Zooming high above the cloud forest canopy I see only the tops of the trees below; a sea of green foliage that cachets hundreds of species of birds and thousands of butterflies. It’s not the best way to see Costa Rica’s abundant wildlife, but it’s certainly the most exhilarating way to experience the jungle.
At Selvatura Park 13 zips speed guests over 3.5 km of rainforest canopy. Here, Avery gets doubled by another rider.
We’re at Selvatura Park, a rainforest park that borders Monteverde, the country’s most famous cloud forest. For two hours we get to be like the howler monkeys that wake us up every morning, zipping from tree to tree while covering 3.5 kilometres in the air across a series of 13 zips. No sooner do I alight at one platform than a guide clips me onto the next cable and sends me screaming out over the green abyss.
Avery and I stop for a selfie on a zipline platform.
It’s my third time ziplining (I have tried it previously on Maui and in Vernon, B.C.) and this is by far the best. As far as the eye can see there is only 50 shades of green and the wonder at what lurks beneath the canopy.
Fifty shades of green.
Avery holds a blue morpho butterfly inside the butterfly garden.
After, we join a tour of the butterfly garden, watch violet sabrewing hummingbirds whiz through the hummingbird garden, and explore the hanging bridges canopy walk, a three-kilometre hike around the park where we spot shrill bellbirds calling from the treetops. Avery even manages to catch another frog (her total for the trip so far: five).
The hanging bridges hike lets us spot birds that surround us in the forest canopy.
At day’s end we brave the crazy Costa Rican roads on the long drive back to Nuevo Arenal. We never do spot a resplendent quetzal, the “it” bird of Monteverde, but after hours spent flying like one above the rainforest, it’s fair to say we’re ok with that.
You wouldn’t think you’d need to visit a hot springs in Costa Rica (it being a tropical country and all) but after visiting Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort and its numerous secluded pools and their accompanying waterfalls and lush foliage, you’ll vote in favour of “taking the waters” and boiling in their therapeutic, mineral-rich pools. Especially when the hot springs bubble up from a volcano that was active as recently as 2010.
Bennett and Blake peer over a waterfall at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort.
I have never seen such an extensive and beautifully landscaped thermal resort. I am used to the “one concrete hot pool” variety so common in Canada. At Tabacon, they have gone to extremes to make the pools as natural as possible, building them around a stream that flows from the Arenal Volcano, near La Fortuna. The result is a series of cascading pools and waterfalls crowded with plants that help create natural grottos and hidden swimming holes.
Grammie and Avery enjoy a secluded hot pool at Tabacon.
Avery loved scrambling up the warm waterfall “staircase” and searching for iguanas and basilisks, while Bennett was happy leaning over waterfalls to watch the warm water fall into the pool below.
Critters love Tabacon, too. Avery was reptile hunter and found this basilisk (they can run atop water for short distances. How cool is that?). Photo by Blake Ford.
In the afternoon we found our Shangri-La — two pools sequestered at the end of a winding pathway. One was hot and the other cool, perfect for alternating between the two.
If there’s water, you can pretty much get in anywhere at Tabacon.
Oh, and did I mention the spa? Sadly, with two kids in tow there simply wasn’t an opportunity to sneak away for a Volcanic Mud Wrap treatment. Next time!
After years of talking about taking a family holiday to Costa Rica we are finally here! And it is beautiful. We’re based near the small town of Nuevo Arenal, on the shore of Lake Arenal about one hour from the Arenal Volcano and adventure centre La Fortuna.
Family hike at Villa Encantada near Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica. Posing in front of a 400-year-old tree.
No resort for us — we’ve rented gorgeous Villa Encantada that sits on 40 forested acres and comes with hiking trails, a waterfall, a pond for fishing and kayaking, and a pool and water slide. If we run out of things to do there’s a bird feeder that attracts ridiculously colourful birds (identifying them in the Birds of Costa Rica book is hopeless, as there are so many different kinds), plus a slew of nearby adventure activities. We’ll be here another three days, then it’s off to a beach house at Playa Grande for the final week.
Avery enjoyed a soak in the waterfall at Villa Encantada.
Kayaking around the pond at Villa Encantada.
Everyone who comes to Costa Rica raves about it and now I get it. Fresh air, fresh fruit, unspoiled cloud forests and picture-perfect volcanoes. It really lives up to its unofficial national slogan: “Pura Vida!” (Pure Life). I’m excited to share some of our adventures over the next couple weeks, and write about experiencing the country with kids for an upcoming issue of WestJet Magazine. Until then, Pura Vida!
Tropical birds dig in to the papaya rinds.
Hiking Indiana Jones-style at Villa Encantada.