A Week in Dreamy Nosara

After our 4 night stay in Santa Teresa, we headed to Nosara, which is farther north up the coast on the Nicoya Peninsula. You would think there would be a nice road along the coast, but no, this is remote Costa Rica folks. There is a coastal road, but you need 4-wheel drive (which we have) and even then, it’s really not advisable during rainy season (which it is now) as you would need to cross multiple rivers and the conditions really depend on the recent rainfall. We decided to take the longer and supposedly safer route back across the peninsula and then back again to the Pacific Coast. Well, it was still quite an adventure and took about 4 hours, and STILL we had to ford a few rivers. I can’t imagine what the other route would have looked like!

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Just as it started raining, we arrived here. Palmer waded into the water to make sure it didn’t go above knee level before we attempted the crossing. Thankfully all went smoothly and we were pretty proud of our crossing river savviness.

We enjoyed traveling through beautiful rural areas and the Tico towns of Jicaral and Nicoya. Lots of green and lots of hills!

We finally arrived at our little casita in Nosara as close as you can get to Playa Guiones and felt like we were in heaven! The beach is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen in all of Costa Rica. A long stretch of white sand beach backed by green foliage, with surfers bobbing in the water at all hours of the day. There is no development on the beach so there are a few short paths that take you from the road to the beach.

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One of the jungle paths to the beach
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And then you arrive here!

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We spent a full week here in Nosara and fell in love with the area. It was hot and humid, but when you wake up to howler monkeys almost every morning and the beach is a 5 minute walk away, what’s not to like?! The town of Nosara is actually located a few kilometers inland and is a typical Tico town which I appreciated as it seemed to retain its traditional feel. It felt a world away from the more developed beach areas of Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada which are increasingly popular with foreign tourists. The whole area still feels off the beaten track and it’s all dirt roads, but nice hotels, excellent restaurants and holiday homes are popping up in many areas along the beach or in the hills just a bit farther away so I expect a lot is going to change in the coming years.

Here are a few of our highlights from the week:

Surf Lessons and Boogie-Boarding at Playa Guiones

Surf is what Nosara is all about as it has such a consistent break, and what’s cool is that it’s for surfers of all levels! Oscar had a blast learning to surf with his new buddy Chico.

Hanging Out at Playa Pelada

Playa Pelada is another beach just north of Guiones and has more of a local flavor. It also has a couple of restaurants right on the beach which was great for lunch with a view to watch the surfers.

Snorkeling in Tide Pools at Playa Guiones

Tide pool are pretty awesome anywhere, but at low tide on Playa Guiones there are a couple of spots where you can actually snorkel in crystal clear water as it’s protected by some rocky areas. We even saw a couple of octopi!

Good Food (and drinks of course!)

There is something for everyone here: typical Costa Rican sodas, fish tacos, shrimp and avocado salads, pipa fr铆a (cold coconut water), fresh fruit smoothies, pizza, bagels, burgers and even gelato. Prices are a bit steep and most prices in dollars 馃槮 but the quality overall was VERY good.

Searching for Sea Turtles

Our whole visit to Nosara was initially planned so that we could visit nearby Ostional Turtle Refuge and hopefully see an arribada of Olive Ridley sea turtles which arrive by the thousands (!!) to nest about once a month around the new moon from July through November. Well, we planned our trip accordingly but unfortunately the turtles arrived about a week early and we missed it. We were BUMMED, but we did still visit the beach and saw some baby leatherback turtles being released to the ocean by a volunteer group.

Fishing

Oscar and Palmer enjoyed a fishing adventure with a local fisherman and had a blast catching jacks and even a yellowfin tuna which we enjoyed as sashimi for dinner. YUM! Thanks boys!

Sunsets

Best time of the day!

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Off the Beaten Track: Santa Teresa and Montezuma

It’s been a few months (!!) since my last post so apologies to the avid readers out there. 馃槈 We were back in the states for a couple weeks for my brother and new sister-in-law’s gorgeous wedding and also spent time visiting dear family and friends in the Northeast.

