Category Archives: Kids In Costa Rica

Things to do in San Ramon Costa Rica with Kids (of all ages)


San Ramon and its surrounding areas is chock full of things to do for families.  Even if you are older, you will probably want to do a few of these things too.  She here goes my list of Things to do in San Ramon Costa Rica with Kids (of all ages).  I know some things cost money – if you go, please let me know what they are!  Rates are usually different for residents and tourists, so my husband is the one who always goes up to pay or they try to charge me tourist prices!  I never really pay attention.  Tell me! lol, gracias.



2 I know of that are public and open –

(1) Big Gym – if standing in front of the Church in town, take the street on the left heading towards the blue church.  The gym will be on your left with free exercise equipment outside.  (Just on a side note- all this equipment is new, recently covered, though outside in the cool San Ramon air, and anyone can use it!  Same with the tennis court, and the Olympic sized pool) Keep walking towards the church, and lake a left after the tennis court. The playground just around the corner!  Bring sands toys, the whole thing is a giant sandbox!  Small, fenced in, and great for all ages.  There should be a bathroom inside the gym, but I could never find it and it’s just as fun to walk around the block to the pizza place, grab a slice and use theirs.  Also great for playdates because not too many people use the playground – and bring water!  Can get hot!

(2) The 2nd playground is behind the public library.  From Pops, it is 1 block west, make a left, and go about 275 meters south.  All wooden, ropes, the works.  Lots of kids play here, surrounded by nice family neighborhood.


Bajo de la Paz – not to be confused with a Paz waterfall gardens in Poas.  La Paz, San Ramon is a gorgeous lush area of horseback riding to waterfalls, and fish for your own trout or Tilapia fish restaurants.  Our favorite is Rancho Carrucha – they even have tiny cabinas is you want to spend the night.  Horseback riding here too, and playground for kids to play while you eat.  Even a soccer field! 2445-1940  Call ahead of time for horseback riding and speak Spanish!   At least how many, what day, and how long…. they are very nice.  About 25 minutes towards Piedades norte – stay left at deco church, stay elft at fork with no sign, stay left at fork with sign to La Carrucha, or there’s another great one if you stay to the right at this sign and just after the yellow bridge on your right.  Big soccer field at this one, and really cute restaurant, though no playground.



$5 bus ride from station in town to La Fortuna!  Take a taxi for a few bucks once you are there to the $8 hot springs complete with water slides!  On your right just before you get to Baldi.  Photos with the Baldi’s Hot Mama are free – it is outside the main entrance 🙂  2 hours weekday, 3 hours local weekends.  Or drive just under 2 hours.


Though small, this is a great 1 hour excursion with the kids.  Exhibits change.  Just off the park, can’t miss it.


For 500 colones for an IceCream from McDonalds postre stand on the corner, go to the park and just let the kids run around.  Playing hide and go seek, tag, climbing on the war canon (a monument to old times!) – there are always kids there just running around, and parents who let them!  Don’t freak if they disappear for a minute behind a tree.  You will feel how safe it is after a little while!


There are 2 here in San Ramon.  Ask about lessons or free time at the Olympic sized pool by the gym.  I have posted the “signs” here!

My kids took lessons with school at the other one and once I figure out where it is I will post an update.


Eco Musas or LAS MUSAS

Our tico style swimming pools just 10 minutes from the town – follow the road past UCR and make a right into San Pedro.  When the road splits before Colegio Bilingue, you will see the big sign for Las Musas, take a left.  Follow the road to the entrance.  Park!  There is a fee, I will need to check what it is.  Also a nice restaurant overlooking the falls.

Amazing waterfall!!!!  A sheer cliffside with water cascading down!  Feeds pools that they made for swimming and one giant waterslide!  Plus a kiddie pool.  Picnic tables, BBQs (rustic, bring wood or coals, maybe even the grill top…) swingsets and little play area, family friendly hiking trails, even covered ranchos if you get there early enough.  If not, plenty of benches to choose from and other sitting areas.  Showers, changing areas and bathrooms make this a complete day!  Eat in the restaurant and let the kids fall asleep on the way home.  Sounds like a good day to me 🙂


