COSTA RICA: TAMARINDO + SANTA TERESA BEACH
Anyone we've ever talked to about Costa Rica had only great things to say. Costa Rica is so peaceful and relaxing. It will give you everything you want out of a tropical vacation.
We focused on keeping it simple and relaxing for this trip, hanging at the beach or pool, and visiting neighboring towns and stops along the way. You could easily make the trip loaded with outdoor activities like Ziplining, surfing, kayaking, boat tours, ATV rental, and more.
Day 1: Fly into Liberia, Drive to Tamarindo
Day 2: Tamarindo-Massage, Beach, Shopping
Day 3: Slow Morning, Drive to Santa Teresa after lunch
Day 4: Santa Teresa-beach/pool every day
Day 5: Santa Teresa
Day 6: Santa Teresa
Day 7: Nicoya for Covid Testing, Animal Refuge, Santa Teresa
Day 8: Montezuma
Day 9: Drive to Liberia, Fly Home
DAY 1-FLY INTO LIBERIA, DRIVE TO TAMARINDO
Initially, we were scheduled to fly into San Jose, with a long drive to Tamarindo. We'd heard about protests in the city, and how traffic can get awful. Our plane ended up having mechanical issues, and we found a flight into Liberia. We talked to United's team about getting on that flight, and they made it happen for free. It's an easy 5 hour non-stop flight. Really cool scenery if you fly while it's light out.
When you fly into Liberia Guanacaste Airport (LIR), you have to shuttle to rental car facilities for the most part, all other pickup vans and cabs are accessible just outside the airport. The airport is small. There's a good chance you'll get through customs quickly.
If you're only going to Tamarindo, a cab or shuttle just going to and from might be your best option. We needed a rental car because we were traveling all over the Nicoya peninsula. People tailgate badly and the roads are not great, so don't rent a car if you're not up for that. Another tip if you're renting a car, try to get in early so you're not driving in the dark!
We had a great experience with Oscar at Sixt Rent a Car. Quick shuttle with AC, he spoke great English, and ended up upgrading us to an SUV (thank goodness with some of the roads we drove on. Definitely get an SUV if you're renting a car).
We drove through some small towns and made it to Tamarindo. Tamarindo has a lot to do in its main downtown area (restaurants, bars, shops, resorts). We stayed just outside of the downtown area at Hotel Capitan Suizo and loved it. We will definitely be returning to this hotel in the future for a week.
They had free parking and the check-in was smooth, really nice people that work there. We grabbed dinner with our feet in the sand, had a bottle of wine, and headed back to the room. The rooms AC works well, they're spacious, showers have a beach vibe, and your patio will make you feel like you're truly in the jungle. Always good to settle in comfortably.
DAY 2-TAMARINDO-MASSAGE, BEACH, SHOPPING
Waking up on our first day, we had some coffee on our balcony and saw a monkey! A perfect way to start the trip.
The hotel included a great breakfast. The restaurant on the premises is right on the water, you can even sit on the sand. Great, different food options every day. Fresh fruit. Everything you'd want on a relaxing, tropical vacation.
We enjoyed our breakfast and then relaxed on some beach chairs overlooking the ocean. Locals walked in front of us and sold fresh coconuts/coconut water for basically $1 USD. We also could walk up to the bar at our resort, it was perfect.
Later that day we had a couples massage scheduled. It was phenomenal and we'd strongly recommend utilizing the spa if you stay at Hotel Capitan Suizo.
After the massage, we walked down the beach into town for some food, drinks and shopping. We grabbed a bite on the sand at a restaurant called Walter's. It wasn't anything special but there was great people watching, a view, and it was right in the heart of town.
We could've done a lot more in Tamarindo-horse riding, hiking, boat rental, zip-lining, etc. But as we said earlier we really wanted to focus on relaxing this trip. After a drink in town, we opted to hang at our resort. It had the view, good food, and tranquil vibe we were looking for.
We ate again at the resort restaurant: El Barco. They had a lot of good fresh seafood options and incorporated local cuisine.