Soon after we returned, the kids had their ‘semester break’ (the school year here goes from early February to late November with December and January as summer holiday) so we took advantage of that and headed to a couple of small beach towns on the Nicoya Peninsula to do some exploring and enjoy lots of fun in the water.

Getting there

Our first stop was the small town of Santa Teresa on the very southwest corner of the peninsula and just getting there was an adventure in itself. We drove to the Puntarenas ferry about an hour from Atenas and took the ferry over to the peninsula before continuing on. The hour long ferry ride was quite lovely – there was a little cafeteria with fresh popcorn and cold beer AND even air conditioning!

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The ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera

We then disembarked and our narrow paved road turned to dirt with major potholes and dust for the last 30 minutes or so to Santa Teresa, but we arrived. It’s a good thing we did not stop anywhere after the ferry until we arrived as our car promptly died as though it couldn’t take anymore…it wouldn’t start later that night when we were thinking of heading out for dinner. Actually, we knew there was an issue weeks prior that we figured we get checked out after our trip. Oops! Thankfully, our AirBnB host lived at the property and right away called her personal mechanic who came to the house, diagnosed the problem (the starter was caput), got the car started and took it to his shop to get fixed. They then delivered back to us two days later just in time for us to get ready for the next leg of our adventure. Talk about service! In the meantime, ‘Big Red’ got us around the area just fine. Actually, this vehicle was made for these unpaved and potholed roads so it was a dream…as long as we stayed under the speed limit.

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Cruising in style with Big Red

Santa Teresa

As for Santa Teresa, the town is spread out along the coast along a string of beaches and beyond that it’s pretty much jungle. The beaches are gorgeous – raw natural beauty! Not the best for swimming as lots of rip currents and waves, but great for surfing and boogie-ing. Playa Hermosa is the calmest and there were lots of first-time surf lessons happening and boogie boarders enjoying the waves.

 

 

We also enjoyed walking to Playa Carmen from our casita and hanging out at the Banana Beach restaurant for amazing food, cold drinks and beautiful sunsets. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than this!

Sidenote: the restaurants in Santa Teresa are also of superb quality with a strong focus on fresh locally sourced ingredients.聽The Bakery聽served amazing gourmet lunch fare:

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Avocado Toast at ‘The Bakery’ in Santa Teresa…YUM!

Montezuma

We also took a day trip to Montezuma with Big Red which was a whole other adventure. It’s probably less than 20km away from Santa Teresa, but on very rough dirt roads which included fording three rivers. Somehow Alice fell asleep along the way; meanwhile, I was gripping the door handles. It was worth the journey as Montezuma was a pretty cool boho little town famous for a few beaches great for surfing and a colorful pueblito. We had some snacks, played in the town playground and hung out at the beach for awhile before our nail biting (or nap time in Alice’s case) ride home.

We would have liked to stay longer and do some hiking in Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve, but it wasn’t meant to be this time around.

Stay tuned for the second leg of our trip to Nosara!

Exploring Rinc贸n de la Vieja Volcano

Las Pailas trail and landscape view at Rinc贸n de la Vieja Volcano
Hiking in Rinc贸n de la Vieja National Park

Costa Rica has 5 active volcanos and over 60 inactive or extinct ones…all lined up almost in a perfect row where the Pacific and Caribbean tectonic plates meet. Arenal is probably by far the most well-known and picturesque volcano, but we decided to get off the beaten path while renewing our visas at the border with Nicaragua and check out Rinc贸n de la Vieja (‘the old lady’s corner or nook’), an active volcano with 9 craters!聽

It’s easily accessed from Liberia and there are different sectors which you can visit. Las Pailas is the most popular and offers a couple of fantastic hikes from the visitor’s center. A friendly ranger helped us choose the shorter 3k Sendero Las Pailas聽which took a good 2 hours (with little ones) and it was perfect for us. It started off extremely hot and desertlike so it was good that we headed downhill stopping at well-marked spots to see the Laguna fumarolica (fumarolic lake), bubbling water pots, boiling mud pots, a ‘volcancito’ and other smoking fumaroles along the trail.

