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Outdoor Expeditions in Costa Rica: Explore and Learn with the Family

Vacation planning for the whole family can be a challenging task, especially for those looking for an experience deeper than usual tourist fare.

One exciting possibility is to set out into nature on guided outdoor expeditions, day trips where the whole family can explore the natural world, learn about vibrant ecosystems filled with colorful plants and animals, and even contribute to the preservation of these natural environments.

These kind of experiences are available much closer than you might think. Take for example ConnectOcean, an organization based in Las Catalinas that is dedicated to protecting the aquatic environments of Guanacaste and beyond.

ConnectOcean’s work involves members of the community of all ages, and they lead a number of different expeditions into their surrounding natural ecosystems. Even better, they can be visited via Liberia, Costa Rica, with a direct flight from dozens of North and Central American cities.

The Mission -- Protect and Learn

ConnectOcean is one of the foremost members of the Citizen Science movement, a push in the world of science to turn each and every one of us into researchers capable of protecting the environment, without the need for extensive training.

In the words of David Suzuki, a worldwide expert in Citizen Science: “Citizen Science turns our smartphones and tablets into internet-connected research tools we can use to observe, explore and understand a wide range of ecological topics, from backyard birds to wildlife sightings to flower-blooming times.”

This means that while we’re out exploring the natural world, taking photos of interesting plants, counting the birds we see, and spotting elusive aquatic wildlife, we might be contributing to protecting the environment without even thinking about it!

Among their many initiatives, ConnectOcean hosts day expeditions to immerse members of the community in the wonderful wild world around them. On these trips, families get to explore forests, rivers, reefs, and other ecosystems and learn about the fascinating plants and animals that live there. Even better, each trip helps document wildlife for their protection, making these citizen science safaris a win-win for everyone.

So what does ConnectOcean have to offer your group? Keep reading to learn about a few of our recommendations for you and your family.

Adventures on the Beach

For a nearby adventure on the beach by Las Catalinas, the Intertidal Explorer program takes the entire family down to Playa Danta and Playa Dantita, to explore beaches, rock pools, and the world out beyond the surf.

Guided by a marine life specialist, family members will get to search for hidden beach life, see whole worlds inside tiny tide pools, and even venture out among the waves with snorkeling gear to see what’s going on underneath the surface.

It’s a fun way to turn a day on the beach into a dynamic look at dozens of different forms of life, and all discoveries and wildlife are tracked and entered into the ConnectOcean Citizen Science Database.

Exploring the Mangroves

Another option that takes the team deep into the Costa Rican rivers is the Mangrove Explorer program. Departing from Las Baulas National Park in a local Artisanal Boat, the tour ventures up into the mangroves, using the maneuverability of the shallow-bottom vessel to explore wild and hidden areas far beyond the reach of normal watercraft.

Mangroves serve as a natural nursery for much of the country’s marine life, so on this trip you can expect to see a wide range of birds, monkeys, fish, and reptiles. Guided by your private Naturalist guide, you get to learn about the fascinating challenges of surviving in a mangrove, and see the truly unique creatures that make these ecosystems their home.

It’s an excellent way for everyone -- kids and adults -- to explore a place that truly feels like another world.

Offshore Expeditions

Another option is to set out offshore, venturing by boat to the Coral Reefs of the coast in the Reef and Open Ocean Explorer Expedition.

This half-day trip takes the entire family up the stunning Guanacaste coastline from the water, before arriving at some of the most vibrant coral reef snorkeling sites of the entire Pacific Coast. Learn about these amazing ecosystems both above and below the water as you watch for flying fish, turtles, and dolphins, before diving into the world of colorful creatures and coral.

Complete with a professional marine guide, provided snorkeling gear, snacks, and a heck of a view, this trip is an excellent way to immerse your family in the best of the coast on a morning or afternoon trip.

Give Your Family A Valuable Vacation Experience

Protecting our wild and wonderful planet is a responsibility we all bear. And there’s no greater joy than sharing a love for nature and the outdoors with the younger ones in our life, and teaching them to love the fragile and beautiful ecosystems that sustain life for so many different species.

Now that we all have a smartphone in our pockets, citizen science provides an innovative medium to put them to good use – protecting the world around us. And we can do it all while having fun and immersing ourselves in a different kind of vacation experience.

Your kids probably won’t even notice they’re learning.

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