High and Dry in Costa Rica's Sunny Season
When you consider that a huge chunk of Costa Rica is made up of protected jungle filled with exotic wildlife, such as spider monkeys and quetzal birds, it's easy to understand its allure for families. But when is the right time to go? If you want to catch both the best weather and the lowest prices for a family trip to Costa Rica, it's not in the cards. Life is a series of choices dictated by your priorities, and so it is with Costa Rica travels. If you want sun and dry weather, you'll be paying top prices—and it just may be worth it.
It's rare to get everything you want in a trip, even to fabled tourist-friendly Costa Rica. The country's high season begins when the weather turns nippy in the United States, just after Thanksgiving. It lasts until the end of April and also takes in the big holidays like Christmas, New Year's, Easter and spring breaks. In Costa Rica, high season is the dry season and it lures you with the siren song of sunny days on tropical beaches and even rainforest treks where you won't get soaked by rain. For families, this may be the optimal time to go.
Now for the bad news, unpleasant but hardly unexpected: the high tourist season means more crowds and higher prices. Everything fun to do will have crowds, and reservations are often mandatory.
The Green Season is an appealing tourist-trade title for the tropical rainy season that lasts from May through Thanksgiving. Yes, every leaf turns green and lush when the rain falls, but then again, it will be pouring. Some love traveling at this time, but it may be less fun with a car full of kids. It could prove especially awful if you happen upon roads that are washed out or otherwise impassable without a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Family Fun in Costa Rica
Your bucket list for Costa Rica must include rainforest experiences. But hikes and treks into the jungle might be too much for youngsters. Consider booking a canopy tour to give your kids a bird’s-eye view. These are essentially zip lines over and through the rainforests. The original zip line is in Monteverde, called the Original Canopy Tour (Puntarenas Province, Monteverde, Costa Rica), but you'll find alternatives around the country. Kids as young as 6 years old are welcome.
Water is fun, even in the dry season, so head for one of Costa Rica's gorgeous waterfalls where the kids can splash and play after a short hike in. Take the waterfall trail behind the Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa (La Fortuna/El Castillo, Provincia de Alajuela, La Fortuna, Costa Rica ) that leads to a lovely cascade, but ask about the water level first for safety. If it's too high, you might not want younger children to swim. While you are at Arenal, visit the bird sanctuary with some 400 different species of birds or take a tour to the Arenal Volcano.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.