ultimate guide to family vacations in las catalinas

The Ultimate Guide to Family Vacations in Las Catalinas

Family vacations are one of the best ways to bond with loved ones and create lasting memories.

Still, we understand that when it comes to actually choosing a destination, your family can be the toughest crowd to please.

Consider Las Catalinas, a beautiful coastal town in Costa Rica. Town has got it all: the amenities of modern living, a strong connection to nature, and a walkable town designed from its foundation to delight the people who live there.

To help you get a better idea about town, we’ve compiled a guide from the people who know it best, one that talks about everything you and your loved ones can enjoy in town. Let’s get started!

To Get You Started: Another Morning at Las Catalinas

another morning in las catalinas


You sit, and you sip your coffee.


Just beyond your gaze the gently crashing surf drums in and out about a hundred yards from where you sit, past the place where the cantera stone street flows into the brick avenue that hugs the beach, past the trees swaying in the warm summer breeze. There’s a faint whisper of salt in the air, and it pleasantly mixes in with the sharp scent of the Costa Rican black in your mug, and the sweet-but-not-too-sweet after aroma of the handmade tortillas Laura, your house mom, made for this morning’s breakfast.


You take another sip, and sit comfortably back into your spot on the porch’s big chair, spotting a big black iguana basking in a tree nearby, long tail swishing back and forth as she soaks in the sun. You think you could learn a lot from her, eyes half closed in bliss with beautiful spines dotting her back, elegantly posed in a tree overlooking her kingdom, and let out a happy sigh.


The whole terrace is marked with the signs of a vacation well spent. A book lays finished on the porch coffee table, set gently on the table with bookmark satisfyingly placed sideways across its cover, next to a well traveled bike helmet laid on a folded towel and a pair of sunglasses nestled happily on a wide brim hat. On the floor leaning against the couch lay a pair of boogie boards, and past them by the plunge pool a few pairs of flip-flops and sandals in browns, blues, and hot pinks, accumulated in joyful rush to the water.


Beneath you on the road a lively conversation touches the ears and then passes, on down along the stone streets to the beach avenue. You recognize the casual Spanglish que es common around here, dipping in and out of los dos idiomas almost without thinking, and watch the couple disappear around the bend.


Another sip of coffee, and you settle somehow even more comfortably into the big chair, shoulders falling back as your eyes drift closed for a moment.


The chirping of the parakeets in the tree across the way comes to life as the little birds engage in morning conversation. The fountain splashes consistently into the pool like the running of a mountain spring, punctuated by the swaying of the trees in the swelling wind, the gentle hum of a bike coasting along the gentle downhill, the distant bounce of a football a few streets over.


Suddenly, the door behind you clicks open, and a pair of excited barefoot footsteps make a beeline past the table towards the couch next to you. Like two excited puppies, your oldest tumbles their way over the back of the couch onto the cushions, nearly falling off as the middle one finishes their trek around the long way, hopping up to join their sibling on the couch.


“Are you gonna come to the beach with us?,” the younger one asks.


“Yes, sweetie,” you reply. “In a little.”


“Aw come onnnnnnnnnnn...,” your oldest complains.


“You guys can go down without me,” you say. “I’ll catch up when I’m done with my coffee.”


With a look back and forth between them, the two groan in unison. “Coffee always takes so lonnnnng!” they say.


“Hey, parents get to be on vacation too,” you say, sipping your coffee with exaggerated slowness.


The two groan in unison again, drawing a wry smile from your lips.


“If you guys go help get everything ready and pack up for the beach, we can leave sooner,” you offer.


The two of them look to you and then back to each other, unsure if you’ve given them what they want or masterfully manipulated them into helping with the work, but ultimately the end result is the same -- them at the beach -- and the little ones scamper away leaving you alone once more on the porch.


You sink even further down into the chair, glancing over at the big iguana, who hasn’t moved one inch, tail still swishing in the wind as she basks in the sunlight.


“How long do you think we’ve got?” you ask her. Behind you, the happy bustle of the kids getting ready echoes against the half closed door. The iguana has no answer other than to keep basking, and you sip your coffee.


Long enough.


Ready for more? Read on for some of the best activities both in and outdoors that your loved ones can enjoy at Las Catalinas.


