Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vamos a La Playa!

We love living in Escazu. It's convenient, centrally located, and has a magnificent, spring-like climate. There's only one thing missing... a beach! With two coastlines, Costa Rica has plenty of playas to explore. So far, we've only checked out a few on the Pacific side. There are many more in the northwestern province (Guanacaste) and on the Caribbean coastline that are on our list!

The closest ocean-front beaches are in a town called Jacó (ha-KO), which is about 60 miles from San Jose. Jacó has a reputation for being a party town, filled with surfers, drugs, and ladies of the night. It's also a popular weekend destination due to its proximity to the Central Valley.

We didn't have very high expectations for Jacó, but were pleasantly surprised by it! The town felt perfectly safe and family-friendly during the day. The beaches were also nice and wide, with beautiful views of the surrounding hills. There were only a couple of high-rise condos dotting the coastline, but the remnants of a former real estate boom were evident from the half-built complexes that were scattered around town. Jacó and its surrounding beaches seem like a very livable place, thanks to their good highway access and a nice variety of shops and restaurants. However, the only places you'll find us are on the beach (with our toes in the water) or at a soda (with a cold drink in our hands!) The weather's way too steamy for anything else!

The "overdeveloped" Jacó beach
Eating casado at a local soda
We recently visited Nosara, a small village on the Nicoya Peninsula. Nosara is a 6-hour drive from San Jose, the last hour of which is on unpaved roads... the really bumpy, you-have-to-drive-5-mph-or-you'll-break-an-axle type of unpaved roads, complete with goats, sheep, cows, and more!

Nosara is known for two things: surfing and yoga. There are 3 beaches (Playas Nosara, Pelada, and Guiones) in the area. What a difference from the beaches in Jacó! Nosara was dusty, dry, and brown. I suspect that all of the tourist photos are taken during the rainy season, when the hills are alive with greenery!

Entrance to Playa Guiones
Surfer and the abandoned Nosara Beach Hotel
While there was plenty of beach to go around, it was largely exposed. The sun was too strong for baby Matteus (only 3 weeks old at the time), so he spent most of the day napping in our air-conditioned room.

Our little surfer dude
 Thankfully, the temperatures dropped enough by sunset for a family trip to the beach.

The village of Nosara  has several restaurants, surf shops, and hotels. English is widely spoken, both by the businesses owners and its patrons. We couldn't remember the last time we'd been surrounded by so many English speakers!

After our border run to Panama, we spent an afternoon in Uvita, a small beach village on the southern Pacific coast. There were heavy thunderstorms that day, but the rain cleared long enough for us to spend a couple of hours at the beach. Don't let the gray clouds fool you; the weather was warm and comfortable!

Aside from the surfers, we had the beach to ourselves!

A single trail of footsteps to the sea

So which of these beaches is our favorite? I'm not saying, but I'll give you a hint... it's just south of Jacó. Come visit us here in Costa Rica and we'll take you there!