Rickshaw Travel reveals why Costa Rica makes for happy family holidays

With more families choosing Costa Rica as their favourite long-haul destination, Rickshaw Travel reviews why families are travelling to the alluring country nestled in the heart of Central America.

According to Caroline King, Rickshaw Travel’s Local Product Manager, “60% more families have chosen to travel to Costa Rica with Rickshaw Travel within the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same time last year.”

Home to tropical beaches, rugged rainforests, exotic wildlife and volcanic landscapes, it is no wonder that Costa Rica has proven so popular among British tourists.

It’s been repeatedly ranked the happiest country

Ranking number one out of 140 countries by the Happy Planet Index in 2009, 2012, and 2016; Costa Ricans lead long, happy lives and benefit from higher levels of wellbeing than both the UK and the USA. Costa Rica’s choice to invest greater sums of money into health and education is a large contributing factor to this, as well as a lifestyle that involves spending long days being active in the sun – something that attracts British tourists to the country too.

This quality of life is reflected in the country’s ‘happy’ disposition: Costa Ricans pride themselves on being friendly, helpful and easy-going. In fact, the element that international tourists often remember the most about Costa Rica, is the warmth and kindness of its people and the importance of family unity.

In order for travellers to truly experience the warmth and cheerful spirit of Costa Ricans, Rickshaw Travel organises homestays with the locals:

NEW: At Home with the Tico
Families and other travellers looking to deviate from the usual tourist trail can get involved with Rickshaw’s new Juanilama Project in a typical Tico village an hour north of La Fortuna. Staying with a local family in the Juanilama community, travellers can help out with a whole host of activities from farming to cooking and will learn about everyday life in rural Costa Rica. The initiative was launched by a group of women to introduce travellers to remote villages, and to give the local women a sense of independence and entrepreneurialism. This two-day bite-size trip includes accommodation (based on two sharing), all meals, and an agricultural tour and cooking demonstration with community guide.

Alternatively, travellers can stay for two days with the Bribri tribe where they can really get to know the indigenous people and their culture. They can go swimming with the Bribri children, wander through great banana plantations, make their own chocolate and discover how local products are processed and prepared in traditional dishes. This two-day bite-size trip includes accommodation (based on two sharing), some meals, a canoe tour of the village and plantations and an English-speaking guide.

Families feel safe

ABTA[i] reported that in the last two years, the decisions behind choosing holiday destinations has changed with people opting for “places they perceived to be safer.” Given that Costa Rica is well-known for its peaceful temperament, ever since former president José Figueres Ferrer abolished the army in 1948, this may be one of the leading causes that makes Costa Rica so attractive to families.

And, if it’s peaceful holidays that families are looking for, Rickshaw’s ‘Lazy days at Palm Beach’ bite-size trip gives travellers all the “R&R” they need, with deserted beaches, swaying palm trees and the gentle sound of the lapping waves to comfort them.

[i] According to ABTA’s Travel Trends Report for 2017

Its diverse landscape adds to the adventure

Costa Rica may be a small country, covering less than one per cent of the planet’s surface, but it hosts five per cent of the world’s biodiversity and three and a half per cent of the world’s marine life, making it one of the most biologically rich countries in the world. Not only does this make Costa Rica a happy haven for nature-lovers, its varieties of landscapes and microclimates mean that holidaymakers can enjoy sunny beaches, tropical rainforests, colonial sites and even look into the mouth of a few volcanoes without having to journey too far.

What’s more, it is perceived that travellers get more for their money with the range of activities on offer in Costa Rica so budget-conscious families can get more bang for their buck.

Families can embark on active microadventures

Society and popular culture has become notably more health-conscious in recent years and this has had an impact on travel decisions too. Approximately “one in ten people took an activity holiday in 2016” according to ABTA research, a figure that is likely to increase throughout the rest of 2017with holidaymakers opting for “microadventures” involving a short break or a section of their holiday dedicated to experiencing the destination in a fun and immersive way by being active. This trend is particularly beneficial for families where parents want to encourage their children to live a healthy, active lifestyle.
With Rickshaw Travel, families can go snorkelling and stay in a jungle lodge located a few minutes’ walk from the beach, visit a pineapple farm and try their hand at catching their own fish for lunch and head out on a speed boat to spot dolphins and whales.

Costa Rica is the pioneer in sustainable tourism

Having almost 40% of its territory protected, and 25% of its landmass being national parks and reserves, Costa Rica is a world leader in conservation policies. In 1995, Costa Rica set up its own Sustainable Tourism Certification to measure and promote the level of sustainability in the tourism industry. All of the country’s initiatives are built around the social and economic development, and the preservation of its cultural and natural richness. With 2017 being the UN year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, now’s the time to celebrate Costa Rica as the rising star of ecotourism and sustainable development.

In this way, for those who want to escape the concrete jungle of city life and discover pastures new, Costa Rica provides the ideal retreat. In Rickshaw’s Tortuguero bite-size trip, families can do just that as they explore Tortuguero, which is inaccessible by road, in the search for turtles and howler monkeys.

Find out more about how Costa Rica is leading the world in sustainability and ecotourism here.

It’s now easier to fly there

Almost a year has past since British Airways launched its new flight route from London Gatwick to San José International Airport on 4 May 2016. Prior to this, Thomson had introduced a direct flight to Costa Rica from the UK in November 2015, which was the only nonstop route between the two countries.

The addition of both of these flight routes from the UK over the last two years facilitates family holidays. Parents no longer need to keep children entertained during tedious stopovers, they can reach the colourful country sooner and have much more choice over their departure dates with nonstop flights that run two to three times a week.

But have these new flight routes enticed British travellers to visit the verdant destination? Figures show that the two new direct flights to Costa Rica from the UK have significantly contributed to the increase in visitor numbers: 2016 proved to be a record year for inbound tourism to Costa Rica with a total of 71,392 British tourists, representing an increase of 50.3 per cent compared to the year before. In the 12 months before British Airways’ announcement, Costa Rica had seen an increase of 12.9 per cent of UK visitors.

As soon as travellers land at Costa Rica’s capital, the adventure begins. Waking up to a steaming cup of fresh Costa Rican coffee, they can spend their first few days in San Jose, discovering the city’s hidden spots with a guide, from bustling markets and shopping districts to numerous museums and galleries.

Pura vida!

For families who are restricted to school holiday dates, Pura Vida en Familia is a new dedicated family itinerary and a breath of fresh, tropical air that includes the spots with the best chance of good weather in July and August (although a little rain is always expected).
Families will begin their adventure in the bustling capital of San Jose before going in search of wildlife in the winding waterways of Tortuguero. They will head down the coast for a taste of the Caribbean in Puerto Viejo before marvelling at the spectacular Arenal Volcano and finishing their trip whizzing through the cloud forests of Monteverde on a zip wire.
This 13-day itinerary includes accommodation (based on two sharing), breakfast, transport by shuttle bus or car hire with full insurance and GPS, and excursions as described in the programme.

Those who still need a little more persuading can check out Rickshaw Travel’s family guide to Costa Rica and get a feel for the Costa Rican experience in this video.
To see the full range of trips and itineraries please visit www.rickshawtravel.co.uk or call Rickshaw Travel’s team of experts on: 01273 934 823.