Family Vacation Tips: 7 Great Activities For Kids in Las Catalinas



Childhood vacations are among some of the most vivid memories we carry with us throughout our lives. Well into adulthood people can clearly recall every detail of these experiences, like the smell in the air when they visited an active volcano or the sounds of the rainforest.


We’ve talked with the people who know the town best, and we’ve got the scoop on seven experiences guaranteed to provide incredible family memories.

Family Hikes


Walking among nature is a restorative and enriching experience, especially with family. And what makes Las Catalinas special for a hike is the sheer diversity of terrain, views, flora and fauna across more than 22 kilometers of trails like:


  • Punta Guachipelines, a ridge top trail leading to the Guachipelines Peninsula, a place with ocean-facing cliffs on three different sides and great views of the Pitahaya islands, used as a nesting site by multiple species of local birds.
    Round trip time from Las Catalinas Beach Town: 1 to 2 hours

  • Punta Penca, a trail that is gentle and excellently suited for a light afternoon stroll with the family, offering flatter ground. The scenery progression here is remarkable: the trail starts down by the beach, heading up into the forests before finishing in a park-like setting towards the end at the very tip of the peninsula.
    Round trip time from Las Catalinas Beach Town: 30 to 60 minutes.


Bike Rides on the Trails


The Las Catalinas biking trails aren’t quite like anywhere else in the entire world. The tracks just outside of town offer a world-class blend of stunning scenery and exciting trails that make it one of the premier mountain biking destinations in the American tropics.


These rides offer a fantastic range of ocean and coastal views through the natural habitats of wildlife like monkeys, pizotes (coatis), deer, peccaries (wild hogs) and an extensive variety of exotic birds.

The majority of the trails are moderate grade, making for easy “flow” riding with enjoyable gentle curves and thrilling but safe downhill rides, all without sustained grunting climbs.


Be sure to contact Pura Vida Ride, town’s official outfitter down by Danta Beach, which provides bikes, guidance, and tours.


Kayak Excursions


Kayaking is a great way for families to experience the astounding beauty and biodiversity of Guanacaste Province’s coastal ecosystems. The best part? All that’s required is an easy paddle right next to the beach.


Not only is Pura Vida Ride located just short 50 meters from the shore in Danta Beach, the area is also within “kayakable” distance of nearby islands where you and your younger ones can really do some exploring.


If this sounds like something your family will enjoy, head over to PVR and check out their single and double kayaks.


Snorkeling on the Bay


At a place like Las Catalinas, once you get a taste of life above sea level, there’s an inevitable desire to experience what it’s like under the water.


With warm water, small waves, and great visibility, Las Catalinas offers a great option for a snorkeling excursion, with some prime spots around town like the reef on the far side of Playa Dantita and the near-shore of the Pitahayas Islets.


Stand Up Paddling


Stand-up Paddling is another great way to hit the waves. With a little bit of challenge, a lot of fun, easy on and off, and the flexibility to explore across the water, SUP is an immediately fun way to enjoy a setting of unrivalled natural beauty.


Pura Vida Ride also offers different SUP lesson formats in Playa Danta and Playa Dantita.
Learning SUP and safety basics – like balance, paddling, turning, and wave knowledge – takes just a short 15 to 20 minutes, and then it’s off to the water for an easy paddle along the coastline to see rays, turtles, fish, birds, and many other species.


Boogie Boarding


Boogie boarding is a great way to get started with wave-riding. This gentler cousin to surfing helps you learn to understand the movement of waves, improve your timing and balance, and gain comfort in the water. Instead of standing up like on a surfboard, you lie with your torso on the boogie board and grab onto it with your hands, while your lower body hangs freely in the water.


Boogie boarding is a dynamic and fast paced activity for people of all ages, and -- depending on the waves -- ranges from perfectly suited to younger kids still learning the waves up to some bigger breakers great for teenagers and older riders.


And the best part? It can all be found just offshore of Playa Danta, which boasts a flat shore, moderate swells, and perfectly spaced waves that are consistently shaped and easy to ride.


Forage of Edible Fruits and Plants – for Dinner!


The tropical dry forests and trails surrounding Las Catalinas also offer a culinary way to experience nature. This area is highly diverse in terms of edible vegetation, offering the opportunity for families to set out into the wild to hand pick different foods to eat.


