Family Vacation in Costa Rica

Family Vacation in Costa Rica

Getting out of Boston during Snowmageddon was a challenge since we were scheduled to fly out on Sunday during a snowstorm and the next flight out after that was three days later and probably full. My husband spent hours trying to book a new flight, knowing that our flight would be canceled and managed to pull off a flight that left three days earlier on Friday before school vacation. We pulled our kids out of school for the day, spent the night in Houston and then spent another night near the airport in Liberia, Costa Rica, because the house we rented wasn’t available earlier.

Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

I have to say that it was totally worth the mad scramble to get out before Mother Nature shut down Boston Logan airport! Houston turned out to be a food mecca for TexMex and BBQ. On the recommendation of a Dad Friend who grew up in Houston, we went to Pappacitos for TexMex and their sister restaurant, Pappas for BBQ. Both were exceptional!

Pappas, best BBQ in Houston, Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

After two great meals, we spent one night in a hotel near Liberia airport in Costa Rica since we were one day early for our house rental. We had low expectations for the hotel, Hilton Garden Inn, but it turned out to also have very good food. While there were many tourists staying at the hotel, it’s not really near tourist attractions so I’d only recommend it if you need close proximity to the airport.

Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

The next day, we were picked up by car service arranged by the rental house company and driven about an hour to the house in Playa Flamingo. My husband used Escape Villas Costa Rica to find a house to rent and they have houses all over Costa Rica (not just Playa Flamingo). 

round house, Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

The house my husband chose to celebrate my 50th birthday is unusual. Shaped like a donut, it’s perfectly round, with a center atrium filled with plants. Snuggled on the side of a hill, it’s about 120 steps down a private path to the beach.

Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

Over the course of the week, we learned much about this unusual house we called “The Hobbit House.” Built in the 1970’s, it was the first house in Playa Flamingo owned by a man from Cold War Eastern Europe. He had mapped out with very detailed graphs and charts, the place most likely to survive a nuclear holocaust should one break out between the United States and the then Soviet Union. With just a single carpenter from Guatemala, he spent years building this house.

Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

My husband had set up a week’s worth of activity that included zip lining as a family, surfing lessons for the kids in Tamarindo Beach, and a fishing charter. It was an ambitious schedule!

round house, first house built in Playa Flamingo, Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

Our first expedition was zip lining. Playa Flamingo is located in the area of Costa Rica known as Guanacaste; a region considered dry tropical and cowboy country amid miles and miles of beautiful beaches. This is not rainforest, thus the zip lining is amid smaller trees with very few wild creatures and no tree canopy. If you want that kind of zip lining, you need to travel much further. If your time is short in Costa Rica, I’d probably pass on this particular zip lining experience given the cost and amount of time it takes.

Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

Our second outing was a chartered fishing trip out of the Marina Flamingo dock. We like to fish early in our trip so we can eat our catch. Our fishing boat was really comfortable with an interior room that got a nice breeze and allowed us to get out of the sun. While the boat is set up for sportfishing, we did not go out that far and did drag fishing, reeling in the fish that bit.

charter fishing Costa Rica Playa Flamingo

Our third day was spent at Tamarindo Beach, about a half-hour drive, so the kids could take a surf lesson. We had hired a local professional surfer who now ran a surf school, Pablo Surf School. My kids have had a dozen surf instructors over the years and he was the oldest they had. I was nervous they wouldn’t connect with him but they liked him a lot and I highly recommend using him. Tamarindo Beach is like the Waikiki of Hawaii, known for long gentle waves, overrun with tourist stores and jam-packed with surfers and beach goers.

Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

Our favorite part of Costa Rica, however, was not the outings but hanging out at the house. The kids alternated between the infinity pool and the beach below.

Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

We also ate frequently at Coco Loco, a beach shack restaurant walking distance along the beach from the house.

Coco Loco, Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta

I was surprised by the limited wildlife compared to North Captiva, Florida, but we were visited by a few birds like this one who tried to steal our breakfast.

Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta
We also had hundreds of hermit crabs that attempted to climb the many steps to the house. They are nocturnal descend from the palm trees along the beach below the house in great droves. It was fun to see the myriad sizes and shells scurrying about at night. 

hermit crabs, Family vacation Costa Rica, Houston TX, Playa Flamingo, Guanacasta
There is still a lot to explore in Costa Rica that we did not get a chance to see including live volcanos, tropical rainforest and many, many more surfing beaches. It was a family trip that we will fondly remember for years to come and our first experience in Central America. We look forward to going back one day soon!

Family Vacation in Costa Rica

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Dee

    We honeymooned in Costa Rica and it was such a wonderful experience. We stayed at a resort in Quepos, but the design of the individual bungalows were very similar to the house you had (without the deck. We, however, saw LOTS of wildlife. A sloth, white-face monkeys, a coatamundi, giant lizards, the hermit crabs are what I remember. We’ve wanted to go back but have not been able to make it happen.

  2. What a beautiful and fun family vacation. I enjoyed reading about the vacation rental, which really sounded fascinating. Why would it survive a nuclear holocaust? It’s always nice to have a “home” away from home as base camp for all that you do. Your husband really knows how to search for interesting adventures. I’ve been to Costa Rica and visited the rain forest and an indigenous tribe. Fascinating. So much wildlife, including monkeys. It’s a beautiful country.

    Just returned from vacation last week and am behind.
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob: A Challenging JobMy Profile

  3. Ann

    What an amazing fun and food/food shaped escape from this crazy winter!

  4. What a lovely place to celebrate such an important milestone!! Belated wishes for your birthday!
    Roshni recently posted…Connecting with a shelter dog #1000SpeakMy Profile

  5. Would love to visit Costa Rica! Thanks for sharing! I found you at the Wake Up Wed Link up.
    Jamie recently posted…Scrapbook QuoteMy Profile

  6. Looks like it was an amazing trip. The house sounds so unique and what a great story. Costa Rica is on our “to visit” list. Here’s to hoping!
    Kirsten recently posted…5 Things to Discuss Before Your Child Travels with Another FamilyMy Profile

  7. Awesome place, Would love to visit the place.. Hope you had a great time over there.

  8. Rosh Hashanah 2015

    Finally, after a long time, I got a chance to make the most out of the information here.
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  9. Amazing pictures!!!! I would like to visit this place too! By the way, if you need a reliable custom writing help, you can always rely on professional writers!

  10. Vaccation is so interesting one. And spending vacation with family give us very happy feelings. Costa rica is one of the best tourist place for enjoyment and i hope vaccation with family in costa rica is very amazing.

  11. Wow! amazing place,i’ll go there definitely for enjoying Costa Rica.

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