Going on holiday with children is an art. It takes a very special destination to keep everybody engaged and enjoying themselves. The grown-ups may want to do one thing while the younger generation have other ideas. What is fascinating to one is boredom personified to others. We went on holiday a couple of years ago (Remember back then, when airports were open, planes flew and there was no quarantine…;)) to Costa Rica with our two children, then aged 14 and 12. We were travelling with friends with children 14, 12 and 6. Three boys and two girls. Quite the mix. On paper, Costa Rica looked like the perfect destination – so how did it do?
Short, sharp activities seemed to offer the best chance of success. Trekking in Nepal for example is a wonderful experience but to children it can just go on for days with no real point. In Costa Rica we did several day and half-day walks, with local guides, and the children loved them. In every case we were going to do something specific or see something unique. In Tortuguero National Park on the east coast, for example, we did an evening walk to see Turtles on the beach. It was hot, humid, pouring with rain (It always rains there..our friend Tim announced it shouldn’t be called rain forest but “P*ssing down forest”) and buzzing with mosquitoes. The kids loved it. Everybody had a torch to use until we got onto the beach which was exciting. Once on the beach the swell was running in and had to be avoided which was fun. Then we saw the turtles which was amazing. Within 2 hours we were back in our cabins, wet, bitten but universally happy.
Often on the excursions it was other activities that caught the imagination of the younger generations. On walks they became fascinated by the flora as the guide explained it to them, especially the plants they could touch to make them close. They found sticks and leaves that were made into umbrellas (yes, it was raining..). They had to look for sloths in the trees. They had to find and count the poisoned arrow frogs, keeping a safe distance and getting the guide to identify them and tell them how dangerous they were. They were so wet they loved jumping into puddles and sliding in the mud. When we got to our destination, a viewpoint or waterfall, it was purely secondary to their enjoyment of getting there.
There were of course plenty of activities that children would love whatever. Rafting was a great hit, especially when the boat carrying the adults capsized, allowing the kids and guides to bob past gloating. The zip wires were a highlight, especially when the heavier dads flew through the stopping zones to hit the padding at the end of the lines.
At the beach on the west coast there was plenty to do, surf lessons being a highlight. But as much fun was had in the evenings when they head off to the beach with local kids looking to crabs to race, giving the adults the opportunity to also head off to the beach in search of a cocktail happy hour.
So was Costa Rica a success for a family holiday? Undoubtedly. The kids loved the place, the adults loved the place, everybody enjoyed doing everything but not necessarily sharing the best Top Ten. Would we go again? Certainly? Would the kids? Well, the eldest has, returning there as part of a Gap Year. The highest compliment a country can get.