El Parquecito is a small curved cove near the center of Puerto Viejo, where small fishing boats line the white sand, and the water is calm and protected on two sides. Salsa Brava beach lies directly south, and Puerto Viejo Beach lies directly north of El Parquecito, and it is here where fishing nets are made the old-fashioned way and locals gather to check out the catch of the day. Snorkeling and swimming are fine at El Parquecito beach, and it's a favorite for children who wade in the gentle waters, but there is little space between the narrow stretch of sand and the road for sunbathing.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Sheltered on two sides, this protected cove usually has gentle waves good for little swimmers.
Sophia's expert tip: Find El Parquecito Beach across from an open-air restaurant of the same name in the center of Puerto Viejo.
When the weather heats up, sometimes there's just nothing like a swimming pool to cool you off, even in Costa Rica, with it's bounty of beaches on both coasts. What's even better, is that Balneario de Aguas Termales Los Patios has 6 pools to choose from, 4 of which are warm water pools, two that are cold water. Since 1966, this swimming pool park has been a mecca for dippers, swimmers and divers, and floaters who come to get wet and frolic in the pools. Set against the backdrop of Cartago's rolling green hills, these pools invite all ages to partake in their refreshing waters. Picnics are invited, but there's always the Bar Balneario to order a bite from. Pool hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 8am to 4pm Entry for those over 3 years old: 2000 colones, or about $4.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: What kid doesn't love pool after pool after pool, especially on a hot Costa Rican day?
Sophia's expert tip: Get their early to stake out an umbrella covered table for your picnic lunch.
Frog spotting can be a fun past time in Costa Rica, especially since some species, like the exquisite and now Missing Golden Toad, are disappearing fast as more and more humans begin to visit their terrain. At the Monteverde Ranario, or Frog Pond, you'll have a chance to observe all kinds of frogs, from the exotic to the everyday, including salamanders and toads. Take a guided tour through the terraria, or frog gallery. Like many of their insect neighbors, frogs of different feathers come out at night, and the price of admission allows you to come back within the same day, so why not make it a frog day afternoon and frog night, to boot.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Perhaps it's the funny noises they make or the look in their eyes, but frogs and kids go hand in hand here.
Sophia's expert tip: Practice your frog imitations in advance so you'll be more ready to communicate with the critters on display, and compete with your frog-friendly guide for tone and quality.
Iraz� Volcano National Park encompasses the area around the Iraz� Volcano in Cartago Province. The volcano is not far from the capital city and makes for an excellent day trip attraction from San Jose. Iraz� Volcano National Park is a National Park in the Central Volcanic Conservation Area of Costa Rica, and the volcano is Costa Rica's highest at 3432 meters. Still considered active, Volcan Iraz�'s last major eruptions were in the 1960s, but occasionally minor eruptions cause some small lava flows. There is a visitor's center and a scenic overlook at the volcano area, which also has a small coffee shop and tables, and is open from 8:00am to 4:00pm.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: This volcano has erupted recently enough to be considered one of Costa Rica's six active volcanos.
Sophia's expert tip: On a clear day, the Pacific and Caribbean are visible from the smaller crater, Diego de la Haya, where you can witness its mineral-rich lake amazingly transform its color from emerald-green to crimson-red.
La Paz Waterfall and gardens is a delightful eco-excursion just outside the city of San Jose, and with a half or full day trip, you'll be treated to not only five rushing waterfalls, but lush tropical rain forest, exotic birds, butterflies, monkeys, sloths, and snakes in the serpentarium. Marked paths allow self-guided tours of the grounds, and are designed to give visitors a well-rounded rainforest experience. The Butterfly Observatory and a Hummingbird Garden are added bonuses, enchanting places where creatures can feed out of your hand. You can allot as little as two hours, but a whole day could easily be spent exploring.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Snakes on display make the day for many a girl and boy.
Sophia's expert tip: Follow a visit with a buffet lunch at Colibries, or feast a la carte at the Big Trout Bar or Tortillas restaurants, all three are good restaurants located on the premises.
Yes, it is the quintessential Costa Rican adventure, and yes it is a must-do experience, if you enjoy the great outdoors, that is. You'll feel the adrenaline in your veins and the wind in your hair as you whiz from platform to platform (there are twenty platforms!) suspended by cables just above the tree tops in the jungle outside of Puerto Viejo de Limon. If you're lucky, you may spot monkeys and sloths swinging on branches beside you, and there are always birds and iguanas at play above and below. For the affordable price of $55 per person, everything is included from pick-up at your hotel, a snack, and all the equipment- round trip is 3.5 hours.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: If you're big enough to fit into a harness, you're fit to zipline through the jungle.
Sophia's expert tip: Don't wear loose fitting clothing; snug duds will keep from catching on tree branches.
At the Jaguar Rescue Center in Playa Chiquita, a few kilometers south of Puerto Viejo, a primatologist and her herpatologist husband are a couple of passionate animal lovers who created the Jaguar Rescue Center in response to a need for a place for the rescue of orphaned or injured animals, who are cared for and raised with a goal of releasing the animals back into the wild once rehabilitated. The Jaguar Rescue Center accepts visitors every day except Sunday at 9:30 am or 11:30 am for 1.5 hour tours. There is a $15 suggested donation.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: All ages are invited to watch and play with the monkeys here.
Sophia's expert tip: Guided tours are at 9:30 and 11:30 everyday except Sunday.
Cocles Beach, called "Beach Break" by locals, is the most popular beach in the area among locals and tourists, for its long golden sand beach and for its consistently good surf. A majestic craggy rock sits a few meters off-shore, and legend has it that pirates buried their booty there years ago. Cocles has the only lifeguard station in the region, but it's not always occupied. Look for flags to signal riptides, which are common and strong at Cocles. Rent a surf board on the beach, and refresh with a smoothie from one of the small cafes that line the roadside across from the sand.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: This is the only beach in the area with a lifeguard on duty, and red flags to denote when to stay on the sand.
Sophia's expert tip: To get to Cocles from Puerto Viejo on foot, find the unmarked path that leads through the forest, starting at Salsa Brava.
InBio Park is Costa Rica's national institute for biodiversity and conservation, and it's main attraction is a theme park for all ages that introduce's Costa Rica and many of its natural wonders to the public. InBio collaborates with government agencies, universities, and other public and private entities to provide the most cutting-edge technologies and advanced science, and the result is a comprehensive park that leaves few, if any, stones unturned. A collection of more than 3 million insects, an expansive mushroom exhibit, a Climate Change expose, and a Sustainable Trail are only some of the attractions in store at InBio Park.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Learning about Costa Rica is fun for all ages at this interactive natural theme park.
Sophia's expert tip: This park is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, and the last admission is at 3pm, unless you book a night tour in advance. Reservations for InBio Park guided tours can be made from most major hotels in San Jose, and include transportation.
Reef Runner Divers is a one-stop dive shop located in a prime beachfront spot in Puerto Viejo de Limon, Costa Rica. With a staff of experienced divers and a trusty panga boat named "The Reefer" this long-standing outfit has access to the most pristine, untouched parts of the Caribbean eco-system. Visit "The Holes" and swim through sun filled waters over the great barrier reef, and scale the Seahorse Wall, where yellow, green and brown sea horses can be seen up close on the Reef Runner Divers Fun Dive. Get your PADI certification or stay closer to the surface with a Snorkeling Safari. Find Reef Runner Divers on the water's edge at El Chino Beach.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Water babies are welcome to don a mask and snorkel alongside mom and dad, there's lots to see in the sea.
Sophia's expert tip: Discounts offered for groups of 4 or more.