In planning my yearly birthday trip, it came to my attention that there is a direct flight from Los Angeles to Liberia, Costa Rica on Southwest Airlines. I knew that Southwest had begun flights to Costa Rica, but hadn’t really checked into it. Instead I constantly search for direct flights to San Jose, which are few and far between and always expensive. For some reason I just couldn’t open myself up to flying into Liberia. Boy did I miss some opportunities!
I am so excited about this discovery though. Why? Timing and Price. The direct 5 hour flight on Southwest Airlines leaves at 2:10 pm daily from Los Angeles, which means it is perfect for a long weekend getaway. Even more importantly, if you book this flight in advance it is about the same price as a round trip ticket to most places inside the US, making a quick trip to Costa Rica even more feasible.
Since heading off to Costa Rica for a long weekend doesn’t seem that doable to many people, I thought I would share a few destination options to get you started on your trip planning. These individual destinations can easily be combined to make a week or longer trip as well.
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Closest to the airport in Liberia with only a 1 hour drive is Playa Conchal. A beautiful beach surrounded by turquoise water provides ample opportunities for swimming or snorkeling with tropical fish. This is one of the only Pacific Coast beaches in Costa Rica with crystal clear water that tropical vacations require. Rather than a soft white sand, however, the sand is comprised of millions of tiny crushed sea shells. This makes great fun for family sea shell hunting! The fabulous (and expensive!) Westin Resort is located in Playa Conchal, however, there are an array of other more affordable options. Additionally, families can look a little further afield at Playa Brasilito which is within walking distance of Conchal.
Nosara is about 2.5 hours from the Liberia airport making it an option for a long weekend beach vacation. Rated as one of the top 10 beaches in Central America, the Nosara area is a well known spot popular with laid back hippy travelers, surfers and families. With big waves all day, this is an idea place for body surfing, surfing and frolicking in the water. Make sure to take time to visit the beautiful white sand beach of Guiones for beach fun and the dark sand beach of Ostional which is most well known for turtle nesting sites. There are an abundance of hotel options in Nosara which you can explore here, but we have been hankering to check out Hotel Lagarta Lodge, which looks beautiful!
Playa Carrillo another wonderful beach, is a bit further south of Nosara, but takes only about 2 hours to drive from the Liberia airport. Carrillo is a mellow, laid back beach town without all the development seen in other areas of Costa Rica. Here families can relax and rejuvenate during the day and soak up stunning sunsets each night. Visitors can stay in Playa Carrillo itself or in Samara, a few miles north, for a a little more action. Our friend Stephanie from Il Viaggio suggests Nammbu Beach Bungalows in Carrillo and Villas Kalimba in Samara for families looking to stay in the area.
Continuing down a bit further on the Nicoya Peninsula is Punta Islita, a sun worshiper’s paradise. Set amongst pristine beaches, offering full days of sun with dramatic sunsets is a lovely artistic community bursting with charm. Punta Islita offers visitors the perfect combination of beach time, animal sightings and adventure activities. Punta Islita is an ideal one stop destination for a long weekend break from day to day life. Punta Islita has an amazing hotel named after the location, which looks to provide everything you would need for a luxurious getaway in less than 2.5 hours from Liberia Airport. Included in room rates are yoga classes, horseback riding, cooking classes, crafting, hikes and even canopy zip-lining, making this an even better one stop shop for a fun filled, hassle free family holiday. Not convinced? Check out TravelBabbo’s review of their family stay.
Nature Explorers / Rainforest Destinations
La Fortuna /Arenal
If you are looking for a destination that provides so much of what Costa Rica is known for head to La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano. For a long weekend, I would suggest, basing yourself here instead of trying to move around too much. Visit the rain forest, go horseback riding up the volcano and relax in bubbling hot springs before heading back to Liberia for your early morning departure back to Los Angeles. Animals, nature and hot springs, what more can you ask for?
Monteverde Cloud Forest
Another amazing destination within 2.5 hours of the Liberia airport is the Monteverde Cloud Forest. While in the area, go bird watching, learn about chocolate or coffee, visit the Children’s Forest, take a nocturnal hike in the jungle, walk on sky walks to spot some wildlife or get your adrenaline flowing on Sky Adventures zipline through the forest. This is the quintessential classic Costa Rica destination with an abundance of animals, jungle and hair raising adventure activities. There are a ton of places to stay from more budget friendly accommodation options to beautiful eco-resorts.
Rio Celeste – Tenorio Volcano National Park
Heading inland to a little different slice of Costa Rica is Rio Celeste in the Tenorio Volcano National Park. The Celeste River is an amazing blue river providing the perfect backdrop for a weekend of hiking. This amazingly blue river winds it’s way through the rainforest of the park. There are several options to hike to the river – by a longer (4.5 mile) hike or a short hike from the entrance that goes straight to the Rio Celeste Waterfall. Along the trail you can also visit the thermal hot springs and a blue lagoon. Two beautiful resorts that are calling my name are the Rio Celeste Hideaway and the Celeste Mountain Lodge.
Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park
For visitors intrigued by the volcanic activity present in Costa Rica, a visit to Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park is a must do. One of the main attractions to the area is the cinder cone volcano Rincon de la VIeja which is comprised of 9 craters throughout the park, the most active in the Guanacaste Mountains. Apart from the volcanic activity here, have fun exploring tropical forests where some of the favorite Costa Rican mammals roam (pumas, jaguar, sloths, kinkajous and tapirs). There are also hot springs and waterfalls to explore. A wonderful place for families to base themselves in the region is at Hacienda Guachipelin Volcano Ranch Hotel.
I have had so much fun researching all of the options for travelers arriving to Liberia airport. Since most people only know about the airport in the capital San Jose, travelers in the US often miss out on great flight options, cheaper prices and a host of destinations in the northern areas of Costa Rica. I cannot wait to return again and again to check everything here off my own personal to do list!
I couldn’t have compiled all of this without the help of Stephanie at Il Viaggio Travel. Stephanie and her family are well versed in all things Costa Rica and can help you put together an ideal itinerary for a couples retreat or family getaway. Thanks for your help Stephanie!
Have you flown into Liberia Airport? What did you do?
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