Guided by head Chef Gilberto Briceño -- who has experience foraging cuisine in the Amazon, Scandinavia, and the Andes for numerous Michelin-starred restaurants -- all collected ingredients are brought back and prepared for a truly unique and memorable meal.


So if you’re in the mood to try something different for tea or for dinner, just set out for the trails. You never know what you’ll find!


And Those Are Just the Start!


Family vacations are one of the best ways to bond with loved ones and create lasting memories. Toss in the best parts of Las Catalinas, like a friendly people, an all-encompassing beauty, and a genuine appreciation of nature, and you’re in a place ready for whatever your adventures your family is ready to take.


And we took a deeper look at one type of these adventures in our next sections, focusing on outdoor expeditions for the family. Set out into nature on guided outdoor expeditions in which the whole family can explore the natural world, learn about vibrant ecosystems, and even contribute to the preservation of these natural environments.


Outdoor Expeditions in Costa Rica: Explore and Learn with the Family

outdoor expeditions with your family in costa rica


Vacation planning for the whole family can be a challenging task, especially for those looking for an experience deeper than usual tourist fare.


One exciting possibility is to set out into nature on guided outdoor expeditions, day trips where the whole family can explore the natural world, learn about vibrant ecosystems filled with colorful plants and animals, and even contribute to the preservation of these natural environments.


These kind of experiences are available much closer than you might think. Take for example ConnectOcean, an organization based in Las Catalinas that is dedicated to protecting the aquatic environments of Guanacaste and beyond.


ConnectOcean’s work involves members of the community of all ages, and they lead a number of different expeditions into their surrounding natural ecosystems. Even better, they can be visited via Liberia, Costa Rica, with a direct flight from dozens of North and Central American cities.


The Mission -- Protect and Learn


ConnectOcean is one of the foremost members of the Citizen Science movement, a push in the world of science to turn each and every one of us into researchers capable of protecting the environment, without the need for extensive training.


In the words of David Suzuki, a worldwide expert in Citizen Science: “Citizen Science turns our smartphones and tablets into internet-connected research tools we can use to observe, explore and understand a wide range of ecological topics, from backyard birds to wildlife sightings to flower-blooming times.”


This means that while we’re out exploring the natural world, taking photos of interesting plants, counting the birds we see, and spotting elusive aquatic wildlife, we might be contributing to protecting the environment without even thinking about it!


Among their many initiatives, ConnectOcean hosts day expeditions to immerse members of the community in the wonderful wild world around them. On these trips, families get to explore forests, rivers, reefs, and other ecosystems and learn about the fascinating plants and animals that live there. Even better, each trip helps document wildlife for their protection, making these citizen science safaris a win-win for everyone.


So what does ConnectOcean have to offer your group? Keep reading to learn about a few of our recommendations for you and your family.


Adventures on the Beach


For a nearby adventure on the beach by Las Catalinas, the Intertidal Explorer program takes the entire family down to Playa Danta and Playa Dantita, to explore beaches, rock pools, and the world out beyond the surf.


Guided by a marine life specialist, family members will get to search for hidden beach life, see whole worlds inside tiny tide pools, and even venture out among the waves with snorkeling gear to see what’s going on underneath the surface.


It’s a fun way to turn a day on the beach into a dynamic look at dozens of different forms of life, and all discoveries and wildlife are tracked and entered into the ConnectOcean Citizen Science Database.


Exploring the Mangroves


Another option that takes the team deep into the Costa Rican rivers is the Mangrove Explorer program. Departing from Las Baulas National Park in a local Artisanal Boat, the tour ventures up into the mangroves, using the maneuverability of the shallow-bottom vessel to explore wild and hidden areas far beyond the reach of normal watercraft.


Mangroves serve as a natural nursery for much of the country’s marine life, so on this trip you can expect to see a wide range of birds, monkeys, fish, and reptiles. Guided by your private Naturalist guide, you get to learn about the fascinating challenges of surviving in a mangrove, and see the truly unique creatures that make these ecosystems their home.


It’s an excellent way for everyone -- kids and adults -- to explore a place that truly feels like another world. 


Offshore Expeditions


Another option is to set out offshore, venturing by boat to the Coral Reefs of the coast in the Reef And Open Ocean Explorer Expedition.


