Costa Rica might be famed for its sloths, but kids won’t want to hang around in one spot for long. From surfing classes to cycling around a volcano, Chris Moss took his nephews on the trip of a lifetime
The sloth is many children’s favourite animal, and in a sanctuary south of Tortuguero national park, a three-toed male, hanging from a spindly branch, was putting on the full display of scratching, staring, smiling – and mooning. Simultaneously. Slowly. Photogenically.
It took my 13-year-old nephew to point out that the best thing about the sloth is its apparent idleness, which may be true, but isn’t the sort of role model you want when you’re on an activity holiday in Costa Rica. We left the sloth to his own devices as we had things to do.
Costa Rica is famously family-friendly and was the perfect destination to take our two teenage nephews on an easily accessible, sightseeing holiday of a lifetime. The country is small enough that a family of four can get around easily, taking in wonderful and ever-changing views of mountains, jungles, beaches and cloud forest.
The topographical diversity of this small, seismically sculpted country makes for myriad adventures. Older kids can go rafting, younger ones can share a canoe with an adult on a gentle river. Wildlife lovers will be just as happy as they tick off sightings of howler monkeys, basilisk lizards, morpho butterflies and vividly coloured hummingbirds.
All of which means that a holiday here, while fun-focused, has immense educational value. My other nephew, two years younger, asked why Britain only had seagulls, sheep and cows. Great question: long answer.
Learning comes from experience. We began in the Arenal volcano national park – one of Costa Rica’s 29 national parks. Both boys are cycling mad, so we booked a gentle, but intrepid-looking, mountain bike trip around the base of the peak. The journey took us through shady rainforest, along a beautiful river and to the edge of an ancient lava flow; older kids and adults can do steeper rides. The region around the volcano is also superb for ziplining, and spotting exotic birds high in the forest canopy as you walk along suspended bridges. Come evenings, hot pools and cold beers mean that adults can take a well-earned break.