Easy Costa Rica
Backcountry camping is possible in a handful of parks and preserves. Among the best opportunities are Santa Rosa National Park, where camping is permitted at a lovely, isolated ocean campsite, and the cloud forest of Monteverde (at shelters). Backcountry camping in Costa Rica is definitely best for families with experience and older children capable of carrying a large load.
There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, mainly in the parks. The biggest issue is not the availability of places to hike or trail conditions, but the heat, particularly during the dry season. Hiking in the topics is hot and should be undertaken carefully and modestly. Children will need lots of water, even on short hikes. The following are a few of the many exciting places to explore on foot.
Costa Rica is definitely not a bicycler's paradise. On the other hand, we biked a portion of it, an experience that led to a number of memorable adventures. This is not for the uninitiated. As an introduction to bicycle touring, it would be a nightmare, but for experienced families it can be a real adventure. Heat and road conditions are the two main issues. Costa Rica is hot, which means bicycling is going to be very hot. Carry plenty of water bottles and expect to stop at every cafe along the route for cold drinks (something the children will love). Between the heat and rugged road conditions in many areas, covering 20 km with children can be a major day's accomplishment.
If bicycling is your passion and real adventure is something you crave, pick a few small areas to explore in depth. Both provisions and accommodations are always easy to find. Possible routes include around Lake Arenal, a small portion of the Nicoya Peninsula, and a tour of the east coast. Bicycles are difficult to carry on buses (no roof racks, except on some local routes). Try hitching a ride in pick-ups instead for covering long distances. Traffic is light and considerate, even on highways.
Although not an outdoor activity we normally include, some mention of Costa Rica's immense potential for this sport is necessary. With the largest whitewater rafting company in Latin America (Rigs Tropicales), the country offers a variety of opportunities for exploring its many scenic rivers. Children ten and older are usually eligible. A day outing will expose you to an exciting view of some of the country's loveliest natural areas. Whitewater rafting outfitters often offer sea kayaking opportunities along the coast as well.
Consider doing some canal exploration along the country's east coast, an area still accessed only by water. Travel is by ferry or private boat along the public waterways that service the communities north of Limon. Unlike whitewater rafting, boating here is not a sport or tourist attraction, but the main source of transportation, making this type of travel an unusual cultural experience. Dugout canoes can be rented from local inhabitants for exploring the many waterways of Tortuga National Park.
The swimming is excellent throughout Costa Rica's coastal regions, with many tourists making this the focal point of their visit. Beaches are plentiful and lovely, with gorgeous sand, palm trees, and warm water. In fact, the water is so warm it's almost impossible to get children out of it. Some of the best beaches are on the Nicoya Peninsula, the west coast of Guanacaste, and the Caribbean coast. Some are near deserted, others surrounded by tourist facilities. Chances are the harder it is to get there, the less developed the area. Stay away from beach areas during the week of Christmas and Easter, the traditional holiday seasons when all of San Jose goes to the beach. Swimming can be dangerous on the Pacific coast due to the strong currents, so check with the locals before plunging in. There's plenty of surf if you want it (bodysurfing is excellent) as well as places appropriate for little children.
With 27 percent of the land set aside in parks and preserves and 5 percent of the world's biodiversity, Costa Rica offers numerous opportunities for nature studies. Monteverde has one excellent self-guided nature trail through the cloud forest that children will enjoy and learn from. National parks and preserves usually include some type of information about the nature and wildlife found within the park, including informative signs, leaflets, and guided walks. The country is particularly rich in bird, insect and plant life, with more bird species than on the entire North American continent.
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