it was our first trip, we hit several of the countries highlights, and we did more touristy things than we would normally do. Since it was our first big adventure like this with our daughter, we wanted to be extra cautious and make it an easy trip. We landed in San Jose and the next day and we went to Aranel Volcano area, hung out in some nice hot springs, next stop was Monte Verde/St Helena cloud forest (touristy but glad I went)and then went out to the coast and went to Manuel Antonio (very touristy- but this is where we got to hang out with monkeys). We stayed in nice cabinas, didn't pay more than $125 a night but that was in the ''green'' season so rates were slightly lower. At the coast we stayed at Costa Verde and had a room with an amazing view. We had private drivers included in our package so we didn't have the stress of driving around not knowing where we were going. Our package was suppose to include semi-private transportation but we never shared a ride!

We want to go back and do less touristy areas the next time which are more remote and probably you have to spend time to fly into them. Hope this helps. laura


We've been to Costa Rica twice, once without kids and once with a two year old. Where I enjoyed most that's off the beaten track was Cahuita and the carribean coast. You do need to take malaria prevention in much of that area, but I think the risk is still pretty low. Cahuita is a very mellow town that borders on a national park -- you can sit on the beach and see monkeys in the trees behind you. With kid we went to Nosara, on the Nicoya peninsula, which was definitely off the beaten track but not very kid friendly (or even friendly period). Kate

Costa Rica trip for 6th grader

Jan 2007

My 6th grader will be going to on a week long study trip to Costa Rica to work with leatherback turtles. I am wondering if we really need to buy bug repellant clothing, which is pricey, and if so, what are the essential items? Any other survival tips? Signed, Costa Rica newbie


I spent one summer in a cloudforest in Ecuador and another in the Ecuadorian Amazon, both to study monkeys. I don't think you will need bug-repellant clothing, esp. for just one week. I wore just long cotton pants and long-sleeved cotton shirts. (I got cargo-style pants from REI and long-sleeved light cotton shirts from thrift shops.) He may want short-sleeved t-shirts too. Good rubber boots help with walking through mud, etc. He can get those there or perhaps just basic rubber boots at a hardware store. He's not studying monkeys like I did so he may just run around in t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops....ask the person running the course. Bug repellant will be a must, but bug-repellant clothes should not be necessary. Andi

2005 - 2006 Reviews


Costa Rica with Toddlers

Oct 2006

Has anyone been to Costa Rica with toddlers? We're planning a family trip in June (6 adults and 2.5 year old twins) and I'm looking for lodging recommendations and places to visit with the children. Basically ANY advice about travelling to Costa Rica with children would be very helpful. Should we be concerned about the quality of the roads? Sickness and emergency care? Safety. Etc. Thanks so much! HL


We went to Costa Rica this summer with our four year old. I suggest you stay outside San Jose when you arrive. Alujeula (sp?) is 20 mins. by car from the airport, and smaller and easier to navigate. We stayed at the Hotel Colinas Del Sol our first two nights. Sweet, small and has a pool. It has a web site if you google it. Travel within the country is very easy. It's recommended that you rent a 4 wheel drive, which we did. It made us more confident on the road, but in retrospect we didn't find it necessary. We went everywhere. We started in Samara on the Nicoya Peninsula, nice beach, and easy with kids. Went to Arenal -- rained out, on to the Los Angeles cloud forest(magical and serene but quite expensive for us) and then to Puerto Viejo, south of Cajuita, which was a hightlight. Great vibe, great food and lovely beaches. We can recommend the Casa Verde Hotel -- inexpensive with a beautiful pool. On our way back to the Pacific Coast, we stayed in Orosi - nice overnight. Finally, we spent a couple of nights at Hacienda Baru - a wildlife refuge. Costa Rica has everything you would hope for toddlers, but I strongly recommend that you bring your own child seats.

