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The Southern Zone of Costa Rica A Vacation Insiders Guide


THOUGHTS FROM THE EDITOR

FOR THE ADVENTURE IN YOUR SOUL... From the moment I heard about the secret beach I was hooked and couldn't wait to start creating this guide with our latest insider - Ellen Samiec! This is what a true insider is all about - letting us in on a few hidden gems! Having never been to Costa Rica, let alone the Southern Zone, I was intrigued by what else Ellen had up her sleeve... and she did not disappoint! Take ten minutes to read this guide - if you have any hint of adventure in your soul you'll be on the first plane out! Restaurants that most die hard foodies would salivate over; the wonder of the Whales Tail; horseback riding to Nauyaca Falls; heck, even a Tarzan swing through the jungle! This is back to nature. But not gentle hills and lakes - this is the wild end of the spectrum! Once you've taken in all the possibilities head over to Ellen's suggestions on where to stay. If you're lucky enough to bag a vacancy at her place you'll have the treat of returning home from a day of adventure to pure paradise. Ellen owns a 3 bedroom villa in the jungle, with a private pool overlooking the area's best beaches. So good it's claimed TripAdvisor's Top Vacation Rental in Ojochal for 2013. But don't stress if she's booked up - the beauty of having a real insider like Ellen is that she can recommend some fantastic alternatives. All that remains to say is... pour yourself a drink, get reading, and have kayak.com fired up for that plane ticket!

E: andy@vacationinsiders.com W: www.vacationinsiders.com


MEET YOUR INSIDER

ELLEN SAMIEC... On our 7th anniversary, over dinner, we envisioned our dream home, where we would like to retire someday. We easily agreed on the layout and that it would be in nature overlooking water and surrounded by trees. As to the location, well I was thinking on a lake and my husband wanted the ocean! Six weeks later, at a conference, we met a man who, with his wife, had bought the side of a mountain in Costa Rica 10 years prior and was now developing it. Somehow I knew immediately this was our place, especially as I had been to Costa Rica with a girlfriend in the early 90’s and loved it! So we went and visited a few potential lots. I remember ours clearly - it was a hot December day, but with a cooling ocean breeze and an ocean view to die for - I knew it would be our home! We visited many times, staying in various homes in the area, both for the experience and to bring the best to designing our home. We designed the villa with the help of an architect to take advantage of the natural breezes and truly embrace outdoor living and the stunning ocean view.

“The spacious poolside terrace is one of our favorite features. French doors open onto a shaded outdoor living area, separate sun-drenched deck and stunning ocean views”

Contact Ellen: Simply click any of the buttons below to find out more about Ellen's vacation rental in Costa Rica...

Alternatively feel free to call Ellen direct on +1.416.767.2279

And to make it all reality we found an excellent builder, a fellow Canadian, with 20 years experience building custom homes back in Canada. We were fortunate to be his 8th and last custom home in the area before he started his golf course homes project. The spacious poolside terrace is one of our favorite features. French doors open onto a shaded outdoor living area, separate sun-drenched deck and stunning ocean views. With plenty of lounge chairs and natural breezes, it’s a restful place to savor your morning coffee, sunbathe, or get caught up in a good book. All the while, you’ll be awed by the hummingbirds, scarlet macaws, and incredible blue butterflies. When you’re ready for a dip, the private pool boasts scenic views of the Whale’s Tail and the coastline up to Manuel Antonio National Park. The estate is gated and completely private, surrounded by jungle; there are no neighbors in sight! We value our privacy and love the luxury of the private pool whether we are swimming in it, floating on it, lounging beside it or looking over it at the ocean view. It makes for a very intimate setting which is also wonderful to experience and share with good friends. While we are not ready to live here full time, we do take pride in sharing our home and enjoy helping guests feel a little of the magic that we've experienced here over the years!

What the Reviews Say:


ELLEN’S REAL SOUTHERN ZONE...

Like many of the world travelers who come to live here, Ojochal has captured our hearts. It's a remarkably unique community with so much to offer. Canadian, American and European expatriates have joined with the local villagers (“Ticos”) in creating a cooperative, culturally-rich neighborhood that values self-reliance and community spirit among friends and neighbors.

Swing at the end for the truly adventurous!), snorkeling, whale watching or sport fishing.

During our early visits, when our villa was being built, we met friendly, welcoming locals and wonderful neighbors, fellow adventurers who had travelled the world and chosen to settle here, and were introduced to the hidden gems (more of those throughout this guide!). This is the typical culture around these parts!

You can visit Manuel Antonio National Park or the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park to explore the most pristine rainforest in Costa Rica.

