Costa Rica Vacation Spotlight
We’re recently back from a week in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, so it only makes sense that part two of our destination spotlight series is about a Costa Rica vacation! This country may look small on a map, but it certainly packs a big punch– and we didn’t even have time to venture outside of the northern province. VIP Hint: Distances may look small on a map, but the time it takes to traverse this region can be substantial thanks to mountainous passes, wild animal crossings (keep your eyes peeled for monkeys, iguanas, sloths and more) and the Pura Vida mentality.
Guanacaste is wild and wonderful, making it an ideal destination for a Costa Rica vacation. Boasting towering mountains, dry tropical jungle and expanses of golden sand beaches that will give you an orange sunset show each evening, Guanacaste in Costa Rica is a special place made even more so by sharing it with friends and family.
From the northern most reaches of Papagayo, to the bustling (but not quite metropolis) of Tamarindo, Costa Rica’s Guanacaste includes a little bit of everything you need to create a truly memorable vacation in Central America.
The newer Liberia airport is your gateway to this magical region and lies only about 30 minutes by car from the beaches of Papagayo. While there, we visited some big resorts (like Dreams, Four Seasons and Andaz), as well as some smaller boutique style hotels like El Mangroove. One thing they all have in common? The beaches in Costa Rica are all public, so don’t expect hotels to have private beaches unless they’re so removed the locals just can’t get there.
Farther down the coast, around Tamarindo, we saw private homes with a community feel (like at Las Catalinas), as well as some larger hotel chains with some quintessential Tico flair (like the Westin and JW Marriott). There are even high luxe, white glove villas for rent around the Tama suburb of Langosta you won’t find without a little help from those in the know.
With so many great options, what were out favorite Tico experiences? Here are the top five properties, activities and more we enjoyed while in Guanacaste, Costa Rica:
Situated directly on a “forest beach” along the shores of Papagayo, El Mangroove is an all suite boutique style hotel with only 85 rooms in three buildings. Comfortable and beach chic, the El Mangroove captures the quintessential essence of Costa Rica in an effortless and authentic way while still providing all the modern conveniences discerning travelers require. Only the Master and Presidential suites have ocean views, but that doesn’t matter since you’re just steps away from the water anywhere on the property. Catch one glimpse of this out-of-the-way property that’s still close enough to Cocos beach town for a night out with friends or family, and you’ll be hooked.
Sunset Catamaran Tour
There’s no marina in Tamarindo, so getting to your catamaran is part of the fun as you wade into ankle deep water and climb aboard the dinghy. Spend a day in the sun making new friends while lounging on the trampolines (not for jumping, mind you), sipping the beverage of your choice and snacking on light bites and enjoying the scenery, as your captain whisks you away to an isolated cove for some afternoon snorkeling. Although the Pacific isn’t known for its high visibility, you’ll still likely see some marine life (keep an eye out for octopi), or you can grab a kayak or standup paddle board and have some fun topside. Once you’ve sufficiently relaxed into Pura Vida, enjoy the sunset while heading back in for the night.
Diamante Eco Adventure Park
Diamante Eco Adventure Park sits about half way between Papagayo and Tamarindo, so it isn’t the most easily accessible of the abundant eco parks in Costa Rica, but it does boast the biggest zip line in country. If zipping your way from mountain to mountain while overlooking the Pacific Ocean sounds enticing, wait until you see the wild animal sanctuary housing rehabilitated and raised-in-captivity animals who are so used to humans they can’t be released like sloths, monkeys, big cats and much more. The one catch is this place gets very busy and the weather can be a factor when zipping, so it’s best to leave the planning to the professionals.
If you’ve ever wanted to see how the other half live, there is no place better than Costa Rica! From recently constructed eight bedroom luxury villas in the Tamarindo ‘burbs that lease for thousands per night and uber modern condos in the heart of Tamarindo proper, to a European village style masterplanned community with privately-owned estates and New York loft style apartments, you’ll be amazed by the non-hotel options available to you in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Even better? You won’t have to give up white glove, high luxe services when you rest your head in these super swanky abodes each night. No matter the type of tour you desire, or whether you want your fridge stocked, your meals cooked for you or to dine in nearby restaurants, it can all be arranged to your specifications.
Tamarindo is a beach community in the truest sense of the word. To see what this quaint village is all about, head out to the beach just before sunset and you’ll find a diverse array of people from all over the world basking in the evening glow of sunset with surfboards flanking their feet. Once the sun disappears in the horizon, it’s time to stroll the streets of town doing some souvenir shopping, grabbing a bite and one of the many restaurants or enjoying two-for-one happy hours specials at one of the local watering holes. Although there are a ton of options, one of the favorites we found was a place called Las Ovejas Negras (The Black Sheep). One part hostel and one part chill beach bar/restaurant, the food was among the best we found, the drinks were strong and inexpensive and the socializing was friendly and fun.
If you’re ready to plan your Costa Rica vacation, contact us today to get in touch with the Pure Vida lifestyle. And, stay tuned for more about Costa Rica later this year when we head back to explore the Central Pacific region.