Traveling to Oso Peninsula, Drake's Bay Costa Rica

June 2006

I'm traveling to Costa Rica in August with my 8 1/2 year old daughter. We want to visit the Corcovado National Park and the Caro Wildlife Refuge in the Oso Peninsula Drakes Bay . There are many different lodges and packages on the net. Has anyone visited this region and have recommendations of where to stay, and reasonable length of time to visit the area. I would like to stay at one of the cheaper lodges if possible madelene


We traveled to Costa Rica a few years ago and loved it. The side-trip down to Drake's Bay was definitely one of the high points, as it is wild and beautiful there. We stayed at Delfin Amor, and I have both good and bad things to say about that resort. We chose it because we wanted to go out on the bay to look at the dolphins and whales. Delfin Amor has lovely but simple cabins in the jungle just a bit up from the beach. There is a generator on-site for electricity, but of course power is limited, there are no phones, etc. We didn't find that a problem. They have good cooks and the guests eat in a wonderful lodge with plenty of room for lounging on the deck, a fridge stocked with cold drinks to be bought on the honor system, etc. A fantastic place to hike, relax, and hang out at the beach, though there are also activities (dolphin watching, cruises to a nearby island for birdwatching, etc) at an extra cost.

Some of our problems were related to the weather. We went in June, which is the rainy season. We were nearly stuck at the resort when it poured the entire night before we were supposed to leave and washed out the tiny airfield. We had to be rushed out of bed, into a boat, and taken up the Rio Sierpe to an alternative airfield a couple of hours away. Fortunately the people at the lodge were very on top of things, but I can imagine easily a situation where we could have been held up for several days or more. It is winter in June, and this means that the seas are rougher and higher. Everyone who didn't take Dramamine (including my husband) and some people who did were miserable on the dolphin cruise. Lots of vomiting kind of put a pall on the fun. But the really bad part was that we had a near disaster trying to return to shore. A storm came up and the waves were really high. A small boat was supposed to ferry us from the dolphin cruise boat to shore, and it could take only a few people at a time. My husband, small son, and I were first, and the waves swamped the boat before we could get to shore. We had to claw our way up on the beach, getting slammed into the ground, and I had a couple of moments where I thought that we wouldn't be able to fight the waves and get there. Our boatman was preoccupied with trying to save the motor of the boat. The remaining guests had to be kayaked to shore and that was pretty hair-raising, too.

The real problem with the above episode (aside from the danger and terror) was the attitude of the resort's proprietor, Sierra, who is an ex-pat Californian in love with dolphins. She was somewhat reclusive during our stay, and when she guided us on the dolphin tour she was knowledgeable but seemed unconcerned about the (dis)comfort of her guests. She kept wanting to search for dolphins and whales quite a while after everyone else wanted to return to shore -- and the storm was coming up. I ended up taking a vote among the passengers and it was unanimous that we wanted to go in; she somewhat grudgingly gave in.

Finally, when we were slammed into the beach and my son was both terrified and hurt by the rocks on the shore (his feet were bleeding), she didn't bother to ask us how he was or say anything to any of us about the incident, which affected all of the guests on the tour. Her staff rushed to bring my screaming son bandages and hot cocoa, but I was unimpressed by her behavior.

It is a fantastic place and just as gorgeous as the website promises, but I had to put in those caveats about our particular experience. Linda


Going to Costa Rica with 12-year-olds

April 2006

I have been looking into going to Costa Rica with my husband and soon to be twelve year old twin boys. We are an active family that likes to exert ourselves on vacation. Does anyone have a recommendation for an ecolodge in the Corcovados area? It would be nice to not spend a fortune. We would like to go to Monteverde as well and only have a week. Is it possible to link these two places without going back to San Jose? Is there a big advantage to avoiding the rainy season? Karen


