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Luxury Disney – Adventures by Disney Costa Rica Review

adventures by disney costa rica luxury travel mom
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Adventures by Disney Costa Rica


Adventures by Disney is more than just a brilliantly organized family vacation, it’s  your fast pass to the world. We recently traveled coast to coast in Costa Rica with Adventures by Disney, before I give you the 411 on that itinerary I want to answer the questions I get most frequently about how ABD trips work:


Is it super Disneyfied as in Mickey luggage and touristy activities?  No, not at all. The Disney part is the cracker jack logistics they bring to the table, every hotel, meal, activity and transfer is managed to perfection. Each day you receive an exclusive pin that you can only get by being on that particular adventure, this is the only time you feel the Disneyness of the trip. However, if you are a pin whore like myself, you are going to freaking love this part of the trip.


kim-marie evans


How come it’s so expensive?  I didn’t think it was expensive at all, but this was a comment I got a lot on the Luxury Travel Mom Facebook page. All of your expenses are built into one cost, transfers, private planes, hotels, meals, activities, all of it. I found their trip to be incredible value for the money. They offer exclusive access to sights that you simply can’t pay for, that alone makes their pricing worth it.


What ages are these trips good for?  I would take a child from 2 to 20 on these trips. I was impressed at how our guides were able to separate the groups by age and provide an exciting activity for each. When we zip lined the older kids did the real zip line by themselves, the younger kids went tandem with an instructor, the really little kids went on a fun nature walk. At every stop they were able to level the experience by age and ability.


How do I book it?  You can book directly with Disney HERE, use your travel agent (you can borrow mine if you want – Tim Burke 816-423-8045) or book through Costco. I had never heard of booking vacations through Costco but one of their magazine editors was on our trip, I learned that you can get great deals (like $2,000 cash cards) by booking travel through Costco. I usually recommend working with a Virtuoso agent but an ABD trip is exactly the same regardless of who you book through and who can say no to a good deal?


Adventures by Disney Costa Rica Review


This adventure literally takes you coast to coast in Costa Rica in just a week, it’s pretty amazing really. Keaton loved it and we were able to tell his school he was on an educational trip without lying, and there was rum for me, so really it was the perfect trip.


Day One:


Arrive in San Jose.  Usually you only spend the first night at the Marriott in San Jose and then depart the next morning.


What you need to know about this property:


  • The gym is amazing, bring your running shoes.
  • The coffee shop is open 24 hours and has the best wi-fi in the entire hotel. Wi-fi did not work in my room.
  • The pools are nice but fairly full of retired people just sort of beached there, fun for a few hours but not much more. Bring some toys for the kids to play with. We travel with Legos and it’s amazing how busy that can keep them.
  • Don’t try to order food from the sports bar unless you’re willing to wait over an hour, the main restaurant Antigua  however has great food and fabulous service. The drinks at the sports bar are made with fresh juice, stick to just alcohol there.


kim-marie evans

luxury travel mom


On day one you’ll meet your Disney guides and get some Disney swag. I had no idea how much I would use the little Disney duffle they gave us, we literally used it every day. When the trip is over you’ll look back and think how it could ever have been that these two people weren’t your very best friends. We were lucky enough to travel with Zoe and Ronald. Zoe made everything fun, even the rain, if the kids got antsy, she started games, if someone was hungry, she found snacks, she ordered meals ahead so when we arrived at restaurants there was no wait, she took photos, she gave hugs, she was tireless and chipper. Ronald is a local guide and was on hand to provide any and all information on Costa Rica. Wondering about venomous snakes? He knows. How do volcanoes work? He knows. The political history of Costa Rica? He knows that too. The fact that he’s as handsome and charming as any Telenovella star is just a bonus.


luxury travel mom


Day Two:


The adventure begins with a charter jet flight to Tortugero, Land of the Turtles, so named because green sea turtles nest here from July to September.

Disney charters these adorable tiny planes to fly you as close as you can get to the national park in the rainforest, the rest of the trip is by boat. The flight is not bumpy or terribly frightening, it’s a quick trip, you fly low and Keaton thought it was a grand adventure.


luxury travel mom


Tortugero is in the rainforest, it rains in the rainforest, a lot. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I expected some light romantic drizzle, not 24 hours of downpour. It’s not always like that, but as I was reminded, it is the rainforest. The packing list “suggested” a rain coat, I will tell you that you absolutely need a raincoat. My light little Lululemon was ok but I was highly envious of Nicole’s LL Bean coat, she just seemed drier and warmer.


luxury travel mom


You stay for one night at Laguna Lodge in the middle of Tortugero National Park. After checking in to your adorable little eco friendly room you’ll take a boat tour of the national park. Bring a camera, a good one with a zoom lens, the wildlife is spectacular. You have a better than average chance of seeing toucans, sea turtles, sloths, monkeys and more. And yes, the tour goes rain or no rain.


What you need to know about this property:


  • There is no gym, it’s prison style squats in the room ladies.
  • The only wi-fi is near the lobby and reception area, it’s surprisingly good there.
  • The rooms are very basic, think an upscale camp. Simple beds and pillows, no TVs, comfy Costa Rican rocking chairs for sitting on the porch and watching the hummingbirds fly by.
  • All meals are served group style and most are buffet, this is wonderful in that you don’t cook or have to wait after you order, by the end of the trip you will not be enamored of buffet food anymore. Then you’ll go home and have to cook and rethink your position on buffet style.
  • There are two very pretty pools on property, if you are lucky and have a non-rainy day I imagine they would be a lot of fun.


