Our Recent Trip to Ocotal, Costa Rica
I don’t know if I’ve ever needed a vacation more in my life. Life has been hard. Really hard. With being pregnant, feeling extreme low energy daily paired with the worst insomnia I’ve ever experienced, all while dealing with a dog who is paralyzed and incontinent…yeah, I needed to chill. I needed to roast my body under the sun, drink extremely sugary drinks, then fall asleep by 8pm. And that’s exactly what I got in Costa Rica. This was my fourth trip to Costa Rica and it almost didn’t happen with all that life has thrown at us lately. Since we had the unexpected veterinary and post-surgery rehab bills, we decided to see if we could get out of the trip all together, but it was too late to cancel. So instead of simply letting that money go to waste, we worked somethings out. Since Jackson is incontinent, meaning he cannot go to the bathroom on his own, leaving him for 11 days while we vacationed in Costa Rica was out of the question. Instead, we decided that I would head out to Costa Rica with our friends for the first half of the trip so Brian could care for Jackson and continue to take him to rehab. Then he would head out the second half of the trip and we would have a vet tech come to the house 3x/day to help Jackson do his business, giving Brian and I one FULL day together before I headed back home to care for Jackson while Brian finished out the trip. It was a bit complicated to figure out, but we did it, and we got to enjoy one full day together in paradise. Not ideal, but it was something! And it gave both of us some time to soak up sunshine and ignore life’s responsibilities back at home.
That was a downer, huh? You came to read about vacation and I spill my life story on here. I mean…what’s new, honestly? But let’s get down to the good bits. When we were trying to figure out where to stay in Costa Rica, we wanted something that wasn’t too far from the airport. And since we went to Tamarindo last year, we wanted to try something new. And that’s where Ocotal came in. Ocotal Beach, Coco Beach, and the surrounding areas are only about 40 minutes from the Liberia airport, which is always ideal after a 10+ hour travel day to get there. And since we love traveling with friends, we decided to rent a house so we could cook meals together, have a shared space, and pretty much just hang out with each other more. When traveling with friends in a hotel, the night pretty much ends once someone wants to go to bed, especially if that hotel doesn’t have spaces that are open late (which is most these days because of Covid). So we found a house in the neighborhood of Bahia Pez Vela that was right on the beach, had a restaurant and multiple pools, and was close enough to town with a taxi. That made it super easy to grab groceries when we needed them and walk to a restaurant in Ocotal Beach or grab a taxi for a restaurant in Coco Beach.
Our house was a 3-bedroom villa that looked out directly to a black sand beach. The house had an amazing kitchen with about everything appliance and gadget a person would need. And it had a beautiful back patio that we would sit on every morning and night. That house also had a super responsive host so we were able to get any of our questions answered almost immediately. Our host even hopped on a Facetime call with us one night when we were trying to figure somethings out. I’ve stayed in quite a few rental houses on vacation and this one was definitely well taken care of! Plus, since this is a community of villas, there is always someone in the main office to answer any of your questions, set up any excursions, get your covid test scheduled so you can get back in the US, taxi services, and whatever else that may come up!
Something I love about being in a rental house vs a hotel is being able to cook my own food. And let me be clear – sometimes the last thing I want to do on vacation is cook myself a meal since I do that 3x/day, every day. But when you’re staying somewhere over a week, having home cooked meals is pretty life changing when it comes to how you feel when you head back home. When you’re eating out 3x/day plus snacks, it can be pretty hard not only on the waistline, but also on your guts. The cooking oils they use at restaurants are pretty terrible for you so 3+ meals a day can wreak havoc after a while. So if you cut at least some of those meals down by cooking your own food, you’ll feel MUCH better coming back home and won’t feel like you’ve blown up from water weight. I cooked all my breakfasts during the 7 days I was there and most of my lunches, only eating out for dinner, and I came home feeling really great…which says something since I’m currently 14 weeks pregnant and finished everyone’s plate at every meal. And honestly, we didn’t even get that creative with our grocery shopping, I just at the same thing most meals and was quite happy with that! Always KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. IYKYK.
But for the meals we did venture out to, we ate at Maracuya Beach Club, which is the restaurant on the property right next to the pool where we spent most of our days. Some things were pretty average and nothing to write home about, but I also had the best skirt steak of my entire life there, so that was pretty wonderful! I expected to eat just a couple bites of the steak after basking in the glory of their tostones, but then I found myself licking the plate. It was just what this preggo chick needed. Another restaurant we ventured to quite frequently was Father Rooster. This restaurant was about a 20-25 minute walk so we would go there for dinner if we couldn’t decided where we wanted to go or if the taxi service didn’t respond to us (which happened a few times). This restaurant is right on Ocotal Beach where you can put your feet in the sand while you eat and take a dip in the ocean, if you’d like. I loved this spot. They had a huge menu to choose from, including their fish of the day that you have casado (meaning with rice, beans, plantains, and salad) and it was so good that I got it multiple nights. But one night I ventured outside my “healthier” norm and ordered the burger. And fuuuuuuck was I happy with that decision. If you’re looking for gluten free, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a fantastic burger that you’ll never forget, this is it. But please remember that I’m pregnant and I think every meal is the best meal I’ve ever eaten. I’m easily satisfied these days – if it’s edible, I love it. But for real…this burger made my vacation meal dreams come true. I loved every bite.