Villa Blanca?  Los Angeles Cloud Forest?  which one is it?  One and the same… Villa Blanca is the hotel and Los Angeles is the cloud forest it rests in.  A gorgeous boutique hotel made up of traditional styled tico casitas, each with a fireplace for those cold, Cloud Forest Nights.  It is owned by the environmentally conscious and tico friendly owner of Si Como No in Manuel Antonio (he is know to take excellent care of his employees, something I love to hear, being married to a tico myself!).  There is no cost to go and walk the trails, though there may be a small entrance fee to their observatory or for a guided tour.  You can call ahead to ask, everyone speaks English that we could tell!  And the hotel entrance is really cool – after your hike, tour, what have you, treat yourself to a really excellent meal.  (prices are high for San Ramon, but worth it if you miss some expensive tasting cooking….)  Again, a full day and kids asleep in the car on the way home.  🙂  Oh!  And you can see the cows being milked at 2pm at the entrance!  the Front desk will give you a map and all the details for all there is to do.

NECTANDRA CLOUD FOREST – secret!  shhh….

Check them out on Trip Advisor –  a more intense experience than Villa Blanca, and half the distance of Monteverde, you can meet with a private guide who knows everything about rain shed and hikes you through almost the whole forest – really find out about how the rainforest works, and how the world will stop working as we know it if we don’t take care of the rain and cloud forests.  Though Monteverde is a cute town, there really is no reason to drive all the way there just to go to the cloud forest.  This place is even better and just 45 minutes outside of San Ramon on the way to La Fortuna.  Its a great way to split the trip to La Fortuna, spend the day at the forest, then drive another 45 minutes to the hot springs, the volcano, then on to the lake. Another great day!

TREEHOUSEs HOTEL and the Lake Arenal Area

Though the Treehouses Hotel is not necessarily in the Arenal Lake Area, it makes for a great trip from San Ramon!  Have a fun night with the kids in these upscale homes in the trees, then go to the lake!  Windsurf, boat,  hike the trails.  For more on the area check the Lake Arenal websites.  There’s quite a few to choose from!  But try and stay at the treehouse hotels!


45 minutes towards the beach, but turn towards Quepos and then it is on the right a few houses down from The Double Tree Puntarenas.  Again there, is a small parking and entrance fee (11o0c?), but the beach is completely clean, in a small little alcove where everyone is swimming.  There are signs for RIP currents which scared me, but there weren’t any – I think they are there for security, and I am sure there are some from time to time, but everyone was in the water.  There was even a banana boat!  Nice restaurant right on the beach, little beach kiosks, bathrooms and showers.  Black beach so be prepared to wash up before you get back in your car!


back to the big gym in town – there are several difference classes that can be found for your children here, from rythmic gymnastics to Volleyball.  Its not overly organized, that I can tell, but there is an office inside that may be able to help a little!  There was no schedule when we went, basically separate people/groups can rent out the different rooms and make their own schedules, so the gym itself has no interest in making a master list of what is available and when.  But if there is something your kids are interested in , you can go ask for the info on the teacher, then contact the teacher for the details on their classes.


I fought tooth and nail to keep my daughter from becoming a cheerleader in the states.  I don’t really care what other people think about it, I can’t stand the concept of a bunch of girls jumping around and showing their underwear to cheer on a bunch of guys that are raised above all else because they can do something with a ball. She’s my daughter and I want her to be cheered on!  That being said, she is also a gymnast and there are no gymnastics here in San Ramon that we have found.  Cheer Army here is just a troup that practices cheerleading as a Sport, they do not go flipping over scores, the flip for themselves!  SO …. I agreed to let Jesse join.  Its about $20/month, and not only does she love flying through the air, but she also has made many friends and her Spanish has improved immensely!  They used to practice at the gym, but they rented a whole building in Palmares, 20 minutes from San Ramon.  Please contact me directly for the details on that.

SINEM,  something something National Education de Musica

From trumpet to piano, if your child (or inner child) wants to take on an instrument, this is the place to do it!  Intense as it is fun, the kids study at least 2 days a week, and put on concerts.  And my friend John donated his mini grand piano so it is one of the few places that does not rely on an electric keyboard.

There are several other things for children here in San Ramon, and as we find out about them, I will make posts and update this one.  Dance lessons, karate (next on my list for my oldest son), art classes – and don’t forget the University of Costa Rica for adult classes.

