Costa Rica is one of the most accessible destinations in Central America. It is full of tropical wilderness just waiting for exploration. I’ve traveled to Costa Rica many times in my life, but one particular trip is most memorable: A mother-daughter vacation during which the two of us slept in eco-lodges, bathed in hot springs, and hiked an active volcano. In the end it also brought my mom and me closer together.
We started our journey near San Jose, at the Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn. This hotel has a unique architectural style that feels organic and nature-inspired; it sits among the trees looking out over a stunning green vista. Our breakfasts of freshly squeezed juices, homemade jams, corn pancakes, and Costa Rican coffee were my favorite parts of our time here.
During our stay, I wanted to get out into the city to experience some local culture, so I asked a guide to show us the “real” San Jose. I knew this might push my mom out of her comfort zone but I thought she might like it.
The guide, who had never received this request before, arranged for us to have a cooking class in a friend’s home. During this class, we learned to make fried plantains, chicken with rice, fresh tortillas, and a traditional Tres Leches cake. We attended a Sunday mass and perused a farmers market. At night, our guide invited us into his own home, where his mother cooked us dinner. Finally, he took us out to a dance hall with shiny wood floors, where a big band played live salsa music. I could see my mom was amused as she watched me dance with locals.
After a couple of nights in San Jose, we headed by car to Arenal, to the Arenal Manoa and Hot Springs Resort. Rooms here are standalone, simple dwellings that dot manicured grounds. Our room was a great place to rest our heads after a long day hiking the Arenal Volcano. Standing at more than 5,000 feet, this towering volcano is about 7,500 years old. It was exhilarating to hike an active volcano, especially when we could hear the pops and crackles as we maneuvered up the black terrain.
Also in Arenal, we were sure to visit the Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort. This destination is legendary for it’s hot springs. For US$85, we received access to an immense maze of waterfalls and warm pools of spring water for the entire day. Included in that price was a meal, towels, and lockers. We also splurged on spa treatments. The place was like an amusement park for adults. It is a serious way to pamper yourself.
Viewfinder Tip: November to April is high-season for Costa Rican tourism. It’s also the driest time of year.
After Arenal we headed back to San Jose to catch a 1-hour flight to the Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica. This is a region covered in thick tropical rainforests, barely touched by humans. We stayed at the Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, which I found truly amazing. Here, there are 16 elegant bungalows, some (like ours) elevated in the trees, with an ocean view. Included with the room are meals, transportation, and guided tours of the surrounding forest—day or night. Phones, Internet, and television are not available. Here the entertainment comprises howler monkeys, macaws, sloths, wild boars, pumas, and iguanas.
Reflections on traveling with mom
As you can see, my mom and I went on an epic vacation together. I could not be more grateful for having the opportunity to share this adventure with her. This trip created memories I will cherish for a lifetime. And it wasn’t just our impressive itinerary that was so profound.
I really enjoyed our conversations, too. For the first time in a long time we shared breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. We spent long plane rides, car rides, and leisure time together. And we talked; we talked about everything.
Mom and me
I learned more about her childhood and her relationship with her mother. We reminisced about my teenage years. We laughed about silly arguments from the past. We cried thinking about some of the good old days. And we mused about the future.
And with her undivided attention, I got to ask questions I had wanted to ask for years. I won’t share all the personal details, but it all was very special. And when I decided to write about this trip I asked her what she got out of it. She responded that before the trip, she anticipated we would have an adventure and learn new things together. But on the trip itself she gained even more than that.
She said: “As it turned out, I found us sharing as adults, getting to know each other anew. We began to experience a kind of companionship that we hadn’t before. And I see now that I will remember those times forever. I appreciated gaining the knowledge of just how self-sufficient you are in a foreign country. And throughout our trip, I found that you instigated opportunities I never would have known otherwise, but thoroughly enjoyed—such as the cooking class and the dancing. You went from being my child to being a mentor for me somehow. You took me out of my box of my normal way of interacting with the world.”
Her words are so powerful to me. And this whole journey exemplified for me the great value of intergenerational travel among grown-ups. For us, the parent-child adventure helped cement a relationship strongly in the present, rather than having it planted so firmly in the past. Costa Rica was a great place for such a trip.
If you could travel anywhere with a parent or with your adult child, where would you go?