Pre-Trip Fun for Costa Rica
"Spy Kids 2, Island of Lost Dreams" -- Arenal Lake and Manuel Antonio, two of the most popular visitors' attractions in Costa Rica, were used as filming sites for "Spy Kids 2." There are so many special effects it can be hard to place the locations, but the jungle and island scenes are perfect for getting everyone excited about Costa Rica's adventurous possibilities. (School-age kids)
"The Blue Butterfly" -- This 2004 film stars William Hurt as the father of a troubled boy. While much of it was actually shot in the Insectarium in Montreal, it features jungle footage from Costa Rica and the story revolves around Costa Rica's famous Blue Morpho butterfly. (These iridescent butterflies, the size of small birds, flit around rainforest flowers such as hibiscus and are absolutely mesmerizing.) (Pre-teens and teens)
"Jurassic Park" -- This famous dinosaur thriller, based on the Michael Crichton novel, features a fictitious island called "Isla Nublar" that many believe is really Cocos Island off Costa Rica. Cocos Island is one of the most popular snorkeling destinations, so if you're headed there you want to refresh your memory of Jurassic Park first. (The movie itself was filmed in Hawaii, however.) (Pre-teens and teens)
Quesadilla, burritos, and other "south of the border" specialties. In Costa Rica, you'll be eating Casados, traditional dishes consisting of grilled or stewed chicken or beef along with tortillas and beans, so you'll want your kids to develop a taste for this delicous fare.
"Curious George" by H.A. Rey -- The classic tale of the overly curious little monkey captured from the jungle by the man in the yellow hat is perfect preparation for interacting with real monkeys -- who are very curious indeed! (Ages 2 to 8)
"The Travel Adventures of Lily P. Badilly: Costa Rica" by Debbie Glade -- This story of a timid piano-playing millipede named Lilly will be a hit with the 8 to 12 set, who will laugh at her adventures -- and misadventures as she overcomes her fears. The accompanying audio CD makes a good bedtime listen. (Ages 8-12)
"The Tico Times" -- Reading this newspaper, available online, before you go will help parents and socially conscious tweens and teens get up to date on local issues in Costa Rica so they can pay attention to what's happening while they're there. There are also restaurant reviews written by locals that have a different flavor from guidebook style reviews written by and aimed at tourists. (Teens)
Shell crafts such as boxes or mirrors: Buy simple wooden boxes or frames (cigar boxes work as well), coat them with a gel-based craft glue and cover with a layer of small shells, which you can also purchase at a craft store. You might also want to wait until you get home from Costa Rica and do this project with shells you collect there; some of the beaches on the Nicoya peninsula, such as Montezuma, are paved with tiny clam, periwinkle and conch shells.
Stuffed paper bag whale: Supplies: paper grocery bag, newspaper, construction paper, tape, rubber band or string. Take a brown paper bag, stuff it with newspaper, and tie off the end about six inches from the end with string or a rubber band so it "fans" out into a tail. (The flat bottom of the bag becomes the face.) Using poster paint, paint the "whale" dark blue or grey. Draw a smiley mouth and eyes on the flat bottom using a black marker, or use glue-on "googly" eyes from a craft store. Use blue construction paper to cut out fins and strips of paper to make a "spout." Glue about eight or ten thin strips of paper together at one end, fasten that end to the top of the while, then fan them in all directions to look like a waterfall spout.