Once in a Lifetime: Costa Rica Family Adventure!

Can you treat your family to a holiday that combines thrills and adventure with safety and security? You can if you know where to look, says Exodus traveller Paul Thomas. This is his story…

The rules of engagement for our ideal adventure holiday have changed over the years. We still want adventure and the chance to marvel at the natural world, but the risks that come with independent travelling just aren’t as appealing when you’re parents of young children. We made a list of the things we wanted out of our next family holiday, and Costa Rica really caught our attention. We wanted an element of adventure, ideally an educational trip for the boys, a chance to experience a different culture and language… and, lots of wildlife.

Butterfly Butterfly

 

Having never been on a group tour before I was unsure about the group dynamics, so my wife Sally suggested I call Exodus to find out about the age mix of the other families. It turned out there were four families with seven other children all about the same age as our sons – Ollie, 14, and William, 11 – a promising start! We booked straight away. We decided to break out outward journey for 48 hours in Houston, to visit the Johnson Space Shuttle programme. It was too good an opportunity to miss, and the boys loved it. Arriving in San Jose, we were met by our tour guide, Guillermo, a Costa Rican with an instantly likeable personality. He had a degree in ecology, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the indigenous Costa Rican flora and fauna. He was fantastic with the children and had that rare ability to be all things to all people. If wildlife is your thing, you can’t fail to be staggered by the diversity you’ll see in Costa Rica – cloud forest, rainforest, Caribbean coastline, Pacific coastline and the stunning geothermal region surrounding Mount Arenal volcano. Each of these environments has its own indigenous wildlife. Stand out moments include two memorable close up encounters with sloths: the first, a baby sloth on the ground, traversing somewhat unsteadily through a café car park during a morning coffee stop and the other, rather bizarrely, of an adult who was comfortably huddled on a roadside fence post just above ground level.

Two-toed Sloth Two-toed Sloth

 

Costa Rica is well known as a Mecca for ornithologists. Birdlife highlights were certainly getting to see both the Green and Scarlett macaws, huge and stunningly coloured members of the parrot family, both under threat due to loss of habitat. The other highlight was viewing the hummingbirds at La Paz waterfalls where they have come in abundance to feast on the nectar. Guillermo and I clocked 21 species of bird on one early morning jog. The run finished with the added bonus of a close encounter with an inquisitive coatimundi, and all before breakfast!

Hummingbird, Costa Rica Hummingbird, Costa Rica

 

I’d advise travellers to budget for some additional optional activities too. We did a catamaran trip with the opportunity to snorkel, a tree top walk and zip wire experience, and white water rafting. If you were to ask our boys which were the best activities of the trip, I am pretty certain the white water rafting and zip wires would both score very highly! The group quickly became good friends, so much so in fact that we spontaneously chose to drink and dine together as one big happy family, and my original reservations about travelling with others were soon dispelled. We feel really privileged to have been able to take our family to such a wonderful location, with great company. It’s without doubt one of our best ever adventures. Where next? We’re saving for the Galapagos… 

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Costa Rica Family Adventure

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