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Travelling in Costa Rica with a baby

Posted by Joe Wicks in Wellbeing

Travelling has always been such a huge part of my life and also my relationship with Rosie. Before Indie was born we made a promise to each other that we would not stop exploring the world, and in April this year we went on our first proper adventure together, to Costa Rica for a month.

In this blog I’m going to share our experience travelling around Costa Rica with Indie (who was 8 months old at the time) including the route we took, the hotels we stayed in, as well as answering some of the most frequent questions I've been asked. Wherever you dream of travelling to with your family, I hope you find some of this information useful and inspiring. Travelling has always been such a huge part of my life and also my relationship with Rosie. We love exploring new places together, meeting people and trying new food. During these windows of travel I feel at my most calm, content and happy. I get to slow down, be more present, detach from my phone and really re-energise myself.  

We made a promise to each other when we had Indie that we would not stop exploring the world. So, in April we decided to take Indie on her first proper adventure, to Costa Rica for a month, and WOW what a trip it was.

The nature, wildlife, food and the people were all absolutely wonderful. I actually think it’s been my favourite country I’ve ever visited. I had no idea how special this place was going to be. We booked flights direct from Gatwick to Costa Rica (San Jose), rented a 4x4 and booked our first 4 nights accommodation. After that we just used TripAdvisor and booked new places every 2-3 days as we moved around the country.  We like the flexibility of this way of travelling so we can stay longer if we fall in love with a place or move on if we get restless.  

I’m going to share our route, the hotels we stayed in and my top recommendations. I’m also going to share my experiences and top tips for travelling with a young baby. The accommodation can really vary from $20 dollar a night hostels to luxury hotels. We stayed in a mixture of small eco lodges, luxury resorts and spent one night in an eco-tent on the beach, there’s so many options for any budget. 


FAQ’s about the trip

How was the flight with Indie? 

The flight from London to San Jose is a long one (11 hours direct). Was it easy with a baby? It wasn’t exactly fun, but it wasn’t a nightmare either. It was a day flight, so she didn’t sleep much, she needed constant entertainment and stimulation. She’s not into TV screens yet so unfortunately we couldn’t hypnotise her with a Disney movie. 

We took turns entertaining her with toys and walking up and down the aisle and introducing her to some nice cabin crew. She didn’t have any major meltdowns on the flight so we got off lightly I think. On the way back we got a night flight and she slept for just under 7 hours, so if you can always try to get a night flight where possible. In terms of food on the flight, Rosie breastfed Indie and we gave her one food pouch (Babease) which the cabin crew heated up for her. She also snacked on some fruit. 

How bad was the jet lag and how did you get Indie into a sleep routine?

The first 3-4 days were all over the place as we all had jet lag. You really just have to ride this out and be patient. It’s easy for us as adults to wake up in the night and watch a movie or listen to a podcast and try to get back to sleep, but for the baby they are super confused and want to get up and start their day. We usually just woke up, turned the lights on and played games to wear her out until she wanted a nap. When she napped we would go back to sleep with her.

 

Where did Indie sleep?

At each hotel we stayed in we would email ahead and ask them to set up a baby cot, which they all did accommodate easily apart from two places which didn’t have them. On these occasions we had Indie sleep in the bed with us, this wasn’t fun as she doesn’t sleep well with us and kept kicking me in the head. Luckily this was only 4 nights out of 30.  

How do you travel the long distances in a car with baby?

We did on average 2-3 hour drives with Indie across the country and these could have been a nightmare but it’s all about timing. We made sure we woke up, took her for breakfast, went swimming, skipped her morning nap and pushed it back until we were ready to head off. This meant she slept all the way on these long journeys and me and Rosie enjoyed the drives and listened to music and podcasts. If we hadn’t got this right and had a screaming baby on these journeys I think our experience would have been very different. Timing your drives at nap time is essential.  

What did Indie eat? 

Indie was 8 months old at the time so was eating a variety of things on this trip. We kept breakfast simple by giving her porridge and fruit or some rice and beans with plantain (a typical Costa Rican breakfast). For lunch we stuck to things like grilled fish tacos and veg, usually ordering for ourselves and letting her have some of ours. At dinner again we stuck to grilled fish as it was so fresh with mash potato and steamed veg. Just be sure to tell them to not add any salt to the meals. We also got some cans of chickpeas, lentils and mixed veg from a supermarket which we could feed her mashed up in the room, heated up with hot water. This was handy at times if we wanted to feed her and have her asleep in her buggy before we went out to eat for dinner. 

How do you relax and have fun?

Obviously having a baby in tow means you can’t both go out doing fun stuff like renting jet skis together or partying until 2am every night, but we absolutely loved having her with us. When it came to doing things like zip lining in the jungle, I would go first alone, then I would watch Indie while Rosie did it. This way we still got to do the fun activities on offer, just not together. Most fun on the trip happened together though. Going for hikes, finding beautiful beaches, seeing wild monkeys and being in the pool everyday with Indie are my highlights. 

Relaxing times came when Indie napped during the day in her buggy. We would use this time to have a cocktail by the pool or have a quiet lunch together. I took my laptop, so during the evening we would watch movies in bed on Netflix and get an early night. 

Is it stressful travelling with a young baby?

I think every situation we find ourselves in has the potential to be stressful. It really depends on how you react. We choose to be calm and so we didn’t find ourselves under major stress. The hardest thing was if we ate out in restaurants together at night and Indie had a meltdown because she was over tired. Rather than get stressed and leave and let it end our meal, we would put Indie in her buggy and one of us would take her for a walk for 5-10 mins down the road until she fell to sleep. 