When we were in Coco Beach, we went to Santorini for a little Greek food. I thought this place was pretty good, but it wasn’t a spot I was looking to go back to. After I left, my friends and Brian went to The Lookout, which is a great spot for sunset since it gives you some absolutely incredible views of the jungle and ocean. They have a patacon burger and Asian nachos that were really calling my name so I was bummed I didn’t get to make that spot. Plus they have some really fun looking drinks! Another place I told them to go before I left was Sugoi. This is a Mexican/Asian restaurant where you get guacamole with a side of dumplings…ummmm FUCK YES. They said they were a little nervous when they got there because no one else was there, but the food was awesome! So if you’re in Coco Beach, go here and give them some love because they deserve it! Again, so bummed I didn’t get to dip my dumplings in guac.
Other than our ventures out to dinner, the rest of the trip was pretty chill. We had slow mornings of coffee and watching the howler monkeys eat breakfast and howl at who knows what. Then we would work out on our patio, make breakfast, and then head to the pool or the beach. I rarely lay out in the sun these days since I’m 33 and trying to reverse the damage I did when I was a teenager, but I felt the complete opposite this trip. I wanted to soak up every minute of sunshine and any bit of color I could get. And on the mornings I wasn’t feeling like a workout, I would simply move my body by walking the hills of the neighborhood. This neighborhood is filled with some massive hills so it was great exercise to simply walk to the top of the property and back down. On those mornings, I would put my headphones in and walk/dance through the property, looking at the flowers, watching the monkeys, checking out all the insects that were going about there day. It’s amazing what you notice when you stop looking at your phone and dive into the moment right in front of you. We don’t do that enough anymore.
The one thing we didn’t do much of this trip, like we normally do, is a ton of excursions, mostly because I’m pregnant, tired, and slower than normal. We did book a sunset cruise through the main office at our property, but I wouldn’t recommend that. It was a sailing boat without anywhere to sit up front, but the boat was so packed with people so that was the only place for us to sit…I ended up with bruises on my ass the next day and a real flare up with my sciatica. Super great for a flight home the next day. Pregnancy is so fun!! What I recommend is finding a separate service, whether that’s through word of mouth, online, or in town, and book a private sunset tour for you and your friends. We have done that in Mexico and Costa Rica, and that is way more enjoyable and comfortable! A bit more expensive, but only by about $20 from my experience! We also talked to the manager at Father Rooster who helped the group book a half day paddleboarding and cliff jumping tour, which looked AWESOME! This is where chatting with locals really comes in handy and I highly recommend doing that instead of just what your resort recommends to you.
Something I feel very lucky to have is friends (and family) I enjoy traveling with. On this trip, I went with my sister-in-law, my friend Vanessa, and her husband Dale. We have been friends with Vanessa and Dale ever since we moved in next door to them in 2015 and I pretty much forced them to go to brunch with me and Brian. We’ve now traveled with them to Mexico (twice), Beaver Creek (when our Spain trip got cancelled with in 2020), and now Costa Rica TWICE! I think it’s safe to say that we love traveling with them. And they make it pretty easy. We all love to do the same things, chill when needed, explore, and my husband is great at partying so they all get to do that together while I drink my mocktails.
And if you need some vacation style/warm weather inspiration, I only have a few comfortable looks to share since I no longer fit in most of my clothes and swimsuits. I pretty much only wore these things all 7 days I was there. I’ll link all pieces below!
Please ignore the removable pads I forgot to take out of the shot.
The best part of this entire trip, other than enjoying food more than ever, was seeing Brian. I’ve been on many trips without Brian, but none that we planned together. Seeing him brought me so much joy and I immediately cried. I wish I could have spent more time in this beautiful place with him, but I’m glad we got at least 1 full day together. But now it’s time to plan the next trip so we can fully enjoy some private time together! I’m thinking Turks and Caicos for our babymoon! Time to spend a full week, not just a day, with my husband before the little babe graces us with her presence!
Where We Stayed:
Where We Ate:
Pros of this property/area:
- It’s only about 35-40 minutes from the airport/10 minutes from Coco Beach where you can shop, eat, and get groceries.
- The villa is beautiful, well kept, and super comfortable for 6 people.
- The villa is incredibly affordable. When we booked, it was less than $492/night split between 5 of us. Much cheaper than a hotel rate!
- The villa is right on the beach. The beach is a public beach, but it’s pretty quiet and secluded.
- There is a restaurant and pool on the property, along with staff to help out with any questions, concerns, excursions, etc.
- You get to see plenty of wildlife, like howler monkeys, tons of birds, insects, and more.
- Wifi is great so it’s easy to work from this house, which we all did each morning!
Cons of the property/area:
- Because of the location, it can be challenging to get a taxi at times. I would recommend renting a car unless you’re cool with staying put when you may not want to.
- Since the villa is in a bit of a canyon/valley, you can’t see the sunrise or sunset. You may not care about this whatsoever, but that’s my favorite thing about being an early riser on vacation so I definitely missed that.
- The property doesn’t have it’s own private pool so you share the public pools with the other villa guests. Really not a big deal, but we have loved having our own private pool when we have rented other homes.
Oh, Hi! I’m Juli.
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