Wanderlust Living is a travel blog for those who love to journey the world and want to bring it home into their everyday lives. I'm just a girl trying to have a cup of coffee everywhere she can. Our family has moved to the bustling city of Barcelona, Spain, after living on the beach in Costa Rica for three years. Try to keep up!

Andrea Fellman of Wanderlust Living Travel Blog

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Posts by Category: Costa Rica

Costa Rica January 29, 2017 posted by

13 answers to your questions about moving to Costa Rica

moving to Costa Rica
13 Answers to your Questions about Moving to Costa Rica

Our House Hunters International episode recently aired again, and I only know this because every time it airs, a friend or two (or three) sends us a message telling us they are watching us on TV! Then a few days go by and we get a few emails from people politely asking us more details about moving to Costa Rica.

Even though we now live in Barcelona, this is fun for us because we enjoy sharing our experience and we like encouraging people to make the move!  So… we have answered a lot of questions about moving to Costa Rica via email and recently Harris responded to one email and as I was reading it – I was like- I’m just going to POST THIS! (Consider this Harris’s first blog post ūüėČ yay!)

1. How old were your kiddos while there?

Kids were 6 & 8 (2nd & 4th grade) – we were there for 3 years. 

2. What school did you choose? Any reason in particular? Homeschool?

We first chose Country Day School (now CRIA). After the first year we switched to La Paz Community School and stayed for two years there. We love La Paz – it has a great community feel. CRIA was good too, very small classes at the time. We made some good friends there as well. La Paz has more of a ‘local’ focus… pro-environment… more scholarships … etc.

Moving to Costa Rica Schools

3. Where exactly do you live?

We lived in Guanacaste, the north western part of Costa Rica. We lived in Playa Potrero, near Playa Flamingo and not far from the popular surf town of Tamarindo. We first lived in Pacific Heights – fabulous house up a dicey dirt road. We lived in 2 different houses that we loved in Potrero, walk to beach, easy drive to the schools. We also lived in a house on Flamingo beach for a month and a couple months in Reserva Conchal, when we were in between houses. The reserva is like living in a well-groomed USA vacation property… some people like it, we didn’t. Felt very insulated. 

4. Are you guys still working? If so, how is the work visa stuff?

We own our own internet businesses which are incorporated in the USA. Most people don’t bother getting work visas (or residency visas) for that matter. They just do what we did and ‘leave the country’ every 3 months for at least 72 hours. (although there are ways around that as well.) If you’re not into travel, it’s a short drive up to Nicaragua and you can get a passport stamp there.

If you plan on working locally, you’ll have to get residency. And you should be warned, that’s probably the toughest way to try to live there long term. The pay will not be very good unless you sell real estate or own a business there. 

5. Are you using the insurance there? Private? CAJA?

We kept our USA insurance which covered us for emergencies and otherwise, medical care is very affordable there. Beachside Clinic and Dr. Andrea is probably the best medical treatment I’ve received in my life. Very knowledgeable, caring, well educated, english speaking, etc… and it’s $50 for a diagnostic visit. There was a time that I was rushed to the hospital – and, like i said, this was covered by our USA insurance. (We’re just tourists in Costa Rica… remember.) 

6. Did you bring pets?

We did not bring pets. Other people did. Most of them left the pets back home and then brought them down a few months later. We adopted two dogs while in Costa Rica actually, many people that move to Costa Rica end up adopting a dog;)  Andrea and our dog Canela are literally on the plane right now as I type this coming from Costa Rica to Spain. Inline image 2 

7. Are you close to medical?

Beachside Clinic is in Huacus – and very close. Think of that like your local health clinic. Then, if you need further treatment, there’s a very good private hospital in Liberia called CIMA. That’s about an hour away. And then, if you need specialists, etc., you have to go to San Jose – which is 4-1/2 hours away. 

8. How is the wifi? We will still run our freelance businesses from there.

Well, WiFi depends on which house you get of course — but the internet is decent. If you’re in a house that can get CRWIFI that’s the best — it’s wimax instead of cable lines and offers the highest speeds and best customer service. It’s probably twice the other services. Otherwise, CableTica is better than ICE. ICE is adsl, cabletica is cable. 

With cabletica, you will have 1-2 outages a month lasting 30-120 minutes. High tourist times it seems to be worse. But we also ran our businesses from there and had no trouble whatsoever. 

9. Did you guys buy right away? Or do you lease?

We leased the homes we lived in. All of them were vacation properties, so fully furnished. We also bought a smaller vacation property while we were there in Matapalo – but we rent it out long term. 

10. How’s the cell situation (international plan or local pre-pay)? 

Cell service is fine. At first we did the prepaid card — you’ll need a phone that’s unlocked (which usually means you’re done with your 2 year service plan or buy a new phone). This only provides 3g data as well.

Eventually, I used a friends business to get a phone contract – this added international and 4g (which is spotty in the area). Basically, they won’t give you a long term contract unless you’re a resident – or you can do it through a business like I did Inline image 3 

11. Do you happen to know how Rx works there. My hubs is a type 1 diabetic. I should have made this question number 1, ha!

You should call Beachside Clinic and ask about your specific diabetic need. I recommend getting your USA doctor to give you a 90-day prescription. Tell them you’re traveling for 90 days and don’t want to worry about it. Then put the insulin in a cooler and they should let you bring it on the plane – no problem. (needles, maybe pack those). 

Personally, I have a medicine that I cannot get from Costa Rica – so, I had to arrange someone to mule it to me every month. This is very common in Costa Rica — people brining stuff back and forth from the states as favors to each other.

I’m certain Insulin is available there – so, just talk to Beachside Clinic and find out the price.

