Costa Rica: A Family Adventure and How It Came to Be

Val Curtis


It’s funny how the world works sometimes.

On a hot summer day, I was sitting at the breakfast table with my kids, and they pulled the latest date from Our Bird of the Day calendar. A Scarlet Macaw. “Mama, isn’t this a bird from Costa Rica?”, asked my youngest (Little Miss).

Me: “Why yes, yes it is.”

LM: “When will I get to see a Scarlet Macaw?” (in an innocent inquiring tone)

Me: “Someday.”

LM: “Some day when?”

Me: “Someday.”

LM: “Some day now?” (becoming impatient)

Me: “Someday.” (sigh)

After the tenth round of this conversation – after Jabirus, Roseate Spoonbills, Toucans, Quetzals, Wood Storks and others – I started to break down. They wanted to go to Costa Rica, but I REALLY wanted to go to Costa Rica, and I was so tired of trying to play it off as a wish for “someday”. Why, you ask?

Ten years earlier, my husband and I went on a trip, just the two of us, before kids. We went birdwatching, horseback riding, zip lining, hiking and exploring until our hearts were full of the PURA VIDA beauty. We were hooked as we tallied over 100 species of birds in our brand new Birds of Costa Rica books.

At the time, I was teaching middle school science, and I couldn’t get the idea of taking my students to Costa Rica out of my mind.  The following Spring I brought eighteen of my vivacious students to Costa Rica, and we had a BLAST. Why? It was a great group, but it was because we had this tour guide, Jimmy. I have never seen someone get a group of teenagers authentically enthusiastic to get out of bed at 5:30 or 6:00 day after day to head out on an incredible adventure. Every day, every corner held a new surprise that opened our eyes, minds and hearts. The kids LOVED Costa Rica and the birds, monkeys, coatimundis and crocodiles, but they truly adored Jimmy. He had a gentle way of sharing everything you could ever want to know about the wildlife, botany, geology and history of Costa Rica and his way of taking care of everything, always.

Since I tend to be the type of person who can’t take on just one major project at a time, I had also planned a trip two months later to the Amazon with ten of my previous students who were heading into their Junior year in high school. I knew Jimmy would be an incredible addition to the group, so I asked him if he would join us and he agreed. Yay!

After two trips abroad within 2 1/2 months, I was feeling a little guilty that my husband stayed behind. There were several moments when I knew it would be better if he had been there to experience it with me. While sitting on the Amazon, kayaking with hundreds of parrots squawking overhead, I decided that he and I needed to go on another adventure together, and we needed to do it soon. I wanted to share the awe and wonder and adventure with him, and I knew he would love to meet Jimmy.

The following December, we headed back to Costa Rica. Yes, that was three trips to Costa Rica within a year and a half. We met up with Jimmy and his wife, Kathya, and we stayed with her family. If we thought we were smitten with the country before, it was nothing. Birdwatching with them felt like home. They were hands-down the most generous and warm-spirited people we had ever met.

Did I mention I was four months pregnant? Yes, this was our babymoon, and we left with tears in our eyes.

Fast forward nine years. The kids’ (who were becoming great birders in their own right) frequent mentions of Costa Rica made my heart ache. I reached out on Facebook to Jimmy and Kathya and perused the pictures of their four beautiful children. It was such a shame our kids hadn’t met. They needed to; we knew that.

After several conversations, we decided we would find a way to make it happen. They needed help with their new business…WHAT!? Yes, they have a tour company now, Best Costa Rica Travel. I had a voucher and a credit for two plane tickets and air miles. Oh, my. Really?! I didn’t want to tempt fate, but I stepped outside to the Good Apple, who was working away in the garage. “Can we go to Costa Rica?”, I asked. His head popped up, and his eyes questioned. “I want to make it work. I want to go. I need to go. We need to see Jimmy and Kathya. Their kids, our kids. Our kids will have an amazing time with the animals and the adventure and COSTA RICA!” I could feel a lump building in my throat. He put his head down and went back to work. He didn’t say no – and he gave me that look.

I ran back in and started searching flights. I had to book all of the tickets on three devices simultaneously to make sure we all got on the same planes at the same time. I ran out to the garage. Can we do this? Are we doing this? I did it. Oh, my GOD, we are going to Costa Rica.

Every morning there was a buzz of excitement as we drew the next bird from the deck.

“Is this a bird we might see in Costa Rica, Mama?!” Yes. Tape it to the wall and add it to the collection of birds we might see in Costa Rica.

Birds of Costa Rica

Three months later with an amazing itinerary in hand, we boarded our first flight and the adventure began on our family adventure to Costa Rica and to meet with Jimmy.

Over the next month, I will be sharing the stories of our adventure right here.

Oh, and please go like Best Costa Rica Travel on Facebook. They are just starting out and could use the love. See you back here in a couple of days.

Who knew this would happen? A Family adventure in Costa Rica begins

Val is the Editor-in-chief of BonBon Break. A former middle school science/math/tech teacher, she put her career on hold to be at home with her son and daughter on an island in the Pacific Northwest. When Val breaks away from her keyboard, she enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking, camping, photography, tidepooling, sailing and potlucks. She gets a kick out of combing the web for recipes and making them gluten free so she can share meals with her husband, family and friends. She is a tech-gadget geek who is poked fun at, but it doesn’t bother her a bit. Combining her love of photography, tech and graphics to create new, fun content for BonBon Break quenches her “thirst” for integrated technology.