One Superb Week in Costa Rica With Our Teenagers

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Going to Costa Rica with teenagers? Right here’s our itinerary, what I’m glad we did, and what I’d do otherwise subsequent time.

My boys having fun with the view from La Vendanita restaurant close to La Fortuna.

Is Costa Rica in your bucket record? It was on mine for a very long time. So after two years with little journey, I used to be able to go large and eventually make it occur.

I’m glad to report that Costa Rica was all the pieces I’d hoped it could be: lush, beautiful, and full of recent wildlife, flavors, and tradition. Main as much as our journey, I promised/warned my household, “It’s going to be an journey!” and it completely was.

We spent every week in Costa Rica with our children, ages 13 and 17, and I needed to share our itinerary, in addition to what I’m glad we did AND what I’d do otherwise subsequent time. I hope that is useful to you.

What I’m Glad We Did

I’m glad we…rented a automotive

You may get round Costa Rica with personal shuttles or public transportation. However I liked having the liberty to discover on our personal, stopping at overlooks or markets alongside the way in which. Our journey company booked our automotive by way of Mapache, and we had no issues. It was a newish Suzuki 4X4, a should for the bumpy, unpaved roads. It was small however comfy for our household of 4.

Remember that most of the roads in Costa Rica are slim and windy, so it’s essential to be a assured driver. Since I deliberate the journey, my husband did all of the driving. That was a aid to me.

We did all of our driving in sunlight hours and gave ourselves loads of time. Velocity limits are low to account for the twisty roads, so brief distances can take for much longer than you assume (a 100-mile journey from Manuel Antonio to the San Jose airport took practically three hours).

For navigation, we used Google Maps offline since we didn’t have knowledge outdoors the motels. We made just a few unsuitable turns alongside the way in which however by no means acquired fully misplaced.

That is the little Suzuki 4×4 we rented from Mapache.

I’m glad we…went off the overwhelmed path

My favourite a part of the journey was driving round as a household, stopping at small eating places, scenic overlooks, small markets to purchase popsicles and tortilla chips, and fruit stands for contemporary mango and watermelon. We additionally drove by way of many small cities and exquisite rural areas. If we had stayed put at motels and resorts with different vacationers, we wouldn’t have skilled that.

The roads in Costa Rica are slim, and a few are bumpy and unpaved.

I’m glad we…used guides

You don’t technically want guides when visiting the rainforest and nationwide park. However I’m glad we did as a result of we might by no means have seen the wildlife on our personal. The guides know the best way to spot sloths hanging in bushes, which gap the tarantula resides in (yep!), and what leaf the poison dart frog is perching on. They’re additionally a wealth of data concerning the vegetation and historical past of the realm.

Right here’s a sloth our information noticed, (slowly) shifting from treetop to treetop.

I’m glad we…acquired assist from a journey agent

Even armed with recommendation from pals who had traveled to Costa Rica, I nonetheless felt overwhelmed planning the journey. So I used a journey company a buddy beneficial known as Pacific Commerce Winds. They had been so affected person with the majillion emails I despatched and all of my questions and last-minute worries. They answered each message promptly, and every step of our itinerary went off with no hitch.

We had been additionally upgraded at two of the motels to suites and given rooms with particularly pretty views (we had one of many few rooms at Tabacon with a volcano view), which I’ve heard can occur if you e-book by way of an company.

For journey planning, I additionally extremely suggest the Fb group Costa Rica Journey. You may ask questions, seek for matters, and get itineraries, suggestions, and inspiration there.

The view from North Fields farm, the place they develop cocoa and low beans.

What I Would Do In a different way

I want we had…been extra strategic about meals

Youngsters are ALWAYS HUNGRY, which may be particularly tough if you’re touring. We spent some huge cash on meals, and I believe we might’ve been smarter about it. My recommendation:

  • If you happen to’re reserving a lodge, verify the menus prematurely to make sure the meals is family-friendly and inexpensive.
  • Fill up on meals at a grocery retailer to maintain in your room (we stopped at a Wal-Mart close to the Liberia airport). See our record on the backside for concepts.
  • Go to one of many many fruit stands to purchase contemporary fruit and native baked items like Rosaquillas. Preserve the contemporary fruit in your lodge or Airbnb fridge.
  • Analysis eating places forward of time so you will have choices when everyone seems to be drained and hungry and desires to eat RIGHT NOW! Scroll down for 2 locations I like to recommend.
  • Eat on the “sodas”, that are small, locally-owned eating places with easy meals and good costs.

I want we had…scheduled extra actions

Each child is completely different, however I discovered that mine loved having one thing to do day by day of our journey. Some downtime to relaxation and recharge was needed, however my youngsters had been bored once we had a day with out plans.

