By: Christine Krishnan, Desafio Community Collaborator
Sometimes it is hard to explain to friends and family what it is like living in rural Costa Rica surrounded by volcanoes, raging rivers, rugged mountains, rainforest and lush green pastures.
"But what do you do for entertainment?"
"No malls? How do you go shopping?"
Well, the capital city San Jose is the cultural hot spot of the country with plenty of malls, fancy restaurants, movie theaters and much more.
But it is also a grueling, windy three-hour drive away, so truth is, we generally try to avoid San Jose as much as possible.
So, I cringed when my daughter's best friend invited her to go to San Jose to the Parque de Diversiones Amusement and Water Park. Aside from suddenly coming to the stark realization that my roller coaster days are pretty much over, I wasn't too thrilled about spending a Saturday in San Jose.
Six AM came early and my daughter was uncharacteristically quick to get ready that morning. We met up with her best friend and her family and headed off to the big city.
I had flashbacks about pulling into the infernally-huge parking lot of Six Flags with that sense of tickle-tummy excitement, "Are we there yet... Are we there yet...?!"
The line of anxious children with their tag-along grown-ups was orderly and to our surprise, it was two for one because it was Labor Day -- adults and children would normally pay $15 per person for use of all installations and park rides. There is also an option to enter for free and buy individual tickets of about $2 per ride. I found the system to be surprisingly egalitarian and good value overall.
My daughter's cheek to cheek smile was contagious as we were greeted by the amusement park's mascots: a fox, a coyote and a pig. We snapped photos with the fox.
First stop was Pueblo Antiguo -- this is a clever idea to showcase the beauty of a traditional Costa Rican town complete with a church, Central Park, town hall and fire station with old-time fire trucks. But the kids were far more interested with what was right around the corner... the exciting Pacuare water ride on big round rubber bumper boats. The queue went rather fast and the ride was a blast of wet fun!
It was super sunny so our clothes dried quickly. The big kids headed for the daunting Boomerang rollercoaster and we moved on to the special young kids section called the Plaza Tío Conejo - Carmen Lyra story book area. Lyra was a famous feminist author and creator of the book series "Cuentos de mi Tia Panchita" that was later developed into what could be considered Costa Rica's version of Sesame Street. All Costa Rican's have grown up with Carmen Lyra's colorful characters and strong value-based messages in her stories. Lyra is featured on the Costa Rican 1,000 colones bill.
Our young girls giggled as they rode the twirly helicopter and chugged along on the Choo Choo train. But they still wanted more. We found the bumper cars and then the merry-go-round. A trip to the amusement park wouldn't be complete without cotton candy and popcorn!
We then found a lovely shaded area with big trees, nice grass and several picnic tables and had a delicious home-style picnic. Our friends had packed an organic lunch with green salad and fresh fruit, tortillas, juice and freshly-baked cinnamon rolls.
The kids still had energy for another descent down the Pacuare. We even had time to visit the on-site petting zoo until it started to rain. We took cover in the old-style Pulpería General Store and couldn't resist purchasing a few traditional Costa Rican toys like wooden tops and marbles.
As we were waiting for the rain to stop, I read a sign that said:
"Healthy children helping children heal." The park was founded in 1981 so the profits from the amusement park would go to help support the National Children's Hospital. A noble win-win.
The sun suddenly popped out again to display a brilliant sunset as we headed back to our car to drive home.
If you are looking for things to do with children in San Jose, Costa Rica, you won't go wrong with spending a few fun hours at the Parque de Diversiones in San Jose. Even big kids like it there, too, and Desafio Adventure Company can help you with transportation and organizing more day tours from and around the San Jose area.
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