Going green in Costa Rica

By on July 26, 2009

“Green” is the travel motto of the 21st century, and there’s no better place for a family eco-adventure than the jungles and beaches of Costa Rica. The country’s commitment to preserving the natural environment is matched only by its citizens’ zest for life – spend a week, a day, or even a few hours and get caught up in the spirit of “la pura vida” (the good life). 

From the colonial capital of San Jose, head north for the highlands around the Arenal Volcano. Rivers around town offer water enthusiasts the chance to tackle the rapids at all different levels. For an adventure that will have your adrenaline pumping even more, older kids (and brave parents) can test their limits rappelling down waterfalls with one of the reputable local tour operators. Families who prefer to keep their feet planted firmly on the ground should take a night hike on the slopes of Arenal’s active volcano, where you can often see fluorescent lava rocks spewing from the crater. If you’re keen to add a volunteering component to your vacation, share your time and talents with local animal shelter Proyecto Asis. It’s a great way to meet rainforest residents up close and pitch in a hand to help the community.

Head next to the misty cloud forests of Monteverde, where the subjects of science class come alive. Take a guided walk through the sprawling nature reserve and keep your eyes peeled for exotic insects in the underbrush, especially leaf-cutter ants – a kid favorite! If you’d rather check out the action in the canopy level, strap into a zipline and whiz past toucans and macaws in the upper branches. Or, for a good photo opportunity of these fascinating feathered inhabitants, stroll down the Sky Walk, a series of swinging rope bridges dozens of meters above the ground.

When it’s time for a break, make waves for southwestern Costa Rica. The pristine white sands surrounding the towns of Quepos are the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. For an even better bit of waterfront real estate, head for the beaches inside nearby Manuel Antonio National Park. Your only company in the idyllic location may be a troop of the area’s monkeys. But hide your picnic hampers – those cute-faced capuchins won’t think twice about stealing your sandwiches while you’re snorkeling offshore!

With sun, sand, and hands-on science, Costa Rica is the perfect choice for your next “green” family adventure!


Official language: Spanish

Access:  Approx 18 hours from Tokyo (with connections)

Time difference: -15 hours

Currency: the colon, though US dollars are widely accepted

Climate: Tropical year-round, with wet (May-Nov) and dry (Dec-Apr) seasons. The best time to visit is during the dry season, but avoid the chaos of Christmas and New Year’s.

Transport: Buses are cheap and convenient, though rental cars can make for easier trips between cities. For any trip during the rainy season, a 4WD vehicle is highly recommended!

Independence Day on September 15th with parades and parties around the nation.


Hot spring resort at the base of Arenal Volcano, with great views of the lava on starry nights.


Guided twilight and night hikes at Finca Ecologica (Ecological Farm) in Monteverde.


Dolphin sighting and snorkeling adventures geared for families. Manuel Antonio.


About Mandy Bartok