Finding Adventure in Everything we Do

Costa Rica 10-day Family Vacation

When it came time to plan a summer trip with our then 7-year-old twins, Costa Rica was at the top of a short list. With beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife and ample opportunities for adventure seekers of all ages, we knew a trip to Costa Rica was sure to have something for everyone! 

We had a total of 9 days, 2 of which included international travel from Atlanta, so we were working with a solid 7 days to plan. Since the kids were still young we didn’t want too aggressive of a schedule so we decided to divide our time between three main regions: The Central Valley, The Northern Zone, and The Central Pacific Coast. 

The Central Valley

In the Central Valley you’ll find rolling green hills sprinkled with coffee farms, mountains that rise to 3,936 feet and a mild spring-like climate year-round. Four volcanos surround the area, three of which remain active. Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, sits close to the geographical center of the Central Valley. One of Costa Rica’s two international airports, Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) lies just north of San Jose. 

The Northern Zone

With lakes, volcanos, rivers and waterfalls, Costa Rica’s Northern Zone boasts a climate favorable to a wide variety of flora and fauna, along with plenty of activities for adventure seeking people of all ages. 

The Central Pacific Coast

One of the most easily accessible areas of Costa Rica, the Central Pacific Coach make for a relatively easy journey from the capital city of San Jose. Ranging from the Port of Puntarenas to just south of Manuel Antonio, the Central Pacific region offers a range of picturesque beaches and lots of wildlife. 

Itinerary At-a-Glance

As anyone traveling with small kids knows, there’s only so much transit they can take in one day, especially when it includes an international flight. We decided not to subject the twins to a lengthy car ride so after we landed at Juan Santamaria Airport at 11:55am we hopped in our rental car and made the 60-minute drive north to The Peace Lodge. Wow- what an incredible way to start our trip! We LOVED the Peace Lodge and really wished we could have stayed at least another night. We booked a Deluxe Guest Room with a king bed in the center and two twin beds they had set up for the kids in a way seemed like so much more than  just some extra cots tossed into the room.  It was probably one of the coolest rooms we’ve ever stayed. The kids went absolutely crazy for the rain forest bathroom. The view from the balcony was great. There is an animal sanctuary on property with over 100 species of animals so it was an amazing introduction to the insects, reptiles, birds and mammals of Costa Rica. There are daily toucan and sloth feedings which are a great way to get up close with the animals. There are butterfly gardens and a snake enclosure. My personal favorite was the jungle cats enclosure where we got to gawk at a gorgeous jaguar pretty up close and personal. The Poas Volcaco is a short 20-minute drive away but it’s often shrouded in fog so check out the online status to see if it’s visible. 

After breakfast, we hiked the trails through the La Paz Waterfall Gardens to see a series of waterfalls. The hike was super easy for the kids and they loved it. It was just an amazing way to start the trip and we wished we could have stayed longer at The Peace Lodge but it was time to hit the road. We loaded up and made the 2 hour drive to the Nayara Resort, Spa & Gardens. The room setup was great for our family with a king and two single beds. The kids loved the bunnies that roamed the property, particularly the little albino bunny with the red eyes that Ellery promptly nicknamed Bun-Bun. We’d bring him breadsticks from the restaurant- which, apparently, are a favorite. 

We got a day pass to the Tabacon hot springs and the twins had a blast in the main pool with the water slide. It was too bad the volcano was still dormant as we would have loved to do the lava tour but it did start smoking when we were there and that was exciting to see. 

The kids were excited to try ziplining so we signed up for the Arenal Sky Trek Tour. The first zipline over the deep gorge with Arenal in the background was fantastic. Unfortunately the skies opened up shortly afterward and we soon discovered that ziplining isn’t nearly as much fun when you’re flying through the jungle at 40mph getting pelted in the face with rain. Thankfully we’d brought our raingear but most of our fellow zipliners hadn’t and they were fairly miserable. The kids went with guides so they got to zipline backwards so they still had a blast. I still find it amusing that weeks earlier Ellery chickened out on riding Mission Space at Epcot (after a 2-hour wait I must add) but she was more than ok to strap herself to a tiny harness and fly 300 feet over a gorge through a rain forest. And Mission Space is a simulation!! It probably helped that the first person to volunteer to do the first zip line was an 11-year-old girl so Ellery was inspired. 

Day 5 began with a 3-hour drive to the Central Pacific Zone where we checked into one of the fantastic Buena Vista villas at the Tulemar Resort where we loved sitting on our deck with an amazing view watching the wild monkeys playing in the trees.


They came to visit us several times, showing up suddenly on our deck and running around and playing. We got tons of great pictures and video. We loved the private beach and the kids went crazy for all the hermit crabs. 

On our second day on the Central Pacific Coast we headed to the world famous Manuel Antonio one day. We booked a tour with Costa Rica Jade Tours and our guide, Mario, was fantastic. It was an easy hike through the jungle as Mario pointed out creatures we never would have seen on our own and even if we had we wouldn’t have known what they were. When we went back years later we just hired a guide at the park entrance and he wasn’t nearly as good. Either way I wouldn’t recommend roaming the park without an experienced guide. The only downside was when Ellery got stung by a yellow jacket as we were nearing the beach. Apparently the park ranger was burning a yellow jacket nest and didn’t put a sign on the trail so we walked right through a bunch of angry yellow jackets. It’s amazing nobody else got stung but she cried for a solid 10 minutes and then it was over. 

Thankfully we had an extra day to just relax at the beach and let the kids run around. 

Our last full day in Costa Rica began with a 2-hour drive back toward San Jose. We decided to stay at a hotel near the airport and managed to discover a hidden gem in the hills above San Jose. The Finca Rosa Blanca is a hotel in the middle of a coffee plantation. Don’t be disheartened by the drive to the hotel. You really feel like there is no way you’re about to stumble onto anything remotely nice. The kids loved the pool and since we were the only ones there it was like having a private pool.