It was really cool and the kids loved it. At about the halfway mark, we crossed a small river and entered a completely different ecosystem that was much greener, lusher and offered shade with tall forest (complete with blue morpho butterflies!) for which we were grateful as it was mostly an uphill hike from that point. Thank goodness for our snack pack to keep everyone going!

We were hoping to relax and enjoy a well-deserved soak in the Rio Negro Hot Springs after the hike but as it was already past 1pm (and well past someone’s nap time), we instead opted for a quick bite to eat and back to our AirBnB oasis for the late afternoon. 聽There are plenty of hot springs in the area and even an upscale spa (Simbiosis Spa), where you can relax with a mud bath and a massage. Both of 聽these, the hot springs and the spa, are part of the lovely Hotel Hacienda Guachipel铆n. Duly noted for next visit also. 馃檪

Las Pailas Ranger Station
Las Pailas Ranger Station

There is also a hike to a beautiful waterfall (Catarata La Cangreja) from Las Pailas Ranger Station where you can take a refreshing dip, but as it is about 5k each way and takes about 4 hours AND you have to start hiking before noon, we smartly decided we’d better save that for a day without the kids. The trail to the summit is currently closed due to the eruptions in 2012.聽The Santa Rosa sector also has a ranger station and over 12k of trails.

We only had a taste of this amazing volcano complex, but there is so much to do here. There are some great hotels in the area that offer hiking and horseback riding, not to mention the hot springs and spa possibilities. Hoping we can return soon!

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Our amazing AirBnB outdoor oasis – maybe better than the hot springs!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase or book a hotel using one of the links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Exploring Guanacaste: Liberia

Let’s be honest, not many people go to Costa Rica to hang out in Liberia, but it actually has an interesting history. It was once part of Nicaragua, has been nicknamed the “White City” for its historic whitewashed colonial homes and is capital of the province of Guanacaste, land of sabaneros (cowboys), beaches and volcanos. However, as it contains聽the country’s second international airport, it’s mostly known as a jumping off point to discover the other parts of the province, especially the beautiful beaches of the Nicoya peninsula (Playa Tamarindo, Playa del Coco, Playa Hermosa, etc.) less than an hour away.

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Granizado vendor in the main plaza of Liberia

But, let me tell you, it’s actually a pretty cool ‘real’ Tico town with few tourists and a bit of a Wild West flavor. We spent a couple nights in the area in order to visit Nicaragua and renew our visas, but also to explore Liberia and nearby Rinc贸n de la Vieja National Park, an active volcano (stay tuned for next post)!

There’s not a ton to do there, but it’s definitely worth a stop as there are some historic colonial homes from the 1800s along Calle Real, a lovely main plaza and a modern church (which wasn’t my cup of tea, architecturally speaking, but hey, to each their own).

My highlight was visiting la Ermita de la Agon铆a, Liberia’s oldest church built in the mid-19th century. It’s a beautiful colonial church constructed of adobe and wooden beams, and there was a wedding going on when we stopped by so we were able to take a peak inside.

Of course, we have to find a playground in every city to let off some steam and right next to la Agon铆a is a nice park with playground that we enjoyed multiple times. 馃檪 This one even had ariel acrobats practicing on their silk fabric which they had hung from the huge trees as well as jugglers. It was like a two for one deal…circus show + playground. Score!

Liberia also offers the Museo de Guanacaste,聽set in an imposing fortress like structure which was used as a jail currently undergoing a renovation, as well as the Museo del Sabanero (Cowboy Museum) which was unfortunately closed when we wanted to check it out.

As far as food goes, there is a sushirestaurant there. Yes SUSHI! It’s called Sushi To Go and we had to try out as we haven’t had sushi since we arrived. I know…the things we’ve sacrificed! Ha! Palmer and I tried to temper our enthusiasm and keep expectations in check (we even hauled out the iPad and iPhone for the kids…we weren’t going to let anything stop us from enjoying this meal), but we were pleasantly surprised how awesome it was. Good service and delicious sushi! So, if you’re ever in Liberia and need a sushi fix, check out Sushi To Go!

I’m sure Liberia will soon be on the tourist map as it has all the makings of a great destination – rich cultural history, pleasant main plaza and modern church along with the historic La Agon铆a and a couple of unique museums…oh, and don’t forget sushi! What more could one want?

