From blue-footed boobies and howling monkeys to spewing volcanos and black sand beaches, a family vacation to either of these two adventure meccas is sure to create long-lasting family memories.
In Costa Rica
1. Visit Tortuguero National Park.
One of the best parks in Costa Rica, this is a major nesting area for the green sea turtle as well as home to more than 300 species of birds, including herons and kingfishers, monkeys (howler, spider, and white-faced capuchin), sloths, caiman, iguanas, frogs, and butterflies.
2. Go batty.
Learn about bats at Costa Rica’s Tirimbina Biological Reserve. Bats represent almost 50% of the mammals in Costa Rica (113 species). You’ll find out about the natural history of these curious creatures as well as their adaptations, reproduction and how they are captured for research.
3. Raft the Rio Sarapiqui
Enjoy the thrill of Class II and III whitewater amidst Costa Rica’s beautiful scenery while observing abundant wildlife beyond the water’s edge.
4. Explore Arenal Volcano National Park.
Hop aboard the Sky Tram Gondola and check out the Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake. Next up: ride ten zip lines down for the ultimate adrenaline rush.
5. Discover Otavalo.
Home to one of the most popular indigenous markets in South America, your family will long remember the colorful Ecuadoran market, brimming with handmade items sold by the native people in traditional dress.
6. Visit Punta Pitt.
This is one of the only sites in the Galápagos where the three species of the famous boobies can be found, along with two frigate species, plus a colony of bachelor sea lions along the beach.
7. See Santa Fe Island.
Find out who will be “Beach Master” among the sea lions. Snorkel and swim or observe the sea life from a glass bottom boat. Check out the native land iguanas that are unique to this island.
8. Sleep aboard a cool ship.
Travel by night. Explore new islands and habitats by day. (Families will like the quadruple cabins) Tilt your head to see an albatross cross the sky overhead. Sleep well, rocked to sleep by extraordinary natural beauty.
What are single parents looking for when planning family travel?
Like most parents, they want minimal stress and maximum time together during their family vacation. (And maybe a little "me" time)
Here are five possibilities:
1. Consider a farm vacation.
Slow down at Feather Down Farm, one of three working farms in the United States and 50 in Europe that welcome families interested in learning about sustainable farm practices, healthy eating and life with chickens, goats and lambs. A parent might head out for a hike or settle in with a book, while the kids learn to churn butter or collect eggs for breakfast. Visit the Honesty Shop where family members can peruse local produce and other items, sign up for what looks interesting and perhaps craft a dinner from their purchases. Spacious tents, with authentic detail, offer a private room for adults as well as a cozy “cupboard bed” where kids can tuck away for the night.
2 International adventure.
Single mom Michelle Kingsley O’Neill and her triplet sons spent a month exploring Ecuador and brushing up on their Spanish skills. With a rental home on the beach in the coastal town of Olon as their home base, the family of four took language classes and enjoyed side trips to Cuenca and other sites of interest. They also sampled local cuisine and learned to surf and zip-line.
With high school on the horizon, O’Neill agreed to the boys’ request for home-schooling the following year so they could fit more travel into their education plan.
Contact: www.ecuador.travel www.theseagardenhouse.com
3 It’s all included.
Board a cruise ship or check in to an all-inclusive resort for a stress-free getaway. You’ll have a clear idea of how your travel budget will break out while knowing there will be plenty of activities and dining choices for everyone in your clan. More companies like Disney Cruise Lines and Beaches Resorts are putting extra energy toward making single parents feel welcome.
Efforts include group dining, waiving single supplements and special social events. In no time, kids will converge through sports, on the beach, and during arts and crafts, thus finding age-appropriate friends with whom they can share new experiences. The bonus: solo parents discover a window for relaxation.
Solo parents checking into the all-inclusive AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit will have the single supplement fee waived when traveling with their children. In addition, one child will stay at a 50 percent discount. Expect a state of the art kids’ club and airport transfers, as well as day and evening beach, eco and sporting activities that will engage adults and children throughout their seaside vacation. Ask about current promotions and special offers.
Contact: www.Beaches.com; www.DisneyCruise.Disney.Go.com www.rivieramaya.grandvelas.com
4 Ride the rails.
Train excursions provide one parent traveling with kids a relaxed and stress-free opportunity to enjoy one another’s company. On board Via Rail, Canada’s premier passenger rail service, kids will love visiting the panoramic dome in the Skyline or Park car for a unique vista. They also can join other junior explorers for movies and games. With discounts available for children, choose from cross-country adventures or itineraries that offer some gorgeous scenery.
Contact: 1-888-842-7245; www.trainpackages.ca; www.thetrain.com.
5 Ranch relaxation.
Adventuresome parents eager to share their passion with the next generation will welcome a stay at this secluded guest ranch in central Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Choose from activities that include fishing in the Salmon River, an overnight pack trip, swimming in a pool fed by hot springs, cycling and river floats. Evening children’s programs enable mom or dad to carve out quiet time or join in weekly barbecues, while the kids enjoy new friendships. The ranch is open mid-June through mid-September. Visit the dude ranch site below for other ranch vacation ideas.
Contact: www.idahorocky.com; www.duderanch.org