Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Costa Rica with kids
Costa Rica is a great place for families. It has animals, very friendly people, nice places to stay (especially good for families with kids still napping), beaches, and it’s adventurous enough for adults and teens.

As I drink a cup of Costa Rican coffee on a cold morning in San Francisco, I remember the elation of running and laughing with my kids and nieces under a warm tropical rain, through luscious, green rain forest, toward an almost empty Caribbean beach. Once we got to the beach, we jumped into the ocean and played for hours with the waves. I could still feel the wetness on my skin as my kids, returning back to our little hotel right next to Cahuita National Park.

My sister and her family, and my two kids and I were staying for five days at Kelly Creek Inn, an amazing little find in the town of Cahuita, at the foot of Cahuita National Park. Cahuita Park is an 11km rainforest park in the Caribbean La Amistad Conservation Area of Costa Rica in the southern Caribbean coast of the Limon province. The province of Limon is English/Spanish bilingual thanks to the large Jamaican descendant population in the area.

We had gone to Costa Rica from San Francisco, on our way to visit my family in Ecuador. My sister is currently living in Costa Rica and we had the fortune of being able to stop by to see her and her kids.

We arrived to Cahuita and Kelly Creek after a four-hour drive from San Jose. Costa Rica is an expensive country if you compare it to other Latin American countries, so the first week of our stay there, except for a one-night stay at gorgeous but more expensive Manuel Antonio, we did just did day trips from my sister’s house in San Jose. Though the kids were originally disappointed with the “lack of a pool,” we were soon at home and at ease and enjoying the basics of good living: time with family at an affordable price, gorgeous nature around us, a beach walking distance from our rooms, a park a step away for running or hiking, delicious and affordable food in town, and a place relaxed enough that we were able to bring out the board games in the restaurant after breakfast.

I enjoyed waking up before anyone for a morning run or walk in the forest and then some delicious Costa Rican coffee. Our awesome host, Spanish expat Domingo, would make some delicious breakfast, while our kids played with his nine-year-old. My kids are in a Mandarin immersion program in San Francisco (for the mental benefit of language exposure), and his kid is at an immersion program too, as he goes to school at a reservation nearby where he learns the indigenous language: Bribri.

Most mornings we bought picnic food and spent the day hiking and swimming in the beaches along the gorgeous rainforest reserve. Cahuita Park is full of animals such as birds, monkeys, and raccoons (who were always trying to snatch things from us).  We would also go on lovely road trips like driving through the town of Puerto Viejo, to get a delicious Caribbean lunch in Maxim’s restaurant in Manzanillo or to just enjoy a swim at the calm waters of the beach in Manzanillo. In the afternoon, when we came back, Domingo would show us the crocodile Roberto in the creek by the hotel and we would have fun looking at monkeys acting crazy in the trees above us. One night, our little town had a Caribbean music festival and the kids and we enjoyed a piece of Caribbean culture.

On our last night stay, Domingo made us delicious Paella for which he had prepared the broth for a couple of days. On our last morning, as I sat by myself having coffee, I really felt an urge to drop city life and set up my life in a small hotel somewhere with my family (many places in Ecuador give me that craving too), where we can live simply and do language immersion for my kids in say Bribri instead of Mandarin.

Other places we enjoyed on our Costa Rican vacation — and this beautiful country has many more to offer:

  • Manuel Antonio national park. A small but gorgeous National park in the Pacific coast with beautiful beaches and hiking trails. We stayed at environmentally-friendly (the hotel was built in an area full of trees, yet they tried to preserve most of them), kid friendly (has two pools one with a slide for the kids and one for the adults) hotel called Sicomono.
  • Though the city of San Jose doesn’t offer the old colonial architecture as some cities in Ecuador, we enjoyed taking the kids to a stroll in downtown San Jose, going for coffee and delicious food at the Mercado Central market, visiting the beautiful old National Theater, and going for an afternoon to the discovery museum.
  • Enjoying the weather, swimming in the pool, and strolling by the cafes and restaurants near my sister’s house in Escazu.
  • Zoo Ave. A lovely rescue animal zoo that has a canopy line that the kids really enjoyed.

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Born to a large family in Quito, Ecuador, Carmen Cordovez went to bilingual Spanish/English school from kindergarten through high school. Her childhood was happily spent going to the beach and riding horses during the summer. She studied and worked in advertising in Ecuador, before moving to Brazil to study computer science. She then moved to San Francisco and worked as a database administrator for Oracle, followed by a start-up. She has always loved traveling, and before having kids, traveled as much as she could to places like India, Burma, Turkey and more. Since having her two American-Ecuadorian kids, she spends her time raising her children, creating art, traveling and doing occasional consulting projects. Her children are currently fourth and first graders in a Mandarin immersion school and are able to communicate in Mandarin. They are also fluent in Spanish and English. She happily spends her summers on a yearly pilgrimage to Ecuador (or other Spanish speaking countries) to visit family for her children’s bicultural/bilingual experience. Carmen blogs at about her experiences traveling.



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