DAY 3-SLOW MORNING, DRIVE TO SANTA TERESA
A good night of sleep, a slow morning, another meal, and we were on our way south. It's a 3.5-hour drive to get to Santa Teresa, but it's very worth it to see more of the peninsula and the local lifestyle, along with its beauty.
Arriving in Santa Teresa, it's dusty! A dirt road with cars, 4-wheelers, and people walking all over the place. Most people rent a 4-wheeler here to get around and explore north to some remote beaches. Although dusty, a very laid-back, small beach town vibe that you quickly realize settling in.
We stayed at a place called Nautilus right across the street from a path to the beach, and right next to a coffee, called Eat Street. We ate or got a drink there pretty much every day. Our Airbnb had an awesome pool too. Unfortunately, the yoga/kitchen areas were under renovation while we were there.
After unpacking, we walked down to the beach to watch the sunset. We, and the entire town did this every night. The best sunsets, people walking around selling desserts, coconut water, drinks, weed brownies, the list could go on.
GET A TON OF BUG SPRAY. They're really bad.
After the sunset, we'd go grab a drink or head straight to dinner. The first night we got our favorite, sushi. It was probably a 5-minute walk from the beach or our place. The place was called Satori, and we ended up going there again that week. Really fresh sushi, and an awesome outdoor patio with live music. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu here, but red snapper is local and surprisingly good. Of course tuna too.
Afterward, we went towards our Airbnb and grabbed a nightcap at Eat Street. A long but incredible day.
DAY 4-6 SANTA TERESA
Our first full day in Santa Teresa, it was time to hit the beach!
We usually would start our day with coffee (so good in Costa Rica), and grabbing breakfast. O
n the first day we bought sunblock, snacks, and water at a local supermarket (Super Ronny's #2). The tap water is not safe in Santa Teresa, and you'll need to drink a lot of water. Then we hung out at the beach as long as we could.
It was humid and hot, so most days we'd go to the beach for a bit, and then hang out at our pool so we could always go in the water and cool off easily. Have some chill time to shower and relax before sunset and dinner. It was a rejuvenating routine.
Even though we kept it low-key and simple most of the time, there is a lot to do. Riding 4-wheelers to remote beaches, surf lessons, hikes, and more.
We went to various lunch places including Playground by Selina, and of course Eat Street.
Just figure out what you want, do a quick search to check out reviews and you'll find the right spots. There are a good amount of options for such a small town.
DAY 6-7 NICOYA FOR COVID TESTING, ANIMAL REFUGE
Unfortunately, we needed a COVID test to get back into the US, and the closest place was almost 3 hours away in Nicoya.
So we made that drive, got tested, and built in a visit to Curu Wildlife Refuge, where we saw lots of monkeys and some other creatures. It's like $20 USD to drive your car through, but you could also stay here if you wanted to.
This was the night we got Pronto Italian Street Food. So good, very authentic Italian that is beyond tasty.
Near Santa Teresa was a town called Montezuma on the coast. A close friend recommended visiting there so we went!
We did a hike up to a waterfall, and enjoyed an authentic Costa Rican lunch with a view of the water at Soda Tipica Las Palmeras. Afterward, we took some pictures and enjoyed the views of the coast, before heading into town for gelato and some gift shops.
Montezuma seemed to have some cool coastal bars and was laid back, but the downtown area wasn't as enjoyable as Santa Teresa to us, so we didn't spend too much time there.
Back to Santa Teresa for dinner and a good sleep before a long day of traveling in the morning.
DAY 9-DRIVE TO LIBERIA, FLY HOME
As I mentioned before, flying direct between Denver and Liberia was so convenient, we switched our rental car and flights from San Jose to Liberia, and it probably was only like $250 more and in our opinion worth it.
PACKING LIST/TO DO'S
List of things to get ahead of the trip:
Check that your passport is up to date
Exchange currency (Colón)
Expected spend each:
$250 rental car
~$2250 per person, could probably do it for less depending on what you eat and where you stay. Capitan Suizo was a nicer hotel, and we like to eat out most of the time on vacations
Some things to pack:
Some things to check:
International Credit Card
How to tip
See if any protests are happening that could disrupt travel if you're going through Santa Fe
Do you need an International Drivers Permit-technically yes