Going to Costa Rica
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Going to Costa Rica
Costa Rica over Thanksgiving
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!
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
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.
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
email@example.com. They had better luck reaching
people by email rather than phone. www.actuarcostarica.com
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
Check out a company like Rico Tours (google them).
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
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
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
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.
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!
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
place that caters to toddlers? We are definitely looking to
near the beach, no preference of which coast at this point.
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.
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.
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.
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
Any and all info much appreciated.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
la vida pura
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
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).
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?
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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
It is a fantastic place and just as gorgeous as the website
promises, but I had to put in those caveats about our
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?
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.
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!
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!
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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.
I loved Costa Rica, although it will be very busy at this time of year. The
system is reportedly quite good, at least in the central valley, although I
have any personal experience of it. My favorite place was the town of
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
born at 29 weeks, I know that it can happen, (about 13% of births are
weeks) and that I would want to be around the best medical care possible and
close to my support system.
Hope this helps,
My husband and I traveled alot before our daughter was born and I have to
favorite place was Costa Rica. This is a very "healthy" country. They have
the highest literacy rates in the world, free education and social security
all citizens. I would feel comfortable with any medical care given . After
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
and saw very very little poverty. There was no panhandling anywhere and we
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
who were majoring in Eco-Tourism, and were told that the country doesn't
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.
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