Costa Rica is a country made for family vacations. It is a country with a wealth of natural beauty, from volcanoes to beaches, natural hot springs to jungles, and wildlife not found anywhere else in the world. Adventures by Disney takes guests on a 6 day journey through Costa Rica, offering a small taste of life in this Central American country. This will not be a typical family vacation, just as Disney is not your typical company. Here are 15 reasons an Adventures by Disney Costa Rica with kids will blow your mind.
*Disclosure: We traveled with Adventures by Disney for the purposes of this review. Opinions in this post are 100% our own.
What to expect in Costa Rica with kids
1. Amazing adventures in Costa Rica
Let’s be honest, the company is called Adventures by Disney (ABD), so you expect adventures, right? Let’s just say ABD does not disappoint. On the first day we took a jungle cruise searching for animals in the rain forest followed by watching sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach that night. (Note: The trip to Tortuguero will not be part of the itinerary next year).
Day two we drove to the Sarapiquí River and tore it up going down some class II and III rapids. We had an amazing female guide, Anna, who made the ride fun for all of us. I think we’re all addicted to white water rafting now!
The next day we took a sky trek over the rainforest canopy to our zip lining platforms. Some of the zip line cables were 2500 feet long. It was exhilarating flying through the sky with a view of Lake Arenal in the distance. Those who didn’t zip line were able to walk over the suspended bridge nearby. I finished zip lining early so I was able to catch up to the suspended bridge tour. It was awesome to walk on the bridge and see the different layers of the rainforest. Our guide described what we were seeing and how every plant worked together to sustain one another.
That evening we went to Tabacon hot springs. The hot springs are heated by the Arenal volcano and the water runs throughout the park. The kids referred to it as a giant waterpark with natural rock features and warm water. There were cascading waterfalls throughout, and you’re climbing over pebbles and stones. It was very relaxing to spend time here after a long day.
The day before we left we took a catamaran snorkeling cruise in the morning. On the way to the coral reef we had the good fortune of spotting two humpback whales. That was amazing! Once we stopped, we all had a blast jumping off the boat and looking for marine life on a coral reef.
2. Adventures by Disney does the driving in Costa Rica
Our family has traveled to countries around the world and driven in many of them. However, Costa Rica is one of those countries where we were happy to have someone else doing the driving. The roads are narrow at times, winding, and cell service is spotty, so it would be impossible to rely on GPS. There were also torrential downpours. Our bus driver was a champ and navigated our luxury bus like it was a Ferrari.
We never had to worry about how to get from point A to point B, because ABD took care of everything. We were supposed to have a small plane fly us from San José to Tortuguero, but the airlines stopped flying. ABD stepped in and arranged for a bus. They also arranged for transportation by boat in Tortuguero to our eco lodge. They didn’t miss a beat, there was always a driver when we needed them.
3. The Adventures by Disney guides become part of your family
From the moment you meet the ABD guides to the very end, ABD let’s you know you are special to them. There’s a welcome gift, collectable Disney pins for each day of the adventure, and guides take family photos for the duration of the trip. They want to get to know you and your family and they make that very clear.
There are two ABD guides assigned to the Costa Rica adventure. We had Ronald and Gabby. Ronald is a native Costa Rican with a degree in Geology and a Masters in Ecotourism. Gabby is from Nashville with a degree in Hospitality/Tourism and is working on her Masters this fall. They are the most welcoming people you would ever want to meet and the perfect guides for a trip like this.
Ronald knows everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) there is to know about Costa Rica. There were days he would tell us about pineapples, another day it would be volcanoes, and the next it would be the history of Costa Rica. Per my kids: he loves to say “Pura Vida” and “Good Vibrations” and is a good dancer.
Gabby might be one of the nicest people we’ve ever met. The kids adored her. She has a very bubbly personality and loved to play Disney trivia games on the bus rides. She obviously loves her job and at times is just as excited as the tour group (especially when there’s a sloth sighting)!
The guides really made the trip. When we left, it felt like we were saying goodbye to family members. All of our kids wrote thank you notes to them. One of our children got a little bit teary because he was going to miss them. It was super sweet.
