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Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

San Francisco...
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Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

Departed for a surf/fishing trip to Costa on April 1st. Arrived into San Jose airport. Got the bags and boards fast, hauled over to Avis to pick up the rental. The plan was to spend time in the Guanacaste region.

To be fair ahead of the rest of the report, I went down to Costa the first time in 1988, then 1992, 1996, and 2002. Always surf/exploration trips. I am 37 now.

We got in at 3pm so instead of driving right to Playa Negra we drove to Jaco for the evening, the plan was to leave from there. We took the new toll road (AUTOPISTE) Great road, a bit of a disaster. The road is 1 lane on 1 side for roughly 50km....the other side had 2 lanes, then it reverses. The tolls are 1 or 2 dollars US... 410 colones and 630 I believe it was. Trying to pass a slow bus or truck on the 1 lane side is impossible. The road is viewed as both good and bad by Ticos.

What I missed the most was getting into San Jose and then driving thru the coffee filled hills to get down to the beach..the new toll road, like that of roads in the states offers little in the way of the gorgeous views I was so used to.

Got to Jaco


This place, just completely left me baffled...what was once a great surf town has been transformed into a complete road of nonsense. Empty overbuilt 15 story condos...the Monkey Bar is now across the road...Chuck Herwig's place has been bought it looks like by a hotel. We stayed at Clarita's...she was great..it was Easter weekend so it was busy,

Woke up went to Hermosa...HOLY DEVELOPMENT! I just can't believe what is going on....the place reminds me of a mid atlantic coastal town..The Tree has raised cabinas right behind it....growth all over the beach...it in my eyes is a disaster from what I knew in just 2002 left along 1988. Not my thing.

Left went right to Playa Negra. We stayed at Hotel Playa Negra...right in front of the beach. Had the bottom of the owners place. It was $88 per night. Great place...right on the beach...Negra right in front...short trip to Avellanas.

As far as eats go here: Marie's Sports Bar is hands down the spot! the place is amazing. Freddie is the most kind waiter. This is the best place hands down.

We ate at Jalapeno's one afternoon and had nachos...really really good!

Food at Playa Negra Inn was always great, we just try to get out.

Buena Vista Pizza was decent...nothing to scream about but good all the same.

We chilled in this area for 3 days surfing Negra, Little Hawaii, Avellanas....caught it between 3-6 feet the entire time we were there. Negra gets packed, and it is a hassle to get waves in mass to be honest. I found Avellanas more fun, less size..but fun. Little Hawaii was really good the one day.

During the afternoon's in between surf we headed South down thru Playa Lagarito, Marbella, Ostional, Playa Pelida, and Playa Nosara. We loved Marbella..sleepy not much here...good fun waves...Pelida had a nice left coming off the groin formation. Some cool little places down here, We didn't stay though and headed back up to Negra...finding Monkey's all along the Coastal road. (It was the dry season, we did the entire coastal road from Nosara all the way up to Playa Hermosa (the Northern Hermosa) had not one problem..the river crossing were almost non-existent. During a good rain, you can see how it would become an issue. Loved all of these beaches!!!! Do go...they are still quiet!

Next we ventured up to Tamarindo for 1 night. Stayed at the Hotel Arco Iris....great place. $107 bucks. Richard is the owner from LA. We loved the place. I am not in love with Tamarindo though anymore. It has become the place I try to get away from. Lots of Euros and US people learning to surf and party. Had great food..I can't remember where we ate..I will figure it out and reply to this message.

Next we went to Playa Grande...stayed at Tortugas....right on the beach...insane. Love it! Still not developed for the most part due to restrictions. Must go. Great waves

Then on up to a house we rented in the Papagayo Pennisula for 4 days. Idea being we could get to Witche's and Ollie's. We ate in Playa Coco which reminded me of Jaco in 1992. It is going to get overgrown due to he accessibility of the airport but it is a fun town.

Playa Coconutz has the hands down best food here!

We hooked up with a boat trip each day for 3 days...went with Jorge' and Alan...it was a blast. Fishing and surfing Witches and Ollie's. Boat trips to fish were $280...Fishing and surfing were $450 for the 8 hours.

During the day's we checked out Palos Verde ...too dry, saw a ton of wildlife getting in there...Llanos De Cortez...a great waterfall off the beaten track...and we went to a great zip line at the Wellness Center in Canas Dulces really remote. Checked out Rio Celeste....incredible. Tenorio...loved it.

Checked out Playa Panama, Playa Hermosa...both still nice and sleepy. Roads are all paved up here now due to accessibility to Liberia.

Overall it was a fun trip. We had a great time, don't get me wrong. We are do'ers though...we are adventurous. Roads are paved all over now...the tourists are there in force....the line-ups are a bit crowded....I am happy that I was able to visit this jewel many times before it built up. It is still nothing like any place in the US..it is beautiful. When the 60 year old couple from Ohio can get to Negra though...it is time for me to look for other spots.