We visited CR in July 2004 and stayed at La Paloma Lodge near Corcovadas park -- it was fantastic but expensive. There are definitely some less expensive options in the area but some of the ones I glimpsed on hikes etc seemed to be platform tents w/out attached bathrooms or comfortable lodge. I don't think I would recommend that during the rainy season as it rains all night long. Plus petty crime is on the rise in the area (we had camera and rain jacket stolen) so you want to be sure your accomodations are secure. Finally you should stay where all meals are included as there really isn't a town with restaurants or stores. We enjoyed being there in the rainy season -- the mornings were clear with a rainstorm in the afternoon and rain most of the night. It was pleasantly warm (probably high 70s-80s) in the south but Monteverde was quite cool, especially at night. I don't think you can avoid flying back to San Jose from the Osa peninsula but that is nothing to worry about. Your flight will most likely leave early and you will be in San Jose well before noon with plenty of time to get to Monteverde (no need to spend the night in San Jose). You will have a great time -- we did not have children at the time but met many happy families. It seems the ideal destination for a family vacation. Eve
We went to Costa Rica with our then-six-year-old a few years ago and loved it so much! If you don't have Beatrice Blake's guide The New Key to Costa Rica, you should definitely get it. That's how I planned our route and found places to stay. She emphasizes eco-friendly and locally owned places. Our first night however we stayed in a lovely place owned by a couple of ex-pat Californians in Alajuela (we avoided San Jose, Alajuela is near the airport and a good starting point). The name of that hotel was La Rosa de America. They have a beautiful garden and pool, and it is easy to arrange sightseeing of nearby attractions from there. If you stay there, ask for directions to Las Delicias de mi Tierra, a nearby restaurant. It's super and cheap, popular with locals.

Our son loved the ''canopy tours'' in which you climb up to platforms high in the trees in the rain forest, belt yourself into a harness, and go zipping from tree to tree on cables. We went on one (that included horseback riding to the forest) near the Arenal Volcano. Also near the volcano was one of our favorite spots, the Tabacon Resort (hot springs, pool, natural river heated by the volcano). We stayed at a modest but great little place, the Cerro Chato lodge outside of La Fortuna (which is very touristy town). The owner, Miguel Zamora, was a wonderful guide and very helpful. I know you don't plan to go to Arenal, but those places were special to us.

We went during the rainy season, and the basic issues were: every afternoon it poured, starting around two to three. Sometimes it would then let up in the evening, sometimes not. Occasionally the rain would start earlier but then it was lighter. Most of the time we put on ponchos and it was fine. It is in any case usually warm, which is easier to bear. The only time I was worried about the rain was when we flew to an isolated area in the south to see dolphins (Drake Bay) and we nearly couldn't get out again. But really the rain was not bad.

Wish I could go again! Linda


2004 & Earlier


Going to Costa Rica without the kids

April 2004

My wife and I are thinking about going to Costa Rica in August, without children, for 6-7 days. We were thinking of going to the Pacific Coast (Manuel Antonio), and perhaps Tortuguero for a day or two also. I'd be grateful for any thoughts on whether this trip is too ambitious for such a short time, and whether the weather on either coast will be ok (not too rainy, not too hot) at that time of year. (I'm hoping for information a bit more specific than what is already posted.) Thanks! Chris


