COSTA RICA WITH KIDS
Oh, Costa Rica…how we miss you so!! What an epic family trip we had this summer! It all starts with last Christmas…we gave up getting Christmas presents for the kids the millisecond that Santa was not real became a realization. We did this for several reasons. First, our kids have everything they could possibly need and we hope to teach them that the next best gadget/toy/gizmo/trendy item will not add to their happiness and in the grand scheme of life, means nothing. Case in point, we have had family ask our kids no less than 1 week after a Christmas filled with presents, “What did you get this Christmas?” only to be answered with a “I don’t remember” or that next best gadget/toy/gizmo/trendy item lays unused in the floor of the closet two weeks after unwrapping. Secondly and more sadly, Christmas has become a consumer holiday and no longer represents what our family believes Christmas is about: the birth of our Christ. So out Christmas presents go and in for the win is this: in lieu of presents, the kids must collectively agree on any destination in the world (as long as it is safe, stable, etc) that they want to take a big trip to! And what a winner this has become…the kids still talk about that time they swam with the dolphins in the Bahamas, or that time Maggie puked up pineapple after a twisty mountain caravan ride, or that time when we held a wild caiman baby pulled straight from the Amazon river! Yes, you spend more in the long run, but the experiences and world view that this provides is priceless!
So much excitement with these kidaroos!
Without further ado…Costa Rica with kids! After landing in San Jose, Costa Rica, we were escorted to the phenomenal hotel, Leaves and Lizards, owned by an expat American couple who are extremely knowledgeable about the area and run an impeccable inn with awesome staff! The retreat is in the Arenal area and the grounds of the hotel are GORGEOUS, including the open air dining area, the only on the property. On the first two nights, we stayed in the Hobbit House (one of the raddest places we have ever lodged) which looks exactly like it sounds! A unique private cabin that is partly underground and built into the hillside with an awesome terrace overlooking beautiful views and a partially outdoor shower. Sitting on our terrace, we saw numerous hummingbirds, insects shaded all kinds of brilliant colors, marching ants and all kinds of fauna and flowers.
An enormous picture window for views from the master bed!
Leaves as ginormous as your body!!
Did you know Hobbits need milk??? Perfect size home for this little hobbit!
For the remainder of our stay at Leaves and Lizards, we stayed in the Congo Cabin, which had the best views of the two. It had a huge porch that overlooked Volcano Arenal and the jungle!
Look at this view!! Absolute paradise!
Other perks that made our base here amazing: no telephones or TV (the only wifi and tele on the property was in the common dining area), loads of fun on-site activities to choose from, and the close proximity to the jungle and adventure activities. Highly recommend Leaves and Lizards Resort!
During our stay in the Arenal area, we packed our days with fun activities! The resort offers horseback riding through the jungle, which we made sure to take advantage of as this is one of Emma’s favorite things to do! The owner of Leaves and Lizards also specializes in horse therapy and was very patient with those of our group (me) that are apprehensive of the horse species. And by apprehensive, I really mean terrified. Horses are very large animals and I always feel like they are looking at me sideways, suspiciously if you will, that they are likely thinking how to bite a chunk out of my leg or kick me in the spleen. But as the old adage states, “Do something every day that scares you”; I did just that! And it was a blast! After discussing my fears (out loud and in front of ten people) WITH the horse, my new friend neighed and shook his head and apparently all was well with the world. So after our intimate bonding experience, we saddled up and rode out into the jungle and saw monkeys and sloths along the way to a short hike to a raging waterfall where we also had a picnic lunch before heading back. Fantastic experience with a fantastic guide from Leaves and Lizards!
Miss Emma having the day of her life!
Conversing with my horse… my body language is hysterical in this picture! “Please don’t kick my kiddos, please don’t bite my leg, please don’t put me through spider webs!!!”
The hike to the waterfall
While we were hiking, I just happened to spy this little guy on the floor of the jungle! I have wanted to see one of these since I was a little girl!
