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COSTA RICA Pura Vida The Ultimate Family Adventure (part 1 or 2)

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

As the jet door opened, a wave of humidity hit, the 90 degree plus heat rising off the tarmac. We made it, we’re in Central America, a new destination to cross off the bucket list, one I had been wanting to visit for years. So many years in fact, our family had more than doubled in size since Costa Rica first appeared on my radar.


My kiddies have inherited my spirit for adventure and for that, I am thankful. With our seven and eight year old in tow, we were embarking on a dream of mine, which would soon become a dream of theirs, to return to this magical land.



Riding the waves of the Central Pacific


Eleven years ago, my husband and I planned to honeymoon in Costa Rica. Then we eloped. We planned the trip again a year later and then learned we were expecting our son. A daughter followed and then another son and add on a few years and we are finally here with the two oldest Chunkies.


The flight from Atlanta was an easy 3 hours and 45 minutes, landing directly in Liberia, a small city in the Guancaste Province just south of the Nicaraguan border.


Playa Conchal was an easy hour drive from the airport. Fresh fruit stands with cantaloupe, melons, papayas and pineapples lined the narrow roads lush in landscape. As we got closer to the coast, the roads narrowed and winded through hilly farmland teaming with livestock, horses and crops.


The Westin in Playa Conchal was nestled in a sizable cove. Living up to its name the beach was made of tiny seashells. Keep in mind, you are in the Central Pacific, it’s not the endless white sandy beaches of the Caribbean with crystal blue waters. The beaches are made of tiny shells which makes them rough and dark. The waters are a richer blue with an endless supply of big waves my kids loved to jump. The water was surprising warm and I had zero complaints from this crew!



Playa Conchal and the many shells


Our family visited Costa Rica in February 2014 and February 2016 with our two children (2016 - 7 and 8) These are the places I personally experienced and my personal views!


Costa Rica is a country the size of West Virginia bordered by Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South. In this tiny country a perfect eco-system is nested which is home to 8% of the world’s flora and fauna! The country is diverse, to truly experience it’s wonders, you need to stay in more than one place. We chose the beaches of Guanacaste and the rain forests of La Fortuna de San Carlos. We visited in February which is the “dry season.” The Dry Season runs from Feb - April - otherwise be prepared to see lots and lots of rain!


The sun sets on our adventure on Playa Conchal

FLIGHTS:

We took a direct Delta flight from Atlanta to Liberia, Costa Rica in the northern province of Guanacaste. The flight is about 4 hours with a one hour time difference (back).

RT Delta flight @ $700 We used skymiles - I highly recommend the Delta Platinum Skymiles Card or Delta Reserve Black Skymiles Card to rack them up fast!


HOTEL:

I chose the Westin Playa Conchal in Guanacaste - an all inclusive resort. This resort is a 45 minute drive from the airport in Liberia. While I am not a big fan of all inclusive - this hotel has it’s pros and cons. Our first trip we stayed at the Four Seasons found it too isolated, very limited restaurants, there is nothing for hours around the resort, but it is very beautiful!


PROS:

* Close to the airport

* Great beach for kids

* Great resort for families

* Very large rooms

* Nice pools

* Kids can drink and eat all they want and you’re not worried about the bill

* Nice assortment of activities on the property or close by

* Kids Camp when parents want a break

* Very good food - not great food - but very good

* Staff is very attentive and professional

CONS:

* Very much a family resort

* Not an ounce of good wine - bring it yourself - you can’t even buy good wine in the grocery stores

* Very big resort so be prepared to walk - request a room close to the pools and beach!

* Golf Carts are constantly moving people around so stay out of their path or get mowed down

* If you walk into your room and the air is not COLD - ask for a new one right away - it won’t get better and it can’t be fixed

* Overall - hotel rooms need an update

* Every room is the same - you cannot stay at the Royal Beach Club with kids - it’s adults only. If you have more than 4 peeps - you need another room :( They do have adjoining rooms but it gets $$$. @ cost for a family of four $880 a night - this is all inclusive - drinks - food - etc!

* Keep in mind - you are in a 3rd world country and most of the people who work here are going back to shacks with no air!


Lunch at one of the open air restaurants - they cooked our freshly caught mahi mahi for us

FOOD AND ACTIVITIES:

WESTIN: Make your restaurant reservations as soon as you arrive otherwise you will have to eat at the buffet which is not that good.

Fasinella (Italian Restaurant) Cauri (French Restaurant) and Bamboo (Asian Restaurant) were our favs! And believe it or not the pizza place near the beach had amazing high end pizza and salads!

We rented ATVs and went down the beach which was fun


Deep Sea Fishing

We used Papagayo Sport Fishing and spoke with Genaro Mendez who arranged the whole trip online. We chartered the La Chila G for a half day and had an amazing time with the crew. The first trip we caught seven - 35 pound Mahi Mahi and took one back to the hotel to be cooked for lunch. Costa Rica is amazing for fishing but it all depends on the conditions - email the captain when you arrive and make sure your day is good - otherwise cancel and save your money. Winds and dark water means no fish! The fishing charter will pick you up by boat from the beach of the Westin or the Four Seasons.


Horses

They do offer horse back riding on the beach. We did it the first time we visited. Now just knowing about about animals, I would not do it again. In my opinion, the horses are overworked and hot and not treated very well.


Surfing

We used Iguana Surf in Tamarindo - the company picked us up at our hotel. It’s about a 20 minute ride to Tamarindo which is a real pot smoking true surf town! Our surf instructor was David who was amazing with kids. It’s harder than it looks - my 7 year old was our surfing Queen who popped up on every wave - the rest of us - not so much. They do take pictures of you and you can buy them all for $25. The kids loved it - it was their favorite part of the beach trip. Afterwards we all had a real Costa Rican lunch at a local spot in Tamarindo - Noogis.




After four nights on the beach - we hired COSTA RICAN SHUTTLES to take us to the rain forests - a 4 1/2 drive away.


Once you hit the town of Canas (where tilapia is farmed in the canals - after you see it live and the dude stirring the canals with a cane pole - you will never eat farm raised fish again!) you start going up in elevation and the road becomes very twisty and bumpy for the next 2 hours.

Ride to jungles $275.00 or be like Beyonce and hire Helijet for $500 per person and you'll land in the jungles in 45 minutes.




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