COSTA RICA: #familyvacation edition
This is my mother-in-law Pam…
She kinda blew my mind when she said she wanted to celebrate her 70th birthday with a trip to Costa Rica. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the idea. But I also wondered if it would feel a bit outside the box for my husband’s family – some of whom haven’t traveled outside of the country yet, others who don’t deviate from a daily meal of PB&J. Finding activities to match the diversity of the group would be the key for a really fun trip & I was up for the challenge.
Pam’s request for beaches & waterfalls led me to select the North Highlands region & the Southern Caribbean as our main destinations. Not only did they have beautiful sites, but there were high & low impact activities to satisfy all. Here are the top 5 highlights – each getting it’s own “heart pumping” rating to distinguish the more adventuresome activities.
ARENAL VOLCANO MEGA VIEWS: The North Highlands region’s biggest landmark is Arenal Volcano. Looming over the city of Fortuna on one side & Lake Arenal on the other, this bad boy last erupted in the 1960s and continued to spew lava & ash until 2010. As you can imagine the views of Arenal are spectacular so we enjoyed a leisurely drive around the lake. If you want to kick it up a notch, Google Maps pins a boat ramp on the northwest side of the lake, where you can rent kayaks or negotiate a boat tour from a local. Heart-pumping rating:
CROCODILES & RUM RIVER FLOAT: The slow-moving Penas Blancas river is perfect for a rafting safari. While the experience itself required little physical effort, we got our thrills through all of the wildlife we saw. Our eagle-eyed guide from Canoa Aventura pointed out monkeys, sloths, bats, herons, African beehives & best of all, a lone crocodile basking in the sun. There were some minor freak-out moments as he took note of us and started to move our way. Our tour ended at a farm where we enjoyed a chocolate & a rum tasting. Heart-pumping rating:
ZIPLINING OVER WATERFALLS: Yes, this is possible and incredible! We did the longer tour offered by Arenal Mundo Aventura, which included 12 lines. One line was 1 kilometer long & our speeds got up to 60mph. And then you zip right over the Pino Blanco & La Fortuna falls! I should note here that my mother-in-law who is afraid of heights signed up for this tour. There was about a ½ mile, uphill hike up to the lines, which was a bit tough for her. Luckily when it was time for her to ziplines, the guides (who called her “Mama”) offered to go tandem with her. My favorite part? That smile in the picture above. Heart-pumping rating:
BEACH CRAWL: The main reason we went to the Caribbean side was to visit Playa Punta Uva, which I saw described online as one of the 25 most beautiful beaches in the world. The beach is tucked away and far less trafficked than nearby Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo. Its beauty is only made better by the adjacent Eden Beach Bar, which crafts its own fruit-infused rums and sells boozy drinks in to-go cups. Heart-pumping rating:
NIGHT HIKE: If you like wildlife at all, the night tour offered through the Jaguar Rescue Center is a must! We started with a traditional Costa Rican dinner, tales from our guide and oh – just a giant sloth visiting the kitchen! OMG. From there, the night just kept getting better with tree frogs, basilisk lizards, turtles, whiptail scorpions & spiders the size of your palms! You’re constantly wondering whose glowing eyes are staring out at you in the darkness. Heart-pumping rating:
While all of these activities were super fun, I think my favorite memory was hanging by the pool one night with everyone. We spotted some iguanas getting down in a tree, saw some toucans fighting and heard howler monkeys in the distance. It was purely Pura Vida.
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Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Rita V and the Hashtag 59 Team