What a year this has been. I had never been to Costa Rica, until the beginning of this year when I traveled there with my husband for a very belated honeymoon. Three years belated… but the reason for the delay was that, when we got married in 2013, we had a sick kitty that we could not leave for very long. We did take a few mini honeymoons only staying away a couple nights and within driving distance of our little fur kid, but the big one awaited.
Fast forward three years, we decided it was time do it right and decided on the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica on the Nicoya peninsula near Nosara. You can read about that first “honeymoon” trip here blog post.
Needless to say we fell in love with all things Costa Rica and decided we would re-visit the next year. So, when my father-in-law’s 80th birthday was approaching we pitched the idea of taking a trip to Costa Rica. We usually take a family vacation for special events like this, but we weren’t sure if Costa Rica was in the cards. To our surprise, Pops said “Yes, let’s do it.” He is an adventurous 80-year-old, and we love him for that… amognst another million reasons. So, here we were planning our 2nd trip in the same year to Costa Rica.
With the entire family consisting of 6 adults and two children we had a lot of schedules to figure out. So it ended up being the end of July, in the rainy season. I heard that the rainy season was beautiful, but I was also worried a bit. Would we regret pitching this to our family if it rained 24/7 and we were stuck in the house staring at each other for 8 days? We contacted friends who live there and they gave us the skinny. Actually around this time of the rainy season they have what they call their “mini summer,” where it only rains in the mid-afternoon for about an hour or two, leaving the mornings warm and dry with lots of time to visit the beach and do activities. Our friends assured us that this was a wonderful time to visit Costa Rica, with everything green and the wild flowers in full bloom. So we went for it, and I am so happy we did.
PREPARING FOR THE TRIP
Since I had already been there I thought I had this trip nailed down, in regards to packing, and I would take just the bare minimum. Not so much. I am a self-professed over-packer. With the rain factor now involved that meant bringing a rain jacket right? So, I packed a rain jacket and it never left my suitcase. Who wears a rain jacket in Costa Rica? What was I thinking? A small compact umbrella would of been a better idea.
As always, I packed about 10 t-shirts too many and three extra pair of shoes, as I only wore 2 of the 5 I packed the entire week. All you really need is a pair of flip flops and a pair of tennis shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty for hiking, zip-lining, ATV’s etc.
I wore a total of three sundresses, a travel outfit that I wore there and back, a yoga outfit, three swimsuits, 2 cover-ups, 3 t-shirts, clothing to sleep in, a hat, sunglasses and underthings for 8 days. That’s it!
If you want to know more about how much cash to bring and medicines you might need, I wrote more about that in my first Costa rica blog post.
Travel day. Flying out of LAX to Liberia non-stop on Alaska airlines. This is an easy flight, no hiccups. Two movies and a snack and you are there. When you get off your flight and go through a very quick customs, I recommend picking up any alcohol you might want for your trip at the duty free shop in the airport. They have a better selection than what you will find in town and for a better price.
If you rented a car, I would recommend giving them a call now to let them know you are on your way. The car rental places move very slow and this time they didn’t even have the SUV that we booked. We were traveling with 4 adults and many suitcases and this caused a slight problem. Us four, our suitcases, and one very large box didn’t fit. So being the car rental company’s fault, they kindly called a cab for our big box and paid the driver to follow us for two hours to our destination above Nosara. I do love the Costa Ricans for their easy-going attitudes and willingness to always help you out as much as possible.
So, off we went on our adventure. Since it was rainy season there were many closed roads and detours, so our commute that took just 2 hours in the dry season suddenly became 3 1/2 hours. The last third of the drive was also in the dark on unpaved bumpy roads, so I think my mother and father-in-law were kind of wondering what they got themselves into. Truthfully, we questioned the same thing on our first trip… but that changes super fast.