This half-day trip takes the entire family up the stunning Guanacaste coastline from the water, before arriving at some of the most vibrant coral reef snorkeling sites of the entire Pacific Coast. Learn about these amazing ecosystems both above and below the water as you watch for flying fish, turtles, and dolphins, before diving into the world of colorful creatures and coral.


Complete with a professional marine guide, provided snorkeling gear, snacks, and a heck of a view, this trip is an excellent way to immerse your family in the best of the coast on a morning or afternoon trip.


Give Your Family A Valuable Vacation Experience


Protecting our wild and wonderful planet is a responsibility we all bear. And there’s no greater joy than sharing a love for nature and the outdoors with the younger ones in our life and teaching them to love the fragile and beautiful ecosystems that sustain life for so many different species.


Now that we all have a smartphone in our pockets, citizen science provides an innovative medium to put them to good use – protecting the world around us. And we can do it all while having fun and immersing ourselves in a different kind of vacation experience.


Your kids probably won’t even notice they’re learning!


A family vacation also means making time for the parents to enjoy time together. So, whether you are celebrating your time together, or just want a break in the routine, Las Catalinas is the right place for the two of you.


Memorable Moments for Couples on Vacation in Las Catalinas

moments for couples in las catalinas 

There’s nothing quite like an excellent trip with your partner. Especially in a busy world, getting away to enjoy time with your significant other can be an exclamation mark to the week, month, or year.


But planning an escape with your partner is easier said than done, and there are a lot of considerations to take care of before a wonderful weekend filled with memories comes to life.


We’ve taken one of the most important considerations -- “so what exactly are we going to do?” -- and compiled a list of some of the best activities to get up to when you’re in Las Catalinas.


Read on to get a taste of what you and your partner can enjoy on your next vacation together.


Sunset Sailing on the Coast


Set sail for an unforgettable evening on a sunset cruise along the Guanacaste coast. As the afternoon winds down, step aboard a local catamaran to enjoy the warm sea breeze and the stunning sights as the sun sets on the region’s Pacific coast.


Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and watch for dolphins and sea turtles in the surf surrounded by the beauty of Costa Rica’s North Pacific, as you enjoy a blissful trip there and back along the coast.


The highlight of the evening comes just as the sun is setting. With an unfettered view out to the horizon, boats steer upwind and sit completely still except for the gentle motion of the waves, and watch as the sun descends to touch the sea. It’s an experience just as memorable for the first time as the fiftieth and marks the crowning moment of an excellent evening offshore.


The Northern Beaches


If and your partner feel in the mood for a bit of adventure along the shoreline, your answer just might be an excursion to the Northern Beaches on a Stand-Up Paddle Board.


Stand-Up Paddle, or SUP, offers a satisfying challenge to learn at first -- ten or fifteen minutes to get the hang of the sport and learn the ropes -- followed by rewarding freedom to explore coastal waters.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can set off to the water for an easy paddle along the coastline to the northern beaches, exploring hidden inlets and coves as you cruise along waves alive with rays, turtles, and many other aquatic animals.

There’s little more satisfying than pulling ashore on a beach all your own to sit and watch the waves, enjoying the peace and quiet of nature with your number one.


Sunset Strolls and a Twist


Getting out for a long stroll is a classic partner activity and a particular favorite for the people of Las Catalinas. Whether you’re taking a sunset promenade or venturing out into the trails, the town and its surroundings offer a variety of options for you and your partner to explore and enjoy.


One particular favorite is a late afternoon stroll down through town and then out onto the shore, as the sky comes alive with color and the warm breeze brings fresh air.


Our recommendation goes one step further though, to really take this trip to the next level. You can stop by the town’s gourmet market, Copper & Stone, to get some portable appetizers like charcuterie, fresh fruit, and cheeses – which can be prepared for you ahead of time – and pack up some bubbles to complete your sunset cocktail hour out on the beach, the perfect end to an evening stroll.


And don’t feel confined to the evening. Copper & Stone prepares picnic baskets ideal for morning, noon, and night, complete with breakfast pastries, afternoon sandwiches, or evening delights. Set out onto the trails for a snack in a secluded clearing, or find a peaceful plaza to enjoy the nighttime as well, all on your own two feet.


Cocktails at Santarena


A cocktail on the Santarena Hotel’s rooftop terrace is a great way to wrap up a long day of adventure around town.


