AKontheGO note: When Anchorage writer Gina Romero told me she was planning on taking her family to Costa Rica just before Christmas, I swooned and told her she simply must give me the skinny on this warm, tropical, and friendly Central America destination. Traveling with their son and daughter, Romero and her husband found plenty of holiday charm and outdoor fun during Christmas vacation. ~EK
by Gina Romero
We love the idea of international family travel. Exposure to language, culture and a different way of life is at the root of our philosophy as a family. It was a no-brainer, then, to book tickets when Alaska Airlines added direct service between Los Angeles and Liberia, Costa Rica.
Equipped with a four-wheel drive vehicle, a GPS and two kids, my family set out to explore Northwestern Costa Rica for two weeks. First up, the beach town of Coco, about 25 minutes from Liberia by car. This small community located along the Pacific Ocean was the perfect staging ground for the first seven and last two days of our trip.
After a week, the four of us headed for the cooler mountains of Monteverde. Two weeks in two different regions amounted to one great trip. I compiled top three reasons why Costa Rica is a prime destination for families.
1. ADVENTURE Snorkeling, surfing, turtle viewing or hiking, there were exploration opportunities at every turn. If you ask my kids, ages 8 and 6, zip-lining through the Cloud Forest will likely be the first thing they talk about. Several companies offer adventure tours. Selvatura Park, located near Santa Elena, was our top choice. They were well-organized and the guides provided excellent mentorship to our kids. Guides give a safety orientation before zipping the group through the forest from 15 platforms. The tour ended with an epic Tarzan Swing that starts from a platform about 30 feet in the air.
2. SPECTACULAR SCENERY Waves from translucent blue water hit the shores of the white sand and seashell beach at Playa Conchal, located next to Brasilito. Howler monkeys rested with their babies in the trees nearby. A coral reef snake made its way to the shore causing people to stop in their tracks at the beach in Coco. The action didn’t stop once we made our way to the mountains. A curious coati (raccoon-like animal) tried to join our family inside the cabin. It was one of many animals and birds that roamed freely thoughout the spacious grounds during our stay at Los Pinos. Days ended with fiery red, gold and orange sunsets. There was plenty to see after sunlight. Creatures of the night came alive during a night hike in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest where we discovered, among many things, an orange-kneed tarantula tucked away in a dark hole.
3. PEACE AND KINDNESS December is the height of a season when both visitors and locals are on holiday. Still, there were periods of peace and quiet. Some beaches were virtually empty, a bridge walk we took was quiet, and we were often the only ones at the pool at our condo in Coco.
Costa Rica is a family-friendly destination packed with adventure, beauty and hospitality. It’s a place where families can unplug, recharge and discover together.
Getting there: Alaska Airlines now flies to the cities of Liberia and San Jose. Costa Rica. The Romero family utilized Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles to secure travel for their party of four, traveling to Anchorage-Seattle-Los Angeles-Liberia.
Staying: Arriving in the community of Playa del Coco, about 36 kilometers from the Liberia airport. Wanting space for their young children, the Romeros took advantage of Vacation Rentals By Owner to secure a small house packed with toys for their kids and close to attractions and the beach.
Transportation: While transportation is available to and from the airport and to some villages, the Romero family decided to go independent and rent a car. Their first attempt through Vamos came up short when a computer glitch caused their reservation to disappear. Undaunted, Gina and her husband settled on Poas, which ultimately cost more due to some unannounced fee increases, but resulted in a solid family car with a GPS. The lesson? Confirm and verify, always.
International Travel: All humans must have passports from their country of citizenship to enter Central America, even infants. The U.S. Department of State has an excellent tutorial on passports for children, including what to do if only one parent will accompany a child on a trip. Note that applying for passports can take up to six weeks, so plan ahead before any international travel (this includes Canada or Mexico).