I had always wanted to go to Costa Rica and we finally pulled it off this past June. It was the ideal vacation to meet up with family and spend a relaxing week swimming, surfing, exploring, eating and visiting.
Since my sons wanted to surf, we decided on the Pacific coastal area near Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula – on the recommendation of my brother who surfs in Costa Rica frequently. This area would provide good surfing and nice beaches along with access to parks, restaurants and comfortable places to stay.
The Nicoya Peninsula runs along the Pacific coast to the west of San Jose, the capital. Santa Teresa is at the southern end of the peninsula so the recommended route from San Jose is a ferry ride across the Gulf of Nicoya. It is a beautiful trip and the ferry is comfortable. Figuring out how to buy the ferry passes was a bit of a challenge but the locals were helpful to the inexperienced extranjeros.
Our microbus, as the ferry agent labeled us, navigated the bumpy roads down the coast and around to the Pacific coast to our villa – at Batik between Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa. Casa Macondo and Casita gave us ample room – it was the perfect get-away for us all. You can see from the photos on their website – and they represent the villa precisely. It is like a resort without the crowds and noise.
There were two open-air bathrooms and three bedrooms in the main house and a bedroom, open-air bathroom and kitchenette in the adjoining Casita. I highly recommend these villas and would definitely return. Our concierge was Isabella who just happens to be from Italy. Small world.
My son and his girlfriend had taken a shuttle flight to Tambor. It is a nice option as it saves the long drive from San Jose. We picked them up there at the huge airport – the runway looked to be a nicely-paved road (which we were envious of). They said the landing on the tiny airstrip from the ocean side was spectacular.
You can see from this map where the ferry docked near Paquera. From there, we ventured along the coast and explored many of the little towns.
Eager to see more wildlife, we went to the Cabo Blanco Absolute Wildlife Reserve at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. From the ranger station, we chose the Sendero Sueco trail. It was an intense hike through the thick forest with some pretty steep assents – reminiscent of the Camino de Santiago, even with a few yellow arrows. We were initially greeted by some howler monkeys but had to walk a while to spot the white-nosed coati. He seem unaffected by our presence and just continued nosing around. We finally reached the beach and took a swim and a lunch break before heading back. As we were snacking, the white-throated capuchin monkeys became interested in our food and started converging on our picnic. We left shortly thereafter for the long hike back. The round-trip adventure took us about 5 hours or so. Buen Camino.
Another day took us to Montezuma for the canopy tour, including a break at La Catarata Montezuma – a waterfall and swimming hole. A photographer zipped along with us and provided these photos.
The restaurants in the area are wonderful. Near our villa, there was Pranamar where we had a typical breakfast. Tapas was run by an Italian couple but we went with Spanish cuisine and had their paella, and of course, some tapas. In Montezuma, we enjoyed pizza. In Malpaís, we found Caracoles, a beachside restaurant. We spent a relaxing afternoon eating great food, drinking margaritas, beer and pina coladas; enjoying the view and exploring the beach. But back at Villa Macondo, we had amazing chefs, Jessie and Robin, who cooked quite a few times for us. We enjoy the adventures grocery shopping for our delicious meals. Gracias, ladies.
It was an awesome vacation.
Thank you to my family for a wonderful time. Gracias.
- I am glad to have found a little book, Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. It is packed with information and helped us make good decisions on our journey; like choosing to take the ferry instead of driving around the gulf and ending up on roads too bad to pass through in our microbus.
- Don’t leave your jeans shorts to dry out in the sun.
- Just know that every trip around the area will be on rocky, dirt, bumpy roads. But they get you where you need to go. Might be worse during the rainy season.
- We expected rain but were happy to be without. The locals were wanting rain as they were getting low on water and it was being shipped in – at great expense.
- Accept the fact that it is hot and humid and pack accordingly. Make sure you stay in a place with a pool. It is where we headed after every trip away from our Villa. Don’t think you will dress up when you go out for dinner – it is doubtful that you will. I love the laid-back, surfer atmosphere.
- Be quick with closing the bedroom doors (that are air-conditioned) as well as the fridge. The neighborhood cats have learned where the cools spots are and will run for them at every opportunity.
- We had packed our hiking poles which were very helpful to some of us (me) when we hiked in Cabo Blanco. As it turns out, Dan use them to keep the Capuchin monkeys at bay when they were converging on our picnic. I guess they wanted our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
- Packaged food prices are inflated. Local fresh food is the way to go and is delicious. Take advantage of the duty-free shop at the airport to stock up on rum, coffee liqueur, and anything else you might want.
- I will gladly to back if anyone is interested. (Any takers?)
- I should take more pictures, or better ones.
- Adiós, Costa Rica.