We rented a gorgeous house above Nosara with a main living space, kitchen, huge dining room, Tv room, extra room for kids to play or just hang out and read, a beautiful outdoor area over looking a pool that over looks the jungle canopy and the ocean. We all had our separate bedrooms located on opposite sides of the home, so tons of privacy. If you would like to know more about the property we rented just send me an email. Our hostess, an expat from NYC now living in Nosara full-time, offered to make us a Vegan meal since we would be arriving late that night. This was such a thoughtful and great touch after a long day of travel. She made us a delicious vegetable curry dish with rice and salad. After dinner, we lounged outside on the covered patio and listened to the thunder and lighting and marveled at the huge frogs on the lawn.
We woke early. Something you cannot help in Costa Rica with all the sounds of the jungle. We decided to take mom & pops into Nosara to explore the area and get acquainted with what’s was near by. First stop was one of my favorite spots, the Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort, for their awesome juice bar. The juices there are such a better value than in the states, only $6 each. We sat by the pool, enjoyed our juices, and planned on coming back another day for their amazing lunch buffet.
Next stop was 10 Pies restaurant in Guiones. Note: They don’t sell pies, unbeknownst to us. Rather “pies” means “feet” in Spanish, so their name is inspired by surfing, more specifically, a longboard. Hence their logo below. Minor details. Ha.
We loved 10 Pies for the atmosphere, the food, the staff and the enthusiastic owner who always has a good story. They are vegan friendly, and I enjoyed the quinoa bowl and fresh rice paper wraps with avocado and a smoothie. I think our family ate there a total of 3 times during our stay.
After 10 Pies we stopped by Super Nosara, the largest grocery store in Nosara. There is another one close by, but Super Nosara is our favorite. You can find many American brands there and they have the largest produce section we have found. There are small sodas (mini-marts) all over the place where you can pick up quick items like snacks, drinks, waters etc., but Super Nosara is your best stop.
We always by the bulk of our groceries for the week there and spend about $300 total. We usually end up eating many breakfasts at home and a few dinners. This is a good way to save some money for the activities. You can also hire a chef to come to your house. They bring everything and cook for you, but it is not the most inexpensive options for sure.
With our other four family members arriving in a few hours, our host Liza offered to make the same dinner from the night before. We loved it so much that we agreed and this way we could just relax and enjoy the house, the sunset, pool and wildlife. In turns out that our newly-arriving family got a little lost on their way in, so we drove down the bumpy, winding hill to meet them and guide them to the casa. We all then really relaxed and enjoyed the sunset, an amazing meal, the pool, a thunder storm, and a great dinner together. What a perfect day!
Another day, another beautiful morning with the sounds of howler monkeys in the distance. Day 3 was all about the tide pools that Liza, our host, told us about. In the mornings when the tide is out, there is an area on Playa Guiones that leaves warm shallow tide pools to sit in. Having our younger niece and nephew with us, this sounded like something that everyone could enjoy.
We packed up two cars and headed down to the beach that morning with a quick stop at the gas station. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had set up a meeting with our friends, Maureen and Yorjani, that live in Ostional, just 15 minutes away. He planned for them to join us for the day and to surprise everyone. I was so happy!
The entrance to the beach can be tricky to find but with a few wrong turns and u-turns, we found it. We removed any valuable items from the car, locked it up, and hiked down to the beach. It was beautiful. You would never know that we were in the middle of the rainy season. It was in the 80’s and the water was so warm. A little slice of heaven.
Afterwords, the 10 of us hit up 10 Pies restaurant for our second meal there.
Later we headed to the house for a special gift for our friend, Maureen… a gift that was extremely close to my heart and traveled a long way to be with her. In fact, it was the box that got its own taxi cab ride from the rental car company to our house. On our last visit, we became very close friends with Maureen and Yorjani, and I told them that if they ever got engaged, I would give her my dress. Two months before coming back on this trip for Pop’s birthday, we recieved the great news that they were engaged. It was time to pack up my dress for its long trip to Costa Rica and to meet its new owner. Was it hard to give away my dress? Maybe? For about 1 second. The moment I gave it to her and saw her happiness, I knew it was the right thing to do. Wearing that dress was the best day of my life and knowing someone else gets to experience the same thing I did wearing it is truly a gift to me. I hope the dress keeps getting shared and many women get to share in those memories. This trip was so amazing, not only were we celebrating my father-in law’s 80th birthday, we were also celebrating our friends’ engagement. The memories created here would last a lifetime and further deepen my ties to and love for Costa Rica.