We went to Nica this past Summer it was what Costa was 20 years ago......take that for what it's worth. Here are my pictures.

PM me if you have questions:


Edited: 21 April 2010, 05:28
Costa Rica
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1. Re: Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed report.

Most of us who live in CR are not happy with the developments but it is happening everywhere - even in South Carolina! What I have seen a lot this past year is beach or close to the beach developments that are partially constructed and abandoned, sometimes with only an entrance constructed. One such development had a huge concrete wall that must have been 1/2 mile long. A Costa Rican friend who was with me got very quiet all of a sudden as we drove by and then said," I wonder how many Costa Rican houses could be built with that wall." We finally figured about 25.

Glad you had such a good time - you saw more beaches than most people see in a lifetime!!

Pensacola, Florida
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2. Re: Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

Thanks CR sure has changed over the 40 years I have been going...

Still lots of rustic charm if you go to the right areas...like Osa Carib side

Pacific side has gotten too condofied for me...

San Francisco...
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3. Re: Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

Agree with both of you. Amongst all the development the people are still beyond kind and the rustic beauty just needs to be "searched" out if you want to find your "little piece" it's there no doubt.

This was the first trip I had ever driven at night in Costa...and often. I wouldn't recommend it to a first time traveler to Costa. One of the issues with everything being paved is that locals walk the white line.....it presents issues when you are driving if you are not totally paying attention. That said, it was nice to be able to get from place to place in the dark, something I never considered before without the roads being paved.

The wellness center is called Tizate Wellness Garden- Jose is the guy here!

San Jose, Costa Rica
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4. Re: Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

Thank you!


Grecia, Costa Rica
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5. Re: Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

Thanks for posting, Great report.



Tamarindo, Costa...
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6. Re: Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

Saw your trip photos and looks like you had a very fun trip... inspiring! I've lived in Tamarindo since is was like a commune, and for sure things have changed here.

We have a lot more available rooms and villas for rent, but not so many unfinished projects, like the Jaco area. The roads are better, there is now a modern superhighway coming from San Jose, and the stunner for the year is that the government has started paving the road to Langosta! The little sleepy fishing/surfing town of Tamarindo is growing up.

However, what is really unusual is that the global economic downturn has limited the number of tourists, and for me, the area really isn't crowded at all. I do agree there are more beginners at the main break in Tamarindo, however I live and surf in Langosta and haven't noticed much difference in the number of surfers in the line-up.

Few towns stay the same, and Tamarindo has changed for sure. However, it is still a great balanced combination of surf town and other things to do.

Sounds like you were in Tamarindo during Spring Break, a special time of the year, but now nothing is crowded. Even better, one wants a more pristine experience by visiting several nearby spots/towns within 30-minutes from here, just as you did.

Every town has a unique experience. That's why its such a good idea for users to name their pleasures (in detail) on this Forum, so people can steer people in the right direction.

Vacations are a terrible thing to waste. Still love Tamarindo.

Seattle, Washington
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7. Re: Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

Great report. Always interesting to read one's perspective of development they've witnessed over the years...some bad some good. Thanks for taking the time to post! Enjoying your others as well. :-)

San Francisco...
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8. Re: Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

Sponger you are so right. Langosta is a beautiful place.

I don't mean to be "that guy" suggesting that everything is overpopulated.

We found our gems..to be exact, we found 5 places that NO ONE was at.

I just view it from a 20 year review. I have to say, even typing this now...Jaco I loved, even up until 2002...because I could surf Hermosa, Tulin, and then down to Esterillos from there...now...it is awful...truly terrible.

Mal Pais was a special place for me for the better part of 8 years..then a couple of surf camps rushed in, people from the states gobbled land to make what they hoped to be lots of money.

I remember it as being just the Italian Restaurant...where lighting was limited, surf was incredible with no one but you and 2 or 3 others...this even in 1998!

We would surf in the mornings, and drive up into the hills of what is now officially Cabo Blanco. We would watch Macaws and Howlers right above us with no one around for miles. We would watch them for 3 hours at a clip never getting bored.

The gems are still there! GPS and paved roads make them harder to seek out and view for yourself.

If I wanted to make money I would go to CoCo....it will be Jaco in 5 years, Liberia Airport will push it even further. I just hope urban planners run the growth rather than the developers.

I can't rave enough about Mary's Place in Negra...best food we ate all over Costa..they are French but cater to a fusion on the menu trying to keep things typical to the Tico diet. You must go. There are no reviews on here about them and there isn't even a place to view the restaurant.

I love Costa and it's people! I just wish everyone else didn't selfishly enjoy it the same from the US and Europe.

La Libertad is the next surf spot for me in El Salvador. I will write about it in September.

Edited: 21 April 2010, 21:57
San Francisco...
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9. Re: Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

Little Tip...

Playa Marbella is a gem!~ Gem I say!

10. Re: Costa Rica...a 10 day trip - the then and now perspective

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