Hi, my wife, daughter (4yrs.) and I will be traveling in Costa Rica in January for 4 weeks.
I like surfing, we all love beaches but nature in general as well. For budget reasons we would prefer the lower to mid price category for accommodation.
We want to rent a car and travel across the country and stay at the nice places. The nice places ideally are places where there are other children as well and which are interesting for little children (animals, other children, things to do for children)
What are your recommendations for those nice places? What would be a good itinerary for a 4 weeks trip?
Four weeks in paradise! January marks the beginning of the dry season in most of Costa Rica and is an excellent time to come visit. However, be prepared for both larger crowds and higher prices. See below for a few places that I think you and your family will enjoy.
You'll probably start your adventure in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. There's not much to this city - a bit dirty, a bit crowded, and a bit lacking in history. That being said, there are a few things here that are certainly worth seeing. The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and Museo de Jade both have amazing pre-Columbian artifacts on display and the walk from one museum to the other gives you a good feel for the downtown area. To the east of the Gold Museum lies the Mercado Central (be sure to stop in for a sherbet!) and even further east is Parqueo La Sabana, the "Central Park" of San Jose and home of the beautiful Museo de Arte Costarricense and impressive National Stadium.
To the north of San Jose lies the
When you're ready for a bit of nature, make your way over to Monteverde and the sleepy little town of Santa Elena. Walking through the cloud forest, either on the ground or high up on a suspension bridge, is akin to stepping into another world. The greenness of the vegetation will envelop you and leave you with your mouth open in awe. To break out of this trance, if you're so inclined, simply book a canopy tour and zipline/howl your way through the trees.For some surf and sun, I highly recommend Manuel Antonio. The Manuel Antonio National Park is gorgeous and features amazing beaches and trails. This is also where I've able to see the most wildlife. Sloths hanging from branches, monkeys jumping from tree to tree, iguanas lounging on the beach… Just watch out for those raccoons! They're pretty good at opening unattended backpacks.
This list is by no means definitive. Even though the Puerto Viejo de Talamanca area is one of my favorite places in all of Costa Rica (Playa Cocles! Jaguar Rescue Center! Caribbean chicken!), I excluded it from my list because January is when the Caribbean coast has its wet season. I also omitted a few not-too-kid-friendly places that probably wouldn’t be a good place to take your daughter (here's looking at you Jaco!).
Furthermore, there's still quite a bit in Costa Rica that I've yet to experience. Arenal Volcano, Tamarindo, Playa Santa Teresa, and Corcovado National Park are all definitely on my must-go list and are worth doing some research into if you're interested!
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Costa Rica is a beautiful and unique country. More importantly, it is a very peaceful place as we do not have army (but lots of schools! :).
January is just the start of the dry season so you couldn't choose a better moment to visit the country.
Having said so, and considering that you have a 4 years old child, and that you love to surf, I would recommend that you plan and concentrate your visit to the Guanacaste area, starting probably visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest (the best place for you child to be in contact with nature). It is located nearby Guanacaste and it is a place of cloud forests, monkeys, mist and friendly locals. There are plenty of nice fancy and/or rustis/cheap hotels, and nice restaurants. I would recommend Monteverde Lodge & Gardens, however you can google for more options . A very nice restaurant in Monteverde is Tree House Restaurante & Cafe. Dont miss this place!!
If you plan your trip soon, maybe you can explore on Playa Santa Teresa, really nice place to surf and rest. I stayed a few years ago at Villas Hermosas. It is a beachfront villa hotel, located in the Nicoya Peninsula in the surfing town of Malpais and Santa Teresa. Stunning beach!!
If this plan does not work, I suggest you to visit Guanacaste. It is located in the northwestern part of the country. I would suggest you to focus on the Tamarindo, FlamingoCostaRica or El Coco areas. Its white-sand coast is often regarded as one of Costa Rica's most beautiful. It provides many alternatives for lodging (or apartments for rental). There are other nice areas nearby such as Playa Hermosa and Ocotal Beach Resort. I can recommend several nice hotels and restaurants however I dont have a doubt that you will find many nice and cheap hotels on internet. To rent a car will be a must.
If you do not plan to visit San Jose (the capital of Costa Rica) I will suggest that you travel directly to the Guanacaste area where there is the Daniel Oduber International Airport. Several airlines like United, American, etc. land there.
If have any doubt or questions, do not hesitate to let me know.
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One of my favorite attractions for children is La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It is a wildlife rescue center where you can see Jaguars, Pumas, Ocelots, Snakes, birds, and the property offers a very nice hiking through the mountain to find 4 beautiful waterfalls.
This attraction can be combined with Poás Volcano National Park and with Fredo Leche Tour, a very interesting agricultural tour in the area where you can milk cows, and harvest strawberrys.
I hope you can make it!
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Definitely La Paz Waterfall Gardens. She'll love the hummingbirds and butterflies there! The waterfalls are cool, too, along with the forest around the place which gets a bit foggy at night.