Before writing this article, I had only heard friends’ geocaching stories of hiking through the woods of the northeastern United States, finding cute plastic trinkets hidden beneath trees or moss-covered rocks. I was not sure how geocaching with kids would play out in the urban and tourist-filled neighborhoods of Barcelona.
Not to mention, I have a horrible sense of direction and frequently get lost. You know that person on the street corner, turning in circles while staring desperately at their phone – that’s me. But surely (I hoped) with some help from the official geocaching website (geocaching.com) and app, I would have better luck than I have navigating Barcelona’s streets with Google Maps. Besides, with more than 4,243 geocaches hidden across the city of Barcelona, how hard could it be?
Turns out it’s pretty f#$&ing hard, especially as a geocaching novice and Google Maps reject. The caches are well hidden, with some situated in prime tourist destinations, like La Sagrada Familia, and others hidden in the woods and nature of Collserola Park.
Geocaching with Kids in Barcelona
For our first outing, my family stayed close to home and selected cache GC38TWP, which is located in Plaza Lesseps according to the website. I imagined us looking like intrepid geo-navigators, but we ended up seeming more like confused, lost tourists trying to find their way to Park Güell. After searching for twenty minutes, including one ill-advised peek over the edge of the Travessera de Dalt overpass, I began to doubt the “easy” ranking for this cache that allegedly had been found only two days earlier. I managed to drain both my patience and my phone’s battery as I switched between Google Translate to understand the hints in Catalan, geocaching.com, and Google Maps. Fortunately, geocaching.com showed me that there was another cache located just a block away, so we abandoned all hopes of finding cache GC38TWP for the promise of a more-obviously hidden cache.
Our next cache, nicknamed La Casita Blanca, was hidden below a beautiful mural of a tree house and children swinging. I had never even noticed this mural before, even though it is right around the corner from my children’s daily bus stop. I learned that over 100 years ago a famous seafood restaurant stood in this very location, complete with bedrooms upstairs for siestas after a big meal. According to the geocache’s description, those 43 rooms became the secret destination for amorous trysts, driving more prudish neighborhood associations to eventually demolish the disreputable establishment. A bonus of the Casita Blanca cache is that it is right by a playground. My younger daughter was happy to play on the swings while my older daughter and I found our first Barcelona cache. Mission achieved!
Geocaching with kids ended up requiring a lot more patience and perseverance than I anticipated, especially in the face of potentially failed excursions. Fortunately, the excitement of finding a cache is a quick hook for more searches. But where to start? First, download geocaching.com’s free app from either the Apple Store or Google Play. The app categorizes each cache in terms of its difficulty to find. Caches are also ranked by the difficulty of the terrain around the hiding spot and the physical size of the cache. I also highly recommend, in the interest of family harmony, that you do some advance planning on how to deal with failed searches before heading out on your geocaching adventure.
Après-Geocaching: Parking Pizza
For my family, finding a restaurant that satisfies adult foodies’ and kids’ palates can be as challenging as geocaching. Parking Pizza met everyone’s approval after our first Barcelona geocaching adventure. Sitting at communal tables on cardboard-box stools in which you can store your belongings (so smart!) we found our pizza nirvana. The kids, of course, went for the traditional mozzarella, tomato, and basil pizza. The adults had a hard time choosing between gourmet offerings such as the black truffle, fontina, egg, and pecorino pizza or the delicious red quinoa salad with avocado and a poached egg. We had no trouble agreeing on dessert though – homemade blackberry sorbet with chocolate brownie. Good thing we had met our daily exercise quota, tracking down those geocaches!
If you find yourself searching for the geocaches over by la Sagrada Familia, you can refuel at Parking Pizza’s second location on Passeig Sant Joan. This large, industrial space is a two-for-one, serving Lebanese fare on one side and their traditional pizzas on the other. The spin-off, Parking Pita, offers wood-oven-baked pitas filled with hummus, tandoori chicken, fresh vegetables, and other Lebanese fare. In the same space, they also fire up their wood-grilled pizza oven to deliver the delicious pizzas they are known for. It’s a perfect hang-out for families with dogs, which are allowed at both locations, and young children (also allowed) who have too much energy to sit at a table. It’s a good reward for geocaching, whether or not you actually find them.
Parking Pizza, 98 Calle Londres
Parking Pita, Passeig de Sant Joan, 56
Tips for Geocaching with Kids
- Try to find a couple of your intended geocache destinations on your own, ahead of time, to reduce the chance of meltdowns (yours and your children’s).
- Bring snacks, drinks, extra smartphone batteries, and a Catalan dictionary (or better, a Catalan-speaking friend) to help you translate the clues and hints. Some geocache descriptions are only in Catalan, while others are in English or Spanish.
- Pack a pencil or pen so that you can sign the “log” at the geocache.
- Read about the caches before planning your adventure. Make sure that someone has recently found the cache and that it was reported to be in good condition. You can check this under the “Activity” and “Attributes”. (If it’s not in good condition, it will say “needs maintenance”.)
- Ignore the warnings of a “photo spoiler”. For geocaching novices like me, the photos were essential for helping me locate the cache, and served more as helpful clues rather than spoilers. Sometimes, helpful geocachers also include photos of the cache or the location under the “Activity” section of a particular geocache.
- Some of the larger geocaching containers may include small objects such as plastic trinkets, toys, or gadgets. It’s a “take-a-treasure, leave-a-treasure” concept. None of the geocaches we found in Barcelona had any treasures, but my daughter still had fun leaving behind some of her own trinkets.
- Choose your destinations strategically when geocaching with kids. Try to pick areas where several are clustered near each other, look for a possible rest stop if needed, and maybe finish with your final cache near a favorite restaurant for a celebratory meal.