Costa Rica: Things to do in San Jose and Arenal on your family vacation

Costa Rica: Things to do in San Jose and Arenal on your family vacation

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First let me tell you that my mom and dad are natives of Costa Rica, so I am not new to all the beauty this country entails. I have visited many times while growing up, even attending school there. I do speak fluent Spanish and the funny thing is that now I actually teach Spanish. Costa Rica has and always will have a special place in heart. 

Before boarding to leave to Nicaragua…

I have to say, that Copa Airlines is one of the BEST airlines when it comes to service! We were all pleasantly surprised when we received food and with REAL utensils! What? Who gets that nowadays? The food was very good, too!

Our First Stop…Nicaragua

Ever since my husband, boys and I started sponsoring a child in Nicaragua through Compassion International, we’ve always dreamed to see if it would ever be possible to one day meet her. Long story short, we did! We met her, her mom and her team sponsor. If you ever get a chance to sponsor a child and meet them, you will know that your money is going to the right place.
It was such a joy to meet them. Because of security purposes, I will not post any photos of them. We were able to invite them to our hotel that we were staying at for one night before we left for Costa Rica. Back at the states, we had packed 3 backpacks full of essentials & fun things for her, her little sister, and parents. Not knowing what they liked, we took into consideration the necessities and a few things that she could have fun with. We were waiting at the lobby of the hotel in anticipation!
We made an instant connection with our sponsored child and her mother. They were able to enjoy the hotel pool and our boys got to experience what TRUE compassion, sharing, and love looks like. They were overwhelmed with appreciation that they starting crying and, since I cry easily, I started tearing up, too. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and we will always cherish that memory. By the way, here are some photos of the crazy traffic view from our hotel room. Yikes!

Our Second Stop…Panama

This will be short. We made a layover into Panama’s airport. I took this shot from the plane. I loved the scenery of the coast and was amazed at how many tall buildings there are!

Our Third and Final Stop…COSTA RICA!

Costa Rica is a great country to visit with a family, as a couple or solo. There is no shortage of activities here. We visited during the summer and, of course, it’s the busiest travel time. However, we did not think it was very populated given the fact that summer time is also the rainy season. The ticos (that’s what they call themselves) know that and run the majority of their errands before lunchtime. When it rains there, it is not your typical shower. It is a heavy rainfall and usually happens after noon. Sometimes it’s like clockwork.

Trek 1 – Volcan Irazú 

Volcan Irazú is one of 6 active volcano’s in Costa Rica. There are about 61 dormant or extinct ones. It is also the tallest one reaching over 11,000 ft. If you visit here, make sure to take a sweater. You can get up real close to the sulfur crater. The black ash can be walked on, but only to a certain point. Please, please hold on to your camera, respect the signs and hold your little one’s hands.

When you visit this national park, there is a resting area. Costa Rica is home to the “pizotes.” It is an animal that resembles a mix between a racoon, anteater and a fox. They are thieves! While we were there, a woman had purchased something at a convenient store on site and it stole her bag and took it to their home where there were many more waiting!

Trek 2 – Cathedrals

The Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Church) is located in the capital of San José. It is a beautiful church that was once destroyed by an earthquake; something Costa Rica has a lot of. It is worth a quick stop while you’re visiting the downtown markets and souvenir shops.

Have you ever seen the movie “Edward Scissorhands?” Well, this park located in front of the church will remind you of that movie! Zarcero Catedral and park is located in the city of Alajuela. Alajuela is such a quaint city in Costa Rica. The park is so much fun for kids to see and makes for great photos!

Trek 3 – La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz is a MUST DO while you’re in Costa Rica. Everything you thought of as a rainforest, lush, tropical paradise is right here all in one place!

The waterfalls are amazing. There is a lot of walking and stairs, so bring good walking shoes.



The restroom at La Paz is even beautiful! The sinks are waterfalls!  

La Paz is not just a tourist spot, it is a lodge in which you can reserve for your stay. They have the best views here so make sure you check it out before booking a room in Costa Rica. Yes, that is me (wearing my colorful sneakers) relaxing by the waterfalls. I could have been there for a very long time!



