Pura Vida – Shades of Sand in the Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Pura Vida – Shades of Sand in the Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica

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Objective

To soak up some sun while visiting Costa Rica’s iconic beaches.

We chose Playa Hermosa in the Province of Puntarenas, a few miles south of Jacó. (Keep in mind there are two Playa Hermosas in Costa Rica.)

When We Went

May 2016. May is part of the rainy season, but we stayed pretty dry while at the beach.

Our time on the coast was very hot. We spent all day outside, and there was no escaping the heat. The place we stayed at did not have air conditioning.You could tell that the locals were well adjusted to the heat, but as for myself, being so accustomed to having AC regularly, found it hard to fall asleep these nights.

Length of time

We spent five days in total in Costa Rica, half of which was spent on the Pacific Ocean.

The other half of the trip we visited a volcano in La Fortuna. This post focuses on our time at the beach only, you can read more about our time in the rainforest here.

Language

Spanish is what the locals speak. We found that people would greet us in Spanish but then would switch over English. We encountered many English speakers where we were.

Currency

The colón. Most places we went also accepted USD and credit cards (but they would always give us change in colón). Be sure to keep some smaller bills of the local currency on hand at all times.

Map

This may not be the exact route we took.

This map is provided to give you a visual representation of where we were, and to help you approximate travel time between cities.

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Check out what the CDC recommends for travelling to Costa Rica here.

Hygiene

Toilets work a bit differently in Costa Rica as the septic systems cannot handle toilet paper. Instead, little trash cans are located next to the toilet for disposal. Also, when you are in a public restroom remember to grab your toilet paper before you enter the stall, it is generally kept on the outside.

Health

Zika was a known risk in Costa Rica when we went.

We didn’t need to get any new vaccines before going.

We did not avoid drinking the water or ice on this trip. Neither of us got sick. Do your own research and use your own judgement to decide what is right for you.

Safety

We felt safe where we went on this trip and comfortable enough to walk around by ourselves.

ALWAYS be aware of what’s going on around you. (Especially if you do not speak Spanish.)

Insurance

We didn’t purchase travel insurance before going. Do your own research and use your own judgement to decide what is right for you.

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Plane

We flew into and out of Costa Rica’s capital city, San José. (I look for cheap flights on skyscanner and cheapoair.)

We used Spirit Airlines, a budget friendly option. You are only allowed one small personal item free of charge and no free drinks or snacks. You get what you pay for, so be prepared.

Shuttle Service

We used Ride Costa Rica as airport pick up, and when traveling from city to city. We booked this transportation in advance. It was fairly reasonably priced and we were able to choose from a list of pick-up and drop-off spots on the day and time of our liking. Of course public transportation would have been our cheapest option, but we wanted something convenient and stress-free. The staff was very helpful and I would highly recommend this service. There are several tourist shuttle services like this available.

Public Transportation – The Bus

The bus was definitely the cheapest transportation route we used. Our Airbnb host gave us directions when we needed to use it, but it seemed fairly easy to navigate on your own. Just keep in mind everything will be in Spanish so you’ll need to make sure you pay attention and know your stops.

On Foot

While in Playa Hermosa we were able to get around well enough by walking.

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We used Airbnb.

We enjoyed using Airbnb on this international trip. We messaged a few different hosts before we booked our reservation, asking them questions about the area to help make our decision.  

A Surf Shack at Las Olas

The Las Olas property was a collection of small wooden surf shacks with slanted green roofs, staggered across the beach, looking out to the water. There was a common area with a restaurant, a small seating area with tables and chairs, and hanging wooden swings and hammocks for relaxing where we ended up spending a good deal of time hanging out. A convenience store and a few other restaurants and bars were also within walking distance of our room.

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Our time on the coast was very hot.

Clothing & Gear

  • Shorts, tanks, and t-shirts
  • Sandals
  • Swimsuits
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent (The bugs weren’t as bad here as when we were in the rainforest, they were still around and biting.)

Electronics

The electricity used in Costa Rica is 110 volts, 60 cycle, which is the same as the US, therefore we did not need to use a converter. The plugs are typically the 2 pronged flat type, which is also the same as the US, so we didn’t need to bring an adapter either.

