Admire – and perhaps envy – our guest writer Patrick Goodness’ life at home in Costa Rica
If I close my eyes tight enough and strain the limits of my memory, I can almost remember the tiny details of my life before I moved our little family to a new future in Costa Rica. It’s been ten years since we left our cozy neighborhood in Antioch, Illinois, a small-town Chicago suburb. With two small children in tow, we decided that a bi-lingual, bi-cultural life in Costa Rica would give our children a chance to become citizens of a much bigger world.
We don’t live in Costa Rica just because of the 365 days a year of nearly perfect weather, affordable healthcare, incredible education, stunning jungles, rainforests and beaches, diverse culture and a slower-paced lifestyle. On second thought…that’s exactly why we live here. We chose Costa Rica because we like to travel, experience nature close-up and enjoy the good life – and it continues to deliver. It’s all available for the taking in Costa Rica!
Our kids are interested in surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking and generally having fun at the beach, so there’s plenty of active adventures to enjoy with them. However, sometimes my wife, Terri, and I just want to unplug from our work in the marketing industry and escape for a weekend of rest and relaxation with more than a modicum of comfort and luxury. So, we wave goodbye to the kids and the sitter, and head off for a romantic adventure of our own.
Let us share some with you
Montezuma or Santa Teresa, sitting near the southern tip of Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacifiic coast, are bustling small towns in the Puntarenas Province. The surrounding area is one of our favorite places to get away from everything and just enjoy paradise. Montezuma is located on the Gulf of Nicoya side and Santa Teresa faces the mighty Pacific – both with stunning ocean vistas and deeply forested for miles around. For those interested in seeing the purity and beauty of raw nature, the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve in Cabuya is a breathtaking place to hike to see howler and capuchin monkeys, small deer called venado, jaguars and more exotic birds than you can possibly imagine.
If you want to experience something really out of this world, you should definitely try the bioluminescent bay kayak tour conducted by the Bahia Rica Fishing & Kayak Lodge located about 30 minutes away by car in Paquera. Imagine kayaking at night in water that turns light blue at the touch of your hand. It’s like swimming in a starry sky, with fish moving around you, creating little comets of light, while your paddle creates galaxies in the water. It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience that no one should miss.
If you’re a fan of fishing, like I am, or just want to go out on the water for a day of swimming and snorkeling, we encourage couples and families alike to hire a captain and a comfortable boat to enjoy a day on the ocean. There’s plenty for everyone to do. If you aren’t into ‘getting wet’, like Terri from time to time, there’s always lying on a hammock on the beach. I also recommend a side trip to Isla Tortuga. It’s a mind-bogglingly beautiful island in the middle of the Gulf of Nicoya where you can snorkel, play volleyball, or just fall asleep on the beach. Again, the good people at Bahia Rica are my ‘go-to’ team for fishing and snorkeling trips in the Gulf of Nicoya.
Terri and I love staying at the Hotel Vista Las Islas, a nature-lovers getaway perched above a pristine beach on a tropical mountainside near Paquera. There is nothing more deeply relaxing than sipping a cocktail as we look out over the gulf islands from the infinity pool, feeling the warm sun and sea breezes. If we’re feeling a little more ambitious, we take a stroll on the beach with the waves lapping at our toes, and walk back to the hotel to the raucous chorus of howler monkeys before dining alfresco under the stars. It paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it? It’s even better in person.
To the north of the Nicoya Peninsula is the province of Guanacaste where the beautiful beaches line up like pretty girls at a high school prom.
Many of these gorgeous natural beaches are completely deserted during the day, even on weekends, making them an ideal place to get away from the bustle of the busy city. After an exhausting day of doing absolutely nothing at the beach, you’ll need a place to relax and perhaps cool down.
It’s always tough to decide between the amazing options in Guanacaste, but we like the Azul Ocean Club and the JW Marriott in Hacienda Pinilla.
The Azul Ocean Club offers well-appointed hotel rooms or full 1 and 2 bedroom villas with kitchens for families or couples that want a little more space.