Relaxing by the hotel’s infinity pool, looking out at the Catalinas Islands as the sun sets, and sharing stories and chatting with travelers from the world are the pinnacle of Santarena’s spirit.


The hotel’s signature gin & tonics are the main event here, but the event also includes a selection of pinchos and other cocktails, the perfect transition into a dinner downstairs at Ponciana, the culinary gem of the Santarena Hotel.


Foraging Your Feast


There’s always going to be a place in the world for an intimate meal at a restaurant together, but Las Catalinas offers a unique dining option that blends a nature walk, cooking class, and homemade meal.
Las Catalinas, like most of Costa Rica, is home to an astounding variety of edible fruits and plants. The trick, however, is finding and identifying them. This is where Gilberto Briceño, local Head Chef and expert on foraged cuisine, excels (among his many other skills).


Drawing from his years of experience foraging in the Andes, the Amazon, and Scandinavia for multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, Briceño has taken his talents back to his home country of Costa Rica, where he has brought the nation’s many colorful fruits and ingredients to life.

For the first part of the trip, set out into the tropical dry forest around town in late afternoon to forage for fruits, plants, and other ingredients, all while learning about the diversity of Costa Rican flora. Then, return to town to learn about the preparation of the unique flavors you’ve collected during the day, all while you team up to create a homemade meal available nowhere else in the world.


So, Are You Ready?


Planning a trip with your partner doesn’t need to be difficult, especially around town. Las Catalinas offers a combination of modern convenience, variety of activities, and stunning natural scenery, with a unique character.


So whether you set out for a boat ride into the sunset, cocktails with other adventurous travelers, a trip on the beach, or bring your trip to life in another way, you can be sure to find memories here to last a lifetime.


Another reason people come back to town over and over again is the wide variety of hobbies you can take up while you’re in town. From morning yoga lessons and fitness to outdoor adventures to diving into a new style of cooking, there are plenty of options for you to choose from.


The Best Personal Hobbies To Pick Up While You’re In Las Catalinas

personal hobbies to pick up in las catalinas


Time away with nature as a backdrop is every traveler’s dream. And with an average temperature of 74 degrees year round, Las Catalinas is the perfect place to flow through any exercise or relaxation routine and engage with the outdoors.


There are plenty of options for you to choose from in town, whether you’re looking to continue a familiar activity or embrace something completely new.


So whether you’re working on physical fitness, finding some personal balance, learning a new skill, setting out for adventure, or gaining some knowledge, you can do it all here, surrounded by breathtaking vistas of the ocean and tropical forests. Here are just a few ideas to start with.


When You Wake Up:


Let your prana flow with yoga classes at:


  • Casa Chameleon hotel, which is perched high on the hill-top above the town. The yoga pavilion is open wall-to-wall, letting you breathe in the fresh air and feel the wind as you flow through your vinyasas. Forgot your mat at home? No worries, they provide all the necessities, you just bring the stretching.


  • Yoga Workshops on Playa Danta beach. These are weekly lessons that include guided meditation, accessible poses, and gently guided relaxation led by local yoga teachers. There are also options to organize additional training outside of normal schedules, just ask the concierge team for providers in and around town.


  • Everywhere around town. However, nothing beats doing asanas on the beach. Up on the mountaintop trails or down on Playa Danta and Playa Dantita are some prime spots for beach yoga in Costa Rica.


  • Standing up on a paddle board. Good balance and coordination gain new meaning while practicing stand up paddle yoga. The team at Pura Vida Ride could not have said it better: yoga blends nicely with the skills needed to master stand up paddle boarding. You get to experience the relaxation of yoga on the warm, calm waters of the Pacific Ocean. And if you lose balance (as everyone does on occasion), you’ll go down with a splash!


Or get your energy pumping to start the day:


  • Every Monday and Wednesday morning you can start the day with High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in the Yoga Pavilion, a full-body workout that features strength, endurance, and flexibility training all just a few steps away from the beach. There’s nothing quite like waking up to bask in gentle sunlight, surrounded by the calm sound of the waves and the chirping of tropical birds all while digging deep to get stronger, faster, and more fit. These HIIT routines are an excellent way for you to get the blood flowing, keep your energy up, and start the day off right.


