Travel – the Best Way to Learn Costa Rica

On a discovery tour through the big wide world and that alone with two small children? Yes, that works and is an adventure in itself in every country, but also a challenge. How we discover my adopted home Costa Rica together and what we experience you will find out in my article.

I’m Natalie and the mom of two girls between 5 and 10 years old. Our common favorite hobby is exploring the world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s right on the doorstep in the Black Forest, which is usually blessed with good weather, somewhere not far from home (which for us in a broad context actually means all of Europe) or a little further away, for example in our adopted home Costa Rica. For me and also for my children, traveling means coming to us, having time for each other, we delete the word “must” for this time completely from our vocabulary and live right into the day. Do what we want, surround ourselves with people when we feel like it, and we are ourselves.

Reunion with friends

In the past summer holidays we went back to the land of Ticos and Ticas after 5 years of abstinence. With Edelweiss it was easy and only 11 hours from Zurich to San José.

It is already after 10 p.m. when we step out of the airport building and our friend Mariana is already waiting for us beaming with joy. Mariana lives with her family in Heredia and we met in Germany in the summer of 2016. At that time, she and her best friend Darrel were our couch surfing guests. It was like “love” at first sight, because we got along very well straight away. It was therefore absolutely logical for the two of them that we would have to stop by them on our next visit to Costa Rica. According to the motto “Mi casa es su casa” we are greeted very warmly by Mariana’s parents, her brother and dog lady Luna. There is even food and a cold beer after the children are in bed.

Mariana shows us Heredia, we take the bus to Sarchí – the city where the great ox carts are still painted today – and we visit the city’s botanical garden. In the evening Darrel joins us, where we are to spend our second night and together we cooked cheese spaetzle. Darrel lives in San José, and since we want to take the bus to the Caribbean coast the next morning, he offers us to spend the night with him and to drive us to the bus in the morning. So we get to know his family and on the third day of our trip we reach the bus to Cahuita on time.

Caribbean, we are coming!

About 5 hours later we stand with bags and bags at the bus station in the small hippie village, which is known for the national park of the same name. Brigitte, our Airbnb hostess, is ready with her jeep and the dog Scottie, which my girls love right away, and she brings us to her ranch. The Swiss woman has been living in Cahuita for more than 35 years and tells us how original and simple everything was back then. There was no electricity and the cooking was done over an open fire. Cahuita was completely unknown and much smaller than it is today.

Brigitte and her sister Uschi run the ranch together. There are two cute bungalows and a few more rooms in the main building. You can go on horseback excursions, kayak tours and even a chocolate tour to an indigenous family in the Talamanca Mountains. The sisters also hire out bicycles and offer surfing lessons.

Brigitte’s Ranch is located a little outside of the center of Cahuita on Playa Negra, so it is advisable to have a rental car or at least bicycles. We have our feet and we get along well. In addition to Scottie, whom we have already met, there are two other dogs on the ranch grounds, as well as cats, chickens, horses, iguanas and sloths. A real paradise for my girls, thanks to the close proximity to the beach (approx. 2 minutes walk) we can still get them away from all the animals. And splashing around in the Caribbean Sea isn’t necessarily the worst thing.

During our stay in Cahuita we will of course visit the beautiful national park. Admission consists of a voluntary donation, you get a brief introduction and you enter yourself in a kind of guest book. We were here for the last time in 2012 and unfortunately (maybe this was due to our travel time during the European summer holidays) the park is a bit crowded this time. After a few kilometers of discovery along the hiking trails, we still find a quiet spot on the light sandy beach where the children can play and bathe in peace.

Volcanoes, waterfalls & hot springs

The time on the Caribbean coast literally flies by and before we know it, we are already on the Interbus towards La Fortuna. The journey takes about 6 hours. In between there is a lunch break in which we treat ourselves to a typical casado. The kids can cope with the somewhat longer car journey without any problems. They pass the time with “I see what you don’t see”, radio plays and intermittent siestas.

