When planning a family vacation it should not be the time when you build up so much stress in your life that you will feel you will need a vacation from your vacation. Here you can find some simple ideas for planning your vacation and some things you might not have thought about when visiting Costa Rica in comparing it to other parts of the world you might have visited.
Educate the Kids Before Arrival
If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica you are not only visiting the beautiful beaches and fast ziplines but you are also visiting a biological playground where people from all over the world come to study and learn about the many wonders of our planet. It is a simple task to just break the ice with your kids and give them some basic info on the rainforest, biodiversity, volcanoes and many other wonders.
Tour Companies, Guides, & Hotels
First of all if you are planning a trip with young children, you know they will want to stay active. This is an easy task in Costa Rica as there is much to do for kids of all ages. If you decide to choose some of the many adventure sports don't be afraid to go with the smaller outfitters as they are often much more personalized which is important when traveling with small kids. One idea is to do some research online or ask for references from past clients. You can find out online these days pretty quickly if a company is reputable and what the guides are like.
When you are not enjoying an adventure many parents like to have their kids be able to watch TV for a few hours in the afternoon and many hotels in Costa Rica do not have TV and I have seen in many cases that parents were not aware of that. Don't worry this is not a bad thing and it might actually be a good thing. When looking at the hotel make sure that they have a guide on hand. This is very important and many hotels will often have a guide literally on-call where nature hikes and simple educational things for the kids are always an option. If you have hired a personal guide for your entire week which is highly suggested but is an extra expense, then they will always find something for the kids to do. If you're doing a privately guided tour, just confirm with the company you are booking with that you will have the same guide throughout your trip. Do not get caught with thinking you have a private guide but really it is just on certain days.
Also when looking at hotels do not go by the website. We highly suggest using Trip Advisor. Hotels sites are not always what they appear. Costa Rica is the process of subduction of two tectonic plates and not to sound scientific, but in simple terms that means there are often a lot of stairs and hotels are often built in the side of a cliff. This is important to know if you have a stroller or small kids you have to carry. You do not want to be stuck in a room 200 steps down from where you will eat dinner. Ask where the rooms are located.
Transportation and Drive Time
Costa Rica is a place that is small but very rugid to get around. Even with the new modern highways there are still a lot of mountains and you will always find a dirt road. There are often tourism vans that can be rented and many companies use them. They may provide more room but slower travel times. If you are a family of 4 or 5 you can ask your tour company to use a large SUV which cuts drive time down in half and handle very well on the dirt roads.
Also if you really want to get travel time down, then the in-country flights are very reputable and have a perfect safety record. These airlines are Sansa and Nature Air. If your group is up to 7 people then it makes sense to even charter you own flight and you can leave at the time you choose. Plus this is a great way to see this beautiful country from above.
Also when the kids are young the drives are always twice as long. This is very important if you do not want to do your own driving. Make sure you are aware of driving distances. Many companies will try and do everything in the week long trip but not fill you in on drive time. The trip looks absolutely amazing but when you add in half of it being on a curvy mountain road with no dramamine for the kids it turns into a vacation from hell. Costa Rica is small country but don't make the mistake of looking at a map or asking for distances because that information is irrelevant, it is important that you ask for "drive time". Many tours often include a stop on the way which makes great sense and really breaks up a travel day. Costa Rica has boomed with tourism and you can almost always find something on the way and if a company tells you there is nothing on the way that might be your first indication to look for a different company.
The Beach and the Mountains
When planning a family vacation, I can imagine most might want to go visit the beaches. Keep in mind that Costa Rica is known for its surfing waves. This can be a good thing but there are many beaches where the waves are too rough for kids to play around in. You want to do your research and make sure that the beach you visit is safe for the kids.
When visiting the mountains of Costa Rica there are a number of different places to stay but not always a lot to do for the kids. A good guide can make a walk in the woods really interesting & safe for children. The mountains of Costa Rica are some of the most bio-diverse places on the planet when dealing with plants and animals and they get all this bio-diversity because of the rain. Always when traveling in Costa Rica be prepared for rain and if you visit the mountains two nights is usually all you need because it can sometimes be cloudy both days.
Costa Rica is the perfect country for a family vacation being a fun and safe environment that all kids can enjoy. It is the small details to every vacation that are worth paying attention to and if you have any questions we are always ready give you free advice.