Planning your family’s next vacation? Got teens? As any parent knows, an unhappy teenager can be the difference between vacation that is an epic adventure and one that is an epic fail. I fullfilled my teen’s dream, with a trip to the new resort, Dreams Las Mareas, in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica.

Dreams Las Mareas

Dreams las Mareas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.    photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Dreams las Mareas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Teens can be some of the toughest travelers to satisfy: too old for kids’ clubs, too young to be left on their own while mom and dad explore for the day.

Hotels are finally checking in to this reality. Increasingly, they’re providing a menu of activities just for teens, from teen-only lounges to outdoor adventures and teen treatments at the spa.

If you’re planning a vacation with a teen, get their feedback on what they want to do. History or art lover? Maybe an urban adventure filled with sightseeing and museums. Our family lives in a big city, so we generally want to answer the call of the wild on vacation. I know my sons like adventure on vacations… skiing, rafting, biking. Without that, they’ll opt to stay in the hotel room, watching movies and playing video games. And that would make for a frustrated mom.

Getting your teen’s input keeps your family’s epic adventure from turning into an epic fail. I asked my 15 -year-old son what’s on his bucket list. Cost Rica topped it. Jungles, wildlife, zip-lining, and tropical beaches… sounded like a perfect vacation to me, as well!

Hiking the hanging bridges Arenal National Park.      photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Hiking the hanging bridges Arenal National Park. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

We decided to travel to the less-touristy northwest part of the country, staying at a hotel that was only an hour from the Nicaragua border. We flew into the gleaming, modern Liberia Airport, with its new terminal built in 2012. From there, we headed up to Dreams Las Mareas Resort.

Wild Times in Costa Rica

Mom and Dad might want to relax by the ocean, but teenagers are looking for excitement. Dreams Las Mareas sits right on a protected cove along the Pacific Ocean. Complimentary kayaks and snorkel equipment allow teens to enjoy the water. Take one of the daily early morning guided snorkel lessons at the beginning of your trip to find out where all the best snorkel spots are.

The Liberia Airport is only a few miles from the closest beach. It’s also only 2 1/2 hours from one of Costa Rica’s top tourist spots, Arenal Volcano.

Visiting a Costa Rican hot spring on a excursion from Dream Las Madeas Resort

Enjoying one of Costa Rica’s many hot springs. Photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

In a country known for its natural wonders, the 5,643 foot Arenal Volcano is not-to-be missed. It’s one of the most active volcanoes in the world, but not to worry, it’s now in a dormant phase. Just make sure to visit on a clear day. Unfortunately, the day we went it was overcast (which is often the case in the rainforest) and we didn’t have much of a view of the volcano.

Despite the rain, we had an incredible time hiking through the 30,000-acre Arenal National Park that surrounds the volcano.

Dreams Las Mareas has a desk in the lobby where you can book excursions. We booked our tour of Arenal through them. It’s a long four-hour drive from the hotel, but it does give you a chance to really see the beauty of the countryside. We stopped along the way for lunch, and to spot wildlife and to check out one of the country’s wind power parks. Costa Rica’s eco-friendly reputation is not just a marketing gimmick for the tourists. The country pursues lots of environmentally-friendly policies, including using clean energy.

Touring the Rainforest

Our guide, Marcello, was a first-rate naturalist who shared his knowledge of the country’s rich bio-diversity with us. Hiking Arenal National Park was the highlight of my teenage son’s trip. We saw wildlife and lush tropical plants we’d never see in the U.S., and delicately made our way over the hanging bridges. These were all memories we’ll never forget.

After two hours hiking through the rainforest, it was time to chill out in one of the Costa Rica’s many hot springs. Aaaahhh. These thermal pools were just what I needed to finish off our afternoon of exploring the country’s natural beauty.

Zip-lining in Costa Rica            photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Zip-lining in Costa Rica photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann


Want to show your teen you are at the top of your game? It would be tough to take a teen to Costa Rica and not sign up for a zip-line excursion.

The adventure of strapping into a harness, clipping to a cable, then zipping across a canyon, down a mountain or through a canopy of trees was first popularized in Costa Rica.

Zip lines were originally built to transport people and mining equipment across canyons and over rivers. Some of the first tourist zip lines were built in Costa Rica’s tropical forest canopies in the 1970s. Now they’ve become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. And why not? Both mom and teen gave it high markes for fun!