Costa Rica a perfect mid-winter escape

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of November 26 - December 2, 1998
Costa Rica — a perfect mid-winter escape
Cross-country skiing centers in Vermont
Late spring hikes in the southwest

Costa Rica — a perfect mid-winter escape

By Amy Marr

Question: My wife and I are planning a warm weather escape from Seattle in January. Any suggestions, excluding Hawaii? We have nine days to spare, are very active, and would appreciate any advice.

Jason Prouse
Seattle, Washington

Snorkel Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica in January
Adventure Adviser: Go to Costa Rica. It’s closer than other warm spots (Caribbean, Micronesia), has more to offer than Mexico outdoor activity-wise and — unlike its not so fortunate neighbors — was spared any long-lasting damage from Hurricane Mitch. You can surf, mountain bike, hike, snorkel, kayak, and ride horseback, among other activities.

If you have only nine days, might want to bee-line it to the coast for your warm weather fix. For surfing, head to Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula. Rent a board and snorkeling equipment from Iguana Surf (and try one of their fruit smoothies) then head out to Playa Grande, a long swatch of palm-fringed beach known for its consistently good break. You can also rent kayaks and paddle out to Isola Capitan and snorkel amongst the parrot fish in the surrounding waters. My favorite place to stay in Tamarindo is sweet Sueno del Mar (800-874-7522), a funky beachside B&B that’s part bungalow/part adobe, with friendly owners, excellent breakfasts and Bali showers. A couple of nights sleeping here, and you’ll forget all about gray Seattle.

Further south on the Nicoya Peninsula is Malpais, another hot surfing spot. Although the town isn’t as lively as Tamarindo, the beach is more wild and wind-swept. You can bunker down at Surf Camp, or the more upscale Sunset Reef (888-388-2582).

Within an hour’s drive is the hippy outpost of Montezuma, right on the peninsula’s tip. You can reach hidden waterfalls and tiny cove beaches on horseback, galloping through the waves. Or rent mountainbikes and head to Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve, a pleasant 10-mile ride along a scenic dirt road. Stay at Amor de Mar (506-642-0262), a Gaudi-esque hostelry on the Gulf, with handcrafted driftwood furniture, a vast green lawn and hammock-strung palms.

I’d suggest flying directly to Tamarindo from San Jose, then picking up a rental car there to explore the rest of the peninsula. If you get tired of the coastline, head inland to green and lush Monteverde and spend a couple of days dodging agouti and howler monkeys in the Cloud Forest.

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©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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