Don’t you get nervous in a new place? And do you ever feel unsafe?

Costa Ricans really have the most wonderful attitude to life and are so friendly. They live by a phrase “Pura Vida – Pure life” and really do take care of each other and people they meet. We never felt unsafe or in any danger. I felt safer travelling around than anywhere I’ve ever been before. I felt the same in Panama too (we went there for a week at the end of the trip).

How did you keep Indie cool? 

It was about 26-28 degrees everyday in Costa Rica and the best way to keep her cool was to be in the water, so most of the time we played in the pool. Even though we love the beach we realised that we rarely went in the ocean with her as the waves were too big. If you can, I really recommend booking a hotel with a pool. After a month of playing in swimming pools Indies confidence in the water has really improved. She absolutely loves it now and is happy to be dunked under and will splash and paddle in her floating ring. 

Would you do it again?

100%. I loved exploring with Indie - it’s nothing but fun. Watching her see new animals like monkeys, sloths, iguanas, toucans, crocodiles with fascination is brilliant. Seeing her interact with new people and try new tastes and flavours is just amazing. The most special thing in my opinion was being in nature with her. It’s so good for her development to be exposed to nature and be stimulated visually by sights, sounds and smells - something Costa Rica is so full of. We are already thinking about our next trip which might be Australia. 

Is travelling with a baby for you?

I think if you have dreams of seeing the world - whether that be a weekend in Rome, a week exploring the Lake District or a month travelling around Costa Rica - I say go for it. Don’t be held back by any fears or concerns of doing it with a baby. There is never a perfect time. Go into it with the mindset of this is going to be fun, an exploration and adventure, showing my baby the world. If you find yourself stressed in a situation just take a deep breath, stay calm and keep moving forward. 


Here is a list of our baby travel essentials: 

• Light weight travel buggy 

• Breathable baby carrier

• Light weight sleeping bag

• Car seat (you can hire these too)

• Kettle (to sterilise and make bottles)

• Washing up liquid 

• Box of porridge oats (a great breakfast option if hotel food isn’t great)

• Baby bowls, spoon and cups

• Swimming nappies (we purchased more of these over there)

• Couple of baby toys (for flight and hotel rooms)

• Calpol 

• Baby sun cream (factor 50)

• Mosquitan patches (insect repellent patches to stick on buggy, cot etc)


Our route in Costa Rica – and where we stayed:

Location: Rio Perdido

Hotel: Rio Perdido 

Notes: Fantastic zip lining in the forest with amazing thermal rivers. We stayed in little tree house style cabins. Best wildlife (loads of wild howler monkeys, birds and anteaters around) Highly recommend this place to start your trip if you fly into San Jose. 

 

Location: Tamarindo 

Hotel: Cala Luna

Notes: Lovely boutique hotel. Great pool. Cool little surf town. More touristy, lots of restaurants and bars. Well fun though. Great party town. 

 

Location: Papagayo 

Hotel: Andaz

Notes: Luxury resort. Stunning views and coast line. We didn’t explore the area as we just enjoyed the resort for two days but there is an amazing National Park nearby.   

Location: Conchal Resevera 

Hotel: W Hotel

Notes: Another Luxury resort. Recently opened. Proper party hotel. Amazing architecture and design. Food and service best we had on the trip. A real special treat perfect for a celebration. Has an awesome gym too. 

 

Location: Santa Teresa 

Hotel: Banana Beach Bungalows

Notes: Great hippy, surfer vibe. Really good waves. Stayed in a little beach bungalow. Great for kids and has a pool. It has a really lovely beach restaurant to watch the sunset too. 

 

Location: Monterverde (Cloud Forests)

Hotel: Senda 

Notes: Recently refurbished modernised bungalows in the mountains. Absolutely spectacular place. Must visit to see the views and the cloud forests (suspension bridges). Amazing hikes (we did a great night hike, too!)

 

Location: La Fortuna 

Hotel: Tabacon Springs 

Notes: Overpriced hotel room in my opinion, but you also get access to the hot spring pools within the price, which is really amazing and well worth spending the day. Be sure to do a day trip/hike to Arenal Volcano.  

 

Location: Puerto Viejo (Caribbean Coast) 

Hotel: Aguas Claras 

Notes: My favourite hotel in on the whole trip. We had a little suite which was such a stunning design. Awesome pool and restaurant too. We managed to stay there a few nights as it was empty but it is an adult only hotel so not great for families.

 

Location: Bocas Del Toro (A collection of Islands in Panama)

Hotel: Finca Vela

Notes: We decided to cross the border into Panama. Really easy. Drive to border. Get visa stamped. Park your car in a secure car park then you walk across the border into Panama. We then jumped in a taxi to the coast for 1 hour and got a taxi boat to the islands. Such a stunning place. Perfect white sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Be sure to visit Starfish beach. The hotel Finca Vela is unreal. Only 5 rooms on a tiny Island. We choose the treehouse room. The food was the best we had on our whole entire trip.


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Joe Wicks

About Joe Wicks

Joe Wicks is the online nutrition coach inspiring people all over the world to cook with his #Leanin15 video meals on Instagram. He is also transforming the lives of thousands of people with his tailored online nutrition plan, The 90 Day Shift, Shape & Sustain plan.

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