I love my kids dearly, but traveling with our three rambunctious boys (ages, 3, 6, and 8) can be quite the challenge, even if it’s just a short trip. So these days family vacations consist of the usual suspects: Trips to Disney World, all inclusive Caribbean resorts, Lake House rental in Wisconsin and visiting various beaches in Florida or California. And don’t get me wrong, all great trips and great places but we were ready for a something new, for a different kind of family vacation: A family adventure!

And that is when I remembered Costa Rica. The last time we visited Costa Rica was 10 years ago. My wife and I remember the four weeks we spent backpacking across the country quite fondly. It was our last care free trip before life, kids and careers changed our traveling habits. What also stuck with me was how everyone seemingly adored children and how kid friendly everything was. So, we agreed on trying something very different, and less of a safe bet, for our latest vacation.

Before we knew it the plane touched down in San Jose on a misty August afternoon. Clearing customs was a breeze and we were soon greeted by Roberto, one of the shuttle drivers for the Hotel Buena Vista in Alajuela, a suburb of San Jose and or first stop.

When Tommy, our youngest, started to complain that he was thirsty, Roberto immediately offered to stop at the next road side convenience store to get a drink and thus Tommy had his first taste of pineapple Fanta. It was all he needed to brighten his day.

The Hotel Buena Vista is a short 20 minute drive from the San Jose airport and sits up high on a hill overlooking the hustle and bustle of San Jose. The beautiful views, friendly staff, inviting pool, little playground and the nature trail running through the lush private gardens and coffee plants made this the perfect place to start our Costa Rica family vacation.

Next morning, we picked up a rental car, and set off on a 3 hour drive to Manuel Antonio. Located just past the town of Quepos along the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio features beautiful beaches and dense jungle with exotic flora and fauna.When the boys saw the three-foot long iguanas they got really excited, and declared them mini-dinosaurs!

The highlight of our stay in the area was without a doubt the breathtakingly beautiful and luxurious Buena Vista Luxury Villas which are set amid the peaceful 33-acre gated Tulemar Gardens property that slopes down to its own exclusive & private sandy beach. The resort features individual luxury villas with breathtaking views, outdoor showers and even a private hot tub on your balcony. You can enjoy all the amenities of a high end resort, including concierge service, daily maid service, three pools to chose from (with bar service), spa services, beach bar, free use of kayaks & boogie boards and even the option of having a private chef prepare a specialty meal. The only problem with staying at one of the Buena Vista Villas is that we did not want to leave the property and explore the rest of area.

We would spend the morning sipping coffee on our deck, enjoying the views and watching monkeys jump from tree to tree while the kids splashed around in the hot tub, treating it like their own private pool. In the evening the coffee would be substituted by a cocktail and instead of monkeys we would be mesmerized by the sunsets over the Ocean. In between we would lounge at the pool or head to the beach where we would make use of the boogie boards and kayaks, or build giant sand castles.

After a few relaxing days, we did decide to explore the area including the quaint town of Quepos as well as beautiful Playa Espadilla. Everyone loved going on a catamaran cruise that featured dolphin watching, snorkeling and even a humpback whale sighting. If going with kids, you also want to make sure to take them for dinner at El Avion. Trust me. The restaurant features a  C-123 airplane that was rebuilt and turned into a restaurant, with the fuselage housing the bar. It is set atop the Manuel Antonio hillside with amazing views and fresh seafood and while there is no official kid menu the waiter will offer to have the kitchen prepare anything your kids may desire.

Overall, Costa Rica with kids was a huge success, so if you are looking to do something different with kids, give it a try. Easy to get to, affordable and very kid friendly make this a perfect family vacation destination.