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Costa Rica Family holiday (1 Viewer)

leonardo_simon

Well-known member
Thinking of booking a holiday to Costa Rica for 2 weeks April 2022 with family (inc 2 children aged 10 & 13).

They would be interested in nature / rainforests but not going birding. If there's a mountain lodge with hiking that could be OK, safe swimmable beaches would be popular

We'd probably base ourselves in one or two destinations rather than tour extensively. Hire a car, day trips.

So I'm asking for some advice on where might be good destinations to base oneself please? Ideally places where i can go off in the mornings for a walk finding interesting stuff.

Thanks ever so much -- I've searched the forum and I don't see that others have asked this question .....
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
I won't be of that much help, just some notes from my recent visit of the country:

- many accomodations in the mountains tend to have a trail system, but it's usually just a few kms of trails, so if you stay for long, it gets old quickly (it's great to repeat the walks for birds and mammala, not so much for "normal people") National Parks tend to have trails, but again nothing major.

- safe is really the world to look for regarding beaches. On the Caribbean coast in Tortuguero, locals will watch you and stop from getting more than a few meters from the beach due to rip currents. In Manuel Antonio on the pacific side people were swimming, but I would really do research about it.

Overall I think you have a relatively difficult idea as the main thing I found great about Costa Rica was how nicely you can move between places, it's just a great "on the road" destination due to the high variety.
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
I have seen reports of people basing themselves in a hotel near the Nicoya peninsula. As I usually get enough sea where I live I have not explored where it is safe and swimable but have the impression it might be possible in that area - and otherwise a swimming pool might do? Possibilities for car excursions from there would at least include Palo Verde and Rincon de la Vieja, and if you like long car travel, possibly also Santa Rosa.

Niels
 

Dan Miller

Avicasual Birder
Supporter
United States
If you fly into Liberia, you are a short drive to the beach communities of Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa. From there you are not far from Rincon de la Viejo and Rio Celeste.

Then, head up to the cloud forest at Monteverde. There are many reserves there, including Monteverde Cloud Forest, Curi-Cancha, Bajo del Tigre, Reserva Santa Elena. April is an ideal time to find Resplendent Quetzal, Three-Wattled Bellbird, and Long-tailed Manakin, amongst all the other wonderful birds of the Monteverde region.

Selvatura is a bit more of an adventure park, with trails, ziplines, hanging bridges, etc.

The night hike at Curi-Cancha is a must-do, as are the Monteverde Butterfly Garden, Monteverde Orchid Garden, and the snake museum in Santa Elena.
 

leonardo_simon

Well-known member
Thank you all! Most appreciated.

@opisska -- totally appreciate your advice - which is always spot on - I will have to set my expectations LOW, but use a family trip as a reconnaisance for a more birding focused trip another time! Still haven't made it to eastern Poland which you recommended but will do once restrictions lift.....
 

leonardo_simon

Well-known member
Can anyone recommend me the best field guide(s) to get please? There’s the helm guide that’s published in 2014 which seems to have variable reviews (saying that it may be worth getting a Central America book too)

thanks
 

Dan Miller

Avicasual Birder
Supporter
United States
Can anyone recommend me the best field guide(s) to get please? There’s the helm guide that’s published in 2014 which seems to have variable reviews (saying that it may be worth getting a Central America book too)

thanks
Birds of Costa Rica, second edition, by Garrigues and Dean
 

Andrew Whitehouse

Professor of Listening
Staff member
Supporter
Scotland
Can anyone recommend me the best field guide(s) to get please? There’s the helm guide that’s published in 2014 which seems to have variable reviews (saying that it may be worth getting a Central America book too)

thanks
Is that the same as the Princeton guide to Central America by Vallely and Dyer, published in 2018? I would say that's a very good guide and the most up-to-date. It's a bit big though, so not great for using in the field.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
Cyprus
If you fly into Liberia, you are a short drive to the beach communities of Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa. From there you are not far from Rincon de la Viejo and Rio Celeste.

Then, head up to the cloud forest at Monteverde. There are many reserves there, including Monteverde Cloud Forest, Curi-Cancha, Bajo del Tigre, Reserva Santa Elena. April is an ideal time to find Resplendent Quetzal, Three-Wattled Bellbird, and Long-tailed Manakin, amongst all the other wonderful birds of the Monteverde region.

Selvatura is a bit more of an adventure park, with trails, ziplines, hanging bridges, etc.

