Traveling internationally during a pandemic in 2021 may feel too risky for some and understandably so. However, as a small handful of countries began to open up to tourism and vaccinations were in motion, our family was ready to travel with caution to Costa Rica. We have traveled to Costa Rica nearly a dozen times and have always loved the people, culture, food, surf, and always felt very safe. My husband's family owned property right next to Manuel Antonio National Park (Southern Costa Rica) and traveled quite extensively in this area as a child. Our most recent trip in April of 2021, our family opted to head north to Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula.
When traveling to Costa Rica, their country does require a COVID PCR test with negative results within 72 hours of departure. All travelers are required to purchase travel insurance for their country and show proof with your QR Code at customs. One thing to keep in mind when booking the trip is the extra cost of the travel insurance and the COVID tests 72 hours prior to exiting the country. We were charged $150.00 a piece for the COVID test in Santa Teresa at the local clinic, the same test in the states are free...so add the extra cost to your final travel budget. Our airline tickets were so incredibly cheap in April 2021, however the COVID tests were a costly added expense.
When booking your flight, consider the arrival time in San Jose, Costa Rica. If it is midday or late in the day, make sure to book a hotel in San Jose. One of my favorite hotels is The Gran Hotel in San Jose. They offer a shuttle directly from the airport for a small fee to pick you up at the terminal with air conditioning and take you straight to the hotel. This allows a night of rest, a wonderful meal in their rooftop dining room, rental car delivery to the hotel, then head out bright and early the next morning.
We have always enjoyed exploring by car, so no matter the location we always choose to rent and explore at our leisure. Driving in Costa Rica has greatly improved over the last five years due to newly paved highways. I would suggest at the car rental to opt for the "fast pass," it saves time and money when approaching the highway toll booths. There are a handful of toll booths on the main highways and the fast pass helps to minimize stress in scrounging for the exact change in foreign currency, especially when there is a line of cars waiting. In regard to navigation, we opt to pay for a travel pass on one phone and have all other family members set their phones on airplane mode to not incur extra costs.
When traveling to the Nicoya Penninsula there is the option of taking the car ferry across the bay, which does cut a few hours out of drive time. You can pre-purchase ferry tickets between Puntarenas and Paquera online at www.quickpaycr.com . I would highly suggest pre-purchasing tickets during high travel season. The ferry schedule can be found at www.navieratambor.com . Plan to have some snacks for the ferry, it takes approximately 1.5 hours to cross the channel and masks are enforced on the ferry decks.
The town of Santa Teresa is partially unpaved, which does create a lot of dust and old world charm. Santa Teresa is known for its yoga community and surf. Surprisingly for the size of the town, it has a lot to offer in regards to cute shops and great eateries. The small town parallels the beach of which is dotted with small resorts to expensive hideaways. A large majority of the community travel by ATV's and it is a fun way to explore the local area. Rental shops are all along the main street of town and we had a wonderful day exploring the outlying areas via ATV.
Our first stay was at the architectural wonder, The White House. It sits directly on the beach and has a view from the pool that is unmatched. Our favorite part of the home was the accessibility of the beach to the pool, on repeat. The house is decorated beautifully, the master bedroom was the star of the show with its incredible view and balcony. The house will comfortably accommodate six people and the master bedroom is by far the most luxurious.
The beach offers some great surf and the tidepools are amazing, when the tide heads out to sea. Our boys loved hermit crab hunting at night and we had the luck of our first night being under a full moon. Memories of a lifetime with our boys in this beautiful gem.
We love nomadic travel, so moving to the second house during our trip was what we were all ready for-- a change of scenery and a new pool. Hermosa Hills is a collection of stunning homes perched up the hill in the trees with stunning views. We immediately loved the soft breeze, tree top and ocean views and the howler monkeys calling to one another. The layout of the home is perfection, each room has its own individual bathroom and can be sealed off by its beautiful glass doors to keep cool. The kitchen has an amazing island with a gas range and every appliance you could imagine for such a beautifully designed home. All of the doors can be opened in the main living space which transforms into an indoor / outdoor living space that is what dreams are made of. We will definitely be revisiting this beautiful sanctuary. This luxury villa is just a short 3-5 minute drive down the hill to the beach. During our stay we loved popping down for some morning surf or an ATV rental and then relaxing by the pool mid day.
Our third and final luxury home rental was the Santiago Hills house. What a stunner! This home is an such a beautiful piece of architecture and use of land in reference to the views. The house is perfectly perched atop a hill with sea views from every room in the house. Each room is designed to be its own entity and one main living area: kitchen, dining room, media space, and pool. The main living area is open air, of which we loved! The open air concept is not for everyone, but in this environment it works perfectly.
The lounging pads near the pool were one of our favorite features for coffee in the morning, watching the surf and stargazing at night. It is truly hard to leave this place for meals, so grocery shop accordingly because you won't want to leave.
One benefit to the house is Laurent, the genius behind the design. Laurent was the most attentive host during our stay and really pushed "service" to the next level. If you are to book this gorgeous luxury home Santiago Hills, please tell him we sent you and he will make sure to give you a little extra care.
Half of the reason we travel is for the food experiences. Costa Rica has amazing food and Santa Teresa is a gem for great restaurants and sunset beach bars. The three places we returned to more than once were Burger Rancho, The Bakery, Parana Villa Beach Bar, L'Arte Del Gelato and Habenero for the sunset margaritas. There were so many other restaurants to choose from and we just scratched the surface. The food alone is worth a trip back to the quaint town of Santa Teresa.
Traveling during COVID is a risk and a very personal decision, especially when the family is involved. Personally, we felt very safe in Costa Rica-- everyone was wearing masks, sanitizing stations at the airports, hotel, and grocery stores. All restaurants we ate at were open air and tables were spaced accordingly. We did feel that a home rental was a safer option because we could isolate our family and still enjoy the home pools and beaches. My husband and I felt that the Costa Ricans did a better job with COVID precautions than we have seen in California. In all honesty it is an ideal time to travel because the crowds are less than they would be during high travel season. Santa Teresa, Costa Rica was an ideal location for our family and the houses that we had the priviledge to experience were memories of a lifetime.