They are always a perfect fit for our family, and allow Terri and me to go out for dinner while the children wind-down with free WIFI in the villa. The JW Marriott never disappoints.
It’s expected comfort and attentive service always make us feel well-looked after.
Another winner is the Hotel Mangroove near Playa Flamingo and the airport in Liberia. This is a mid-sized hotel that feels like a boutique and takes exceptional care of their guests. The food is always innovative and they often have special visiting chefs and special event weekends that keep things interesting.
When we’ve tired of the beach, a visit to the Arenal Volcano National Park reminds us of the incredible beauty of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes. The park— teaming with wildlife—is in the foothills surrounding an active volcano. I always carry binoculars to make sure I’m ready for the guaranteed wildlife sightings along the trails. We’ve seen sloths, howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, a great variety of birds, and even an anteater! We hike on our own, just going at our own pace, enjoying the sights and some precious time together, while Terri and I discover leg muscles we’d forgotten we have.
If the 15 kilometers of trails are too much for you, no problem. Hiking is only one of a hundred things to do at Arenal. Terri and I enjoy the park for romantic weekends too.
We go rafting, enjoy the hot springs in the area, gaze at the La Fortuna waterfall, and visit the butterfly conservatory. She has even talked me into zip-lining a time or two, after which a visit to the spa is now mandatory.
When we want to be pampered, we go to the boutique Nayara Hotel Spa and Gardens. It never disappoints with a unique combination of stunning nature, incredible volcano views and posh rooms. The feeling is bamboo and hand woven fabrics, exotic gardens with private hot-tubs and hammocks, coffee scrubs and volcanic mud treatments. You get the idea. Always a treat for the body and soul.
One of these days we hope to visit the Springs Resort and Spa at Arenal. We’ve heard good things. We’ll write an update to this article as soon as we do!
We are fortunate that we don’t have to go far from San Jose to experience the exotica of Costa Rica. In downtown San Jose, the Jade Museum presents pre-Columbian history through dramatic exhibits of what is perhaps the world’s largest collection of jade jewelry and artefacts. Another winner is the tour of the subterranean Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. Both curate rare artifacts from the pre-Hispanic era of Mayan culture.
Our favourite music spot, The Jazz Café, is in the Escazu area. It features consistently good jazz groups, good food, and a very social scene to meet and make friends.
For San Jose stays, my personal recommendation for couples to stay, is at the Grano de Oro Hotel to enjoy Colonial-era opulence. Not only will you enjoy this boutique hotel gem, you’ll also have one of the best restaurants in the city in the same building.
When I want a romantic dinner with my wife, I take her there. It’s French Mediterranean cuisine with a touch of tropical flavor. The food and wine are superior, and the dining room is all sparkling fountains, stained glass panels and golden light. I love the beef tenderloin. Terri highly recommends the salmon.
It’s really an extraordinarily beautiful place and the garden Jacuzzi terrace is the epitome of relaxation and luxury.
As a final note, Costa Rica is a great place to relax not only because it’s comfortable, obscenely beautiful, and full of top-drawer lodging options. It’s also great place to relax because it’s orderly and safe. Aside from the basic precautions you’d take back home, the country is perfectly safe for both couples and families with children. And of course, there are so many more amazing destinations in Costa Rica that we’ve visited.
Whether you want to get away for a few days or a few weeks, it’s hard to make a bad decision in Costa Rica. I loved it so much, we decided to make it our home. Who knows? Come for a visit, you might just stay a little longer than you’d expected. I did.
Patrick is the founder of The Goodness Company – a marketing company based in Costa Rica, dedicated to quality marketing solutions for businesses who demand the very best
Why not download the TLC World guide brochure or give us a call today on 01202 030443, or simply click ‘enquire’ to submit your own personal itinerary request
If you’d like more information about any of the resorts featured in Patrick’s article above, then the following links will be helpful:
Bahia Rica Sport Fishing Lodge
If you’d like a different take on a different area of Costa Rica see our article here
For current travel information to Costa Rica, take a look at these links:
Costa Rica Travel Advice – Gov.UK website
Costa Rica – Official Website