Costa Rica was awarded the recognition as the “most desirable” country in 2022 during the twenty-first installment of the Wanderlust Travel Awards. These awards are given by the renowned British magazine Wanderlust in London.
Costa Rica was also recognized for being a pioneer in ecotourism and possessing an “extraordinary tropical forest”. Also for the exuberance of its coasts and for being home to more than 500,000 species that include sloths, toucans, sea turtles and many others.
By obtaining the main prize of the night with the gold category as “best desirable country”, Costa Rica outvoted other finalist destinations. Among them were Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, Peru, South Africa and Jordan.
Wanderlust is the UK’s oldest and most established travel magazine. It is also recognized for being at the forefront of sustainable travel for almost thirty years.
There are four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica, with the Howler being the most common around our coastal area in Guanacaste. We frequently hear them before actually seeing them, hence their very aptly name of “Howler”. They generally travel in groups or clans, swingling in the trees, hanging upside down munching on leaves or carefully running along fences or power lines. If you are driving and see people standing on the side of the road staring up and pointing or taking pictures, it’s likely there are a group of monkeys in the canopy above.
The other species commonly seen in our area is the very cute white-faced Capuchin monkey. We’ve seen them while playing golf and on the Palo Verde river trip. They are very social and will jump right on the boat and take bananas gently out of your hand. For a more extensive read on the Capuchins, click on the article from the Tico Times below:
There are many masseuses that set up along the beach road in Playa Flamingo, but to be truly pampered and relaxed on your vacation, it’s easy to schedule massages at Casa Las Brisas or over at the Casita.
We have used Orfa Massage for over a decade; she and her staff are outstanding. They bring everything and set up wherever you prefer, but the upper terrace or along the promenade is ideal; private and shaded, and you hear the waves crashing on the beach below.
They are all licensed, professional massage therapists. They can schedule up to three guests per hour. You choose the level of pressure and it will be one of the best, most relaxing massages you’ve ever had. We provide spa robes for your use during your stay. Her contact info is found in our Resource Book at the house.
Guanacaste is known as “dry tropical forest,” with the “dry” indicating that it doesn’t rain here as much as it normally does in other tropical regions. It can be cool and wet up in the mountains but 92 and sunny at the beach. Much of the cattle ranching is in this part of the country. The bougainvillea thrives!
December through April is called “summer” where there is literally not a drop of rain, while the Green season from May through early November is called “winter.” Temps are milder but never get below 70, with highs in the 80’s. Perfect beach weather! There is no spring and there is no fall.
I love the rain. It sounds awesome, with fat droplets hitting the palm fronds. It smells earthy and fresh. The first downpour washes everything clean – every leaf in the jungle. The rain also prompts fresh growth, making new plants spring up everywhere. A few good rains and everything greens up instantly; hence the Green Season. Our gardener once told us that all you have to do is spit a seed in the ground and something will grow!
One interesting feature of the Costa Rica rain is that it almost always occurs late in the afternoon or overnight. This means the mornings and early afternoons are sunny and have glorious blue skies. Even in the height of the rainy season in September and October, everyone can go about most or all of their day without getting wet. Play golf, go for a sail, surf, take a hike, go zip lining, lay around the pool, take a walk on the beach.
Sometimes it’s raining across the bay but sunny and dry over at Casa Las Brisas. It’s great fun to watch the storm move across the water and frequently miss our beach house completely. There are also awesome light shows where the lightning bolts snake across the sky sideways, upwards, or straight down, with the rumble of thunder in the distance; just stunning.
So if there is an occasional downpour, you find a hammock, sit on our covered terrace or curl up and take a nap. You read a book, a magazine, play some cards, some backgammon, you check Instagram. Also a perfect time to find an open air bar serving up cold Imperials, a local brew or an icy tropical cocktail. Embrace it; Pura Vida!
There are numerous gorgeous waterfalls with guided tours in the area around Liberia and Rincon de la Vieja: about 90 minutes from Casa Las Brisas in Playa Flamingo. Some are relatively easy to access and others are more challenging and would take up most of your day.
*The Llanos de Cortez Waterfall, pictured above, is located near the town of Bagaces, just a half hour south of Liberia and its international airport (LIR). It’s a short drive off the Pan American Highway (Route 1) and less than a two-hour trip from Playa Flamingo and other beach towns in Guanacaste. These majestic falls are also a convenient stop for those traveling from Arenal or Monteverde to those beautiful beaches of Guanacaste’s Gold Coast.
Another draw of the Llanos de Cortez is that it is relatively easy to access. The parking area, which is just an open lot, gets you very close to the waterfall. From there, it is a short 5 minute hike down.
