Star Trips in Costa Rica for Families
Costa Rica is a fantastic destination for a family trip. It’s diverse, friendly and safe (The country doesn’t even have an army). The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish, but it is easy to get around in it with just English. It’s got a winning combination of sporty activities, active vacationing and nature. It is easy to combine a trip to Costa Rica with a trip to the U.S., thanks to the relatively cheap flights easily available from several destinations in the US. This includes direct flights (less than 3 hours long) from Orlando, the #1 family destination in the world.
Most people vacationing in Costa Rica tend to move hotels every 2-3 nights in order to see the different tourist areas in this fascinating country. However, for the travelling family I recommend using the method of “star trips” – Staying in one hotel at a central location for an extended period and from there going to attractions in every direction no farther than two hours away by car. For instance, if you come to Costa Rica for 10 days, your time is best divided into 6 nights in the centre of the country and 4 nights on the Pacific Ocean shore, near Manuel Antonio National Park.
Lands in Love Hotel and resort
I thoroughly recommend a charming resort called Lands in Love: in the heart of a cloud forest, a group of Israelis started operating a unique hotel, spread over a huge chunk of land full of forests, rich tropical greenery and countless animals. The view reflected out the windows and balconies of the hotel rooms is beautiful and constantly changing – green forests, valleys, tall mountains, and among them all, clouds floating. The place is blooming and well-cared for and is reminiscent of a small village.
a great variety of activities available in the place,
Canopy: Sliding down a series of ziplines in the treetops of a rainforest along 500 acres to a gorgeous view. 9 cables, 10 platforms, 3 “tracks”, 2 hanging bridges and a “Tarzan Swing”, a total of 845 metres. After that, a cable adventure – 3 sets of double cables for a shared experience for two. The longest cable is 750 metres. Steel towers, hanging bridges, sliding at 80km per hour 150 metres over the hidden valley. A truly unique and fun experience!
Rappelling down waterfalls. You go down several waterfalls, both big and small.
White-water rafting in the Rio Balsa river:
A guided tour in a roaring river with small waterfalls and little whirlpools (level 2-3 rafting, perfectly suitable for families). A fun, wet experience during which you will also see many animals.
ride horses along forest trails to the river and the
It’s hard to believe how many different birds there are in the place, varying in colour, size and species. There is nothing like waking up in the morning to birdsong, moving the curtain aside and seeing a gorgeous view – and of course, eating the rich and luxurious breakfasts served at the place. The food in Lands in Love is some of the best in Costa Rica. There is no meat in it, as the resort is vegetarian, but the big and unique meals along with the homey feeling and dedicated service will make you miss the food of Lands in Love for the rest of your trip... There are also a great many special drinks in the place, including wonderful juices and heavenly chocolate milk.
I recommend dedicating at least 2-3 days just to Lands in Love and its attractions. During the rest of your stay there, travel to famous tourist destinations up to two hours away by car – this includes volcanoes, lakes, waterfalls, and more.
A must-see destination is Arenal volcano. A good full-day trip to Arenal is a combo tour of La Fortuna and Arenal: Start off with a tour on hanging bridges – a 3-km walk in a tropical forest. You will cross 15 bridges 5-100 metres long and up to 60 metres high. You’ll see many animals: birds, reptiles, mammals and insects. Continue on to La Fortuna waterfalls, where there are lovely ponds in which you can swim. Then you will go on a tour to the volcano which includes a walk in the forest to the spot where you can see the lava flowing. There is also beautiful flora and fauna to be seen here, as well as Arenal’s lake. Finish the trip with a visit to Baldi springs, where you will likely want to stay for several hours and have dinner. This is a big spa site with 25 pools, varying in temperature from 35-67°C. It also has waterfalls and waterslides.
There are even more attractions to choose from around Arenal. It is worth coming back there for a second day.
Some good attractions are:
Kayaking in Arenal Lake:
Go on a calm kayaking voyage in Arenal lake while watching the volcano and the many wild animals.
A guided visit to a butterfly farm:
During your visit you will see hundreds of colourful butterflies which will fly over your heads, including Costa Rica’s beautiful national butterfly.
Those who love action and sports may choose a quad bike tour or cycling on mountain bikes around the volcano.
45 minutes away from Arenal are the Vanado Caves – an exciting and wet experience. A maze of caves and natural tunnels under the earth. You’ll walk and crawl through narrow passageways, mazes and rooms as you see the famous shapes in the rocks, the stalactites and the stalagmites.
For those who love nature and volcanoes, I recommend going on a tour to Poás volcano as well. This volcano is 2700 metres high and has the largest active volcano crater in the world – 1.5km wide and 300 metres deep. The volcano has erupted 39 times since 1828, and it erupts in geyser form frequently. The mountain's hiking trail starts at the visitor centre of the park and splits into three paths: one leading to the active crater of the volcano, one leading to Botos lagoon, and one a nature trail through the cloud forest on the mountain. The crater is very impressive -- you can actually see volcanic activity and steam coming out of it. Botos Lagoon is another crater which is no longer active. A beautiful lagoon surrounded with greenery was formed there instead.
La Paz Waterfalls:
I recommend combining the trip to Poás with a visit to the gardens of La Paz Waterfalls, located only a short drive away. These are breathtakingly beautiful gardens and one of the best places in the world to see butterflies, hummingbirds and orchids. The gardens have safe and stylised trails going along the La Paz river which includes 5 big waterfalls. Many visitors to the gardens say that it is exactly what they had envisioned Costa Rica to be – green forests full of birds, butterflies and flowers.
Manuel Antonio National Park
The second lodging area which I recommend staying at for at least 4 days is Manuel Antonio National Park.
Recommended hotels in Manuel Antonio
4 Star Hotel. Surrounded by rainforest, and with ocean views. Spa, 2 Swimming pools, 4 restaurants and 2 bars. There is also a beauty salon, a hot tub and plunge pool. Each room have air-condition, a balcony, cable TV, a minibar and coffee maker. Some rooms have free Wi-Fi. Free parking. Free shuttle service to the beaches.
4 Star Hotel. Swimming pool. Located one kilometer from Manuel Antonio Beach with panoramic views of the ocean and park. The rooms has air conditioning, a desk, fridge, telephone and flat-screen cable TV. Free parking and free Wi-Fi.
5 Star luxury Hotel surrounded by rainforest and wildlife and is 5-minute drive from the coast. Provides transportation to beach area and the national park. Adults-only and family-only areas, each with their own pools. Spa area with a steam bath, sauna and beauty salon. Free parking and free Wi-Fi.
Manuel Antonio is the smallest national park in Costa Rica, but also one of the most beautiful and popular ones in the country. The park is 6 kilometres from the town of Quepos. The 6-kilometre stretch of road is lined with hotels and other lodging places. At the entrance to the park is a huge, amazing beach – an enormous strip of white sand and turquoise waters where you can learn to surf. The park itself has four small and quiet beaches, and around them, everything is green -- a forest full of many kinds of animals walking around nearly fearless of tourists. You will see many monkeys, iguanas, birds, crabs, sloths, snakes, and crocodiles. After touring among the animals I recommend staying at one of the beautiful beaches of the park.
In the area between Quepos and Manuel Antonio there are many restaurants, a small tourist market, and some interesting nightlife. From Quepos you can take a catamaran to the bays of the area, where you can sometimes see dolphins and whales. You can also go snorkelling in one of the bays and see many fish.
Another experience you would not want to miss is sailing through a mangrove forest with “Rafa the Monkey Whisperer” as monkeys jump onto your boat and eat straight out of the palm of your hand. Rapa knows each and every one of these friendly monkeys and has even named them all.
Yet another great place to go is Villa Vanilla. Go on a tour to the botanical gardens and spice gardens of a spice farm. You will get to see and smell vanilla, tropical spices, cocoa, herbs, and more. The tour includes gourmet taste-testing of ice cream, cookies and chocolate milk, all made using local plants and spices.
On the way from Lands in Love to Manuel Antonio I recommend going on a “crocodile safari”
Jungle Crocodile Safari, in Tarcoles - La Barca, a boat ride among crocodiles, birds and mangroves.
In Costa Rica it is best not to rent a
car, but rather, use the excellent public transportation
and private shuttles available all over the country.
They will get you to your various destinations
comfortably and safely.
Have a great vacation!