There are 5 “Blue Zones” in the world, and we just finished exploring one of them- the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica! If you’ve never heard of a blue zone, it is a place where people live longer and healthier lives than anywhere else in the world. Maybe it has something to do with that “Pura Vida!”
All-in-all, we spent 8 days traveling around this gorgeous peninsula. Our trip was a blast, with the exception of a few bumps in the road, literally, but I’ll get to that. (But, I think, even that made our trip so exciting and memorable.)
First, I’ll start with the city of Liberia. It is the largest city in the Guanacaste province, and the reason we flew into Liberia was because, well, cheap Southwest flights. (Southwest does fly to San Jose too). After a little research, I quickly found that there was a ton of beauty in Costa Rica that was not exclusive to the beaches, so we booked 2 nights “inland” in Liberia to check out some waterfalls and national parks. I did a quick Airbnb search one day, prior to our trip, and found a gem (you know, the ones that say “such and such place is usually booked!”). A room in a large house with extremely friendly hosts. It was only 30$ per night and included a freshly cooked breakfast each morning as well as a pack-n-play for Cali. So, I quickly booked it, then told Dave about it (in that order- because, isn’t that what married folks do?), and we were both pretty excited about it!
The day was finally here! After a long day of travel, we finally made it to the Liberia airport. From there, we got our 4×4 rental SUV in which the lady detailed to me all the instructions of changing a flat tire- which I thought was odd (major foreshadowing right here). We grabbed dinner at a local restaurant to indulge in “casado typical” (an authentic Costa Rican dish made with meat, beans, rice, salad, and fried plantains), and then we made a Walmart pit stop for a little potty for Oakley and Kinder surprise eggs as rewards for his excrement. ha. Our next stop was Alberto & Luz’s place. We found it fairly easily (despite the fact that Costa Rica largely lacks in road signage haha). We pulled our car into their gate and settled into our room that also had an attached private bathroom. Oakley enjoyed playing with their granddaughter, and Dave and I enjoyed the company- despite our language barriers. Thankfully, their son speaks fluent English and readily gave us advice and recommendations on what to do and see. (Dave and I both agreed that our goal this year is to become more proficient in Spanish). We meandered for a while after our yummy breakfast, enjoying the company of our new friends and watching Oakley play with all the toys they brought out for him.
For our first full day in Costa Rica, we decided to head to Rincon de la Vieja National Park which is a large and active volcano near Liberia in the middle of the rainforest and hosts numerous tourist attractions such as beautiful hikes, amazing waterfalls and relaxing hot springs. While there, we enjoyed a short hike to the Oropendola Waterfall. We were the only ones on the trail on this particular day. The weather was perfect and Oakley was able to walk/hike the entire time. The hike closed in on a suspension bridge of stairs that led you to the bottom of the waterfall. Yall, waterfalls get me. every. time. They’re so beautiful, calming, magnificent, and powerful! We waded in the cold water below, played with rocks, and just stared in awe. On our way back to the car we passed some horseback riders who were also en route to this waterfall. We got to the car, cracked a cold one, and proceeded to find the hot springs. The springs were also a short hike away from where we parked the car, and they were on either side of the river that was crossable by suspension bridges. Initially, we were a little worried that the pools would be too hot for Oakley and Cali, but we quickly noticed that each pool was a different temperature. We found a series of pools that each emptied into its adjacent pool, and the further you got from the source the cooler the pools became. We finally found one that was the temperature of bath water. SCORE! I sat Cali in a super shallow section so she could sit and play independently, and Oakley loved the fact that he could play freely in the knee-deep water of this particular pool. Then we indulged in the mineral-rich, hot-spring-mud body mask (there was probably a more direct way to word this). Not Oakley’s favorite activity due to the cold shower rinse that was mandatory before one could wade back into the pools (but he did enjoy painting me with the muddy brush lol). We played so hard, so it wasn’t surprising when both kids immediately passed out in the car. Side note: one of our biggest travel tips is to take advantage of drive time when the kids are sleeping- whether it be during naps, early in the morning, or late at night.
So, off to our next destination that was about 1 hour away: Catarata Llanos de Cortes in Begaces. Thanks to our hosts’ son who gave us super detailed directions, we didn’t miss the dirt road off the highway to get there! After paying a small fee to get into this natural landmark, we parked our car and walked down man-made stairs that led straight to this giant waterfall. We’ve seen many waterfalls, but this one was the largest we’ve seen (outside of Niagra falls). Llanos de Cortes was the most beautiful, to me, because of how the water flowed over each rock differently. It wasn’t a uniform fall of water, but more of an artistic, random one that definitely made me think about and acknowledge its Creator. A cove of water formed around the falls and made a great crescent-shaped beach to play on. Dave and I kept looking at each other saying, “seriously?! this is incredible.” We were forced to leave when the park closed at 3:30. We grabbed a pipa (coconut water) at the fruit stand on the way out and headed back to Liberia. It was time for a much-needed, night’s sleep at Alberto and Luz’a house.
We had big plans for the following day: to make our way to the bottom of the peninsula (Santa Teresa) through 4 hours of warned-against terrain, in a rental car, with 2 young kids. But that’s for another blog post on another day…