The #1 question that I get from readers, without a doubt, is looking for advice about traveling to Costa Rica. You all know that we absolutely love it, and having been traveling there for more than 10 years. It really is the perfect place to go with or without kids, and after trying out other places, we always seem to find our way back there. As it stands now, we spend a month there in the Summer, but as soon as the boys get a little bigger, I can absolutely see us buying a place there to spend as much of the year as we can. It's that good. Here is how we do Costa Rica. If anyone has anything to add, feel free to leave some suggestions in the comments section. Pura Vida!
The town we stay in is called Nosara (technically Playa Guiones), on the Guanacaste Peninsula. It's a super small town that has an isolated feel, without being totally off the grid. It is mostly populated by ex-pats which makes communication super easy, and the only tourists are surfers, yogis, and families. There is also a little grocery that carries american food staples (essential for my guy and his favorite cereal) but also diapers, sunscreen, etc... Also, there is a great health clinic which we have used more than once for those pesky bug bites and ear infections.
What we do is fly into San Jose and we take a taxi (there are dozens of vans waiting outside the airport) to this place http://www.bed-and-breakfast.cr/ We spend the night here and it's perfect. It's a little B&B owned by a swedish family and the rooms are clean and beautiful. It's about 15 minutes from San Jose (about a 10-15 dollar cab ride) where you feel like you are middle of the country. San Jose is pretty gritty, and we try to book it out of there as soon as possible... especially when we are traveling with kids.
The next morning we get a ride from a man named Wilson, who has been driving us for years. firstname.lastname@example.org He speaks perfect english, has large van, and is one of the kindest people we have ever met. If you use him make sure to let him know that you know us! It's a 220 dollar ride (plus tip) each way to Nosara, and takes about 3 1/2-5 hours. Rental cars are fairly expensive down there, and it is a very dangerous place to drive in. We have found that the van is the way to go, especially with kids and gear. We also have him stop at the "Costco" of costa rica on the way down, and there we load up on a month's worth of necessities, including diapers. If you do rent a car, DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT. Roads are not often labeled, if at all, and there is a considerable amount of people drinking and driving. We always plan on leaving a few hours before we need too, just in case, because you never want to be stuck on the road past dark.
You can also take a small hopper plane (www.natureair.com) from a smaller airport, near San Jose, or fly in to Liberia, which is a little closer to Nosara. For us, most flights go from Boston > Miami > San Jose, so this is usually our route of choice. If you take the plane, luggage is limited to under 25 lbs and is strictly enforced. No boards of any kind are allowed.
In Nosara we used to rent either a house or an apartment here. http://www.villatortuganosara.com/accommodations.php It's run by an American kid named Dave and he is awesome. There are condos, or you can rent the top or bottom of a house. It's super quiet, clean, and right near the beach. He has a business (http://www.thefrogpad.com/) that rents movies, bikes, and boards on the premises and there is also an internet/phone cafe as well. Wireless comes with the rental. There are kitchens and a little supermarket around the corner. Dave will be able to help you arrange surf lessons, horseback rides, massages, etc... We use bikes to get around the town which is tiny. There are a ton of great restaurants and if you go I can fill you in on where to eat... it's pretty cheap and all locally owned! They even have an ice cream shop which is completely homemade! (my kids' favorite)
More recently we've been renting homes through this company www.surfingnosara.com and have yet to be disappointed. In the summer we rent the Concha, and when traveling by ourselves the Olaje. Basically if you give them your dates, and budget, they will send you whats available and we have found that it is all pretty negotiable.
This place is also great if you want a small hotel room, and we used to stay here all the time when we first started visiting. (http://www.harborreef.com)
If you practice yoga, but there is an amazing yoga institute (http://www.nosarayoga.com) which offers drop in classes 5 times a day, and a few miles away is the best zip lining in costa rica (http://www.missskycanopytour.com). If it's your first trip to Costa Rica, and sitting on the beach isn't your thing, I cannot recommend a trip to the Arenal Volcano enough. We've stayed here, for a more authentic experience, and here for a some more luxury. Even if you don't stay at the Tabacon, you can still pay to use their hot springs which are a number of pools built around water heated by the volcano... an amazing experience.
As far as when to visit, we prefer "off peak times" i.e. the Summer, but year round, you can't beat it. The rainy season runs mid August- November, and it is no joke. Most of the people we know come state side around that time, and then go back in December. I've heard that it can rain for a month at a time!
I hope this helps those of you who are looking to visit, if you have any questions please feel free to email me, or leave a comment and I'll get back to you!
We leave in 29 days... not that we are counting ;)