After an action-packed first week in Costa Rica, James and I sleepily clambered into our shuttle bus from Monteverde, ready for slower days by the sea. The temperatures rose as we climbed down the mountain and I couldn’t believe the change in climate when we reached our first rest stop. I also couldn’t believe these beautiful birds were casually flying around a tree with a tiny monkey sleeping within it either.
It’s safe to say that I spent the rest of the journey to the beach feeling alert and excited, looking out for that first glimpse of shimmering sea.
Costa Rica has a beautiful coast line on both the Carribbean and the Pacific, which made settling on a place to spend the week pretty difficult. We chose the Pacific Coast because it worked with our plan to explore the rainforest and the mountains and I elimintated trying to fit the Carribbean Coast from our trip after having already been to the Cayman Islands. We narrowed it down again to Guanacaste as I’d read somewhere that it has more sunshine during the rainy season than the popular Manuel Antonio. I chose the small beach town of Playa Flamingo because it was said to be more relaxed than Tamarindo.
Most of the coast line is hidden behind lush vegetation and there are few roads that take you alongside it, making the anticipation heighten as we were told we were just 20 minutes away. After what seemed like a very long 20 minutes, we finally arrived at our hotel.
Right next to the beautiful beach, with a crisp cool pool and a balcony to enjoy the sunsets. It couldn’t have looked any better. I’ll admit it didn’t look this perfect on the first day as a few afternoon clouds had gathered, but I saw this view almost every morning when the sky was usually clear from clouds.
As the rest of our holiday blurred into mornings on the beach, afternoons at the pool and evenings drinking cocktails out of coconuts. I thought I’d just share the highlights of our stay.
P L A Y A F L A M I N G O
The area we were staying in was tiny and the restaurants were pretty limited. As we didn’t plan to hire a car for the whole week I felt a bit concerned about this at first (I am just so used to the endless choices in London!), but after a while it really didn’t matter as I was much more interested in my stunning surroundings.
The beach itself was just the right length to go for a morning walk from one end to the other without getting too tired or hot and there were plenty of places to grab some shade (my favourite being sat under the palm trees.)
Butterflies fluttered along the stretch of white sand, teasing me into attempts to take their picture.
(You can imagine how long I hovered around to get this one 😉 )
The waves crashed loudly but there was just enough surf to go in for a paddle.
Let’s not talk about the moment I got swept up in one of those waves as I turned to my back on the sea to reach the shore. Ouch.
On top of the glistening sand and the cool blue sea, the sunsets were amazing and I made sure I was there every night at 6pm to see it.
It’s hard to describe the love of a stunning sunset, I guess it’s the humbling awe of nature’s creations and the marbling of colours right before our eyes.
James was paddled in the waters, after being brought up in Guernsey and Sark he’s always drawn into the sea, but standing on the shore was enough for me.
I really wish you could bottle up these calming moments, where nothing seems wrong with the world. But the photos will at least bring back the memories for years to come.
P L A Y A C O N C H A L
Playa Conchal is known as one of Guanacaste’s best beaches, famed for it’s stone-white sand and crystal clear waters. As it’s only 20 minutes from Playa Flamingo, there was no way that I was going to miss out on this stunning sight.
It wasn’t the most straightforward beach to get to as we had to park up our hire car in nearby Brasilito (you can drive closer to the beach if you have a 4X4 or you’re a particularly confindent driver on sand!) But it was so worth the effort.
One of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.
And really peaceful. There were so few people around, you could walk right towards the end of the beach and be the only person there.
The sea was perfectly calm and irresistable as the day got hotter.
We spent the majority of the day there, reading books, swimming, chatting, playing cards. We left shortly after my favourite time of day.
That point where the sun is lowering in the sky, the temperature is perfect and you’re in a total relaxed state. Isn’t that feeling one of the best reasons to go on holiday?
P L A Y A T A M A R I N D O
Playa Tamarindo is known for its surf and attracts the cool crowd.
It’s much bigger and busier than the other beach towns we went to but I enjoyed a different pace and being somewhere with more of a buzz.
I tried surfing when I was travelling around Australia and my poor upper body strength stopped me from being all that good at it.
But I was more than happy to sit on a lounger and watch James take a lesson and discover that it’s so much harder than the pros make it look.
The weather was a little mixed that day but it was nice to relax on a lounger, eat ice cream (which is strangely harder to come by in Costa Rica!), and paddle in the sea.
T H E R E ‘ S M O R E
There’s always more to do in Costa Rica and you can find the same sort of things we’d done in the mountains on offer from resorts by the beach.
I really wanted to do more of a wildlife tour as it didn’t feel like we’d seen many animals, so we took a boat ride around to Palo Verde National Park. The main aim was to see monkeys in the wild and (as the tour guide told us) we were pretty lucky that day.
These monkeys are called ‘cappuncino monkeys’ in Costa Rica (I have a feeling there’s an official name for them) and they’re said to be the most friendly.
We also saw howler monkeys, who were a little scary and made so much noise for something so small. We passed crocodiles, bats and lots of birds too.
James wanted to do scuba diving and I was keen for it too. Luckily our hotel had a dive centre so we had a quick refresher before setting out to sea.
It was AMAZING. I forgot how exciting scuba diving was and we were treated to turtles, puffer fish, all sorts of star fish, and swam alongside schools of fish too. I wished I’d brought a Go Pro throughout most of the trip but I was desperate for one at that point, just to be able to re-live watching that turtle swim out into the infinite ocean.
The journey there and back was pretty lovely too.
_ _ _ _
And that, my lovely readers, is the end of our trip to Costa Rica. (Although, I’m still thinking about that coffee farm post!) I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse into such a beautiful country.
Here are a few of the last few links, in case you’re planning a trip there one day.
Where we stayed: Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa. A nice, clean hotel, right next to the beach. The breakfast was pretty good and you could get OK snacks for lunch. I have a feeling it was the height of luxury when it was opened, and it’s certainly worthy of a 3.5 star but I wouldn’t go beyond that knowing what you can get in London for 4 stars. The only thing that annoyed me was having to wear a wrist band the whole time we were there because they offer full board.
Where we ate: Coco Loco was my favourite restaurant. It was right on the beach, had some good and fairly cheap food, and offered tasty cocktails. There are only three other restaurants in the area which were pretty good but nothing to shout about.
Activities: Palo Verde National Park – We booked this from a random guy on the beach, he was much cheaper than the hotel tours but we probably got a cheaper service. That said we probably got the same boat tour. Aqua Center Dive Center – was linked to our hotel and offered us one of the easier scuba dives. You can do snorkelling with them two and the other couple that did it saw some great things too.
Where are you travelling to this summer? Do you have any plans for the rest of the year?