When first visited this exotic country we knew it would not be the last. Since then we have gone again and are planning another to escape the cold long winter. During our visit we stayed in the charming but somewhat "all the time fiesta" Playa Del Coco. Our condo was in a beautiful new complex, with a winding river pool and hot tubs. We found this gem through the rental company VRBO. Costa Rica is a country of peaceful yet colourful people. I have even heard some refer to Costa Rica as the Switzerland of Central America.
We quite like eating at traditional restaurants, frequented by locals. For breakfast you would have a dish of rice and beans mixed together with onions and bell peppers. This is often considered the Costa Rica national dish and for lunch a casado. It again consists of rice and beans served side by side instead of mixed, with some sort of meat and a salad to round out the dish. Sometimes there are extras like fried plantain, a slice of white cheese, and/or corn tortillas. Salsa Lizano is on and in everything!
We really enjoyed tasting very fresh fish at Papagayo Seafood restaurant.This restaurant in Playa del Coco, over looks the main street. So there is lots to see while you enjoy a great meal. You can sit upstairs and get a great view of the whole street, down to the ocean. We also really liked the pizza at Coconuts. The pizzas were just one size – HUGE!
We did buy groceries in Liberia at Jumbo, and the Auto Maercado in Playa del Cocoa. The Tico Bakery (blue/green building) on the right hand side of the street, as you leave Playa del Cocoa, is also full of yummy pastries and breads. Our Spanish is not great but we managed to always pick some delicious breads. I would recommend the cinnamon bread which is braided in to a loaf. 🙂
Dining in Liberia, was also a treat. Right off the main square we found El Zaguan restaurant. We had come in to Liberia for a festival. Besides bull fighting!, which we did not see due to having young children, there was a fun carnival. The kids loved the rides and fit right in with all the Costa Rican children, having a blast! We had a slow start to the rides, as I once again stumbled along in Spanish, trying to figure out the ticket system. 🙂
If you are making the trek down to Arenal Volcano from Liberia, here is a great place for traditional and very delicious food. It is located in the town of Tilaran, en route to the volcano. It had a lovely veranda with a view plus great smoothies! As usual, in many places, the portions were generous. Another treat in Costa Rica are the smoothies! And, the ice tea, which looks like a beer, is the best I have ever had – so refreshing.
Something that only adds to the adventure of Costa Rica are the roads. The Pan American (linking the Americas) was a highway but was busy and narrow in a lots of areas. Some roads are on a map but when you get there it just ends in a creek bed. One guy told us that was the way, down the creek bed and then make a turn at the next time we saw another road!! We turned around as we were not up for that much of an adventure that day. 🙂 We have enjoyed day trips around Costa Rica. And, if you leave yourself time to manouver the roads, and have a sense of adventure there is lots to see, literally "off the beaten track".
On a cruise of the Tempisque River we saw everything from crocodiles to white faced monkeys! It was a fabulous trip. The tour starts at a hacienda, and you can enjoy a delicious lunch with the ranch's workers afterwards. However, it is a very difficult place to find, but do-able!
We also discovered the delightful Cortez Waterfalls. They are a bit allusive but well worth the hunt for them plus the walk down to them. 🙂 There is a "beach" to lay on, and enjoy the coolness of the falls. You were able to buy a coconut to drink, to support the local elementary school. Surprisingly, our picky eater, was the one who loved it the most!
Africa Mia, is a wild life reserve just outside of Liberia. It is a favorite place to visit for us, as we have been there on both trips. A lot of the animals are from Africa as it is quite "desert like" in this area of Costa Rica. The thrill is feeding the giraffes and zebras!
Yes, it is very cool to stay near a volcano!( In case you were wondering. ) The kids were a bit cautious at first, worrying about it blowing lava! However, we were a safe distance away from Arenal but still had great views. Lost Iguana resort was our home base for exploring this area of Costa Rica. It was in a lush jungle area, on the side of a mountain, with great views. We fell in love with this quaint resort, and hope to return someday.
On our second trip we stayed on the Pennisula Papagoyo, which was SPECTACULAR! We felt so lucky. It was quite deserted as well. If you stay on the peninsula, most properties allow you to also hang out at the beach club. This fabulous club was on a lovely beach, Playa Prieta.
There is a also a lovely public beach called Playa Nacascolo . It was shallow for a long ways, and was fairly warm. The kids loved it the best, as it had a wonderful beach plus trees to play in and vines to swing on.
If you stay on the Papagayo Pennisula, Liberia, the major city, is only about 30 minutes away. It was where we shopped for groceries. You often pass through Liberia to get to all other destinations. Plus, there is a private medial clinic there, Clinica Biblica. They were super helpful in booking us our appointment with the ENT specialist to look at our duaghter's ear, which had gotten infected. Right beside it was also a private hospital which was brand new. Not that anyone plans to get sick but it was comforting to know there was quality medical help nearby.And, if you find yourself in San Jose, the hospital Clinica Biblica offers great medical services too.
Costa Rica is definitely a country we will visit again. Everything about it is lovely and natural, from the lush rain forests to the sandy beaches. The Costa Rican people's warmth is also what will draw us back. We hope you will someday get the chance to travel there!Ciao!