12. Banks? We are B of A and I just thought about that could be weird – who knows?

LOL – BofA is not ‘weird’ – we have accounts with BofA and Wells Fargo — it’s possible that if you lease that you’ll be paying to an American or Canadian bank anyway. Inline image 4Utilities are all paid at the banks there in Costa Rica — I opted out of that program by having the owner’s property manager handle all that. You won’t need a CR bank account – not for your first year or two anyway. (we went 3 without one)

Personally, I always got Colones out of the ATM and just used cash for nearly everything. Although, many many places accept VISA/MC — some do not.

Colones are better b/c the mindset is that the conversion rate is 500:1 … but BofA will give you a better rate than that. The market rate is like 540:1 right now .. and I’m not sure what BofA gives – but they’re one of the largest banks in the world and are able to give the best conversions.

Otherwise, US Dollars are accepted by everyone as well. Even stores. If you move to the area we lived in, you’re basically moving to an underground american colony. (so, if you’re looking for the full-cultural-immersion experience – you may want to live a little further from the beach.)

13. Car – did you buy when you got there?

Yes, we bought our cars when we got there. Everyone buys used cars there and resell them when/if they leave. Be prepared for the fact that cars are expensive there. We bought a 1995 Toyota 4Runner for $6500, a 1978 Landcruiser for $3500, and a 2007 Lexus for $14000. We sold them all when we left for roughly the same that we bought them for. If you can afford it – I recommend splurging for the best quality car you can get … and then let your husband have a toy like I did (the Landcruiser) — there’s no better place in the world to own a 40 year old Landcruiser.

You can visit mine at one of our favorite local restaurants, El Castillo. The owner, Harlan, bought it from us and renamed it “The Grinch” because of the new paint job I got for it — and a bit for his personality too I think. Tell him Andrea & Harris sent ya.

Hope you have a great experience there!

If you are considering moving to Costa Rica, I hope these answers helped. (Thanks to Kristin for asking such great questions!) Still have a question? Leave it in the comments below or feel free to email us ūüôā

I also wrote a little bit about Leaving Costa Rica, you may want to read that as well.

13 answers to your questions about moving to Costa Rica
Costa Rica July 6, 2016 posted by

My Daily Fix: Surf Box, Playa Flamingo

Surf Box Playa Flamingo Costa Rica Wanderlust Living
Surf Box, Playa Flamingo

If you’re visiting the beaches of Guanacaste, Costa Rica or staying around the Playa Flamingo area and need a coffee fix, you’ll definitely want to stop at Surf Box. Chances are you’ll find me and my husband hanging out there, along with a bunch of other local expats. This is our neighborhood Starbucks, but SO much better.

Surf Box has only been open for about six months but has quickly become the hot spot in our little beachside community. The owners are an adorable expat couple, Dan and Natasha. Dan is from New York City and Natasha is originally from Montreal. They opened Surf Box out of Dan’s frustration to find a decent cup of coffee and a comfortable place to sit down and enjoy it. Natasha thought there was also a need for fresh, healthy food that she was used to in Montreal, not to mention a place to just get a good quality bagel.

To my surprise, neither one of them has ever owned or operated a restaurant before, but this idea for a great coffee shop and cafe just kept coming back to them. Finding a location was a challenge but when they happened upon a small space right off  the main road they immediately saw the potential.

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The¬†restaurant interior is small, like a little box, with only five tables – but it’s totally air conditioned! This is exciting for those of us that need to escape the heat and get a little work done from our laptops. Restaurants in Costa Rica are mostly all open-air, so finding one with four walls and air conditioning can be more difficult than you might think.

There is also a patio outside that has three large community style tables for sharing or for larger groups. You can order your espresso and sip it right at the counter or order anything off their menu to go. You can leave a book or take a book from the Surf Box community bookshelf (color coded of course).

So great, the restaurant is cute, but what about the food!? Well, that’s even better!

The menu might be small but it’s packed with goodness. For breakfast I am always torn between the Acai bowl and The Mexicana, fluffy scrambled eggs covered in pico de gallo with jalapenos piled on a piece of thick,multi-grain bread. They also make some pretty insane tasting french toast, waffles and have a variety of delicious smoothies. For lunch I always go for the tropical shrimp tacos, but the quinoa salad is tasty too! You really can’t go wrong with any of their food. Trust me, I think I’ve had everything!

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Surf Box has become our second home and we can’t go to Surf Box without seeing at least three people we know. Which actually makes it hard to get anything done, because you end up just talking to everyone. Ahhh the beauty of small town living…

Follow SurfBoxCR on Instagram to get your daily dose of “good eats, good coffee and good vibes”!

My Daily Fix: Surf Box, Playa Flamingo
Costa Rica June 20, 2016 posted by

Shop: Love Nosara, Costa Rica

Love Nosara Shopping Nosara Costa Rica
A few steps down the street from The Harmony Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica is the coolest outdoor boutique! When you walk down to the beach you cannot miss it. And with the natural beauty of Costa Rica surrounding this store, it almost seems like a pop-up shop that just magically appears in the middle of the jungle. I loved the entire concept of this little boutique, everything from the fixtures, displays and carefully selected products.

Love Nosara¬†sources all of their products, designs and materials from Costa Rica. The wooden crates and display tables showcase their collection of t-shirts, tank tops, hats, handbags and dresses. The Love Nosara name is on some of their items but the designs are very modern and stylish – so it doesn’t look like a shirt you got on vacation.

