Animals and adventure--that's what Costa Rica is all about. On our Adventures by Disney trip to Central America, we got to enjoy a coast-to-coast trip the Disney way. It was full of adventure and without hassles. We entrusted the experts at Disney travel to plan and execute a trip that took us from the rain forest to the Gold Coast of this splendid country.
International travel with kids can be challenging. For years, I’ve been trying to share tips to help you all plan the perfect vacation with your kids. I get it. You only have so much time to plan a trip. Isn’t the whole point to avoid stress and spend time together?
When you’ve got to handle all of the details, arrangements and reservations, it can be tough to get into vacation mom mode.
Adventures by Disney have been around since 2008. It’s a genius way to experience the world with kids in tow. Making sure your family gets a cultural experience and a heavy dose of fun. When you accomplish those two things you know that the parents are going to be able to unwind and connect with the kids. Letting go of details means you have a better chance of connecting with the kids.
Our trip to Costa Rica is a great test. This was my 3rd trip to Costa Rica and my 2nd time there with kids. I know about the country and what it has to offer. I’m going to be breaking the trip down into four posts. This is the second one, and in it I'll be giving you a look at the first part of the trip. In other posts we'll cover the Disney Difference, Arenal adventures, and thenRiver Rafting and Guanacaste.
With Adventures by Disney you pay one price and 90% of the details are done. You book your flights in and Disney takes care of all the internal transfers once you land. That means a friendly greeting at the airport, a clean shuttle to your welcome hotel, all the guides, all the tips, all the itineraries. Put your mind at ease—Disney’s got you covered.
When we arrived in San Jose were greeted in the baggage claim area by a Disney representative. From that point on we had no more travel worries. We were whisked away from the crowds into an air-conditioned van to the nearby Costa Rica Marriott Hotel.
Meeting ups with the Disney Team is casual. On the first day, folks are rolling in at different times and the Adventures by Disney team has a room where you swing by, say hello and get details about the next leg of the trip. It’s stress free and straight forward. This means you’ll have some time to relax and enjoy the resort. While some folks might have felt ready to explore San José, we just wanted to soak in some much needed sun and chillax by the pool.
The Marriott is a large, handsome hotel and makes for a great base. Our modern room was clean and comfortable. The resort is located on a 30-acre coffee plantation and had lush grounds with a huge pool and all the trimmings--a spa, a gym and a driving range. TIP: Only two of the four hotels had gyms--so be sure to get your workout in!
One of the few meals you’ll have to arrange for yourself is dinner the first night. There are a few dining options on property. Since we got in a day early, we planned for two meals on our own. We had fish tacos at the sports bar one night and then grilled fish the next. All the food was fresh and delicious. Breakfasts are included on the trip. Be sure to try some of the local dishes! TIP: Get a dinner reservation at the Peruvian restaurant early—we tried to book it but it was full.
Don't get too settled into any one spot on this trip. It's about adventure after all! We have a quick morning meeting to introduce ourselves and then whoosh! Off to explore. Thankfully our Disney guide were there to make all the transfers fun. They often huddled the kids up for games and trivia.
San José is a wonderful place to launch a coast to coast trip. There are plenty of flights to pick from and it’s easy to get connecting flights to the more remote spots of the country. Our second leg of our tip took us to Tortuguero National Park, a protected wilderness area on Costa Rica's Atlantic Coast. To get there, Disney arranged a bus to a small plane managed by Nature Air, then a boat, then we made it to Laguna Lodge.
This eco-lodge is surrounded by nature, from frogs, to hummingbirds to howler monkeys, we say and heard a lot of nature. Accessed only by boat, there’s no way I would have found this spot on my own. Our rooms were rustic wooden cabins. The air was conditioned by nature, not man and there were no televisions in sight. This is the time to unplug and connect with family.
After lunch, we hopped into a boat and headed to the Sea Turtle Conservancy Center. This is a hand’s on center where our family learned about sea turtles. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any. That was a big miss on Disney’s part. From all the sea turtle talk mentioned in ABD literature, I thought we’d actually get to see them in the wild. Alas, it wasn’t the right season. I think Disney should tweak the marketing materials to reflect that there isn’t a turtle guarantee. While we didn’t spot sea turtles, we did learn about the plight of endangered sea turtles and the many predators (did you know jaguars eat turtles!) who threaten them. We also learned about Archie Carr and his quest to track turtle migration--so it was a worthwhile stop.
Despite the disappointment of zero sea turtle sightings, we did get to see a lot of nature on the “jungle cruise” we loaded into two boats to tour the canals. My 8 year old soon forgot about sea turtles as we spotted monkey, crocodiles, tons of tropical birds and the highlight...a river otter who playfully swam alongside our boat for a few minutes.
The humble lodgings fit in perfectly with the environment. The lodges let the foliage stand out. Again, this isn't the spot to catch up on your email. It's the spot to connect with your family. You'll get the delicious food and lush surroundings--focus on those!
I started to settle into the pace and I was ready to see more of the country. Another boat ride took us to our long bus ride to our next hotel in Arenal. The wise folks at Disney plan plenty of fun along the way. The kids got to watch Big Hero 6 and the adults got to learn about the history of Costa Rica from Ronald our knowledgeable guide. I was impressed with Costa Rica’s commitment to the environment. Did you know 92% of their energy comes from renewable resources? Impressive. As we twisted and turned along the countryside, I got an appreciation for the agriculture that feeds this country. They appear to strive for self-sufficiency and the views are stunning. Open your eyes and you'll see a lot out the windows.
Several hours into the drive, we stopped by a pineapple plantation to stretch our legs and learn about one of Costa Rica’s top exports. We loaded onto our pineapple tour and thankfully got to walk around a bit to see how pineapples are packed and processed. Not a lot of heavy machinery is involved. Most of the work is still done by hand.
Did you know pineapples are ripe when the are green? We gas our fruit to a yellow color in the USA. Unnecessary and harmful to the environment, it was just one of many eye-opening pineapple facts we picked up. It wasn't all serious, we got to taste some fresh from the field fruit and play some games. The kids had a blast at the plantation.
Disney planned out everything perfectly. The distance we covered was HUGE. The TOB (time on bus) could have been daunting, but Disney figured out a way for us to see huge swaths of the country without feeling fatigue or being overwhelmed. The pace was a fine balance between down time and adventure. My one criticism with the timing would be to build in a bit more adult time, maybe a happy hour when the kids would be watched over so the adults could get some free time. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids, but even the best mom loves a kids club with babysitting to make a vacation more relaxing (just and idea Disney if you are listening!).
This was just the first three days or our adventure. 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.
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.
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This is not a sponsored post. Disney did accommodate travel expenses to facilitate the review.