Immersion in Costa Rica’s natural landscapes and cowboy culture is sure to be a hit with families in search of an adventure
When planning a family-friendly break for clients it can be tricky to please both the children and the adults, but Costa Rica’s range of activities, from wildlife watching to adrenaline-inducing adventures, will be a hit with kids and big kids.
A direct British Airways flight from Gatwick to Costa Rica’s capital San Jose makes the 11-hour journey easier when travelling with little ones, while the country’s peaceful nature ensures it’s a safe destination for families. Plus, Costa Rica’s wide-open spaces, lack of crowds and many eco lodges and alternative accommodation in the midst of nature mean it’s a suitable option for families keen to explore soon after the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are five experiences to include in a family’s Costa Rica itinerary.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest biological reserve is one of Costa Rica’s most famous sites to explore. Produced by the country’s high humidity, the cloud mist sits on the land at 1,600 metres above sea level and creates an ecosystem home to 2,500 plants and 1,500 species of animal. The quetzal and rare three-wattled bellbird are just two of the species visitors can aim to spot.
Families keen to explore by land can try trekking or horse riding, stopping off at one of the butterfly houses en route, and those that would like to get a bird’s eye view of the cloud forest can book onto zip-lining or take a canopy tour.
Entrance to the park costs $10 for children aged 6-12 and $20 for adults.
Recommend your clients head to the Caribbean coast beaches at Tortuguero to see green sea turtles, hawksbills and leatherbacks nest in the sand. For green sea and hawksbill turtles families will need to visit between July and October (peak nesting in August) and between February and April to see leatherback turtles nesting; although individual turtles can be seen at any time of year. Turtles also hatch between October and the end of March in Guanacaste at Las Baulas National Marine Park and Ostional National Wildlife Refuge.
All eco lodges in the local areas offer tours led by locals to help support the town’s economy, and there’s a limit to how many tourists can experience the hatching each night to prevent overcrowding.
Costa Rica’s rivers offer white-water rafting and tubing adventures throughout the year, but the optimum season for these watersports is from mid-May to the end of March. Whether your client is a family of daredevils or a family keen to keep things a little calmer, there will be a river for them – Costa Rica is home to everything from gentle Class I rapids to extreme Class VI rapids.
Rio Pacuare (Class III-IV) is rated as one of the top rafting rivers in the world, with soft rapids en route to the eco lodges and more extreme rapids out the other side. Meanwhile, the Rio Sarapiqui (Class II – III) run is suitable for both experienced and amateur white-water rafters and best explored over two days. Clients choosing this option will experience Costa Rica’s longest river.
Rio Reventazon is a good option for families with different abilities, comprising two sections: the Tucurrique section (Class III) for first timers and the wild Pascua section (Class IV-V) for those with previous rafting experience. The Rio Corobicí is also great for beginners and families with children.
While the most famous rafting locations are mentioned here, there are many other rivers in Costa Rica that provide exhilarating rafting adventures.
A little-known fact about Costa Rica is that it has a cowboy culture in Gunacaste and La Fortuna in the north of the country. Families will love the opportunity to spend the day on a cattle ranch and temporarily live the life of a cowboy or cowgirl, learning old farming techniques, milking cows, making sugar and cooking traditional meals.
These cattle ranches also offer horseback treks to explore Costa Rica’s tropical forests, beaches, waterfalls, hidden lakes and incredible biodiversity.
The very best way to see Costa Rica’s diverse landscape and biodiversity is from above, with zip-lining, canopy and hanging bridge tours the most popular ways to do so.
Families can fly through the clouds near Arenal national park to see views of the active Arenal Volcano or they can take the “one minute challenge” in Central Valley, a one-minute zip line that stretches almost a mile, has a highest point of 100 metres and sees zip liners reach speeds of up to 55mph.
In order to help protect Costa Rica’s nature and wildlife, the Costa Rica Tourism Board is launching the Pura Vida Pledge on its Pura Vida University training programme. This is a list of hotel and tour partners that are practising sustainability, designed to help UK travel agents curate a sustainable itinerary and promote responsible tourism. To be one of the first to find out when this resource launches to the trade, you can complete the training.
The Costa Rica Tourism Board is also offering agents the chance to win a soft sloth toy or toucan teddy by completing the course by 30 June 2020.