We did 4 excursions in all–Mistico Hanging Bridges, Espresso & Chocolate Tour, Forest Night time Hike, and Manuel Antonio Nationwide Park Tour–however I want I had booked some lively, adventurous excursions as effectively, like waterfall rappelling, kayaking, or pedal-boarding on Lake Arenal, which a buddy beneficial.

Mistico Hanging Bridges Tour. We walked throughout six hanging bridges and, with the assistance of a information, noticed monkeys, sloths, snakes, spiders, and frogs.

I want we had…stayed in an Airbnb or Vrbo

Frankly, I used to be nervous about being in a new-to-me nation, so I needed to stay with motels. However now that I’ve visited, I might really feel nice about renting a well-rated Airbnb or Vrbo to economize, have a whole kitchen, and get extra room to unfold out.

For instance, a buddy of mine stayed on this Vrbo in Monteverde along with her household, and the proprietor organized to have a neighborhood cook dinner put together a standard dinner for them!

So many frosty, fruity drinks! This one was passionfruit.

I want we had…spent extra time in fewer locations

I scheduled so much for one week, and I believe I pushed us a bit an excessive amount of. If I might do it over, I’d keep at simply two locations as an alternative of 4, so we might spend extra time in every spot. Right here was our itinerary:

  • Fly into Liberia Airport and get shuttle to Resort Playa Hermosa Bosque del Mar (one night time): This was an anticipated further day, after Southwest randomly canceled our flights and rebooked us a day early. It was tremendous for our bonus day, however there are possible prettier seashores within the space.
  • Get rental automotive and drive to Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa (two nights)–the swankiest lodge we’ve stayed in as a household, with entry to their in depth thermal springs. I might keep within the La Fortuna space longer subsequent time. Whereas there, we additionally did:
  • Drive to Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Resort (two nights)–lovely and distant however I don’t suggest it for individuals who get carsick, because the street as much as the lodge is lengthy, bumpy, and unpaved. I arrived sick with meals poisoning, so sadly I didn’t get to get pleasure from this lodge. They despatched tea and hen broth to our casita for me.
    • Guided Night time Hike for my husband and children, the place they noticed quite a lot of frogs, snakes, spiders and loved being within the forest at night time.
  • Drive to La Vela Boutique Resort in Manuel Antonio (two nights)–a five-minute stroll to the Nationwide Park, which was a handy location however in a really touristy space. I want we’d had extra time at these seashores. Mapache additionally picked up our rental automotive right here.
    • Nationwide Park Tour: As a result of we didn’t get tickets to the park in time, doing a proper tour was the one approach to get in–however you can merely get park tickets and benefit from the park and seashores by yourself.
  • Shuttle to San Jose Airport for our flight house.
La Fortuna Waterfall, which is on the backside of 500 stairs. I wasn’t courageous sufficient to leap in (it’s COLD) however my guys did!

Highlights From Our Journey to Costa Rica with Teenagers

Cafe y Macademia: We stopped right here for frosty fruit drinks, pizza, superior views of Lake Arenal, plus enjoyable souvenirs on the way in which out. It’s definitely worth the lengthy, windy drive.

La Vendanita: A reader beneficial this small, family-owned restaurant close to La Fortuna, and my 17 12 months outdated declared it “the best restaurant he’s ever been to”. Owned by an ex-pat from California and his Costa Rican spouse, it’s acquired contemporary, inexpensive meals with wonderful views of the volcano.

A BIG burrito and chilly Imperial beer at La Vendanita.

Espresso & Chocolate Tour: I used to be fearful my youngsters can be bored studying about espresso, however all of us preferred this tour, which begins in a small farm and ends with tastings of espresso and chocolate. My youngsters additionally acquired to press juice from uncooked sugarcane. We discovered so much!

Our journey agent booked this tour by way of Canoa Aventura. however I’ve learn nice issues concerning the Don Olivio Chocolate Tour too.

Studying about cocoa pods (and attending to style the beans inside) at our espresso & chocolate tour at North Fields.

Mistico Hanging Bridges Tour: We traversed six hanging bridges with our information, who identified monkeys, sloths, spiders, tarantulas, snakes, and frogs alongside the way in which.

Manuel Antonio Nationwide Park Seashores: I want we had extra time at these lovely seashores, which seem like slices of paradise. These seashores are contained in the nationwide park, and tickets to the park promote out, so e-book yours prematurely.

The seashores inside Manuel Antonio Park are postcard-perfect!

FAQ About Costa Rica

Did we really feel secure in Costa Rica?

