Costa Rica With Teens: Grab a Helmet, Try to Keep Up!
The name Costa Rica means “Rich Coast,” and it fits. This country is absolutely gorgeous and known for great opportunities for active adventures. My two teenagers were happy to plunge into it all and I did my best to keep up with them, despite some serious pumping adrenaline at times.
We started the trip at Buena Vista Adventures, just 31 kilometers from the airport on the mountain bordering the Rincón de la Vieja volcano. The five activities below cost us about $80 per person, total. We recommend trying all of them.
We started the day zip lining with howler monkeys just overhead and gorgeous rainforest below. This is a must-do. Don’t be afraid. The guides make sure you’re tightly buckled and you can control your speed to make this a slow ride for seeing the sights or a daredevil dash to the next platform. If I can do one of the longest lines upside down—and I did—you can do this, too! Watch for monkeys!
Brave the Water Slide
This is a serious water slide, It’s 400 meters long. You must wear a helmet (a true necessity). And anyone wearing a two-piece bathing suit must wear what they call a leather diaper to keep their bottom on. The water is that powerful! My kids went three times, but their Dad and I decided to just watch after the first go-round. It was pretty scary (and this is coming from a person who zip lines upside down)! The water is freezing, but refreshing.
Tip: You’ll find changing facilities a few steps away from the slide.
Refuel at the Buffet
While drying off we decided to pause for lunch, which is included in the package. Surprisingly, this was some of the best food we ate in Costa Rica. We all went back for seconds It’s not easy getting up the mountain (as you’ll see), so most of what we ate had been grown right there. Try the eggplant (it’s to die for) and if you’re too full to eat the cookie at your place setting, take it with you for later. It was delicious.
After lunch, we saddled up for our horseback ride. This was not your typical resort ride. We galloped and trotted along tight paths through the rainforest. These horses are well trained; no need to worry about having problems with their behavior. However, be careful on the narrow paths. My youngest got her foot tangled in a vine, her horse kept going and she fell off. She was scratched up and shaken but she was able to ride on. We had thought that perhaps the helmets we got were overkill, but I was so glad she had been wearing hers when she fell. After about 45 minutes, we made it to our destination: The Spa!
Play in the Mud
After changing back into our swim suits, we kicked back in the sauna to open those pores, then we had a mud bath. My family had so much fun slathering on the mud (don’t forget the face)! Your skin will feel wonderful after this. I must admit I didn’t enjoy the cold shower to rinse the mud off, but the hot springs we plunged into afterward did took the chill away.
There are three different temperatures of volcano fed springs. You work your way from hottest to coolest and can stay as long as you like. We went back and forth between the pools a few times. The scenery is gorgeous, but be careful not to make yourself too limp; you do still have to journey back to the parking area!
Tip: You can take a tractor ride to and from the spa, but if you enjoyed the horseback ride, ask your guide if you can return that way. My family did and we were alone on the return trip, a wonderful way to end our day. The sun was beginning to set and we had the scenery all to ourselves.
Leave Your Camera Behind
At the gift shop you can buy a CD with photos of your day for about $20. You can bring your own camera, too, and the guides will take photos for you. But they do such a nice job on the CD, I say don’t take the chance of damaging your gear.
I ended my day with a cappuccino reminiscent of one I had in Italy. Yes, it was that good—literally the froth on top of a great and very stimulating family vacation day.
Kelly Stilwell, contributor to Mommy Magazine, Baltimore’s Child, and FamilyCorner.com is a freelance writer and virtual schooling mom in Florida. A former stockbroker, Kelly now spends her days on her laptop, right alongside her kids, writing about their travels and how virtual schooling is changing the face of education. Connect with her at Virtually Yours and Virtual School Resources.