Here’s a quick recap of our recent Winter Break week in Costa Rica with the kids – great adventure! We spent half the week on the beach, and a few days around the volcanoes (I’ll post separately about that part of the trip). I could basically set up shop here for months – it’s so easy to slip into the safe, calm, healthy, easygoing lifestyle of CR. We will definitely add this to our rotation with the familia!!
Tamarindo is an awesome little beach town with lots of shops and restaurants arrayed along a long uncrowded strip of wide, fine, palm-lined sand. It’s a perfect spot for families with kids of all ages. The long crescent bay is bookended by an estuary teeming with wildlife (birds, monkeys, crocodiles!) on one end, and a dramatic promontory of lava rock with tidepools at the other (puffer fish! starfish! crabs!). The rolling surf is just big enough by day for boogie boarding and beginner surfing, but calm enough in low wind for SUP and kayaks to venture out as well.
The Capitan Suiza hotel at the southern end is one of the only beachfront properties with a pool, and just far enough from the center of town to feel quiet and secluded. Resident howler monkeys frolicked in the trees outside our room, while iguanas, cats, squirrels, leaf cutter ants and exotic birds entertained throughout the lush gardens. I wandered a few doors down each morning for lovely yoga classes at the Revive Wellness Center. We also popped in for a peek around the newish Diria Hotel in the center of town, which had a nice but busy pool and beach scene.
- Our favorite spot was Wok N Roll – hip vibe with an eclectic Asian menu featuring oysters, noodles, excellent bibimbap, kimchee, sushi, and more!
- Bamboo Sushi Club – cozy enclosed courtyard off the main drag with decent sushi
- La Esquina – atmospheric outdoor pizza restaurant with excellent wood fired pizzas and a small playground for kids
- For a delicious quick snack, snag fresh empanadas from the Super Compro market at the north end of town.
- Do not miss: It’s worth the short detour just down the coast to Avellanas beach to log in an afternoon at Lola’s, voted on of the 10 best beach bars in the world. Order an ice cold beer, a fresh organic meal, and a front row seat for world class boogie boarding and surfing. Wave hola to the resident mascot pig Lolita (who apparently enjoys an occasional dip in the Pacific herself!), and rinse off in the hand cranked shower contraption on your way out.
Northern Guanacaste Coast
Bedecked with beautiful beaches, scenic little bays, tiny surf towns, and breathtaking spots for sunset, it’s fun and easy to beach hop along the jewel of a coast up here. Here were a few of our best pit stops:
* Playa Flamingo – Slurp a mango smoothie and order tuna ceviche in a fresh coconut bowl at super casual beach bar Coco Loco. Dig your toes in the sand and cool off in the sea between cocktails…our perfect beach day fantasy realized…
* Playa Hermosa – a quiet grey sand beach town tucked between two mountains. Stop in to Roberto’s for a bowl of Costa Rican seafood soup and a game of backgammon under the palms, or book a stay for the views from the rooftop pool.
* Playa Panama – we wrapped our trip up with a luxurious weekend at the brand new eco-chic Mangroove Hotel on super secluded Papagayo Bay. Peace and quiet and pampering is the main attraction here. The restaurant on site is excellent, but it is also worth venturing off campus for dinner at Abbocato. Surrender yourself to chef owners Andrea and Paola’s tasting menu of the day.
- We encountered a lot of cool local wildlife, our least favorite being ubiquitous and very determined mosquitoes. Wear bug spray!!
- Currency – The Costa Rican currency is the Colon, but almost everyone accepts US Dollars, although if you pay in $$ you may get change in Colons. The current exchange is 1$ = 534 Colons
- Definitely check the weather – along the Pacific coast the dry season is very dry (November-May: Dec-April being high tourist season), and the wet season can be very wet and can make some roads impassable (May-October). The cloud forests are a different matter as they have their own micro-climates.
- WOW I wish there were better flights from San Francisco. It was quite a journey for us to get there and back, but it was well worth the effort in the end. The smaller international airport at Liberia is WAY closer to the Guanacaste coast if you can find a flight there. There are non-stop flights to the main airport in San Jose from Denver, Houston, BWI, Newark and a bunch of other mid-west/eastern US spots. Car rental is pretty easy throughout the country, or if you are cool with small planes you can hop a Cessna on Sansa Air to easily access many small destinations around the country.
- Pack light – rental cars and air shuttles are small, and airlines have strict weight limits. Tamarindo has a centrally located 1-day wash and fold laundry service called Back Wash if you need to refresh.
(Note: all pics by our in-house tour operator/talented shutterbug David Barsotti…)