If you have two weeks to go anywhere, what’s your destination of choice? Would it change if you had a toddler in tow?
Recently an opportunity came to travel somewhere from the northeast US for a week. It was winter, cold and blah. Our small crew wanted to experience a new place together, but also find ways to unwind and get off the grid.
Costa Rica won by a landslide. I knew rainforest hiking wouldn’t be doable this time with a two-year-old. She’s also prohibited from many wildlife areas because she’s small and vulnerable. But to dip our toes into some Costa Rican culture, food, and beachy fun was definitely possible in a week.
Getting to the Nicoya Peninsula and Nosara
There’s two major airports in Costa Rica: San Jose and Liberia. To reach Nosara, it was easier to fly to Liberia and drive about three hours to the Guanacaste province in a rented 4×4 car. There’s definitely a lot of bumps and potholes on dirt roads to the destination, so you can score private transport if that works better for you. There are a few rental car hubs in town once you arrive, as well as taxis and tuk tuks. However, we liked having our own vehicle for our toddler’s safety and flexibility.
While on your way to Nosara by car, there’s lots of “tico” restaurants to check out along the route. We opted for El Paso Del Vaquero for some local pork, nachos and rice the little one devoured. There’s lots of room to run around. You can have your first sip of the local Imperial beer here too.
Where to stay and splurge in Nosara
For access to a full kitchen and multiple rooms, a holiday rental made the most sense on this trip with family. The Guiones Beach Club offers a gated complex within a few minutes walk to the beach. It’s not as walkable to the restaurants as other places to stay, but parking was never an issue for us to get ‘downtown’. Our place, Casa Olas Blancas, was the whole second floor with two bedrooms, a huge balcony, and a semi-private pool.
There’s more secluded options farther in the mountains as well, especially if you’re keen on spotting wildlife. Or, you can find bed-and-breakfast style spots in town closer to surf schools and eateries.
Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort
The holiday home rental worked perfectly for a family, but there’s tons of options for accommodations in Nosara. From hostels to five-star resorts, there are all types of travelers in the area.
Usually I don’t include places I haven’t stayed personally in guides, but I had a fair amount of time to poke around the luxurious Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort.
Booking just a spa treatment or class is simple if you’d like a relaxing afternoon. The Costa Rican masseuse who offered a wonderful, relaxing treatment made my afternoon. I loved the room had surrounding windows that offered views of a little waterfall and foliage, but still completely private.
Afterwards, it’s worth ordering a smoothie and sitting by the pool for some sun. There’s also a restaurant onsite and other amenities like surf lessons, fitness classes, and more that guests can utilize.
Harmony Hotel Juice Bar
We had a quick visit to Harmony Hotel that also was stunning and inviting. They’re known for lots of tasty vegan treats and the juice bar, outside and surrounded by lush trees. The toddler tucked into a coconut smoothie and a massive vegan cookie straight away. The hotel has airy, bright rooms as well as some villas and bungalows available.
All outdoors all the time!
By December in New England, we all were itching to soak up some sun. Of course, Nosara is ideal for those who love to be on the ocean, dine al fresco, and feel connected to natural beauty.
The main beach is Playa Guiones, boasting sandy shores and gnarly waves. For littles, we had a pretty little cove that broke the waves and was perfect for splashing/swimming. There’s a rule in the area against construction right on the ocean, so this makes for a secluded and undeveloped experience.
If you want to just enjoy the view, especially at sunset, book a table at La Luna. Super popular with tourists, this restaurant had lots of fresh seafood dishes, homemade appetizers, and fruity cocktails right on the beach. If you eat early it’s family friendly; then the sandy outdoor space later opens up to a breezy, chic nightlife spot.
Make your own meals in Nosara
Organico Natural Market and Single Fin
Near all the action is a good base for fresh produce, prepared food and pantry essentials. Find lots of fresh, healthy items for cooking and snacking at this small yet stocked store. My favorite part is at the back, where you can order a savory poke bowl to-go from Single Fin.
You’ll find more options and better prices at Nosara Super. While the organic options were nice to peruse nearby, it was worth doing the bulk of our shopping at the more local option. Not to mention, this is where you can buy all the Costa Rican coffee and chocolate to take home.
Fresh Costa Rican feasts
Here’s a few more places to have some great food in a laid-back atmosphere. But go beyond the recommendations too – there’s a ton of options in Nosara and beyond to eat!
Beach Dog Cafe
Get the ceviche and a pile of tacos – then tuck in! I loved the chill vibe at Beach Dog where we could while away an afternoon. Staff was so kind to entertain my tiny toddler when she got antsy at the end so I could sip a pina colada in peace. That was worth the meal alone!
Farm-to-table food is the jam at El Local. We could have spent hours having fresh beers and burgers in this outdoor restaurant that was slightly elevated for a nice night out.
Esh Mediterranean street food
A quick stop for some gyros while driving around is nice on a rainy afternoon. The cafe is seasonal and partners with a bakery next door.
This seemed like one of the best places for larger groups or families to dine. I had a traditional casado plate full of beans, rice, veggies, and fish. I wish I saved the casado for a more tico restaurant, but it was filling nonetheless. My kid loved her fresh watermelon smoothie and pizza.
Coffee breaks and treats between meals
Olo Alaia Surf and Brew
Get your surfing equipment and a steaming espresso while walking along one of Nosara’s main streets. They can help you find yoga classes, surf lessons and anything else you’re looking for while on the peninsula.
Seekret Spot gelato
Honestly, the ice cream was average, but it was definitely welcomed on a 95-degree day. There’s two locations in Nosara to get a quick cone.
El Jardin coffee
Have a pastry and beverage at this small coffee shop inside a permanently parked bus.It’s super cute, cozy, and close to other places to poke around in.
We really dug Nosara as a week-long beach vacation destination. If solo, or when my kiddo is older, I’d definitely return to see the rainforest or experience more neighboring towns. But it was just enough time to unwind and enjoy a small taste of Costa Rican fun.