Liberia serves primarily as the gateway to the Nicoya Peninsula (photos). It’s not a very big town but Costa Rica made the investment to build an international airport on the west side of Liberia along the road that leads to Nicoya. The Pacific side of the peninsula is lined with beautiful beaches, many with very good surfing opportunities. Playa Del Coco, a popular beach destination, is only about 30km from Liberia.
We spent 3 nights in Liberia getting our bearings and planning our next moves in Costa Rica. We stayed at a small but pleasant Hostel that is conveniently located near the bus station, the mercado and a supermarket, Maxi Bodega, which I believe is part of the Walmart empire. Our hosts, two young men, one a native of Costa Rica (Jesus), the other a transplant from Indianapolis (Shawn), made us feel very welcome and comfortable. Jesus is an artist and some of his paintings are hanging in the rooms of the hostel. The day after our arrival, they were heading to Playa del Coco for a half day to enjoy the beach and invited us to go along so that we could check it out and see if we wanted to spend a few days there. While there, we checked out some of the accommodations and booked a room for a subsequent visit.
While in Liberia, at the suggestion of our hosts, we visited Cortez Cascadas, a very pleasant waterfall with a nice pool for swimming. This is located off the highway about 10km south of Liberia. We also visited a Costa Rica tourism office in Liberia and were able to ask questions and get advice about our upcoming itinerary.
Clearly, as expected, Costa Rica is substantially more advanced economically than the rest of Central America (with the possible exception of Panama). The vehicles on the highways are newer, the towns have “upscale” shopping and costs are higher. We are able to find reasonably priced places to stay but food costs are on par with moderately priced US options.
So, from Liberia, we spent 4 nights in Playa del Coco at a simple hotel, (Cabinas del Coco) immediately across the boardwalk from the ocean. Costa Rica has implemented a restriction against any structure within 50 meters of the beach at high tide and this place is just at that point. Playa del Coco is near the Papagayo peninsula which is where the Four Seasons has a very high end resort property. Coco is a relatively tranquil town with a nice beach and gentle surf with lots of restaurants and souvenir shops meant to appeal to the tourists. There is also an undercurrent of real estate sales promotions. One of the partners in the hotel where we stayed told us that they are partnering with Marriott next year to re-develop their property, partially in anticipation that cruise ships will begin visiting Coco. We also took a walk to the next beach to the south, Playa Ocotal, smaller and less developed than Coco.
From Coco, we scooted further down the Pacific coast to Playa Samara, a hot, 3 bus segment trip. Samara sits on a large south facing beach (since it’s near the tip of the Peninsula) with a gentle slope into the water. When we booked the place to stay in Samara we didn’t realize that it wasn’t in the main part of town, but is down the beach to the east, about a 20 minute walk. This turned out to be a nice thing. Casa Brian sits across a dirt road from the beach and is owned by an ex-Canadian named Brian who has created a very chill spot with a nice open air patio with hammocks, books, music and shared kitchen. Nearby is a simple market and a couple of places that serve meals at dinner but if you want more options then make the walk into “town”. Also, since the fishermen bring in fish every day, we chose to get some red snapper and prepare it for our dinner one night. Very nice. One day, we made the walk down to the next beach to the south, Playa Carillo which has no real development on it and was pretty much deserted when we were there.
We’ve enjoyed our time in this part of Costa Rica and can see how lots of people have felt the pull to remain here or to invest in property here to visit often, especially those from the colder parts of North America. It’s hot but we’re told that the really hot time is around March. Also, the mosquitos are relentless, but that’s been our experience so far throughout Nicaragua and Costa Rica. From here, we’ll be heading to higher elevations and (hopefully) cooler temps, but no doubt, the mosquitos will be remain.