Craving a getaway, but offspring cramping your style? Feeling like every holiday you take closely resembles a bad day at the play centre, only with the hot sun burning your skin?
Wondering how to finally make travelling with your smalls all about you? Family travel is indeed an art, and with the right planning, it can truly be the getaway you’ve been yearning for (and obviously deserve!). Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica, in the Gunacaste province of Costa Rica has dialed into the perfect formula for happy parents and children. It’s without a doubt the ultimate blend of luxury and kid-friendly activities (including fully supervised care! I’ll write that again: fully supervised care!). Here are 5 reasons why you need to keep this destination on your radar for your next family vacation:
1. It’s so easy
For Canadians, this stunning ecologically-minded resort is a mere 4.5 hours from Hogtown (direct flight). We travelled with Air Transat Vacations, and paid a bit more ($50) for the “Options Plus” category. This meant we were amongst the first to board and get settled (leaving ample time to deal with a toddler who is complaining that his sister is touching his knee, or his socks are too tight, or his hair feels heavy). Our kiddos were also given a kit of fun crafty things soon after we were seated, and shortly after take-off, were served a meal with plenty of time-consuming packages to open.
While the 2 hour bumpy bus ride from the airport in Liberia to the resort may invoke a few too many “are we there yets”, the pura vida vibe will have sunk in. So rather than lose your noodle, you’re more inclined to respond with “tranquillo chica! Look at the monkeys and leave Daddy alone”.
2. The food is incredible
The all-inclusive package means you don’t need to worry about cooking (or pureeing or spreading or eating your kids leftovers off the floor) for an entire week. If your kids exclusively eat beige foods like mine are inclined to do, they’ve got you covered (“rice and beans” is the national dish after all, and who doesn’t love fried plantain and yucca chips? No one, that’s who).
If they’re more adventurous and are keen to try exotic fruit like guava and passion fruit, you’re also in the right place. Some of the restaurants are adults only (see #5 below), but many will happily cater to your little darlings. Be sure to show up well before the hangries kick in as there may be a bit of a wait. And don’t miss out on scoring a table at the resort’s Teppanyaki grill one evening. Because everyone loves burning flames and sharp knives at meal time.
In addition to incredible food, the resort also offers unlimited cocktails. Not the syrupy sweet ones you may find elsewhere, but carefully crafted and thoughtful drinks that will keep your day-drunk buzz going (worried about kids getting enough attention? Once again, see #5 below).
3. Your kids will learn a thing or two
Costa Rica is filled with wondrous biodiversity - the stuff of dreams, really. Opportunities for kids to learn about animals, birds, plants, and conservation are endless. If you’re pulling your kids out of school for the week (aka don’t want to pay March Break prices), you’ll find solace in the fact that no classroom can offer the same tactile learning adventure as a rainforest.
The resort is surrounded by mountains and jungles and we were delighted to see capuchin monkeys, black spined lizards, emus, puffer fish and a large variety of birds. We visited two real volcanos (Rincon de la vieja and Santa Monica) and were able to swim in the waters of a thermal hot spring heated by one of them.
4. The family that zip lines together, stays together
For those with slightly older children, consider booking a day trip off the resort. Our daughter is 6 years old and she had a blast with her Dad and I exploring nearby villages, swimming under a waterfall and, wait for it, hurtling through the air above a 900ft canyon. Not quite the monkey bars she was used to at home, but by far the most thrilling thing she’s done in her little life so far.
One evening was spent on a hired fishing boat, snorkeling and watching the sunset. There’s something to be said about discovering new things together, and this vacation spot has oodles of options. Day trips can be organized either through the resort itself, or through a private company (representatives can be found on the beach).
5. And the top reason why you need to consider this trip: The Kids Club!
Dreams Las Mareas has a fully supervised children’s program for kids 3 – 12 years old that runs from 10 am am – 9:45 pm each day. You read that correctly! Nearly 12 hours of supervised care to opt into each day. It works like this: you hand them your sunscreen’d child, they hand you a beeper. So easy!
If your child needs you, your-table-is-ready style device lights up and vibrates. You collect said child, curse them for ruining your near-perfect tan line, solve the problem, and get back to your lounge chair. Despite our kids begging to spend all day, every day at the Club (it was that. much. fun.), we chose to rely on the in-and-out privileges. A bit of family time, a bit of club time. For example, if you crave a quiet meal, you can check them in over dinner time (don’t worry, they’ll get fed too). Each hour there is a different activity: sandcastle competitions, nature walks, crafts, water polo games, treasure hunts, karaoke, etc. The staff are reliable, friendly, and tell you when your 3-year-old is being a “little rascal”. So from the get-go, a good (empty) threat to use with your kids is “behave or no more kids club”).