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