If you are looking for an exotic family vacation or a romantic getaway to the tropics Costa Rica is the perfect place. I have been to Hawaii many times and Costa Rica is similar to Hawaii but more exotic.
Like Hawaii there are wonderful beaches, snorkeling and whalle watching excurtions to enjoy. But here you will find unique places like MANUEL ANTONIO STATE PARK with monkeys and sloths swinging in the trees.
This eco friendly park is right on a wonderful swiming beach. Now that is something you won't find in Hawaii. Like Hawaii, Costa Rica is just a five hour flight from Los Angeles. To visit MANUEL ANTONIO State Park I reccomend you pick up a rent a car at the airport and drive the two hours and stay in the town of QUEPOS just outside the park.
I stayed at CONDOTEL LAS CASCADAS a charming condo style hotel tucked into the mountainside. My condo was simple and sweet, well air conditioned with a nice private patio area to BBQ, have a drink or read a book.
I was there in the summer which is ther rainy season. The rain came on and off everyday after three pm. So after a day at the beach, or visit to MANUEL ANTONIO park it was nice to read a book out on my covered patio while the rain beat down.
After an hour or two the sky cleared and it was time to go into town just minutes away for a casual dinner. LAS CASCADES does not have TV in the condos and it was nice to just get back to nature and forget about the outside world for the three nights I stayed there.
Gary the owner serves a great breakfast with unlimited banana and coconut pancakes, or have a nice omelet. After a morning hiking the park a dip in the pool is always nice way to cool off.
If you want to avoid the rain go during peak season December-April. There is a charm and peace here that just helps you to relax from your everyday life. Gary is a great host and will help you line up any activity you want to experience.
Costa Rica has become a tourist haven because of its eco friendly laws which protect the wildlife whether it's in the trees or in the ocean. A good way to see MANUEL ANTONIO is to hire a park guide. You can spend hours hiking around the trails on your own, but with a guide you will see much more. Your guide will have a telescope and find all the colorful birds, humming bugs and sloths high up on the branches. He knows just which trees the monkeys are in and where the racoons like to play.
Deer are common in the park and a few strolled across our path. We saw many lizards on our hike as well. Don't worrry none of the park creatures will bother you, it;s very safe for your little ones
The humpback whales migrate to Costa Rica with their newborn in the summer. For me a perfect way to spend my birthday was to go on Sunset SAILS whale watching and snorkel excursion.
This local family owned tour boat has been operating for sixteen years. The dock was just minutes from my condo and SUNSET SAILS is glad to send a car for your 8 AM pick up.
For the next four hours i found myself with some wonderful British and Dutch tourists as thirteen of us sailed around, complimentary cocktails in hand. We encountered dolphins, sea turtles and then we spotted the big prize, a Humpback whale mother and her newborn cruising along. It was breathtaking to see.
QUEPOS is a charming little town right on the beach. The best restaurant by far is EL GRAN ESCAPE. Which translates The great Escape. Everyone in town knows it by both names, if you are a Steve McQueen fan like myself it is easy name to remember.
I had almost all of my meals there because it is just that good. Opened in 1991 by MARSHA BENNETT a transplanted California gal this open air restaurant offers a vast menu. Open 8 AM to 10 PM daily, closed on Tuesdays. Try their famous Escape Burgers for lunch, but you can also have choice of sandwiches or wraps. Yes they are open for breakfast as well. For dinner I had the best Ahi Tuna Steak i ever had. Caught just hours before, it was so tasty. I had mine medium rare and blackened. Was just heavenly, give it a try you won't be dissapointed.
Everyday they have three or four local fish catches, Mahi Mahi, and Sea Bass are big favorites. The next night i enjoyed the Coconut Shrimp. But if steak is your thing they have that as well.
Try some starters like Shrimp Wontons or Tempura Green Beans. Make sure you save room for the homemade desserts, Coconut Flan and Macadamia Nut Pie are to die for.
I could easily eat here for a week straight and not get bored. Besides amazing fish, you have Asian dishes, Mexican dishes, salads, and a nice kids menu for families. It also has a great bar to make new friends, get tips from locals. Great to have a drink and watch a ballgame.
QUEPOS area offers a ton of adventures. You can repel down a mountainside next to a waterfall, zipline, atv rides, there is a ton of surfing. I met an american family from New York on the beach and they got a surf lesson for their family of four only $100. the waves were small and easy and they all got up on the board and surfed before the lesson was over. Of course there are fishing trips as well. Don;t forget to visit a spa. I went to RAINDROP SPA and had a Chocolate Therapy and Swedish Massage combo.
They started with a nice swedish massage and then chocolate powder is spread all over your body. this is rich in vitamins C and B 12 which protect your skin from sun exposure and increase your natural defenses. They have shower heads above the massage table to rinse you clean at the end. It was truly unique and wonderful experience. The massage rooms were private yet openended to the trees and flowers outside. This spa has a huge variety of treatments to choose from so go to their website.
A nice way to break up your trip after a long flight and before you head to QUEPOS is to spend a night at the LOS SUENOS MARRIOTT OCEAN AND GOLF RESORT.
Just an hour drive from San Jose Airport and halfway to QUEPOS this Hotel has a wonderful huge pool and a nice golf course. The beach is not that great but the pool makes up for it.
CONDOTEL LAS CASCADES - [email protected] phone (506) 2777-4509 cell (506) 8896-9699
RAINDROP SPA- www.raindropspa.com phone (506) 2777-2880
LOS SUENOS MARRIOTT OCEAN AND GOLF RESORT- www.marriott.com