I spent a month traveling in costa rica several years ago when I was single. It was beautiful. Get a Lonely Planet Guide, it's the best guide even if it is targeted to people traveling on the cheap. The thing about CR is that becasue there are so few roads (like one and it wasn't paved when I was there) in the country, you have to go back to San Jose any time you travel from one place to another. Renting a car will make that less of an issue, but keep in mind on a 6 day trip you will spend the better part if not the entire day traveling from SJ to your destination and back again. If you rent a car I suggest staying at a hotel that has cars. Or maybe you can do that at the airport--look into it because you'll want to save the time. That said, Manuel Antonio is a lovely place to spend a few days if not the whole time depending on how quickly you get bored with prestine beach and wildlife. And it is relatively close to SJ. Another idea would be to go to MA for a few nights and then stop in Playa Jaco for a night on the way back. Jaco is the closest beach to SJ and is a bit more lively than MA. I would not recommend the east coast at all since it is way farther away from SJ and has a much different feel than the west coast. Not sure about weather in August--it's either the hot or rainy season. My advice is not to take chances with the rainy season on a 7 day vacation. Best time to go to Central America is the dry season: December through May give or take. Have a wonderful time! Loved Costa Rica
I have spent many summers in CR, my father is CRican and lives in San Jose. I was there last summer and decided I'd never go again in the summer. It was just too wet. It is the rainy season there, as I expect you know. I spent time on the Atlantic and Pacific--in Tortugero and just north of Manuel Antonio. It rained and rained and rained. Not just afternoon rain or short showers. We spent 4 straight days near Puerto Viejo holed up in the cabin because of the rain. Another 5 days frustrated in Nicoya because of rain. I was there for 1 month and wanted to have weeks relaxing on the beach-- was there with my husband for his first time and I was 5 months pregnant. Knew it was our last vacation for a long time. It was so frustrating! Tortuguero is AMAZING, but it rained and rained and rained. Made the trip up the canals not as comfortable or interesting because we couldn't see the wildlife. For 6-7 days, doing both coasts IS too much. It takes time to get around the country. Manuel Antonio is nice, but it's REALLY touristy and developed. THat's a slightly less rainy area of the country--if there will be less rain any where that's the area--but I've spent time there in our summer when it's been very wet. Tortuguero is absolutely worth a trip, but takes a day to get there, and as I said, it can be torrential.. You can be lucky--out of 30 days last summer we had probably 5 incredibly clear, warm perfect days. But we also had 5-6 days of straight rain. July and August are the wettest months, travel can be difficult because of the roads. If you go, I'd suggest only going to one area--maybe MA because you ahve a better chance of nice weather. Or decide where to go once you're there. Tourism is low at that time of year so you don't have to make reservations everywhere. You might get there and hear the weather forcast and see that the Pacific is being it by a storm and head for the Atlantic. The weather can change day to day, forcasts aren't entirely reliable. Take a deck of cards, some good books, and plan on being flexible. Or just walking in the rain. Which isn't as nice and romantic as it sounds--tropic rain storms can be violent. Hope this doesn't sound too negative--it was just relaly frustrating being there last summer and waking up day after day, praying for sun, then looking out only to see dark clouds and wet beach. The sunny days were so amazing it made the rainy days even harder. It is hot, by the way. Hot and humid on either coast. Good luck! Elena
My husband and I went to Costa Rica last August without the kids and had a great time! The weather was fabulous -- no rain during the day, T-storms, etc. at night if any. We went on Cruise West's Pacific Coast tour for one week. It is a small cruise ship -- 100 people maximum. On our tour there were 50 of us! The cabins are small but comfortable and well-appointed. We made wet landings via Zodiac each day at different stops along the coastline and then walked/ hiked inland with our naturalists. They carried spotting scopes and were incredibly knowledgeable about the wildlife. Our hiking took place in the mornings (7:30 a.m.); we returned to the ship for lunch and then went back to the shore for water activities (snorkeling where appropriate) for the afternoon. The food was great -- though not the kind of overly-indulgent stuff you see on huge cruise ships. And you don't have formal night, etc. Very low-key. A great way to explore Costa Rica! And you can add on a day or more in San Jose or anywhere else you like. P.S. Kids are encouraged to come along if you're interested. Judy
My husband, son (6 at the time) and I visited Costa Rica last year in June, during the ''green'' (aka rainy) season, which I assume continues into August. It was one of the best vacations of our lives, I think I can say without exaggeration. We stayed for a little less than two weeks, beginning in Alajuela, going up to the Arenal Volcano (near La Fortuna) for three days, then back down to Alajuela and on the Poas Volcano/La Paz waterfall tour, then we flew down to the Osa Peninsula/Drake Bay for three days at an eco- resort where we went on a dolphin tour, then back to Alajuela and home. The book I consulted to help me put together this combination of independent and tour travel was Beatrice Blake's Key to Costa Rica. It is an excellent guide. Many of the places listed in the guide are on the internet, so you can communicate directly with people in Costa Rica; those in the tourist industry speak excellent English for the most part (though I found that my little bit of elementary Spanish was very helpful).

The transportation and tourist infrastructure in Costa Rica is well-organized and efficient. Having said this, I would also say that the country is not large, but you have to allow for significantly more time to cover distance than you would in the U.S., as the roads are generally rural and often mountainous. It took three hours for our guide to drive us from Alajuela to Arenal, for instance. We depended on public transportation and tour guides rather than renting a car, and I was glad we did, as the traffic in the populous areas can be daunting, and signage on roads was of the rural variety. Not like interstates here, for example.

We had concerns about the weather, but the only thing that was a bit of a drag was the rain in the afternoons. It usually began at two or three o'clock and could continue through the evening and night or let up by sunset. On a couple of days it began earlier, but we just put on rain gear and kept going. When we flew down to Drake Bay (in an eight-passenger plane) we landed on an airstrip in a pasture (the ''airport''), which was subsequently rained out during our stay. The amazing thing was that our hosts handled this problem swiftly and efficiently without telephones -- through radio communication they organized a boat from another resort up the River Sierpe, a bus to another airport, and a flight from that other town, all of which went off without a hitch! The unscheduled trip up the densely forested, unpopulated tropical river was unforgettable.