 

 

Our Top 5 for S谩mara

With Auntie Tay Tay visiting and the kids out of school for Semana Santa, we headed to the beach (along with everyone else!) for some quality R & R. 聽We chose to explore S谩mara, a chill beach town on the Guanacaste Coast that I’ve long wanted to check out having heard lots of good things.

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Here’s our list of what’s not-to-miss:

1. Sunset at S谩mara Beach

Everyone heads to the beach at sunset! It’s the best time of day when the heat subsides but still plenty hot enough to enjoy a dip in the warm water, go for a horseback ride, enjoy an ice cream or cocktail, and not risk burning your scalp and every other piece of exposed skin. On our first night, we checked out Lo Que Hay, a casual beachfront restaurant specializing in tacos but with lots of other options and super drink specials. High tide or low tide, there is plenty of beach for everyone…even during Semana Santa. Sunset is definitely our favorite time at the beach in Costa Rica!

 

2. Spend a Day Boogie Boarding at Carrillo Beach (and don’t forget your hammock!)

About 4k south of S谩mara Beach is another lovely picture perfect beach called Playa Carrillo. You can park right along the beach for free, hang up your hammock and set up camp along聽with lots of other picnicking families. It had the most perfect waves for boogie boarding which helped soothe our poor burnt feet after running through the scorching hot sand.

 

3. Dolphin Boat Tour

S谩mara offers lots of cool activities such as surf lessons, boat tours, wildlife hikes and hidden beaches, and we opted for a morning dolphin and snorkeling tour (THANKS Auntie Tay!) that was seriously awesome. We saw manta rays jumping out of the water all around us, the spotted dolphins were also fun to watch, and we even saw a couple sea turtles. The snorkeling wasn’t all that great for us, but still fun to give it a try.

 

4. Tide Pooling at Low Tide on S谩mara Beach

On our final morning, we headed straight to the beach and it was perfect as there was almost no one there and it was low tide so we had a blast exploring the tide pools on the north end of the beach, and all the critters waiting to be discovered, before having to pack up and head back home. 馃槮

 

5. Check Out the Town

Samara is small enough to easily get around and find your own little slice of heaven, but big enough to offer some great services, such as some fabulous restaurants (beachfront places such as Gusto Beach, and others specializing in seafood, French, Mexican, etc.) and a couple watering holes (don’t miss Franks and the Flying Taco for live music on weekends), tours for visitors, some decent shopping and even Spanish language classes. There are also troops of howler monkeys that you can’t miss right in and around town, short hikes with lovely vistas that you can take and other nearby beaches such as the secluded Playa Barrigona (“Mel Gibson’s Beach”) to explore.

 

We only had 4 nights here so I’m sure there are other gems to be discovered in S谩mara. We sure hope to return!

In Search of the Resplendent Quetzal

On a bit of a whim, we decided to spend a weekend up in the highlands near some of the tallest peaks in Costa Rica and the picturesque town of San Gerardo de Dota (about 2 hours south of San Jos茅 on the Interamericana). We wanted to explore the cloud forest, enjoy some hiking and possibly even sight the elusive quetzal. So we booked an AirBnB (why don’t they have a loyalty program!?!), a ‘rustic cabin’ in the mountains, and jumped on the road Friday afternoon.

The drive there was gorgeous once we exited the San Jos茅 sprawl and Cartago (the former capital) and started to climb into the mountains.

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We stayed in the tiny community of La Esperanza at about 7,000 feet and were enjoying the much cooler temps as it was such a change from Atenas and the coasts…until evening came and it got downright chilly. Good thing we brought extra blankets and the cabin had a fireplace so we could stay warm. I secretly wished I had a hat and gloves. Oscar still insisted on wearing shorts except for this first photo. The boy runs hot.

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The first morning we hooked up with a local guide named Luis who lives in the same community where we were staying and took us to his property for a bird-watching hike. There are a number of aguacatillo trees there which is the main food source for quetzals so he sees them often. Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky, but it was a gorgeous place with amazing views, centuries old beautiful oak trees, and wild blackberries that the kids couldn’t stop eating.

