Family travel snap: hiking lava fields in Costa Rica

Our family travel snap this month explores the amazing natural world of Costa Rica with Lonely Planet’s Managing Director of Publishing Piers Pickard and his family.

Kids Blog - piers
Piers' family put their best feet forward © Piers Pickard

What’s the story behind this photo?

We’re in Costa Rica where we’ve taken our two children, Patience and Edward, hiking through black lava fields on the side of Volcan Arenal. Our walk started in the rain (this being the rainforest!) but the clouds cleared as we ascended in the sodden heat, and we got the perfect view of a cone with a whisp of smoke (OK, maybe cloud) at the top.

I like this picture because it reminds me that Costa Rica was full of unexpected rewards. Some ‘gentle encouragement’ was necessary at the start but at the edge of a field we found some sugar-cane off-cuts and a hand-crusher. Liquid sugar did wonders for morale and enthusiasm, and the kids bounced through the rest of the hike.

They were even more excited about our next activity: a hot spring with a swim-up bar.

Kids’ perspective

Patience, nine, writes: ‘It was a walk with lots of nature. We saw pineapples, sugar cane and bananas. It was cool to think it exploded seven years ago.’

Piers’ tips for visiting Costa Rica with kids

1) Hire a wildlife guide on your first or second day. A good guide will show you how to spot animals for the rest of your trip, and will know enough amazing facts to get your kids interested.

2) Stick to one activity per day, leaving the afternoons free for swimming. Not only does this help you avoid any heat-induced tantrums but it also means one parent can slip off to do something else if they want.

3) We highly recommend Playa Negra Guesthouse. It's a beautiful place with a swimming pool, access to the beach, a couple of places to eat and a 20-minute amble to the incredible Cahuita National Park. Pierre, the owner, gave us the best wildlife tour of our trip. It was sloth heaven!

Where’s next on your family travel bucket list?

We’re enjoying the process of arguing it out for a few months. Eight-year-old Edward wants to go to Los Angeles for Hollywood; Patience favours Australia; Piers and Lindsey are trying to steer them towards China (Kung Fu Panda) or South Africa (Lion King).

Lastly, complete the sentence:

When we shut the front door ready to go and travel as a family, we always…

…go back at least three times for things we’ve forgotten: cuddly toys, sunscreen, our dog.

Inspired to go yourself? Find out more about visiting Costa Rica with kids.

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