I'm thrilled to have Rebecca Nutter back to share about her latest adventure. She and her family just returned from a trip to Costa Rica. She is full of fun ideas and information to share.
Traveling to Costa Rica with a 3 Year Old
Our family took a 9-day vacation in the beautiful area of Quepos/Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. A much needed tropical getaway! Both towns are loaded with restaurants, hotels, and shops selling labeled wares to the tourists. Trucks selling pineapples are stopped on the side of the road. Lush vegetation everywhere and you can see the Pacific Ocean through the palm trees. The road that connects the two towns is VERY windy and steep. The beaches are full of families, young couples and locals. It was a wonderfully relaxing vacation.
Here is what I learned traveling in this area with our 3-year-old daughter.
Don't bother with a stroller. All the roads in this area do not include space on the side for walking. There is no sidewalk - just a ditch. I thought the few people walking on the side of the road were rather crazy, especially with how fast people drive here. There is also really no place to use a stroller. The beach? The national park? It worked out for us to hold our daughter or have her ride on dad’s shoulders, in those places. This brings me to me next point…
Rent a car. Since the streets aren't really walk-able, I would highly recommend renting a car with kids. We rented one and were able to zip to the beach and into town in no time. They do have public buses here and I did see some tourists sitting at bus stops. If your kids were older, maybe waiting for a bus in the hot sun would be fine, but I really wanted to avoid anymore waiting time during our trip, so we opted for a car.
Playground! There was a playground in Quepos! This was definitely a nice surprise. There are swings, seesaws, and a large climbing structure. There were benches for families to rest and a big tree for shade.
Adventures galore. As many touristy places go, there were lots of businesses selling their adventure services. You could go zip lining, horseback riding, white water rafting, take a sunset cruise, etc. As a family with a 3 year old I had to look at what we could reasonably do. I considered lots of it, as the adventures would be very memorable for our daughter, however she was either too young or the timing during the day wasn’t right (to allow for nap time).
So we looked at what we could do.
The beaches are where we spent most of our time. You don't have to pay for a chair rental. Just plop your towel down, some sand toys and you're set for a morning of fun.
The National Park in Manuel Antonio. You can choose to do a self-guided tour or hire a tour guide. I would recommend going without a tour guide. They were pricey, DEMANDING, and not conducive to a 3 year olds attention span. You can get a free map with your ticket and choose where to go yourselves. Bring beach attire, towels, snacks and water. There are several beaches to choose from. They don't sell any food inside the park. There are bathrooms in the park too. I also recommend going early (they open at 7am) as they close the park when there are too many (not sure how many that is) visitors. Also, it's hot in Costa Rica in January, so it's much more enjoyable during the early morning hours. We were also mindful about how much time it took us to get to the beach, as our hot and tired little girl would have to endure that walk back.
Quepos farmer’s market. This was open Friday and Saturday morning. We saw LOTS of fruit, vegetables, and some booths selling toys, backpacks and anything else they could slam the word Costa Rica on. It was nice to go in the early hours (they open at 8) so it wasn’t too busy and not so hot! The produce is so inexpensive compared to the states and DELICIOUS!!
There was a butterfly garden in Manuel Antonio, but we opted not to go. I think it would have been another great option though.
We really enjoyed our family vacation to Costa Rica. We felt safe and were able to traverse the area easily with our daughter. It was a great exposure to another culture - hearing Spanish and trying to converse back with locals - and a relaxing getaway from the Minnesota cold!
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