Contributed by Dahlia Nahome
A year and a half ago, my husband and I gave up our jobs, sold everything we owned and went on an adventure with our two children aged 11months and 4 years. The aim was a round the world trip taking about eight months, calling at Costa Rica, New Zealand, Tonga and Australia. What we didn’t expect was to fall in love with Costa Rica so much that we ended up cancelling the rest of the trip and have since settled here, in Hermosa on the Nicoya Peninsula.
In that time, we have had some truly brilliant family travel experiences. Here are my top five travel tips for families with young children coming to Costa Rica:
1. Best (unknown) beaches for children under five:
here are miles and miles of unspoilt beaches in this part of Costa Rica. Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, being the most famous. The beaches of Hermosa and Manzanillo are a hidden gem, especially for parents who want safe beaches for their little ones to play on. Hermosa is as wide as it is long and has gentle waves in the white wash. The only downside is that you need to pack a cool box as there are no beach restaurants here, just jungle and beach and some howler monkeys. There are plenty of shady areas for the children to play in too. Manzanillo is a sleepy fishing village with the perfect family run beachfront restaurant right by the beach. If you get there as the fishermen are getting off their boats, you can also buy fresh fish that has just been caught. (Here are my two hanging out with my husband on Playa Hermosa, where we live.)
2. Best Beach activity:
Snorkeling in the rock pools between Manzanillo and Playa Hermosa between mid and low tide. Not only are these tide pools breathtaking to see, there are a whole host of little fish to share the experience with. This is an extremely safe adventure for the kids and makes for stunning pictures for those budding photographers out there. The other great plus is that it doesn’t cost a penny.
3. Best animal activity:
Caletus turtle sanctuary. This is a fantastic day out that allows you to get up close to newborn baby turtles that are being nurtured and then released into the sea. This magical experience is fun for the kids as well as educational and we encourage you to donate to the team. The volunteers are an inspiration to all. They spend considerable time in extremely basic and sometimes harsh conditions protecting these endangered animals. We advice only taking a 4×4 no matter what the weather as the last part is through heavy sand and I know first hand that a non 4×4 just won’t make the distance! Don’t forget snacks and drinks packed in a rucksac for the little ones as this place is pretty remote. A good carrier or sling for the really young travelers is a good idea too as the last part of the journey is on foot across the beach.
4. Best place to eat:
(Update: Sadly Ambrosia has closed.) I judge a good family place to eat by the kids menu, high chair availability, safe areas for the kids to run around in, availability of toys to play with and other nice touches. Ambrosia Restaurant, 75 meters south of Flora Blanca Hotel is all of the above and more. Quality food every time we have eaten there. They give children crayons and paper to play with and even tell the children that if they eat ALL of their dinner, they get a treasure (little toy) from the treasure chest! Nothing like a bribe to get my two to finish their food. The owner and chef is a mum of one and pregnant with number two, which explains the kiddy-thoughtfulness.
5. Best general advice for traveling to the tropics with children under 5:
Buy the Little Life 2 travel cot. It is lightweight, compact and easy to assemble. It is without doubt, the best thing I brought with me. (Update – This travel cot was discontinued. We recommend the KidCo Peapod travel bed as an alternative. More baby travel bed recommendations here.)
Dahlia Nahome lives in Hermosa, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica with her husband and two children. As well as running her rental business, www.costaricanvacation.com & launching www.purasonica.com (a local radio station & what’s on guide with her husband) she also enjoys writing about and raising the profile of the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and has work published on various travel blogs.