  • There’s also the fully equipped CrossFit box on Playa Potrero, which is open 6 days a week for both members and visitors. The highly qualified and enthusiastic coaches are fun and welcoming, and ensure that whatever your skill level, you’re able to work out and improve. Don’t be deceived by their smiles and relaxed natures though -- easy isn’t in these athlete’s vocabularies. They make sure you have a great workout, and the location offers a unique experience, whether you’re diving into the sea right after the end of class or laughing as curious howler monkeys, cows, and iguanas poke their heads in to see what’s up. Not to mention post workout coffee, smoothies, and juices at their onsite mini-cafe.


If you’re looking for outdoor adventure:


Mountain Biking

The people in town are pretty darn proud of the world-class trails at Las Catalinas. Every year, MTB enthusiasts come to enjoy nearly 50km of coastal and mountain-side terrain, which offers expansive tropical ocean views, dramatic landscapes, and vibrant wildlife, making town one of the most prominent mountain biking destinations in the American tropics.


And it doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a veteran -- thanks to a wide variety of trails, everybody has a chance to get into the zone riding the downhill curves, tackling challenging uphills, and cruising along flat single tracks.


There’s a reason that international training camps like RaceQuest come to town to train. Even world-class athletes know that there’s a lot to learn from riding here, so no matter what your skill level you can be sure you’re set to improve during your time in town. One great goal to work towards is the Las Catalinas TRI that takes place every February, which offers solo or relay race options and a field of friendly racers with a true love of the sport.


And no worries if you can’t bring your beloved bike with you -- the experts at local partner Pura Vida Ride are ready to gear you up with bikes, knowledgeable guidance, and personal tours. Don’t forget to dive into the ocean once the ride is over!


Trail Running


It’s easy to fall in love with the land at Las Catalinas on foot, enjoying a run around the trails and among the tropical dry forest, enjoying the beautiful weather and a connection with nature.


During the dry season, the trail is full of colors. Some flowering trees dot the landscape in whites, yellows, purples, and reds, with clear skies, pleasant dry breezes, and warm temperatures completing the scene.
In the wet season, a field of greens dominate. Locals love this time of year, and set out to enjoy the rains, which bring cool temperatures and misty air. Mornings are mostly sunny while evenings boast a fresh onshore breeze.

While hiking and running, you will share most of the same trails as town’s famed mountain biking community, with the addition of a few trails reserved specifically for those on foot. These footpaths are too steep for bikes to travel, and provide access to some of the most breathtaking views in Las Catalinas.
It’s a constantly changing environment to run through, one that has something to offer to the beginning runner just making the transition from hiking as well as to the world-seasoned expert, and with diverse Costa Rican wildlife making their home all across the trails your morning exercise has the chance to turn into an impromptu nature excursion.


And when it’s time to cool off:


At Playa Danta, you can enjoy a good swim to take the day’s heat off in gentle waves and warm waters. Open water swim is a favorite pastime at Las Catalinas, and with a number of different competitions in the area there’s always a moderate distance swim to work towards.


For the more casual swimmer the cove has a lot to offer as well, with a swim platform for resting and basking in the sun, and sandy shores to relax on. If you’re up for some exercise and looking to get away from the action, you can always aqua-jog or swim up to Dantita beach up north too. If you’re lucky on these trips, you can catch a glimpse of sea turtles or other aquatic creatures, as our finned friends love this secluded and sheltered cove.


And if you’re looking to do more than just swim, there’s plenty of other water activities to dive into -- like body surfing, boogie boarding, open water scuba diving and snorkeling, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and surfing, to name a few -- and all are serious hobby material.


One particular favorite around the country is surfing. Simple to learn and yet taking a lifetime to master, there’s no better place to work at this personal hobby than in Costa Rica. As a matter of fact, the beaches of Guanacaste boast some of the best spots to break the waves, like Ollie’s Point and Witch’s Rock, which -- as Lonely Planet puts it -- are a surfer’s dream. Make sure to hone your skills just outside of town at Playa Grande first, as these breaks mean business!


