Nosara, Costa Rica

A soul searching, affordable vacation.

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The New Year had just passed and I felt lost. In a marriage that was falling apart at the seams and a career that was eating up more and more hours each day, I was drained. I needed space – to think, to sleep, to laugh and to cry. I would daydream about being able to escape to a gorgeous, remote part of the world – but my brain would quickly shut down the thought, telling myself there was no way possible that I could afford a trip like that.

One morning, I figured I could at least try. I had always dreamed of going to Costa Rica and it seemed perfect for my fantasy of temporarily escaping the chaos of my life. I started Googling airfares – and was disappointed. They were expensive, with long layovers. Still, unable to shake the thought from my head, I kept searching. Each evening I would check the various discount airfare sites and eventually I stumbled on a charter airline, Sunwing. The flights were direct from Toronto to Liberia, Costa Rica. And there was a flight that left in three weeks for $420. I bought it without blinking.

The next challenge was deciding where I would go once I got to Costa Rica. This was not an easy decision – each town or city I looked at was stunning and was difficult to narrow down my choice. I wanted to be on the ocean, close to nature and be able to hike. I found the perfect match, Nosara. A sleepy little town of 5,000 inhabitants surrounded by Jungle.

Located on the North Pacific Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste, Nosara has been named by National Geographic as one of the world’s best surf sites and also borders the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, which is the largest Olive Ridley turtle nesting site in the world.

Deserted BeachI made arrangements to have a driver pick me up from the airport and drive me to Nosara for $100. There are cheaper options, such as a shared shuttles run by several companies, however, their departure times didn’t line up with my flight arrival. The drive itself was fantastic, and I didn’t regret the price. My driver was a wealth of knowledge and pointed out so many small areas along the coast and even pulled over several times so I could get out of the van and take photographs. Be warned – the drive is a little rough. About 45 minutes outside of Nosara, the paved road ends. Bumpy, massive potholes, and river covered sections of the road….slow and steady but after two and a half hours, I was there!

The Bed and Breakfast I had selected, Villa Mango did not disappoint. Their website doesn’t do it justice of how beautiful this property is. I had booked the next four nights here, for a rate of $74 a night for a private room with a terrace and hammock overlooking the jungle. The hosts Jo and Agnes were amazing and welcomed me with open arms. Included in the rate, each morning they prepared a delicious breakfast of pancakes, eggs, toast, beans and fresh coffee and all the guests would sit around a large communal table to share stories. It was a wonderful way to start the day and gave me plenty of ideas for what places I should check out during the week.

I spent the next several days in awe. The beauty of Nosara was breathtaking. And it was quiet. I would walk along the beach through several villages for an hours a day and only pass several people. I could sit on the shore and read a book, go for a swim and best of all clear my head. Playa Pelada

The second day I was there, on my walk through a jungle path to the beach I heard some rustling in the trees above. It was a pack of howler monkeys. Amazing! I followed them for almost an hour, impressed at how easily they swung from tree to tree. Eventually, the alpha male of the pack seemed to have had enough of my company and started throwing some acorns to the ground. I got the hint.

Daily, I was stunned by the diverse wildlife. Birds, massive iguanas, insects….nature was everywhere and it was such a refreshing experience. I also went on a horseback ride with Jo, from Villa Mango. We rode down an empty beach towards Ostional and through several small villages stopping at a couple local bars for a refreshment. An experience I will never forget. Although I didn’t see any turtles hatching, I did see some empty shells and some nests that were being protected and monitored by locals.

My final two evenings were spent at Lagarta Lodge, which sits up on a bluff over the 90 acres Nosara Ecological Reserve. The reserve has multiple hiking trails, and admission is free of charge to guests of the lodge. I did all the hiking trails over two mornings and spent my afternoons wandering down to the beach to read a book and watch the sunset. Breakfast was not included at this location, but they had a buffet for $10 each morning with fresh fruit juices, omelets, sausages, french toast, and salads. I would eat later in the morning and this meal was large enough to tie me over until dinner. Nosara Nature Reserve

I found it incredibly easy to stick to a budget of $40 per day for food and drinks. Some days, I only spent half this amount and two other evenings I splurged at some higher end restaurants such as La Luna. I had packed a box of protein bars, which came in handy for snacks, and I would generally choose a light lunch such as a fresh fruit smoothie from a beach shack for $5.

Since my goal was rest, solitude, and relaxation I did not spend much on activities. The nature of Nosara was so stunning and it cost nothing to wander around and soak it all in. I did do two drop-in yoga classes which were $10 each and paid $40 for a 3-hour early morning bird watching tour. I watched monkeys and birds from my hammock and counted the salamanders on my walls. The sunsets were my favorite. It honestly felt like a production – the intensity gradually building, deep shades of red, orange, yellow and purple that were so vivid until it climaxed and faded into dusk. I watched like the locals do– grabbed a beer and picked a front row seat on the beach. Nosara Sunset

My total costs for seven days were:

$420 Return Airfare

$200 Private Transportation to and from Airport

$418 Five days at Villa Mango

$180 Two days at Lagarta Lodge

$280 Food and Drink

$20 Yoga Classes

$40 Bird Watching Tour

$29 Liberia Airport Departure Tax

My dream trip came to a total of $1587 including taxes. What that week did for my sanity cannot even be measured financially. I didn’t come home with all the answers, but I had a better sense of myself, my worth and how to set future boundaries in my personal life and career to avoid running into another burnout situation. I learned how to say no and I remembered how much fun I could have being alone. I feel in love with monkeys, the smell of the ocean, the jungle wind and the sun. Nosara captured a piece of my heart, and I will never forget its healing beauty.