Our initial thoughts were to travel down the Nicoya Peninsula to explore the beaches so we decided to set up camp in Liberia, the first main city after the border.
We arrived courtesy of a lift from the border and were left at the junction on the pan-american highway. Our first thoughts of the city were not good, as we looked around all we saw were fast-food places. We headed into town and soon discovered that all the hostels listed in our 3-year-old guide-book were either no longer there or had changed.
After some searching we found Hospedaje el Tope, not far from the main plaza, and not ridiculously priced. Although basic it had charm, with outdoor seating areas amongst plants and fruit trees and colourful lights at night. The only downside was no kitchen so we decided to stay only a couple of days.
We later moved to Hostel Dodero on the other side of town which was very nice and clean, with kitchen and parking but seemed to lack the same quirkiness of el Tope.
After a day of researching we came to the conclusion that tours in Costa Rica are very expensive and that if we wanted to see even half the things on our list then we could probably save money by actually renting a car.
So we booked ourself a Suzuki Jimny for just over a week and were immediately off to visit nearby places including the beaches of Playa Coco, Playa Hermosa and Playa Panama.
Upon arriving at Playa Coco we were immediately relieved to have the car as it was a true tourist destination with the main road to beach lined with bar after bar.
The beach area itself, although quiet due to low season did not seem very big and after a few hours of walking around we decided to move on – something which would have been difficult to do without the car.
Playa Hermosa, our next stop proved to just be a richer area with large, expensive looking resorts, so much so that we just drove straight through.
Our last stop, Playa Panama, we had high hopes for as we had read about it being long stretches of quiet sandy beaches. It did not disappoint. We arrived to discover we were the only people there. There was only one bar/restaurant situated near the beach front but other than that it was just the parking area and the beach.
We parked up and were greeted by rows of palm trees on the beach edge, despite the weather not being on our side it was still a pretty sight.
We were especially surprised when my partner went swimming in the very calm waters and within 5 minutes a jet ski with 2 guys arrived without warning and hovered around him. We were not sure what they wanted until after 10 minutes or so one of them descended and came and sat on the beach near me, leaving the other guy to go back to wherever he came from.
At this point I noticed his shirt and realised he was actually a lifeguard. I was speechless at how efficiently they had turned up out of nowhere just because 1 person was swimming. Never had we ever seen such a quick response to ensure safety.
If you are in the area and are looking for a safe and quite beach then we would highly recommend Playa Panama – even when the weather is not great. Just imagine how beautiful it must be with the sun out!