After trying to get my family to Costa Rica for about five years, it finally happened! We spent nine days exploring and having adventures in its natural beauty. Costa Rica is teeming with natural wonders and diverse wildlife. In fact, over 26% of the country is dedicated to national parks and wildlife preserves.
Costa Rica is located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama and it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other side. It is very small, at only 19,700 square miles, but it is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world.
You might think that with its small size it would be easy to drive around the entire country in a week; however, due to its mountainous terrain, you’ll spend a lot of time on winding narrow roads, some paved and some not. Signs are in Spanish and traveling 120 miles might take four hours. The best way to get the most out of your visit is to take an escorted tour and let someone else deal with all the logistics while you get to enjoy the sights.
We traveled with a company called G Adventures, which is one of many companies that offer tours that include transportation, accommodations, sightseeing and most importantly, an English-speaking guide. A guide can tell you about all the amazing things you are seeing and make arrangements for your adventures in each location. We stayed in small, family-run lodges and inns that had an authentic Costa Rican vibe. In La Fortuna, we could see the Arenal Volcano as we ate breakfast and there were howler monkeys in the trees.
La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano
This area is about four hours from San Jose, which is the main airport to fly into Costa Rica. The sight of the Arenal Volcano makes the views amazing. In this area you can soak in natural hot springs, hike into the rainforest and see all types of wildlife.
You can also visit coffee plantations and see how they make coffee to be exported around the world. You’ll find hanging bridges that get you into the canopy of the rainforest. Waterfalls are everywhere and you can rappel down the face of waterfalls, climb up or walk under the falls and end with a swim. Whitewater rafting is a popular adventure and offers views of wildlife. Lake Arenal features stand up paddleboarding, sportfishing, kayaking and sunset sails.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
It takes about four hours to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde via car and boat. A guided night walk in the Cloud Forest is a great introduction to this area. We did this with nature guides who used flashlights to point out monkeys, sloths, frogs, birds, a porcupine in a tree, snakes and a tarantula! Costa Rica is known for zip-lining and in this area there are numerous adventure parks that offer it, along with hanging bridges, rappelling, animal sanctuaries, butterfly gardens and more. In one day, we went zip-lining, visited a sloth sanctuary (my favorite) and went horseback riding. The weather is always mild, and you need to bring a rain jacket.
Manuel Antonio Beach Area
It takes about five hours to get from Monteverde to the Manuel Antonio area on the Pacific Coast. The drive is beautiful, but winding as you travel from the mountains back down to sea level. This beach is great for learning to surf, kayaking, fishing, sailing and snorkeling. You can also go hiking, rafting and kayaking in mangroves. From this area it takes about three hours to drive back to San Jose to fly home.
I hope this inspires you to make plans for a family vacation to remember. You can fly from the Eugene Airport to Costa Rica on connecting flights with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines. Passports are required to visit Costa Rica. Contact a professional travel agent to plan your adventure!
Stay updated with the latest official information
Costa Rica Tourism: visitcostarica.com
Passport info: usa.gov/passport
Centers for Disease Control: cdc.gov/travel
Meet Vacation MOM Vacation MOM is brought to you in partnership with Eugene Airport
Donnita Bassinger has been a travel agent for three decades, and she enjoys sending families on vacations around the world. She is mom to three boys and lives in Eugene with her husband. Tropical vacations are her specialty and she would love to help you plan a great vacation.
Contact Donnita at 541-913-5272 or on facebook @VacationMOM