Exploring Costa Rica with my Daughter

COVID had curtailed my plans to explore Costa Rica in more depth and for the past 2 years, it had just been a dream.

Fortunately, the world appears to have gained some sanity (certainly regarding travel) and when the possibility arose of an exploratory trip presented itself, I was keen to commit.  The plan was to travel on my own, however over dinner one evening my daughter, Lara said “I could come as well!” It has not crossed my mind to ask her, but as she reminded me, her GCSE’s were over and she had 10 weeks off.

How could I refuse?  Better still I’d have someone to take photos of and get a better perspective on many of the family focused activities we offer. Finally our day of departure arrived. On the 05th July we caught the train to Heathrow and counter to all the media hype re’ flight delays and airport chaos we successfully checked-in and flew via the US to Costa Rica.

So our adventure began – Two weeks travelling from the Capital, Sao Jose to the Caribbean and then west to the Pacific.

Our first day took us through the markets, back streets and historical high points of San Jose (capital of Costa Rica). We tried local coffee, tamale and cooked our own pernada.  By lunchtime jetlag had started to set in and we were in bed by 6pm!  It’s great to be travelling and exploring again.

We travelled East from the cool air of San Jose, through lush mountains that reminded us of the Azores to Tortuguero in the Caribbean. The air here is rich with the musty small of moist earth, dense vegetation and tropical humidity. We boarded our launch and headed north to our comfortable Pachira Lodge in the jungle. En-route we spotted caiman, monkeys and many colourful birds. We’re ending the day sitting on our balcony watching the lightening as the torrential rains took the humidity out of the day.

The sun broke through this morning as we headed out to explore Tortuguero NP by launch. The forest is incredibly dense and it takes a while to see what’s right under your nose. However, it wasn’t long before we spotted sloths (both 2 and 3 toed), white faced monkeys, caiman, exotic birds and all those eyes just hidden beyond view observing us! The plan in the afternoon was to visit Tortuguero village and watch turtles nest, but heavens opened and we were rewarded with an afternoon lightening show, torrential rain and a few card games to pass the time…After all, this is the tropics and heavy rain is very exciting.

We dropped off the grid for a few days to spend some time rafting down Rio Pacuare. The weather and conditions for rafting were perfect as we set off. We spent 2 nights at the rustic, but charming Rio Tropicales lodge.  Where we spent the morning exploring the forest with our delightful guide, Michale, who was keen to emphasis how many poisonous snakes there are in the forest! Then he suggested we went swimming in cool jungle waterfalls and plunge pools ‘no snakes here’ he said. Only to find one 10 mins later!

The following morning we hit the river again for a day of rafting with some very exciting grade 3 and 4 rapids and some swimming in the calmer parts of the river.  As the river widened, our rafting trip came to an end and we started the second part of our adventure with a hire car.

The road less travelled took us wets to Arenal where we hiked over the 1968 lava flows in the hope of getting the ‘perfect’ photo of Arenal Volcano – and almost made it. In the afternoon we took to the Sky Adventure zip wires – should have read the guide book….1mile zip lines which whizz you 100s of meters above the rainforest. Part way through, the heavens opened and thunder and lightening crashed all around us – this held things up for a while!  Lara and I found ourselves on different sides of the jungle, where she did 3 more zips and I had to walk back! The following day we spent a few very sunny hrs paddle boarding on Lake Arenal before heading south west to Monte Verde.  The air in Monte Verde is cool and fresh, which makes a pleasant change.

Monte Verde was not as we’d expected, small and easy to explore it’s trendy cafes, galleries and knick-knack shops on foot.  The cloud rolls in and out as we hiked through the cloud forests looking for local rarities….Ironically, during the night trek saw and abundance of wildlife; owl, snake, tarantulas, porcupine and Kinkajou.

Our last couple of nights was spent at Manuel Antonio, a quirky national park on the coast popular with surfers and body boarders.  We spend our last day (also Lara’s 16th birthday) body boarding in the warm tropical water of the Pacific Ocean – forgetting how strong the sun can be (even on cloudy days!).

As the sun set, our journey drew to a close. We’d travelled from the Caribbean to the Pacific – hiked rain forests, cloud forests, rafted the Pacuare river, Ziplined at Arenal and body boarded in the warm waters of the Pacific. It’s been great to travel with Lara, who’s always fun and up for an  adventure.

Until our next travels

Ian and Lara