Teens

April 14, 2011

From the Mouths of Babes

Stephen at Manuel Antonio National Park

A proud mother from California sent us this great essay written by her 12 year old son Stephen about thier recent foray to Costa Rica. Want to see it from a kid’s point of view? Read on

Over winter break, my mother, my father, and my sister and I went to Costa Rica. It was one of the best vacations I have ever been on. I had an interesting time and learned a lot from our tour guide, Jorge . Jorge was always smiling and welcoming.

On the first day, we flew in to the San Jose airport and stayed at the Bougainvillea hotel, which had outstanding gardens that we explored in the morning. The first day was short and quick, but the second day was just around the corner. On Sunday, we woke up in Bougainvillea and had Gallo Pinto (rice and beans), and fresh tortillas for breakfast. I had never had fresh tortillas before, but they were amazing! After eating we drove east towards the Caribbean coast, over the continental divide. The driving felt like it took forever, and we were all still tired from the day of traveling before. We stopped at a small market and a banana plantation to see how they worked. The small market was pretty interesting because of how it was set up outdoors.

We later got aboard a boat with about 30 other people and journeyed out to Tortuguero. Skimming through the water, my sister and I took many photos of the trees and flowers passing by. After checking in to our second hotel, Anhinga Lodge, we took another boat to the Sea Turtle Conservation Center. There we learned about why sea turtles are important to Costa Rica with a group of other tourists. Then we went to the nearby beach, and bought coconut water from a man at a stand. He was very good at slicing the coconuts, and I was scared to get too close because of the gigantic machete he used. We explored Tortuguero town a little bit, but it was soon time to go back to our hotel and sleep. Shops, playgrounds, children, and dogs filled the streets of Tortuguero town. I really liked Tortuguero town because it reminded me of Burlingame Avenue, quite close to my home.

On day three, it rained very hard a while, but the weather was nice for our 5:30 am boat ride. We rode into the national park with Jorge and Michael, our boat driver. We saw caiman, colorful birds and howler monkeys. We returned to our hotel for a lovely breakfast. We then kayaked for the rest of the morning. I love kayaking. I really liked this part of our trip because it was much different from kayaking in California. In California, the sun is always shining in your eyes and the water is much more open and wide. In Costa Rica, we kayaked in small, narrow water with the lovely shade from the trees above our heads protecting us from the sun. In the afternoon, we relaxed for a while and swam in the hotel’s turtle-shaped pool until we went on another boat ride into the park. This time we saw river otter, sloth, bats, eyelash viper, and caiman. My favorite animal we saw this time was the river otter, because I never thought I’d see one in Costa Rica. The eyelash viper really stood out because of its yellow color in the green plants.

At 7 am the next morning we flew back to San Jose on a small airplane. I ordinarily hate airplanes but this was different. This was the first time I had ever been on such a small aircraft, and I actually thought it was pretty cool. We then drove through San Jose to Irazu Volcano, elevation 11,000+ feet. Irazu Volcano was very nice because of its big craters. We ate lunch on the mountain, then drove to Costa Rica’s largest archeological site, which was a market center 1,000 years ago. The archeological site was amazing. We saw all sorts of remains from the past. Rocks were everywhere and leaf cutter ants stretched for what seemed to be miles in just one line. The ants were fantastic but they sort of spooked me out in a way. The line of ants was almost the exact length of our trail, and there were so many of them! At the end of the day we checked into Casa Turire outside of Turrialba.

The next day we went white water rafting on the Pacuare River with our guide Pablo. One word describes this event – epic. The water splashed us and tossed us around, but thankfully no one fell out. This was so fun and we all enjoyed it. We learned how to maneuver the raft quickly and quickly got used to the feeling. We stopped to have a snack and play in the water for a few minutes. During that break, we skipped stones in the water and had a great time. We ate lunch overlooking the farms of the Turrialba Valley after driving back from the river. In the evening we visited Rancho Naturalista to see all sorts of hummingbirds. We even saw a mouse who would come out every minute to get a bite to eat. Afterwards we came back to our hotel and slept like logs.

On Thursday, we visited the Central Market in Cartago to see local produce. I had never seen so many fruits and vegetables anywhere in my life! We later took a flight to Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast. From the airport we walked to Titi Zipline. In the jungle, we rode on lines 1,000 to 1,500 feet, and rappelled down from a platform. This might be the best family thing we’ve ever done together. The wind brushed against our faces during the zipline and our hearts all pounded on the very first line. It was really fun and exciting but scary too. Then we went to Hotel Parador high on a cliff above the ocean. We often saw spider monkeys peek out of the trees at Hotel Parador.

The next day we hiked through Manuel Antonio National Park to the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. It was wonderful. The water was warm and we had hermit crab races on the beach. Jorge spotted a sloth at Anaconda Restaurant, later we left to go to our hotel. I had a fever in the evening, but it broke by 10 pm. I hated being sick in Costa Rica. Feeling sick at home is bad enough, but it just felt horrible to have to lie in bed during our adventure.

We packed up in the morning and drove to Jaco for lunch by the beach. We took the Tarcoles River ride to see crocodiles and many magnificent birds. We even saw 2 scarlet macaws. I was worried that a crocodile would leap into the boat and bite my head off, but my fear was turned to excitement once I was taking pictures of all these brilliant creatures. We drove over the mountains and back to San Jose and Hotel Bougainvillea for dinner.