Love Nosara Boutique Playa Guinoes Nosara Costa Rica

Love Nosara Costa Rica Shopping

Shopping Nosara Costa Rica Handmade
The fashion scene is Costa Rica is pretty much non-existint, it’s laid back beach wear all year round at the beach. Clothing is practically optional and shoes are hardly required. So when I find a cute boutique with unique items, I tend to get VERY excited!

Love Nosara Dress Costa Rica

I took a photo of me trying on this gorgeous blue dress in the outdoor dressing room, mostly because I found myself giggling about being in an outdoor dressing which felt like I was changing in a sauna! Holy. Hotness. I was sweating so bad, I had no choice but to buy it! That and I absolutely loved it.

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I also loved this sign that was in their shop. My new mantra.

Love Nosara on Instagram

Shop: Love Nosara, Costa Rica
Costa Rica June 17, 2016 posted by

The Harmony Hotel, Nosara Costa Rica

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I’m starting to realize that I really love hotels. Like, really LOVE them. And I’m not just talking about your¬†average run-of-the-mill hotel, but hotels that have a purpose, a clear mission and a distinct style. Hotels that create an unforgettable experience from the moment you set foot on their property.

Hotels like The Harmony Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica.

A few weeks ago my friend Debbie and I packed an overnight bag and headed down to Nosara for a last minute girls getaway. Some of our friends were telling us how amazing The Harmony Hotel was and it sounded dreamy – so we had to see it for ourselves!

Nosara Costa Rica Hotels The Harmony Hotel

The moment we walked up to the entrance, I stopped to gasp (and take a photo) of the tall palm trees and lush plants with adorable aqua light fixtures hanging down over a lounge and what appeared to be the bar area. {oh… this is gonna be good!}

As we walked up to the front desk we were greeted with a glass of refreshing Lemon Grass Ginger Iced Tea, I drank it and immediately asked for another. That tea was incredible, I can literally smell that tea as I type this. The two hour drive down to Nosara was already well worth it, just for the delicious tea.

Next to the front desk was a beautifully tiled wall with a simple facet, and a table of glasses for guests to help themselves to some water.  No bottled water was offered to us, you could simply fill up a cup or fill your own water bottle from this facet. Just one of the many eco-friendly features that this hotel prides itself on. Most people might not even notice this detail, but I notice all of these things, because those are the things that sets them apart from those run-0f-the-mill hotels.

The Harmony Hotel is located on Playa Guiones in the popular surf  town of Nosara, Costa Rica and was named one of the 20 Best Beach towns by National Geographic. In fact, the owners met while surfing in Nosara! The couple opened The Harmony Hotel in 2004.

For every surfer that comes to Nosara there is a yogi visiting as well. The Nosara Yoga Institute brings in thousands of students every year to attend their yoga teacher trainings. The atmosphere in Nosara is just dripping with tranquility. So between all the surfers and yoga students Рthis place is crawling with some pretty amazing beach bodies!

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The Harmony Hotel has 10 standard rooms that surround the pool area and 13 one-bedroom bungalows scattered throughout the rest of the property. They all have a generous outdoor patio space with a sitting area, hammock and an outdoor shower. They also have regular sized (and refillable) soap and shampoo containers in the bathrooms – just another small thing that I appreciate. I can’t stand those little bathroom bottles, not only are they annoying but SO wasteful.

You can pick up a new book in their beautiful bookstore filled with positive books to help refresh your mind or spark your soul. They also have a small selection of kids books as well as unique gift items, jewelry, yoga mats and accessories.

Under a gigantic palapa on your way to and from the spa and yoga studio you’ll find the¬†Juice Bar, that serves all natural smoothies, coffee, cappuccinos, baked goods and healthy snacks. This was definitely one of my favorite spots and I highly recommend having one of the bliss balls!

Did I mention that they use bamboo straws? The Harmony Hotel received a five-leaf rating from Costa Rica’s prestigious Certificate for Sustainable Tourism (CST) and are dedicated to sustainability from the organic food they use in the kitchen to the all-natural biodegradable bath products they use in their bathrooms.

“With our commitment to be as sustainable as possible, it only made sense to grow what we eat. Our field-to-table project has been incredibly rewarding: twenty-five¬†percent of the foods we now serve at our Juice Bar are sourced from our farm, and a growing-percentage of the items offered in our restaurant and bar.”

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Not only is the yoga studio beautiful but the grounds around it are equally as stunning. They offer a variety of yoga classes to guests daily and you are given one complimentary class with your stay. Every Sunday afternoon they offer a free afternoon class that is open to the community.

The Harmony Hotel is a short walk to the beach and you can also use their bikes to get around town. They can organize surf lessons, for beginners and people of all ages. Other activities include, horseback riding, zip lining, stand up paddle boarding, hiking, and sea turtle excursions.

I cannot gush about this hotel enough. Needless to say, it was very hard to leave and I’m now trying to find an excuse to go back…

HarmonyNosara.com

This was not a media stay and no discount was given.

The Harmony Hotel Nosara Costa Rica Wanderljust Living Hotels

The Harmony Hotel Pool Nosara Costa Rica Hotels Wanderlust Living

The Harmony Hotel Nosara Costa Rica Hotels

 

The Harmony Hotel, Nosara Costa Rica
Costa Rica May 17, 2016 posted by

Sailing with Serendipity Charters

Serendipity Charters Wanderlust Living Andrea and Kids
A few weeks ago, my husband and kids took me on a wonderful sunset sailing trip for Mother’s Day.¬†Okay let me rephrase that – I booked a sunset sailing tour for me and my family on Mother’s Day. Because let’s face it, if you want something special to happen on Mother’s Day sometimes you have to do it yourself.