Adventures by Disney Costa Rica

adventures by disney costa rica

adventures by disney costa rica

adventures by disney costa rica


Keaton’s review of Our First Adventure:




Day Three:


This is the longest day of travel by a long shot. Load up your iPad and wear your comfy clothes. It’s an hour and a half boat ride out of the rainforest, at more than one point I felt like I was on the jungle cruise, it’s actually a really lovely way to travel. Then you’ll meet up with your coach bus which ferries the group across country for the next few days. The best part of the bus? It has killer wi-fi, so if you don’t get car sick you can work while you ride. Or nap, Keaton chose napping.


adventures by disney costa rica


Disney does a nice job of breaking up the travel time with lunch stops and a visit to a pineapple plantation. The kids LOVED the pineapple farm stop. They got a tour of the fields and a chance to see how pineapples are prepared for shipping. The highlight for Keaton was the farm dog. The highlight for me was the sun came out with a lovely rainbow and the rain finally stopped.





The next hotel is Hotel Arenal Manoa at the base of one of the youngest and most active volcanoes on earth. The hotel is lovely and each room has a private terrace with a stunning view of the volcano.




What you need to know about this property:

  • The rooms are large and comfortable, the wi-fi works really well and there is a tree in your bathroom.
  • There is no gym, many of us ran in the morning for exercise.
  • All meals are served in the restaurant, alcohol is not included so plan on paying for that on your own.
  • You will be so tired both nights you won’t care about much.


Day Four:


This is an epic day, drink your coffee and take your Advil. It starts with zip lining in the cloud forest (which I didn’t even know was a thing) and ends with an evening in a natural hot spring.


This activity is well designed to suit all ages and abilities. Little kids and those who are not keen on zip lining can go on a nature walk, younger kids zip tandem with the instructors, big kids and thrill seeking grown ups can zip alone. The last cable is called “Big Daddy” and is almost half a mile long. The crew kept everyone extremely safe and I was completely comfortable with every aspect. Bring some cash, there is a cafe at the end of your tour and both you and the kids will want a snack. Fashion advice: Grease from the cables will drip on your jacket, wear a dark color.






The day ends with an evening at the Hidalgo Hot Springs, these are natural hot springs with waterfalls and most importantly, a bar.  I found it hilarious that most hot tubs have signs warning you not to drink, this hot spring has signs pointing to the bar. The water is a toasty 103 degrees in five of the pools and then there is one chilly pool, the kids loved it, I took their word for it.





Keaton’s Review of our day Ziplining and Hot Tubbing (spoiler alert-he did not hate it)



Day Five:

You will pack up your bags and head out for the trip to Guanacaste, after a few hours you stop for what was my favorite part of the entire trip, white water rafting the Tenorio River. The river is spring fed and one of the most beautiful rafting trips I have ever done, and I’ve rafter the Blackfoot in Montana and the Snake in Jackson Hole. Despite my ridiculous face in this photo, the rapids are not that big, they are just enough to be fun, but still very safe. The younger kids who weren’t up for rafting did a float trip. I would feel comfortable bringing a child as young as five on this adventure.





Keaton’s Review of our Rafting Adventure




That afternoon you arrive at what is now my favorite hotel in Costa Rica, yes I like it more than the nearby Four Seasons. I had never heard of El Mangroove and I kind of hate to spread the word because it’s a real gem. It sits right on the beach, has a groovy South Beach vibe without the pretension. The pool is warm and great for kids and for lap swimming, they have lounge beds with a view of the water and the mojitos are perfection.





What you need to know about this property:


  • The rooms have a W hotel feel to them, very groovy, not super fancy. The rooms with king beds have hammocks IN the room, all the kids wanted hammocks, had I known, I would have asked for a room with a king bed.
  • The hotel has turn down service, I didn’t realize how much I had missed turn down service.
  • The gym is small but it was nice to have one again.
  • The gift shop has some really cute clothes and jewelry, this is the first time I felt like shopping on the trip.
  • Should you need a doctor, the hotel can arrange for a house call. Keaton had a high fever that turned out to be an ear infection, the doctor came, diagnosed him, and gave us antibiotics, all for $40.




Day Six:


Our last day of adventure was a private catamaran ride to a small private island. There was food and cocktails on board as well as snorkeling gear and paddle boards.




paddle board


Keaton’s review of our Catamaran Excursion:



Final Night – Hasta Luego:


For the final dinner we had an entire night of fun activities including a class on “How to Make a Mojito” – I got an A+. The guides put together a photo slideshow of our trip and the kids loved it so much they begged for them to play it twice. We had a private dance show from a local group that gave a history lesson and an authentic performance. These types of exclusive and private experiences are what set Adventures by Disney apart from other tours.




The hardest part of saying goodbye for Keaton wasn’t all of our new friends (and we made many), but rather saying goodbye to our tour guide Zoe. He also loved Ronald, in fact he bought a stuffed sloth and named it “Zonald” so he would never forget them.





If you’re ready to book, you’ll want to know what to pack and I’ve got you covered. Check out What to Wear-Adventures by Disney Costa Rica


Note on tipping:  Every cost is covered in your trip fee EXCEPT the tips for the guides. They work hard, be sure to slip at least a $50 thank you in an envelope for each of them at the end of the trip.


We were the guests of Adventures by Disney for review purposes. I was skeptical going into the trip and left a true believer. I can recommend these trips for families with full confidence. 


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