I also have a basic list of 100 things to do near here and low long they take to get there by car on our B&B website – you can check that here at




Best Places to Stay with Kids in Costa Rica


Welcome to Costa Rica!  This may be one of the best places to travel with children, but it still helps to know where to stay, what to do, or simply whats around where for your kids, especially when driving long distances.  You deserve a vacation as well as a trip – 2 very different things.

This will be an on-going list as we stay at more places and visit more great parts of Costa Rica while we live here.  I am also part of several groups here on families in Costa Rica so if you don’t see what you are looking for in a particular area, I can ask everyone and see if they have suggestions,  These are closed groups that the general public does not normally have access to.  Our children are 4, 6 and 12 – but we moved here over a year ago and have been adventuring through Costa Rica with out first  since she was 11 months old.  Enjoy!

San Jose – The Capital City

Holiday Inn Aurola – by far the best place we have stayed so far in San Jose- you can walk anywhere in the capital, all the museums, some playgrounds (which I may be able to map out for you later), restaurants, you name it.  AND IT HAS AN INDOOR POOL!!!!!! Awesome gym with all new equipment for parents who are interested, gorgeous views from the upper floors, VERY comfortable beds and pillows.  Bathtubs!  Most places in Costa Rica do not have bathtubs.

Wifi (soso)
Free Breakfast (great)
Indoor Pool (great)Gym (Great)
2 restaurants and a casino – (soso)

Closer to SJO – Doubletree Cariari

Bathtubs in rooms, nice big pool, homemade hot chocolate chip cookies when you arrive – really the best things is the pool – but not during the rainy season because its not heated.

wifi (great)
Pool (Great, when hot outside)
Restaurants (great, good service)
Pool Table (really nice but Bring chalk!)
Casino (nice)

Near Sabana Park

Apartotel La Sabanna

Great folks run this place, and though its not a brand new 5 star hotel –  they are little apartments, kind of of like a beach bungalow, and a pool in the center with the hotel around it so you feel VERY safe with the kids.  And you ahve a living and full kitchen and right across the street from the famous Central park of the city – La Sabana.  I honestly don’t remember if there was a bathtub or not – its been a while since we stayed here but we keep referring people and they keep giving it rave reviews.  Even a coin-up washer and dryer!

La Fortuna (Arenal Volcano)

If you don’t visit the Tree Houses Hotel with your kids, why bother being a parent?!?!?!?  Its on a road loop that starts before La Fortuna, and gives you a bit of a drive (maybe 25 minutes) to the main attractions like the the park and the different hotsprings, but its a great experience.  San Carlos, Costa Rica

Los Lagos – really our favorite with kids because of all the different temperature pools, great water slide, swim up bars and restaurants, massage chairs in the water!  Plus horseback riding at the hotel, really nice folks who work here, a gift shop that is NOT overpriced, and just a great one-stop shop all around.  Plus great views since it is almost at the base of the volcano.  Stay at the hotel and the pools are free.

Baldi Hot Springs

With a children’s play area and many water slides, this is our other favorite.  More jungle atmosphere with lots of rain cover and tons of pools.  Everything is great for rain or shine.  Nice Spa and plenty for everyone to do.


Manuel Antonio

Costa Verde, stay in the houses with the family and feel like you have your own private pool.  Monkeys all over, gorgeous views, shuttle at night to their airplane restaurant up the road! Showers, no bathtubs.

Hotel Verde Mar,

Great little apartments right on the beach and an old school tico concrete pool right next to the beach.  Can drive up to the hotel, and walk through the gate to the beach.  But locked from the beachside coming in so it is safe. Great budget friendly option – don’t need a car since the local bus from Quepos stops along the road.  Little book store for used books and bottled drinks at front desk.  Ask for a room on the bottom floor so kids can play outside the door in the gardens if you need some time to get ready and they are on top of you inside.  Showers, no bathtubs that we know of.


Hotel Fonda Vela – really nice, stay in one of the older rooms that open onto to grounds so kids can run around outside. Fountain to play around, seating table and chairs.


Wifi at front desk, not so great at room
Pool with roof, though not indoors2 big hottubs
pool table
nice restaurant on site
RIGHT at entrance (2 kms?) to Monteverde Cloud Forest, and about a 3 minutes drive to Children’s Eternal Rainforest and then to Santa Elena and town with the other Cloud Forest.



