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Costa Rica Vacations Include Volcanoes, Waterfalls, and Rafting. The Arenal area on the western side of Costa Rica is ideal for earth-friendly family adventures because it offers dozens of ways to share family fun, interact with Mother Nature, and create screen-free, green memories.Arenal Lodge Cosat Rica Volcano View Family Travel Files
Here’s the scoop. Costa Rica is delightfully green and relatively unspoiled. The Arenal area in the northwestern part of the country is populated with hidden waterfalls, yucca and pineapple plantations, Alpine meadows, mountain trails, volcanoes (yes, more than one), oxen pulling carts, and happy people. Everyone I met during our stay – hotel staff, tour guides, and other families with kids of all ages – had a desire to tread lightly on the land and show respect to the area’s natural beauty.Arenal Lodge Cosat Rica Oxen Cart Family Travel Files

Just about every activity fits in the screen-free, earth-friendly, category and for many  La Fortuna is the place to start. The tiny town is devoted to making Arenal Volcano vacations an easy for everyone. Tour operators are in abundant offering a myriad of ideas to suit ages from five to 85. So it is not essential to make arrangements before you leave home. We used Desafio Adventure Co. for our adventures. Making a call in advance I learned enough to feel comfortable about renting a car and driving from San Jose to La Fortuna and planning our green adventures.   

Glide through the trees. Ecoglide Arenal Park, located four kilometers west of Fortuna, offers high energy family fun. The guides I spoke with were bilingual (Spanish/English) and eager to share the history of the area and details about the habitat and its natural residents both plant and animal. Residents include deer, monkeys, snakes, sloths, frogs, peccaries, raccoons and a variety of birds. Families with children ages five and older may share a zip-lining adventure through the rain forest. It is an easy walk to the first of 13 cables. At platform number eight there is an optional Tarzan swing created for thrill seekers. Bonus Points: A video/still shot DVD is made available at the end of each unique adventure. Here’s the deal! Free transportation is offered to those staying in the area between Tabacón Resort and Jardines Arenal Hotel. Pickup and return to additional locations may be arranged for a fee. (Ecoglide Arenal Park, (506) 2479-7120 or Arenal Eco Glide).

Hike the hanging bridges. Located 20 kilometers west of La Fortuna, Arenal Hanging Bridges offers earth-friendly thrills for the whole family. The private nature reserve has almost 250 hectares of tropical rainforest and is home a wide variety of animal and plant species. Within the green there are 16 bridges, some stationary and some in suspension. Within the complex are a picnic area and a “soda” lunch spot with perfect view of Arenal Volcano. Bonus Points: The first bridge is a hanging/swinging bridge which offers novices an adrenaline rush. (Arenal Hanging Bridges, (506) 2290-0469 or Rica River Rafting with Desafio Adventures Family Travel Files

Raft, float, ride a horse, bike, or rappel. Desafio Adventures full-day Mambo Combo includes breakfast, trekking with Mother Nature, river rafting, rappelling in Lost Canyon and turn of the century Costa Rican culture experience well-suited for active families with children ages 10 or older. The guides on our trip were energetic and engaging, as well as entertaining and informative. No question went unanswered. Their attentiveness inspired everyone in our group to participate with more energy. Lunch is served at CulTour Costa Rica, a farmhouse bed and breakfast owned by Don and Dona Eli Milton. The couple embraces the old customs of Costa Rica. Their organic farm features a demonstration of turn of the century sugar cane processing, complete with oxen turning the sugar cane press. Bonus Points:  A DVD is made available for sale at the end of the trip. Survival advice: To avoid disappointment, take a waterproof, shock proof camera, change of clothes and either water shoes or closed toe and heel sandals.  (Desafio Adventures (home base is located behind the Central Church, La Fortuna 21007), phone toll free US and Canada, toll-free 1-855-818-0020, local +506 2479 0020 

Visit the base of Arenal Volcano.
 This is a location to share real science with your kids or grandkids. Arenal Volcano National Park has two volcanoes Chato Volcano which has a picture perfect lagoon and Arenal Volcano, the most active volcano erupting in 1968 with larva being consistent until 2010. There are short trails (3.4 km and 2 km) that pass through surrounding forest and desolate lava fields from previous eruptions. Park rangers keep a close eye on the volcanic activity. Because the lava beds absorb heat the hiking trails become warm so I think it is best to visit the park early, carry plenty of drinking water and wear sturdy walking shoes not sandals. Arenal National Park Costa Rica Cloud Forest Waterfall Discovery Family Travel Files

Hike down to a waterfall. La Fortuna Waterfall located west of La Fortuna is situated in a forest canyon not far from town. The descent to the base (and ascent) is more than 500 steps and the trail offers plenty of opportunities to feel the green of the area. The popular spot features a thundering waterfall plummeting about 200 feet (65 meters) into an emerald pool just waiting for swimmers. All of the families we met had swim gear, towels, drinking water and picnic items to ensure time on the rocks below the waterfall would be extra fun. Bonus Points: Along the road to the waterfall vendors sell coconut shells filled with the freshest (yummy) coconut water. La Fortuna Waterfall, located off of Hwy 142 heading west, turn at the grocery store, proceed to the end and turn right. (Toll-free free (USA & Canada) 1-888-456-3212, local +506-2479-8811 or La Fortuna Waterfall).

Location on the planet: Costa Rica is located in Central America, nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea and the west by the Pacific Ocean. The country has long been a popular tourism, retirement and Spanish education destination for North Americans. Roughly the size of West Virginia, the country shelters approximately five percent of the world’s existing biodiversity, with protected areas comprising 26 percent of its land mass. 

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Content and images by Lisa Kamps Duac, Publisher for the Family Travel Files. Copyright updated 2016 from trip in 2014. 

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