The south Pacific coast is renowned for its dramatic landscapes where the mountains meet the ocean. Here you will find a series of beaches to explore and enjoy, each with its own unique character. The one you don’t want to miss, Playa Ventana, is the best and most secluded, yet only 10 minutes from Villa Mariposa. We like to think of it as our private beach because there have been so many times we have had it to ourselves. OK, so sometimes it gets pretty busy... you may have “crowds” of as many as a dozen people in the afternoon!! The area had been isolated for years until the new highway was completed. The development is more controlled than in the northern part which has had a great influx of tourists over the years. You can easily take advantage of the nearby series of beaches each with its own unique character, hiking trails through the jungle, go birdwatching, zip lining (with an optional Tarzan

I highly recommend horseback riding to Nauyaca Falls and a swim in the jungle pool at the base. You can even climb up the waterfall with a rope and dive into the natural pool!

We adore great food and it’s wonderful to be living minutes away from Ojochal, which is becoming the culinary center of Costa Rica. We're able to experience dining out at 5 star French, Mediterranean and Indonesian restaurants in the jungle! Exotica is a perfect example - a small exquisite restaurant down a dirt road through the jungle serving a gourmet dining experience worthy of our experiences in Paris (you must meet Lucy and Bob - let them know you are guests of Ellen and Bernie). And then there's the fresh fish... on Fridays the fisherman brings his cooler with fresh fish to the main entrance of Ojochal and sets up near the bar or variety store around 9AM. Get there by 9:30 for the great tuna steaks which you can bring home and cook on the BBQ, whilst enjoying your favorite chilled beverage! On Saturdays the fisherman is at the Uvita farmers market which is 20 minutes from the villa, north of Ojochal. All of this adds up to something which I would call the Real Southern Zone!


5 EXPERIENCES YOU CANNOT MISS... 1

Visit the Secret Beach...

2

Horseback to Nauyaca Falls...

3

High Adventure...

4

Swim With the Fishes...

5

The Whales Tail...

With so many beaches you don’t want to miss the best and most secluded - our hidden beach Ventanas. Just 10 minutes from Villa Mariposa. This is a picturesque sandy beach, studded with palm trees in a small bay formed by the mountain rolling into the ocean on each side. Playa Ventana, which means Windows Beach, is named for the caverns carved into the mountainside that look into the ocean. At low tide, walk through tunnels to the ocean! After playing in the surf and exploring the caves, you can rinse yourself off in the fresh-water lagoon near the middle of the beach. When you get here I'll tell you how to find it!!

I highly recommend this wonderful day trip for the whole family. It takes you on horseback to the magnificent Nauyaca Falls where you can swim in natural pools surrounded by tropical jungle or jump from the falls into the natural pool. You ride through the lush jungle to Don Lulo’s home for a delicious and typical Costa Rican breakfast. You can get up close to the tame toucans and macaws for great photo ops. After exploring and enjoying the falls you will return to Don Lulo’s for a wonderful lunch.

We have done a number of canopy tours and the Osa Canopy Tour is the most adventurous, and the people who run it are great. The high jungle setting on the side of a mountain is wonderful for gliding over the tops of trees with huge vistas. You'll experience nature on the high platforms and thrills in the air. For the truly adventurous, along with the zip-lines, there is an amazing "Tarzan" swing. They also offer a separate Waterfall Repelling Tour with 3 waterfalls, with one over 250 feet high!

The Caño Island National Reserve is an hour's boat ride away, offering some of the best snorkeling & scuba diving in Costa Rica. Snorkeling we have seen coral reefs, colorful marine life including stingrays, dolphins, sea turtles. Others have even seen sharks! Then enjoy lunch and relaxing on the beach. Skin Diver magazine rated this site as among the best in the world and one of the newest hot spots for adventure diving. We highly recommend Mystic Dive, run by our neighbors, to take you there. Let Cumarie know we sent you!

Playa Uvita is another hidden beach, but not in the way you expect. At low tide you can walk the Whales Tail, a sandbar which becomes visible and looks like a whale's tail, disappearing at high tide. Quite the experience to walk out on the tail, with the ocean lapping up both sides, then turn around and get a great view of the coastline. Just check the tide tables. You can even see the Whales Tail from Villa Mariposa!


3 FOODIE EXPERIENCES NOT TO MISS...

1

Exotica Restaurant...

2

Citrus Restaurant...

3

Ylang Ylang Restaurant...

Exotica Restaurant: A culinary experience not to be missed is dinner at Exotica Restaurant. Hidden in the village of Ojochal, down a jungle road, we highly recommend this fabulous restaurant that serves a fusion of international fare with a French accent. This is a 5-star foodie experience to please even the most discerning of world travelers. This is one of the best culinary experiences I have had in Costa Rica and abroad. The ambiance is magical and you will be enchanted by Lucy, your very gracious hostess. Be sure to make reservations in the high season. It is a small restaurant and fills up quickly.