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We then headed to the peaceful town of San Gerardo de Dota also known as the ‘Alps of Costa Rica.’ It’s a tiny town along a dead end dirt road with the beautiful Savegre River flowing through it. It offers cute cabins and boutique hotels, a few restaurants and is well known for bird watching and hiking enthusiasts as well as anglers hoping to catch rainbow trout. The drive was beautiful getting there and we enjoyed a fabulous lunch (as fabulous as lunch out with 2 little ones can be) at the lovely聽Caf茅 Kahawa. This was no ordinary caf茅, but a feast for the senses – listening the river babbling alongside, watching the hummingbirds and butterflies dart around, and admiring the beautiful decor and landscaping, not to mention enjoying the delectable ‘trucha al coco’ (fresh grilled trout with a coconut sauce) which Palmer and I both chose and their delicious adult beverages. YUM!

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Our final day included a visit to Parque Nacional Los Quetzales and a short hike. I was thinking there would be more hiking trails there, but there was just one out and back 2k trail from the main entrance. We enjoyed the cool misty walk and moss covered trees, and are already talking about a return trip. It really felt like we were not in Costa Rica anymore!

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This is what we were hoping to experience:

This is as close as we got:

(A beautiful mural on one of the building in La Esperanza and an Oscar original. Haha!)

 

Driving in Costa Rica

Our 2010 Honda CRV – aka ‘white lightning’

Driving in Costa Rica is a little hairy as most of the roads are two lanes, very narrow, windy, hilly, and not in the best condition…though there are some nice exceptions. On the other hand, for all those same reasons, the drives around here are gorgeous and the vistas are often breathtaking. As we’re approaching the 6 month mark here (!!!), I thought I’d share a few things we’ve learned to watch out for while on the roads.

  • Landslides – As much of the country is mountainous and roads are cut through the mountains, landslides are very common after heavy rains and especially in the rainy season, and it sometimes take a day or two before they are cleared so it’s common for roads and major routes even to close after heavy rainfall.
  • One lane bridges – There are very few two lane bridges in Costa Rica except on a few of the highways, so you will often come across one lane bridges. There is always a “Ceda el Paso” (yield) sign on one side of the bridge and the other side has the right of way so you have to make sure to look for the sign so you know if you have the right of way or if you have to stop.

    ‘Ceda’ en Lim贸n province
  • Potholes – They are everywhere and they can be deep.
  • Deep drainage channels at edge of streets means tricky parking in town and even on the highway so don’t go over the ‘cliff’ as there typically is no shoulder.
Atenas Centro after repaving
  • Use your 4-way flashers. Everyone loves their 4 way flashers and use them for just about everything: making a turn, slowing down, pulling over, and oncoming cars use them to warn of accident, landslide, police or just about any hazard ahead. If you see someone flashing them, best to slow down.
  • Motos are very common and love to pass on the left or the right (!!) especially when there is traffic.
  • Cyclists – Another bogey! I wouldn’t have thought cycling would be so popular here with the steep, narrow roads, but it’s huge! Again, there are really no shoulders here so passing can be tricky if there is heavy traffic.
  • Accidents – You can’t move your car if you’ve been in an accident in Costa Rica for insurance and police report purposes so traffic can back up for literally hours depending on the severity of the accident.
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We waited for over an hour in this spot waiting for an accident to clear.
  • Always be ready to merge. Even the major highways (the Interamericana and Route 27) go from four lanes to two lanes with little to no warning so you always need to be paying attention and be prepared to merge into one lane at any minute.
  • Roadside stands are fantastic. Stop and see what’s fresh and local.
One stand on the Interamericana selling jocotes, honey, peanuts and other local products.
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One of the many coconut oil stands in Lim贸n area.聽

And here are just a few more interesting driving related photos. 馃檪

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Interesting maneuver – cars going off-roading and through barricades to pass cars on the right in San Jos茅.

Tractor trailer hauling oranges from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, banana plantations and truck hauling yucca.

