Are you looking for a Costa Rica “soft-hiking” adventure that’s easy and enjoyable even with a baby or toddler strapped to you, or a toddler or preschooler shuffling on foot? That’s exactly what we found at Arenal Hanging Bridges, near San Carlos de la Fortuna (La Fortuna) and a stone’s throw from the family-friendly Arenal Lodge, where we stayed during this portion of our Costa Rica family road trip.
You’ll adventure together along a 3 km (less than 2 miles) self-guided interpretive trail with sturdy suspension bridges across impressive ravines and through the tree tops, with no shortage of wildlife to spy along the way. Just walking across the first wide expanse bridge, we found a group of howler monkeys above us, including a mother howler with her baby clinging to her. With my own 2-year-old on my back, we had to grin and wave.
We also had some nice tropical bird sightings, and watched a highway of leaf-cutter ants paralleling us along the way. My only uncomfortable near-miss with wildlife here was with a bumbling black wasp with bright orange antennae, whose body was as big as two hummingbirds put together. Fortunately, he was as easy to hear coming as he was to see, and we steered clear of each other on the trail.
As you can see in this photo, you’ll cover a lot of ground–and canopy. That silver sliver in the center is another hanging bridge you will cross there in the distance. All of the bridges themselves felt very safe and were enclosed with just enough of a gap at the bottoms to lose a small child’s shoe–which we, thankfully, did not.
Good to know:
- The “hike” took us just over an hour with the kids on foot.
- The trail itself was very shady, so we did not have need for our sun hats or sun block out on the trail, though they will be helpful if resting or dining up at the lookout area above.
- The trail is cleared and easy to follow, and embedded cinder blocks make a non-slip surface in case you adventure through in a drizzle.
- The sand filling the cinder blocks is uneven, however, so do wear your thick-soled walking or hiking shoes, especially if you’ll have the added weight of a child to support.
- Arenal Hanging Bridges is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Children under 12 years are free, adults $24 , students $14, Seniors $19
- There are restrooms (bring your tip) and a restaurant above at parking area.
Hanging Bridges is located at La Fortuna, about 4 km. east of Tabacon. If you are staying at Arenal Lodge, you will be extremely close to the Hanging Bridges driveway, which is the first turn off immediately at the end of the Lago Arenal (Arenal Lake) dam, and is also the driveway to the Lost Iguana. The driveway is approximately 3 km. of steep and winding cobbled road, so be prepared to use 1st gear when necessary.
While you’re there:
Don’t miss the fantastic view of Arenal Volcano from the lookout area. You can plan to enjoy lunch or a treat with a view at the picnic tables or in the restaurant while you’re there.
For more information, visit www.hangingbridges.com.
Related posts and pages:
- Review of Arenal Lodge, Costa Rica
- 5 ways to ease your arrival in Costa Rica with kids
- Car seat laws in Costa Rica may be stricter than you think
- See all Travels with Baby Costa Rica tips and recommendations
Just last week while exploring Kauai’s most kid-friendly beaches, my hubby and I had to marvel how well this pop-up sun tent has traveled and served our family (we’ve actually brought it to Thailand and Mexico, among other places)—and how we’d definitely recommend bringing one to any family visiting Kauai with young children.
Sure, expecting your toddler to spend his entire beach time playing in a UV-protective tent is unrealistic at best. But the 10 minutes he may play “sand hotel” in there are just the beginning.
On this last trip alone, our tent:
- Helped keep sand and sun off of snack bags, backpack and camera case as we snorkeled and frolicked in its front yard.
- Sheltered our entire family of 5 (cozy!) when the winds picked up and we shivered in our wet bathing suits.
- Gave a rain-proof place to stash our things (those snacks, camera) during occasional tropical cloudbursts during an otherwise glorious afternoon at Ke’e Beach.
- Served as a convenient changing cabana for even for my husband of 6 feet (no, not while standing).
- Gave shade to my over-sunned shoulders and back while my legs stuck out begging for more.
In the past, it’s also served as a shaded and private retreat for breastfeeding at the beach, and a kid or two has managed a nap in there, as well as said husband of 6 feet, with his legs stuck out begging for sun, naturally. Want a convenient place to change baby right on the beach—without getting the sun or sand in his eyes? It’s ideal.
Buying tips for your sun tent: There are a variety of pop-up sun tents available like this (click here to browse several pop up sun tents on the market), but ours has been just the right size to swivel-fold into a disc of only 1-2 inches thick to stick in the bottom of the suitcase without adding much weight. Your best bets will include a window or two for ventilation when desired and sand pockets to help keep it grounded in a gust—I don’t recommend relying on stakes in the sand and with small kids at play. Besides, they love helping to fill the sand pockets as you set up.
Note: The sun umbrella shown above made a great covered porch for our tent up until the breeze picked up. After chasing it a few times and not finding a good way to anchor it in sand I gave up on it.
Find more tips for planning beach vacations with small children in Chapter 2 of Travels with Baby, and find practical advice on having fun in (spite of) the sun with young children in Chapter 7.