We saw gorgeous butterflies, monkeys, toucans, parrots, a sloth, iguanas, a caiman, dolphins, and numerous other animals on our various excursions, all in the wild. At Drake's Bay the howler monkeys in the trees above our cabin were our alarm clock. The plant life -- flowers, trees, coffee and pineapple plantations -- was overwhelming. My son liked the ''canopy tour'' (whizzing through the top of the jungle on cables) and the natural hot springs (heated by the Arenal Volcano) at Tabacon the best.

I would be happy to talk to you more about our trip if you would like to write to me directly. Happy traveling! Linda


I've been to Costa Rica twice, each time was in August. Yes, that is the rainy season, and it did rain really hard a few times, but that didn't ruin my experience. I had a fantastic time! The worse rain storms came late afternoon and evenings. The advantage of going during that time is that it is the off season, so lodging is cheaper, and there are fewer tourists.

6-7 days is not enough time to see both sides of the country. Traveling through the country can be very slow going and exhausting depending on where you go, how much you try to see and how you go (car, plane, bus, boat). San Jose is central, and it can take all day to get to either coast. Some places the roads are bad. The best way to get to Totuguero is to take a small plane. My suggestion is to focus on one area and not try to see both sides of the coast. There are so many wonderful places to see in Costa Rica. I've been to Tortuguero, Manuel Antonio, Arenal Volcanoe, Marina Ballena, Hacienda Baru, and Refugio Nacioanl de Fauna Silvestre Ostional. All of these places were amazing in different ways. I've heard wonderful things about other places as well. I do want to mention one thing about Manuel Antonio. It is a great place for families with young children, but it is also very touristy. Since you won't be bringing kids along, I suggest a place that is a bit more remote and adventurous. I can give you details about all the places I visited if you would like to know more. You can contact me directly. Laurey


Eco-travel to Costa Rica with toddler and grandma

March 2003

My husband and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica with our eighteen-month-old daughter and my mother. We are interested in more of an eco-travel type vacation with easy access to wildlife, as opposed to staying at one of the touristy, luxury resorts that have cropped up in recent years. We'd also like to do a bit of scuba diving, althought I understand that the diving may be so-so due to mediocre visibility. From the reading I've done, it seems as though there are so many different regions to visit that we are having a hard time narrowing it down. Any recommendations as to places to visit and/or stay are greatly recommended.

Also, I've read the archived recommendations for travel agents but did not see anyone who specializes in Costa Rica. If you know of someone, please share the name! Thanks.


I have a former kayaking instructor who now has an ecotourism business in Costa Rica. He ran a class act in w. Massachusetts so I am sure his Costa Rica operation is well-run, fairly economical and very high in terms of safety standards. I know they do whitewater trips as well as more mainstream ecotourism. It is worth an email to TomFos2. His name is Tom Foster. kathryn l
We visited Costa Rica 2 years ago and most enjoyed staying at Hacienda Baru on the southeastern coast. Although the cabins were quite rundown, the area was wonderful! The beach was about a 1/4 mile hike when we always marvelled at the cutter ants crossing our path. Once at the beach, we always saw monkeys in the trees. There was also a shallow tidepool that would be good for little kids. At the cabins we saw baby birds eye-level in a bush, tons of birds, butterflies.

The guides were great finding wildlife when hiking in the woods: sloths in the trees, toucans. We took a night hike and they found shrimp, green poison tree frogs, a snake. We slept in the forest one night and heard very interesting calls. There we saw the blue morpho butterflies, bats, scorpions.

And that's just what I remember right now -- I'm sure there was more wildlife. I recommend wearing long pants and mosquito repellant when hiking the the forest, because my husband brought wildlife home in his leg -- bot fly larva. It didn't hurt him, but was very gross.

Hacienda Baru also has the ''Flight of the Toucan'' where you can slide across the forest on ropes. We also climbed a huge tree using climbing gear.

