Finnegan was 15-months old before he took his first plane trip, but Declan was only seven months when he got his wings and his first passport stamp. After hearing for years about how great Costa Rica is as an eco-tourism destination, we finally took an extended family vacation there in February 2012 with Jennifer’s parents. After her usual exhaustive research, Jennifer decided to focus on two regions of Costa Rica: Arenal, which is home to a volcano that was pretty active in recent years, and the Osa Peninsula, which has the rainforest, ocean and wildlife.
Costa Rica is easy to reach from New Jersey, with a direct flight from Newark to San Jose. When we arrived in San Jose, we were met by a driver from our resort, the Lost Iguana Resort and Spa. I’m not going to lie to you, the drive from San Jose to our resort in Arenal took a while and we were all feeling a bit queasy at times, as it was very mountainous and hot. But the driver was very nice and stopped several times and pointed out exotic wildlife when he saw it. Despite his best efforts to point it out to me, I never did see the sloth he claims was high in a tree on the side of the road.
The Lost Iguana was a first-rate resort: the rooms were incredible, some with elaborate (and very private) outdoor showers and most rooms had astonishing views of the volcano. At breakfast most mornings, a pair of toucans would show up for the bananas that were left out for them, to the delight of the guests. We would sit and eat our breakfast and watch as the toucans ate in front of the tourist paparazzi.
There was also a heated swimming pool that was perfect for toddlers and Finnegan loved patronizing the attached snack bar. What makes the Lost Iguana nice is that it is set off by itself in a very tranquil and serene area of the rain forest. But, by the same token, the resort is not close to anything and it is a 30 minute taxi ride to get to La Fortuna if you want to eat somewhere other than the hotel restaurant, visit the hot springs, or buy souvenirs.
There are plenty of things to do in the surrounding area, particularly if you are young, adventurous and sans children (i.e. zip lining, cave tubing, white water rafting, ATV tours, horseback riding). Finding things to do for the whole family was a little more challenging, but we managed to find some fun adventures. Our favorite activity that we did while in Arenal was the Hanging Bridges tour, which was very close to our hotel and involved a long hike that crossed over seven suspension bridges that spanned deep gorges and chasms. We also saw a few monkeys on the hike. We spent the rest of our time doing nearby hikes, relaxing in the pool, and spent a few hours in La Fortuna.
Then it was off to the Osa Peninsula for the second part of our trip (report coming tomorrow).