Serendipity Charters¬†offers private and semi-private sailing tours out of Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica and when I saw the Mother’s Day special that Serendipity Charters was promoting online, I booked it!
We hadn’t been out on a boat in a long time; we usually save these trips for when friends or family come to visit. It’s a fun way to spend the day with friends or a large group of people.

Serendipity is a great boat for people that want a more private and relaxed boating experience. They take private groups of up to 20, but will only do 13 for their semi private tours. There are larger boats in the area that take out 40-50 people that can feel more like a party boat and can get a bit crowded. We were on the boat with only 8 other people, so it felt more personal and enjoyable.

Serenipity Charters Hudson in Boat Costa Rica Sailing Wanderlust Living

We happen to be friends with the owners of Serendipity Charters. Our son Hudson goes to school with their son and they are very good friends. Captain Brad and Geneva sailed Serendipity down to Costa Rica from the US Virgin Islands and have been running their successful Costa Rica sailing business for four years. That is one of the biggest benefits of living in a small expat community; you get to know everyone Рespecially if they have a business in town. Naturally, we love to support our friends and all the local entrepreneurs. They are a great example of a family that went against the norm and set out to create a beautiful life they love.

Serendipity Charters Hudson Snorkeling

Our journey¬†included sailing over to a¬†small hidden beach to¬†put down the anchor close enough so that we could swim over to the small private beach. The crew provides all equipment for snorkeling and fishing as well as lunch, snacks, fresh fruit and all drinks (beer, wine, cocktails, soda, juice). We had the most delicious chicken tacos for lunch and later they brought out champagne at sunset as part of the Mother’s Day special.

Serendipity Charters Hudson Jumping Costa Rica Sailing

Serendipity Charters Mckenna Jumping Sailing Costa Rica Wanderlust Living
After swimming and having some lunch, the crew pulled up anchor and we started to make our way back to shore while watching the gorgeous sunset. Our family was huddled on the front part of the boat and of course I was trying to take photos of both the the kids and the sunset, and as usual, everyone messed with me. It clearly didn’t matter that it was Mother’s Day, but I have to admit – this was probably my favorite part of the day. Watching my kids fooling around and having fun together, Mother’s Day made! Even if it was mostly at my expense.

Serendipity Mothers Day Sunset Sailing Tour

Mckenna Serendipity Costa Rica Sailing

Serenipity Charters Sailing in Costa Rica Playa Flamingo

Serendipity Charters Costa Rica Sailing Private adn Semi Private Tours
Serendipity Charters offers two half day tours. The morning charters depart at 8:30am Р12:45pm; the afternoon sunset cruises are from 1:30pm-5:45pm (or after sunset. They also offer full day charters that depart at 11:00am and return at 5:45pm or after sunset. For more information or to book your tour contact Geneva at Serendipity Charters.

photo on boat

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Captain Brad and Geneva Р read their story!

Sailing with Serendipity Charters
Costa Rica April 18, 2016 posted by

Meet Frankie, our new pet parakeet

Parakeets in Costa Rica Wanderlust Living

Living in Costa Rica we’ve had several animal encounters, this large scorpion¬†probably tops the list of the most memorable, until this weekend.

As we were all hanging out in the pool after the kids got home from school Friday afternoon, this cute little parakeet flew into our backyard. He made is way around the pool cautiously but then went right up to Harris, drinking the water right off his arm. At first the kids were all a little too afraid to touch him but eventually made his way up onto everyone’s fingers, arms and heads!

Mckenna with Parakeet Costa Rica 2016

Parakeet in Costa Rica Hudson 1

Parakeet in Costa Rica Hudson 2

Parakeet in Costa Rica Wanderlust Living

Harris and the Parakeet Costa Rica

The BEST part of the afternoon was when Harris laid down and the bird flew onto his chest and started walking around, clearly thinking it was some sort of nest, and then jumped up onto his head!!

Keryn Means Walking On Travels Costa Rica Parakeet Wanderlust Living
Keryn Means Walking on travels Costa Rica and the Parakeet
My friend Keryn, Walking on Travels has been visiting us with her four year old son and the parakeet had no problem finding his way up onto her head or laptop either!

Parakeet Costa Rica Keryn Means Walking on Travels Wanderlust Living
Keryn¬†took this amazing photo of her son looking at the parakeet on Harris’s head, which pretty much sums up the this hysterical afternoon perfectly.

Harris and the Parakeet Costa Rica Pool
This bird was not shy and way too comfortable with people, which made us think that it must have been someone’s pet and either they let him go or he may have got out. We named the bird Frankie, since we were unsure if it is male or female.

The bird stayed all night and ended up literally falling asleep on Harris’s shoulder and the next morning we found him curled up outside on our table sleeping.¬†Harris and the kids have made it a little home on a ledge in our backyard. They put down a towel, filled a small container up with water and have been feeding it strawberries. And yes, it has pooped on almost all of us.

The second night we came home late and we couldn’t find Frankie and we were all a little sad. We thought perhaps maybe he had had enough of us or just went back home, but in the morning sure enough he was on the screen door chirping away!

So it’s official. We have a pet parakeet (apparently it could technically be a Lovebird) but either way we now have a frickin’ bird.

Andrea and the parakeet Costa Rica Parakeet on a book Costa Rica Wanderlust Living

Do you have a bird? Any tips or things we should know about?
Meet Frankie, our new pet parakeet
Adventure January 2, 2016 posted by

Obsessed: The Las Catalinas Hiking Trails


Costa Rica Las Catalinas Hiking and Trail Running
Las Catalinas. I’m obsessed.