When we arrive in La Fortuna, we are surprised at the Casa Luna Hotel & Spa with a really delicious fruit platter. Chef Delvin conjured this up for us. After it has been devoured in no time, my daughters only want one thing: in the pool. So put on your swimwear and off to the pool. It is drizzling a little, but of course that can’t stop the water rats. The absolute highlight are the warm jacuzzis, which are beautifully laid out and hidden in the middle of a lot of green.

From Casa Luna, we take a trip to the waterfall a few kilometers away and take a taxi to the city center. There are really countless souvenir shops here and the children don’t want to miss a single one. Delvin conjures up a delicious candle light dinner for us on the second evening and the next day it goes on.

Back to nature

Anyone who has ever been on a Costa Rica group tour with us knows Otto and Marie. The two live not far from La Tigra in a beautiful house that Otto built himself. With a view of two volcanoes and surrounded by their pepper plants and the tropical garden, it is easy to endure. I showed them Freiburg in spring 2017 and they grew very dear to me.

Since my 10-year-old daughter loves the typical Costa Rican dish “Arroz con pollo” (rice with chicken) so much, Marie has offered to prepare it traditionally with me. While the others are exploring the huge property, Marie and I are chopping carrots, celery, peppers and onions in the open kitchen, plucking the chicken into bite-sized pieces and cooking the rice. Together with Otto and Marie’s grandchildren, we feast on our “Arroz con pollo”, then enjoy the wonderful view from Otto’s veranda and then continue to the La Tigra Rainforest Lodge.

Extract from my travel log

“We are currently in the middle of the tropical rainforest of Costa Rica, I am sitting on the balcony of our wooden bungalow at the La Tigra Rainforest Lodge. My boss “created” all of this with the help of his Costa Rican partners and friends. I close my eyes and listen to the rain pattering through the treetops of the now imposing jungle trees and bushes. The girls play in the bunk beds.

A few minutes ago, just in time for the rain, we returned from a hike along the created trekking trails. We saw saucer-sized butterflies in the most beautiful colors, lots of smaller and larger lizards, motley beetles, busy leaf-cutting ants and three different species of frogs. The highlight was by far the cooling off in the natural posadas in the middle of the rainforest. Posadas are small waterfalls that flow into pools where you can refresh yourself. The water was cold, but with the high humidity and warmth, it was a pleasant refreshment. We were all alone and really felt like Indiana Jones on a discovery tour.

This remote corner of the world is the penultimate stop on our journey through the Garden of Eden in Central America. Tomorrow we will continue to Guanacaste on the Pacific coast. We have family and friends there and it will definitely be a lot more turbulent than here. The rain has now stopped and the chirping of the cicadas is gaining the upper hand again. A sure sign that dawn is approaching and the day is drawing to a close.

It gets dark between 6 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. and that means really pitch black, because we are far from civilization here. When the time comes, we will – armed with our flashlights – work our way up towards the restaurant. Past small ponds full of tadpoles and accompanied by the different noises of nocturnal insects and frogs, including the red-eyed tree frog, the symbol of Costa Rica, which is popular with photographers. Day 9 of our trip we spent in and with nature, as observers and participants. We have learned anew how beautiful, peaceful and diverse our planet is and that we are responsible for its preservation. As small parts of a larger whole. “

My conclusion after 3 weeks in Costa Rica

We spend another 3 wonderful weeks with the family. Take domestic trips, visit relatives and friends, and have an unforgettable time. On behalf of my children, I can only recommend a trip to this diverse and hospitable country to everyone. Admittedly, the time after the tour with our family is quite turbulent and it sometimes goes haywire, but the more fun the children have, come into close contact with Costa Rican life and see what is going very differently here than here at home or what is very similar. However, if you are flexible, you should use the times outside of the holidays. As in every travel destination, Costa Rica is also quite crowded at peak times and you are always on the move with other travelers whether you want to or not.

Travel - the Best Way to Learn Costa Rica