It is hard to believe that nearly six months has passed since we were in Costa Rica. Even harder to believe it has taken me this long to blog about it! This was our first big international trip with the kiddos and they were nothing short of amazing. They are great travelers, having flown to the West Coast so many times, and continued to be patient, occupied, and behaved the entire trip. A few people have asked for a recap of our trip so here it is. I will say, Costa Rica is one of the most family friendly and accommodating countries I've been to. We opted out of the resort experience and chose to rent a house in Playa Portrero, a little ways away from the tourist trap of Playa Tamarindo. Our neighbors were a mix of locals and expats, puppies, kittens, and we even had a nightly visitor, a black lab that would just come to hang out and get some attention from my animal loving kids. We would go back in a heartbeat and because we went in the off season, we saved a ton of money. All in, for 8 days, everything included, we spent $4800. That is reasonable for a family of five. We saved for a long time and involved the kids in the saving process, which in some small way, made it even more special.
A few things:
I do speak Spanish. It helped, but it is very easy to find someone who speaks English.
Costa Rica is a country full of sites, we stayed on the coast but if you're able, the jungle is worth exploring.
The question I get most is about Zika. We hardly saw any mosquitos when we were there but we came prepared. Mosquitos hate the small of lavender so we used Whole Foods Brand lavender lotion coupled with bug spray every time we went outside. Not a single one of us were ever bitten by a bug. We did, however, have a few scorpions in our kitchen!
We had our own private pool in the house and when the kids were done with the ocean, they hopped right in to the pool.
The beach, within walking distance from our house.
The fruit stand, also within walking distance from the house. We went here every single day and the man who owns it was so great. He loved the kids and seriously had the best mangos I've ever eaten in my life.
Playa Conchal. This beach has crystal clear water and white sand, made from shells. It was a bit touristy for our taste, but we found a nice corner to swim and snorkel in.
Our one excursion was a two hour drive to Llanos de Cortez Waterfall. It is off the beaten path, but worth every bumpy road. Completely amazing experience.
We talked to a local guide and he took us on a private hike above the waterfall. My daring husband jumped from the tops of each rock into various swimming hole with the guide, while I checked our life insurance policy. (kidding...sort of.)
This is our guide. He was so sweet with the kids. That is something about Costa Rica, they worship children. Every child goes to school and has health care. Children are the focus of families and believe me, you can tell. When you park at the waterfall, there is a small admission fee, which goes to support the local school.
Playa Flamingo. Beautiful beach to explore and climb the trees, but the waves were a bit much for my littles. Gorgeous drive, though.
Las Baulas National Park. This was a find on my part. The house we stayed in had a Lonely Planet Costa Rica guide and there was a small blurb about this National Park, the largest nesting site of sea turtles in the world. If you go, bring some cash, because you have to take a boat through an estuary to get to the park. And, it should be noted that alligators live in the estuary, but rarely go onto the beach. I'm not going to lie, the warning signs freaked me out a bit but I dragged us so far down the beach, we were in the clear. This beach is packed with gorgeous shells and is not very popular, so we had the beach to ourselves. It was beautiful.
Playa Penca. We saved the best for last. This beach was surreal with crystal clear water, trees to climb, and virtually no one on the beach. It is at the tip of the coast, a mere five minute drive from our house. It was the best way to end our time in Costa Rica.
There is only 12 hours of sunlight in Costa Rica and we tried to see the sunset every night. They are remarkable. Below is a list of resources we used to plan our trip: