Category Archives: Uncategorized

Its been a long time…

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

Closer than you think in Costa Rica’s Central Highlands.

BEFORE San Ramon

Its funny, when I was looking for info on San Ramon and schools before moving here, I saw what looked like a few great Blogs, started reading them, and then they puttered out.  Why were these moms not helping me any more?!?!?!  Where did they go?!

In San Ramon

Then I did the same thing!  I posted a few times, came up with a list of ideas of things I wanted to write about, thought up great blog articles in my head and then blah – no time!  I think as a mom, its hard to work and take care of the kids and take time for yourself.  And living in Costa Rica! and then there is the BLOG!  It becomes more like the BLOB at times!  Anyhow – I am still here, and even though this post will be brief, I wanted to let all the future expat moms of San Ramon, and the traveling moms of Costa Rica know that I am still here!  If you have questions – ask!!!

What’s NEW? Sunlight closed and Blue Tierra opened…

So what’s new?  Well, Sunlight school closed – I am SOOOOO bummed!  Loved Sunlight.  Anyhow, we had to switch schools the first day, and the only place that had room for both boys was Colegio Bilingue of San Ramon.  So we are back there.  Seems to be working out OK.  Its hard to follow all the new ways of doing things, AND I am creating a whole new start up Real Estate business (Blue Tierra Realty Group) with a construction company (Eco Diseños) and a relocation tour company through our B&B (Vista Valverde), the works.  So sometimes the kids school stuff falls through the cracks.  Man, its annoying how much stuff there is to follow – internet things on Edmodo, then each class has a chat on Whatsapp, then they send emails, AND they have an Agenda they send home each day with more notes.  I swear my kids need their own secretaries for this school! lol.  Not my style, but I am glad they are learning a little bit more of classroom English – almost all their subjects are in English.  I hope they are learning the Spanish too, though I am not sure.  I’ll throw an update on the school year after we get through the next rounds of tests.

So I will try and keep up a little more on the personal blog and places we like (and don’t!)  So check back for more this month!!!

Mountain VIews in Costa Rica

Ocean behind the clouds!

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Scorpions and June Bugs and Downpours, Oh my!!! Its the Rainy Season Again – 2016!

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I thought I would write a follow up to my rainy season report for last year!

It is amazing what a year, or 3 can do! I now venture out without shakey hands to the rains that are coming with full force. I realize that it sounds A LOT worse inside my house than it actually is outside, thanks to the metal roofs. Sure, the torrential downpours are not my friends. I sit and hide on the side of the road until they leave so I can see enough to drive home. But really, its a few minutes, and I just don’t plan on doing big trips in the early morning or late afternoon. I can get just about anywhere in Costa Rica if I leave at 9am- there by 3. N, S, W, E, Pacific, Atlantic, Panama border, Nicaragua border. And with the kids in school, really the worst thing is having to drive home at 3:30. NOT that big of a deal…

Right now my stint is the scorpions. Big and small, apparently its their time of year and I have found 4 in the house curled up inside dirty laundry on the floor, the dog’s blanket, under the door mat and one just cruising through the kitchen. They stop and play dead, and then I make them dead. My daughter says the bug spray does not kill them, so I explained that is what the can is for. Just spray ‘em to stun them and hit ‘em! I’m not so against killing/mutilating things in my home like scorpions. Sorry. That zen side of me goes right out the window.

It is also the time of year for June bugs. They are insatiable. I realize its may, but they are what we call June bugs up north. They love the light and come in full force every night. But its funny – we call them the dumb bugs too. They literally fly into you like a ball and fall to the ground. Sure, they freak you out, bit they are harmless as far as I can tell, and we just sweep them up in the morning and throw them down the hill.

What else for the time of year? Fire flies. DO NOT leave a light on outside at night or they will be ALL over your outside ceiling and wall. And these are not cute little fireflies like we have at home. I always wondered why we had fireflies and lightning bugs. Let me tell you – if there is a difference- these are the lightning bugs – they are about 3/4 inch long, thick and dumb too. In the morning, you can sweep them off the wall and they actually fall onto the floor! I am sure someone may give me some scientific insight into this, I am just happy they fall and I can sweep them because being swarmed by 1000 of them from my roof (I did NOT heed my own advice about the light one night) is not my idea of a good time! Or my guests’. “Welcome to Costa Rica!” I sarcastically say as they ventured onto the front porch that ‘whoops’ of a morning. Nothing like a delicious breakfast of Costa Rica and American fair, complete with a wall of creepy crawlies! Haha yes, the bug free world so many of you are used to is NOT the world of the mountains in Costa Rica.

But why do we have so many? And really, for the most part, it’s just this first month of the rainy season. The rest of the eyar has its own big seasons, but they are not as abundant as right now. Perhaps it’s because of the 170 different bird species that have reportedly been seen in San Ramon alone, the 27 difference varieties of orchids and little finca we have here at Vista Valverde, or the beautiful mix of sun, rain, clouds and fresh mountain air that everyone enjoys, even all those creepy crawlies. The circle of life is big my fiends, and when you get this high up, you cannot take all the good without the insects. This is their home as well. And we need them for the cycle. So freak out a little, sure, but then realize that most of them are big and dumb – admire their beauty, from the hammer head ants, to the jaguar beetles – (these are the officially named bugs of VV compliments our 4 and 6 year old). Come see what beautiful bugs we have in store for you – and if you have a name that fits, perhaps you too can have an official bug here at VV! 4000 feet above sea level can be a pretty awesome place – and its different every day. Don’t take your eyes off the view, they can change in a minute – Rains, sun, land, sea, clouds, bugs, birds, flowers, palm trees, ferns, butterflies, sloths…. Just be careful coming up the drive – it can be a little foggy this time of year too 😉

Pura vida,
Kim

This is Just now

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Over and over I get asked the same question. … Will you ever go back?  Granted, we are in the business of moving here – and at a B&B where many folks stay while deciding whether Costa Rica is right for them, its no wonder we get asked so often.  It seems that many are surprised when I give a simple answer  – “This is just NOW. Nothing has to be permanent.”

With 3 kids, 2 businesses and 4 dogs, are they looking for something more definite from me? People are searching for a finite and definite reason for possibly making a change in their own lives. Is what we do, do-able? Is it attractive enough for them? Or maybe they just are looking for me to say- we were crazy, hell no! and give them some affirmation for their own day to day experience of life wherever they come from.  Truth be told, I would have said the same thing at any point in my life, about anywhere I lived, and anything I was doing at the moment. This is just now.  My email address for years was a mis-spelled version of Gypsymama, and a degree in archaeology allowed me the luxury of being able to do just about anything, anywhere. That included bartending, which led to opening my own bar; paralegal, then legal assistant in real estate sales which led me to accept the offer to take over Paradise Management Realty with my husband here in Costa Rica.  Prior to that was the initial dream of living in David’s native Costa Rica, which led us to buy Vista Valverde B&B here in the beautiful town of San Ramon.  Every choice and “heads up” in life leads you to the next, and I guess I just don’t try and hold on too hard.  This is just now, before was then, and next is… well, up for grabs.

We are all set in this permanent mindset – what are we going to be when we grow up? We are asked over and over again as children – a form of almost the same question I am being asked now.  Its as if they are trying to figure out if I changed my mind mid-life, came to Costa Rica, and they want to know if I would go back to being what I was before.  Is this it? Is this what I want to be when I grow up?  Well, I don’t know.  And since you are asking, and you are here,  or you are thinking about moving here, chances are you don’t either.  And I am going to be no help with that except to say –  It’s OK to not know.

Let’s look at it this way.  People are looking for you to give one answer to the grow up question. Right?  When I was a kid, I’d say – pilot, mechanic, physicist, pianist and archaeologist.  “Oh, so you don’t know,” is what the “grownup” would respond.  Really, is that what you heard?  Because what I said was, I wanted to be many things.  Not that I did not know. But the questioner wants one answer, because its all they have been taught.  Your answer is meant to dictate the rest of your life, and tell them all about you, from where you are going to live to how many children you have. When you answer pilot, mechanic, physicist, pianist and archaeologist, they just can’t wrap their head around it.  It’s like moving to Costa Rica! But that does not mean it is not possible, and it certainly does not mean the child does not know what they want to be.

This brings me to the purple elephant in the room – that part of the question “when you grow up”.  Perhaps its this very part of the question that makes it impossible for so many of us who move to Costa Rica to answer these kinds of questions in the first place.  Will we ever go back?  Not if that means we have to grow up in some way!  If growing up means one choice, one destination, then maybe that is why we are here now.  And maybe that is why the generated question – will you ever go back, will I ever choose what I want to be when I grow up, live it, do it and that’s that, or return to some former choice, is not one I can even answer. We like it here.  You don’t have to grow up here, in a way.  You just have to grow old-  that’s nature’s choice, and I’m fine with that. I will keep jumping in waterfalls as long as I can.