Not a 5 start hotel and casino, but a fantastic beach hotel – clean, tvs, showers, close to everything, free parking and right on the beach! cabinas for rent or just take the rooms.  we like the rooms all the way up front to the right (111-113?  i think..) they have sliding doors that open right onto the sandy area, then a white fence, then the beach, so kids can play in sand right outside the room, but with the fence separating them from the beach.  A/C and lock box too.  At night, if you are lucky, you can see the lightning storms over the pacific way out by just sitting in your chairs outside.

3 pools, 1 children’s (1-2 feet deep)
playsets and playhouseshammocks
game room with pool table, pingpong and smoothie bar
great tiki bar with food for snacks or lunch on beach


San Ramon, Alajuela

Just 45 minutes from the airport, no reason to spend your first few or last few nights anywhere else.  A great tico town that will really give you the flavor of Costa Rica – something not to be missed with your children,and close to may of our smaller cultural attractions, normally outstages by the beaches and larger attractions.

Our B&B, Vista Valverde, or course is the best place to stay with your kids!  But not just for the views, trampoline, swingset, farms and pinas (and babysitting!)… but for what is near us as well.  Day trip to Sarchi, where our famous oxcart factories will show you how the antinal symbols are made and painted, right before your very eyes.  Visit the Botanical Gardens in Sarchi and enjoy strolling through acres of gorgeous gardens and play areas, and take snacks!  Thinking of taking home one of those great wood and leather rocking chairs?  This is the place to do it – and they send it right to your home if you choose!

Visit Zarcero and the amazing topiary gardens and gorgeous church, enjoy watching the kids as they run around and play hide and seek!  Eat at a local soda and have a Casado for about $5.

Head to La Paz, our local San Ramon La Paz, and go horseback riding to our waterfall, or for the younger ones, just a half hour guided pace..then fish for your own lunch in the trout pools!  They cook it for you an everything!  Have a few beers and enjoy a tico style afternoon as the kdis paly on the swingsets outside the open air rancho restaurant.

The is a great place to start or end your vacation.  There is so much more to Costa Rica than beaches and yoga, or the big tourist areas – treat your family to our culture and a little of our lifestyle.

Praying on the Bus

Praying on the Bus

So… I was told by my 11 year old daughter that she got me a coveted spot as a chaperone on her next school trip – of course, the night before the trip.  Part of me was very excited.  When we lived in Brooklyn, NY,  she had several class trips and I went on every one. A move to upstate NY surprised me with none – the school district had chosen to take them out of the budget (one of the many things that drove me nuts about the Monroe Woodbury school system –  50 minutes from NYC and no field trips?!?!?!?! no Bronx Zoo, botanical gardens, bear mountain even????)  So our move to San Ramon Costa Rica renewed my field trip spirits!

I go to school with my girl at 7am.  I smile, nod at the few folks I have haphazardly met through school pickups and drop-offs in rain monsoons and sun burning heats (no bus pickup to where we live) …… but for the most part, I am on my own.

My daughter is so sweet – she knows my Spanish is still horrible, that I know no one, and keeps coming to my side with her girlfriend, to watch over me.  I felt completely out of place, sticking out like a sore thumb due to a wardrobe/health choice that does not involve skintight jeans and/or 5 inch heels.  I am alone.  Every other mom has another mom.  No dads, save one, who is also readily accepted by all the other moms.  They’ve all been at the school together for years.  I am new.  Only one other mom says hi – she has been to my house with her other daughter who is my son’s age.  Her English is OK, but she has her other moms and they are 4th grade, not 6th like my daughter – different part of the bus, different part of the sidewalk, different.

But my girl is sooo excited that I am there, I sort of hide by a column, feeling very hi-school “which group do I belong to” all over again.  But J chooses for me – I am to sit with her other friend’s mom on the bus.  The woman is very sweet as she sits next to me, but I know her sister is at the front of the bus and she wants to talk and not sit next to the mom who speaks horrible Spanish and knows no one.  Thankfully, the other lady moves to the seat behind us and the pressure is off me to be social.  It would be nice to make a friend, but awkward is just, well awkward.  With no coffee, and feeling less than confident, I was not ready to take on the challenge.

