February Vacation Destination with Young Kids

Oct 4th, 2015, 09:19 AM
  #1  
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February Vacation Destination with Young Kids

We are planning a vacation for February with my husband and two daughters (4 and 8). We have been going to Hawaii for the past few years but would like to try something new. They are a bit young for a lot of the fun adventure type things in Costa Rica (ziplines etc) but I think they would love the wildlife there. Our top priority is nice weather and beaches - particularly calm sandy beaches where the kids can swim and play. We would like to also be near an area where we can see wildlife or other areas of natural or cultural interest but willing to drive to those to be on the beach. Any suggested areas?

I was looking at the Papagayo and Nicoya Peninsulas in Costa Rica but open to other Costa Rica locations or other countries. I have been to Osa (Bosques del Cabo) but think the beach would be too rough for the kids there. Please let me know if that is wrong.

We would like to stay somewhere comfortable (nice room, pool, good food) but does not have to be a big resort or an American style hotel and we would prefer something not too built up. For instance, the Springs was recommended (I realizet that is not on the beach) to me but that looks a bit too built up for our taste. Price range up to $400/night without food but room needs to fit all of us. We are adventurous generally, less so when traveling with the kids, so want to be sure we are somewhere without security/safety issues.
Sally30 is offline  
Oct 4th, 2015, 04:31 PM
  #2  
 
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We love Tulemar Bungalows in Manuel Antonio; they have their own beach, and the units are individual villas. Lots of wildlife on property - we saw howler and capuchin monkeys and sloths there, as well as an aracari. Lots of restaurants close by that you can walk to. The guided tour of the park is fun, and the Damas mangrove tour as well. We used Manuel Antonio Expeditions.
volcanogirl is offline  
Oct 4th, 2015, 06:44 PM
  #3  
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Have you looked at the Riviera Maya in Mexico? If your priorities are soft beaches and calm waters, that's a much better fit. Wide variety of lodging and dining and activities. Perfectly safe, with modern infrastructure.
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Oct 5th, 2015, 09:41 AM
  #4  
mad
 
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Check out Villas Kalimba in Playa Samara. It's a small resort with only 5 or 6 two bedroom villas. Across the street from the beach. The owners are the nicest! They also have some houses you can rent with private pools. All at reasonable rates. Great beach for kids and the town isn't built up, but has enough going on to keep you busy. Only down side, is that there isn't a huge amount of wildlife in the area. You'll see monkeys fairly easily, but not too much more in my experience. We've been twice, second time when our son was 5. We all love it there.
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Oct 5th, 2015, 09:45 AM
  #5  
mad
 
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We also enjoyed Tulemar bungalows (villa mot mot). While the wildlife viewing is great and the beach is kid friendly, we felt like this area was overpriced and a lot less of an authentic costa rican experience than our time spent in Playa Samara.
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Oct 6th, 2015, 05:26 PM
  #6  
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Thank you for the suggestion of the Maya Riveria. I have looked into it a bit and it is very appealing for the mix of nice beaches, historic interest (ruins and colonial cities), restaurants and natural beauty (bird watching etc). If we are looking for somewhere not too built up with good swimming beaches for the kids, do you recommend Akumel or Tulum? Are there any particular hotels you recommend - we do not want an all inclusive or Disney-like atmosphere? A small hotel with a room that fits all four of us, preferable on the beach, would be great. Also any advice/comfort on safety of this area of Mexico would be appreciated.
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Oct 7th, 2015, 10:35 AM
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Many, many years ago we stayed at the Hotel Akumal Caribe in the village of Akumal. Akumal Bay is calm and protected and had good snorkeling. One bay north is Half Moon Bay which is rougher. North of Half Moon Bay is Yal-ku Lagoon where you can also snorkel. We found the location to be charming. This was before there were any all inclusives in the area.

Snorkeling will be better in the Riviera Maya than Costa Rica but you won't see as much wildlife in terms of mammals. On the other hand Costa Rica doesn't have ruins. Have you thought of Belize?
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Oct 7th, 2015, 01:44 PM
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the beach at Akumal is quite lovely and the water is quite swimmable--the problem is that it gets very crowded due to the public access point there, and because you can snorkel to see sea turtles there--right off the beach.

The Tulum area is more spread out so there's less of a concentration of people there.

The two areas are fairly close together, of course.

Also keep in mind that there are many beach clubs in Tulum where you can pay a reasonable fee (or have lunch) and set up shop under their talapas, wading, etc.
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Oct 18th, 2015, 07:17 AM
  #9  
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Thanks for the responses. We have done a lot of research and are still strongly attracted to Osa. I looked at Manuel Antonio and have some concerns about all the comments saying how crowded it is and what a small area there is for wildlife viewing. I fear we have been spoiled by our Bosques del Cabo amazing experience. For people who have been to both, is my perception accurate?

We continue to think that BdC is not the right place for our young kids but had the idea that if we could find a place near there with a nice, calm, swimmable beach, then we could combine the wildlife aspect with resting on the beach within a single destination in Costa Rica and save the hassle/cost of traveling to a second spot.

