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Costa Rica Family Adventure
Costa Rica is a great vacation destination for a wide variety of reasons and a wide variety of travelers. This intimate country boasts stunning tropical weather, abundant flora and fauna, an incredible national park system, amazing beaches, stunning mountains, a vast array of activities, diversity of ecosystems in a compact area, strong relative value, huge range of accommodations from exotic luxury options to nature-based ecolodges, etcetera! However, what really stands out to me after over 6 years of traveling to this country and living here for the last 4 and a half years, is what an incredible haven this is for family travel. The Costa Rican people, affectionately known as ticos, love families and babies and generously express a special touch for the young, old and in-between. You will hear estoy para servirle often, which means I am here to serve you. As long as your behavior is gracious, it will be completely sincere. From the moment you arrive at Juan Santa Maria Airport in San Jose and proceed through customs, this will be apparent. There is a special line for families with young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with medical or special needs. Our first visit was when my youngest daughter was a tender 6 weeks old, and as soon as they saw me and my bundle, older daughter of 3, and husband, we were whisked into the expedited line and sent right through. Genuine hospitality will find you, whether you are with family, children, or not. However, when you are with children and/or elders, there is a wonderful extra effort made and the sincere desire to go above and beyond to accommodate will impress you. I cant think of a more enjoyable country for any family trip; there are activities to delight any age group and any fitness level.

A Costa Rica family adventure is such a great opportunity for you and yours to bond in a unique way, away from the crazy daily races that most of us participate in. I love the process: you have a clear planning stage, beginning, middle, end, and the post-travel memories and experiences that can last a lifetime. To top it off, there is a common goal all can work toward together: to have a great time! Start by narrowing down destinations and activities. Even if you have various priorities and opinions, you will likely be able to cover it all in Costa Rica. We have cloud forests, rainforests, Pacific beaches, Caribbean beaches, surf camps, snorkeling, whitewater rafting, hiking, horse back riding, camping, all-inclusives, you name it! Engage your kids to help in the planning and execution however they can contribute. Encourage them to document the trip by keeping a journal, taking pictures, and collecting memorabilia. Pick out some travel books together. There are beautifully illustrated field guides of flora and fauna to identify the numerous amazing creatures you see here in Costa Rica. The airports here have a nice selection, but if you do this in your hometown it could be a helpful part of the planning stage. Your son or daughter might decide they have a burning desire to see a Tapir, so you would then need to choose the right area near the appropriate National Park. A Costa Rica family adventure is not only a great time together; it can be super educational as well.

I am consistently impressed with tours in Costa Rica. Just because you are relaxing at a beach destination doesnt mean you cant enjoy an estuary trip, or volcano excursion, or a zip-line through the cloud forest. From all destinations there are half-day and day trips for all kinds of tours. When deciding on tours, I recommend always choosing the guided option. Generally the guides here are college educated, super friendly, and take great pride in their unique knowledge which really makes the experience an excellent added value. My husband and I took our girls for a guided waterfall hike at Lapa Rios in the Osa and if it werent for the terrific guide we would have missed out on so much. He knew just where to find a bat in a furled leaf, the dust-like spores of a fern that left perfect imprints on our clothing, cup-like mushrooms, frogs, and so much more. The two big highlights for us were when he scraped some sap from what he called a kerosene tree, placed it on the end of a walking stick and lit it up like a lantern and when he stopped to show us the clever spider that intentionally weaves in small twigs into its web which happens to match the body color of the spider. The spider leaves a small gap between the twigs where he can hide, making the appearance of one continuous twig-amazing! We were so enthralled that we waited to see if the spider would retreat to the camouflaged position, and sure enough we were able to see it! I have been so happy to have had the guides on every guided tour that I have taken in Costa Rica. I have found that they are also sensitive to ages and abilities which will make a big difference for your group as well.

Some of my favorite places to go with my family:

1. Lapa Rios Eco Lodge in the Osa Peninsula: For up close and personal nature, a truly sustainable experience, great food, views, excellent service, and luxury in the jungle, adventure. This lodge really is best for outdoorsy, somewhat adventurous families and kids 5 and older. It is my gold standard for eco-lodges.

2. Punta Islita on the Pacific Coast: They have tours, services, and even spa treatments geared for families. The spacious villas can accommodate families beautifully. The cuisine, service and views are wonderful; kids of all ages will love it. The tiny local community is a treat.

3. Harmony Hotel in Nosara: Very elegant, sustainable, healthy cuisine. Yoga for all levels. Great beach for boogie boarding, swimming and surfing. The locals and the clientele have relaxed international flair. Kids of all ages will do well; baby/toddler friendly pool.

4. Hotel Capitan Suizo in Tamarindo: This is a Swiss-run charmer on one of my favorite beaches ever. The pool and restaurant are totally family-friendly. You have the benefit of a bustling community with lots of services, amenities, and restaurants, however when you stay at Capitan Suizo you are in your own lovely little world. The beach is one of the best Ive experienced for kids of all ages where you all can swim, surf, and boogie-board. The staff is great. There are several local surf schools that are fantastic for all levels.

Travel is good food for the soul. I dont think there is a better way for a family to refresh, bond and create memorable experiences together. If you choose Costa Rica for your family adventure you will have memories to cherish; you will be delighted. In my experience, those that visit enjoy themselves so much they return because there is so much here to savor!

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