4. There is always food on an Adventures by Disney trip
In our family, there have been travel meltdowns due to “hangry” (hungry-angry) kids. This was not an issue on our Adventures by Disney Costa Rica tour. Every morning there was a buffet breakfast at our hotel. Lunch and dinner was typically buffet or prix fixe. There was an endless supply of snacks on the bus rides between destinations, so no one went hungry.
I have to mention ABD did a great job with food allergies. Our youngest has a tree nut/peanut allergy. I mentioned this to our Disney Vacationista (travel agent) and she made sure it was on our itinerary. When there was a question about any food, our guide Ronald would ask. We didn’t have any problems the entire trip.
There was a vegan family on our trip and I know they requested special meals. I believe they were accommodated every single time.
5. Meeting new people on an Adventures by Disney trip
As with any group tour, there will be other people to meet, but with ABD there will likely be other families. We had a wide age range in our group of 30+ travelers. The youngest was 9 and the oldest was probably mid-60s. There was a couple traveling, a single woman, and families of all shapes and sizes. Some families (like us) were on their first ABD trip, and others were on their 13th. It was fantastic to share travel tales and this Costa Rica experience with them.
6. The Costa Rica scenery is spectacular
It’s hard to put into words how stunning the Costa Rica scenery is because everywhere is beautiful. Here are some of the pictures for inspiration.
7. An Adventures by Disney tour is educational
I live by the motto: “Travel is the best education.” The teacher in me loves when kids learn while we’re traveling. Throughout the trip, I kept nudging my husband and saying, “they don’t learn this in school.”
Ronald knows everything about Costa Rica and that is not an exaggeration. We had a complete lesson on the political history of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the geothermal activities of the region’s volcanoes, and countless lessons on the animals and plants of the country. It was all fascinating and I know we all came out of the trip filled with appreciation for our host and host country.
The first evening we had entertainment from local musicians who had everyone playing music and musical chairs. We had a day where we learned gourd painting from members of the Maleku tribe (2 members of the remaining 600) of Costa Rica. The last night we had music and traditional Costa Rican dancing to celebrate the end of our trip.
We also had the opportunity to take a rainforest chocolate tour that covered everything from the use of cacao as currency to the production of chocolate today. The guide for that tour, “El Choco Guapo”, had us laughing and learning the entire time.
8. The Adventures by Disney accommodations are made for families
As you would expect when traveling with Adventures by Disney, they put you in some pretty nice accommodations. The first night was a Marriott property on a coffee plantation not far from the San José airport. The place had some great restaurants, a wonderful spa (yes, that was my husband’s birthday present to me), and an awesome swimming pool.
The second night we stayed at Laguna Lodge in Tortuguero National Park. In typical eco lodge fashion, this was a no frills type of lodging. There was no air conditioning (just a ceiling fan and floor fan) and no tv. When it is 90+ degrees and 100% humidity, this is not ideal. In fact, this was our least favorite hotel. The good news: future travelers will not have this hotel in their itinerary as Tortuguero will no longer be part of the Adventures by Disney Costa Rica trip. (Head to the ABD website to see what’s new).
The third and fourth night we stayed at a hotel with a beautiful view of Arenal volcano. The rooms were villas, with private patios, large bedrooms, and spacious bathrooms. There was a beautiful pool area and nice restaurants as well.
The fifth and sixth nights we stayed at a luxury boutique hotel in Guanacaste. Rooms at this property are very nice and each one has a private garden room attached. The hotel’s swimming pool looks out over Papagayo Gulf and the restaurants are top notch.
9. Adventures by Disney thinks of everything
As hard as this is to admit, I am the parent that is always unprepared. I forget the hand wipes, the snacks, the medicine. ABD does not forget. If my kids needed snacks, guess who they went to? After we went river rafting ABD had towels for us to dry off and plastic bags for our swimsuits. If we forgot sunscreen or bug spray they had that too. The ABD guides were my new best friends.
10. An Adventures by Disney Costa Rica with kids vacation is perfect for families to unplug
Kids these days are constantly on their cell phones, but if you leave the electronics at home, kids can enjoy everything Costa Rica has to offer. Our kids have never been allowed to bring their electronics when we travel abroad (we figure it’s another thing to lose), so they had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, be active, and meet other kids. I’m sure they learned a ton as well because their heads weren’t buried in their devices. My kids will tell you this is one of their all time favorite vacations and I like to think it’s because they were actually paying attention.
11. Adventures by Disney plans a perfect itinerary so you don’t have to
Costa Rica had been on our family’s bucket list for a long time. I’ve always been the trip planner and was always intimidated by the amount of planning that would go into making this trip happen. Costa Rica is unfamiliar to me, the transportation is not anywhere close to what we have at home, and there are too many places I want to see in the country. I loved that Adventures by Disney finds the highlights of Costa Rica and allows me to have a taste of them. They organize the transportation and we felt safe the entire time. No one in my family complained about a single activity, which was worth its weight in gold!
12. An organized Adventures by Disney tour allows quality family time
One of the things I loved the most was the time we had as a family. We had meals where it was just our family and we could share our favorite memories of the day. There were adventures on the raft where we worked together as a team. We also had one on one time with each child and couple time, which is something we don’t do often enough.
There is one evening where the parents and kids separate and go their own way. Parents have a mojito making class and dinner, kids have a Junior Adventurers night. The kids spend time with the guides watching a movie and playing games. We loved this opportunity, but it doesn’t happen until the 5th evening of the trip. It would be nice to have it happen earlier because this is when we really got to know others in our group.
13. Adventures by Disney takes care of emergencies
Unfortunately, we did have a child come down with the stomach flu. This unprepared mom did not have medicine to help him and we were looking at a long day of bus travel. Adventures by Disney to the rescue! Ronald went off to the local pharmacy and picked up some medicine that helped turn things right around. Both Ronald and Gabby continued to check on him the rest of the trip to make sure he was ok. Thankfully he was.
Another day, we were traveling on a lot of winding roads. Well, two of our children have motion sickness issues. They had taken Dramamine, but that wasn’t enough. The guides had trash bags for puking (yes, I went there) and when it was safe the bus pulled over. I have to be honest, my kids weren’t the only ones getting sick. The ride was a doozy, but ABD was prepared.
14. An Adventures by Disney trip gives everyone a chance to step out of their comfort zone
What I loved about the ABD trip was seeing the variety of travelers in our group. For a lot of them, using Adventures by Disney was about having a tour company that makes travel safe and accessible. Costa Rica was unfamiliar, but Disney was not, so people trust traveling with them. I have to say I completely agree.
ABD set up experiences we wouldn’t find every day. The day we went zip lining it was awesome to see how many people in our group were going for their first time. A few needed an extra nudge, but they did it! I loved seeing the joy on their face as they flew through the air.
At the end of the trip, we discussed how for each of us in the group, there was something along the way that was new. Each and every one of us was glad we had tried it and shared the experience together.
15. The memories on an Adventures by Disney trip are amazing
My kids will say this was one of their favorite trips and I have to agree. I didn’t have to plan anything. There was no need to worry about transportation or what we were going to eat. I didn’t have to take pictures because Disney gives you a photo package at the end with all your photos. (This even included the white water rafting and zip lining!) I didn’t have to open up my wallet at ever turn because all of the gratuities were included (except for a couple of tips to the airport staff and housekeeping, and tips for the guides who are priceless). But those aren’t the memories that mean the most to me.
The memories I will cherish are those of my children laughing, smiling, dancing, and being silly. The special moments when ABD singled out my middle son to celebrate his birthday. These are important to me. My kids aren’t getting any younger, so I cherish every moment with them and I am thankful to Adventures by Disney Costa Rica for being part of our family memories.
Have you ever tried an Adventures by Disney tour? Where did you visit?
And if you’re more a visual person, here’s what an Adventures by Disney Costa Rica vacation looks like:
If you’re looking for more information about Adventures by Disney travel opportunities, check out this post from our friend Nadeen of The Sophisticated Life. If you need other information on Costa Rica, you’ll want to read: What Not to Miss in Costa Rica with Kids and How to Plan for One Week in Costa Rica.