Once you reach the bottom of the trail, you’ll see why Llanos de Cortez is considered to be one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful waterfalls. The falls are wide and wispy, with thin streams of water tumbling along the mossy rocks. Rocky cliffs are visible through the transparent cascade. To add to the grandeur, thick forest surrounds the falls with many birds and sometimes even monkeys bellowing from the trees.
At the base of the falls is a nice pool that is good for swimming or wading, and there is a sandy area to just hang out and relax.
*Near Rincon de la Vieja, four waterfalls flow, and all of them have pools where you can swim. Getting to the waterfalls is an adventure on its own – either by hiking or horseback riding. The Hacienda Guachipelin Adventure Center organizes waterfall tours. Below are two waterfall tours depending on your time and level of adventure.
The 115-foot (35-meter) Victoria Waterfall on the Rio Negro (Black River) is where the river tubing trips start their adventure downriver. The surrounding canyon has unique vegetation and topography, and you can swim in the pool at the waterfall’s base.
How to get there: A 45-minute each-way horseback ride on a scenic trail, and a short, steep descent to the waterfall; or a one hour each-way scenic hike on the same trail.
Located near the Las Pailas entrance to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, the Oropéndola Waterfall plunges an impressive 82 feet (25 meters) in a beautiful canyon of the Rio Blanco (White River). The sparkling turquoise pool below makes for a refreshing swim.
How to get there: A 45-minute each-way horseback ride on a scenic trail, and short walk to the waterfall; or a 1.5 hour each-way scenic hike; or a 15-minute drive and short walk.
*If you’re looking for a unique, challenging and adventurous waterfall hike in Costa Rica, then you have to visit Catarata La Leona. La Leona waterfall is a small blue waterfall hidden deep in the canyons and caves of a gorgeous blue river. It requires hiking through a series of canyons and crossing rivers numerous times.
Catarata La Leona is not big but being hidden inside a cave made it all more special, especially considering we had to swim, climb and trek through the forest and rivers to get there! The Catarata La Leona hike takes around 3 hours total.
Best Time to Go
Peak dry season (January through April). The paths are dry, there isn’t any mud and no real strong river current. If you go during rainy season, you have to be more prepared for mud and a stronger current. Friends went end of January 2021 and the water level never went over their heads and the current wasn’t strong.
One of our friends went beginning of December, right at the end of the rainy season and she said the road was in awful conditions and the current was incredibly strong. They had to wear lifejackets.
Who Can Do The Catarata La Leona Hike?
As you can tell, this hike is not for the faint of heart which means you can’t be claustrophobic or acrophobic, you need to know how to swim and you need to be in decent shape. The actual distance is not long but it isn’t on a straight forward well maintained path. No ankle or knee problems, you must be able to walk on natural paths.
Luckily, there are several trails the guide can take you. There is the straightforward path that still requires the river crossing a couple times but does not take you through the caves or canyons. We saw a couple groups on this trail, mainly those with kids and older guests. Families can definitely do this tour. They will also give lifejackets to anyone who wants one and to kids and when the current is stronger.
Progress continues on the Flamingo Marina. It’s really taking shape and getting closer to opening in January 2022; located in the sheltered inlet of Potrero Bay leading into Flamingo. Casa las Brisas is located just up the hill on the prestigious North Ridge peninsula overlooking beautiful Playa Flamingo. A sport fishing paradise🐬
Evening falls and the horizon becomes dotted with round figures drawing closer to the coast with help from the motion of the waves. In a matter of minutes, greenish flippers and shells appear, slowly touching the wet sand and starting to dig deep holes with their rear flippers. One after another, Olive Ridley turtles come home and that’s how the “arribada” (Spanish for arrival), or “flota” (fleet), of turtles in Playa Ostional begins.
After leaving the water, the female crawls through the sand to choose a place to dig a hole and deposit; it must be a place with no vegetation and distance from the coast to protect the eggs from the high tide. The turtles dig a hole the size of their body; then, with their hind flippers, take the sand to make a deep hole and elongated shape where they drop their eggs.
After about 60 days of incubation, little turtles move from the sand to the top of the nest with their flippers. They come to the surface when the temperature has dropped, usually at night, as a way to evade predators and the hot sun. The baby turtles wait for the rest to join the group to go out to sea.
Why would a small village tucked away in Guanacaste, Costa Rica receive that visit? It’s difficult for science to explain it. What we do know is that Playa Ostional is one of the last hopes for protecting the Olive Ridley turtle, one of the most endangered species in the world. According to managing biologist for the Ostional Development Association (ADIO), the town is working to avoid their extinction, which would be tragic. Because the beach is not part of a National Park, but a Wildlife Refuge, the community itself prepares the beach to make it a safe place where the turtles can arrive. They have an agreement with the Ministry of Environment to manage the turtle habitat and the legal sale of 1% of the eggs they produce. It is also a huge tourist attraction which provides income for the community as well.
