Visiting Costa Rica was so much more than what I expected. I was so pleasantly surprised by the lifestyle, the incredible landscapes and nature adventures. It's true that everything slows down once you get to Costa Rica. If you are traveling to Costa Rica for the first time, it could be a bit overwhelming. Here, I give you a few tips to getting the most out of your trip.
Things to know before your trip:
Currency - Costa Rican Colón, however they do take dollars. I think it is best to exchange a couple hundred dollars to be able to pay cash when buying from street vendors and stuff like that.
Language - Spanish, but in the more touristy places you will find a lot of people speaking English.
People visit Costa Rica for many different reasons, my main priority was to get to know the nature, the culture and to learn how to surf (LOL). Because my parents had visited Costa Rica in the past, boyfriend and I decided to tag along this time. We flew into San Jose, rented a car near the airport and drove 3.5 hours towards our destination: Tamarindo, Guanacaste.
Why Tamarindo? Tamarindo is a small town in the providence of Guanacaste. It is located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, which makes it primarily known for its beaches and surf culture. In Tamarindo, you will find a variety of lively shops and restaurants all within a walkable distance; which makes it ideal for tourism. P.S. Renting a car is not 100% necessary because there are shuttle buses that will take you back and forth from San Jose Airport to Tamarindo. However, if you are traveling with a group I highly recommend renting a car to be able to drive around to different beaches and natural parks.
Our Stay in Tamarindo
We stayed at our family friend's hotel (which I cannot recommend enough), called Hotel Luamey in Tamarindo, Guanacaste.
The hotel feels like a jungle oasis, walking distance from the beach. Here you can sleep amongst monkeys and other wildlife...Seriously, the monkeys' practically become your alarm clock! The hotel includes breakfast, which is outstanding and there is a restaurant/lounge on site, where you can grab a mojito and cool down after a long day of surfing. The hotel is family owned and the owner's son runs surfing lessons all the way from beginner to expert level.
I definitely recommend trying out the fresh fruits sold by vendors on the street. Btw, they sell you mini coconuts with paper straws to drink out of and they call them "pipas".
Restaurants in Tamarindo:
Barefoot Restaurant and Lounge - This is the onsite restaurant at Hotel Luamey. The seafood is incredibly fresh and the cocktails are outstanding. I would highly recommend trying the frozen passion fruit mojito!
Pizza la Baula - Weird to recommend pizza in Costa Rica, I know but trust me...it's worth the visit. The pizza is authentic to my Napolitan roots and I must say one of the best pizzas I have ever had.
Gallo Fino - This is a great restaurant to go to for some authentic and delicious parrilla...that means barbecue. This place is sure to satisfy your hunger!
On one of the days we drove about an hour and a half from Tamarindo, towards Rincon de la Vieja. This was by far the most adventurous (and scariest) day. Keep in mind that visiting Rincon de la Vieja is a HUGE task, so there are different tour companies that can take you to do different activities and see different parts of the nature park...hope that makes sense.
The owner of the Hotel Luamey recommended a specific tour
called "Canyon de la Vieja" where we did horseback riding, river kayaking, zip lining, rock climbing and lastly we went to the hot springs and painted ourselves with clay from the mountains! Disclaimer: If you have weak arms (like me), it's best to not do the rock climbing...you've been warned.
One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was waking up at before sunrise and going to remote beaches and surfing (more like attempting to) or laying out on the sand watching my dad and his friends surf. Pro tip: When going to the beach, less is more. Only take what is necessary. Those who plan on surfing are better off leaving everything in the car and walking barefoot to the beach.
The beaches that I highly recommend visiting are:
Playa Grande - Best for surfing! Very secluded and recommended by local surfers.
Playa Tamarindo - (most crowded) Ideal for walking around and laying out.
Playa Avellanas - (My favorite) Visit Lola's Restaurant where you'll meet the famous pig named Lolita. This beach is great for surfing, walking around, laying out, even grabbing drink or a bite to eat. Also, in Playa Avellanas there is a hidden bridge where you'll be able to take some Insta worthy pics.
If you do stay in Tamarindo, I recommend taking a long yet beautiful walk to Playa Langosta on the beach. You'll find some amazing views.
Overall, I definitely recommend taking Costa Rica little by little. So far, I have only stayed in Tamarindo but at least I feel like I got the most out of my trip. Plus, it's always good to leave sights unseen for next time!
Thanks for reading! If you have ever visited Costa Rica, let me know where else you'd recommend staying.