You are really high, so take photos!

The animals were fantastic and our boys loved seeing & touching some of them!





Trek 4 – Movie Night!

One night we took a break from sightseeing because while we were there, the new movie premier of “Jurassic World” came out before it was out in the U.S.! Since we are big movie buffs and our boys really wanted to see it, we took advantage of the early release in Costa Rica. We loved seeing all the ads in Spanish for movies we recognize. “Jurassic World” was a great movie!



Trek 5 – National Museum

Costa Rica’s national museum houses many mysteries. Outside the museum are the mysterious stone spheres. They are mysterious because no one really knows what they were used for. There are currently two on display in the U.S. One is in Washington, D.C. and the other in Massachusetts. The museum is located in the heart of it’s capital city of San José. It contains an abundance of culture and artifacts. It is rich in history and if you want to know the depth of Costa Rica, this is a wonderful place to start your exploration of Costa Rica.

Trek 6 – The city of Sarchí

Sarchí is located in the province of Alajuela. It is an artisan town with unique and personalized artwork. You can request personal or customized artwork and make one of a kind souvenirs. This is where you can find many traditional painted oxcarts and secret puzzle compartment wood boxes which have become popular symbols and souvenirs for Costa Rica. They also have family-oriented businesses of woodworking and leather products.


Trek 7 – Hot Springs

Baldi Hot Springs is also a resort. It is a gorgeous place to spend a day and is considered the world’s largest hot spring! For children, they have a children’s water play area. For adults, you don’t even need to get of the pool for a drink because they have swim up bars. And when you’re hungry, there are 2 restaurants on site that serve delicious food! Relaxing in the warmth of the hot springs among the lush tropical atmosphere makes for a great day of pampering.

Excerpt taken by Baldi Hot Springs:


Amidst the tropical rainforest, these 25 thermal water pools are filled by crystalline waterfalls, for the use and enjoyment of al visitors.
The purity of the water will make you feel like you are floating in a oasis of healing, with birds singing all around and the sound of falling water that invites you to relax and recover your wellness and quality of life.”

One of the resort rooms is just above this pool!











On our way to dinner at the restaurant on site.




















Trek 8 – Nighttime Zoo

The Arenal Eco Zoo is a great place especially for kids to learn all about the areas amphibian and reptile population. It is all hands on, or in my son’s case (see below) face on! Amazingly enough, the frogs that you think are normally poisonous are not poisonous at this zoo because what makes them poisonous is what they eat. These frogs do not eat anything that makes them poisonous here. The red-eyed tree frog Costa Rica’s iconic amphibian and is illustrated a lot like their mascot. While we were there, we took the adventurous route. We took the nighttime tour. This is the best time to tour this eco zoo because the animals are very active! If you have time, definitely go at night! For more information and reviews click here.


This post’s featured photo. It’s just too good not to include twice!

Trek 9 – Ziplining and Sky Tram

Ok. So I’m a big chicken and anything that involves heights or if I can’t touch the ocean floor is terrifying for me. Needless to say, I did not zip line. However, my husband and oldest son did. Our oldest son tried the mini zip line. My husband did the tallest zip line. Our youngest son and I were very comfortable on the sky tram.

Zip lining in Costa Rica.
Preparing to zip line! Woo hoo!

Zip lining in Costa Rica.








Zip lining in Costa Rica.
Here we go!

We waited comfortably here and enjoyed the scenery. 🙂

Sky Tram in Arenal, Costa Rica. Sky Tram in Arenal, Costa Rica.







My husband is a daredevil when it comes to zip lining, but strangely enough not roller coasters. Hmmm… Well, here he goes!

Zip lining in Costa Rica.
Hold on tight!

Zip lining in Costa Rica.

Zip lining in Costa Rica.

Zip lining in Costa Rica.
Amazing! He’s above the treetops!


Zip lining in Costa Rica.
Coming back….whew!

To sum it up, we had an awesome vacation in Costa Rica. It is family friendly and many people speak English. There is so much to enjoy in Costa Rica for all ages!


Beautiful river in Costa Rica. Horses on the streets of Costa Rica.

Two Traveling Texans
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