Depending on where you go or what you do, three days can be a short period of time. My husband and I take a lot of exploration trips for our retirement, but since I don’t have unlimited vacation (which makes me sad!), many of these trips have to be pretty quick.
Luckily, my husband and I both incredibly decisive so we can decide if we like some place incredibly quickly. Recently, we spent a week in Costa Rica. The first half was spent in Nosara, an itty-bitty town in the country’s Northwest quadrant, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Here’s what we learned about Nosara (and Costa Rica!) in 3 days:
A Car is Necessary to Reach Nosara
Car Insurance is Mandatory and Expensive
I booked a car online through Orbitz for $30 for the week. I felt like I’d scored a great deal. Turns out it’s super cheap to rent a car because Costa Rica makes the renters take out mandatory insurance before driving the car off the lot. We’ve been able to waive these “mandatory insurance fees” in other countries because our credit cards provide coverage for rental cars. However, this is not the case in Costa Rica. It’s government mandated that all renters are also covered by Costa Rican insurance when driving a car in the country. These insurance requirements cost approximately $300 for the week for the cheapest version. So the car cost $330 instead of $30.
Note: It wasn’t just our rental car company either. We talked to several other tourists who rented cars from different companies and ran into the same issue. However, they did not rent their car for $30 so they ended up paying hundreds more for the rental car than we did. Score one for us!
The Roads that Lead to Nosara are an Adventure
This is probably the reason why the rental car companies make tourists take out insurance. The road from Liberia to Nosara is paved and in pretty good condition until Nicoya, a city about 35 minutes from Nosara. I would give the actual mileage from Nicoya to Nosara, but that would be misleading. The roads from Nicoya to Nosara are in such poor conditions that 10 miles takes much longer than it normally would flying down the paved, smooth highway.
The road turns to dirt after Nicoya and is filled with large, gaping potholes. We arrived at the tail-end of the rainy season here so many of the roads had areas that were washed out from frequent storms. We even got to do our first water crossing! This is not atypical in Costa Rica and the locals say if you can see the bottom of the river, it’s fine to cross. We trusted them and had no issues. If you ever go to Costa Rica and head to a remote town like Nosara, I highly recommend an SUV.
Note: Livestock such as cows and horses on the road are also common obstacles.
Monkeys and Birds are the Alarm Clock
Monkeys of all varieties are everywhere. They climb the power lines in the morning and hang out in the trees nearby. And even when we couldn’t see them, we certainly heard them. Costa Rica is home to the howler monkey, a big black primate, that sounds like a lion roaring when it howls. It is very distinct and if someone didn’t know the sound, it could be very frightening. I loved the noise. It sounded like the trees were filled with big, friendly giants.
The birds are just as chatty as the monkeys. This shouldn’t have been to surprising to me since Costa Rica is known to attract bird watchers from all over the world.
Between our flying friends and our monkey friends, we never slept long past 7am and that was okay with us. Our AirBnB’s owner horse also liked to neigh at the monkeys, so he made for an additional alarm for us. The horse’s name was Monkey and he was adorable so we were okay with 3 alarm clocks!
Nosara is home to a decent sized ex-pat community. One of these ex-pats has taken it upon himself to bring craft beer to Nosara. There’s a decent craft beer presence in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, but it hasn’t expanded much past there. Luckily, Burgers and Beer, in Nosara, brings Costa Rican microbrews to tourists and locals alike. One of the beers we tried here was even a collaboration with Stone Brewing, a well-known North American brewer. It tasted like Dragon Fruit and was sumptuous. This was by far the best micr0brew spot we found in Costa Rica.
Adventure is around every corner
Costa Rica is known for adventure, especially in some of the more rural areas like Nosara. Places like Nosara, with wide open spaces and plenty of undeveloped land, make for great locations for eco-toursim. There were plenty of opportunities to go off the beaten path and try surfing, whitewater rafting, and ziplining. Since Nosara has the longest and highest ziplining course in all of Central America, we chose ziplining with Miss Sky Canopy Tours. The tour allowed us to fly 900 feet over a river and also view monkeys sitting and singing in the trees. It was gorgeous!
Locals are Making a Difference
Sibu Animal Sanctuary was founded less than 20 years ago by a retired American couple named Vicki and Gary. These two had recently moved to Costa Rica when a local Costa Rican boy gifted their daughter a baby howler monkey named Zoe. Gary and Vicki realized this monkey couldn’t survive on its own as an infant. But they also realized Zoe couldn’t be a pet and needed to be wild. So they worked to raise Zoe but also keep her animal instincts. In doing so, they realized there were a lot of other monkeys that needed help as well. Many monkeys are hit by cars or electrocuted on electrical poles. So Vicky and Gary started taking in these injured monkeys as well and nursing them back to health.
Sibu runs entirely on donations and volunteers and continues to be a healing place for the monkeys, who are all eventually returned to the wild. They allow visitors to see their operations but visitors cannot hold or pet the monkeys. Instead they educate visitors on their efforts to save monkeys. You will learn a ton about the monkeys and the effect that humans have on their habitat. Most likely, other cute critters, like the beautiful bizote, will be spotted on the property as well.
Life is Lived at the Beach
Nosara is home to some of the best waves in the world. Surfers flock to its shores to try out their skills. The water isn’t exactly warm, like the Caribbean, but it isn’t terribly cold either. And after sweating up a storm practicing surfing, the water feels completely wonderful. The best part is that the tide only comes in twice a day so the time that one is able to spend surfing is really valued. And when the tide goes out, it leaves behind beautiful seashells in its wake. I even found a seashell that looked like a shark’s tooth.
Even Celebrities make this place their Getaway
The town of Nosara has different neighborhoods that are connected by jungle trails. We walked the paths between neighborhoods and stumbled upon a Skatepark in the town where G-love was set to play on Friday. Sadly we left Friday afternoon, so we didn’t get to see him but the whole town planned to come out for it. The town’s skatepark is brand new and attracts big-time skaters, such as the legendary Tony Hawk. We saw him skate for free and do his signature hand-plant!
All of Life’s Necessities are Available here
Despite being an itty-bitty town far from any large cities, all the things we needed here, we could easily find. We bought our Thanksgiving dinner at the Nosara Supermarket, which has all of the usual foods that can be found in the states, as well as some of the freshest fruit in the area. If you don’t want to drive to the Nosara Supermarket (which is a 20 minute drive from many places in the area), there’s plenty of grocery and service stores to shop at as well. We even learned that the liquor stores in town sell fruit.
Not Everyone Speaks English
And that’s okay. It allowed us to practice our Spanish. It’s also amazing how much better you remember words when you hear them used in an actual conversation. For example at the end of our ziplining tour, one of the guides who spoke no English, used a jungle plant to stamp our skins. The jungle plant is pressed flat against your body and leaves a white outline of the plant on your skin. After tattooing my husband’s arms with the plant, the Spanish speaking man yelled, “Pecho, pecho” and pushed the plant flat against my husband’s chest to leave a tattoo on his shirt. For the rest of my life, I will remember the word for chest in Spanish because of this interaction.
You Adapt to Pura Vida
Pura Vida is a way of life in Nosara, and it’s contagious. Simply translated from Spanish to English, this means Pure Life. Pura Vida has an even deeper meaning, which is an expression of joy and eternal optimism. It’s not joy based on material things, but on rich experiences. This saying describes this country perfectly. I caught the Pura Vida wave when I was there and we got to experience it even more when we went to Tamarindo for the second half of our trip. Keep an eye out for my next post on Tamarindo and in the meantime, feel free to post about your Pura Vida experiences.