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Convenience Store

A convenience store was located two properties down from us and had the basics stocked.

Foods We Enjoyed

Everything we ate was SO FRESH.

We loved the fruit and smoothies.

Coffee was everywhere.

Rice and beans were a part of every meal.

Seafood was plentiful on the coast.

Sushi was conveniently prepared at Las Olas, and we happened to be around for sushi night. We ordered a few different rolls, including one topped with plantains, a new concept for me. The creaminess of the plantains against the stickiness of the rice was a delicious combination.

Restaurants and Bars Nearby

A few other restaurants and bars were also within walking distance of our room, we ordered a really tasty seafood soup from the restaurant next door.

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Back on the Water

After getting our butts kicked by an outrageous volcano hike the day before, we were quite relieved to be back on the water.

Our shuttle dropped us off at our second pre-planned destination city of the trip, Playa Hermosa, a few miles south of Jacó. We wandered around for a few minutes before finding the place we would be staying the next two nights, Las Olas, another spot we found on Airbnb.

Playa Hermosa (A Black Sand Beach)

Playa Hermosa is a black sand beach, formed from the volcanoes. The beach was a long stretch of course, chocolate-colored sand, bordered by a thick wall of palms.

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This was my first time visiting a black sand beach, and it gets hot in the sun. I mean REALLY HOT. I had to leave my flip flops on right up until my feet touched the water. The sand was so dark in color that it made the illusion that you had just rolled around in the dirt instead of gone for a dip.

Surf’s Up

As is with much of Costa Rica’s coastline, Playa Hermosa is a popular surfing spot. There was a surf competition going on when we arrived. We were warned to be careful in the water as the waves were large and the water was quite rough. 

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For these reasons, it was not the best swimming beach.

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Manuel Antonio National Park

Bus Ride to the Park

We were contemplating what to do on our last day in Costa Rica when our Airbnb host recommended that we go check out Manuel Antonio National Park. (Visit the park website here.) She gave us directions to the bus stop and how to orient ourselves to the park.

In our case, we needed to walk over to the stop closest to Las Olas, take that bus to Quepos to catch another bus, and finally arrive at Manuel Antonio National Park.


A Guided Tour

Outside the park, there was a plethora of vendors selling everything you can imagine. We wandered over to the entrance. A man approached us offering to give us a guided tour of the park. I was skeptical at first, as I am leery of anyone who approaches me intent on selling me something (Alex is in sales, and is good at feeling out these sorts of things). We definitely could have navigated the area perfectly fine on our own, but the guide was a nice touch. He knew about all those little details that would have gone missed by our untrained eyes. From tiny insects in the brush to sloths way up high in the treetops, nothing went unseen by this guy.

He also warned us of the family of organized crime that had been taking advantage of tourists in the park lately…a family of raccoons!

White-Headed Capuchin Monkeys

We went on and explored the rest of the park on our own. We came across many different birds and lizard species, as well as several white-headed capuchin monkeys. The monkeys are quite accustomed to visitors in the park as they have absolutely no fear, they weren’t concerned at all when we walked right past them on the path.

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Playa Manuel Antonio (A White Sand Beach)

And then, there it was.

Soft, white sand, leading up to brilliantly blue water, dotted with lazy palms.

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We had found our swimming beach.

The palms helped immensely to block the sun, we found a nice shady spot and posted up for the afternoon.

When we got back to Playa Hermosa that evening, we went over to the restaurant next door for one last seafood meal before it was time to leave – we had a flight out in the morning.

Cutting it Close at the San José Airport

We had arranged a ride from our host’s friend to the airport the next day. Looking back, this was probably a poor decision as we had trouble finding him in the morning, and the clock was ticking…planes don’t wait for you. We ending up making it to San José, but not as early as we had intended. When we pulled up to the airport there was a very long line, it went all the way out through the front door. In the end, we made it home just fine (and on time, to boot). I’d definitely recommend getting to the airport a couple of hours early for an international flight, to avoid stressing out like we did.

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