Have you used a pop up sun tent on vacation? Think one might make the difference in your upcoming travels?
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This question was recently posted to the Travels with Baby facebook page by Maggie:
Hi Shelly! In a few weeks, my husband and I are off to Fiji with our one year old. Do you have any recommendations for insect repellant for the little one? I’ve found some wipes which seem like a better bet than a spray for applying on squirmy toddlers, but was wondering if you had any favorites. Thanks!
Some of you may remember these as a Pack This! feature last year, but since this question popped up just as I was recommending these to a friend traveling to Indonesia and thinking I’d better get some for our own travels next month – not to mention camping season is around the corner – I figured it’s as timely as ever!
I’ve had great success with these Buzz Away Extreme DEET-free insect repellent wipes (or towelettes) for our whole family. I’ve found the individually wrapped wipes indispensible for travel, and love having no heavy liquids to pack or leak in the suitcase. The wipes also make it easy to apply to babies and toddlers (even on their peach-fuzz heads) without risking any spray getting into their eyes or lungs.
Better still, you can always keep several extras in your daypack to have on hand when you may not expect to need them – but suddenly do!
At home, I also keep the spray handy for spritzing our hiking shoes and pant legs (and sometimes hats) to help discourage ticks as we head off into the hills.
Do you have a favorite insect repellent for your children?
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|Ticks, biting flies, mosquitoes be warned: this mom’s in no mood for shenanigans.|
From our first camping trips with our firstborn–and when we soon after hauled her off to southeast Asia at 7 months old, right up to our recent travels in Costa Rica with our third toddler in tow, I know that finding a DEET-free insect repellent that’s safe to use on babies and young children remains as important an issue for those of us taking the kids on a hike in the tick-riddled hills near home as for those heading off to camp at the lake–or hike near the big volcano.
When I saw there is also a glorious family-size pop-up canister of these wipes available, I couldn’t help but think this is the perfect centerpiece for our picnic table the next time we camp in Yosemite Valley in early summer. While that’s not where we’re headed this camping trip, some remaining Buzz Away Extreme wipes are already in my backpack.
For those who are interested, I cover the topic of “Managing Mosquitoes” in detail in Travels with Baby, including important considerations about malaria and young children and the use of anti-malarial drugs in both children and breastfeeding women. You’ll also find tips on finding less risky zones for travel and finding fewer mosquitoes altogether, plus more DEET-free ways to protect your baby from mosquito-borne illness during travel.
* In case you’re wondering, I’ve paid for all my insect repellents (and there have been many) out of my own pocket. As always, my opinions remain my own. And as always, use products according to the manufacturer’s instructions and with a healthy dose of common sense.
All content of this blog (c) Shelly Rivoli
I’ve long been a fan of John Lennon’s song “Imagine,” but during our recent trip to Yosemite I began to take serious issue with the line: “Imagine there’s no heaven.” As the early May sun lit up the meadow and we pedaled through the Valley with our entire family of 5 for the first time, I thought, “Nope. I like to imagine that if there is a heaven it’s a lot like riding my bike through Yosemite in spring.”
As some of you might recall, I’m not the world’s most confident bicyclist, though it’s something I’m working hard to overcome in the interest of my children and our family ‘s recreational pursuits. Yosemite Valley, I have found, is one of the most spectacular and easiest places to bike together as a family—and once your children are too big to lug around in backpacks on the hiking trails—and before they are sturdy with stamina enough to hit the more rugged trails themselves, biking with them is one of the hands-down best ways to see and experience Yosemite with young children.
I sincerely hope that all of you reading this will get the chance to do it. Here are my top tips to help:
1) Bring your bikes—and locks.
If you’re bringing your own bikes from home be sure to carry a couple of U-locks. Bikes generally seem pretty safe around Yosemite, but the locks will give you piece of mind any time you stop along the way on your road trip, or while you pull over to picnic in the park–or take photos at some of the busiest spots. Since bikes are very common in Yosemite, you’ll find plenty of places to park them.
2) Rent bikes, bike trailers, or tandems in Yosemite.
Bike rentals are available at two locations in Yosemite: Yosemite Lodge (next to the swimming pool) and at Curry Village. Yosemite’s rental bikes have at most two gears, but this is generally perfectly adequate for cruising the valley floor (with two kids in a trailer, you’ll get some extra exercise on the slight inclines). In addition to renting adult bikes and kids bikes ($9.50 hr / $25.50 day), you can rent an adult bike with a double trailer ($16 hr / $50.50 day). Helmets are also available for rent, though the smallest available is a toddler size – you may want to bring your own if biking with an infant under 1 year. A couple of tandem bikes are also available and may work for you and your school-age child.
3) Bring a lightweight backpack, preferably with support straps.
