How many times have you heard a friend say, “We just got back from Costa Rica and boy, was it great!” Subsequently, when searching the internet for bucket list places to go, Costa Rica keeps coming up. Whether it’s divine providence or this travel writer giving it the thumbs up, take the hint! Book a flight to Costa Rica!
In New Mexico, you have “The Land of Manana.” In Costa Rica, the locals say, “Pura Vida,” which has many meanings. The true definition is “pure life” or “simple life.” But it can also mean, “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” “that’s great” or “life is good.” However, when I was there, the term seemed to be used for anything from, my GPS not working to not finding a parking space to my ice cream melting and finally, “Boy, are we lost!” “Pura Vida!” In other words, it’s a free spirited country and the “anything goes” moniker seems to put everyone at ease, no matter the situation.
That being said, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of this beautiful country. First thing to realize is that you can’t do the whole country in one week. It’s virtually impossible. The country is too large for that short time frame. My advice is to pick a section of the country to spend a week in, then plan on returning to explore another section at a later date.
We chose Guanacaste for its close proximity to Liberia International airport. It’s exact location is the far, northwest corner of the country and is both exotic and diverse featuring pristine Pacific coast beaches, exciting nightlife, great culinary establishments, serene mountainous lookouts, fascinating wildlife and all types of recreational pursuits for young and old.
ACCOMMODATIONS – Villa Oasis
If you are looking for total privacy and avoiding pricey hotels with lots of screaming kids, I highly recommend “Villa Oasis” in Playa Potrero. It’s a magnificent, four bedroom home with a glorious saltwater pool on top of a mountain with spectacular views of the Pacific. This elegant estate can sleep up to 8 people and is a fraction of the cost of a hotel. In addition, there is a caretaker who lives on the premises, so if you are in need of anything, Christopher is at your beckon call.
OUTFITTERS – GetYourGuide.com
There are so many recreational activities to partake in, you really want a reputable company that is reliable, responsible and affordable. In that respect, go no further than GetYourGuide. They are a full service company that offers every type of activity imaginable from anywhere on the planet! For adrenaline junkies there’s whitewater rafting in class 4 rapids to zip lining high above the jungle’s canopy to more family friendly nature hikes, coffee and chocolate tours and turtle watching. The first activity we booked with GetYourGuide was the Tamarindo sailing tour with Blue Dolphin Sailing offering a deliciously fresh meal, world class snorkeling and gorgeous sunset photo ops on your return back to the mainland. The tour was thoroughly enjoyable, but the crew was actually the star of the show being extremely helpful, accommodating and personable which made the whole afternoon even more special. The second activity we booked through GetYourGuide was the Palo Verde National Park Jungle river cruise, which is a half day cruise on the river in the National Park to explore the beautiful wetlands of Central America where we saw copious amounts of crocodiles, monkeys and diverse bird species. Our wonderful tour guide, Jose Jimenez, picked us up in town and drove us through the country backroads of Costa Rica, eloquently explaining the flora and fauna of the area. Jose was extremely knowledgeable regarding any and all things Costa Rica on land and on the river. If you don’t mind driving many hours through the Costa Rican countryside, have GetYourGuide book you on an Arenal volcano, waterfall and hanging bridges tour in La Fortuna. On another day, visit San Jose, the largest city and capital of Costa Rica. GetYourGuide will book you on a city walking tour, a nighttime food culture tour, a coffee farm tour or even a fascinating nature walk amongst those fabulous sloths. All in all, GetYourGuide is your one stop shop for any and all activities in Costa Rica.
Gracia at Mar Vista (Brasilito/Flamingo)
Chef Frankie and Stephanie are the power couple behind Gracia at Mar Vista and Gracia La Vid. Originally from San Diego, Frankie and Stephanie left the hustle and bustle of big city life, packed up the kids, set up shop in Costa Rica and haven’t looked back since. Gracia at Mar Vista is tucked cozily within a gated community, high atop a gorgeous hill overlooking the serene breakers of the Pacific. The indoor/outdoor vibe of the restaurant works in perfect synergy with nature and the delectable offerings of the establishment. From casual to fine dining international cuisine, Chef Frankie infuses his own unique culinary twist to each and every dish, making the dining experience a once in a lifetime event, translating into extraordinary tastes, the likes you’re palate has never before partaken and loving every minute. We were treated to the fabulous Tapas offerings including cajun bbq shrimp, bacon wrapped dates, crispy cauliflower, tuna tataki, their signature fries and the melt-in-your-mouth lobster bisque. Don’t forget to top off your evening with their killer key lime pie or carrot cake to leave a sweet, lingering taste in your mouth. Service is exceptional.
Gracia La Vid
Gracia La Vid is a short ride from Mar Vista, but a much more intimate experience featuring The Wine Room with every white, red or rosé you can think of, plus a huge selection of beer from around the world. Their house-made pastas and cheeseboards are phenomenal, but their wood-fired pizzas were outrageous. Chef Frankie told us, “You must try our mashed potato pizza!” You’re probably scratching your head at this point, but Frankie makes it work beautifully and then some. For you late night partiers, there’s a fire pit towards the back surrounded by comfortable seating.
High above Playa Flamingo on the second floor of the Centro Commercial building is Angelina’s, named after Chef Joe Mucaria’s grandmother. And though it sounds like a strictly Italian establishment, in addition to their delicious pasta and brick oven pizza, its locally sourced cuisine features fresh seafood (especially the Yellowfin tuna steak), aged beef and other, non-Italian delights like red curry chicken. Vegan and gluten free options abound as well. Angelina’s is like “Cheers” where “Everybody knows your name.” In fact, total strangers will say hello and are eager to shake your hand and invite you to the bar to have a drink with them and talk about the adventures of the day. The service here was impeccable and the female vocalist in the bar created a pleasant, overall ambience.
All in all, Costa Rica has a little bit of something for everyone. There’s adventure, beauty, delicious food, wildlife and most importantly, the gracious and friendly nature of Costa Ricans! “Pura Vida!”
Slidshow – Created by Bruce Kluger. Photography by Richard Atkins.
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Author: Richard Atkins