In Part 1 of our Adventures by Disney Costa Rica recap, I described my dismay when my teen and tween daughters asked to skip a Disney vacation. After the initial shock, I turned to Adventures by Disney and found a “teen centric” excursion to Costa Rica. After spending our first day in San Jose, Costa Rica, it was time for the official itinerary to begin. Our first adventure was to board two small planes, each of which carried about 20 passengers. We all had to be weighed before boarding – yeah, that kind of plane! It’s a pretty one, don’t you think?
Plus, the scenery during the 30 minute flight was amazing.
We were headed to Tortuguero, which can only be reached by plane or by boat. Even a bus ride to get us to a boat would have been 4-5 hours, we were told, so we were happy to take the flight!
When we first booked this trip my travel agent called me back to tell me that our hotel for the second night of the trip would be “rustic”, with no air conditioning, no TV, but a private bathroom. It sounded a bit, well, sketchy, but I figured, we can handle anything for one night, right? Well, I needn’t have worried – the Laguna Lodge was rustic, but in a gorgeous sort of way. The rooms were all wood paneling (walls, floor, ceiling) and the 3 low beds filled the room. No air conditioning, but a ceiling fan and another portable fan were plenty to keep us cool, and the bathroom was modern, and yes, private! We had a beautiful front porch with rockers that we never had time to really use!
We toured the canals of the Tortuguero National Park where local guides helped point our wildlife, and the teens with cameras tried out their new equipment and skills.
We learned about the massive sea turtle conservation efforts going on there, and how it has totally transformed the area. And we visited the village of Tortuguero, where about 1200 people live.
It was our official Welcome Dinner that night! We’d had a full day of interacting with one another and some really cool sights and experiences, but no chance to actually celebrate! We played games, ate food, and generally had a fantastic time.
After dinner we had the opportunity to do a sea turtle walk to see the turtles coming in from the ocean to lay their eggs. It gets dark early in Costa Rica – pitch dark by 6:30 pm!
We started out about 8 pm from the restaurant and no sooner had we headed into the woods towards the beach than the skies opened up and dumped on us. Most of us were not prepared with rain gear – the night had seemed to be clearing. They had us waiting in a holding area while their spotters roamed the beach for a turtle coming in. Then it started to thunder and lightning. And the already heavy rain got even heavier. To say we were drenched is the understatement of the trip. After about 45 minutes of waiting, my youngest had had enough. She was shivering and had lost all desire to see a turtle, and begged to go back. I was incredibly disappointed, since seeing the sea turtles was something I had really been looking forward to, but sometimes the kids’ needs have to come first. Our guide led us back to the hotel grounds before dashing back to be with the group. My oldest stayed and she said they eventually got a quick glimpse of a turtle heading back into the ocean after abandoning her effort to dig and lay, something they call a “half moon.” Unfortunately we were not permitted to take photos during this experience since any flash or light from a phone screen would have been distracting to the turtles.
The next day was a long travel day for us – a short boat ride from the hotel to a waiting area where our bus was, and then a few hours on the bus to a restaurant for lunch. During the ride we passed lots and lots of private homes on rural roads, some quite upscale, and others quite not. Several of our kids on the bus started playing some games that would become a theme throughout.
Based on the towns we were driving through towards lunch time I started to have some doubts about what kind of restaurant we were in for. Frankie and Ronald both commented how fantastic it was and while I trusted them, I just was not sure. About an hour out, they came around asking us for a choice of appetizer (ceviche or salad) and entrée (fish, chicken or beef). I think 90% of us chose the ceviche, which is supposed to be a specialty of the restaurant.
When we finally pulled up to the restaurant my doubts fell away. The restaurant was actually one that could have fit into my own city. The ceviche was in fact superb, and was a large portion. I could have walked away full after that.
But we still had our entrees (beef for me) and then dessert – probably the most delicious cake I have ever had! Strangely enough most of the kids thought it was “soggy,” but most of the adults could not get enough. As full as I was, I had to tear myself away. There’s always next time!
From the restaurant we drove to a pineapple plantation. Do you know how pineapples grow? I thought I did, but I was wrong! We hopped on the back of a tractor and got a tour through the fields. Our plantation guide, Michael “Dole Rockefeller” quizzed us and regaled us with pineapple facts. He was in fact, hilarious (some of the adults were in tears from laughing so hard), and this is made even more amazing when I think how hard it must be to be funny in a language not your native.
We also toured the packing plant – those pineapples come down the belt pretty fast! Afterwards we got to drink and eat some pineapple snacks!
Late afternoon we arrived at our next hotel in the Arenal area. It was dark by the time we got there, so we couldn’t get a feel for the layout of the place that night – it was a sprawling resort with separate buildings and roads. We had the evening to ourselves, and the next morning it was time to go – ziplining!!!
Part 3 of our series concludes our Adventures by Disney Costa Rica trip with ziplining, white water rafting, and a Disney moment. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.