For more information about traveling with Children in Costa Rica contact Eco Interactive Tours.
Traveling with Children in Costa Rica – Central Pacific Coast
On the Pacific Ocean side, Costa Rica has plenty to offer for kids – mangrove forests to explore, really wet, tropical rain forests, pristine warm water beaches, and fabulous places to see spectacular wildlife, such as the endangered scarlet macaws, two-toed and three-toed sloths, toucans, ocelots and tapirs, plus marine mammals, dolphins, and humpback whales.
Manuel Antonio National Park (Quepos) – Manuel Antonio National Park (Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio), one of Costa Rica’s most popular parks, is quite easy to get to from San Jose. Right on the ocean, Manual Antonio is a dry-ish rain forest with mangroves and swimming beaches.
The trails through the park are easy, mostly level walking trails, and you can explore on your own. From the entrance, a good route to take is to walk along Playa Espadilla, swim at Playa Manuel Antonio (Manuel Antonio Beach), and walk back along Sendero El Perezoso.
At the entrance to the park, it’s a good idea to hire a naturalist guide to help you see all the marvelous wildlife in the park. The guides have spotting scopes, and most importantly, know where to find all those beautifully camouflaged animals (we stood with an iguana practically right under our feet, and didn’t see it until our guide pointed it out).
We saw common tent bats, tiny little proboscis bats, howler monkeys making lots of noise, a mother and baby three-toed sloth and a two-toed sloth snoozing in the trees, black iguanas (which are really black and ochre colored, and hard to spot on the rain forest floor), a basilisk iguana with a big fin down the back, toucans, iridescent hummingbirds, and squirrel monkeys. We spent some time just watching a (non-poisonous) golden silk spider hypnotically spinning a shimmering golden web.
Bring swim suits to swim at Manuel Antonio Beach – the beach is a sheltered cove with wide sandy beach, turquoise waters, plus picnic tables, bathrooms and showers to rinse off after your swim.
Because it’s so popular, Manuel Antonio can get crowded. The high season is December/January to April. Late May or June is a good time to come, as it isn’t all that crowded, and it’s just the beginning of the rainy season (October is the rainiest month).
Tip: Manuel Antonio National Park is closed on Monday
Drake Bay (Bahia Drake) – Drake Bay is named after that intrepid explorer, Sir Francis Drake, who stopped here in 1579. And it’s still somewhat remote, 45 min. by plane or seven hours by road from San Jose, but Bahia Drake is well worth the trip. It’s one of those places where the wonders of the natural world are so extraordinary and the rain forest environment is endlessly fascinating. You might have seen poison dart frogs or scarlet macaws in the zoo, but it’s completely different so see these animals in their rain forest home.
The beach at Drake Bay is a huge crescent, a black sand beach, perfect for combing for shells and driftwood at low tide (at high tide, the beach more or less disappears). Surrounding the beach is lush, dense tropical vegetation and flowering plants (it gets plenty of rain here). In the trees along the beach, look for colorful scarlet macaws in the wild almond trees.
Rain forest hikes – There are paths along the beach that go from the little town of Agujitas, toward La Paloma, through the forest, across a small suspension bridge, to the beach of San Josecito, where there’s good snorkeling.
To really see the rich and wonderful wildlife, hire an experienced naturalist guide. We took a two hour hike, perfect for kids, to look for poison dart frogs. You’d think these bright red and green frogs would be easy to spot, but you need to know where they live. Our guide led us way into the rain forest and started turning over leaves and branches – out jumped the tiny poison dart frogs. On our hike, we also saw scarlet macaws, two toucans high in the trees calling to each other, blue morpho butterflies, monkeys, a crocodile in a shallow river, and if you’re lucky, you might spot an ocelot also. Corcovado Expeditions has excellent guides and kid-oriented hike itineraries.
Tip: These are wet, wet rainforests, and you often wade in the streams on your hike, so wear good sturdy sandals like Tevas, not flip flops. Also, bring binoculars to spot the birds in the trees high up.
Dolphin and whale watching – Go out for half-day a cruise around the bay where you can look for whales and dolphins year round – humpback whales, orcas, bottlenose dolphins.
Corcovado National Park (Parque Nacional Corcovado) – From Drake Bay, take an unforgettable day trip to Corcovado National Park, fabulous rain forest, with lots of opportunities to see unique wildlife. It’s only a 20 min. boat ride to the park, then hike the trails with a naturalist guide, including a trail to a waterfall, and a cooling dip. (This is a trip you’ll definitely want to do with a guide, so contact your hotel or Corcovado Expeditions).
Terraba Mangrove Forest – Some places are only accessible by boat, and this is the way to explore the maze of channels, lined with mangrove trees, and home to all sorts of birds, caimans, crocodiles, river turtles, boas and basilisk iguanas (they walk on the water). A day trip through the mangrove forests of the Rio Sierpe feels like your own “Lost World” adventure.
Family Vacation Tips Part 1 – Traveling Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast with Kids
Family Vacation Tips Part 2 – Traveling Costa Rica’s Northern Zone
Family Vacation Tips Part 3 – The Magical Monteverde Cloud Forest
For more information about Travel in Costa Rica contact Eco Interactive Tours
Originally Published by Travel For Kids: