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 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.
Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces, or states. Casa Las Brisas is located on the NW Pacific coast in the province of Guanacaste, which is named for the national tree of Costa Rica. The Guanacaste, or Elephant Ear tree (pictured above), is majestic and immense, characterized by it’s spherical crown. Cows, goats and sheep will often be seen lying under it’s shade during the hot, sunny afternoons. History says it was chosen in part to symbolize the protection that the people of Costa Rica receive from their government! The wood’s stunning natural color and grain make it ideal for furniture but it is illegal to cut it without permits. We are proud to have designed a custom front door crafted from this beautiful hardwood as a welcoming entrance to our home.
The Pochote tree is distinguishable by a trunk that is covered in sharp spines that project
an inch or more, keeping hungry predators from climbing up its trunk. This native tree is cultivated for use as lumber as it grows straight and tall. The wood of the pochote is white as opposed to the dark grains of teak (see below). It is used to make furniture, cabinets and veneers.
The very popular Teak tree is not native to Costa Rica but grows very well
there, so it is frequently grown on commercial plantations. It is in high demand around the world, so it has become a major export for Costa Rica, attracting a lot of investors. One of the first things I fell in love with when we first looked at Casa Las Brisas was the soaring, beamed teak ceilings in the main room and the main floor Master Suite.
Costa Rica is the country with the largest woody bamboo diversity in Central America. Bamboo is known as the plant of thousand uses. It is versatile, flexible and very strong. It is mostly used in construction, gardening, fishing, furniture and utensils. We found it is ideal as a cane ceiling material. It is harvested, cut, soaked to kill insects, and then dried and treated. The outdoor cane ceilings on the upper terrace and around the pool are all bamboo.
Although mainly used for it’s timber, the Cortez Amarillo, or
Golden Trumpet tree, is found all around the grounds of the house and is a spectacular flowering tree in the dry season. It drops it’s leaves and the entire tree turns bright yellow until the flowers fall to the ground, creating a bright yellow glow.
A giant in the rainforest and one of the more unique trees is actually distinguished by it’s
unusual trunk. The Kapok can grow as much as 13 feet per year and tops out around 200 feet. It has multiple buttresses that sometimes extend 10 feet around its base. It’s wood is lightweight and porous; good for making carvings and canoes. Soaps can be made from it’s oils and other parts of it are used as medicines. Common in Costa Rica, we have also seen it in Brazil, and for indigenous tribes this tree was holy.
There are countless other interesting and beautiful trees but these are a few favorites because many of them are a part of Casa Las Brisas and contribute to the unique beauty of the beach house.
Needless to say, the last few months have been a huge struggle for everyone around the world. Quarantine at home all alone or with extended family each pose challenges that we have never had to deal with in the past. We have all missed many activities we used to take for granted, and will be ready to embrace again once it is safe to do so. Travel is at the top of the list!
Renowned international media such as Lonely Planet, Condé Nast Traveler, Matador Network, Canadian Traveler, Profession Voyages, Forbes, El Mundo de España, among others, have highlighted Costa Rica as a destination to consider once the crisis passes. Even Good Morning America highlighted the story of a British family who recreated the Costa Rican rain forest at home after canceling their trip to our country.
Costa Rica is the best country for travelers looking for great experiences. “We are the world leader in nature tourism and the second in adventure tourism, according to the World Economic Forum. The tourist who visits us has a variety of options to do throughout the country. Activities such as canopy zip lining, white water rafting, hiking, surfing and scuba diving are just a few, which are also combined with cultural elements and authentic unique experiences,” said Shirley Calvo, executive director of the National Tourism Chamber (Canatur). This was also reflected in a TripAdvisor ranking in which “Worldwide, Costa Rica proved to be the favorite destination for travel, ranking first in the list of countries”. – CostaRicaNews.com
When You are Ready to Travel, Casa Las Brisas is Ready for You! Renting a private villa with stunning ocean views is the ideal spot for a family vacation. Having privacy and far less contact with other travelers and staff is a tremendous plus. Balance crowded hotel lobbies, elevators, hotel restaurants and community pool versus having your own spacious vacation home with a huge kitchen, private pool and little to no interaction with others required. Casa Las Brisas is the perfect beach house for your family vacation!
Without a doubt, Costa Rica is a small country that offers big experiences to all. Although we do not know when the social confinement will end, we can assure you that once this period passes, this beautiful country will welcome you with open arms and the warmth and kindness of it’s people.
The particular area of Costa Rica where Casa Las Brisas is located is known as The Gold Coast. There are countless beaches, each with their own unique features and vibe. Some are renowned for surfing, others are more secluded and calm, some are ideal for boogie boarding and body surfing and others are lined with palms and banyan trees to escape the sun to read a good book or take a nap. Many are covered with shells of every description, some have almost none. There are white sand beaches and black sand beaches. Whatever your mood, there is a perfect beach for you to discover and enjoy.
I may be partial, but…Playa Flamingo embodies so many of the great things I look for in a beach; 1 mile of pristine, white sand, lava outcroppings on each end, gentle surf allows for paddle boarding, kayaking and body surfing, ideal for early morning walks before coffee, tree lined so I can set up my beach chairs and cooler, and very few other people to intrude on my serenity. It has been ranked as the #2 beach in all of Costa Rica, with Playa Conchal directly across the bay ranked #1. Casa Las Brisas is perched on a hillside directly above Flamingo and has stunning panoramic views of Brasilito and Conchal to the south.
But even I like to have a change once in awhile, so it’s easy to drive 5-10 minutes in either direction to find just the right one for the day. All the beaches are open to the public, but some are only accessed by driving down a twisted, bumpy dirt road in the middle of nowhere, but all of a sudden it opens up and you are in a pristine, lovely spot, frequently with only a handful of other people, and maybe a few dogs.
“It’s true. I’ve spent some time in Tamarindo and Playas del Coco, but if you look at the coastline between them — Playas Grande, Conchal, Brasilito, Flamingo, Potrero, Pan de Azúcar and Danta — you’ll find a microcosm of almost everything Costa Rica has to offer within a half-hour drive.” – Travel writer for Tico Times 2016
The Resource Book at Casa Las Brisas has an entire section devoted to neighboring beaches and how to reach them. The beach house has coolers, boogie boards, beach chairs and towels so all you need is sunscreen, a good book, beer and ice!
On our very first visit to Costa Rica, way back in 2003, we hired a private guide who took us up to Rincon de la Vieja to the Borinquen Mountain Resort & Spa . It’s located in the mountain range just north of the Liberia airport about an hour drive from our beachfront vacation home, Casa Las Brisas. Since there are so many activities to choose from at the resort, it’s best to make a day of it.
We began with the Canopy Tour zipline which is a series of ziplines starting high above the jungle canopy, zigzagging over gorges and waterfalls before ending at the bottom. The guides are very experienced and reassuring. It’s an exhilarating experience that is a great family adventure suitable for older children and grandparents alike.
Once our feet were back on solid ground we rode on horseback up through the forest to a hidden waterfall. We then took a sauna in a hut perched over bubbling water heated by the volcano, then slathered ourselves with grey volcanic mud and ended up in warm mineral baths. This was all followed by a delicious lunch in their open air restaurant. What a day! My only regret was not having enough time to schedule a spa treatment, but that can be for another time.
For a cool YouTube video about the Borinquen Resort, click the link below.
This perfect rainbow, puffy Cumulus clouds and shimmering Pacific signal brighter times ahead. Flashback to last May; this was taken from our upper terrace at Casa Las Brisas after a week of thunderstorms and high winds. Instead of sipping our customary morning coffee outside in the rocking chairs listening to the parrots chatter or watching whales frolic in the ocean, we spent our days indoors reading, playing cards, watching movies and cooking a lot of great food (and maybe lots of day drinking…) Hmm, this is sounding a lot like what we have all been doing for the past month during these difficult times of social distancing and quarantine. But then one morning we woke up to a lovely sunny day and this huge rainbow parked right over the ocean in Flamingo Bay off our terrace. It signaled the end of the stormy weather and the return to our normal beach life and days filled with hikes, golf, lunches at our favorite restaurants, lazing around the pool, and maybe more day drinking:)