Costa Rica & Making Your Hotel Room Kid-Friendly

ghogan August 13, 2010 2 Comments


Experiencing a vacation destination like Costa Rica with our kids undoubtedly gave us a new appreciation of the country even if my wife, Dora, once called it home. Children always offer us a new perspective by forcing us to open up to new cultures and new situations that we often miss out on as adults.

Central Market San Jose Costa Rica
Central Market in San Jose, Costa Rica

Holly wasn’t satisfied with the souvenir selection at the hotel gift shop (more on our hotel later).  As a result, we started to think “out of the box.” Our  search for a souvenir purchase for Holly’s best friend, took us on a 3-hour-drive to Central Market (Mercado Central) in San Jose, Costa Rica from our hotel off the small village of Monteverde. The drive (and thinking out of the box) was totally worth it!

This unplanned expedition into San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital and largest city gave the Hogans a true slice of local life (and made Dora nostalgic for her childhood). The Central Market is well-known with almost 20,000 people trekking through it daily. Therefore, finding it along the Central Plaza and the National Theatre was no problem. The market is not just a colourful building where commerce takes place but it is integral to the whole country’s history and culture, having been the gateway for many farmers who eventually settled in the city, including my wife’s family.

From morning to evening, the locals really gather here in the same way we meet up with friends at Starbucks for coffee and chitchat. We eventually located the perfect souvenir that our four year old could proudly give her best friend.  It was a handmade leather purse we bought for under $5. I was touched by my wife Dora’s memories of her youth, triggered by the mouth-watering scents that included traditional Costa Rican dishes like “casados” (a tasty brew of rice, beans, cheese, plantains, and meat) “gallo pinto” (beans and rice), fresh tortillas with cheese, and fried plantains.

Our daughters even had a sample of Dora’s favorite childhood beverage, “agua dulce” (a sweet drink made of Costa Rican sugarcane candy and water).  Also known by the obvious nickname “sweet water,” Holly seemed to love it as much as Dora once did!

One tip I learned about souvenir-shopping for our friends is to skip the hotel shop and head straight for the Central Market. You will discover some of the same merchandise at a significantly lower price.

Costa Rica Hotel Monteverde Surroundings
Hotel Monteverde Surroundings

Souvenirs at Costa Rican hotels shops might not be bargains, but finding family-friendly accommodations in the country can be, with hotel rooms starting at $50 which, in many cases, includes breakfast.

Dora’s parents, who have retired at a senior-living complex, gladly recommended the Monteverde Lodge in the small village of Monteverde, which has its own enchanted forest, “the Cloud Forest”.  Holly’s grandparents knew that seeing the low-hanging clouds and prosperous flora and fauna would make Holly think about her beloved fairy tales.  They were right! 

While the Monteverde Lodge is indeed family-friendly, I am listing a more extensive criterion of what I think makes accommodations truly “kid-friendly”:

1. Look for larger accommodations where your kids can move and play about and avoid sitting in front of the TV whenever you are indoor.

2. If you can afford it, and it is available, opt for a suite especially if you have a large family.

3. Adjoining rooms can give you privacy while keeping your children close by.  The kids can also sleep uninterrupted while the adults stay up a bit later.

4. Some hotels do supply cribs in addition to rollway beds for the older children.

5. Room service is a must and usually standard at most hotels. While we encourage you to explore the town, including the local groceries, eateries, and market places, on those days when you’ve been out and about and need some rest, you may wish to take some of your meals either in your hotel room or on your patio.

6. Most hotel restaurants or café carry children’s menu.

7. Check for organized children’s activities. These are mostly found at popular resorts, but you can also check with the hotel concierge for kid-friendly sight-seeing and activities (more below on this).

8. Inquire about hotel babysitting service.  This will give you, the parents, a chance for a quiet evening together.

9. Ask if there is an in-room refrigerator to keep your baby formula or leftover baby food cold.  Some family hotels even have a kitchenette or full kitchen.

10. Also inquire about a convenience store or supermarket on the premises or nearby.  If you have an infant, you will certainly need diapers and other supplies.

So you are probably thinking “too many things to look for!”  Not to worry—in our Internet-driven era, you can easily find reliable reviews online. Therefore, you don’t have to rely simply on luck when choosing a kid-friendly hotel but your own family-friendly sleuthing skills as well.

It is important to research the surrounding neighborhood of the hotel where you are planning to stay.  Check for restaurants around your hotel and if need be, for public transportation (we had Dora’s still-active parents to chauffer us).  In addition, if you plan to visit specific areas, check to see that they are easy to get to and from the hotel.  Since you will be traveling with your kids, these conveniences will make life much easier.

Finally, feel free to get nitpicky and cross-check hotel amenities against the features I listed above. This is a (usually) once-in-a-lifetime family trip where you will be shelling out mucho dinero (big money).  I suggest you get as much as you can for your hard-earned dough!

Whether you’ve found a hotel with which you are 100% happy, or only 50% satisfied, I put together some additional ways you can make your hotel room kid-friendly and SAFE, especially if you are like our family with a four year old and an 8-month old in tow.

First of all, pack some duct tape and rubber bands as these will be your essential tools.  Next, assess the room and identify all the electrical sockets that can be unsafe for curious tots.  You will need to cover them with your handy duct tape.  Now look under beds and behind cabinets and dressers for any items that might become choking hazards for curious little hands. Yes, housekeeping might have overlooked it!

You should also gather together electrical cords securely with rubber bands. You can use duct tape to keep cords safely tucked to wall bases so your tots won’t trip or pull them (and the appliance they happen to be attached to), causing an accident.

I also find that taping the dresser drawers and bathroom cabinets can prevent the kids from playing hide-and-seek in these hazardous spaces or getting hold of things in the medicine cabinet or under the sink.  I also recommend duct-taping the room temperature controls so the kids cannot play with them, as visible buttons tend to be tempting to little ones.  Last but not least, rubber band the drapery pulls, shortening them so the kids can’t play with them as well. And keep your windows and doors secure at all times, especially the ones leading to the balcony.

Make sure to clean out the mini-bar so the children cannot get hold of the prohibited items inside.  You can make arrangements with the hotel to relocate these items.  Use the space for the items you do need like baby formula, juice boxes, and popsicles.

Now we suggest you reward yourself for all the hard work you put in making your hotel room kid-safe by vacating it!  Have fun outside!

 As for the Hogans, we explored the little town of Monteverde, including the Finca Ecologica, a unique ecological safari farm that started at 5:30pm, which wasn’t too late to stay up for the kids.  Each trekker was armed with a flashlight as we tracked nocturnal creatures that included tarantula spiders, glow worms (Holly’s favorite), and sloths (my favorite).

For a family vacation, this was the closest thing we would be getting to a nightlife!

avatarAbout the Author:

Garrett Hogan lives in Burbank California and is a proud husband and father of two young daughters. He and his family love to travel and explore new places.

Tags: , Tips and Hints, Travel Excursions
2 Comments to “Costa Rica & Making Your Hotel Room Kid-Friendly”
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