There is something magical and slightly addicting about the Las Catalinas hiking trails. Some mornings I wake up and I swear I can hear them whispering my name. If I go too many days without getting on the trails, I feel empty. Going to Las Catalinas to hike is my therapy, my church, my place to hide. I’m not a very emotional person, but I’ve shed a lot of tears on those trails. Some of those tears are filled with anger and sadness but many are filled with gratitude and happiness too. I have always needed a place like this in my life, and I’ve always found one no matter where we live, but this has to be the prettiest one yet!

Of all the places in Costa Rica, I no doubt have the most photos of the views from the Las Catalinas trails. It’s a locals favorite and a true gem. I’d say it was a hidden gem, but the word is out on this spectacular place. Construction is happening every day as they build and expand in this area. The hiking and biking trails will remain of course, but Las Catalinas will not look the same two years from now, and it makes me and others that live here little sad.

Las Catalinas Hiking Costa Rica Wanderlust Living Andrea Fellman

On some of my hikes I think about the people I’d love to share the trail with. I wish everyone I cared about could hike the trail at least once. To see what I see – but to see it for themselves. Although, as much as I want to share this place, there is a part of me that is extremely selfish and I’d really rather just have it all to myself.

I tell everyone that is visiting this area of Costa Rica that getting to Las Catalinas is a must, even if it’s just a day trip. I guess I’m not really helping keep it a secret.

Hiking the Las Catalinas trails is not only a good mental work out but an extremely good physical work out, specially if you run some of it! You should be in good health to hike up here, it can get very hot and there are some very steep sections of the trail, not to mention it can be very rocky and uneven in some parts. It is best to head out early before the sun really starts to beat down on the trail. I always take a water bottle, my ipod and my phone, (in case of an emergency) and for photos of course. I share a lot of my photos on Instagram to give people window into what I see.

Hiking in Costa ica Las Catalinas Playa Danta Trails

Hiking the Las Catalinas trails feels very similar to life.

There are exposed parts of the trail that are filled with so much sun and then there are darker parts of the trail that become very narrow and close in on you. Just when you think you have it all under control you’re confronted with a steep hill or a rocky path. You have to know when to slow down and take it easy, but also recognize when you need to challenge yourself, when you should pick up the pace and move a little faster. There are a few small bridges that will help you get over some rough terrain, much like a friend extending a helping hand.

In the beginning, I was so focused on getting out to the look out point that I rushed past and missed so much of the trail. Now, I’ve learned to pay attention and appreciate every single pieces of the trail. Every twig, branch, pebble, rock, and scurrying little creature. It’s all so beautiful.

Las Catalinas Guanacaste Costa Rica Hiking Trails Epic Views Wanderlust Living

Las Catalinas Hiking Trails Costa RIca Wanderlust Living

Las Catalinas Hiking the trails Wanderlust Living

Costa Rica hiking trails Las Catalinas

Las Catalinas Costa Rica Trails Playa Danta Wanderlust Living

Las Catalinas Costa Rica HIking Trails View
Las Catalinas HIking Trails Dry Season
The trail has two very distinct seasons, green and dry. For most of the year it is green and lush, during the rainiest months (September and October) the trail can get a bit muddy and buggy. During the dry season everything turns brown and it’s extremely hot, dry and dusty. The dry season is not my favorite, I’d take bugs and a little mud over the dry heat any day. It is the driest in February, March and April. During the dry season, I highly recommend getting out there before 8am and never after 11am.¬†

Las Catalinas HIking Trails Views Costa Rica Wandrlust Living

Las Catalinas Hiking Wanderlust Living Costa Rica Playa Danta

Las Catalinas Playa Danta Beach Costa Rica
At the end of my hike I like to sit here and look out at the water Р sometimes I even jump in.

I hope everyone can find a place like this in their life.

Obsessed: The Las Catalinas Hiking Trails
Adventure November 10, 2015 posted by

Five Costa Rica favorites for #FindingCostaRica

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The Findery app is #FindingCostaRica for the next two weeks, and they asked me to create a 10 Days in Costa Rica travel itinerary!

Since I live in Costa Rica this should be a breeze right?

Ahhh… no, not really.

When I get asked about where to stay and what to do in Costa Rica, my response is always the same. What type of vacation or travel experience are you looking for?

People travel for different reasons, not to mention a wide range of budgets and ages of those traveling with them. Whether you’re up for an off-the-grid adventure or looking to simply rest and relax poolside, there is definitely something for everyone in Costa Rica.

I do have some absolute favorite places I always recommend to just about anyone visiting Costa Rica, so while I was creating this itinerary, I thought about what I would do if I left Costa Rica for a few years and was coming back to visit. What would I want to do and see again? That was how I came up with this 10 Days in Costa Rica travel itinerary.

Here are 5 of my Findery notemaps ‚ÄĒ¬†for the full itinerary head on over to the Findery Blog!

Finding Costa Rica on Findery

Las Catalinas Guanacaste Costa Rica Hiking Trails Epic Views Wanderlust Living


1. Las Catalinas, Playa Danta

Las Catalinas is a locals’ favorite and absolutely high on my list of places to visit. I go hiking here at least two times a week, I’m a bit obsessed with the beauty of these trails. Las Catalinas is an up-and-coming housing project, community and resort town. There is no doubt Las Catalinas will look very different two years from now as more and more is being built, but for now it is our family’s favorite place to spend the day.¬†Las Catalinas Point

Rio Celeste Waterfall Costa Rica Wanderlust Living
2. Rio Celeste Waterall

If your dream of traveling in Costa Rica includes treking through the sometimes muddy and wet damp rainforest in search of hidden treasure, then put hiking the Rio Celeste waterfall on your list. The hike to the waterfall is not difficult; it can get slick and you may get wet, but so worth it! If your kids don’t get dirty, then they didn’t have enough fun!¬†Rio Celeste Waterfall Hike

