This is a guest post by Anglo-Italian journalist Lorenza Bacino. In August Lorenza, her husband and their two children went to Costa Rica in Central America for their family holiday and it sounds like they had a brilliant time. Lorenza is writing a series of articles for Mums do travel about what they got up to and in this post she covers the first part of their trip.
We had the family adventure of a lifetime this summer. I took husband and two children, my son aged 12 and daughter, 9, to Costa Rica where – as well as all the sites and adventuring – we volunteered at a wild animal rescue centre. Costa Rica is one big bustling animal sanctuary in fact. And here are some things you may not know about it.
- Costa Rica abolished the army in 1948 and as a result, has a reputation as one of the most peaceful in the Central American region.
- The whole country is slightly bigger than the Netherlands.
- Costa Rica holds 5% of our planet’s biodiversity, within a landmass of only 0.03% of the world’s total.
- 44% of land is protected by the government.
- 25% of land is designated as national park and there are between 15-20 of them.
- Costa Rica has 120 volcanos, mostly in the ocean, and six are active. Arenal was one of the most active until 2010, when activity abruptly stopped
We booked our holiday with Hands up Holidays, which specialises in combining eco-travel, adventure, and an element of volunteering, and we stayed in some pretty special hotels along the way. The Parador Resort and Spa was our first taste of Costa Rica and I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to recover from jet lag and get a taste of how stunning this country is.
Parador Resort and Spa
I awoke at 5 am, saw a sliver of light shining through the curtains and decided to venture onto the balcony and survey my surroundings instead of tossing and turning in the king-sized bed. We had a suite at the highest point of the resort with a magnificent view of the layout, the jungle and the ocean below us.
I padded out and quietly gasped as the most glorious pink sunrise greeted me. I stood alone on the balcony, with only the sounds of the canopy around me – birdsong and a howler monkey not too far away. I lay down on the lounger to soak it all up.
The Parador Resort and Spa is at Punta Quepos, on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. It’s a 12-acre complex of eco-luxury hotel rooms and suites surrounded by rainforest teeming with birds, monkeys, iguanas and other native wildlife. This hotel combines luxury with an award-winning eco-conscious sustainability ethos.
Rooms and suites
There are 129 different types of rooms and suites here divided into four separate buildings. All rooms offer either garden, ocean or jungle views, or all of the above. There are wheelchair accessible options. All rooms have TV, mini-bar, coffee maker, air-con, safe deposit box. The complimentary wifi is fast.
We stayed in the super luxurious ‘Pacific Vista’ suite, with 360 degree ocean and jungle views. The children couldn’t believe that our shower overlooked the rainforest below and that there was a private jacuzzi on the balcony. We even had our own fully equipped kitchen, and at least two other showers. The beds were king-size and very comfortable. The children had twin beds in a separate room and my 12-year-old bird-obsessed son spent a long time in the morning gazing out of his window into the trees and photographing the lovely colourful and unfamiliar birds, squirrels and monkeys.
There are several restaurants here offering a wide range of gourmet cuisines from around the world, multiple bars and lounges, a spa, tennis courts, three pools with ocean views, a couple of shops, and I mustn’t forget the gorgeous blue snooker table which the children enjoyed immensely.
A short walk away down a park through the rainforest, you can access the gorgeous and secluded Biesanz beach. My daughter spent five hours frolicking in the waves on our first morning and my son found the energy to go kayaking with his dad and found several more hidden coves.
The resort is spread over a few buildings. The area closest to the pool, main restaurant and entrance is where most activity is and where most people hang out and have a drink, swim, read and relax.
The children spent most of the afternoon enjoying the very large pool complete with bronze crocodile, jacuzzi, ocean views, bar area, and complimentary iguanas in the nearby bushes. There are two other pools which are adult-only further down the resort, but the main one (with the bronze croc) is in a great position as parents can enjoy the bar area and still keep an eye on the kids. Other on-site activities include tennis, hiking, mini-golf, bird and other wildlife watching.
We loved the walk through the resort down the ‘monkey trail’ although we didn’t see any monkeys there. They were mostly lounging in the trees close to the pool occasionally throwing mangoes down at the guests or posing for photos!
The hotel can organise and tailor-make any combination of tours you’d care to do – from white-water rafting, to canopy zip-wiring, hiking, river tours, biking trails, horseback riding to name but a few. There’s a room in the Parador resort full of great toys for smaller kids, trikes, and other activity based toys. We saw no one in there, as it was so nice outside. However, I guess it’s somewhere to go with small kids when it rains.
I really like the sustainable ethos of this hotel. There are several recycling programmes, a compost project, as well as water and energy conservation initiatives throughout. They grow their own micro-greens in-house using organic seeds. This makes for very tasty salads!
Breakfast is included in the room rate. The breakfast buffet included hot options, such as scrambled or fried eggs, omelettes or a full English as well as typical Costa Rican dishes of rice and beans too. We could also choose from a variety of breads, croissants, cereals, and wonderful exotic fruit juices like mango, passion fruit, guava.
There are about 10 other places to enjoy meals at the Parador, from tables for relaxing near the pool area, where you can order simple toasties or salad options, to very classy piano bar restaurants and romantic secluded options such as a wine cellar and European lounge areas. We tended to stay in the main pool and restaurant area with the children, where they could help themselves to whatever they wanted easily and quickly. Plus they could enjoy the wildlife in the trees and not have to stay seated for too long!
Manuel Antonio National Park
The other huge plus here is that you are just next to the Manuel Antonio National Park which is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful and richly diverse areas. There are tropical beaches, rainforest, monkeys and sloths and it’s a must-see attraction.
We loved this hotel. The Parador is a really family-friendly place. The rooms and suites range from being excellent to absolutely amazing. The views are stunning throughout and we could have easily stayed a week or more.
Rates for a family of four staying at Parador Resort and Spa range from between USD $300-$1500 per night, including breakfast, depending on the type of room/suite and depending on whether it’s high or low season.
Disclosure: Lorenza and her family were guests of the ICT Costa Rican Tourist Board for review purposes.