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Vivi's First International Trip: Costa Rica
January 28, 2017

: Costa Rica
We flew into San Jose, Costa Rica on a Thursday night. We were to stay in Costa Rica for a total of four nights and five days. We picked Costa Rica for a few reasons (much the same as Miami - her first airplane trip):
  • Flight Deal: We try our best to travel, especially internationally, exclusively on flight deals. We also try to travel around holidays to minimize personal days that are used. A few weeks prior to Labor Day weekend, a flight deal to Costa Rica came up on my radar. After conducting some quick research, we booked flights over Labor Day weekend. By utilizing the holiday weekend, we were able to take a four night/five-day trip, using only two personal days from work.
  • Also, Labor Day is considered the end of the busy travel season, and so we knew the country would not be as crowded as peak summer travel. This is a plus not only because there are fewer tourists around, but also because rates on lodging and even attractions are often cheaper.
Plan what region of Costa Rica you want to visit, especially if you fly into San Jose. Then determine if it is cheaper to stay in San Jose and
take day trips, or to depart from San Jose and come back in time for your departure flight.

Day 1
We flew into Costa Rica on Thursday night and went straight our Airbnb bed and breakfast. It was a long flight (with a one-year-old) so we were all tired and ready for bed.

Day 2
We woke up early and went to a nearby hotel to catch an excursion we booked to Manuel Antonio National Park. San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica, yet many of the sights you would want to see are outside their main city. Our excursion would take us from San Jose to Manuel Antonio. Instead of coming back to San Jose in one day, we actually stayed in Manuel Antonio. This allowed us to take a private tour and transport to Manuel Antonio for a fraction of the costs for booking separately.
  • Jaco Beach: This black sand beach is a favorite stop for tourists in Costa Rica. Since we were on a private tour, we asked the driver/tour guide to stop so we could see the beach and take some pretty cool pictures.

  • Manuel Antonio National Park: This park was the main reason we decided to head to this area of Costa Rica from San Jose. It is both a rainforest and a beautiful beach all in ONE. The rainforest has many trails (based on ability) so we chose the easiest path to the beach. Our tour guide explained our surroundings, the many species of insects, animals, etc., and even threw in some knowledge about Costa Rica's culture. For example, they have no army, and instead invest more money in education!

Day 3
After an eventful Day 2, we took a low-key approach to Day 3.
  • Downtown Quepos: First we explored downtown Quepos. we stopped by the morning farmer's market and then walked to a breakfast spot for a traditional Costa Rican breakfast.
  • Playa Biesanz (Secret Beach): After breakfast, we loaded up on drinks and snacks and headed to Playa Biesanz. It is considered a secret beach because it is not very easy to get to. In fact, we were misled in just how difficult it was to get to. It involves a pretty rigorous hike thru the woods, but once the opening to the beach arrives it was spectacular. What makes Playa Biesanz unique is its calm waters, due to be protected on both sides by the rainforest. This makes it a great beach for kids, because there are no waves, and very calm, warm waters.
    • Be warned: The hike back to the street is not easy, especially with a baby and a stroller! But we survived!
  • Condo Resort: After our beach hike we decided to go back and enjoy our Condo Airbnb amenities (the pool) for the rest of the evening

Day 4
After two eventful days in Manuel Antonio/Quepos, we went back to San Jose via a propeller plane. It was my first time on a plane so small, and I have no shame in saying I was VERY nervous about the entire process. But, it was more efficient to take a 20-minute plane ride than the 3.5-hour drive given our schedule once we arrived back in San Jose.
  • Coffee Tour: The main reason we flew back to San Jose was to be back in time to take the Britt Coffee Tour. It did not disappoint. As a daily drinker of coffee, my coffee buds have not been the same since we sampled their coffee and learned about the process of making coffee.The tour grounds also included a butterfly zone, which was a nice touch and provided the perfect lighting for family pictures.

Day 5
We woke up early and headed to the airport for our flights back home. Costa Rica was a charming, and beautiful country. We hope to go back soon and explore other parts of the country. In case anyone is wondering, Vivi didn't do any better on the plane ride back home. However, she was a one-year-old with a passport and stamps so I think she is off to a great start.

Things to Consider:
  • Currency: Always research the local currency when traveling abroad. Costa Rica is tricky because they accept the dollar in most areas. However, the local currency, the colon, is worth about half the rate of the dollar. Make sure you always confirm if a quoted price is based in dollars or colons, especially when using cash-based activities such as taking a taxi, farmer's market, etc.
  • Lodging: This becomes more important when you factor in travel with babies/kids. We enjoy Airbnb/homestays when they are convenient, but make sure the sleep arrangements are consistency with your current patterns at home. Our daughter does not co-sleep, so when booking Airbnb places we had to get creative with making sure there was a safe and adequate space for her to sleep that was not our bed.
  • Food: Vivian was just transitioned to whole milk a week before the trip to Costa Rica. That made one aspect of her food much easier. We bought milk in Costa Rica and made sure we always had some available. We also packed baby food, and TONS of baby snacks. Seriously, it was a lot. However, we didn't know how well she would take to Costa Rican food so we always had backup meals and snacks.
  • Language: Most people in Costa Rica, especially in the major cities we traveled to spoke English and Spanish so there were not major language barriers. However, it is always good to have common phrases and words associated with money, food, and travel on hand in case you need them.
  • Transportation: If Uber is available, use it! The rates are cheaper than most local taxis, and you don't have to worry about calculating conversion rates.
Overall Costa Rica was a great place to start Vivian's international travels. While we had hoped she did better on the plane rides, we realize she is just a one-year-old, and we can't expect miracles. The most important thing about traveling with a baby or any children for that matter is to really understand and set appropriate expectations. That can be the difference between a great getaway, or a disastrous trip.

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