Destinations: A Taste of Costa Rica

Surfing Tamarindo Costa Rica

Surf’s up at Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica!

Welcome to Costa Rica! Pura Vida!

Costa Rica is a small Central American nation packed with adventure. As the leaves start falling in North America, Costa Rica becomes a hot spot for sun worshipers, eco-Tourists, and adventure travelers. Whether you’re traveling solo, in a group, or as a family, you’ll likely fit right in.

Looking for the beach life? This compact nation sports many great beaches, the best being in the northwest Pacific region known as Guanacaste. Tamarindo Beach, pictured above, is one of the many popular beaches and whether you want to soak up the sun, have a go at surfing, or go deep sea fishing, the location is perfect.

The Pacific coastline in the Guanacaste region is booming with new hotels and even timeshares.

If you’re looking for Tamarindo Beach lodging, have a look at these properties. TheTamarindo Diria Beach & Golf ResortTamarindo Diria Beach & Golf Resortcomes highly suggested, but if you’re on a budget theBest Western Tamarindo Vista VillasBest Western Tamarindo Vista Villasis likewise an excellent property.

Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Region is becoming easier for travelers to reach via Costa Rica’s secondary international airport in Liberia. For many years, Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) was bursting at the seams as an outdoor facility made up of a series of open-air hangers with ceiling fans.

The New Daniel Oduber Liberia International Airport (LIR) features a new indoor, air conditioned terminal. In fact, the new facility now rivals the nation’s primary international airport, San Jose Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO).

If you’re looking to tour the Guanacaste Region and its spectacular beaches, be sure to fly in and out of Liberia International Airport (LIR). The Pacific ocean is only an hour away and the roads to the beach are easy to navigate. While Costa Rica’s primary international airport is in San Jose (SJO), keep in mind beach destinations such as Tamarindo are a good six hour drive across rugged terrain on roads which are not up to North American or European standards.

While the northwest of Costa Rica is relatively dry, you can still zip across the canopy with a company such as Pinella Canopy Tours.

Tamarindo Beach has a variety of restaurants and shops, as well as tour agents who will book everything from surf classes to tours of the nearby turtle estuary. Restaurants along the beach include Nibbana, Copacabana “Bar Restaurant”, and Le BeachClub Restaurant. Most establishments have WiFi if you wish to fire up your smartphone.

Don’t be afraid to try local foods – some of my best meals in Costa Rica have been at traditional “Soda’s” which you’ll find in every city.

Tamarindo Beach in the Morning

Tamarindo Beach in the Morning

Delta 757 at old Liberia Terminal

Delta 757-200 at old Liberia (LIR) Outside Terminal

Planes Parked at Jetways at New Liberia Airport

Planes Parked at Jetways at New Liberia Airport | Copyright: New Liberia Airport

As you can see, major improvements have been made at Costa Rica’s New Liberia Airport which opened in 2012.

Just across from the airport is theHilton Garden Inn Liberia AirportHilton Garden Inn Liberia Airport, a hotel I routinely stay at the night before departing Costa Rica via Liberia Airport.

The Hilton Garden Inn at the Liberia Airport is a great value for price, offers free high-speed internet, a 24 hour pool, a business center, as well as a complimentary shuttle to and from Liberia airport. It’s a great place to end a vacation with a last swim or time in the sun, especially if you’re departing in the afternoon.

If you didn’t have a chance to use an ATM at the airport to obtain Costa Rica Colones, the Hotel has an ATM on the first floor. An ATM is typically the best way to obtain local currency, but it is best to have both US Dollars and Costa Rican Colones.

A variety of airlines fly to the Liberia Daniel Oduber New International Airport (LIR) including:

  • Delta Airlines – Flights to/from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International (ATL)
  • JetBlue Airways – Flights to/from New York’s Kennedy Airport (JFK)
  • American Airlines – Flights to/from their hub at Miami International (MIA)
  • United Airlines – Flights to/from their hubs at Houston Intercontinental (IAH) and Newark Liberty (EWR)
  • Copa Airlines – Flights to/from their hub at Tocumen Panama City (PTY)
  • TACA – Flights to/from regional hub at San Salvador (SAL)
  • SANSA – Domestic Flights to San Jose Santamaria Intl (SJO)
  • Nature Air – Domestic Flight Network – San Jose (SYQ) and other domestic airports.

Not only does Liberia provide easy access to the Pacific beaches, but Arenal volcano is only three hours drive from the airport. If you rent a car, be careful making the drive – I personally suggest making the drive during daylight hours. If you don’t want to drive, I suggest a shared shuttle – in that case, look no further thanInterbus Costa Rica.

If you’re looking to visit the Arenal/La Fortuna area, it’s 3 hours from San Jose and while travel into either airport works, you’ll find more transportation options from San Jose.

Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna Area

Arenal Volcano is an active volcano just outside of La Fortuna. On a clear day (or night), the sight of the volcano and lava flows is not to be missed. It is best to visit during the dry season, generally a period from October to April. While you may still experience some rain, it’s important to note the Arenal area consists of a unique micro-climate with frequent rains. In return, plentiful green, lush vegetation attracts a variety of tropical birds and animals.

