Taking Our Child to Costa Rica Enriched the Trip

Walking into the small, almost deserted, local restaurant at ten o’clock at night turned the heads of the few teenagers sitting in a corner in our direction. Other than their group, no one seemed to be in the tiny establishment, which had only two tables, one taken by the above-mentioned teens. We sat down at the other one and hoped for the best.

We were in a local neighborhood of San Jose, Costa Rica. The tiny hotel we got our room in was close to the airport, we picked it since we arrived late at night. In another lifetime, without kids, we would have skipped dinner, opting for a few snacks. However, I can not let my child go to bed without a proper meal.

A middle-aged waitress came out and tried telling us that they were closed. “Never mind, we can serve you anyway”, she added with a smile, when she noticed our daughter. She gave us a tiny hand-written menu, and offered to bring us fresh fruit juices. I settled on the pineapple, my husband had coconut, and my daughter ordered strawberries. As we watched, she put the fresh fruit in a blender, and whipped up some of the best smoothies we’ve ever tasted. It was tricky to order since she did not speak a word of English and my Spanish was rudimentary, my husband’s nonexistent. She had no children’s menu, no easy food, only local fare, but she tried to find out what our daughter liked and work around her taste buds. We ended up ordering three different meals, hoping that one of them would please her, and we’d eat the other ones. We expected our picky eater to be… well, picky, her usual self. To my surprise, she sampled everything and liked it all. She ended up eating the most local unusual dish, with nothing familiar in it. You never know with kids.

After that first night we had no hotel reservations, only a vague idea of what we wanted to see and do. It was one of our regular “go with the flow, see what you can find” type of trip. Our friends never do this. They think we torture our kids when we take them on trips with no reservations, no plans. However, our kids are used to this and love it (or so they say). They have done it basically since the day they were born. Kids are much more flexible and resilient than we give them credit for.

On the first morning of our trip we got in our rental car and set off. We stopped at a local grocery store, bought plenty of water and snacks for the road, then started driving. We got lost a few times trying to leave town, driving around in circles, but finally we made it to the highway towards Poas Volcano.

Things were slower since we stopped more often with our daughter. After a “short” stop at the volcano, it was past lunch time, and the snacks were not enough to hold her over much longer. When we saw something like a restaurant on the side of the road, we stopped. It was very close to the La Paz Waterfall Garden, our next destination. When we stopped, we realized that it was also a hotel and they had one room available for the night. By then our daughter already made friends with one of the dogs, and she begged us to stay the night. It was an easy decision, realizing that we would not have enough time the same day for the waterfalls. After our (very) late lunch, we got aquainted with all of the other animals on the premises. We stayed on a farm, with goats, sheep, cows, and more dogs. Kids find everything, and when she discovered a trail into the jungle right in our back yard, I had to follow her in. We live in the desert, so being in a tropical jungle was an especially great treat for both of us. She got excited about anything, a tree, a bush, a bug, even a broken bridge that we traversed.

A Walk in the Jungle — Costa Rica

On the road to another destination, suddenly she noticed a bunch of little animals. We stopped to watch a family of agoutis walk by the side of the road. We spent what seemed like hours on the side of the road, following them around. When crossed the road, my daughter walked out in the middle, with me following closely, to make sure other cars would stop to let the little creatures cross. Would we have done it without her? I’m not so sure. Even if we stopped, we would have been long gone before they decided to cross.

When we passed an area with a bunch of deer grazing, she asked us to stop. We pulled into the parking lot of what ended up being a hotel and restaurant. We ended up staying two nights, and it was some of the best part of our trip. The pool was deserted when we first got there, so we enjoyed a soak/swim/playtime, and noticed a few howler monkeys in the surrounding trees. Later in the day, they got very vocal, and we were able to follow them jumping from one tree to the next. A few families of howlers lived on the premises. They woke us up in the morning, since they sat up camp in the tree by our window. We watched them for hours, following them as they moved from one tree to the next. We saw agoutis as well, and some other small animals that we only found out their local name (and instantly forgot), and a few deer. We had the most fun simply walking around the hotel grounds.

Without our daughter, we might have seen “more”. We would have rushed through things, trying to get to as many destinations as possible in a short time. She forced us to slow down, to enjoy time in another country, make friends with locals and local fauna. Taking our daughter on that trip made it slower paced, and much more enjoyable.

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