Here are a few highlights and tips from our family vacation to Costa Rica where we enjoyed “Pura Vida,” I hope you find them helpful as you embark on the “Tico” adventure. (Costa Rica’s call themselves “Ticos”.)
A Few Travel Tips
- First and foremost, bring lots of sunblock and insect repellant!
- The best times of year to visit is from September thru November.
- January thru May is dry season, and usually very hot!!
- June thru August is considered the rainy season. Travel is often less expensive this time of year, and less crowded. It rains almost daily, but only for a brief period. Your trip will not be ruined by the rain. However, you will need to be flexible about your plans.
- Liberia International Airport was easy to maneuver. A nice plus when traveling.
- Food is expensive! Costa Rica is also not very commercial and there are not many fast food options, especially outside of major cities. If you are not staying at an all inclusive resort, buy groceries and plan on cooking daily to keep your food expenses reasonable.
- Gas is expensive and full coverage insurance is required in addition to your rental fee. Most Tico’s ride motorcycles or bicycles due to the high cost of gasoline. However, it is still a good idea to rent your own vehicle if you are not taking mass transportation. A SUV which sits high off the ground is best, especially if you are traveling in the rainy season. (We had no choice but to drive through the river a few times. Shh! The rental company isn’t supposed to know.)
Things to see:
Catarata Llanos de Cortes
Mira Valles Volcano, Hot Springs, Jungle Tour, and Swinging Bride
Playa Samara- This was the perfect place to sit on beach in beautiful Cabanas or swimming in the ocean. The Pacific Ocean is both calm and warm. We really loved La Comda restaurant, located directly on Playa Samara beach. The food was good, well priced, and they offer Cabanas! For those who love “night life” you can find it in Samara.
If you’re looking for the perfect horseback ride, contact Walter Nixon Samara on Facebook! He was so friendly, knowledgeable, and made our 5 year old comfortable. His horses are the most gentle on the beach!
*Please check out the city of Arenal, Costa Rica. We did not have time to make it there, but it was well recommended by others. We will have to venture there on another Costa Rican adventure.
Off the Beaten Paths
- Playa Barrigona- excellent places to Surf! The current is strong, and the water is refreshing. In the mornings, we found the beach littered with seashells and the water blue blue blue!
- Playa Buena Vista- the perfect spot for sunsets.*Nicoya- a smaller town where tours can be arranged and good food eaten! Drop in if you are in Western Costa Rica.
Where to Stay
We had the pleasure of staying at the beautiful Mar Azul Estate. Nestled into a hilltop over looking the pristine west coast of Costa Rica, Estate Mar Azul offers the perfect getaway for your next holiday excursion. It’s a residential community where you can rent a private home in countryside of Costa Rica. The last 10 minutes to the home, located in Estrones, Costa Rica are the bumpiest ride in all of Costa Rica! No question-you need a SUV in this area. Esterones de Guanacaste is just 20 minutes from the paved streets of Samara. You are truly right in the middle of the jungle.
My family and I enjoyed waking up each morning to the sound of monkeys, hummingbirds, frogs, toucans, peacocks, and so many other creatures. You may even be fortunate enough to see a sloth! The Howler monkeys daily surronded our house to eat the fresh mangos from the trees. They are loud and messy little creatures, taking a few bites of mango and then tossing it aside. The sounded of Jason’s drone made them curious and they would come closer. One afternoon a few of them had a starring contest with us, right outside the front door. We were so close we could see into its eyes. What a neat experience!
I cannot say enough about the wonderful staff of Mar Azul!! Johnny, the overseer, drove the 2 hours to pick us up from the airport, took us grocery shopping, and then brought us to the home. He and James, the groundskeeper, cleaned the thrown mangos, the cool blue pool, and frog crossed patio each morning. The maid Teresa cleaned the entire house and washed laundry each day.
They helped us find the Kingdom Hall, stores, and nearby beaches. Johnny personally guided us through the jungle on the ATVs until we felt comfortable to go alone. We took them a number of times to Playa Buena Vista and Playa Samara. Riding through the warm green underbrush with the wind in my hair, monkeys in the trees, and iguanas darting through the bushes was like a dream from a movie. We loved every moment of it, and Jocelyn begged to ride them each day.
Once our vacation ended, they held us drop off our rental car, and safely returned us to the airport. The entire time we were in Costa Rica we didn’t want for anything due to the excellent staff of the Mar Azul Estate.
There are many a number of homes to rent for vacation. We stayed in the largest home. With 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a fully stocked kitchen, huge patio, and private pool- the home that sits atop the jungle overlooking the Pacific home is made for families. We had internet, air condition, washer and dryer, and ATV at our full disposal. We could have comfortably hosted 6 to 8 people. This would cheapen travel expenses if 2 or more family shared the cost of the house rental. But the view! The View was everything! We loved our stay at Mar Azul.
The Costa Rican People
The people of Costa Rica are some of the kindest individuals I have ever met. They are easy going by nature, but extremely respectful of each other and their environment. They are not wealthy, but hard working and content. Family is important to them. They do not look down on tourist. I do speak Spanish, but I’m slow and often mispronounce words. The native Costa Rican people didn’t laugh or sneer at me-they slowed their speech and taught me how to say the words correctly.
We were shown hospitality everwhere we went, especially at the Kingdom Hall. As women, I felt safe in all the areas we visited. No men leered at me. Additionally, really loved that we didn’t run into panhandling or annoying timeshares are we did on other vacations. We all agree. If we are ever given the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica again, we’d happily return. I invite you are to visit Costa Rica and enjoy the “Tico” way of life. It truly is “pura vida.” Pure Life.
Thanks for reading!