Our trip to Costa Rica was months in the planning, especially since we were trying to coordinate between four families in three different provinces. When we finally settled on Costa Rica, Mom immediately said she wanted to try ziplining. Now, Mom is well into […]
Tag: Costa Rica
Our group of 9 – including three young children and one senior with minor mobility issues – stayed at an Airbnb property, Casa Pacifica, when we were in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica, in January, 2018. Here is my review of the property, and our […]
When we were planning our last trip with kids, we kept coming up against the question: Do I need to bring my own car seat to Costa Rica?
We went on a family trip to Costa Rica in January, 2018, with six adults and three children, aged 5, 3, and 16 months. While we were there, we had a couple of airport transfers, as well as traveling in vans from two different agencies on tours.
Car seats are legally required in Costa Rica for infants and children up to a certain height and weight, and boosters are required for larger children. It appears that the rules were phased in over a period of time, causing some confusion, especially with tourists, as to what is actually required. At this point, the requirements are similar to those of Canada and the United States, so whatever type of seat your kid is in at home (rear facing seat, forward facing seat, or booster) is probably what they need under Costa Rican law, as well. I do note, however, that Costa Rica laws allow children to ride in forward facing seats much earlier than is recommended in Canada or the United States, so you may need to watch this, and specify you want a rear-facing seat if your child is over 12 months.
Specifically, babies up to 1 year, and 10 kilograms (22 pounds) in weight / 75 centimeters (around 30 inches) need to be in a rear-facing car seat. Children between one and four years old, weighing between 10 kg (22 pounds) and 18 kg (40 pounds) and between 75 and 110 cm (30 – 43 inches) need to be in a forward facing child seat with a built-in harness system. Children over four years of age, 18 kg (40 pounds) and 110 cm (43 inches) can be in a booster seat, using a regular seat belt. Children over 145 cm (57 inches) can travel with just a regular seat belt.
Our research indicated that most car rental companies do have seats available, for a fee. However, we did not plan to rent a car while we were there, and had not decided on any tours or tour agencies; there wasn’t much information about whether or not tour companies routinely offered child seats. The company who we booked for our first airport transfer had assured us that car seats were no problem, even for an infant, however, and made it fairly clear that any good tour company or rental place would have no issues with providing one.
My sister had elected to bring her own car seat for her toddler anyway, but we decided to leave ours at home, as it appeared that we would be able to make arrangements with at least the one tour company. The idea of hauling two car seats through four airports (and three hotels) over the course of six flights was just too much for us.
Our first airport transfer in Costa Rica showed up with only one car seat, even though we had specified that we needed two. However, our son is large for his age (though nowhere near the required 145 centimeters / 57 inches), and we decided we were okay with using a regular seat belt, rather than sending the driver to find another seat. The one car seat they did bring was in good condition, and had a 5 point harness similar to what we were familiar with in Canada, which we found encouraging.
We eventually did book some tours with a different company, and they were able to provide two car seats without issue. Again, they were clean, in good condition, and similar to the car seats we use in Canada, so we felt quite safe with that. However, our five year old son, who is large for his age, almost certainly should have been in a booster seat, rather than the full restraint seat, and probably exceeded the weight limit of the seat he was in. In addition, one of the car seats had an old-style three-point harness (straps that come over the shoulders and meet between the legs, with nothing around the waist), rather than a (somewhat safer) five-point harness.
All in all, our kids probably would have been safer if we had brought our own car seats from Canada. However, adequate options were available, and the main issue was more one of communication, rather than lack of options. If I were to do it again, I would pre-book a little further in advance, and make sure that any transport companies or tour operators not only knew how many child seats we needed, but also the age, height, and weight of each of the children, as that would have let them choose (and find, if necessary) an appropriately sized car seat.
I have to confess, I’ve been scammed in most of the countries I’ve visited. Whether it’s paying ‘tourist prices’ in overpriced markets, or having my cheap ‘local guide’ demand money to guide me back out of the medina he’d just guided me into, I kind […]
When we got to our Airbnb condo, the first thing that caught my eye were these fabulous, colorful geckos on the wall of our bedroom. We had just done some furniture re-arranging at home, and there was a new bare spot on the wall, just […]
We spent just under two weeks in Playas del Coco in January, 2018. We traveled with our kids, my parents, my sister and her family, and for part of the trip, my sister’s in-laws. Our group ranged from 6 to 8 adults and 3 children – our 3 and 5 year olds, and my sister’s 16 month old.
In general, Playas del Coco felt very safe. We did not encounter any significant hassles, and our only scam was at the airport when we arrived in Liberia. Playas del Coco itself was clean and orderly, and the beach was quite nice, though we did find occasional pieces of glass (we did not see any other garbage on the beach).
The self-catering condo we had rented through Air BnB was lovely, but was quite removed from the main street in town. This was a challenge for Mom, who has mobility issues, and the kids, who found the walk to the main part of town quite tiring. We solved this issue when my sister rented a little golf cart, which saw a great deal of use ferrying people back and forth, and was quite reasonably priced for the amount of hassle it saved us.
Prices in Costa Rica were not especially cheap, and the cost of groceries, in particular, surprised us. We spent almost as much on meals and groceries there as we would have at home! However, the quality of the fruit and vegetables was excellent, and my brother in law, a seafood connoisseur, was impressed with the fresh tuna he found at the fish market. Fish, in general, was good quality, and very fresh – there were fishing boats right in the bay! We sampled food at a variety of restaurants, as well as a couple of street carts, and it was all quite tasty, and there were good, simple options, even for picky eaters. For a place with such delightful fruit and vegetable selections, things were surprisingly heavy on the chicken and fish, with plenty of rice and beans, of course.
The beach at Playas del Coco had black sand, which got searing hot by the afternoon, but the sand itself was soft, with only a few rocks in places. The beach was never crowded at any time of day, which was wonderful! The bay was relatively calm, and, at low tide, the water was relatively shallow for a ways out. However, near high tide, the waves were quite aggressive, crashing on the beach, and the oldest and youngest members of our group were nervous about going into the water, as the waves were strong enough to knock them down.
Things to Do
There were plenty of options for things to do in and around Playas del Coco. There are lots of souvenir shops along the main street, and there are a couple of SCUBA diving outfits. Horseback rides, ziplining, and ocean tours are available, as well as jungle tours. The tours we went on (through Sibu Tours) were relatively pricey, but were also generally a good value. We took a wildlife (particularly monkeys and crocodiles) viewing tour on a local river that was a particular hit with the kids – our guide taught them to “speak howler monkey”, which they put to good use when we encountered howler monkeys not once, but twice! Sibu Tours were very accommodating, and went out of their way to arrange a short horseback ride for my daughter, which was not on the original itinerary, but was the highlight of her trip.
All of the people we encountered were friendly and approachable, and the general vibe of the town was very laid back. At one point, Mom needed medicine, and found the folks at the pharmacy very helpful, and they made sure she was getting what she needed, even though she couldn’t communicate in Spanish. People doted on the children, and went out of their way to greet them, which the kids enjoyed greatly.
While it is not our usual style to stay in one place for such a long time, it was perfect for a family visit, especially one that included such a wide range of ages and abilities. Playas del Coco is a great choice for families looking for a safe, laid back destination.