Sure! We didn’t expertise something that felt harmful. That being stated, it’s vital to know that automotive break-ins are widespread. Once we stopped at a Wal-Mart, safety guards patrolled the tons, and at Cafe y Macademia, you tip the parking zone attendants to control your automotive. We additionally stashed our passports and valuables within the lodge safes when out of our room, which is sensible regardless of the place you journey.

Is it okay to drink the water?

Sure. I did loads of analysis earlier than going, and the consensus was that the water is secure to drink. Nonetheless, I did come down with some sort of meals poisoning that landed me in mattress for about 36 hours in the midst of our journey. It’s not possible to know what prompted it, however no person else within the household acquired sick whereas we had been there despite the fact that all of us ate and drank the identical issues.

What’s the meals like in Costa Rica?

At motels and resorts, you’ll be able to simply discover acquainted fare. On the small native eating places (known as sodas), you’ll discover menu objects like gallo pinto (rice and beans), arroz con pollo (hen and rice), casado (rice, beans, greens, and plantains), and many contemporary fruit juices. And the pineapple! Oh the pineapple! It’s in every single place and it’s FABULOUS.

We additionally ate loads of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and nachos. My youngsters had no drawback discovering objects on each menu that they preferred.

What forex do they use?

The forex of Costa Rica is the colon. Once we arrived, we exchanged $200 for colones and introduced $200 value of {dollars} in small payments for suggestions. We paid in colones, {dollars}, and with our Visa (there’s a small charge for utilizing Visa).

Presently, the alternate price is about 660 colones per $1. Don’t alternate your cash on the airport like we did–their price was a lot decrease!

Is it true they don’t flush rest room paper?

Sure, in some locations they ask you to position used rest room paper in a can beside the bathroom.

Do I would like to talk Spanish?

Most people we encountered working in tourism spoke English. However we additionally met many “Ticos” (that’s what Costa Ricans name themselves) who didn’t converse a lot or any English in any respect, just like the proprietors on the fruit stands and markets we visited and the cashier at Wal-Mart. However by way of hand gestures and the Google Translate app, we had been in a position to work it out!

I believe it’s respectful to try to converse the native language, so we used easy Spanish phrases wherever we went, and my youngsters acquired to follow the Spanish they’ve discovered in class, translating menu objects and street indicators. Fundamental phrases & phrases we used:

  • Hola: Hiya
  • Gracias: Thanks
  • Buenos días = Good morning
  • Buenas noches = Good night
  • Mucho gusto = Good to satisfy you
  • Adiós = Goodbye
  • Por favor = Please
  • Lo siento = Sorry
  • ¿Dónde? = The place?
  • Sí = Sure

What does “Pura Vida” imply?

You’ll see and listen to this expression in Costa Rica. The literal translation is “pure life” or “easy life” and it embodies the laid-back vibe of the nation. As one in every of our tour guides defined to me, it may be used for all the pieces from a greeting, a goodbye, a solution to “how are you?” and even a “no worries” when one thing goes unsuitable.

Since returning house, we’ve tried to maintain the relaxed, worry-less “Pura Vida” vibe going!

View of Lake Arenal on the way in which to Cafe y Macademia.

What to Pack for Costa Rica with Teenagers

  • T-shirts (at the least one per day if no entry to laundry since you’ll get scorching and sweaty), shorts, mountaineering pants or joggers, hoodie
  • Additional socks (in case you get moist)
  • Raincoat
  • Bathing fits and rash guard
  • Sun shades
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Day packs for everybody: On excursions, have every particular person carry a pack with their very own swimsuit, towel, water bottle, and anything they want.
  • Strolling or mountaineering sneakers
  • Sandals or slides
  • Hat
  • Binoculars
  • Sunscreen (the solar is robust!)
  • Bug spray (you may also purchase this there)
  • Imodium anti-diarrhea drugs. A reader suggested me to pack this simply in case. So glad I did as a result of we had been distant from a pharmacy after I wanted it.
  • Bonine movement illness chewable tablets. The roads are windy, so it’s simple to get carsick. Even if you happen to don’t lease a automotive, you could want it for the shuttles to motels and resorts.
  • Band-aids and antibiotic ointment
  • Advil or different ache reliever
  • Taking part in playing cards or Uno
  • Cellphone charger for the automotive
  • Many $1, $5, and $10 payments for tipping
Manuel Antonio Nationwide Park

Groceries We Purchased in Costa Rica

  • Chips and different salty snacks
  • Cookies (good for dessert again within the room)
  • Granola bars
  • Bottled water
  • Gatorade (I used to be so glad to have this after I was dehydrated from meals poisoning!)
  • Exhausting sweet (nice for lengthy hikes)
  • Peppermints (to appease carsickness)
  • Crackers
  • Nuts
  • SIM card (we had been suggested to get this however by no means found out the best way to use it!)

Extra Journey Itineraries




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