8 favorite things in Costa Rica
Have you ever been to Costa Rica? If not, you should definitely add it to your list of travel destinations. You don’t have a list? Then you should most definitely start one. Our family made a list of dream destinations at the beginning of 2014. Hey, you have to keep dreaming! Everyone wrote down 5 places he or she wants to visit. We compiled Costa Rica, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, Guam, Fiji, Indonesia, Chile and Paris. Since Costa Rica got the most votes, we started planning the trip and went right after Christmas 2014. And it was so worth it! The vegetation, the wildlife and the landscapes are simply incredible. We spent two weeks in this mesmerizing country and had the best time. Here are some of our favorites:
- The Ticos. The people of Costa Rica are very open-minded, friendly and helpful people. Even though my husband only speaks a bit Spanish and I hardly know anything we came along well everywhere. Guess what, many people do not speak English. Which was very refreshing since we haven’t been in a place where no one knew any English for a long time.
- Hotel Mystica/Lake Arenal: Our first stop was literally mystic. This rather small hotel on a mountainside above the Lake Arenal could not have been better for our introduction to Costa Rica. The views over the lake are stunning and you can stroll through the sprawling grounds and find exotic plants, beautiful butterflies, a nature rock pool and many more things. The hotel has a few rooms in a lodge, a variety of jungle cabins and two private villas. For a small fee you can take a Yoga lesson every morning on the Yoga deck in the jungle. Highly recommended!
- River tour on Rio Tenorio with Safaris Corobici. We saw a big variety of birds like herons, ospreys and a kingfisher. Lots of monkeys in the trees, iguanas, crocodiles and even some bats. We had our own raft with a private guide. His English was limited but he was excellent in finding hidden animals and pointing out unusual sights. The 2-hour was diverting and therefore perfect for the kids. A van picks you up, brings you back to the lodge and hot lunch is included.
- Watching leatherback turtles (baulas) nesting at Las Baulas National Marine Park/Playa Grande: This was by far the highlight of our trip. All of the hotel desks and tour operators in the area offer turtle nesting tours during the season (November to April). It’s not necessarily suited for kids, but it was worth staying up long. You have to be at the park headquarter at 11 pm. And after checking in and watching a short movie about the nesting turtles and the park itself you have to just wait and hope that the volunteers who guard the beach all night long, will actually spot a turtle. Because only then, two groups of 15 people will walk single file on the beach. We ended up walking at least about 2 miles back and forth along the beach. It was almost full moon, you could see very well for 12.30 am and we were just so blessed to see 3 leatherback turtles in total. One was already laying her eggs, the second one was digging the hole close to treelike and we even saw a third one on our way back which just came out of the ocean and crawled towards the trees. Our girls were not tired anymore. It was a truly breathtaking night and they called it an amazing night adventure. G © Costa Rica Information
- One of our favorite beaches was Playa Carillo next to Samara. We stayed at Popo’s treehouse in Puerto Carillo and the beach was absolutely stunning. Perfect for kids boogie boarding and just enjoying the white, warm sand and the views around. December and January are pretty busy though, since the Ticos are on their summer break. And there are so many other beautiful beaches to explore, too. The son of our host Popo took my husband surfing one morning and we went back to the same beach the following day. I don’t even know the name of the beach and it’d be hard to find it without instructions, but you should go and explore the beaches wherever you are in Costa Rica. Talk to locals and maybe you’ll meet a kind Tico that will tell you his secret spot. Be sure to rent a 4wheel drive! And make sure to book it far in advance, because we didn’t and ended up with the smallest 4wd on this planet!
- Horse back riding through the jungle. That was my daughter’s birthday present and she absolutely loved it. We rode through the jungle on top of the hills, had stunning views along the coast and after riding back down again, we had a long straight stretch towards the beach where all our horses knew: Now’s the time to gallop fast. And so they did! At the end we rode along the south end of Playa Carillo which was a perfect ending for this great adventure. Be aware there are no waivers and you’re not gonna wear a helmet. No risk, no fun!
- Zip lining at Monkey Jungle/Tamarindo: Also here, no waiver whatsoever, but you get a harness and a helmet and explicit safety instructions before the tour. They take you up the hill with an ATV and then you get to go on seven different cables with different attributes like the longest, the fastest and one where you can go upside down. Our two guides were super friendly, helpful and made everyone feel very comfortable and safe. The final event of the tour is a Tarzan swing from a 30feet high platform over a dry riverbed. Big fun for the whole family!! On TripAdvisor it’s #12 out of 71 Outdoor Activities in Tamarindo.
- Hotel Cala Luna, Tamarindo. For the last days of our trip we spoiled ourselves with a stay at this extraordinary wonderful hotel. I have to say that we are not “hotel people” at all. We always rather book a vacation rental where you can make your own meals and usually have more space. But staying there was so worth it, even though Tamarindo is by far not our favorite town in Costa Rica. The lush grounds of Cala Luna are marvelous, you can hear the howler monkeys every morning (a bit too well sometimes) and sometimes they even sat in the trees right next to the pool. The rooms are spacious and the decoration is typical and very tasteful. The pool is beautiful and never felt crowded during our stay. It is in the middle of the hotel with two adjacent well-sized restaurants. They serve a breakfast à la carte every morning and you can eat lunch and dinner at both restaurants, while the smaller one serves bar-style dishes. All of the staff was so friendly and appropriately chatty. Cala Luna is not necessarily a family hotel, but everyone was super nice to our kids and they loved it there so we were all in heaven! Every night you could get a complimentary sunset cocktail at the hotel beach. Hence the sunset was even more breathtaking.
Add this country to your travel list or, if it’s already on it, start planning your trip today!