Updated: Dec 19, 2019
In honor of Mother’s Day, I am reminiscing about a special trip to Costa Rica that I recently took with my mom and daughter to discover the natural beauty and people of this amazing country. Here are the highlights from our mother-daughter trip, which I hope will inspire others looking to bond with loved ones in Costa Rica, a county that admirably focuses on conservation and preserving indigenous communities.
Canopy tours on suspension or hanging bridges (puentes colgantes)
are one of the best ways to explore nature in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is easy to get to, with flights from various U.S. ports of departure. My daughter and I, and her friend and Mom, all flew from Seattle and met my Mom, who traveled from Florida, at Juan Santamaria International Airport near San Jose, Costa Rica's capital. We were welcomed by our driver who transferred us to a nearby hotel to rest after our journey. As we bid him farewell, he said Pura Vida, and explained that this is Costa Rica’s mantra, meaning that Life is Good! This is something we discovered daily on our journey to learn, serve and immerse in Costa Rica!
Sueno Azul Resort, a welcoming sanctuary in Costa Rica
Sarapiqui: From San Jose, we headed north to Sarapiqui, a province surrounded by lush green forests, banana and pineapple plantations. Located at the junction of the Puerto Viejo River (Rio Puerto Viejo) and Sarapiqui River (Rio Sarapiqui), this growing area is now a main destination for adventure-seeking tourists in and nature enthusiasts as it has so much to offer.
Relaxation, Hikes and Costa Rican Culture
In Sarapiqui, we spent a few relaxing nights at Sueno Azul Resort, a family-owned hotel known for its rustic elegance which give homage to the Indigenous civilization through its tribal architectural design and its careful preservation of the farm and land. There is a lot to do here, including e exploring in the hotel's private nature reserve, where you can horseback ride and visit cascading waterfalls and botanical gardens. Cattle tours and horseback riding is offered at the hotel, as well as botanical and butterfly gardens, natural pools, a leaf cutter ant observatory and bird watching.
Chilling at Sueno Azul Resort, a welcoming sanctuary in Costa Rica
We personally enjoyed our hike up to the private waterfalls and an evening of Costa Rican culture, including a rodeo, dancing and cuisine!
Volunteering at Tirimbina Reserve: One of our favorite days was hiking and volunteering at the Tirimbina Nature Reserve, a non-profit, biological reserve operated as an education, research, and eco-tourism center working to protect the area’s exceptional biodiversity. Tirimbina protects 345 hectares of tropical forest, only a third of which is used for ecotourism and environmental education, keeping most of the reserve intact, and 9 kilometers of the reserve's trails enable visitors to journey through the diverse surroundings and experience the forest up close.
After giving us a short presentation about the Tirimbina reserve, Mariela, our naturalist guide who led us through the rain forest and over several suspension bridges, pointing out all kinds of flora and fauna. We then we volunteered in the reserve’s nursery at the reserve. We learned that Costa Rican students study conservation from a very young age and get the opportunity to learn handson, by visiting several nature reserves during their studies.
After volunteering in the nursery, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and a lovely chat with Mariela. Next time, we will stay longer and do their chocolate making tour!
Arenal Volcano: Rainforest, Waterfall Hikes, Community Engagement and Zip-ling!
Our next stop was the quaint town of La Fortuna, near Arenal Volcano, which is located in the 29,960-acre Arenal Volcano National Park and one of Costa Rica’s most distinguished natural sites. Although the volcano entered a resting phase in 2010 – meaning that its eruptions have paused – it is still a stunning sight. Rising above the rain forest that surrounds its base, different life zones and harbors a tremendous amount of flora and fauna. In fact, nearly 75% of the total 850 species of birds that have been identified in Costa Rica can be found here.
Spotting the wildlife of Costa Rica with our guide
Rainforest Hike: While there are several great ways to explore the Arenal Volcano, including on horseback, or mountain biking, we enjoyed an amazing hike with a naturalist guide through the Arenal Volcano National Park. Our guide had an eagle eye and spotted several beautiful birds and we were lucky to see a sloth too!
We later enjoyed a soak in the natural springs of our hotel, Arenal Springs Resort, which has amazing views of the volcano!
Waterfall Hike: The La Fortuna Waterfall, a breathtaking 230 ft (70 m) cascade that drops into a misty pool, is just 3 miles (5 km) south of La Fortuna and makes for an easy day trip. We enjoyed a short hike into the base of the pool, where we went for a dip and enjoyed the scenery.
Hiking with Mom around the majestic Arenal Volcano
Zip-lining at Arenal: We discovered that the best and most exhilarating views of the Arenal Volcano was our zip-lining adventure with Sky Tram and Sky Trek! You first take a Sky Tram up to and observation deck, and then ride a series of 8 zip-lines to the base of the mountain. I was proud of my 74-year old mother for having the courage to do this and she was so thankful to have done it too!
Zip-lining overlooking Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal
Community Connections: We enjoyed a delicious meal cooked by our new friends at the Rainforest Explorers, a family run business that offers adventure tours in Arenal as well as and community-based tourism experiences, both of which were outstanding.
Tamarindo Beach – Sunsets, and water play: We ended our time in Costa Rica at Tamarindo Beach, soaking up the sun and water, snorkeling and eating fresh fish! Located on the central west coast of Guanacaste, Tamarindo offers visitors of every budget a chance to experience the region’s unspoiled beaches and incredible biodiversity in a range of accommodations. Despite the town’s recent development, it retains the laid back vibe from its days of being a quiet surf beach and fishing hamlet.
Sunset in Costa Rica, photo courtesy of Global Family Travels
Pura Vida and Gratitude to the Costa Rican People! My mom, daughter and I were all agreement about our favorite experiences, but the best part of our trip was our time together in nature and with the warm and friendly people of Costa Rica, and the Pura Vida attitude that we took home with us.
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