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How to Explore, Adventure, and Relax in Costa Rica: A Travel Guide

By Molly Sims

This past New Year, my family and I put on our adventure caps and traveled to a new destination…Costa Rica. (I know, not Cabo for once, go figure!)

We ziplined, hiked, swam, surfed and even jet skied through our 7-day trip and truly had such a fabulous time. It was beyond amazing to have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in another culture and to experience all of the great aspects of Costa Rica. We’ll definitely be back!

Below are my best travel tips, tricks, and recs: Costa Rica edition. 


Where to Stay

If you want access to unbelievable nature and oceanfront views, coupled with a focus on relaxation and wellness, look no further than the Four Seasons.

The Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo truly made our trip so memorable and special. It was the perfect balance of adventure while still having the luxe, relaxing touch everyone loves about a hotel. 

Now, even though I am a big planner, the Four Seasons gave me a nice break from scheduling by customizing our trip completely. Momma did not lift one finger unless it was her wine glass to her mouth! They assisted us in coordinating all activities and restaurant experiences, making for such a peaceful and calming experience as we navigated each new adventure. 

What to See 

Just stepping outside your hotel room is a sight in itself but the views and animals we got to experience outside of the hotel were unlike anything we’ve seen before. 

  • Diamante Eco Adventure Park is an animal sanctuary where we saw tropical birds, cougars, jaguars, spider monkeys, grey foxes, and rattlesnakes. It was unbelievable to experience such exotic animals that we otherwise would not have had the chance to interact with. The kids loved it, and I prayed we didn’t come home with a spider monkey of our own…although Grey would have loved that…I’ll admit, I started warming up to them by the end.
  • Rincon de la Vieja is an active andesitic complex volcano in north-western Costa Rica. We hiked 2 miles through bubbling mud pots, steaming sulfur, and fumaroles that led into the transitional forest where the volcano is located. As you continue your hike you are led to the beautiful Oropendula waterfall, an 82-foot wall of water that pours down into the most picturesque clear blue pool. Swimming underneath the waterfall was a refreshing way to experience nature in such an authentic way.

What to Do 

What isn’t there to do would be the better question! 

Our trip was packed with activities such as zip lining, surfing, and jet skiing which may seem out of your comfort zone…but trust me, these were some of the best days. We were led by the fabulous Papagayo Canopy Zip-Line Tour who made us feel safe and confident as we zipped hundreds of feet over the Tempisque River and through the treetops of the majestic Guanacaste’s

Watching the kids learn to surf and love new activities was half the fun. And…believe it or not, zip lining came out on top as MY favorite part of the trip (crazy…I know!).  

For a change of pace from our thrilling activities, we visited the Zapatol Beach Club (a must-do), which felt like entering our own private island. We arrived by boat to the remote shore, and as soon as we docked, the kids took off down the beach to jump in the water while the adults were greeted with the most amazing tropical cocktails. It was the perfect (and much-needed) zen day amidst our jam-packed trip. 

What to Eat 

Between the five excellent restaurants within the Four Seasons, there is no limit to delicious dining in Costa Rica. 

The hotel offers a range of local cuisine with strong Latin inspiration to fusion dishes and even an Italian restaurant that is great for the kids. Having options for everyone was crucial and made for fun family meal times (which can be a challenge.)

We ate at the incredible Bahia, which gave us a taste of the local cuisine through their Latin-inspired menu – which was delicious. The restaurant’s ambiance was equally as unique as the food and featured a wood-fired kitchen in the center of the restaurant.

Aside from the formal dining experiences one of our favorite meals of the trip was the fresh fruit local to the area. And, of course, the snow cones…I think Stuber, the kids, and I had one every day. 

What to Pack

I never thought I would say this, but underpacking is the way to go when traveling to Costa Rica. 

In terms of skincare, I could have left half of it at home. Not only did my skin feel amazing, but it looked so dewy from the refreshing tropical weather. It gave me the effortless glow I’ve been looking for…thank you, vacation! 

Regarding the outfits, the beachier and sportier, the better; my go-to daily outfit consisted of a classic white button-up shirt, a cross-body bag, a protective pair of sunglasses, and a classic pair of jean shorts. I also found that my athleisure yoga pants and khaki pants got more use than my dresses (shocking, I know), but I’d still recommend packing a lovely sundress for the occasional outing. 

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