And if the action above the waves wasn’t enough, Costa Rica’s North Pacific Coast also plays home to one of the world’s most vibrant aquatic ecosystems, found just a few meters into the water. The best way to enjoy it is to dive in with a certified instructor from local partner Connect Ocean Aquatic Academy and PADI Center, which provides snorkeling and diving excursions that sprinkle in Citizen Science and Marine Ecology Education. Whether you’re starting out as a diver, or coming to town looking to get your Advanced Open Water, Master Diver and beyond, the dive school here has something for you.


To feed curiosity (and appetite!):


Embracing the natural world of Las Catalinas isn’t just about outdoor activities, breathtaking views, and sipping through a cocktail while watching the sunset from your balcony. It’s also about delicious and healthy food, taken straight from the land.


Guanacaste is growing more and more important in Costa Rica’s culinary scene, and Las Catalinas is emerging as a leader in the region. Whether it’s Ponciana, one of Las Catalina’s premier culinary achievements at Santarena Hotel; breakfast time and all day eats at Limonada and the Beach Club restaurants, the Copper & Stone Gourmet Market with its artisan sandwiches, sunset cocktails at Sentido Norte, or the smell of fresh-baked bread from Cuatro Calle La Ronda Bakery, there’s a lot to love here.


The foodie in you will rejoice. If you’re interested in making food a hobby, there are options for you too. Want to cook like a local? Maybe you just want a chance to practice some local recipes, or learn how cooking with fresh ingredients can improve your cooking, with fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, fish, and poultry sourced from the area.


And if you want to take it to the next level, you can book a two part cooking class with one of town’s expert chefs, learning from these international culinary champs in the afternoon and building to a private dinner as the evening winds down. The chefs in the area are a friendly and charismatic bunch, and they’re always willing to offer guidance, tips, and a kind word to the people they meet.


Finally, if you’re more interested in eating their food rather than preparing it, make sure to come for Guanacaste Nights, a food festival that draws chefs from all over the world (and some from in town) together for a festival celebrating the Costa Rican culinary tradition.


What Will You Choose?


There’s no question -- taking up a hobby is a great way to spice up your time in a new place, and can be a healthy, active, and interesting new change to the rhythm. Even better, it gives us something to work on, to strive for, and can add some direction and purpose to your trip to paradise. Which do you think you’ll take up while you’re in town?


Have you ever thought of taking a sabbatical? As it turns out, this period of rest and reflection is no longer just for academics and professors, and it doesn’t have to be a full year. More and more professionals are embracing the new sabbatical, to change up rhythms and reassess, and Las Catalinas provides the ideal setting.


The Family Sabbatical Experience at Las Catalinas

Sabbatical Las Catalinas

The work life of the modern professional is constantly evolving, and the increasing pressures and responsibilities of the 21st century require the work-life balance to evolve as well.


A big part of that new balance is finding time away from the rhythms of usual work, stepping out of the normal and into a new way of life – either by ourselves or with our families.


The sabbatical is a tradition that was usually confined to the university system, to tenured professors and other long-serving academics. However, in recent times the concept of a ‘new sabbatical” has taken hold, adapting the need for an extended stay elsewhere to the faster work cycle of the modern world.


Instead of needing to take a year away from work, many professionals are compressing the sabbatical experience -- the break from the rhythms of life and the chance to live somewhere else -- into a month, a few weeks, or even shorter. Read on to learn more about how to make it work, and how Las Catalinas stacks up as your next sabbatical-style experience.


Las Catalinas: The Town


Founded in 2006 and located on the shore of Playa Danta in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province, Las Catalinas presents the sabbatical traveler with a unique combination of gateway city infrastructure and services, natural beauty, and ease of access to the outdoors, all layered on top of a calm, peaceful rhythm of life.


By concept, it’s a car-free, fully walkable beach town complete with pedestrian streets, public plazas, and recreational facilities, located only a one-hour drive from Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia.


This offers an excellent balance in terms of lifestyle change, as the town offers a fun, sustainable, and fulfilling lifestyle centered around sociability and contact with nature, while maintaining a connection to the outside world.


There’s also a huge benefit to family travelers -- the town is a safe place for kids to experience freedom and have fun. It’s not uncommon to see a friendly soccer game on the streets, a troupe of all ages in the middle of an epic round of hide-and-seek, or a few friends riding bikes down the beachfront for an afternoon snack of gelato.


