Finding Adventure in Everything we Do

A Long Weekend in Guanacaste

In the far northwest corner of Costa Rica lies the Guanacaste Provence, a treasure trove of outdoor adventures. Referred to as the “Gold Coast” for its sunny shores and warm weather the area is usually sunny even during the rainy season that runs from May through mid-November. The stretch of shoreline from Playa Hermosa to Playa Coco abounds with beaches, national preserves and volcanos.  

As my 50th birthday loomed closer I started looking for the perfect destination for a milestone birthday celebration. Costa Rica was a natural front runner providing the right mix of sun and fun. We’d been to Costa Rica twice before, the first time 20 years ago for our honeymoon and then again in 2011 with our then 8-year old twins. Both of those trips had been to different parts of Costa Rica so Guanacaste offered a new experience. We spent two nights on the  Papagayo Peninsula and three nights on the Cacique Peninsula. My first comment about the trip is it was hot! I mean sweltering, melt your flip flops kind of heat. We were here in early May, at the front end of the rainy season, but it didn’t rain a drop in the five days we were there, much as we’d hoped it might just to cool us off! 

where we stayed

Since we were also celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary, we decided to fly out early ahead of the rest of the partygoers and spend two nights at the Andaz Papagaya, a luxury oceanfront resort offering a ton of onsite activities and offsite adventures. Just a 30-minute drive from the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, the Andaz offered us the right mix of relaxation and activity. We’d originally booked a King Bed Bay View room but upon arrival were upgraded to a 1,765 square foot suite with king master, living room, pantry, dining area and private plunge pool on the terrace. I’m not sure whether the upgrade was due to booking through our travel club or the fact that I had just turned a half century old but we were thrilled either way. 

where we ate

Our first night at the Andaz Papagaya we headed to Chao Pescao because there was live music. Despite the heat, we opted to sit outside on the terrace and ordered a round of drinks. After a long day of traveling and snacking back at the pool we didn’t need a big dinner and instead shared the tuna tiradito which is like a cross between ceviche and tartare. It was quite possibly the most amazing tuna appetizer I’ve ever had and my only regret is not returning the next day to eat it again. We also got the pork belly in tamarind sauce which was decadent and delicious. The live music was low key but fun and the wine was great. Overall a lovely evening celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary before the birthday revelers arrive! 

Our second night at Andaz found us having dinner at Ostra, their signature restaurant known for their ceviche. We started with their ceviche tasting which was incredibly fresh and delicious. For dinner we had the New York Steak, Lobster Tagliatelle and seafood dish with pearl barley that was out of this world. 

The Dive Bar is an extremely casual open air bar and restaurant in the Marina Papagayo, a short 15-minute walk from the Andaz Papagaya resort making it a great spot for lunch. Although the walk itself is easy enough, the mid-day Guanacaste heat will make 15 minutes feel like hours. The second we reached the marina we popped into the gourmet market under the auspices of looking at their wine selection (which costs three times what it does in the States!) but in reality we just needed a blast of air-conditioning before completing our trek to the restaurant. The Dive Bar offers a variety of beer and cocktails each served in its own signature glass. The cucumber margarita edged out the competition with its bright flavors and funky square glass. The menu offers an assortment of easily shareable dishes so we dined on tuna tartare, guacamole, fish tacos and an incredibly fresh sea bass ceviche. I will say this is the one place in Costa Rica we’ve ever encountered unfriendly people. Initially we figured our server was just having a bad day, or hated loud Americans (and even worse we are loud Americans from the south) but after reading some TripAdvisor reviews it seems we aren’t the only ones who felt that way. However, when it comes to food, ambiance and service I’ll take great food and ambiance with a dash of bad service any day so I’d happily return!  

Father Roosters is a casual beachfront bar and grill with tables in the sand just steps from the waters of the gulf of Papagayo. It’s a great spot to sit and watch the sunset but we visited mid-day for lunch. We emailed about a week in advance for reservations which guaranteed our party of eight a beachside table when we arrived. We started patacones, plantain chips with black beans, guacamole and the house salsa. The caesar salad with shrimp was a surprise favorite- super fresh and bursting with flavor. The drinks were a bit of a disappointment- the bloody mary was way too sour and their version of a frozen rum runner too sweet for our tastes. The boys stuck with beer but the heat quickly warmed. Several beach vendors approached us offering an assortment of homemade crafts. As opposed to the aggressive people we’ve encountered elsewhere in the tropics, the Costa Ricans were friendly and low pressure. We ended up buying several hand carved wooden bowls from one man who was especially friendly. 

Cafe de Playa is another beachfront restaurant with tables in the sand. After spending the morning shopping in Playas del Coco, the ladies headed to Cafe de Playa for a late lunch. We were quickly seated and promptly ordered a bottle of wine. A crisp white wine seems to be the al fresco dining drink of choice in Guanacaste because it comes served in a wine stand full of ice water so not only does your wine stay nice and cold, you can intermittingly dip your hand in the ice bucket to cool off! We shared a round of coconut shrimp, duo of empanadas, and a shrimp and avocado salad. The empanadas were a bit dry and underwhelming but the other dishes were great. Our server was fantastic- turns out it was his 40th birthday so we came dangerously close to joining him in a celebratory round of shots.