As I said, it's not fancy, but of the 3 places we stayed,it was the most interesting, with the best wildlife and nicest staff. Barbara


I don't know how it will be bringing a toddler with you, but I can recommend several places. Tortuguero Jungle located on the coast on the Caribbean side. Stay at the Tortuga Lodge. The nicest place to stay, but erhaps more expensive. It is a very tasteful lodge with a lovely tropical garden around the property.They will take you on a tour of the canals...it is like a mini version of the Amazon. We saw toucans, lizards that run across the water, lots of caimen, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and a sloth.They also have a small jungle you can go on a walk through where you can see snakes and poison dart frogs (long sleeves, pants, mosquito netting, hat and repellent strongly advised....they provide rubber boots). They also take you on a tour at night to see the very large leatherback sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach. My friend and I went into the local village and hired a private guide to tour the canals at a more quiet time of day. It was late in the afternoon just before sunset. That is suppose to be a good time to possibly see more animal activity. The amazing thing was that we saw a Jaguar! It was swimming across the canal. Our guide yelled out in such excitemint. He had never seen one, and he has lived their all his life. That night in the village we were all treated to free drinks at the local ''Delta''. News traveled fast, and by morning everyone knew about the two american girls who saw the Jaguar. Other travelers who stayed at the lodge where we stayed were very envious. We were just very lucky. Jaguars are extremely rare to see. It was thought that they were no longer living in Tortuguero, till that memorable day. After that we traveled to the Arenal Volcano. That was amazing! I highly recommend staying at the Volcano Observatory Lodge. We were again very lucky. Arenal is the most active Volcano in the world but it does have its quiet periods. We were there when it was spewing out hot red lava and rocks every 10 to 15 minutes! Often the mountain is enveloped in clouds so you can't see anything. The night we were there was a clear night and it was better than any fireworks show I'd ever seen. The observatory Lodge seemed to be family friendly as I recall. I saw several kids there. The Lodge is in a great location. It is very close to the Volcano so that you can feel the earth shake, but it is safe from the direction of the lava flow. I never made it to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, but that is definitely a place to visit. Our last stop was the Pacific coast on the Nicoya Penisula. We went there to see the nesting Ridley sea turtles. August is their peak time. We saw them in the hundreds! That is located at Fuana Silvesre Ostional National refuge. Another place I've always wanted to see that I heard amazing things about is Corcovado Natioinal Park. It is one of the largest with most variety of animal and plant species. Good luck planning your trip. If you decide to go to Tortuguero Jungle, mention the two American girls who saw the jaguar. My stepmother visted there recently and stayed at the same lodge and she said that they talked about the american girls who saw the jaguar. I gues we are famous down there. If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly. My husband and I and our 21/2 year old might be going there this August for a wedding. My biggest concerns are travel safety. Drivers are wild down there, and the roads are bad. Laurey
My husband and I traveled to Costa Rica summer 2001 with our then 4 yr old and 18 month old and I was five months pregnant. It was August and contrary to what many folks believe, the weather was quite pleasant. We rented a minivan and drove all over the country, even to some places considered not very safe for tourists. It was my third time in CR so I felt very comfortable venturing in certain places. Because we had the kids, however, we stayed away from the areas considered more dangerous. August was a very pleasant time to be there because there are not many tourists, so the staffs of the various hotels we stayed in were not overwhelmed and therefore were more amenable to communicating with us and arranging more detailed tours etc. The children had a wonderful time. We found the driving quite safe. In fact much of the time the roads were fairly empty. Here in the U.S. we are accustomed to more heavily traveled roads, therefore we take many precautions. You should be slightly more cautious when you drive anywhere that you are not familiar with the roads. Some differences I should mention while driving in CR is that roads are not very well signed and of course many signs are in Spanish. Thus if you do not speak Spanish and you plan to drive, you should become familiar with the language at least for those purposes. Another precaution naturally is that of insect bites. Some areas are more prone to mosquitos and noseeums than others, so you should go prepared with insect repellent and mosquito netting etc (not to mention sun screen, raincoats(it can be quite rainy in CR certain times of the year, especially in the forest, so check before you go)). For volcano visits we found that having a backpack for carrying the younger child came in very handy. We also took an umbrella stroller along for walking on city streets. Finally, take your important medication, other necessary over the counter drugs such as tummy ailment medicine (Mylicon etc), and any of your kid's favorite snacks. Medicines are widely available, however, instructions are written in Spanish. Other things such as diapers, wipes, baby lotion etc are also widely available in the cities.