More turtles visit Ostional every year. However, factors beyond the community’s control, such as ocean temperatures and coastal drought, can affect the turtles continuing to come to the community. Climate temperature directly affects these species. The sand needs to be a certain temperature for an equal number of male and female turtles to hatch. If it exceeds 30° C (86° F), only females might hatch or the egg might not hatch altogether. When no males are born, the species population begins to decline due to lack of mating.
The community is confident that their conservation and education efforts will be successful so that these sea turtles will continue to return to the beach where they were hatched, year after year. If you are interested in witnessing this natural phenomenon, Ostional is located about an hour’s drive south of our beach house in Playa Flamingo. They nest throughout the year, but on the Pacific coast it is concentrated from July to November.
Back in the day the Flamingo Marina was the only marina between Acapulco and The Panama Canal.. After its closure in 2003 there had been several proposals, none of which could achieve governmental approval. The green light for the current redevelopment proposal was given in 2018. This has been a greatly anticipated project and construction finally got underway in 2019.
This area has one of the most famous white sand beaches, good infrastructure, a major international airport, medical clinics, good schools, lots of entertainment and hotels close by. The marina is finally adding back to Flamingo what Flamingo for a very long time has been known for. Luxury Homes, white and black sand beaches, sport fishing tournaments and a world class marina.
Flamingo Marina Scope:
The Flamingo Marina development includes approximately 175 wet slips, a dry boat storage facility, fueling station, heliport, and two mixed-use retail and residential sites totaling more than 15,000 m2.
By Fall 2021, 134 of the 175 slips should be ready. The target date for completion of Phase 2 is 2023. By then, Marina Flamingo’s developers expect to complete restaurants, shops, a hotel, and a conference center. It’s all “surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Costa Rican Gold Coast,” says John Matheson, president of F3 Marina. With the assistance of national and local government officials, the Coast Guard, and even the U.S. State Department, the property will be “a true destination marina.”
Three million years ago, Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica, was on the bottom of the ocean, along with the rest of what would become Central America. And then three tectonic plates got into a shoving match. Violent tectonic upheaval forced one above the other, with a third jostling for position, and Central America rose above the waves for the first time between 1 and 3 million years ago.
This created a thin little isthmus between North and South America — an improbable land link that allowed a vast variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects to migrate between North and South America. The first evidence of human settlement in Costa Rica comes from around 12,000 years ago (10,000 BC)
Costa Rica became one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, rivaling central Africa or the heart of the Amazon. Representing just 0.03% of the world’s total landmass, Costa Rica boasts 5% of its biodiversity — meaning that of every 20 creatures on earth, one of them lives here. The collision of two continents became a melting pot for flora and fauna.
Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica: The perfect coastline
In Flamingo, it was our good luck that such a beautiful coastline emerged from the ocean. Flamingo’s most striking feature is the prestigeous North Ridge — a green, steep peninsula about 1 kilometer long, jutting into the Pacific Ocean and pointing like a bony finger at the uninhabited Isla Plata.
The steepness of the hills here didn’t make road-building or home construction easy, but it ensured spectacular ocean views. To the north, the ridge looks out on the picturesque Potrero Bay and Potrero Beach, and to the south, it overlooks Brasilito Bay and Flamingo Beach. Casa Las Brisas is built on the southern facing side of the North Ridge, with commanding views of the mountains and a stunning 180 degree panoramic view of the Pacific, with perfect sunsets every night.
As good fortune would have it, right at the base of this peninsula was a sheltered bay that turned out to be the perfect space to build a marina. A successful marina operated here from the early 1990s until 2003, when it ran afoul of government authorities for disputed reasons. Today a new, state-of-the-art marina is under construction that will be open by the end of 2021 and be welcoming yachts by mid-2022. For more details read my blog post on The Flamingo Marina.
Adapted from an article written for Special Places of Costa Rica by Karl Kahler, author of “Frommer’s Costa Rica 2017”.
The best way to explore the many beautiful beaches along The Gold Coast of Guanacaste is by boat. Popular beaches are Hermosa, Coco, Ocotal, Flamingo, Conchal, Grande, Tamarindo, Avellana, Negra, Junquillal, Manzanillo and Ostional. These all have road access, hotels, restaurants, bars and water sport activities which can get busy with tourists during High Season. As you will discover by water, there are literally hundreds of tiny inlets with pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear water. These are often difficult to get to or totally inaccessible by land. Fishing boat and sailboat captains know every inch of the shoreline and can take you to remote spots along the coast to their favorite fishing places or ideal snorkeling locations. You can enjoy the quiet beauty of nature and be completely undisturbed by fellow travelers. You can also take a panga to shore to swim and have a private picnic on the beach.