Costa Rica: Family Vacation 2017

What. A. Trip. Our visit to Costa Rica was wonderful. The travel there went as smoothly as possible, which was excellent since that was the source of quite a bit of anxiety for me. After arriving at the San Jose airport last Saturday afternoon we loaded our bags into a van and were driven to the house we’d rented for the week. One of my favorite things about this trip was having drivers/transport. All of our transport was booked with a company called Varso Travel. In addition to getting us to the house from the airport, they picked us up from the house each day and drove us to wherever we happened to be going, then brought us back in the evening. It took away SO MUCH STRESS that would have been driving in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017

Why? From what I can tell, no driving laws are actually enforced in Costa Rica. People literally drive how and where they want. Motorcycles don’t bother with lanes; they just weave in and out of traffic. Cars pass on double yellows into oncoming traffic to get around anyone they wish. It’s crazy. So having a local person, who not only knows the routes but knows how to drive there, was such an incredible boon. If you’re ever traveling to Costa Rica, I highly recommend spending the extra money on having drivers.

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017
Tiger Crab! See how the shell makes a tiger face?

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017
The crabs were so pretty!

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017

My favorite activity actually ended up being the day we rode horses. We arrived early, mounted up, and then took a two hour horseback ride through the mangrove forest and out onto the ocean beach. As someone who has never ridden a horse, I was a bit nervous, but it was wonderful. You go pretty slowly, and really get to take in all the sights along the way. My kiddo even got her own horse and she did such a great job riding! I loved sauntering through the mangrove forest on horseback; looking at the beautiful environment and animals. Living in New Hampshire, the environment in Costa Rica could not be more different from home. Every plant, every tree – they were all things I’d never seen in person before. It was glorious to take it all in.

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017
Hanging out with monkeys was her favorite part of the trip!
Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017
Crocodiles galore.

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017

The day we visited La Paz waterfall and gardens made for my absolute favorite views of the trip. They have hikes to four different waterfalls (very short hikes; the waterfalls are nearly one after the other and the whole trip is only about a one mile hike) and you are literally IN THE RAINFOREST up on a mountain. The views were breathtaking. There was a scary moment when a thunderstorm rolled in while we were at the top of a mountain. We were under shelter – they have a full cafeteria area which is outdoors but with a roof over it – but it was still a bit spooky to be up a mountain with huge cracks of thunder and monsoon-like rain. But it passed quickly and we were able to still do the hikes! La Paz also has an animal sanctuary; they care for animals that can no longer live in the wild so we got to see some wonderfully exotic animals. My favorites were the jaguars and ocelots (#crazycatlady) but the snakes were amazing too!

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017

Sadly we did not get to hike a volcano which was at the top of both my daughter’s and my own Costa Rica bucket list. But there was no choice – good ole Mother Nature had her own plans! Two days before we arrives, Poas Volcano blew. The two meter column of ash and smoke it launched was enough to evacuate the surrounding area! All the other volcanoes would have been over a three hour drive, which we just did not have time to fit in with the other plans we’d made. So clearly, no volcanoes for us. However, we did get to see the volcanoes in the distance as we drove up to La Paz waterfall so that was awesome!

Costa Rica Family Vacation 2017

Overall, the trip as an incredible experience. I definitely had a bit of culture shock upon first arriving. Not just the language (My Spanish is not great, and I learned I’m a lot better at understanding people talking to me than trying to speak to people) but the environment, the heat, the humidity, the conditions in which people lived – it was all so different from home. I have never felt more like a spoiled American white woman than I did while there. There are many things in America that I take for granted which I hadn’t really thought of before until faced with something so completely opposite. It was eye-opening in that manner. But the trip was filled with so much beauty, so many experiences I am so lucky to have had a chance to take part in. I highly recommend traveling to Costa Rica if you get the chance; it has so many wonders to offer!

  • Danielle Knapp

    It sounds like you guys had an amazing trip 🙂 Great tip on hiring a driver and I just love all of your photos!

    • Kay

      Thanks! Man a driver is so worth the cost – driving is insane there!

  • B.

    Your photos are amazing! I’m glad you guys had a stress free trip

    • Kay

      Thank you, and me too! 🙂

  • Looks like such an incredible trip!

    • Kay

      Thanks Stacey!

  • I am so glad you had such a good trip! It looks absolutely beautiful, and I love all the different creatures you got to see. I’m not sure if the monkey or the crocodiles would be my favorite.

    • Kay

      Thank you! I liked the monkeys more simply because we could interact with them. Interacting with crocs, not so much haha! Though they do have river tours down the crocodile river but I think I’d be too chicken. D:

  • Traveling is so amazing! It makes you realize how little your world is but how big the world is right outside your front door. I think what I love the most about traveling is discovering how different a culture is and the people that you interact with and meet. Traveling is always a stressful, fun, amazing adventure for me. I love your shots of the beach!