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

The hot springs from Arenal Volcano are a big attraction to the Arenal y La Fortuna area and are not to be missed. The Thermal Springs are best taken-in at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort.

TheTabacon Grand Spa Thermal ResortTabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resortis located in central Fortuna, near the Arenal Volcano National Park. The Resort Features thermal baths, two restaurants, as well as a poolside bar and a bar/lounge are open for drinks. Room service is available 24 hours a day. The resort serves a buffet breakfasts each morning in the restaurant. Recreational amenities include an outdoor pool, a sauna, a fitness facility, a steam room, and complimentary bicycles.  The property is a destination in itself.

The Thermal Pools of Tabacon Resort

The Thermal Pools of Tabacon Resort, Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Pool Bar at Tabacon Resort, Costa Rica

Pool Bar at Tabacon Resort, Costa Rica

The Arenal-La Fortuna area of Costa Rica hosts a number of activities including zip-lining high above the canopy, white water rafting and horse back riding. Make the trek to the La Fortuna waterfall or visit the lava flows at Arenal Volcano, but for a real thrill, there’s a bungee jumping operator in town.

If the Tabacon Resort is a bit too costly, you can always stay at a less expensive property like theArenal Country InnArenal Country Innand daily passes may be purchased for the thermal baths at Tabacon Resort.

Go trekking on a tour to enjoy the lush vegetation and the La Fortuna waterfall:

Trekking Across Pedestrian Bridge along the Canopy

Trekking Across Pedestrian Bridge along the Canopy

The La Fortuna Waterfall

View The La Fortuna Waterfall and Zip-Line Above the Canopy

Flying Around Costa Rica

Getting around Costa Rica by automobile or shared shuttles can be time-consuming. Domestic flights can be booked on SANSA or with Nature Air. SANSA, the national airline is part of TACA REGIONAL and flights can be booked viaTACA.COMTACA.COM.

Nature Air is the second domestic carrier and operates flights around the nation using modern fleet of Twin Otter DHC6 aircraft. Nature Air prides itself on being the world’s first carbon neutral airline. In San Jose they operate from the downtown Tobias Bolanos Int’l Airport and regular shuttles operate between San Jose Santamaria Intl (SJO) and Tobias Bolanos/Pavas Airport.

Nature Air Arrives into Tamarindo - Twin Otter DHC6

Nature Air Arrives into Tamarindo Airport – Twin Otter DHC6

San Jose International Airport – Costa Rica

San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) is the primary gateway to the capital and the nation. Most major US and Canadian airlines operate here, as well as Iberia of Spain and a variety of Latin American carriers.

Flights can conveniently be booked using our airfare engine on the upper right corner or if you live in a major city, you can check-outTACA.COMTACA.COM.

The following airlines operate to San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO):

  • Aeromexico – to/from Mexico City (MEX)
  • American Airlines – to/from Miami (MIA) and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
  • Avianca – to/from Bogota, Columbia (BOG)
  • Copa Airlines – to/from hub at Panama City (PTY) + La Aurora (GUA), Managua (MGA), San Pedru Sulu (SAP)
  • Delta Airlines – to/from hub at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Intl (ATL)
  • Iberia Airlines – to/from hub at Madrid (MAD)
  • JetBlue – to/from Orlando (MCO)
  • LASCA – National Airline Hubbed at (SJO) to/from (LAX) (JFK) (MIA)
  • TACA – Regional Flights via San Salvador Hub (SAL)
  • SANSA – Domestic Flights – hub at (SJO)
  • Spirit Airlines – Flights to/from Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • US Airways – Flights to/from Charlotte (CLT)
  • United Airlines – Flights to/from Newark (EWR) and Houston (IAH)
Final Approach San Jose Juan Santamaria Airport, Costa Rica

Final Approach San Jose Juan Santamaria Airport, Costa Rica

The approach into San Jose takes you over rugged mountains and volcanoes into the valley where San Jose Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) is located. During initial decent, it is possible to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean if you have a view where you can see out of both sides of the aircraft.

The airport at San Jose is often busy – if you are coordinating ground transportation, allow sufficient time for delays between arrival for immigrations, customs, and getting out of the airport.

Interbus shuttles pick up at airport area hotels. If you’re looking for reliable ground transport to another city, Interbus is the way to go. The shuttles must be booked in advance and they provide door to door service between hotels.

For a list of San Jose, Costa Rica, area hotels and pricing, visit: Central America_San Jose, Costa Rica

I personally suggest theCourtyard by Marriott San Jose Escazubased on previous stays.

The Courtyard in Escazu is just outside of San Jose but near shopping and entertainment venues.  During the week, the hotel has a travel and tour concierge service. The concierge service will schedule day trips around the country if you’re looking for a taste of Costa Rica.

Don’t forget, Costa Rica has a $29.00 USD (Subject to Change) departure tax which must be paid at the airport prior to your departure from the country. Present your passport(s) with payment when you go to pay the exit tax. Departure forms on the back of the tax coupons must be completed.

Some hotels will allow you to pre-pay your exit tax in advance as a convenience and provide you with the exit tax documents before check-out.

Finally, keep in mind this is just a Taste of Costa Rica, just enough to let the tastebuds water!

Pura Vida!

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