I spy with my little eyes…an upside down sloth!!
Our meal times at Leaves and Lizards were in the open air dining area with these views:
Volcano Arenal with morning tea!
And there were always resident (and wild) creatures that joined us for meals!
The resort garden is in the background of this picture! The first pineapple garden I have seen! I never realized that they grow on the ground!
This was at breakfast one day! Breathtaking!
Dining area at Leaves and Lizards
Ziplining was on the agenda next! We went through Arenal Mundo Aventura and it was a great company! Fantastic staff, great views, good cameraman, and safe lines!
The mark of a true zipliner: mud splatter!
Several of our nights in the Arenal area, we spent enjoying the gorgeous hot springs at The Springs Resort and Spa, where we purchased day passes that allow you to enjoy the hot springs and other amenities without actually lodging at the resort. There are numerous hot springs and pools—one hot spring even has a slide, which the kids took full advantage of—great food, a swim up bar, game room, spa, etc. Highly recommend a stop here!
Game room shenanigans!
What looms out of the dark depths of the jungle?!?…..
After a puddle jumping tribute to the rainy jungle and a good night’s sleep, the next leg of our trip was up!
Next it was off to the coast in the Manual Antonio area! About a 5-6 hour car ride through twisty mountainous roads will drop you off at the gorgeous Pacific coast abundant with sunny weather and plentiful beaches and a laid back surfer inspired atmosphere. Our car ride was slightly prolonged due to Maggie hacking up all the pineapple in the land of Costa Rica all over my arm, shoe and the backseat of our van when she got carsick. (Note to parents here: stop frequently or hit the kiddos with some Benadryl! Just kidding. But really. The roads are for real.) Our sweet, sweet elderly driver was so kind and in between Maggie apologizing in broken Spanish and my sympathy dry heaves and trying to crawl over the front seat to escape the horrendous smell of regurgitated pineapple, then tripping over the front arm rest and literally falling out of the van on my face, he hugged Maggie, shared a joke and laugh with my husband, and then helped clean up our tween’s puke. SO SO SO kind! Especially considering that the van was basically new and personally his and I’m sure that this experience was not the highlight of his day. After this fiasco and brief delay, we arrived at this….
Our lodging was an entire floor of a very modern gorgeous rental apartment. The kids were itching to swim in the pool which we were quick to oblige, ordering poolside lunch and drinks that we enjoyed while watching a sloth in the tree overhead! Magical!
Love these wrinkly toes to pieces!
After a spectacular sunset, we turned in for the night excited for the next day of beach festivities!
We started with a delicious breakfast of fresh squeezed juices and huevos at Café Milagro. This restaurant is fantastic, we ate here several times and every meal was terrific (and kid approved)!
With full bellies, we trekked down to the beach for some unsuccessful kayaking, rock hopping, seashell searching, and soaking in the waves and sun! The beach we visited was quite rocky (bring water shoes for sure) with a mildly aggressive surf (not little kid appropriate), so trying to get the kayak out past the rocky bottom while being beat to death by the waves was not ideal, so we forfeited that fail and instead frolicked close to shore. A plus about this beach however, we were the only patrons the entire day! We didn’t see a soul and had this little slice of paradise all to ourselves!
Try getting a kayak over this hot mess of a coastline!
Annnndddd….this is where it stayed for virtually the entire day after multiple unsuccessful launchings and many bruises and stubbed toes! Alas!
Happy as a clam!
Another beautiful sunset to wrap up another amazing day…
Breakfast the next morning came with this view….
…served with fresh juice and more tasty huevos at Emilio’s Café. Following some pool time, we scheduled massages all around! This was the first time the twins have had a massage and were stoked about it! Ethan made the masseuse giggle more than a few times and Emma fell asleep. Goofs!
A great ending to some action packed family fun!
Foreign money is always so colorful!