    The monkey photo was pretty awesome!

    • Kay

      Thank you so much! I really did enjoy the traveling, and interacting with others. Even with a bit of a language barrier, I know enough Spanish that there was never a huge issue, and everyone was so nice and helpful!

      It was so hard to choose what few photos to share here….I took SO MANY haha! But I didn’t want to overload everyone. 🙂

      • totally! I try not to do that either! Always so many amazing photos to go through after traveling. 🙂

  • The photos from your trip are breathtaking! I’m so happy the travel went smoothly since you kept saying how worried you were about it! The drivers in Costa Rica sound exactly like the drivers in NY haha. That’s why I hate driving! My brother is actually leaving to go to CR with his girlfriend tomorrow so I’m going to forward him your post!!

    • Kay

      Ah, excellent! I hope he has a blast! There is so much beauty there to see – it’s so stunning up in the mountains and the rainforest. And I don’t blame you on not wanting to drive in NYC. I remember flinching on pretty much EVERY cab ride last time I was there haha!

  • Wow your photos are beautiful!!! Loved readingabout your trip, there are so many things we have that we tend to forget, it’s nice being able to step back and realize that sometimes.

    • Kay

      Thank you, and I completely agree! Travel definitely gives you such a different perspective on the world (both literally and figuratively haha!)

  • Would figure, I zero in on the picture with a horse in it. 🙂 I am happy to hear that you had a great experience trail riding! It’s what I do alot of with my horse because it’s so peaceful. Plus the horse enjoys it.

    Love the scenery photos too. So beautiful! Glad that you had a great trip with travel included.

    I can understand the culture shock to a point. I had it when I moved from Michigan to Missouri and that is still the same country!

    • Kay

      I bet! I’m sure if I ever moved down south I’d have some culture shock having lived in the northeast my whole life. And horseback riding was so amazing; I can certainly see it’s appeal now!

  • Natalie

    Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated your blog for the Mystery Blogger Award! You’re under no obligation to participate, but I think your blog is great! All the details are here: https://lunanoctis.wordpress.com/2017/05/06/mystery-blogger-award-for-there-she-goes/

    • Kay

      Thank you so much! I’ll check out the post for sure! 🙂

  • Oooh the photo with the crocodiles looks spooky! Even though I live in Florida and see alligators all the time, I usually see them ONE at a time… lol I think seeing a group of alligators or crocodiles would totally scare the shit out of me xD

    Your photos turned out so pretty! I’m glad you guys had a nice time! Don’t you wish we could be on vacation alllll the time??

    • Kay

      Thank you so much! And thankfully we were waaay up above them on a bridge haha. They were definitely intimidating since they were HUGE.

      It was a great experience, but I’m always so ready to come home after vacation (I’m a homebody for sure) – then I always feel like I need a mini home-vacation to recover from my ACTUAL vacation haha!

  • So glad you had a great time! I love all the pics. Especially the one with the waterfall, and with the monkey! Looks like you all had so much fun 🙂

    • Kay

      Thank you! It was such an amazing experience!

  • Wow it looks amazing! So jelly now! But… no driving laws!??? O.o Thanks for the tip. I would get so stressed that I would end up not going out anywhere! Super nice pictures 🙂 Congrats!

    • Kay

      Thank you Pepi! And I”m sure they HAVE laws haha, it’s just no one seems to follow or enforce them. Definitely scary. Totally worth the extra cost to have a driver!

      • Hahaha Well but it does look like they have no rules xDDD If no one follows them, it’s like they’re ghost rules LOL And yup, thanks for the tip. If I ever go there, I’ll get a driver!

  • Mariah Kaercher

    I am glad to hear you had an awesome time!!

    • Kay

      Thank you Mariah! 🙂

  • This trip looks amazing! I can’t wait for Hazel to be big enough to do these kind of trips with her. I’m glad you had a great time!

    • Kay

      Thank you so much! Traveling with kids is definitely a different experience, but with good planning it’s not too stressful!

  • PC

    Thank you for this Blog. I am doing research right now for a house in CR and came across the one you stayed in. We generally look for a (reasonably priced) weekly driver when traveling to locations like the Carribean, Central America, etc. Did you rent your driver for the week or per trip?

    • Kay

      I believe it was per trip. Our first day there, we had a meeting with them (we used Varso Travel by the way, I know they have a Facebook page if you’d like to look them up) and finalized the details of what places we wanted to go on which days. So I’m assuming it was paid for on a per-trip basis since these details weren’t planned ahead of time? (I didn’t actually book the travel plans for this trip so I’m unclear of the specifics, sorry!). I do know they offer a smaller or larger van, each of which is a different cost. But they were excellent to work with, spoke excellent English if that’s a concern, and had a huge amount of information on where to go. I hope that helps!