La Carolina Lodge Costa Rica Wanderlust Living

 

3. La Carolina Lodge

I’ve gushed about La Carolina Lodge a few times now, but that’s because it was truly an unforgettable experience. Perhaps it was the people I was with combined¬†with a time when I truly needed a weekend to unplug and get away from it all. Regardless of why I thought it was magical, La Carolina Lodge is off the grid, and I highly recommend it. If you do find yourself sitting in the naturally-heated hot tub next to the rushing river, I hope you find it just as magical!¬†La Carolina Lodge

The Club at Mar Vista Guanacaste Costa Rica
4.  Mar Vista

Watching the sunset from any beach in Guanacaste is going to be pretty spectacular, but watching it from an infinity pool with a cocktail in hand might make the sunset even better! The Club at Mar Vista is open to the public, so anyone can go take advantage of this local hot spot. There is a full restaurant, bar and a mini zipline for the kids! The Club at Mar Vista

Tabacon Hot Springs Wanderlust Living Costa Rica

5. Tabacon Hot Springs

You cannot come to Costa Rica and not sit in the volcanic hot springs. There are several hot springs to choose from in the Lake Arenal area of Costa Rica. You will have a hard time deciding, but that’s why you’re here ‚ÄĒ to let me help you decide. I’ve been to a handful of them, and while you can never really go wrong with any hot springs, I still come back to the Tabacon Hot Springs as my absolute favorite. It’s award-winning and has been featured in Cond√© Nast for a reason.¬†Tabacon Hot Springs

 

Tip for #FindingCostaRica: You can visit endless pools and beaches anywhere, but come to Costa Rica to explore and expect more!

Head on over to the Findery Blog for the full itinerary for 10 Days in Costa Rica, where I share more tips on getting the most out of your Costa Rica adventure!

And while you’re there ‚ÄĒ go¬†sign up for Findery and start leaving your own notes!

Five Costa Rica favorites for #FindingCostaRica
Adventure November 5, 2015 posted by

Westin Playa Conchal: Best all-inclusive Costa Rica Resort

Westin Playa Conchal Pool Wanderllust Living Guanacaste Costa Rica
Best All-Inclusive Costa Rica

When planning your Costa Rica vacation, where you stay is probably the most important part of your trip. You can find everything from rustic lodges totally off the grid to luxury hotels and condos to all-inclusive resorts. Your choice really depends on the type of trip you want.

If you’re a family looking for an all-inclusive Costa Rica resort with luxury amenities and a little adventure on the side, I would suggest the Westin Playa Conchal.¬†I have been to a few other all-inclusive resorts in Guanacaste and while I like each one for different amenities,¬†I believe the Westin Playa Conchal is the best choice for its location, beach, food and service.

Westin Playa Conchal Guanacaste Costa Rica All Inclusive Resort

Location, Location, Location

The¬†Westin Playa Conchal¬†is¬†an¬†all-inclusive resort sitting¬†right on Playa Conchal, one of the most beautiful beaches in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Only about an hour drive from the Liberia airport on a fully paved road, you can rent a car and feel safe getting there very easily ‚ÄĒ¬†yes, I recommend you rent a car so you can explore the other areas nearby. If you don’t rent a car, don’t worry; the Westin has plenty of shuttles that will take you to some of these other nearby destinations as well.

The one thing I don’t like about all-inclusives is sometimes you feel a bit locked in, and it’s difficult to get out and explore the area around you. Other¬†all-inclusives are¬†literally tucked away from everything, and it takes too long or too much effort to get off the resort.¬†The¬†Westin Playa Conchal is not like that and happens to sit in the middle of so many other beautiful things to see and do.

The Westin is only about a 20-minute drive ‚ÄĒ or shuttle ride ‚ÄĒ to the popular surf town of¬†Tamarindo, where you can take surf lessons, get out on a catamaran, shop and visit many local restaurants and bars. The Westin is also just about a 10-minute drive to Playa Flamingo, another favorite beach of ours.

If¬†you’re looking for a bit more adventure, I highly recommend taking a drive out to Las Catalinas at Playa Danta. This is a great day trip from the Westin, where you can experience the hiking trails either by foot or by mountain bike. ¬†You can rent mountain bikes, stand up paddle boards and kayaks from Pura Vida Ride. Las Catalinas has swings and some beach activities for the kids and the restaurant Limonada is a great place to grab a cold beer or a mojito and some fresh ceviche or fish tacos.

For¬†one last stop, just a¬†short five minute drive away from the Westin is The Club at Mar Vista, where you must go and watch the sunset while sitting in their infinity pool. It’s a local favorite and the shuttles at the Westin will drive and pick you up for a small charge.

Playa Conchal Costa Rica All Inclusive Best Beaches
Playa Conchal

If you’re looking for one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Conchal definitely tops the list. We’re lucky enough to live about 10 minutes from this gorgeous stretch of sand, and it’s one of our favorite beaches in Guanacaste.¬†Playa Conchal translates to “shell beach” and has this name because a large portion of this beach isn’t sand, but broken up pieces of shells. On the north end of the beach, the broken shells are very large and it can even hurt a bit to walk on them, but as you walk south they get smaller and smaller, turning into very small specs of shells and eventually into white sand. Playa Conchal is also the whitest sand beach you’ll find in the area. On most beaches in Costa Rica, the sand is a bit more brown then people might expect.