As I sit there my mind wanders.  I start to question and remember all at once.  Why did we move here?  My daughter is sooo good at fitting into all the new situations we throw at her and she is a adjusting so well.  She is a bright light that the others flock to. We moved for the kids – didn’t we?  We did it for the kids and the experiences they would have, the life we were hoping to offer them, with them – not just on the weekends.  We would have our business, see them all the time, go places, take adventures.  And here I was, doing just that, and completely miserable.  Almost in tears, and the whole bus around me was chatting and laughing and sharing snacks and I sat by the window, holding my breath.  Feeling a little outcast, though I could not really figure out why.  I love new adventures, new places, new faces… don’t I? Sometimes I feel this way here – and I get very mad at myself for not learning more Spanish in the time we have been here.  I make a mental to note to work on that – go to Green Mountain school and sign up for classes.  The rest I just chalk up to a bad week.

Then the most unexpected thing happened.  J somehow motioned to me from across the bus aisle and I looked up.  A lady at the front was talking and everyone was quiet, then she bowed her head, and everyone else did to.  Wait a second, are we praying? Praying on the bus?  Before a field trip?  They were Praying, praying on the bus, before a field trip.

I was raised in a half Jewish, half Christian home.  I went to church before taking a plane anywhere because my mother made us, and we prayed at Thanksgiving.  My best friend’s mom shocked me in high school when we sat at the dinner table and she said we needed to say Grace.  My Jewish friend put her head down, so did her Jewish mom, and before I could follow, they both said “Grace!” and they laughed at me and we ate.  Though my mother would hate to admit it, and despite several 2 week stints at summer bible camp, that was the extent of my organized religious experiences in life.  My father denounced the Synagogue directly after WWII, and therefor his religion slipped away as a result.  Though I was taught some basics, I was told to choose what I felt.  I felt nothing.

And now everyone around me is praying on a bus, before a field trip, outside my daughter’s school.  As if I couldn’t feel further apart from the whole experience.  I felt like I was in small town America in 1960.  And for whatever reason I started to giggle.  This was insane!  I thought to myself.  Praying before a trip?  My mood instantly started to change.  I thought about how we are so hard pressed in the USA to to include god in our schools, or not – depending on your stance, and here he/she/it is on the bus.  Or to be fair, he, its a catholic country after all.  Jesse said they pray a lot but I could hardly imagine until now!

Part of me thought it must be nice to be around all these folks that all think the same thing – but then I thought nice is not always imaginative, creative, intellectual, thought provoking, or even right.  Its a private school so even in the states they could do what they want – a Christian School could pray all the time, even in Brooklyn.  But it caught me so off guard, I just laughed!  I suddenly felt so happy to have been brought up the way I was, to have experienced so many different things and have so many free thoughts to explore everything around me, not just in body but in mind. I was happy with my college attraction to and understanding of American Indian beliefs in spirits and a connection to the earth.  A single belief in a god to me has always been something I could not grasp, especially when I see all the evil that comes from it, and the hatred.  I wondered what religion would do to all these children, if they would grow up to love, or to hate, or both, depending on what the other person was or believed.

And suddenly I realized why I was so different. Even if I spoke Spanish, I would be thinking the same thing. Its not just the heels, the jeans, the language.  It is everything.  As much as I love Costa Rica, I will never be a tica.  My husband spent 20 years in NY and says hes a gringo.  I could spend 50 years here and never make it to tica.  And I think I laughed all at once, because its OK.  Its OK to be different, I could still share myself with everyone.  I would just have to get used to being the crazy gringa a little more often, and put myself out there more.

So when we were on the field trip, to the museum of Natural History with its dinosaurs and extinct fossils, to the National Theatre where the kids did not even know who Beethoven was (I of course pulled out my iPhone and played the girls the 9th Symphony and told them his story), to the mall, where I made Jesse finish her HW, and for supper at Taco Bell and a bouncy house, I just relaxed.  I am who I am, and every one here must be a little different, and as I learn the language, I will encourage my new friends to explore their differences and their uniqueness, even if its not the norm.  I like our life here, and I like the unexpected bus praying, even though its not for me.  It wakes me up and makes me think.  And I can’t wait for the next field trip this Friday – Poas Volcano and the Waterfall Gardens!   I will find a little Sioux Prayer and share it with my girl on the bus. Hmm, maybe I could try and translate it into Spanish….