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Beautiful views looking south from the Ruta Vieja (old road – route 3) between Atenas and San Mateo.聽

Highlights of Tortuguero

man driving small boat in canal

Palmer and I recently enjoyed a 3 night getaway to the small town of Tortuguero on Costa Rica’s north caribbean coast (HUGE thanks to mom and dad for babysitting and allowing us some time sans kiddos!). Though most famous for its nesting green sea turtles that return to the beach where they hatched during the months of June through October, we had an amazing experience during our early January visit. Here are a few of the highlights:

1. Guided Canoe Trip in Tortuguero National Park

We booked a 3 hour canoe trip with Tortuguero Tours, a local guiding company, in the national park where you can spot amazing wildlife. We woke up at dawn and headed down to the meeting point for some coffee and fruit before being given a pair of binoculars and heading to the park. We were on small boat with 4 other tourists plus our local guide who rowed us through the smaller canals and pointed out some fascinating flora and fauna. We saw howler monkeys, sloths, caimans, iguanas and lots of bird life (green macaws, little blue herons, yellow crowned night heron and northern jacanas to name a few). The highlight for me was a male emerald green basilisk that was perfectly camouflaged on a branch just over the water surrounded by leaves…so camouflaged that you couldn’t get a good pic!

2. Hike in Tortuguero National Park

Since we had already purchased our national park passes for the canoe tour, we headed back to the park later that same day to hike the one out and back trail that the park offers. We were all geared out with our sturdy rubber boots, hiking clothes, hats and even a dry bag. It soon started to rain pretty steadily and we were thankful for our rental boots as it was so muddy…and also the umbrellas we brought. Ha! We weren’t very lucky with wildlife, but we did see a howler monkey eating and a pretty cool great curassow (a large pheasant-like bird strolling the path ahead of us) and enjoyed a walk on Tortuguero beach where the turtles nest.

3. Visit to Sea Turtle Conservancy

Even though it wasn’t turtle season when we visited, we still felt we got the turtle experience with our visit to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the world鈥檚 oldest sea turtle research and conservation group founded by Dr. Archie Carr. He was also instrumental in the effort to protect the region and advocate for the opening of Tortuguero National Park. The small facility is located just off the beach a few blocks from the town center and functions as a research station but also hosts a small museum for visitors to learn more about the sea turtles of Tortuguero, the history of the region, and the work that STC does. We ended up adopting a turtle (named ‘Shelby’ thanks to Oscar) to support their mission. We are looking to return one day when we can actually observe the turtles nesting. That would be amazing!

4. Exploring the Town of Tortuguero

We really loved discovering the town itself and were glad that we opted to stay in town rather than one of the resorts to get a better feel for the community. We stayed at El Icaco, a modest but colorful hotel on the beach side, and had plenty of time to walk the paths of town and just relax. The one main paved pathway in front of the public dock is sprinkled with businesses (restaurants, grocery stores, shops) while the rest of the paths are mainly sand or some combination of boards or stepping stones due to all the rain they experienced. Apparently the rainy season in Tortuguero ends in late January. We enjoyed some good meals at Tutti’s (amazing calzones!) and Donde Richard, and delicious breakfasts and cakes at Dorling’s Bakery. Budda Cafe had fancy cocktails and a lovely canal-side location.

5. Getting There and Back, an Adventure In Itself

Tortuguero is only accessible by plane or boat so we opted to drive to La Pavona (basically a restaurant, bathrooms, small store and parking area in the middle of nowhere) where you can then park your car and hop on a boat for the one hour ride to Tortuguero. The drive from San Jos茅 to La Pavona is beautiful as you first climb through the misty mountains of Braulio Carrillo National Park and then head north through the banana plantations and ranches north of Gu谩piles. The road is mostly paved except for the last 30-40 minutes when it turns to gravel, but the views were beautiful and we loved the drive. I’m sure that flying in would be spectacular too as the region is so remote and picturesque, but we’ll have to save that for our next visit.

Overall, Tortuguero totally exceeded my expectations with its raw beauty and unique wildlife and even though the town is mainly dependent on the tourism industry, it still has an authentic small town Caribbean vibe. We are hoping to return again soon during turtle season!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase or book a hotel using one of the links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

A Day at Parque Nacional Marino Ballena

We spent a day at Parque Nacional Marino Ballena (Marino Ballena National Park) in Uvita over the Christmas holidays. It’s a beautiful national park located on the Costa Ballena (South Pacific Coast) of Costa Rica about 3 hours from our place in Atenas or 3.5 hours from San Jos茅.

