Traveling to Costa Rica with kids was a bit easier than our previous trips because we spent a lot of time relaxing at our home that we rented with friends instead of driving to see all the sights. We also packed very minimally since it’s 90 degrees there daily.
Costa Rica was absolutely beautiful. Being immersed in their culture taught me a lot in one week. They take pride in the way they live, their language and the beautiful country in which they reside. They encourage you to learn Spanish and whenever you enter/leave a restaurant or any conversation, you say “Pura vida!” (which basically means “simple life” but it’s a way of saying hello, goodbye, a way to brush off negativity). I can understand why many want to pick up their belongings and move here. It was a wonderful feeling to keep this trip to ourselves without the desire to post anything onto social media. I bathed in the ocean, surfed the waves, wore no makeup and had a simple wardrobe for the week and will be carrying that over into our life here. A simple life…….
I am going to set up this post a little bit different compared to my others. I will give you all the specifics right up front and then do a little photo diary with captions throughout the rest of the post. If you want to see how I typically pack for the kids – head here.
Language: Spanish – we know some Spanish but it’s mostly all medical terms since we use it for that often. One of my goals in the near future is to become more fluent.
Area we stayed: Playa Grande on the Pacific Coast in Guanacaste province. Our friends have been all over Costa Rica and said that this is one of their favorite places. They go back often and always stay here. It was great because the locals make you feel like part of the area and it’s really welcoming.
Link to the home we stayed in: We used VRBO and Dawn was our contact (she’s originally from Maine and married Vinny (from Costa Rica) and they reside here now. They own the restaurant that we often visited – a 1 minute walk from our home. Cafe Mar Azul – We stayed at Casa Hermosa. Our friends stayed at Casa Pelicano and Casa Bonita. If you want to book surf lessons, book breakfast/lunch or dinner reservations OR take the estuary tour – download Whatsapp APP and then send a message to Dawn. You can tell her I sent you! +506 8454 1792
Highly recommend: Take a group surf lesson at Playa Grande Surf Camp (right next to Cafe Mar Azul) for $40 (2 hours long). Just make sure to lather on sunscreen and wear a long sleeve rash guard. I learned this the hard way 😉 Head to Diamante Adventure Park. This is definitely a tourist spot but the kids absolutely loved seeing all the animals, their amazing playground AND best of all, the zip-lining has fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean. Pick up some pineapple and watermelon on the side of the roads, they’re the most delicious we have ever had. Oh, and the coconut water! There is always someone at the entrance to the beach near where we stayed that had fresh coconuts. We would have loved to visit the cloud rainforest but it’s a hike from where we stayed. Maybe next time! Hit up the Farmers Market in Tamarindo on Saturday morning 8-1 (Tamarindo is a tourist trap and not somewhere I would ever consider staying but the farmers market was great).
Wildlife: Costa Rica is a great place to see howler monkeys – you can hear them at dawn and dusk (kind of creepy sounding) and we saw them in the trees where we were staying. There are tons of crabs everywhere that like to come out when it’s going to rain and so many gorgeous birds. If you travel to some of the parks you may see sloths, ocelot, toucans, tapir, coati, + much more. I highly recommend doing an estuary tour in Playa Grande through here – this is owned by the same person that owns the restaurant right near the surf camp, Cafe Mar Azul. If you want to book surf lessons, book breakfast/lunch or dinner reservations OR take the estuary tour – download Whatsapp APP and then send a message to Dawn. You can tell her I sent you! +506 8454 1792
Weather: Warm – usually 70s-mid 80s. It was 90s when we were there. You do not need to pack any sweatshirts or coats unless you are planning to go to a rain forest inland. It can get cooler in the rainforest as you go inland.
Price: $1 = 662.259 (colones) To give you perspective, we got happy hour drinks for 2 of us at Care Mar Azul for just over 6,000 colones which is about $10. The dollar goes a good way here. You can use colones or USD throughout the country. I would get some native money to spend at little stands that you may see. If you end up going to the farmers market in Tamarindo on Saturday – bring USD with you.
Food: We had some of the freshest fish while we were down there and their native dish, Casado, is delicious. We mostly walked to Cafe Mar Azul + Cafe Canta to eat daily! As for grocery stores, there are many local stores along the way but not many that will have. your typical American items stocked. If you are looking for that, head to Auto Mercado in Tamarindo – it’s basically a Whole Foods. It is pricey, just like Whole Foods, so keep that in mind. We went there once and then did the rest of our shopping at “The Store” – Wil-Mart that was 10 minutes from where we were staying. “The Store” had very friendly people working there and they have a restaurant attached that even has live reggae so check that out too! You can find anything from diapers to trail mix to seltzers here.
Airport/Car Travel: We flew into Liberia airport and then we rented a car from Enterprise which is a quick drive via a van from the airport. We got one of their bigger SUVs – I recommend 4 wheel drive, the roads can be rough. It took about 75-90 minutes to get to Playa Grande from the airport and most of those roads are paved but many other roads are not, just FYI.