Our family had an amazing vacation in Costa Rica the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I would say that it’s the best trip our family has ever taken and I’m not sure if it’s because the kids were at really great ages and it was the right vacation at the right age or if Costa Rica is an easy to love vacation.
We took a red eye from LA to San Jose on Christmas Eve. The fares were dirt cheap and for a few hundred dollars we were able to go business class. We were picked up by a driver from Canatur and driven to our condo at Los Suenos Resort. Our condo was three bedrooms and 3.5 baths and approaching 3,000 square feet. There was room for everyone and not sharing bathrooms, bedrooms or even all being crammed into a small living area helped make the trip easy. The kitchen was well appointed and we didn’t have to go out for breakfast (a restaurant meal that I loathe at a resort). Immediately upon arrival we picked up a golf cart. When staying at Los Suenos you’ll want either a golf cart or a car. We decided to use busses and car service outside the resort and opted for the golf cart. If I was returning (we probably will) I’d do it this way again.
Showing up in Costa Rica on Christmas Day is not like being in the US.
You might see a few trees here and there but there’s an absence of candy canes, Xmas music and people wishing you a happy holiday. It’s just a day with a little less activity. When we got to the resort our condo wasn’t quite ready (it was 9am so that’s reasonable) so we went to the Marriott for a breakfast. It was close to $125 for the four of us and the food is exactly what you’d expect at a Marriott, uninteresting. I would have been very unhappy most mornings had we decided to stay at the hotel rather than the condos.
On site at the Marriott Los Suenos Resort there are a ton of pools and swim up bars. It’s nice for a few hours or even a day. We found that we were not permitted to use the Marriott’s pool without paying a $50 per person, per day resort fee so we opted to use only the smaller pools for the condos. This would have been a big disappointment if our children were younger and we were looking for a very active pool for them to play in. It didn’t affect us all as we weren’t interested in a loud family pool. The condos are very well appointed and the views are majestic.
We participated in plenty of activities. We did a monkey tour in the mangroves, ziplined in the canopy, surfed in Hermosa, snorkeled everywhere and went river rafting at Naranjo. If you stay a week you’ll probably want to do all of these things but the river rafting was unquestionably the best day of all.
We booked through a travel agent in Beverly Hills but it was apparent that everything came through Way to Go Costa Rica. I recommend booking all of your activities except surfing ahead of time as it will save money and time. For surfing you can just go to beach or a surf shop and find someone you gel with.
Costa Rican food is mild, which should not be confused with bland.
Our best meals were at El Pelicano. The seafood was amazing, the drinks were good and sitting outside listening to the music bleed over from the bars next door made it festive and fun.
People will tell you to just use American dollars, that there’s no need to change your money and though technically this is true in reality they’ll just round up every expense when making conversions. I found the math worked in my favor when I used Colones.
If you’re interested in Pura Vida, the essence of Costa Rica, my friend Kai wrote an amazing series you can read here. Our trip just happened to be in Costa Rica, it was about family for us. Kai’s trip was about Costa Rica.
My only issue with the trip was that there were beautiful green valleys that one would assume were rain forest. They were not, they were palm trees, planted in rows for the oil. Some people thought they were beautiful. I just thought that whatever might have been there before them was likely more beautiful. The palm farms look like blight to me, they’re what’s left after you’ve chopped down the rain forest.
Costa Rica is many things, I’m sure there are affordable ways to visit. We did not take that route so if you’re using my locale you’ve been fairly warned.