Another hidden jewel in Southern Pacific Costa Rica, Citrus Restaurant is tucked away off the road in Ojochal on a river bank. This sophisticated restaurant is immediately inviting, with its upscale decor and garden patio with twinkling lights in the trees by the river. A diverse menu of Mediterranean Fusion cuisine with Moroccan inspired dishes is all tempting. Marcella and Sylvain are wonderful hosts with very friendly and attentive staff. While not the least expensive, it is worth it. You will not be disappointed!

Yet another hidden gem in the southern zone of Costa Rica, Ylang Ylang Restaurant is perched on a ridge above the Pacific Ocean. This small exquisite open air restaurant offers a lovely ocean view. It is worth going early to watch the sunset from this vantage point. This intimate setting is a remarkable place to experience authentic Indonesian cuisine. Our guests have said it is the best Indonesian food they have eaten outside of Indonesia. If you have never had Indonesian food you are in store for a unique and spicy experience prepared by a talented chief Caroline, who was born in Jakarta.

Ellen's Best of the Rest The Best Shrimp Ceviche...

Croissants For Breakfast...

Beach Club Sunday Brunch...

For a tropical delicacy, fabulous fish marinated in lime juice, stop at Ceviche Pi単uela, a roadside restaurant run by a local Tico family, located north of Ojochal near the entrance to Playa Pi単uela on the coastal highway. The shrimp ceviche is the best I've ever had!

A very authentic French bakery just inside the highway entrance to Ojochal owned by Philippe and Mireille from Southern France, offers excellent pastries, sandwiches and bread plus a nice bistro atmosphere in which to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee and fresh baked croissant.

Restaurant Villa Leonor at Ballena Beach Club offers a Sunday BBQ brunch that draws both locals and visitors. The owner Cliff makes you feel right at home. I recommend you combine brunch there any day of the week with a trip to their beach. The food is excellent, try the ribs or the fresh seafood!


ELLENS’S TIPS ON WHERE TO STAY... Costa Rica's Southern Zone has a number of options depending on your needs. Below is Ellen's very own vacation rental, along with a couple of other suggestions that she has. Plus see some of Ellen's practical tips below to help you begin planning your stay!

Ellen’s Very Own...

An award winning 3 bedroom villa overlooking the gorgeous Ventanas Beach and Pacific Ocean. With its private pool, gorgeous ocean views and upscale amenities, it is TripAdvisor’s Top Vacation Rental for Ojochal in 2013! An ideal jungle base from which to explore the spectacular southern Pacific coastline! Visit Ellen’s Website to Find Out More…

Ellen Suggests...

A good alternative if I'm booked, it's just down the road from my place and it’s also very private and spacious, perfect for family gatherings or an escape with a group of friends. Jay is also an amazing owner! Visit Jay’s Website to Find Out More…

Ellen Suggests...

For shorter stays or, if you cannot find room at either Jay's or mine, the hotel Lookout at Playa Tortuga is a great option. It’s not a luxury hotel but has great TripAdvisor reviews and I myself have stayed there and would recommend it. Visit the Lookout Website to Find Out More...

The Practical Stuff... Getting Here...

You can fly into the international airport in San Jose and drive the 3 - 3 1/2 hours (not including stops for the amazing views!). Or take a private VIP shuttle from San Jose Airport. You could even take a 30 minute scenic morning flight over the mountains and along the coast to Palmar Sur airstrip. From there we can arrange to have a 4x4 rental waiting for you and then drive the 25 minutes to Villa Mariposa. Be sure to rent a 4x4 for access to the villa and beaches!

Local Currency...

Costa Rica's currency is the colón (colónes plural). Refer to Travelex or any other foreign currency websites for the latest rates. The locals will not take big bills so don’t let the currency exchanges give you anything bigger than ¢10,000. Visa Credit Cards are widely accepted. However, Amex and MasterCard are more problematic and not generally accepted. Do NOT bring travelers cheques/checks. They do not work well here!

Weather Conditions...

Close to the equator, we have consistent temps year round. High Season runs Dec – Apr, with beach-perfect weather. But North American summers are also a great time to visit. Running May – Aug is the Green Season, a favorite time for locals and travelers in the know. Magical and energizing, it’s gloriously sunny most of the day with short afternoon rains that freshen the air and add to the lushness of plant life and encourage active wildlife!


THE VACATION INSIDER PHILOSOPHY

PUT THE GUIDEBOOK DOWN... Guidebooks are a great overview but your vacation insider is a local specialist so put the guidebook down and ask your insider!

If you’re an accommodation owner and would like to participate in the Insider Guide series we’d love to hear from you! Email: info@vacationinsiders.com or Web: www.vacationinsiders.com VACATION INSIDERS © 2014 | www.vacationinsiders.com


A Vacation Insiders Travel Guide to Costa Rica's Southern Zone