Actually my goal was to go to Costa Rica and hug a sloth. I am happy that I didn’t do it and realized how much more Costa Rica has to offer.
When you plan to visit Costa Rica, you have basically two options. Do a round trip and see as much as possible of this beautiful country. Or go to one of the best surf spots and just enjoy Pura Vida there for 2 weeks. We chose option 2. If you are looking for option one you can stop reading now. The next choice you need to make if you decided for a surf/beach holiday in Costa Rica is which coast to go to. Costa Rica has a Caribbean and a Pacific Coast. As all the main surf spots are located at the Pacific coast, this is where we went.
Easy peasy off to Costa Rica
There are several ways to go to Costa Rica from Germany. Most of them go via San Jose, the capital. You can even find direct flights. But in San Jose, you are minimum 4h away from each of the coasts. But here is a trick: There is a small airport located at the northern Pacific coast, Liberia airport. With a short stop in the US or Panama you arrive there from Germany in about 18h. We chose to go with Lufthansa via Houston.
First stop: Tamarindo
To make our trip as convenient as possible I booked our first hotel quite near to the airport, in Tamarindo, one hour from Liberia airport. We stayed at the La Ramona Charming Hotel, a four room boutique hotel. Unfortunately we didn’t like neither Tamarindo, nor the La Ramona Hotel very much. Tamarindo is very touristic and the beach is really crowded. The hotel was ok, but not at all as pretty as it looked online on the pictures.
Restaurants in Tamarindo
Mamato Beach Club – This beach club is a real oasis within the crowded Tamarindo beach. We spent the whole day here and had lunch, smoothies, ice cream and pina colada.
Green Papaya Taco Bar – Here you can enjoy superb tacos sitting on swings listening to the best live music I have ever heard. Try the vegan tacos!
Main Stop: Nosara
Everything I have read about this place upfront made me excited. Nosara is one of the best surf spots worldwide. Also, it is a blue zone, one of 10 worldwide, which is a zone where people get as old as nowhere on earth. Why? There are several theories, but none of them is proven. Nutrition, living by the sea, happiness, …
In Nosara, people live a very sustainable environmentally friendly life. Even at the beach, you find separated trash bins for recycling. Tap water is potable everywhere and there are mainly no plastic bottles. Sounds like my definition of paradise. It was. I could have stayed there forever.
Unterkünfte in Nosara
Nosara and Costa Rica in general are pretty expenisve. As we didn‘t like Tamarindo so much, we left 2 days ealier to Nosara and I couldn’t resist to use this chance to check in for two nights into my actual dream hotel in Costa Rica, The Gilded Iguana.
A hotel dream come true. An oasis to relax and unwind with excellent service, design, food but a laidback surf athmosphere. The hotel has no kids club, but is very kidsfriendly with a kids pool, kids toys and kids menu at the restaurant. In Nosara there are no ocean front hotels as the beach is a nature reserve area. But from the hotel it is just a short 5min walk to the beach. You can imagine that we didn’t want to leave this place after 2 days, but keeping in mind the budget with a nightly rate of 350 EUR I had my reasons why I didn’t book it 12 nights in a row.
Our main hotel for 8 nights was The Sunset Shack, just a few hundred meters away from the Gilded Iguana. Half the prize, but not less pretty! It’s an eco boutique hotel, basic but stylish. You will find exactly the things you need to feel at ease. The hotel has a sustainable concept. There is a salt water pool, refillable beauty items, and the restaurant sources the food only from locals. The choice for breakfast and dinner therefor isn’t huge but delicious. Located in the middle of the jungle, your wake up service will be the howling monkies sitting in the trees around the hotel.
Researching also for Airbnbs in Nosara I came across these beautiful apartments. The only reason we did not book it was that all their villas have 2 bedrooms, so the prizes are only feasible when you divide it by two parties.
Restaurants in Nosara
Costa Rica has a delicious cuisine. You can mainly find Tacos, Burritos, Ceviche or, the Costa Rican traditional Casadas. Also, Nosara has a great health food and vegan food scene.
The restaurant at our hotel. We had dinner several times there. It is located in a lush garden. The menu is basic but authentic and good.
