We recently vacationed at the Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo, We went in February, which is the tail-end of the dry season.
Costa Rica is full of microclimates, so it’s not a country with 100% rainforest. The peninsula in particular is subject to being very, very, very dry. I mean, completely brown, if not bare trees, dry. This really took me by surprise because in my head it’s a lush, green country wherever you go. Maybe I’m just stupid but it wasn’t what I had envisioned.
The resort area is green and lush because they irrigate, but on the balance, it’s bone dry during the dry season.I had been tipped off about this so the hotel helped me book excursions into my greener areas throughout the country to explore! I’m so glad they did!
My recommendations involve both the peninsula and outer areas.Yes, you can absolutely stay on the peninsula and not leave. It’s full of great surfing, beaches, fun activities and restaurants.But because we went in the dry season and because I like to really immerse myself in the areas we visit we decided to do three different excursion outside of our spot.
These are the three excursions we did and my thoughts on them. For reference, we are a family of five. Our daughter is fourteen-years-old and our identical twin boys are eleven-years-old. We enjoy adventurous types of activities and “throw yourself into the area” type of experiences. My husband and I are also the types of parents who participate, rather than watch. So keep this in mind with all of my recommendations!
Kayaking a Red Mangrove Area
The first Costa Rica family activity we did was out of the Peninsula Papagayo Explorer’s Club. We did a kayaking tour through the red mangroves.
As a tree lover and landscape loverI was just in heaven. You kayak through these gorgeous mangroves, watch the video here. It just felt magical and so quiet!
While kayaking we went really close to a tree full of spider monkeys! The monkeys came running down the tree. They were like three maybe five feet from us, it was so funny! Spider monkeys are super smart, I’ve read all these great stories about them. Apparently the week before we went they had grabbed a mask off of somebody and put the mask on their own faces!
Spider monkeys are brilliant little animals. You actually can’t keep your doors open because they have been known to steal jewelry and clothes! It was so fun being up close and personal with these spider monkeys in the wild but we kept a tight hold on our stuff!
When we were done kayaking we stopped on this little island and they brought us fresh coconuts so we to drink coconut water out of. It was really really pretty and a fun way to spend the afternoon.
The whole thing was about two and a half hours max. It’s a quick five minute drive from the Four Seasons hotel to get to check in. This is one activity that is great for families!
The second activity we did was zip-lining. It’s called a canopy tour in Guanacoste Papagaya Costa Rica
We’ve done zip-lining tour before. Typically in between each “zip’ you have quite a bit of walking to do. But this company did such a great job connecting 11 zip-lines so you never got off the balcony having to walk somewhere else. You always stayed on the balcony and just took off at a different direction.
It was really fun and made the whole thing go fast yet because there are eleven different zip-lines it was a full couple hours. It was really really fun! Because it kept moving this is great for groups! It’s hot and I definitely recommend bringing sunscreen. They will have water for you.
One zip-line went straight over a forest and a river, it was really neat. We went during the dry season so it wasn’t as lush, but it’s still pretty amazing.
This was a great company! I felt really safe going with my kids. My kids had a blast and their service team is excellent. I’d really recommend doing this!
Sensoria; Land of the Senses
The third event was Sensoria Land of the Senses, this is a rainforest walking tour. The owners of the company bought thousands of acres of rainforest and keeps them perfectly preserved so that people can go walk and hike in the rainforest and play in the waterfalls.
It was however a long drive, It took us three hours from the Papagayo hotel with an hour and a half of that being on complete rocky roads. Our tour guid made a joke that this is a Costa Rican massage!
You cannot just roll up and get in, you have to have a ticket because they limit how many people are in the park. You can do a large group tour of Sensoria or you can do what we did which is a private tour. We sort of enjoy those private tours because is allows us to really customize where we spend our time.
If you have kids of different ages everyone may be interested in something different and the same goes for the adults. So we like to have the flexibility to say lets keep moving or this is amazing let’s stay here for the next hour.
When we were hiking we saw two sloths. One was pretty darn close, the guides said this was one of the closest encounters with the sloths they had ever seen. We unfortunately saw snakes as well, ugh I hate snakes! We saw gorgeous butterflies and all sorts of signs of life, it was beautiful!
Because there’s so much shade you actually don’t need to take sunglasses. I would still suggest putting on sunscreen because even though the light is diffused you still want to be protected.
Along the four-hour hike you’ll stop at beautiful waterfalls with natural spring p0ols that you can swim in. This was so much fun! If you do the private tour, there is one pool you get completely to yourself. They brought wine for my husband and I, juice for the kids and snacks. We absolutely felt all alone in a rain forest at the ends of the earth. So beautiful, so peaceful and as my daughter said, “this is so viby!”
Sensoria is absolutely a beautiful gem of a spot in Costa Rica if you can squeeze this is. It’s pure magic and a truly special place on the planet worth experiencing.
Rio Celeste Tubing
The last Costa Rica family activity I recommend is to go tubing down the Rio Celeste!
The Rio Celeste was about a two and a half hour drive from the hotel. We did a little pit stop in this small little town and had coffee by a sweet Abuela who made the coffee herself. It was located right next to a school and just felt very authentic and very real. It was a sweet moment and nice way to support local businesses.
For the tubing you raft down class one and class two rapids on your own inner-tube. I’ve done white water rafting on but I’ve never sat on a personal inner-tube while going over class two rapids before!
We again bought a private tour which was so much fun because my family got to stick together. We didn’t get lost in the shuffle so we actually got to stay close together. We were laughing the whole time, every giant rapid would send us in a giggle spree. The guides would scream at us “butt up!” on the rapids because you literally had to pick your butt up so you wouldn’t hit it on a rock below which was hysterical to hear. But then you get wedged between these rocks and the guides would come shove you out of the rocks to keep you going down the rapids.
The color of the water is unlike any color of water I’ve ever seen. It is pure turquoise, I think it’s even brighter than Turks and Caicos water! It was just this absolutely mesmerizing color of blue mixed with the rainforest green foliage. My eyes were glimmering watching the sites at every turn!
About an hour into the tubing ride we stopped and used the natural mud for mud mask spa treatments. It was there the Rio Celeste has an area where you could jump off the cliff. Sounds nuts but my family loves jumping off of things into the water so we had a great time.
Rafting down the Rio Celeste was an absolute blast and I can’t recommend this enough! I recommend getting reservation in advance because I don’t think this is a place that could accommodate large amounts of groups. This was super, worth it the drive and great for adventure seeking families!