As is commonly known, the trademark expression used in Costa Rica is “pura vida”, and once you’ve experienced life here – whether it be one week, or an entire lifetime – it is abundantly clear that this is a no BS expression with regards to the country that breeds fresh air, fresh food and happy people.
I first visited Costa Rica in 2007 and immediately knew it would be one of my favourite countries in the world. On this most recent trip a few weeks ago, my love for the country was even more solidified – possibly because I was there with my whole family (including baby), possibly because I met and worked with some locals, possibly because I’m going through a time of my life where I appreciate the “pure life” even more. Regardless of the reason, I am totally feeling the country on a whole other level and am excited to go back soon.
Right off the bat, I will tell you that no matter what part of Costa Rica you visit, you will likely experience the following:
-super fresh, super delicious fruit
-fresh fish, rice, beans and plantains
-potholes (the roads are getting better every time I visit, but inevitably you will experience these)
That said, where you spend your time will somewhat determine your activities and sightseeing. For example, I have yet to explore the numerous volcanoes and waterfalls but have had my fair share of surf villages and rainforest tours. There really is SO much goodness in such a relatively small country so no matter where you stay, you’re set for a good time.
This past trip, we stayed in a small town called Tambor, which is in the interior of the Nicoya Peninsula. This area is much less touristy than many others parts of the country, probably partly because it takes a small journey to get there. We chose to fly into San José, rent a car, drive to the ferry and ferry over to Puntarenas which is about a 40 minute drive from Tambor. A quicker way to get there is to fly into San José, then take a small plane right into Tambor (we opted for the scenic route as I had never done it before).
There isn’t a whole lot of places to stay in Tambor – which is nice in the sense that you feel like you’re truly experiencing the local culture. We rented a house and I think there will be more options like this as outlets like AirBnb continue to grow. If you want amenities, I recommend Tango Mar. The food isn’t the greatest, but it’s on a gorgeous little piece of beach. If you don’t stay there, it’s definitely worth going for a drink on the patio to take in the waves and catch a glimpse of a family of monkeys (on the day we were there, there were two moms carrying TINY baby monkeys on their backs – A. dorable).
If you want a delicious trademark costa rican meal, and good wifi, head to Tambor Tropical.
If you want interesting ice cream made right in front of you, head into the next town over, Cobano, and look for a sign that says Helado A La Plancha off the main road. Turn down the small alley way/corridor, and you won’t regret it. As with all the food, this ice cream is as fresh as can be – it’s literally made from scratch (starts out as liquid cream and transforms in front of your eyes).
If you want a more lively scene, with lots of food options and beachy vibe, make a day trip to Santa Teresa. Or, if you’re extra into that scene, rent a house or stay in a boutique hotel right in town.
Lastly, if you want to fish, look no further than Octavio Nuñez. He is a stand up guy and knows his fishing. I caught my first ever rooster fish with him and it was a blast. (link to his Facebook page).
Costa Rica has so much to offer, and I encourage you to immerse yourself in the magic of this place!