Having my “Mommy’s Action Pack” with me made a world of difference on this trip. A lightweight backpack with chest & waist support straps make it easy to bike comfortably with the pack and stay out on the trails for hours. Must haves: diaper changing pack, our picnic and snacks, extra water bottle pockets, lightweight picnic blanket (or NeatSheet), sweatshirts, sun hats for when we stop and take off those helmets to play, sun block, baby-friendly insect repellent (in case), antibacterial hand wipes or gel, and camera. (BTW, I’m loving my new Kelty day pack— bought on my own dime—big enough for all our stuff, two water bottle pockets, and the top zip pocket is perfect for easy access to my cumbersome camera.)
4) Use trail-a-bikes with preschoolers in Yosemite.
Trail-a-bikes (trailer bikes, tag-along bikes) we’ve found to be invaluable when biking Yosemite with our kids who are not ready to be out on their own bikes, but are a bit too big for the trailer. They are also a great way to help them get some biking confidence and skills—not to mention exercise. I also appreciate the extra help on the hills! As I’ve written before, the “Frog Seat” front-mounted baby bike seat from iBert is also helpful when using trail-a-bikes. Unfortunately neither of these are available at Yosemite’s bike rentals, so you will need to bring your own or make other arrangements (we brought two trailer bikes on this trip – and it was worth it!). I was thrilled to find out Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite is now offering trailer bike rentals to its guests as well, so those of you staying in their cabins or campsites can now take advantage of that as well ($55 per day adult bike + trailer or adult bike + trail-a-bike).
5) Picnic during bicycle outings in Yosemite.
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect day with small kids in Yosemite than biking around the Valley and stopping to enjoy a picnic on one of the beaches along the Merced River. There are a number of to-go lunch items you can pick up at either the Yosemite Lodge cafeteria (our favorites include fresh fruit cups, salads, sandwiches) or at Curry Village’s informal restaurants or market. In mild weather, try the sunny beaches by Swinging Bridge or Chapel Bridge where your kids might enjoy throwing rocks in the water for hours, or in hot weather, head to the Cathedral Picnic area where you’ll find shady picnic tables and shady patches to pitch your picnic blanket along the river.
6) Use the best bathrooms for potty trainees and diaper changes.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with changing diapers al fresco in the middle of a national park, but in chillier weather and to help accommodate sensitive potty training children, know that there are diaper changing stations and clean, flushing restrooms in the entrance to the Curry Village indoor restaurant, in the cafeteria of the Yosemite Lodge, and at the enormous restrooms by the Yosemite Falls shuttle stop—though this final restroom can overwhelm some kids with the loud automated hand dryers and auto-flushing toilets (the other two are far more tame). Vault or “pit toilets” can be found throughout Yosemite Valley.
For more tips on Yosemite trips with kids and biking with little ones, see the related posts and pages below. This post is part of the Photo Friday fun at DeliciousBaby.com.
Related posts and pages:
Yosemite bike rules and trails map
How to bike with a baby or toddler, plus a little kid
The Celebrated jumping frogs of Birch Lake
Roadstop: Oakdale Cheese and Specialties
Travels with Baby Review of Evergreen Lodge
Travels with Baby Review of Wawona Hotel
As you drive north across the Golden Gate bridge, leaving San Francisco on Highway 101, you will see the rugged Marin Headlands stretching into the pacific. At the west-most point sits the Point Bonita Lighthouse, built in 1855 to help ships filled with gold seekers safely navigate their way into San Francisco Bay. Last weekend, when we experienced unusually hot weather here by the bay, we knew it would be the perfect time to head into the headlands. And for once, our timing was perfect for catching the Point Bonita Lighthouse during its limited visiting hours.
Whether you’re gearing up for your first camping adventure with your baby or toddler, or you’re pondering how best to do it now that your child’s a toddler or a preschooler, you may all be happier campers on your trip after a little practice run at home. Sure, pitching the tent in a backyard overnight is not a bad way to reintroduce your child to camp life after a long winter, but if you don’t opt for that, you might want to at least run through some of these situations to help your child–and yourself work out some of the potential kinks in camping with small kids:
Using the portacrib or travel bed:
If it’s been a while, or you need to perfect the art of making a “tent within your tent” to help keep the air around your child warm in the night, be sure to figure out what works best for your situation–and to pack all of the pieces (best blankets, bunting, clips, etc.) with you.
Transitioning to sleeping bags:
When your child is ready to use her first sleeping bag, let her try it out and get familiar with it at home first. It can be quite a change of sleeping habit for toddlers still accustomed to cribs and rolling around freely in the night without much need for blankets.
Sleeping in the same room:
If your children normally sleep in their own room at home, you may want to practice sleeping in the same room so that it’s not such an exciting novelty when it’s time for lights out in the tent. If you’re worried about picking up permanent roommates on the home front, I recommend using the living room for this special event.
Preparing for safety issues:
With toddlers and preschoolers, start discussing camp safety concerns early, like respecting the campfire and resident wildlife, and avoiding poison oak. You’ll still have to be on your toes, regardless, but it can help to have kids thinking about these things ahead of time, rather than getting the first explanation in the thrill of the first moments at camp.
With a forecasted low of 39 F for our first night in the tent this year, sleeping in hoods has also been a helpful pre-trip topic of discussion at our house. Not to mention, it’s been great fun to practice.
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