Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo is perfectly positioned for a family outdoor adventure. The Resort is nestled on an isthmus ringed by two volcanic sand beaches: Playa Virador, the quiet Pacific-side beach, and the active bayside Playa Blanca, your playground for an array of non-motorized water sports.
As a group made up of 2 families with 5 children ages 5 to 15, we travelled from New York to Costa Rica. During our vacation, we soaked up sun, salt, sand and sea. We also came away with a greater appreciation of Costa Rica, and the abundant wildlife that inhabits its tropical forests and the waters surrounding the beautiful peninsula.
With only a week, it was hard to experience it all. But here’s our list of top 10 favourite adventures.
The kids loved kayaking in and around the bayside of the peninsula. The highlight was spotting pelicans, sea turtles and schools of mullet. My older son, age 15, brought along his fishing rod and caught and released a ladyfish.
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
Throughout the week there were stand-up paddleboarding lessons for beginners, like me. I actually managed to stand up—once. Naturally, the kids were fearless and needed no instruction.
My boys brought their own snorkelling equipment but the Resort had ample supplies. Off Playa Banca, they spent hours swimming among pufferfish, parrotfish and grouper. They also encountered triggerfish, trumpetfish and jacks off Playa Virador.
Scuba diving lessons
Scuba diving lessons were held in the Blanca Pool , serving as a safe way for the teens to try the activity for the first time. The instructor made everything simple: the kids learned how to retrieve the regulator, communicate under water, adjust buoyancy and release water from their masks.
Trail of the Giants
Photography Thomas Chamberlin / Alamy Stock Photo
The Resort’s Trail of the Giants was a one-hour guided tour that took us through the tropical dry forest surrounding the golf course . We paired up and formed a caravan of six golf carts, weaving up and down the wooded trails and stopping to observe the wildlife. Our favourite creatures were the adorable white-faced howler monkeys, perched up high in the trees. At the top of the trail, we jumped out of our carts for a photo in front of the gorgeous panoramic view of the Pacific.
During low tide on the southern end of Playa Blanca, we explored the tidal pools, chased hermit crabs and collected seashell treasures such as colourful cowries, olives, cones and augers.
Photography Peter Schickert / Alamy Stock Photo
Serious boogie boarders, the boys would study the tides and the winds to figure out the best time of day to catch a wave off of Playa Blanca.
Palo Verde National Park
On a five-hour private excursion to Palo Verde National Park, we enjoyed a boat ride across the Tempisque River. Our expert guide pointed out the animals that inhabit the mangrove-lined shores: iguanas, crocodiles, monkeys, blue herons, egrets, kingfishers and bats.
Included in the tour was a delicious casada—a traditional Costa Rican-style lunch at El Viejo, a local hacienda. The kids enjoyed multiple plates of breaded tilapia, fried plantains, corn tortillas, white rice and beans. For dessert, we sampled sweet rice pudding.
Half-day fishing trip
On our half-day fishing excursion, we embarked at Marina Papagayo—a quick 15-minute ride via the Resort shuttle. The Fish Tale II accommodated five people, plus a captain and a mate. The boys trolled the crystal waters, hooking bonita fish and mahimahi. On the way back to shore, they excitedly spotted sea turtles and manta rays. Back at the Resort, their catch of the day became the base for our fish tacos and blackened fish, expertly prepared by the Executive Chef at Tico’s .
Four Seasons Catch of the Day
For those who may not have sea legs, local fishermen bring the fish to you three days a week. As part of the Resort’s Catch of the Day programme, an ice-filled boat manned by Resort Chefs offered us the opportunity to select fresh fish, which we then enjoyed during an al fresco dinner at Sol y Sombra Latin Market & Seafood Grill .