(re-titled & re-posted after much needed editing!)
My husband, our two boys (ages 7 & 9), and I went on our first trip toCosta Rica and returned a few days ago.
We landed at SJO and, through our concierge at Tulemar, booked a private driver who met us at the airport. Super convenient. The trip was surprisingly relaxing, comfortable & incredibly scenic - a great way to see more of the country.
We went on outings that I would highly, highly recommend. All included transportation and were between 30min to 1+ hours away so it was a great way to see the surrounding area without renting a car. If you have kids, we chose these tours specifically because we thought they offered the perfect mix between relaxation and adventure for all of us. All the tours were either private or with very small groups. They were all an excellent way to experience Costa Rica and I seriously can't recommend them enough: Brisas Del Nara Horseback Riding, Don's Vacation Buggy Jungle & Waterfall Tour, Rafiki Safari Lodge's White Water Rafting, & the Fincas Naturales Nighttime Jungle Tour.
To wrap up, there's just a few tips I'd like to offer: as long as you're up on your vaccines, additional shots are not necessary. Bring sun-screen so you don't have to buy it there, it's expensive since locals don't use it. Don't bother with the bug spray - no mosquitoes or biting bugs! Don't bother with any hair products either, the humidity will override any of your attempts. It's hot, pack light. We didn't need a light cover up in the evenings, it didn't cool off. I brought the greatest invention ever which helped a lot: Downy Wrinkle Releaser (you spray it on and there's no need to iron, the wrinkles disappear like magic). Of course you don't want to look like a slob but dressing up here seems rather unnecessary (and uncomfortable). As does make-up which after their first day, nobody seems to wear. One pair of hiking sandals should get you through every single situation you find yourself in. The streets seem safe, there are no sidewalks but the local drivers are used to this and know to look out for you. Money exchanging is really a non-issue, you can use credit cards (Visa is the most popular) and there's ATMs that dispense dollars or local colones. Everywhere we went took both. CR also uses North American outlets & voltage so no need for conversion plugs. Quepos has a farmer's market on Friday nights/Saturday mornings; that was fun. The town shuts down relatively early so if you're heading there for the evening, start out early. It's completely different from day to night so try going during both times. The food, fresh fruit and tap water are all safe to eat and drink. Drink lots of fruit smoothies and juices, they're awesome. And, last but not least, Pura Vida!