CR is a beautiful country and children are precious to them, so taking a toddler should be just fine.

Enjoy your trip. Sharron


Traveling in Costa Rica with a pre-schooler

February 2002

I am planning to travel to Costa Rica with my 3 year old in late March/early April. I've been there twice before, but last about 8 years ago and never with a child. Any advice on specific places to go, things to think about, etc would be much appreciated. I'm also wondering about the logistics of public transit with a preschooler -- or if I should just bit the bullet and rent a car for getting around the country. Thanks! Tara


I recommend beaches and rainforests. There's so much interesting stuff on the ground there. A trip with a guide helps you see even more. At Hacienda Baru in Dominical we went for a night hike and saw more neat stuff. Barbara
Here are some ideas from a former Berkeley mom who's been living in Costa Rica for a year and half. Although my kids are older (14 and 11), there's still a lot for a 3-year-old to do here.

Costa Rica is heaven for animal-lovers; it's pretty easy to find monkeys, turtles, agouti, iguanas, birds, etc. in many parts of the country. (My 11-year-old son said there was a sloth this afternoon at the school bus stop, for example.) You'll see more with someone to point everything out to you; ask around, at hotels or park ranger stations, for tours and/or a guide who's kid-friendly.

The kids liked Zoo Ave in Alajuela; they have mostly birds, but also other animals, easy to see. There are quite a few butterfly gardens, serpentariums, frog exhibits, etc. all over the country, where you can see critters close up.

For more traditional museum-type activities, the Children's Museum in San Jose is a good one; it helps if you read Spanish. Parque de Diversiones, in the western suburbs, is kind of like a cross between Fairyland and Disneyland's Main Street. My kids thought they were a little old for it, but yours should be closer to it. Lots of history of Costa Rica to keep you interested between going on rides, paddleboats, etc.

Late March, when you're planning to come, is Semana Santa, or Holy Week, this year. It's by far the busiest week of the year in terms of Costa Ricans going on vacation, and also, paradoxically, the week that a lot of the transportation systems cut back. Reservations are a must.

The public transportation system is excellent and cheap, and the country is small; but some of the roads make for pretty slow going (our mountaintop is a five-hour bus ride from San Jose, for example.) Some areas are off-limits in rental cars unless you get four wheel drive. Yours certainly wouldn't be the only 3-year-old on the bus. Costa Ricans are *extremely* tolerant of -- no, make that delighted by -- children, however you're traveling.

A good guidebook for families is Beatrice Blake's New Key to Costa Rica. Written by a mom, and it shows; lots of specific suggestions, e.g., kid-safe beaches, low-key hot springs, child-friendly hotels and restaurants. Hope this helps. Jane


More reviews

Dec 1999

I loved Costa Rica, although it will be very busy at this time of year. The medical system is reportedly quite good, at least in the central valley, although I didn't have any personal experience of it. My favorite place was the town of Fortuna. It is easy to get to, very friendly, cheap lodging, and lots of great day hikes and day trips from there. However, I wouldn't want to have my kid born there. As the parent of child who was born at 29 weeks, I know that it can happen, (about 13% of births are before 36 weeks) and that I would want to be around the best medical care possible and close to my support system. Hope this helps, Tim


My husband and I traveled alot before our daughter was born and I have to say our favorite place was Costa Rica. This is a very "healthy" country. They have one of the highest literacy rates in the world, free education and social security for all citizens. I would feel comfortable with any medical care given . After spending time in Mexico and Jamaica, it was a completely different experience in Costa Rica. We traveled from coast to coast, which you can do in a few short hours, and saw very very little poverty. There was no panhandling anywhere and we felt quite safe. There are beautiful beaches teeming with life, more shell creatures than I had seen anywhere else. They have a world famous rain forest. We met young college students who were majoring in Eco-Tourism, and were told that the country doesn't want outsiders owning hotels and tourist sites with locals working in them, they want Costa Ricans to own the hotels and that is what is happening there. It is a wonderful country to travel in and I would be happy to talk with you further is this is where you choose to vacation. Lark
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