Any thoughts on Drakes Bay as an area or specific accommodations there for us (Drakes Bay Wilderness Lodge or other)? How many nights do you think would be enough to relax but not too much if the kids are uncomfortable? I think we would start or end the trip with 1-2 nights outside San Jose as we are unlikely to make flight times work to get to/from Osa the same day we travel from/to Boston. We would also like to see Toucan Ranch and possibly the Gold Museum - both of which the kids would like.

The other idea we are exploring is Belize (one of the Cayes for beach plus a jungle lodge - Chan Chih? Lamanai?). I will post separately on that idea but feel free to respond here!

Basically given the kids, we would like a trip that does not involve complicated/difficult travel between destinations, easy to spot wildlife, swimmable beach, not too fancy/romantic in case kids are not at their best, and not overly developed (for mom and dad!). Or as many of those factors as we can get!
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Oct 18th, 2015, 11:49 AM
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We've stayed at both Chaa Creek and Lamanai for Belizean jungle and enjoyed those. We love Ambergris and Victoria House, but a lot of the beaches in Belize have sea grass. Not much in the way of surf there due to the reef, but the snorkeling is fantastic.


Tulemar Bungalows in MA doesn't feel crowded at all, and there's lots of wildlife in the property, but there will be a lot of people if you go visit the park.
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Oct 18th, 2015, 12:33 PM
  #11  
mad
 
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we've been to both Tulemar and the Osa. I'm not a huge fan of Manuel Antonio, but Tulemar is a place you can basically stay at and avoid the crowds. It's a great spot with young kids (went with our son when he was about 3). The wildlife viewing is fantastic right on the property and the beach is kid friendly and not crowded. You can walk to restaurants and don't need a car there. I agree Bosque is not someplace I'd go with little kids. we are going this year, but our son will be 8. We're also staying at Crocodile Bay Resort in Puerto Jimenez, which may meet your needs if you want to head down to the Osa. Looks like the water's calm there and they have a nice pool, good food and A/C! The osa is pricey and you have to take into account the additional plane tickets.
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Oct 18th, 2015, 03:18 PM
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We've been to Chan Chich and Lamanai Outpost Lodge in Belize and also Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica. CC and LOL feel more remote. I imagine similar to Osa though I haven't been to Osa. Of the two I feel LOL offers more activities that the kids might enjoy. CC is more geared toward birders. Not that non-birders couldn't enjoy it. CC is also more upscale and has a pool.

In Manuel Antonio we stayed at Tulemar and didn't go to the national park as there was so much wildlife on the property itself. We also did the Damas Mangrove tour. The wildlife in MA is very habituated to people. You actually have to stop them from coming into your bungalow which also makes them extremely visible. It really depends on whether you want an experience that feels "wilder" or not.
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Oct 18th, 2015, 06:29 PM
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Iguana Lodge is another option that's really popular.
volcanogirl is offline  
Oct 18th, 2015, 07:46 PM
  #14  
RAC
 
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I certainly understand the attraction to the Osa, but it's really not a place for calm, swimmable beaches or for avoiding complicated travel arrangements or quite frankly for traveling with two young kids. We've spent 13 nights in the Osa and saw one kid under 12, and she was bored and pouting every time we saw her.

Manuel Antonio is probably the best combination of swimmable beach, ease of travel, wildlife, and kid-friendly in Costa Rica.

Is it the natural, relatively unspoiled wonder that the Osa is? No, but no place with your other criteria is.

We loved Lamanai Outpost Lodge but no swimming there. Fairly kid-friendly though.
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Oct 19th, 2015, 04:42 AM
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We stayed at Chan Chich in Belize a few years ago. It's an awesome place, but, not easy to get to. Either a drive/ride of several hours, or, you'll need to charter a plane. We chartered the plane. Certainly not cheap (but, we were flying from Ambergris).

We've also stayed at Manual Antonio a couple times and the Drake Bay area once. Much more wildlife in Costa Rica. Very easy to spot in Manual Antonio. It's been along time since we've been to CR, probably 15 year, and, I understand it's gotten way more developed and busy since we were there.

However, for ease of wildlife spotting with young children, I don't think you can beat Manual Antonio.
JeanH is offline  
Oct 19th, 2015, 07:52 AM
  #16  
 
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Have you looked into the Caribbean side of Costa Rica? Punta Uva (near Puerto Viejo) is a fairly calm beach and there is plenty of wildlife in that area. It's not quite as complicated to get to as the Osa, but more remote feeling than Manuel Antonio. Cahuita National Park is a good hiking spot with opportunities to see sloths and monkeys and other critters. The Jaguar Rescue Center would be fun for your children.
janenicole is offline  
Nov 28th, 2015, 09:41 PM
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We were there in July, but I didn't find MA crowded. We had our 11 year old and 2.5 year d with us. We went swimming I side the park. We stayed at Hotel Costa Verde which is full of monkeys and sloths. We went horseback riding. They loved it, and it was easy with a toddler. I'm trying to decide on a new spot in CR to visit; it's hard since they loved MA so much.
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