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Sunset over Gulf of Papagayo, Costa Rica

Five Great Reasons to Take a Costa Rica Vacation With Your Family

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If you haven’t considered Costa Rica for your next family vacation destination, you should! Our family recently returned from a fantastic trip to this Central American country.

Preparing for our vacation, we knew that we would likely experience an abundance of natural beauty and embark on some fun adventures, but the trip exceeded our expectations. You can read about our adventures in my other articles about our Costa Rica vacation, but here are some of my top reasons why Costa Rica makes for a great family vacation destination and why we can’t wait to go back!

1. Something for everybody

Does your family like to relax on the beach? Or, do you prefer adrenalin-pumping activities such as zip lining, white water rafting, waterfall rappelling or surfing? Perhaps you enjoy exploring nature and learning about different plant and animal species? Or, maybe you would jump at the opportunity to learn about a different culture, a bit of history or perhaps try a new cuisine. In the case of our family, we love it all and Costa Rica had more than enough variety to satisfy us. In fact, the hardest part of our vacation was to choose our daily activities given so many fantastic options and reluctantly decide which we would have to save for our next visit.

Arenal Hanging Bridges, Costa Rica

Our family loved touring the Arenal Hanging Bridges!

2. Easier to get to than you might think

Many consider Costa Rica a far and exotic country. It is certainly exotic, but many of our friends were surprised when we told them how easy it was for us to get there. Departing from Chicago, our 7 am flight (which included a brief connection in Dallas) allowed us to arrive at our resort in time for a late lunch by the pool. Most major U.S. airports offer direct flights to Costa Rica. Note that there are two international airports: San Jose (SJO) in the south, which is the country’s main airport, and the recently renovated Liberia (LIR) in the northern part of the county, serving many popular tourist resorts in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica.

3. One incredible outdoor nature classroom

Costa Rica is a great place to help you educate your children about the amazing world we live in! It is considered to have the highest density of biodiversity of any country worldwide. While encompassing just 0.3% of Earth’s landmass (approximately the size of West Virginia), Costa Rica boasts more than 4% percent of all species estimated to exist on our planet. Hundreds of these species are endemic to Costa Rica, meaning they don’t exist anywhere else on earth.

On our trip we marveled at remarkable vegetation and saw an amazing range of animals up close and personal: crocodiles, several monkey species, numerous tropical birds including the impressive toucan and scarlet macaw, a long list of interesting reptiles and insects, a super poisonous eyelash viper, the famous morpho butterfly and even the elusive sloth. Our kids had a fantastic weeklong nature lesson they still talk about and which could never be replicated sitting in a classroom back home.

In addition, Costa Rica is known as the birthplace of ecotourism and as such it is great place to teach your children about respect for Mother Nature. During our vacation we witnessed many efforts to support wild life preservation as well as examples of providing human intervention to help protect endangered species when necessary. For instance, Costa Rica is world-renowned for its strong protection of turtles that come to nest on both its Carribean and Pacific beaches. There are also many animal rescue and rehabilitation facilities that have been established for preserving exotic wildlife such as jaguars and sloths.

The howler monkey family, spotted at the Palo Verde National Park in Costa Rica.

The howler monkey family, spotted at the Palo Verde National Park in Costa Rica.

4. No need to plan for vaccinations

Fortunately, travel to Central America does not require a series of vaccinations like some other exotic countries. If you consult the CDC website for travelers, you will see that travel to Costa Rica poses some risk for Hepatitis A and B (the same thing they say for travel to France!), malaria, typhoid fever and rabies. All routine vaccinations for kids today include Hep A and B, so you do not need to worry about this one for them. If you are concerned about yourself, consult your primary physician who can determine if you have immunity via a simple blood test and/or advise you if you should be vaccinated.

The risk of contracting typhoid fever, malaria or rabies is small for most tourists. Both our pediatrician and our family physician told us not to worry. However, given your particular travel plans (especially if they involve an extended stay in rural areas or on the Caribbean side) or health history (illnesses and/or compromised immune system), you may want to consult your physician or a travel clinic. I do highly recommend bringing or buying ample anti-mosquito supplies…it appears mosquitoes love being in Costa Rica as much as we did!

5. Exotic, but familiar

Even though you may be deep in the rain forest and several thousand miles away from the U.S., there is no need to worry about many practical matters when you are vacationing in Costa Rica.

For starters, many Costa Ricans speak very good English. We found this to be the case not only at our resort, but also to a large extent on our day trips, so no need to be nervous if you haven’t brushed up on your high school Spanish. Costa Rica adheres to the standard central time zone all year round, so no major jet-lags to fight. No need to bring adapters or converters for your electronics either. Costa Rica is mostly on the 110V system and most major resorts catering to U.S. tourists have both two- and three-prong outlets.

While you won’t find ATMs on every corner like at home (except perhaps in the capital city of San José), they can be found at many resorts, major grocery stores, gas station convenience stores and even some chain restaurants like McDonald’s. Many dispense both local currency (colónes) and U.S. dollars. Pharmacies can be easily found throughout the area, even in remote towns and, similarly to the U.S., many major grocery stores include a pharmacy section staffed with a pharmacist. Most resorts carry quite an extensive selection of basic OTC medications in their gift shop as well.

Bonus item: Friendly Costa Ricans

Something else that made our vacation so enjoyable and memorable is the Costa Rican people themselves. Ticos, as Costa Ricans like to refer to themselves, are seriously some of the nicest people we have met on our worldly travels. They are spirited, kind, polite and educated. They seem to love visitors from other countries and practically everybody we encountered on our vacation was eager to make us feel welcome in their country and spread the spirit of “Pura Vida,” their love for life. And, I guarantee, by the end of your trip, this will be your favorite new phrase!

Do you have any concerns or specific questions? Please feel free to post below. Otherwise, I urge you to start planning your family trip to Costa Rica…you will love it!

More about Costa Rica Vacations:

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A native of Slovenia, Vera moved to the U.S. 20+ years ago after meeting her American husband. Together with their two children they live on the North…

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