The layout and urban design of the town also encourages a natural sense of community and social interaction, ideal to truly feel at home during a longer stay. Just beyond town, Las Catalinas offers immediate access to a diverse array of outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, scuba, paddle boarding, surfing, and more.


As a result, sabbatical seekers can comfortably slip into an easier, more steady way of living -- surrounded by family and new friends from around the world -- that also offers ample opportunities to engage with a lively and fulfilling new way of life.


Rent Your Home


For travelers looking for a grounded experience during their stay, Las Catalinas offers rental homes for all types of family groups.


The key win here is that the homes around Las Catalinas are designed to be lived in, no matter how long the stay. In addition to all the modern amenities and comforts of home, these homes offer spacious living rooms and common spaces for family activities, as well as the necessary privacy for personal activities like writing, reading, or working on personal projects.


These are multi-purpose homes, as a true home should be, and are also designed with the social experience in mind. It’s common for residents to host dinners and parties with fellow travelers looking to connect, which are great opportunities to make new connections and share their experiences.
Plus, most homes come with a “House Mom”, a local Costa Rican who is available to help with everyday chores like breakfast and cleaning, and offer a sneak peek into the way of life around in the area.


The Culinary Experience at Las Catalinas


Great local food is an integral part of a rewarding sabbatical experience, and Las Catalinas offers everything you need in this arena.


For starters, the town is home to the premier gourmet market in Guanacaste, full of local and ethically produced fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, and poultry alongside international favorites, offering all the ingredients you’ll need to try your hand at a local recipe or enjoy a fresh twist on homestyle classics.


If you’re looking for a pro take on the best local flavors, the in-house chefs at Las Catalinas are on the case. Bringing fresh ingredients to life with a blend of skill and story, these chefs can provide a memorable in-house experience and a lively conversation in the process.


And of course, once in a while you’ll be in the mood to eat out, where you’ll find an excellent selection in town. Options include:


  • Sentido Norte, a mountaintop dinner spot with brilliant seafood and an even better view, offers some of the best options in Costa Rica’s culinary scene, all just a few steps from your front door.

How Will I Spend My Time?


If there’s one thing that sets Las Catalinas apart, it’s the lively community of homeowners and incredible array of “serious hobby potential” activities that you can take up in town.


Surfing, yoga, trail running, scuba, cooking, outdoor fitness, open water swim, and many others are all easily in the cards – and all are within walking distance or a short drive.

There’s also a steady calendar of different events in the town, a blend of returning weekly favorites like the Alma Viajera Pop Up Dinners or Sunset Gin & Tonics on Santarena’s rooftop terrace, and one time events like Flavors of Nicoya: Bites on the Beachfront, The Tope de Liberia, and more.


Throw in the new people coming into town to add a touch of variety and diversity and there’s always something to do.


The Essentials are Taken Care Of


For a shorter sabbatical, life can take a break, but for a longer stay in town, whether it’s a few months or a full year, going on a sabbatical is a major lifestyle change that requires a few necessities.


Like school for the kids. If you have children and are considering a longer break from work, you can be sure their education will not be disrupted thanks to schools nearby with international accreditation. Add in bus access straight from Central’s plaza, and your kids are sure to be excited by the blend of the familiar and the new.


And for the conscious parent, Las Catalinas’ walkable town design and car-free streets provides a balance of safety and security where children (and by proxy, parents) can experience freedom. The town is also close to other necessities like hospitals and veterinarians, to help keep all of the members of your family happy and healthy.


So Maybe It’s Time to Start Planning


As the modern professional has evolved, so have sabbaticals. Now it’s possible to have a sabbatical style experience in a few days or a few weeks, in addition to the longer traditional-style sabbatical.


And if you’re considering this type of experience, the great news is that it might be a lot closer, and a lot simpler to pull off than you might think. If you have questions, reach out to us. We’ll be happy to help you plan the sabbatical you and your family deserve, and might not have ever considered before.



What Do You Think? 

what do you think of las catalinas

Whether you’re planning a vacation with the family or looking at more of a sabbatical stay, we hope that this guide has given you a few ideas as to what you can enjoy when you and your family get to Las Catalinas. After all, there are a lot of adventures waiting here!


Have any questions, want to learn more, or want to start planning your next family trip? Reach out and contact the reservations experts in town at rentals@lascatalinascr.com, who are there to help every step along the way.


Hope to see you soon.