Even if we return to NY, or the States in general, it would never be for that 9-5, materialistic, drinks at happy hour and deals on the golf course action.  So what do we do now that we are here?  Why would someone want to move here?  Can you support yourself? Will you be happy here like us?  I think that will require another post entirely, but lets touch on it for a second.

In order to understand why someone moves here, or anywhere that does not fit the generic mold of growing up in one of the first world countries like the US,  you need to get your mind off a linear existence model.  First of all, even I won’t work for $3/hour.  I just don’t know how to live off that.  So getting a regular job and living life like the scheduled 9-5er, or here in CR 7-6er, is not the life I want.  But many expat families have!  Some get transferred from their own country to areas in San Jose and Heredia, mostly, and some find work here. I chose Costa Rica because I see options to other things like having my own business, and being able to do so without all of the extra weight that a small business owner carries in the states.  Having a successful business here still has its risks, but the risk is not your house and your life.  You spend time with your children, enjoy life, even while having your own business, or even having a 9-5 job! We all know the shit that small businesses go through in the states no matter what the government says about Main Street.  And while I’m at it, what about all the businesses off main street?  It’s just too hard in the states- and I have done it, successfully.  I don’t want to anymore.  I am not willing to give up my personal life for my business life. Raising my kids requires my money and my time.  I understand that now, and I can get that here.

One of my clients wants to move down “Because its like the States was 100 years ago.   You have the freedom to do what you want.”  And that is part of the basic mindset a lot of folks have down here.  Costa Rica has a lot more freedom, and the ability to succeed if you think outside of the box.  If you have savings, you can think inside the box and live pretty cheaply for what you get in return.  Not that Costa Rica is the cheapest country for expats to choose from, but once you look at the healthcare and the peaceful stabilty, it is well worth the slightly higher pricetag.  Some people come for the climate, some come to stretch their retirement dollar, some come to raise their families, like us, in a slightly less competitive, more down to earth, environment.  And some just come to surf!  But if you think you are going to come here and get one or more of those things with all the rest being like life back home – no matter where you go in Costa Rica, from Escazu to the Panamanian border, you will be sadly disappointed. This is different, in every shape and form.  And no matter how ready you are, you won’t be ready – and that’s ok too.  Its part of the adventure, enjoy it!  If you don’t, you can always do something else.  This is just Now, nothing has to be permanent.

So to answer the question as I hear it, yes, I would go back to something completely new. I would possibly resettle in California, which we love, or maybe the Florida keys… probably not upstate NY, but definitely the NYC, where I grew up and still absolutely love.  The lakehouse upstate would go back to being a summer home, maybe even a new little B&B.

My husband and I work, we work hard, we work hard for ourselves and our family, our life and our freedom here.  What we have found is our work goes further than the tax man and the mortgage broker. What many retirees have found is their hard earned money goes further than their medical bills and their heating bills, and they can take mini vacations all year long to the places in Central and South America they always dreamed of. What many families have found is that their children can be home-schooled or put in private school with small classes for less than their school taxes back home, learn other languages, and have more freedoms and adventures of their own as well.  We are here to live, not to die – we are here for personal adventure as well as some thrill seeking – we all know what Costa Rica has to offer when it comes to volcanos, waterfall jumping, white water rafting, surfing, you name it. But its the adventurous spirit that sees those things as a lifestyle, not just as a vacation. And that is why we are here, and why going back to us, is not the right question really.  More of  “Is this your last stop?”  and to that question, I will answer: I doubt it….

Pura vida.

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

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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.

 

PLAYGROUNDS

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.

LA PAZ

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.

 

La Fortuna HOT SPRINGS

$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.

SAN RAMON MUSEUM

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

SAN RAMON CENTRAL PARK

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!

SAN RAMON SWIMMING POOLs

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 🙂

LOS ANGELES CLOUD FOREST

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!

PLAYA DONA ANA

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!

SAN RAMON “Y”

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.

CHEER ARMY

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 www.vistavalverde.com

Enjoy!

 

Best Places to Stay with Kids in Costa Rica

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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?!?!?!?  http://www.treehouseshotelcostarica.com  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.

Monteverde

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.

Bathtub

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.

Jaco

TANGERI

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
massages
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.

Monteverde – where we stayed and why you should go!

