When you have friends that come to visit and they say they are “beach people”, you start counting the beaches and playing the elimination game. Not a bad problem to have: too many beaches and too little time. Our area of Costa Rica in the Province of Guanacaste is known as the Gold Coast for its dry tropical forests and the more than 50 beaches that line the coast. We had our first visitors come last week for their Michigan Spring Break. They flew into the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia, which is approximately 50 minutes from our house in Potrero. Our goal was to mix adventure with relaxing beach time and not spend too much time in the car. The following is a summary of our seven day beach vacation.
Day One: Playa Potrero Sailing Club
After a long day of travel and a shock to the system (it was around 40 degrees when they boarded the plane in Chicago and nearly 100 degrees when they deplaned in Liberia), our guests started with a dip in our pool and a cold Imperial beer. Later, after everyone was cooled off, we headed down to our local beach in Potrero, in front of the Sailing Center for our first set of waves and a Pacific Coast sunset.
The Costa Rica Sailing Center nestled in Potrero Bay has already been the setting for many of our memories so far. It is a great place for families to congregate and for water enthusiasts to get their fill. They have a bar, a restaurant, pool, lounge chairs, bonfires and a boat house. This is where we rang in 2017 and watched the New England Patriots win the superbowl. Tucker won a game of beach side bingo and almost beat his dad in a sailing race in the bay. Kids have enjoyed late nights with friends playing soccer on the beach or singing karaoke. The Costa Rica Sailing Center is a centerpoint for our new beachside community.
Day Two: Playa Flamingo
One beach to the south of Potrero is Playa Flamingo. In contrast to Potrero, where the sand is dark and the beach has few sunbathers, Flamingo boasts white sand and is the backdrop to various beachside resorts with lounge chairs and beach umbrellas. Crescent shaped, Playa Flamingo is a sunbathers sanctuary. Our day started out as cloudy, which was remarkable. These were the first clouds we have seen since moving to Costa Rica in December. The clouds eventually opened to blue skies and everyone went home with a hint of color.
Day Three: Playa Penca
Following a fun morning flying high in the dry tropical forests of the Congo Trail Zip-Lining Adventure Park, our crew headed back to Potrero for a lunch at a local Soda, which is a Costa Rican diner. Following a delicious lunch, we headed to Penca Beach – a nearby, family favorite. It feels like a private paradise every time we go. On this occasion, it was fun to share it with 20 of our Michigan friends., all visiting Costa Rica for Spring Break. A memorable feature of this beach is the tree that provides shade and entertainment for the kids (I mean, monkeys). It is bordered by rocky points on each side making it a cozy cove to enjoy an afternoon. Usually the waters are calm and it is a great place to swim.
Day Four: Playa Grande and Playa Tamarindo
Surf Day! We got an early start this day because our friends had a date with our surf coach and friend, Rob, from Frijoles Locos Surf Shop at 9:30am. Also home to the endangered leatherback turtles, Playa Grande has a consistent wave and swell, making it a popular surfing destination. Rob comes with a money-back guarantee and he did not disappoint – our friends not only rode the waves, but a couple of them did it upside down! The Las Baulas National Park is in Playa Grande and is the main draw for most visitors during the leatherback nesting season (Mid October -Mid February). On our way home, we visited our friends, Maria and Santiago for a ChocoBanana – a perfect surfer’s snack!
Each week, our son has a late afternoon surf lesson in Tamarindo, so we took the opportunity to show our guests one of the most popular destinations in the Guanacaste region. The main street is full of restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and art galleries. The vibe in Tamarindo is different than other nearby areas – much more lively and a bit more touristy. Famous for its long beach with a great surf, it hosts several national surfing competitions each year. Some decided to work on their surf, while others took to the street for some souvenir shopping. Everyone met back for the sunset, which was worth jumping in the air for.
Day Five: Beach Rest Day and visit to Llanos de Cortez Waterfall, located about 30 minutes south of Liberia. It is easily accessible and also offers an awesome swimming hole with cliffs to jump from.
Day Six: Playa Danta
Playa Danta is within the new, hillside beach town of Las Catalinas. This town, less than 10 years old is an organically growing community. The town founders envisioned a place that is healthy, sustainable and connects people to nature. The town is free of vehicles and instead is made up of pedestrian walk-ways interwoven with nature in Mediterranean style. 1,000 of its 1,200 acres will be left untouched and remain natural. Surrounding the planned neighborhoods are hiking, biking and horseriding trails. Your one stop shop for adventure is Pura Vida Ride, where they specialize in Stand Up Paddle Boards, Mountain Bikes and Kayaks. Instead of playing hard in the water or hitting the trails, we enjoyed the cool breeze and a beautiful view of the ocean, while sipping cocktails and eating appetizers served up at Limonada, a fun outdoor restaurant there on the shores of Playa Danta.
Day Seven: Playa Conchal
The best part about Playa Conchal is getting there. You must either walk about 1km south from Brasilito or if the tide is low, you can drive on the beach. Its hard to imagine where you are going and what the allure might be. However, once you make it over the top of the hill and see the white sand, made up up of tiny shells that are surprisingly easy on the feet and the aquamarine water that is easy on the eye, you realize the hype. There is an area that is good for snorkeling. The beach is lined with trees that provide comfortable shade and a great spot for hammocking. The All-Inclusive Westin Resort is situated on Playa Conchal.
Seven beaches in seven days is not a difficult feat in the Gold Coast of Costa Rica. We feel blessed to be in this corner of Costa Rica, easily accessible to the airport and a host to very diverse, unique and personable beaches. We hope our visitors enjoyed their beach vacation and left feeling refreshed and recharged. Perhaps their skin and hair is still thanking them!