Costa Rica – a perfect introduction to Central America. Everything about this country is beautiful; the mountains, the beaches, the people, the food. We squeezed as much as we could into a week but could easily have stayed longer.
After picking up our rental car at the airport we headed straight for La Fortuna which is about a 3 hour drive from San José Airport. We were welcomed to Hotel El Silencio del Campo https://www.hotelsilenciodelcampo.com/en-index.html with delicious fresh fruit smoothies and shown to our beautiful villa. On our first morning we were up early and ready for some hiking before it got too hot. I wasn’t sure how Ella would manage the trek so I had my pockets filled with chocolate buttons in case a little motivation was required. We headed for Arenal Volcano National Park and hiked the 1968 lava trail. The views were absolutely stunning and interesting enough for Ella that I only had to pull out the very melted chocolate buttons on the homeward stretch. In the afternoon we visited the Don Juan coffee and cacao plantation https://donjuancr.com/arenal/ and took a very informative tour followed by tastings and Ella got the opportunity to make her own chocolate using all the raw ingredients. Cadbury's buttons no longer up to scratch! The next morning we did a rafting trip down the Peñas Blancas river with a wonderful guide who pointed out all sorts of wildlife and taught us a lot about Costa Rica and its ecosystem. He gave Ella her own paddle and she really enjoyed paddling along as part of the team.
The next morning we braved the bumpy roads for the three hour drive to the Monteverde Cloud Forest and checked into the really lovely Monteverde Lodge and Gardens https://www.monteverdelodge.com/, after a little investigation it seemed Ella is a little young for ziplining so we opted to hike above the Cloud Forest with Sky Adventures Monteverde https://skyadventures.travel/monteverde/skywalk/ on their network of suspension bridges. It was the perfect way to take in all the Cloud Forest has to offer, and short enough for Ella to manage.
Our last stop was Samara, a beautiful area on the Pacific coast. I was keen to do some horse riding while in Costa Rica and came across Horse Jungle https://www.horsejungle.com/ online. They had the perfect tour for us, a one hour jungle and river trek. When I contacted Melissa, the wonderful owner, she said Ella being only four was no problem and that she would arrange for her to have a suitable horse who would be leashed to the guide. Our experience was brilliant, the horses were really well cared for and Ella adored every minute of it. I think a horse like Max might be on next year's Santa list!
We started our final day in Costa Rica with an early morning yoga class on the beach with Kelly from Chillasana Yoga https://www.chillasanayogasurf.com/ Kelly tailored the class to suit our level (very basic!) and was so good at keeping Ella engaged through the whole class. It was a really lovely way to start our final day.
If you are thinking of exploring Central America with kids I can highly recommend Costa Rica as a starting point – it felt very safe, the food was amazing, English was widely spoken and there was plenty of entertainment for kids of all ages. Pura Vida!