1. Unlock your inner Tarzan at Sky River Drift
Adventurous families will have a field day at Sky Adventures in La Fortuna. On top of the popular zipline tours (from 7 years on), walking hanging bridges and riding a gondola, there is an 3=1 tour combining multiple challenges. Sky River Drift sends you over 3 ziplines, has you rappelling from a 120 feet tree and lets you ride white water on an individual raft. The tour offers 4 hours of extreme adrenaline pleasure, and, if you’re willing to pay $42 extra for the pictures, eternal proof of your awesomeness.
www.skyadventures.travel River drift $69, kids $47
2. Learn how to surf
Want to join the cool surfing crowd and the surf way of life? Juan, Max and Eric van Matos Surfshop will introduce you leisurely to their sport and lifestyle, without you having to break the bank. Group lessons are with a maximum of 4 people for 2 hours, private lessons are 90 minutes. Renting a board comes cheap, so you can easily practice on your own. The 6 am lessons are highly recommended: you share the surf with all the surf instructors. They will ride the wilde waves, leaving the easy waves just for you. Younger kids can rent a boogie board.
www.matossurfshop.com lessons $35, board rental from $5
3. Pet a python
At the end of the dirt road to Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal lies mountail village El Castillo, harbouring the charming Ecozoo. They have snakes and reptiles, and a butterfly and frog garden. Show stopper Eliza, their 15 feet and 300 pound python sadly died 2 yeas ago. But holding smaller snakes will be just as exciting for your kids. The 20 year old biology student/tour guide will happily tell you everything about snakes, and if you’re interested, student life in Costa Rica too.
www.arenalecozoo.com $16, kids $10
4. Spot nesting turtles
If you happen to be in Nosara in the last quarter of the moon, you may be able to spot nesting Olive Ridley Turtles. Between July and December, especially in September and October, you can witness the arribada of hundreds of turtles during night time high tide. Set you alarm early, as this mostly is between midnight and 5 am. Drive up to Playa Ostional and you’ll find local guides waiting for you at the bus stop. Pay him $50 and enjoy a once of a lifetime experience.
We were on a August evening at 8 pm. Way too early. But sitting in the dark on a tree log with our guide, talking about life, waiting for turtles, listening to the surf, was a pretty amazing experience too.
5. Search for wild macaws
At only twee places in Costa Rica macaws can be spotted in the wild and Carara Nacional Parque is one of them. Head to the parque as soon as it opens and you’ll be able to get a private guide. The entrance fee is $10 and you’ll pay the guide $50 for a 2 hour hike. Besides macaws you’ll be able to see crocodiles, howler monkeys, cheetah tracks and if you’re lucky (or unlucky) snakes. Wear long sleeved shirts, long trousers a hat, a bandana for your neck and definitely bug spray. Because one of the animals you’ll find will be mosquitos. For sure.
6. Walk between tree tops
Sky Adventures has an outlet in Monteverde where you can zipline or walk the hanging bridges in the cloud forest. The gondola takes you up to the Continental Divide, where Pacific and Atlantic winds meet. Everthing is higher, colder, wetter and windier than in Arenal. Which makes is more mystical. Welcome to your dreamscape.
www.skyadventures.travel SkyWalk+ $64, kid $41
7. Cruise a river
This is the easy life, as you pass by iguanas, caymans, crocodiles, turtles and basilisks (aka Jesus Christ lizards). In a pink building near the dock of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, a Spanish-only speaking old man will sell you a river cruise for $50 for the whole family. Go early to beat the heat!
8. Watch the jungle night life
The enthousiast guide who reminded me of Go! Diego, Go! is half of the experience at Arenal Natura park. “Look, amigos! A boat-billed heron!” As sun sets between 5 and 6 pm, you can easily take your kids on a night tour. And as most of jungle wild life is nocturnal, there is a lot to see. Different kind of frogs, night hawks at glow in the dark wood. And the boat-billed heron, of course.
www.arenalnatura.com night tour $39, kids $25
9. Share the beach with monkeys
When I checked my Lonely Planet guide for opening times of the Manuel Antonio National Park, it did say ‘Open from Tuesday to Sundays.’ Which equals ‘Closed on Sundays’. We didn’t get that. So we went surfing on Sunday, wanting to visit the park on Monday. Bummer.
Fortunately, nature’s gifts don’t end at the borders of the park. Adjoining public beach Espadilla has capucine monkeys too. And the hotel garden is dominated by iguanas, basilisks and toucans.
10. Get introduced to Costa Rican wild life
The La Paz waterfall gardens could also name itself ‘Costa Rican Wild Life 101’. Howler monkeys, macaws, a butterfly garden, a frog terrarium to name a few. Show stopper is the outdoor area where different kinds of hummingbirds are lured with fruit. A walk with a lot of steps lead you to 3 waterfalls. To the joy of the kids, an old school bus will take you back to the entrance of the zoo.
www.waterfallgardens.com adults $40 kids 3-12 jaar $24.
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