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family vacation

Calgary, Canada
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287 posts
21 reviews
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family vacation

We are thinking about going to Costa Rica this winter to escape the Canadian cold a bit. We are looking at mid-January. I've been looking at different spots in Costa Rica and can't quite decide. We aren't fans of all-inclusive resorts and really produced tourist places. We'd prefer to experience more of the real Costa Rica. We would probably stay in a B&B or apartment instead of a large resort. We will be travelling with our toddler and my mom (early 60s). We'll only have a short stay (7-10 days). We'd really like to experience some rainforest and see some wildlife...my husband loves monkeys, haha. Any recommendations for a good spot? My husband is fluent in Spanish and I have a working knowledge. I know this is kind of a general question, but I always find advice from the forums more helpful then browsing the web. Thanks.

Pacific Trade Winds
Sightseeing Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours
Manuel's Tours
Eco Tours, Night Tours, Sightseeing Tours, Private Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours
Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
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23 reviews
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1. Re: family vacation

Sounds like you will enjoy Costa Rica as it's full of small towns, friendly folks and there are some spectacular rainforests. I'd suggest you fly into San Jose as pick 2 spots to explore in your timeframe. Some of my favorites include:

Sarapiqui roughly 1.5 hours NE of San Jose has rainforests with wildlife including a tropical research station at La Selva where you can take guided hikes, chocolate tours and more at Tirimbina Reserve, whitewater rafting or float trips on the Sarapiqui River and much more. Small town with limited number of tourists. My favorite B&B is Posada Andrea Crisitina run by a local family with great expertise in birding. They even have an option for treehouse accommodations.

Tortuguero, a small watery wonderland adjacent to the Caribbean coast where all travel is by boat through an extensive network of canals and rivers. Lots of wildlife but most folks come to see nesting turtles in season. See more info at http://www.tortuguerovillage.com/ Check out Casa Marbella for lodging. The beach here is not for lounging and the seas are too rough and the sharks too frequent to think of this as a beach stop.

Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo on the south Caribbean coast. Cahuita is a small town with a few great restaurants, a beautiful national park with extensive wildlife and a great beach inside the park. Lost of inexpensive lodging options. Puerto Viejo is a larger tourist oriented town but a little scruffy around the edges. Most visitors stay at small inns and B&Bs outside town within a short walk of beautiful beaches. Punta Uva has the most beautiful and swimmable beach, while surfers enjoy entertaining us on other beaches stretching down to Manzanillo, the smallest of the towns but with a great family vibe, especially on Sundays when the beaches are filled with local families out for the day.

On the opposite coast take a look at Samara, a small town with a beautiful beach NW of San Jose, roughly 4.5 hours by car. See more at http://samarainfocenter.com/ and http://www.nicoyapeninsula.com/samara/

Also check out the area south of Manuel Antonio between Dominical and Uvita, roughly a 4 hour drive from San Jose on good roads. This area has gorgeous rainforest hiking at Hacienda Baru and Oro Verde, horseback rides to waterfalls, kayking in the mangroves, beautiful beaches and Marino Ballena National Park. You can take daytrips to Cano Island for snorkeling or to Corcovado National Park (long boat trip). This is surfing territory but the beaches are beautiful and there are a few quieter beach coves or bays where swimming is possible. There are few beachfront lodgings but lots of great inns in the hills above with spectacular views of the coastline but less than a mile off the main highway. See more info at bahiaaventuras.com/national-parks/… and bodhisurfschool.com/costa-rica/national-parks

Hope these suggestions help. Pick 1 or 2 that appeal to you and do some more reseach before dedciding what fits your family best.

Edited: 11 October 2013, 22:06
Cahuita, Costa Rica
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for Cahuita
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2. Re: family vacation

What a list crfan! I`d like to add Samara to the wonderful suggestions...

Manuel Antonio...
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520 posts
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3. Re: family vacation

The Manuel Antonio/Quepos area is a great place to visit. Many tourists do come here for that same reason, but there are still niches where you can find that "real Costa Rica" experience that you mention.

I suggest you look into staying at Pueblo Real Condominiums (2777-1403). They are two bedroom condos with a full kitchen and living room, so it will feel like a nice-sized apartment to you. The best part is that they are located right next to the Damas Estuary where you can lots of monkeys and tropical wildlife. There is a small boat tour to take you through the mangroves and this will be an easy way for your toddler and mom to see the wildlife up close without having to hike. There are also lots of different kinds of birds that live on the hotel grounds and are fun to watch. There is a nice community pool there as well and you can even drink coconut water from the many palm trees around the pool (if they are in season)

The staff at the hotel are friendly. They live right around the hotel and you will see them out and about doing their daily life activities. They are never put off if you want to chat with them, whether they are at work or not. There are many tours that you can book which will show you the best of the area. Some of my favorites take you out to rural areas in the nearby mountains which will give you more insight into local life.

Manuel Antonio is the best of both worlds. Beautiful beaches and mountains, lots of animals, and a good mix of tourists and locals. I'm happy to help if you have anymore questions.

4. Re: family vacation

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