Cruise through a crocodile habitat, trek deep into a monkey forest and paddle past tropical shores that sheltered pirates on this unique family vacation in the Los Sueños, Costa Rica area. Most of us know that pirates were feared throughout the Caribbean. And Costa Rica’s eastern shores saw some serious swashbucklers in days of yore. But many don’t know that the country’s Pacific coast was also a hotbed of pirate activity. This family tour takes you to places where dreaded privateers once tread.
Live a Bit of Buccaneer History
DAY 1: Come Ashore in a Pirate’s Paradise
At the San José airport, a private air-conditioned transport meets your crew. Enjoy snacks, beverages and an onboard multimedia system during the 90-minute ride to your sanctuary by the sea. Watch a movie, play some video games or simply enjoy the tropical landscape that slips past as you settle into your exotic escape.
Arrival at Los Sueños Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort offers an impressive sight. Tucked between a lush rainforest reserve and shimmering Pacific waters, the 1,100-acre retreat welcomes exploration. After checking into an ample colonial-style guestroom, and taking in soaring views over sea and sand, the gang is going to want to check out the grounds. Splash in the sprawling Venetian-style pool, get in a game of volleyball or play a round of miniature golf. Maybe join a class to craft souvenirs with the Tortuga Kids Club or set off on the La Iguana Experience, an on-site guided tour that winds along nature trails to spot resident monkeys, scarlet macaws, toucans and iguanas.
DAY 2: Mangroves and American Crocodiles
Start the day with a bountiful breakfast buffet, Marriott’s generous spread of international dishes and American favorites. Then it’s off to delve deep into a crocodile habitat. The same way sailors explored these waterways in days of yore, you board a boat for a trip down the Tárcoles River. The slow-moving cruise eases along riverbanks thick with tangles of mangroves that rise to a lush jungle canopy. Your bilingual guide helps to identify a rainbow assortment of tropical birds and the monkeys that call the treetops home.
The boat is soon deep into crocodile territory. One of the largest populations in the world, over 2,000 American crocodiles populate the river, sunning themselves on riverbanks and slipping silently through brackish water on ominous hunts. But fear not landlubbers, the tour is safe and even educational. Your guide is well versed in crocodile behavior and explains some things about these social creatures you may not have known. This morning tour wraps up around lunchtime, perfect to get in some afternoon and early-evening activities like hitting the beach or dining at one of the nearby seaside eateries.
DAY 3: Outrigger Canoe Along Coastal Coves
Ready for a more-active time out on the water? This morning we pick up some paddles and shove off in an ocean kayak! Of course, first, the family will want to hear the advice of your pro steersperson, who gives instruction and helpful hints that will make the adventure safe and stress-free. More stable than the wooden pirogue canoes favored by pirates of yesteryear, outrigger canoes are one of the most secure ways to cruise through the calm waters around Playa Agujas.
Your guide navigates the crew out beyond the breakers to behold the stunning landscape from the sea. Majestic coastal mountains give way to rich rainforests and unspoiled beaches below. Keep your eyes peeled for monkeys that swing through the trees and gigantic pelicans that swoop above your head and make dramatic plunge-dives for surface fish. Just beyond a jagged reef, you come to a secret cove that would have been perfect for pirate’s booty, but today serves as a tranquil spot for a snorkel or swim. With a wrap time around lunch, the canoe expedition leaves the rest of the day for further adventures.
DAY 4: The Family Meets Monkeys...Lots of Monkeys!
There’s no need to paddle on this morning’s boat adventure. A shaded riverboat does the work as the family enjoys a leisurely trip into an exotic mangrove forest. A bilingual guide heads up this slow-moving passage into dense wetlands that are home to a unique assortment of wildlife. Sloths lazing in trees barely note your passing, while silky anteaters put on more-active shows as they amble along tree branches. Your guide helps identify the variety of colorful butterflies that share the air with a host of tropical birds.
But this journey deep into nature is all about monkeys. And the riverboat slows to get up close and personal to a troop of capuchin monkeys who have gathered to watch your arrival. The guide calls to them. More often than not these curious critters can’t resist coming down and checking out visitors. They’re likely to hop into the boat and even scurry up arms in safe interaction under the watchful eye of your guide. Keep the smartphone ready to snap some shots before the boat heads back. You emerge from the retreat and return to the hotel in time for lunch and then perhaps some lounging at the pool.
DAY 5: Catamaran Cruise to a Pirate Hideaway
The outing on your final full day takes the family to a true pirate haven, an island sanctuary where raiders who sacked Costa Rica’s mainland once found refuge. Abundant timber, calm waters and a secluded locale made it the perfect hideout. Today these same features make it ideal for a day of family fun. Board a modern catamaran for a sail across the Gulf of Nicoya, with the possibility of spotting dolphins, sailfish and humpback whales along the way. Drinks and snacks welcome your arrival on the white-sand beaches of Tortuga. Swim and snorkel in crystal clear turquoise waters or get a bit more high-octane and tear off on a banana boat ride. Some of the crew might enjoy walks along nature trails while others prefer to get in a game of beach volleyball. Parents rarely miss the chance to laze in a hammock under the shade of palm trees that sway in the sea breeze.
DAY 6: Weigh Anchor With Wonderful Memories
We’re down to your final hours, but there’s still time to enjoy a little piece of paradise. After a traditional Costa Rican breakfast you might want to wander along the beach. Kids rarely miss the chance for a final plunge in the pool. Get a round of tropical refreshments to recount highlights as you savor the last moments on the hotel's green grounds. Soon enough your private airport transport is there to help bring your amazing Costa Rican vacation by Jaco Beach to a fitting close.