We stayed at Villas Rio Mar and after recovering from the intense heat, we unpacked in our lovely cabins and explored the beautiful garden. Iguanas were basking in the sun on every path, we were surrounded by exotic flowers and plants, toucans and tropical birds flew above and howler monkeys could be heard in the early morning. It felt like a real rain forest adventure. The huge pool was hotter than one we had been in, which wasn’t great during the day but was very fun to play and bask in at night. (uplit at night- hot magical bath with the surrounding exotic noises). One day we found a frog swimming around in the pool that jumped in by mistake from the surrounding vegetations.
From our “hotel”, we drove along the river to Dominical, which seemed like a very relaxed surfer’s community and not so much targetted to young families. The beach had black sand, and it was full of chilled out cafes and restuarants. Not really charming and also difficult to understand where the centre was so we didn’t spend much time there.
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary
On our list of things to do in this region was seeing animals. We had read about Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, where they took care of wild animals rescued through injury or caught young, and unable to survive in the wild. For example, sloths in the wild eat poisonous, toxic and medicinal leaves in a very particular order, which humans don’t know or understand and it takes the mums 2 years to teach their children. So if a baby sloth is abandoned, it has to live the rest of its life in captivity as it would very quickly poison itself if left free, having not learnt its mother’s secrets. The sanctuary is connected to a fancy hotel, up a very steep gravel road (definitely need 4×4) and run by a grumpy old American zoologist who built personal relationships with each and every animal. The sanctuary isn’t very big but each animal has a personal story of tragedy and recovery which were fascinating. Here we saw sloths lying around, racoons, macaws, parrots, spider monkeys, ant eater, and a few others.
We discovered new animals called Kinkajous, which were very cute, a mixture of a ewok, a squirrel and a teddybear. They ate fruit but ate very sharp teeth and claws.Definitely worth a visit with children as you’re guaranteed to see exotic animals, which you’re not always sure to see in the wild. The fact that you can see the animals from such a short distance is also a big plus when you have young children, since they are not that thrilled to animals playing in a tree 200 meters away. Costa Rica has incredible nature and wildlife and is very protective of it with very heavy fines for anyone caught trying to keep wild animals as pets.
The next day, we decided to visit Hacienda Barru, a nature reserve, which contains within it 7 different ecosystems. It really felt like an adventure hiking through the jungle, especially with 3 small children! Alex was in the sling, and the 2 older kids walked brilliantly. We saw quite a few animals but we’re sure that with a guide we would have seen even more! We saw an iguana that had somehow climbed up to the top of a tree basking in the sun, beautiful brightly coloured birds and butterflies. We followed the gaze of some other hikers and were “lucky” enough to spot a sloth’s bottom from very far away, it basically looked like a very still furball at the top of a tree and we hoped for better sightings. Walking in the middle of the jungle, we heard rustling and then a big wild boar simply crossed the path in front of us, followed by another and 5 babies. We were very still but they were amazingly calm, remind us that we were definitely in their home in the middle of the jungle, and not in a zoo. On the way out, some of us hear commotion in the trees and then spotted a family of capucin monkeys chasing each other just abov the path. Just as we were leaving, we did see an agouti in the garden outside, which to us look so cute and exotic but we were beginning to understand were more like the equivalent of a squirrel for locals, nice to see but no big deal.
We did the tour in the afternoon, maybe we would have seen more in the morning, and a tip is to wear fully covering clothes sprayed with anti-mosquito spray.
Looking through Trip advisor, we read about Cascada Verde in Uvita, a natural waterfall that you can slide down into the pool below. There seemed to be loads of cool videos on Youtube and great reviews online, but hardly anyone locally had heard of it or could give directions so after several attempts we eventually found it. Advice: 4×4 car needed again! You park your car at a cafe and then treck down a very steep path toward the water. We took Alexander and the kids with us, but in all honesty, not recommended for small children or babies. The pool was very small and quite crowded but the waterfall was beautiful. The water was very cool which was really nice on this particularly hot day.
On the way back to our hotel from one of our adventures, we peered through the trees on the side of the road and saw what looked like a beautiful palmtree beach, which didn’t appear on any of our maps. Lots of local (ie non-rental) cars were turning in through a gaps in the trees so we decided to follow. We parked our cars where we could and were lucky enough to arrive at the most beautiful sunset hour. We had an incredible time playing in the waves (although quite high for small children), swimming and running around on the beach with the wild waves of the Pacific ocean in front of us and the wild jungle of Costa Rica behind us. Again we played “missing the bus” in the waves. It was a truly magical evening, where we all just felt lucky to be alive and together in that incredible location.