We loved our trip to Costa Rica last week to celebrate Thanksgiving and my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.
It was our family’s first time to Costa Rica. But not my first visit to Central America. I had traveled to Panama earlier this year, and Costa Rica reminded me of so much of what I loved about Panama.
The slow-paced culture, the kind people, the lush green jungle landscape and the warm slow waves of the ocean.
It truly is paradise.
And an incredible place to vacation with a family as there’s so much to do, for everyone.
We spent the week in Tamarindo, which is a beach town on the pacific coast side of Costa Rica. It has a great, easy, surfable (and swimable) beach with a large town center. There are lots of good restaurants and shops. An easy place to spend a week if you’re traveling with kids. We stayed in a house through AirBNB and it was super easy. We used a golf cart to get around the town and back/forth to the beach (definitely worth it).
We flew into Liberia airport (which has direct flights from LAX and other major airports). It was about a 5-hour flight from LAX, and then Tamarindo is a little over an hour drive from the airport.
If I were to go back to Costa Rica, I’m not sure that I’d go to Tamarindo. I think I would travel a little further north up the coast to Papagayo or south to Nosara. Tamarindo was a little “busy” for us, but it’s still a beautiful place (and probably the best spot to surf).
We ate at a lot of great spots, but our family’s favorite was a place right on the beach called Pico Bistro. The food was incredible. All super fresh and bright. I felt like I was eating the rainbow. It’s on the northern edge of town, right next door to a great surf school/shop called Witch’s Rock Surf Camp (which ps – also has great coffee and acai bowls). I walked down there a few mornings for coffee and the kids rented board there on our last day. I think that part of the beach/town was my personal favorite as it’s a really wide stretch of sand and there’s hardly anyone there.
We spent our days swimming, snorkeling, ziplining and of course surfing. Living in Southern California, our kiddos are very comfortable on surf boards and are pretty decent surfers. But the waters in LA are not necessarily the best for surfing, so being here in Costa Rica was such a treat.
The waters here are known for some of the best surfing conditions, and Tamarindo has some of the best in Costa Rica. The main beach in Costa Rica is really wide/long (about 1.5 miles in length). The break to the north has much larger swells than the southern portion of the beach. So there’s something for every level.
We surfed almost every day (there are surf instructors everywhere, and you can almost always get someone the day of, or sign up the night before). We took lessons 3-4 times, but on the other days we rented boards and surfed on our own (rentals ranged from $10-15/day)
The beaches in Costa Rica (similar to Panama) are really shallow and flat for a long time, which means the waves have a longer run (unlike the pacific by us in LA, which have fast breaks). So the waves feel a little “slower” and you have more of a run to actually get up. Which makes it ideal for those just starting out.
The waters are extremely safe. I never worried once about having all four of my kids out in the water, even when I was surfing as well.
We also went ziplining, which was so easy and fun. The kids loved it, and again, felt very safe.
We chartered a boat through Panache Sailing. We rented our own boat for the morning and they were excellent. I would highly recommend them. We had our own private catamaran (we had 9 people, but it easily could have fit 20-25 people). The boat picked us up in Playa Flamingo, and we traveled north (towards Papagayo). We only rented it for the morning, and in hindsight, I think I would have done the full day as there was so much to do/see (especially if you’re a water family like us).
The kids said it was their favorite part of the trip (and mine too). The water when you get further out from the sandy beaches are just spectacular. The boat had everything we needed to snorkel, paddle board, kayak. Anything you could have wanted.
I will also add that the staff was amazing. They were really friendly and helpful, but most importantly, very cautious with our kids. JP and I were in the water a lot snorkeling, and the guides were amazing with our kids.
At one point Frankie was snorkeling and lost his fins, and within seconds one of guides dove in to help him. They did the same when the kids paddle boarded too close to some rocks. They didn’t hesitate to jump in and be extra cautious with our kids. And when it comes to water activities, that is my number one concern. We were in great hands. Would highly recommend (ps – none of this is sponsored, just my honest thoughts).
Overall, we loved our trip to Costa Rica and are already planning another vactation back. There is still so much more we want to do there as a family. If you’re someone who likes to be active and experience activities in nature, then you will be in heaven.
The locals in Costa Rica us a phrase to greet you, “Pura Vida”. Which roughly translates to “pure life”. But it’s more than just a saying here. It’s really a way of life. Slowing down to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. And you can feel that energy here. It rubs off on you.
Taking a little of that feeling home with us, and until next time Costa Rica, pura vida.