Playa Conchal Costa Rica Beach kIds playing in the waves

All beaches in Costa Rica are public, so anyone can visit Playa Conchal, but it is a difficult beach to get to, and the Westin Playa Conchal is the only hotel with¬†direct access to Playa Conchal. This helps keep the crowds down. However, during local holiday weekends the beaches here can get busy with Costa Rican families driving up to escape the city of San Jose. They provide beach chairs for all their guests and you can rent snorkel equipment, kayaks, mountain bikes and jet skis from the resort’s activity desk ‚ÄĒ located right next to the entrance to the beach.

HorsebackRidingConchalCostaRica

Just outside the Westin you’ll see some vendors selling clothing, jewelry and small gifts. You might even see men with horses; they’re available to take you horseback riding on Playa Conchal. They charge a very fair price but you can always try to get a little discount, too. You can set this up directly with the Westin’s activity desk if you want a specific day and time. One of my favorite things to do on the beach is take advantage of the $20 massage from the local ladies, they have tables set under the trees in the shade, and you can’t beat the price!

Westin Playa Conchal Costa Rica Pool Guanacaste Wanderlust Living Travel

Westin Playa Conchal Lagoon Pool Wanderlust Living Costa Riica

The Pool

There is one large pool, and it’s actually shaped like a turtle¬†if¬†viewed from up in the sky. The shape of this pool means it’s a bit more lagoon style, with plenty of different areas and different depths. There’s a swim up bar under a big palapa and a volleyball net for guests¬†who¬†want a bit more activity in the pool. Young children can have floatations devices in the pool, and there is plenty of shade and umbrellas to get out of the sun.

Excellent Service

I stayed here for a long weekend while I hosted the ROAR Retreat, and the service was exceptional. The entire staff from the maid service, room service and restaurants to the general staff around the pool were all very friendly and courteous. The staff was always smiling and expressing that “pura vida”¬†attitude and feeling.¬†Everyone who¬†attended the retreat told me the service was outstanding as well, so it wasn’t just me getting a little extra attention ‚ÄĒ¬†everyone genuinely felt like the service was fabulous! You can certainly practice your Spanish with the staff, but if you don’t know any other word in Spanish than “Hola!” don’t worry ‚ÄĒ the staff knows english very well.

Westin Playa Conchal Typical Costa Rican Breakfast Wanderlust Living Guanacaste Costa Rica

Flavorful Food

The Westin has some¬†of the best food I have had at an all-inclusive resort, ever. Living in Costa Rica, I know that the food here can be pretty bland and nothing that spectacular, so I was very impressed with the Westin’s variety of options and assortment, particularly at the Mitra International Buffet which serves their buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner. We also had two incredible dinners at both the Catalina’s restaurant and the Faisanela Italian restaurant: delicious food and excellent service! They have a number of other restaurants on the property as well, but some are only open seasonly.

Westin Playa Conchal Costa Rica Guanacaste Wanderlust Living

Modern Luxury Suites

The rooms here are not like other all-inclusive hotels you might find, which I really like. Instead of a huge building with hallways and elevators, every suite is located in a small building with only a total of four suites. They’re modern bungalows surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful landscaping. Every room also has a nice size balcony or porch for relaxing and you can have your double doors wide open for a nice breeze into your room ‚ÄĒ as long as it’s not too hot, of course. All of the rooms are suites that come with a sitting area, desk and kitchenette. The refrigerator is restocked every day with water and soda. Room service is also all- inclusive, and you can order anytime throughout the day.

Westin Playa Conchal Costa Rica Golf Course Guanacaste Wanderlust Living

The property is large and can get a bit confusing when walking around or trying to find your room, but they have golf carts driving around all day, so you can ask for directions or jump in and they will take you where you want to go. The Westin Playa Conchal also has an 18 hole Golf Course, Luxury Spa, Tennis Courts and a Kids Club.

Staying at an all-inclusive does not mean you are stuck on the property, but the Westin Play Conchal is not a bad property to be stuck on either! They are happy to help you with any excursions or tours and have shuttles onsite willing to take you anywhere in the area.

As I mentioned, I have been to a few other all-inclusive resorts in the area and while it’s always hard to choose a favorite because each has their own special amenities. I do think the Westin Playa Conchal is the choice if you want to stay in this area of Guanacaste and have an easy time getting out to explore a little bit more!

 

 

Disclosure: I stayed at the Westin Playa Conchal as a paying guest, but did work with their events team for a retreat I co-hosted and received a group rate. I also live in Costa Rica and have experienced the Westin beach Club amenities and have been to playa conchal many, many times and have always had a great time. I highly recommend this beach to anyone that comes to Guanacaste.

Westin Playa Conchal: Best all-inclusive Costa Rica Resort
Adventure November 3, 2015 posted by

Buena Vista Lodge: Water slide through the rainforest!

Buena Vista Lodge Waterslide Gigantic Tree
Buena Vista Lodge

One of my favorite things about living in Costa Rica is escaping to somewhere new for the weekend. Living at the beach is great, but planning some weekend getaways to explore more of Costa Rica helps shake up things a bit. A few expat friends told us about the Buena Vista Lodge, which is home to the longest waterslide in Costa Rica, stretching 420 meters (1/4 of a mile). Clearly we needed to experience this waterslide for ourselves.

The Buena Vista Lodge sits in the foothills of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, which is only about an hour drive north of the Liberia airport. However, plan on another thirty minutes on a bumpy dirt road to actually get to the lodge. Most places in Costa Rica worth getting to usually have a piece of challenging road, so be patient and you’ll get through it.

The Buena Vista Lodge is a one-stop-shop kind of place; you can do several typical Costa Rican activities and check them all off your list. They offer hanging bridges, zip lining, horseback riding, hiking trails, hots springs and ‚ÄĒ of course ‚ÄĒ their famous jungle waterslide. If your time in Costa Rica is limited or you’re on a bit of a budget, this is¬†the place for you.