The night hike at Curi-Cancha is a must-do, as are the Monteverde Butterfly Garden, Monteverde Orchid Garden, and the snake museum in Santa Elena.
I'd echo this idea though if you fly in to the capitol as you probably will from the UK, it's a bit of a drive to get down to the Pacific.
 

leonardo_simon

Well-known member
Hi Everyone, thank you ever so much for your advice it's really helpful (plus your other threads which I've searched out and read through)

Google maps says 2 1/2 hrs from SJO airport to Monteverde. Is that reasonable or way out? (we would hire a car, high clearance)

Still working things out but it looks like Monteverde (Santa Elena) looks like a good place to base ourselves as I see there's horse riding and other stuff nearby & Arenal looks similarly interesting with volcanoes to explore. Our usual way (when on a family trip) is to stay in an airbnb for a week and get to know an area really well (Airbnb's look reasonably priced). That way I can go for my early morning bird walk whilst family sleeps etc. Some days they don't want to do much so always better if in an area with good birds! Also looked at Carara (my daughter would love to see scarlet macaw) possibly for a night or two on the way to/from Monteverde to split the journey. Does that sound reasonable for a 10-14 day trip from UK? Clearly serious birding would be for another trip but looks like there's various different habitats in the areas Iv'e selected to keep me interested...... I've no objection to being a patch birder somewhere diffferent for a week (crazy as that may sound)......
 

Dan Miller

Avicasual Birder
Supporter
United States
Yes, that sounds about right for SJO to Monteverde. You are on the Interamerican Highway most of the way, and Ruta 606 up the mountain has been recently rebuilt, and may even be fully paved by now (haven't been down there in a couple years.

Be aware that the drive from Monteverde to Arenal is four hours, as there is no direct route and you have to go around the lake. The good news is there is a good brewpub midway. You could also split your trip between Monteverde and Arenal, and loop back to SJO.

Far Carara, Hotel Villa Lapas is a good place to stay. You'll have chances for Scarlet Macaw there in addition to PN Carara. They can also be readily seen on the beaches, e.g. Playa Galardonada, foraging in the trees along the beach.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
Cyprus
Yes, that sounds about right for SJO to Monteverde. You are on the Interamerican Highway most of the way, and Ruta 606 up the mountain has been recently rebuilt, and may even be fully paved by now (haven't been down there in a couple years.

Be aware that the drive from Monteverde to Arenal is four hours, as there is no direct route and you have to go around the lake. The good news is there is a good brewpub midway. You could also split your trip between Monteverde and Arenal, and loop back to SJO.

Far Carara, Hotel Villa Lapas is a good place to stay. You'll have chances for Scarlet Macaw there in addition to PN Carara. They can also be readily seen on the beaches, e.g. Playa Galardonada, foraging in the trees along the beach.
IIRC, we found Scarlet Macaw to be easy and was seen in several small flocks as we stood on Tarcoles bridge looking for the Cotinga, American Crocodile is easily seen here too.

This shot was taken there.
 

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njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
When I visited a long time ago, Cerro Lodge was a good place to stay near Carara, a little rustic though. A search right now did show them with a pool. If you go there, ask about an early morning boat ride on the river/in the mangroves, I think the rest of the family might enjoy that and you might get a couple of extra species.

Niels
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
Cerro Lodge was probably the most upscale place I ever stayed in on private holidays in my life :) We booked it on booking.com for about 80% discount and the bathroom was bigger than my own place I had back in Warsaw at that time!
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
Cerro Lodge was probably the most upscale place I ever stayed in on private holidays in my life :) We booked it on booking.com for about 80% discount and the bathroom was bigger than my own place I had back in Warsaw at that time!
Sounds very different from when I was there. We stayed in one half of a wooden hut and the bathroom was without a roof at the end of the building.
There was a light above the track to the hut which attracted Black-and-white Owl at night.

Niels
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
Cyprus
When I visited a long time ago, Cerro Lodge was a good place to stay near Carara, a little rustic though. A search right now did show them with a pool. If you go there, ask about an early morning boat ride on the river/in the mangroves, I think the rest of the family might enjoy that and you might get a couple of extra species.

Niels
For privacy and comfort, try 'Mango Lodge.'


There is only one apartment afaik so if you get in, it will be just you and the French owner. We loved it and it was the best accommodation we had on our trip, there's even a lift for your laggage.
 
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seedyrom

Well-known member
We have just returned from 2 weeks birding in Costa Rica. Literally arrived home todya minus our luggage - but that's another story! We stayed at Villa Lapas for a couple of nights - all-inclusive. It was fairly quiet. Nice grounds, things to do locally and I can give contacy details for a local guide. There is also a bird guide attached to the lodge. There are 5 suspension bridges just up the road - owned by the hotel but it costs $20 dollars to go on them. I loved Cerro Lodge last time we were round this way - outdoor bathrooms, feeders, resident owl etc. If you want to see quetzels go to paraiso Quetzal Lodge - freezing cold at night but fabulous scenery and good trails. We didn't get to see the volcano at Arenal - too much low cloud/rain. fabulous food though. Aratunga Tours can devise an itinerary for you. Tell Pieter I recommended him!
 

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