The past few years, my family has done a Christmas vacation in a different place. We did Big Bear for 2-3 years, then switched it to Hawaii in 2017, and this year we chose to go to Costa Rica! Let me just say — this country is absolutely beautiful. Costa Rica is where the beach meets a lusciously green tropical forest. There are so many different beaches, miles and miles of trees, and so many places to explore.
We went for 6 days — but technically 5 for us, since Zack and I got a severe delay leaving LAX, causing us to miss our connecting flight to Costa Rica, & put into a hotel for the night in Houston the first night of the trip (a different story for a different day ***). If (when😏) we return to Costa Rica, I think we need more time than this. There truly is just SO much to see, and it’s spread out all over the country. We flew into Liberia, stayed in the region of Guanacaste, Playa Potrero to be specific. We spent time all over the place — from Playa Flamingo, Palo Verde, and Tamarindo. If you are going to visit Costa Rica, here’s what we did & loved!
Beach day + Surfing in Tamarindo
On our first full day in CR, we decided to drive down to Tamarindo justto check it out. What started as just walking out to the beach to take a look around, turned into us spending the entire day there! We were there for all of 5 minutes when we were approached by a man with horses, offering rides on them down the beach. After a ride on them, we found this prefect little spot on the beach with a live band playing, tacos + margaritas, & a surfboard rental shop. We grabbed some boards and headed out to the water which was SO warm. Literally like a bath tub. I spent the rest of the day learning how to surf from Zack and finally got several waves by the end of the afternoon!! I’ve attempted to learn to surf several times, but this was really the first time I was able to stand up & ride waves in. It was so fun & definitely made my husband happy as it’s something he loves to do & always has talked about me going with him. After this day, he started talking about getting me a board for Christmas … slow down Rocky. 😉
If you are staying anywhere near the area of Tamarindo, or within a reasonable drive away, definitely check out Witch’s Rock. They offer surfboard rentals for $8 an hour, and lessons for people of all levels of experience. The vibe, the people & the views were perfect.
This was SUCH a fun day & something I would recommend doing if you are wanting to see some wildlife while in CR! Our family had our own boat & tour guide who took us down the river in Palo Verde National Park to see if we could see some monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas. And boy, did we get just that! I seriously have never been this close to these kinds of animals before and it was so fun! We pulled up on so many crocodiles, saw one open its mouth wide at us, & one come completely out of nowhere and run right into the water by our boat (anyone see my IG story!? 😂 ) We also pulled up on a group of monkeys swinging from the trees RIGHT over our heads. We saw a bunch of super colorful iguanas, birds, and bats! It really is such a trip to see wildlife IN the wild and not behind glass at the zoo like we’re used to. I don’t know that this would’ve been something I would have personally sought out to do, but I am so glad my family did because I loved it!
Zip line + ATV Tour
This was debatably my favorite thing we did on the trip! Zack & I wanted to try to go zip lining at some point while we were here, and the ATV was an added bonus. We went with a company called Congo Canopy Tours. We did 11 zips, which, if I’m being honest, were slightly more sketch than I’ve done before 😂 LOL. I don’t know if it was because our tour guides spoke mostly Spanish and didn’t do much briefing, or if it was because all the zip lines I’ve done in America have just felt different… idk. But these were seriously the fastest, longest zip lines I’ve done before and I was definitely scared on multiple ones! Haha. I felt safe, but they were just structurally different than any zip I had done before and there were SO many of them (literally 11, back to back) that I just never felt like I got a chance to catch my breath or mentally prepare for the next one! I told Zack when we were done that the whole thing was easily in the top 5 scariest things I’ve done in my life and he completely agreed, so I am not just being dramatic! Haha. DEFINITELY fun, but I would not recommend for kids, or anyone who isn’t in fair physical shape as there was some hiking involved.
After the zips, we boarded a UTV (kinda like a ATV but has doors & can seat 4 people). We got super lucky and had no one on this tour with us except a guide who was young and really fun. They give you the option to ride to the beach or ride to a waterfall, and after already having a few beach days already under our belt, we opted for the waterfall! Since it was just us following our tour guide and Zack driving, he felt comfortable to take us fast, which obviously was a blast. We raced down dirt trails, through muddy spots and eventually through a flowing river where we got soaked. Once we made it to the waterfall, we both decided to jump off of it fully clothed! Again, something that just felt so scary for some reason! I swear it literally felt 4 times higher than it looks in all the photos.. so don’t judge! 😂 This was such a fun day for us. The whole ride home we were absolutely sopping wet & muddy, but we just cracked up as we drove through more and more dirt. The sun was setting on our way back to the tour offices and we had the best conversation about how grateful we were for this trip, our families, and our marriage. I think it will be a moment I will draw back to in times of stress and remember that it’s adventures and days like those that make all the long work weeks worth it. Side note — we hardly have any pictures from this day because we didn’t even think to take any!
Snorkel + Sunset Catamaran Cruise
My mom had this idea for our family for our last day in Costa Rica and it turned out to be so beautiful. You set sail from the Playa Flamingo area for about an hour until you eventually reach the cove they call “Honeymoon Beach”. Here, you jump off the boat to swim, snorkel, paddle board or kayak. Again, the water was so warm and the weather was just all around perfect. After snorkeling, dinner is served, and then you ride home during the sunset. I think the entire trip was 4 hours total. It was the perfect way to soak in the beauty of this country before leaving and was great for our whole family, kids too!
Best Coffee Spot
Tamarindo Coffee Roasters
Zack and I checked out this little spot for coffee one morning and even took some beans to go! It’s just before Witch’s Rock, which makes it the perfect place to stop for some fuel before your beach day.
I will definitely say I wish we got a little more authentic food. The area we were in actually had a lot of food we eat in America — Italian/pizza, burgers, fries, sushi, etc. The best meal I had while there was food that was prepared for us after our jungle cruise (pictured here). The tortillas, rice, beans, chicken, sauces, everything was soo good. I wish we would have sought out some more food like that, but that’s not really where we ended up most times!
Obviously in Costa Rica, they speak Spanish. My brother in-law is fluent and that was an absolute life saver. I always feel like I know enough conversational Spanish to keep up fine, until I get into a conversation with someone who isn’t speaking slowly and starts throwing out words I’ve never heard… then I’m like a dear in the head lights and calling him over to translate. 😂😂 So, my biggest piece of advice would be if you are planning to travel to Costa Rica and you are not fluent, stay in a resort or a very touristy town where they speak plenty of English. There are shady people in every country, and being an extremely obvious American tourist who only knows a couple words of Spanish can definitely make you a target to get pushed around a little with money/prices & safety.
Overall, our experience of Costa Rica was amazing and one that left us wanting MORE. There were things we still wanted to do, like visit the volcanos, mud baths, and other famous waterfalls. We definitely plan to come back and see those things! Are you planning on visiting any time soon!? Let me know where & when in the “Leave a Reply” box below! Xx