Buena Vista Lodge Tractor

We dropped our stuff in our rooms right when we arrived and quickly changed into swimsuits to get to the hot springs before they closed for the day. You can take a 30-minute nature hike down to the hot springs, or you can jump on the gigantic green tractor and get a ride. I wish the hot springs would have been closer and more convenient to the rooms, but the kids really appreciated the tractor ride, and on the way you”ll be able to soak in some¬†gorgeous mountain views.

Buena Vista Lodge Hot Springs Pool
Buena Vista Lodge Hot Spring Pool McKenna Brooke

Hot Springs and Mud Bath

There are five hot spring pools, a sauna and a volcanic mud bath. Mud baths in Costa Rica are not as¬†luxurious or exotic¬†as they might sound. It’s¬†pretty much a large bowl of volcanic mud, and everyone just stands around slathering it all over their bodies¬†‚ÄĒ¬†a pretty humorous scene. If you are not close with the people you are traveling with, it’s definitely a special bonding moment as you stand in the sun like statues letting the mud soak into your skin. Once the mud is dry there are showers to rinse, and a man will even spray the back of your legs with a hose for you. You feel a bit exposed and the water is cold so you’ll want to jump back into the hot springs as quickly as you can!

You can use to store some of your things in lockers, and towels are provided for you. There is also a small bar to purchase soda, beer and a limited selection of alcoholic beverages ‚ÄĒ mostly rum.

Buena Vista Lodge Bar Costa Rica

Buena Vista Lodge Cabin
Buena Vista Lodge Cabinas

The accommodations are very basic: two beds and a bathroom, but for $70 a night I wasn’t really expecting anything fancy. Our room didn’t even have shampoo in the shower, and the bath towels were more like hand towels. I think the keyword here might be “rustic.” There are other rooms and cabin options, but we reserved our rooms late and were traveling with two other families. We literally got the last three rooms available. I did see some other cabins near the lake on the property that looked a bit larger and might come with a few more amenities, but you’d have to inquire about those.

While the¬†accommodations might have been a bit dull, we weren’t there for the rooms anyway. It was all about the jungle waterslide!

Mckenna Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Buena Vista Lodge Hudson

Buena Vista Lodge Jungle Water Slide Costa Rica 201560

Buena Vista Lodge Jungle Water Slide

You will begin your jungle water slide adventure down at the small pool where you will plunge into at the end of your ride. You’ll¬†be given your helmet and tube there; everyone must wear these to go down the water slide.¬†Women and girls need to wear a pair of shorts over their swimsuit bottoms. I suggest bringing a pair of athletic shorts with you or you’ll have to wear these funky leather chaps that they provide. You can put your belongings on a few benches around the small pool, but there are no lockers so do not bring any valuables with you. If you have towels bring those as well, as they do not provide them for you.

Buena Vista Lodge Waterslide Wanderlust Living

While you are meandering through the rainforest at a slight incline right next to the waterslide, you may think that it doesn’t look like much. Then you¬†hear screaming in the distance before seeing¬†someone zoom past you, with water rushing all around them! It’s faster than it looks.

When you reach the top, you stand and wait your turn on a platform. Once it is your turn, you will sit down on the slide and wait for the tank to fill up with water. There is a simple piece of wood holding the water back behind you. Then the man operating the slide pulls the rope to raise the wood door, causing a burst of water to push you forward and away you go!

Harris Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Andrea Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Lily Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Sue Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Ward Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Brooke Buena Vista Lodge waterslide
Tavio Buena Vista Lodge waterslide
Ynette Buena Vista Costa Rica 2015
I have to say, this water slide was way more fun than I expected!  The water was a bit cold, but it was all a part of the experience, from walking along the dirt path, sitting at the top in anticipation for the burst of water to hit your back and push you down, to the cold water splashing up in your face as you twisted down this narrow green slide. A thrill of a good time!

Since I took all the pictures of everyone in our group coming down, I was able to witness the pure joy, excitement and fear on their faces – which was also very fun for me! ¬†It did take some convincing for the smaller kids to go down, they were a bit scared once they saw that the rushing water is what pushes you in the beginning, but once they overcame their fear they couldn’t stop running up the trail to do it again and again.

Buena Vista Lodge Hanging Bridges Costa Rica 201508

Buena Vista Lodge Hanging Bridges ad More!

We did not do the zip lining course, but we did walk the hanging bridges. The hanging bridge course was the¬†perfect length and height for all of the kids in our group ‚ÄĒ ages 7-12 ‚ÄĒ but younger kids can easily walk this course as well.¬†The Buena Vista Lodge also has a large pool separate from the hot springs and water slide. You can enjoy horseback riding on their ranch, as well.

The main restaurant food is typical Costa Rican food, served cafeteria style. You’ll find¬†fish, chicken, rice, beans, plantains, fruit and some side salads. If you’re looking for other options,¬†there are two additional restaurants on the property where you can order from a menu with more options. We did eat at one of them, and found your typical American fair of hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and french fries. The food was fine, but not extremely exciting.

Overall, we had a great time and the water slide was well worth the visit. We stayed for two nights, and I really don’t think you need to stay anymore than that. If you are really pressed for time, you could enjoy what the Lodge has to offer in one night. You can also visit the Buena Vista Lodge for the day through a tour company or if you are staying at another hotel in the area. They sell day passes and individual tickets for all of the activities, so you could just visit for the day and continue onto your next destination.

Disclosure: This was not a press trip and no discount was given to me for my stay. 

Buena Vista Lodge: Water slide through the rainforest!