The park is famous for migrating humpback whales聽and also for the ‘whale tail,’ a natural formation which appears at low tide when a sandbar is exposed and connects the mainland with some rocky formations just offshore so that it looks like a whale tail.

After checking the tide charts, we decided to check it out with Mom and Dad and enjoyed a few hours on the beautiful palm-fringed beach. It was quite a hike to get to the sandbar from where we parked and no shade of course so we lathered on the sunscreen and hoped for the best.

Using Alice’s shirt as a hat to avoid burning my scalp!
The trials of fair-skinned boy in Costa Rica.

Beautiful vistas and beach fun.

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We also enjoyed treasure hunting for sand dollars and other beach creatures.

Dad professing his love once again to Mom. awwwww

Here was our perspective from the beginning of the sandbar looking out at the ‘tail’. Can you see it? 馃檪

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All that exertion deserved a cold beer and a seriously delicious BBQ lunch at Lone Star BBQ & Grill in Uvita which didn’t disappoint.

On our next visit we are hoping to see some whales, maybe even some nesting turtles and discover the little nearby surf town of Dominical! We’re realizing once again that there’s never enough time, but so thankful for the time we do have here in Costa Rica.

 

Making Memories at Manuel Antonio National Park

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While we were staying near Playa Bejuco over the week of Christmas with the fam, we all decided to make the one hour drive and enjoy a day in Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio (Manuel Antonio National Park), an extremely popular tourist destination in Costa Rica for lots of good reasons.

It’s actually the smallest national park in the country, but the most visited due to its beautiful white sand beaches and abundant wildlife that is often easy to spot. In fact, some of the monkeys are known for steeling bags and opening backpacks to get to the snacks which we saw happen. Apparently, Pringle cans are banned as the monkeys know what they contain and the park is trying to ensure that the monkeys stick to their normal diet.聽The park is located two hours from San Jos茅 on the Pacific Coast just south of the town of Quepos.

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White faced capuchin monkey

We opted to forego a local guide (we’d been here in January and discovered that as the park is so popular, there are large guided groups stopping everywhere to look at something), though they do often have a spotting scope which is very helpful because so it’s much easier to see the sloths and monkeys that are high up in the trees.

We walked to one of the four beaches in the park, Manuel Antonio Beach (also the most popular as it’s good for swimming and closest to the entrance), and spent some time relaxing on the beach and swimming. Oscar just learned to swim that week in the pool without any type of float or life jacket and he did an awesome job practicing in the ocean here with Uncle Keith, Auntie Annie and Grandpa. A couple of us also checked out Espadilla Sur Beach which is just behind Manuel Antonio Beach and much less busy. There are also other trails in the park which you can hike to see a waterfall and at least one of the other beaches, but we’ve yet to check them out (the heat and humidity and two little ones makes that tricky). 馃檪

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Beautiful Playa Manuel Antonio

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As far as wildlife, we saw lots of seemingly fearless capuchin monkeys, a couple of sloths, 聽two chestnut-mandibled toucans, parrots, red聽land聽crabs聽and Oscar found an interesting salamander-type animal on the edge of the path. We even saw one sloth moving from one tree to another right next to the path near the entrance and quite low to the ground so that was very special. And Oscar was happy to discover his favorite monkey, cute little squirrel monkeys, on our walk back to the car outside of the park.

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Oscar’s discovery

After enjoying our time in sun, we headed back but had to make a pit stop and enjoy some cool ‘pipa fr铆a’ (cold coconut water) sold at many of the stands just outside the park, It was SO refreshing after the being in the sun for so long!

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Selfie success…with everyone except dad

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We then headed to El Avi贸n, a cool restaurant built around a聽C-123 Fairchild cargo plane with amazing ocean views, for a well deserved lunch before heading back to our oasis up the coast.

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Oscar and Alice at the controls…hold on tight!