Traveling to the jungle is an extraordinary experience - no matter how old you are.
This guide will help you manage the details before, during and after your family trip, so you can have more time to make amazing memories.
Before You Leave
Most people - kids and teens particularly - are more engaged when they have a say in what they will be doing, and have a clear idea of what is ahead of them on their trip.
1. Spend time together talking and learning about your trip. Go over maps and guides, watch documentaries and read articles that can help give a visual sense of the Osa rainforest. You’ll want everyone to have a good idea of the rainforest terrain and inhabitants - and the journey you will take to get here.
Being familiar with the individual organisms you may encounter makes spotting much easier! Use our Nature Knowledge guide to get a sense of the animal and plant-life near Ojo del Mar - and when best to see it and where. Younger kids may want to make a family Spotting Guide so everyone can help look for the animals on their list; teens might research and plan a deeper experience for the group, like a waterfall hike.
Decide on Digital. Make a group decision about screen-time and use of mobile devices before you leave. Establishing expectations (together) before you leave makes it easier to use gentle reminders once you're on the ground.
Get used to your gear. Mobile phones are a multi-purpose recording device, so you can use them for photos and videos, audio recordings and journaling. There are lots of helpful apps - from GPS and flashlights, to mapping tools and wildlife guides - but be sure they are loaded, registered and ready to use before you leave. If you have other special equipment - cameras, binoculars and the like, spend time getting to know them, too.
Talk about food and culture. You aren’t just a visitor in the homes of the wildlife living here, you are also a guest in a community. A great way to connect with people is over food - tasting local favorites, learning about how something is grown or eaten, and what the local people call a particular food.
2. Go over what (and what not) to bring.
Most of what you should bring is covered in our packing guide - but the basics are fairly straightforward:
It's Wet. Plan to be wet, and for things to stay damp. Waterproof and mesh bags, as well as light waterproof or water resistant jackets and shoes are a big help, and a wise investment. If you plan to use mobile devices, protective gear for them is highly recommended.
It's Wild. The ground is uneven and is often muddy, and there will be rocks, limbs and other things on paths. As much as it seems like flip-flops are okay, you need closed-toed shoes with traction - and make sure they are broken in before you leave home, to help keep blisters at bay.
It's Buggy. There are (literally) thousands of species of insects and other small flying creatures. Bug spray, and lightweight long pants and long sleeves are basic requirements.
It's Hot. At 8 degrees north of the Equator, it’s hot and the sun is strong; staying hydrated and protected is critical. Everyone will need to drink more, so bring a refillable water bottle for each person in your group. Sunscreen is mandatory; you may want to pack extra after-sun care for younger kids and those with sensitive skin. Also a battery powered hand fan during the hottest time of the year.
While You're Here
The tropics are an intense environment.
Even if you are only here a short time and want to see everything, your whole group will get more out of your trip if you:
Slow Down. A simplified itinerary that balances active expeditions with less structured time will help travelers of every age. Make time for informal exploration and for real downtime - time to lounge in a hammock or float in the pool.
Set the Alarm. Animals are very active in the first half of the day - which helps humans, too, because it’s still cool(er). Take a long break for lunch, and a nap or journaling - something quiet to recharge. Then, head out for a more self-directed activity - beach for tidal explorations and water play, for example. Another way to manage energy: plan a boat tour, where you can see the rainforest from a different perspective (and do less walking.)
Research things for everyone. There is lots to do - from waterfall rappelling and canopy zip lining to more relaxed hikes and day trips. Our list of Essential Experiences has details on tours that get close to wildlife, take you on active adventures, and make cultural connections that everyone can enjoy.
Once You're Home
Your stay at Ojo del Mar is a chance to live - even if just for a few days - within the rainforest alongside the animals, birds and plants who call it home.
We hope you have the chance to experience amazing new things, while getting a deeper understanding of what’s at stake - for not just this fragile ecosystem, but for ourselves and our planet.
Take the opportunity to think - and talk about your experience - with your family. Here are a few "big ideas" to get you started:
The web of life. The lessons of the rainforest include interdependence, the impact of human choices, and the large and small daily struggles for survival. What new understandings are coming home with you?
The future. The Osa is still largely intact, but it’s under a lot of pressure. What might this place look like in 20 years? In 50? 100?
Making a commitment. Sustainability is a shared responsibility; what individual actions can each of you take to help rainforest conservation.
Understanding the Osa