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Finding Family Adventure in Costa Rica

zip lining with kids costa rica

Costa Rica is certainly a trendy destination for families that crave adventure. It's safe, gorgeous, full of wildlife and natural splendor. Have you been following along with the trip so far? Did you read about when we went to the canals and found crocodiles and otters? Do you know about the Disney Difference when it comes to trip planning? I hope you read all the posts, but for now we're talking about volcanoes and rain!

The Disney luxury liner took our small group from coast to coast in Costa Rica. One of our longest drives on the trip brought us from the Canals of Tortuguero to the volcanoes of Arenal. It's 6+ hours of TOB (time on bus). For someone fidgety (guilty!) that's horrible. But Disney makes the long drives palatable by doing three things. One, they took a luxe liner for comfort (no one got car sick on the twisty roads). Two, they made frequent comfort breaks for food/bathrooms. Three, they kept us busy with lessons, quizzes and site-seeing.

disney bus

Onboard our "cruiser" we heard about Costa Rica's rich history and it's vital future from our guide. I know, I know, guides can be a snoozefest on most trips. You know the type--reciting fun facts that you'll soon forget. Not so on this trip. The Disney Adventure guides turned what could have ben a boring bus ride, into a traveling classroom. I learned more about pineapples, sloths and Costa Rica's commitment to the environment than I thought possible.

After stopping along the way to get Costa Rican snacks and see a sloth up close and personal (speaking of personal, did you know sloths only poop once every two weeks!), we found ourselves at the Hotel Arenal Manoa.

zip lining costa rica

Almost in the middle of the country, Arenal is known for it's volcano. And to be sure, the highlight of this spot was up in the sky. Way, way up in the sky! But it wasn't the volcano, it was the zip-lining!

Have you tried zip-lining before? My family is totally hooked on the experience. As someone who has "zipped" all over the globe, including Malaysia and Nicaragua, I've got to say this was the coolest, safest adventure in the sky I've ever been on. Our bus headed alongside the Arenal volcano to Sky Advnentures. Of course, Disney had it all arranged perfectly. We arrived and had zero wait time. We were outfitted in harnesses and given a thorough safety lesson before zipping up to the sky in a tram.

sky trek costa rica

We flew through the sky in a series of 7 cables. Two of which my 8 year old did alone, the other six she flew with a guide alongside her on an attached harness to make sure she was safe and comfortable. All the adults went solo. There's not much skill required. Just a big leap of faith on the first one! The views were spectacular. We saw the lake, mountains and at one point we were actually in the clouds. It was awesome! My favorite was the "Big Daddy" a line that spanned 2460 ft. (750 m.). While the clouds were awesome, they did block our view of the Arenal volcano. It used to be quite active, but for now the eruptions seem to have paused. Volcano or not, this adventure can't be missed.

running in costa rica

The same clouds blocked our view from the Hotel Arenal Manoa. What we did get to see from our hotel was lush greenery. The secluded spot was a perfect place for a early morning run and to rest after busy days. I did miss having daily workouts on this trip. Only the first and last hotels had gyms--otherwise it was up to Mother Nature and some creativity to get in exercise. The adventures were more "exciting" than exerting. And it's a good time to mention that it rained quite a bit here in the rain forest. So come prepared and get ready for humidity.

hotel arenal monoa
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I wanted to give you a sense of the hotels we stayed in. Here's a shot of the Hotel Arenal Manoa. The interior was spacious, but simple. Our room had a/c and a television and the room also offered spotty wifi. Most days when we got back to our room we showered, snuggled and just fell immediately to sleep. I really had no desire to stay up for movies or to catch up on work. I was too relaxed and content. Plus, most mornings started early (some as early as 6am!)--late nights were just not happening. I also picked this photo because I wanted to show you a little mess. Full disclosure--there's a lot of packing and unpacking on this trip. In order to get to see so much of the country, you've got to be on the move. That's why I recommend you add a day on at the beginning and end of the Disney itinerary. I'll go over more of that in my next post, but it's great to know you can settle in for a few days at the end of the journey.

hotel shower costa rica

These are some little detail shots of our bathroom in Arenal. I thought the bathroom was so pretty with the greenery inside and the enormous sky light. I appreciated the drying line too. We tried to pack light and I needed to do some "sink laundry" along the way. One intrepid guest got his laundry done here--impressive because it was a quick two-night stay (less than 48 hours total) but I just did a little sink rinse to get me through 7 days.

flower toilet paper fold

I also thought it very charming that the hotel staff arranged the toilet paper in such artful ways. Speaking of art, we got to make some too! The Maleku craft activity was a highlight of our stay in Arenal. My little artist was happy to take a break from the excitement of zip-lining to tap into her creative side. We were inspired by the paintings of the Maleku artists who joined us for an afternoon talk. The Maleku are an indigenous people of Costa Rica. With only about 600 people left, it's important to keep the stories alive. Disney arranged to have two members of the Maleku meet with us and tell us about their traditions and culture. Through an interpreter, we learned that they are talented craftspeople. They paint and carve on balsa wood trees or fruit and sell their wares to visitors. We painted on fruit shells to resemble the art of the Maleku. Our projects are little souvenirs from the trip.

Arenal hot springs

Our last adventure in Arenal was a visit to the Hidalgo Hot Springs. A series of waterfalls and pools are tucked into the volcanic rock making this a haven for kids to explore and adults to relax. As the kids jumped from pool to pool (careful of rough edges!), I soaked in the thermal pool and sipped a well-earned adult beverage.

After our spa time, we had a dinner buffet at the springs. Lots of yummy local fair (the tilapia was excellent) with a few American kid-friendly favorites to keep the pint-sized tour members happy (French fries anyone!).

Costa Rica hot springs

Are you ready to book your Costa Rica Adventure? Here's a packing list of things to remember to bring along on your trip. Many are included in the Disney packing list, but I thought these were worth noting.

What to Pack
Water Shoes like keens
Bug Spray
Rain Coat
Synthetic long pants (something quick dry)
Podcasts downloaded to your phone (in case you need a break from the bus entertainment)

Now you're gotten a taste for adventure in store! There’s lots more to come! To get additional inspiration about why you should let Disney plan your next international trip visit our first post or head to this post to find out about the Caribbean portion of the Adventures by Disney Costa Rica Trip.

I hope I convinced you to let the professionals at Disney create your next adventure trip. Today Disney announced three new trips: Montana, Disney & Central Florida and Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.

Instant Impressions Travel Services is proud to be a Disney Exclusive Travel Agency. Never a fee and the same rates as Disney!

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