We spent that evening celebrating with drinks and food and the craziest thunder and lightening storm I have ever witnessed. So crazy that Yorjani and Maureen had to rush to get home to Ostional before the roads flooded. Yes, you have to drive through a few rivers and streams, so if they get too high, you can’t pass.
I love thunder storms and I find them strangely relaxing. I believe I got this love from my father. When I was a kid, he would open the doors and say, “Smell that clean air,” and we would sit in the living room watching from the huge living room window. I think my father-in-law is also a fan, because I went outside to sit with him under the covered patio to watch. The thunder roared and streaks of lightning were shooting through the sky all around us. The shear excitement put us both to sleep like babies right there in the middle of it. I guess he shares my fondness for thunder storms.
Today was quad day, and I couldn’t have been happier. Half the fun of Nosara is the dirt roads and driving everywhere on a quads. We grabbed some lunch at The Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort. This is were I fell in love with the chilled avocado soup. I loved it so much I created my own recipe as soon as we got back. If your interested, here is the link to that recipe.
We then picked up two quads for $50 each for 24 hours at the Nosara surf shop. This is the best price I’ve seen and there was no deposit… just a copy of your passport and a credit card on file.
Nosara surf shop 200 meters West of Cafe de Paris at the Harmony Hotel Guiones, Nosara 50206, Costa Rica
Guiones, Nosara 50206, Costa Rica Phone: +506.2682.0186 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
At this point it was starting to sprinkle and, as you can see in the photo above, the sky was getting grey. So we did another quick Super Nosara grocery stop and drove up to the house before the rains hit. With the pending thunder and lightning storm that was coming, we decided to stay in and cook at home. We loved the house we rented so much that, at times, it was hard to leave. Tonight was a night to take it all in.
I ran to change for the pool and when I returned I saw the most beautiful thing… my mother and father-in-law, married 52 years, floating in the pool holding hands. I mean really? Could this trip get any more magical? These two have really taught me what it is to have a strong, loving relationship, built on respect and good communication. Love you, Mom & Pops! Luckily, I married their son that grew up with this influence.
Today, we took the quads into San Juanillo, with our family following behind in their car. San Juanillo is about 15 minutes away from Nosara, with even bumpier roads and deeper water crossings, especially this time of the year.
One of our favorite lunch spots is there, La Sodita. La Sodita offers home-made, freshly cooked food, with fresh juices, smoothies and desserts. I love that they have a strong emphasis on plant-based food that is a combination of Costa Rican flavors with an international flare. We absolutely love Shuli. Shuli is the chef and owner of La Sodita and, on this day, they were making fresh tortillas. She was so excited to see us and to meet our family, that she brought us into the kitchen to see the tortillas being made. If you visit, please make sure to talk to Shuli she is so sweet… and her food is world class.
Three awesome cooks in the kitchen. My mother-in-law, me, and Shuli.
Some of the food.
Playa San Juanillo is just down the road from La sodita and it is a beautiful, secluded beach. I would suggest driving down and jumping in.
My husband couldn’t resist.
Driving home we saw this beautiful cow and baby on the road. It is not uncommon to see animals on the road. They somehow manage to always be out of their pastures and just hanging out.
Tonight, we were having guests for dinner and it was taco night. I would be making my chickpea tacos once again, my tried-and-true recipe that I make when traveling. More pool time, a visit from Liza’s dog, and good night.