On Sunday morning, we drove to the airport at 5:30 am and flew to Dallas Fort Worth. We ran as fast as we could to our next flight but missed it. We found a new flight departing at 4:30 pm and arrived home by 8:30 to watch the end of the Oscars.

This has been one of my favorite vacations so far and you just read why. It was magical, outstanding, and almost perfect. It would have been perfect if I hadn’t gotten sick, but you know, stuff happens. For anyone who hasn’t been to Costa Rica, I hope you consider going and have as much fun as I had!



February 27, 2011

Exclusive Costa Rica – Just for You and your Teens

Taking the leap into the river!

Thomson Family Adventures has been sending families to Costa Rica for a loong time. Our Costa Rican colleagues are truly a part of our family; they envelop you on arrival and care for you ’til you’re gone. They share abundant knowledge of everything from wildlife to forest to everyday life in their country. I’m pretty sure our past guests agree, these guides sneak into your heart and stay there forever.

I’d always heard about Costa Rica, but it wasn’t until I went myself that I really understood how fantastic this country and its people are. Volcanoes, rain forest, cloud forest, ocean, beaches, wild rivers. Monkeys, sloths, iguanas and lizards, butterflies the size of your fist. Leaf cutter ants! We could have spent hours watching those hardy soldiers carry their bits of leaves across the forest floor. And of course the warm and generous people who introduce you to this fascinating world.

After years of walking a path now so familiar to tourists we wanted to offer something more adventurous, more unique for our more mature travelers. Welcome to this new opportunity!

We’ve redirected our Teen Adventure to encompass some of the most pristine corners of the country. Away from the crowds but in the midst of the adventure action, we fly, then drive, then boat to Corcovado National Park. This remote peninsula offers untouched forest teeming with wildlife, and a beautiful reef for snorkeling.

In the center of the country we’ll ride the currents of the Class III / IV Pacuare River and thrill our hearts on a zip line you won’t soon forget.

On the Atlantic Coast we’ll pamper ourselves a bit with a stay in a luscious hotel on a beach unknown to tourist mobs. Here we’ll discover a region ideal for snorkeling the coral reef, and hiking in rain forest.

No built up tourist scene, just natural beauty waiting to be discovered by curious minds and active bodies! Come join like minded families with children from age 12 to the 20′s for our unique and exclusive adventure created just for you.



February 12, 2011

Top 10 Things About Traveling with Teens

Is your teen too cool for you?

Just because your child has become a teenager – or is acting like one – doesn’t mean you have to be intimidated by their demands or sacrifice your meaningful family vacation. Just remember these wise rules, and all will be well.

1) Choosing a destination that offers activities to challenge and excite – like a zip line, white water rafting, or kayaking – will keep your big kids active, engaged and satisfied. If they’ve done an activity before, try in a new environment for new excitement. Look for a variety of activities that give everyone a chance to try many things; don’t give them the chance to feel bored with the same old thing.

2) This is your family vacation, but diversions are very useful. Traveling in a small group of like minded and similar aged families gives you the chance to meet new people and make new friends. For many families, having company to share the fun with helps prevent the family bond from fraying under the stress of too much togetherness.

3) But don’t forget many teens suffer under the pressure to be Cool all the time in their peer group. For some kids, traveling as the oldest in a group will be the ticket to success. This gives them the opportunity to let down their guard, and remember how much fun it can be to just be a kid again.

4) If you let someone else be in control, the pressure is off! Your guide can call the shots, motivate the troops, get your teen to respond in ways you never could. Other kids in the group will inspire them to join in. Settle back and relax, this is your family adventure to enjoy too!

5) Don’t you want to get out of your all inclusive resort routine? Sure that was fun once, but in a resort you could be anywhere. Our kids are growing up, and rapidly forming their opinions and habits…What do you want to teach them? Your family vacation can be a fun and easy way to show them important things about the world. Step off the beaten path and discover the qualities special and unique to the destination – and local people – you are visiting. This makes everything more interesting – and more meaningful.

6) If you create a safe environment where where your kids can try new things – remember, these are the experimenting years – they will. But please, not at home in front of their friends! Karaoke? Salsa dancing? Noodle making? Weaving? Photography? Trekking? In the right context, and a more anonymous one, these unusual activities can be enthralling. And maybe your teen will discover a new talent!

7) If you let your kids be the askers, their natural inquisitiveness and leadership will blossom as they discover new cultures and lifestyles. When you travel with a local, expert guide you don’t have to know the answers – indeed, you will be learning too.

8) (I don’t know why a smiley face is in place instead of an eight, but I’m leaving it here!) Often it seems we work too hard to make everyone be the same – but we’re not, and that’s OK! Some are stronger, bigger, wiser. When you plan for things the younger kids can’t do, like bigger water on the rafting trip, or climbing Kilimanjaro, it shows your kids that growing up has its privileges, and they have earned the right to try new things.

9) Even teens get hungry all the time. Be sure there is a constant flow of food and water to keep them fueled. Full children are rarely cranky children, even with teenagers.

10) Sound overwhelming? Call the experts with your questions and concerns. A personable, knowledgeable advisor – not a phone bank – can make reaching your family travel goals a snap.