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Costa Rica w/granddaughter general questions

Hi good people,

I am starting to plan my trip with 10-11 year old granddaughter to Costa Rica. I have been once before about 15 years ago. She has not. GD loves studying nature and conservation and is a very active young lady. We have 7-10 days to include a weekend, during her school breaks: August-early September 2020, Christmas-New Year’s 2020 or April 2021. We want plenty of nature and some beach time. I like to return to places familiar but also add something new. So, Arenal Volcano area (been there) Monteverde/Santa Elena area (been there) and Manuel Antonio Park (first visit). We would really like to be able to see the sea turtles nesting or the babies hatching.

Please give me ideas and advice about: best time to visit; suggested route and timing of that route; recommendation for private tours for day trips from these areas. We will probably not rent a car so will depend on ground transportation.

I have guidebooks, birding book and Costa Rican Spanish language guide from my last trip. and I have been borrowing guides from the library to get a general plan started. Of first concern is to narrow down the timing of the trip to best enjoy the country with GD. A bonus is that I will be retiring in June of 2020.

Thanks in advance for your ideas and help for me and GD to start planning our Costa Rican trip.


Posted by
291 posts

Congrats on your upcoming retirement, and on the trip! Sounds like Costa Rica is a perfect destination for you and your granddaughter!

If sea turtles are high on your list, I'd imagine that could have a big impact on when you'd want to plan for and where you'd want to spend time.

has more info on the best times of year for arribadas (mass nesting events), and which areas are best when. It sounds like you have some options on when to plan for, so it may be worthwhile to look in to the different nesting seasons and locations for different species and then plan a trip around that. If you're considering Manuel Antonio Park (and I would most definitely recommend it!) then olive ridley sea turtles nesting around Hermosa Beach south of Jaco could be an option. It's about an hour drive from the Jaco area to Quepos/Manuel Antonio.

There are a lot of variables worth considering - peak season in Costa Rica tends to be their dry season (December-ish to April-ish). Dry and sunny often means more expensive and busier, though, and certain sea turtle species might not do much in the way of nesting that time of year in specific areas. While Manuel Antonio is on the central Pacific coasts, some of the main sea turtle nesting locations are on the Caribbean side, or north Pacific coast (Guanacaste area). And, as I'm sure you know, sea turtles themselves are a big variable - they don't operate on tour schedules, so there's never a guarantee of what one might see when! I'd suggest perhaps looking in to sea turtle tour/viewing options and letting guides propose some dates and places.

Many of your best nature-oriented options would call for a guide anyways. I'd highly suggest a naturalist guide for Manuel Antonio park; naturalist guides are often required for certain sea turtle nesting tours.

If you do go to Manuel Antonio, I'd also highly recommend Kids Saving the Rain Forest, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation nearby, with lots of incredible wildlife to see. It's not a "cuddle with a sloth" type place - their focus is on rehabilitating and reintroducing wildlife, so aim to minimize direct human contact. Lots to see, but do not touch. Very cool facility and very fine people doing very fine work.

Posted by
27 posts

We went to CR in early January with our family group of 11 people ages 7 to mid 70’s . I highly recommend getting transportation and day tours through Desafio Adventures, based in Arenal. They were very inexpensive for our own private air conditioned van for all 11 of us. Example: they picked us up in Liberia at the airport, drove 4 hours to the Arenal Observatory Lodge, with an hour stop for lunch. Cost: $180 . I recommend the Observatory Lodge right in Arenal Park as the place to stay. Wildlife, birding, frogs, hanging bridges, good food with plenty to satisfy even the picky eaters. Also the Tabacon Hot Springs for a day including a very good meal- it is more expensive than other hot springs but much nicer. For that and all our other transportation in Arenal, Desafio took care of us and were always completely prompt and reliable. They also transported us back to the coast where we stayed a few days at the Riu Palace all inclusive, chosen as it is about 20 minutes from Liberia airport. The food was the best I have seen in an all inclusive. Highlight there was a day long snorkeling excursion, arranged right on the premises of the hotel. If you are doing a zip line, do it in Arenal. They are better and longer there.

Posted by
595 posts

Brian and Linda

Thank you so much for all the great ideas. I appreciate the links to the websites for best viewing of the sea turtles and that conservation program geared toward children. I already had an accommodation in mind for Arenal but the Observatory Lodge looks like a real possibility for us.

I will continue my research and narrow down a time for our trip. Even though it might be during a peak season because of all the other families traveling due to school breaks, its looking like late August, early September will be a good timeframe.

Keep the ideas coming. I will especially need help with planning the in country travel route.