Oh my god, this place! Located directly at Playa Pelada with a stunning sunset view. In Nosara, restaurants are usually not located at the beach, because it is not allowed to build properties directly beachfront due to the nature reserve. The sun sets directly infront of the restaurant. The food is delicious, especially the pizza, but it was the most expensive dinner we had in two weeks. Also, you need to book a table several days upfront.
Not really a restaurant but the most relaxed place to grab a smoothie or a fruit bowl that is also good for lunch. You can definitely not make a healthier choice.
Pizza, Pizza! Not really traditional Costa Rican food, but delicious. And the little fashion boutique in a restored old caravan right next to it has the most beautiful pieces of Costa Rican fashion brands.
Rosi’s Soda Tica
Perfect for a traditional Costa Rican lunch. Here you can find simple but super tasty food, like Casadas, a traditional meal with rice, beans and vegetables.
What to do in Nosara
If you want to learn to surf (or you are a surfer already), Nosara is the place to be. Thinking about it right now, I feel a really strong desire to lie on a board in the water and paddle for the next wave. I am a beginner. We had a one-day surf lesson twice, in Sri Lanka and Fuerteventura, but I never had so much fun and progress like in Nosara. Playa Guiones is rated as one of the best surf beaches worldwide. Depending on the tide, the waves are good for beginners or pros. Like this, the water isn’t very crowded and everyone has time and space to catch some waves at their own pace. My surf instructor was Kaari from Selva Surf School. Actually, we do not travel to one place twice, because our goal is to see as much as possible from this world in our life. But I definitely want to go again to Playa Guiones.
There are a lot of nice beaches around Nosara that you can easily visit by Tuk Tuk or rental car.
The main beach in Nosara that is known for an excellent surf. The waves are just perfect. It is a natural reserve beach so there are no beach bars, hotels or sunbeds at all. The vibe is extremely chilled and the whole village gathers at the beach for sunset to have a beer or catch some waves. What you should keep in mind is that there is barely no shade, so you should bring your own umbrella or tent for a longer stay.
The beach right next to Playa Guiones. There is even a little hidden path between the two beaches. Visiting Playa Pelada for sunset is a must when you are in Nosara. The view is exceptional.
Garza is little fishermen village. The beach is ok. We enjoyed having lunch at Pilos Bar where you can have an excellent traditional ceviche and shrimp pasta directly at the beach. At first sight the bar looks a bit run down and shabby but the food was delicious and the view was a dream.
To go to Playa Barrigona from Nosara you need a rental car. It is a quite remote beach and you will not be able to just grab a Tuk Tuk at the main road. When you go there, make your way to the very end of the beach where you will be rewarded with a lot of palm trees and plenty of nature for the kids to explore.
Rain forests and waterfalls!
Cards on the table, we really didn’t see much of Costa Rica. We didn’t do the popular round trips through Costa Rica’s main spots, but took it really chilled 2 weeks at the beach. We made only one big day trip. But on this one day, we were lucky to make a lot of wonderful experiences.
We started 8am direction Rio Celeste in the Torino National Park. If you can, I recommend to go even earlier. The drive is 3-4 hours. Rio Celeste is in the middle of the rain forest. The temperature drops from 35 to 25 degrees celsius while humidity doubles. To go hiking in the area of Rio Celeste, you should be well prepared with hiking equipment. The 250 stairs down to the waterfall were a pretty tough workout with Levi on the back. But the view of the waterfall is really rewarding. You are not allowed to go swimming directly in the waterfall pool but a bit further down is an area where you can take a dip in the baby blue water.
After the hike, we visited the Finca Verde Lodge who owns a bit of land directly at the rain forest edge. There are a lot of animals in their natural, free habitat around the Finca, including sloths. Doing a lot of research upfront, we were paying a lot of attention of not stepping into a tourist trap where sloths are kept in cages or only serve as a tourist attraction. At Finca Verde, there are no fences or cages. The animals can come and go as they want and we were really lucky to see a whole sloth family hanging in the trees.
I was checking for cheap flights to Costa Rica for several months. Be patient and start to research early (with incognito browser). Flight prices vary from 600-800 EUR per person. Hotels in Costa Rica are pretty expensive. In general the price level, also for rental cars, transfers and food is rather high. In average, we paid 200 EUR per night per room, including breakfast. We spent 12 nights in Costa Rica. Levi was 2 years and 11 months old.
Total budget: 4.200 EUR
(transfers, rental car, food and entry fees not included)