January 7, 2010

High Flying Family Fun in Costa Rica

When I talk to other parents about our escapades in Central America, the primary question I get is, "Is it safe?" and when answering on behalf of our Costa Rica travels I always answer with a resounding "Yes!". Not only is Costa Rica safer than bad parts of most American cities, it is a great place for families to experience true adventure! We found out when we were there filming Travel With Kids: Costa Rica

Costa Rica's motto is "Pura Vida", or Pure Life, and the main tourism draw is their natural surrounds. The country's enormous effort in conservation has paid off with tourists coming from all over the world. And in an effort to accommodate the tourists Costa Rica has created all sorts of exciting ways to immerse in nature. So, families are sure to have fun. We've listed out Top 6 Family Nature Activities to help you get started in planning your own Costa Rica adventure.

1. Zip-Line Who can resist the huge adreneline kick experienced as you zip speedily over the top of the rainforest canopy. And, although you are not likely to see many animals as you plummet past the tree tops, the platforms in between each gravity defying line make excellent animal spotting posts. We actually did two zip lines because the kids loved it so much. The first was just outside the famous Monte Verde Cloud Forest Reserve with Selvatura and the second was on the Pacific Coast with Montezuma Canopy Tour

2. River Rafting Another heart-pumping activity that gives guests to Costa Rica a real sense of adventure, but with this one your chances of actually spotting wildlife are drastically increased (the whining sound of the zip line tends to scare off any nearby creatures). We chose a Safari Float down the Rio Penas Blancas with Desafio Adventure Company. The lower class rapids gave us plenty of time to spot animals...and we did...sloths, monkeys, basilik lizards (better known as Jesus lizards for their ability to walk on water), rare birds, bats, poison dart frogs and much more!

3. Arenal Volcano If you really want to get a feel for the power of nature, you have to check out this very active volcano! In our filming for Travel With Kids, we have seen many a volcano, but most are either stagnant or we get the "sorry no lava today", but that is not the case with this bubbling gem! We stayed at Arenal Observatory Lodge and all night we could here the boom of the giant explosions reverberating off our hotel walls and flickering glow of molten hot rocks and lava as they tumbled down the side of the mountain...very cool! And don't worry, the lodge is on a ridge above the lava flow, so you're completely safe...or so they say. I do have to admit that I spent the night with one eye open.

4. Proyecto Asis Very near to Arenal Observaotry is Proyecto Asis. in addition to its Spanish immersion school, the center operates an animal rescue center with animals ranging from a very friendly Kinkajou to monkeys that like to pick bugs out of their human visitor's hair. The kids had a great time hiking around the center and helping to take care of the animals. The center also offer volunteer programs ranging from animal care to re-forestation.

5. Horseback Riding We hopped on horses and followed our guide, also from Desafio Adventure Company, through town and out into the fields surrounding Monte Verde for an amazing view over the valleys below this tiny hill town. On route we saw lots of animals, butterflies fluttering around us and sloths picking their way slowly through the trees. One great option, if you have older kids, is making the journey between Arenal and Monte Verde on horseback! It's a 7-8 hour journey, but the fews are incredible!

6. Night Walk through the Jungle At night animals you would normally not see come out by the dozens. Whether or not this is a good thing to see, I'm still trying to decide. I now know that on that pathway from my hotel to town there are tons of tarantulas and scorpions just lurking in the shadows. But it is a neat adventure, donning flashlights and hiking through the dark jungle, spotting nature in action all around you!

Those are our top six, although I know that Costa Rica has lots more to offer families looking for a little adventure.

Our Trip:
We flew into San Jose on TACA, a Cental American based airline that offers great service and an excellent safety record at value prices.

From San Juan we headed north by private charter with Green Adventures to Arenal. We stayed at Arenal Observatory Lodge instead of the town of La Fortuna, as that is the only hotel in the area that currently has views of the lava. In Arenal we went white water rafting, visited Proyecto Asis and participated in Children's Day at a local school.

From Arenal we took the Jeep-Boat-Jeep transport to Monte Verde where we stayed at El Sapo Dorado in cozy cabanas in the cloud forest. (We booked ours through Desafio Adventure Company). In Monte Verde we hiked, went horseback riding, rode the zip lines and visited the snake, bat and frog museums.

From Monte Verde, we booked a shared shuttle-ferry-shuttle ride to the old surf hang out of Montezuma on the Peninsula Nicoya on the Pacific Coast. In Montezuma, we spotted tons of animals right from our hotel balcony at Ylang Ylang Beach Resort and we went on another zip line.

To find out more about Costa Rica or to plan your own trip, check out our DVD: Travel With Kids: Costa Rica

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Anonymous said...

Please fix the name of Costa Rica's capitol city on your blog, it is San Jose, NOT San Juan!

Travel With Kids said...

Anonymous...thanks for taking the time to let us know about our error on San Jose vs San Juan. When we are writing so much content, occasionally we get a name wrong, so thank you for the correction notice. We have made the change.

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