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Hello world – our latest adventure (just yesterday) was a blast – we went up to Monteverde (via CR1 towards Guanacaste from San Ramon) and were there in about 2 hours from Vista Valverde.  The last bit was unpaved, and our car almost did not make it (another story?!) but 3 kids, 2 parents and 2 grandparents later we were hooked!  Views out to the Nicoya Gulf, the day was gorgeous.  NOT exactly what you want from a visit to the Cloud Forest, but it is the dry season, and we live in the clouds anyway!  We stayed at Hotel Fonda Vela – I HIGHLY recommend this place.  And call them directly to get the best rates.  The rooms are huge, the place is bigger than you realize.  Seriously, I thought there were only 10 rooms, until we started walking around and it is so well developed, you don’t know all these other hotel buildings with up to 10 rooms/each are there!  A big pool, 2 hot tubs, a pool table and pingpong, plus lots of ground for the kids to run around.  Try and get room 8 – it has 2 queen sized beds, and the door opens to the grounds where the kids can just go out and run around, play at the fountain, while you chill inside or sit at the tables on the lawn.   Other parts of the hotel are newer, but do not have this nice feel with the entrance onto the lawn.  Views straight to the Nicoya and Guanacaste.   What was great about this hotel is it is just a few minutes from the parking area for Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Monteverde Cloud Forest – Lets talk about the park – lots of different trails to take and you DO NOT need a guide if you are budget conscious, but if you really want to see all the wildlife, I recommend it.  And if you are residents of Costa Rica, you pay a highly discounted rate to get into the forest (another great reason to live here!). That being said, the hike to the waterfall is perfect for smaller kids, and take a left on your way back from the falls to take the loop back along the next path over.  Stop at the giant tree and try to climb it!  I will post pictures from hubby’s phone when I find him 🙂  There is a little cafeteria there if you want to take a hike, grab a bite, then take another hike – but its pretty light on what they offer though prices are not like US parks – folks can actually afford the grub.  And be careful if you sit down for your own lunch (which we recommend taking if you want to do all day there and tis NOT raining) – there is an animal that shall remain unnamed (no one agreed) that tried to steal some guys coat when he would not let it take his food!!!!! And I would imagine it gets pretty cold during the rainy season so take advantage of the coffee shop.  We just sat in the benches of the ‘reception’ area for the upstairs lodge (which i admittedly know nothing about)

Butterfly Garden – we took the road to the older one, 1.7 kms out of Santa Elena, or if coming from Monteverde – it is the first left after El Establo and Heliconia hotels.  Just follow the signs.  AWESOME!!! They are on trip advisor for more info.  Our guide was so funny, and nice, and knowledgeable – don’t remember his hame, but he has dreads and a seashell though his ear post hole.  Don’t judge!  This is the guide you want!!!   I am sure the others are great too but we are biased and we liked ours.  Oh, did I mention there is a resident discount?  ya, more perks for folks who take the plunge 🙂

What we found out what to do next time – stay IN the Children;s Eternal Forest and stay AT the lodge with a guide for a few days.  There are 2 lodges that you can use with prior arrangements – one bare bones, no wifi no hot water -the other has both these things (I admittedly require hot water and much to my dismay, wi-fi).  I would recommend this for when the kids are older or young enough to put in a backpack (and YOU are fit enough to carry them and you!) – I am going to look more into it, but if you really want a unique experience and have a few days, this looks like its the way to go.  If anyone knows more, let me know!

Santa Elena Reserve – on the other side of Santa Elena, has most of the touristy things like zip lines, tram tours, etc.  It ALSO is the one with the view to La Fortuna on a clear day.  We found this out AFTER we went to Monteverde!  We still had fun 🙂

TRAIN IS CLOSED!  YES, THE MONTEVERDE TRAIN, WHICH WAS THE WHOLE RESON FOR CHOOSING MONTEVERDE WITH 2 SMALL KDIS AND 2 GRANDPaRENTS – IS CLOSED!  Don’t know why.  Hotel told me.  If you look it up there is no indication it is closed but believe you me, its CLOSED.  Argh.

Lastly, where to eat?  Tico Rico in Santa Elena of course!  And you can order a pizza from the place on the corner and they bring it to the table and put it on your bill!  You can park anywhere, its pretty small, and walk around until you find the places.  Check out the cool tree restaurant too, but not worth the price tag AT ALL. And because you ordered pizza, you can play at their playground while you wait for your food at either place!

Be back with more ideas later!  Pura vida!