Today, we all split up and did our own activities. My husband played tennis on the clay courts in Nosara. My brother-in-law and his daughter Kate went zip lining at Miss Sky Canopy. My sister-in-law took their son into town for site seeing and lunch. Mom & Pops took in some quiet time, and my husband and I joined Liza to visit an organic farm and scout some waterfalls. The best part is that we would be taking the quads. When we drove up to Liza’s house, she came out with Milo (her son) strapped on her body and jumped on her quad. I thought this was pretty badass parenting. One thing that is normal in Costa Rica is to see small children on motorcycles. Many times you will see an entire family on one motorcycle. This is the main way of getting around the Nicoya peninsula. There is not a constant fear of things like there is at home in the states. It’s just so much more chill, and I find that refreshing.
Another highlight for me was that Liza had the hook up for a local produce farm, and we stopped by to pick up some fresh cut herbs, micro greens, and salad fixings.
In my element. Buying produce from the source.
Getting to the waterfalls is a short drive away in Nosara. First there was finding parking.
Then there was hiking. Not so bad to look at and only about 20 minutes.
The pay off.
The beauty of nature.
Husband in a waterfall.
Our last full day and it was jam packed. We had scheduled a visit to the Nosara Refuge for Wildlife to learn more about the howler monkeys that wake up us each morning and had seen several times. Being the animal fanatic that I am, this was yet another highlight for me. You should make a reservation a week ahead, and I wouldn’t wait until the last few days of your vacation. They fill up fast and we barely got a reservation. The cost was $75 per person and I felt like it was well worth it. All the proceeds go towards the animals and their protection. This visit is about 2 1/2 hours long and very educational. Brenda Bombard, the woman behind the Nosara Wildlife Refuge, will inspire you with her passion to keep the Costa Rica howler monkey, and other animals, safe from electrocution.
For more information. http://refugeforwildlife.org
Photo with Brenda Bombard of Nosara Refuge for Wildlife.
Bonus animal siting, after we left the wildlife refuge, we saw this large pack of female Coati. Adult males are solitary, while females and juveniles live in groups of up to 20 members.
After returning our quads, the reality that our trip was coming to a close started to set in. I have a sad face just typing this.
Next stop was another of our favorite lunch spots, The Harmony Hotel. Harmony hotel is beautiful and has a very plant-strong menu in their cafe/juice bar and main restaurant/bar. The grounds of the Harmony hotel are situated near the surf break, in the sleepy town of playa Guiones, far from the nearest paved road. Just stepping on the property, you start to feel your inner zen. They also offer yoga classes there.
If you see a fruit stand in Costa Rica, do yourself a favor and stop and load up. This one was located at the Nosara gas station, the only gas station in the area. I picked up a bag of lychee, one of my favorite fruits on the drive back to the house.
A quick dip in the pool before getting ready for dinner at La luna to celebrate my father-in-law’s 80th birthday.
For our last dinner in Costa Rica, we saved the best for last. La luna is our favorite spot with the most beautiful beach front view. Start with cocktails on the sand watching the sunset and move to the covered patio for dinner. It is rainy season after all and it usually rains in the evenings.
Just before Sunset at La luna.
Book a table in the sand for cocktails.
Happy 80th, Pops! We love you.
Flight home. This is always the saddest day for me. I love Costa Rica so much, but feel so blessed and grateful that we have gotten to add to this magical family trip to our collection of memories. We said goodbye to the beautiful house and took our last selfie with my mother and father in-law, stopped in town to say goodbye to friends, and headed back to the Liberia airport for our 5 1/2 hour flight to LAX.
Oh Costa Rica, how we love you? We have fallen in love with the people, the jungle, the beaches, adventures, and the Pura vida lifestyle. We will be returning again and again.
Goodbye for now my friend. I will see you again in December for your wedding day.
Update. We did travel back to Costa Rica in early December to be the maid of honor and best man in our friends’ wedding, Maureen and Yorjani. Maureen looked absolutely stunning in my dress, and I got to do her hair and makeup as well. Such a magical day and another 5 days of the beautiful dry season in Costa Rica. What a year… I am so grateful for the friends and memories we have made there.
I highly suggest the guidebook below if you are planning a trip to Costa Rica: