Playa Grande: A Post-Grad’s Paradise

January 23, 2023
January 23, 2023 Allie Kisch

Recent college grad Sophia Grant ditched Corporate America to take a Costa Rican hiatus. Now after spending nearly 3 months in Playa Grande, she spills the tea on her favorite things to do in the area.

Hi, my name is Sophia!

I grew up in Colorado, and recently graduated from CU Boulder in May 2022 with a marketing degree, which I am happy to announce I did in fact use for 5 months after graduation. I have a little island cat named Azula and my favorite color is green.

There is something to be said about a white Christmas, but personally I have always loved tropical holidays, whether that be in the USVI, Hawaii, and or this year: Costa Rica.

Outside of beach destinations, my most recent travels landed me in France with my mom this past summer. My mom had studied abroad in Paris for a year when she was in school, and unfortunately due to covid I never had the chance. French people seem to get a bad wrap, but I honestly found the French to be quite accommodating and helpful! Paris was everything I could’ve ever imagined and more, and Biarritz – man Biarritz was a dream. A small Mediterranean beach town on the Southern border, Biarritz is actually the surfing capital of France, although I spent most of my time admiring the scenery instead of dipping in the cool September water.

From my first week at my post-grad job, I knew I couldn’t stay at a 9-5 for long. Although the thought of a payout when the company was eventually sold was tempting, I knew it would trap me. I also felt like I couldn’t stay in Colorado– there was so much of the world I needed to see, which a few weeks of vacation time a year would not satisfy. 

All it took was one simple question at a rooftop happy hour in Boulder: “Do you want to move to Costa Rica?” And my life would never be the same. 

My friend Sophia had been in search of the same thing as me. (Yes, we’re both named Sophia. Same name, same height, same shoe size, same alma mater, same home state. Sisters.) We didn’t know exactly what it was we were looking for, but having both spent most of our lives in the same state, we knew we had to look outside of Colorado to find it. Sophia and I began planning our future Costa Rican adventure that very night. 

Three months later we were on our way! Our 18 hour adventure to San Jose was split with a hefty layover in Fort Lauderdale, where we left the airport and hit the beach. We made friends with our waiter, and next thing we knew we were taking tequila shots and swimming in the ocean. Salty and excited, we headed back to the airport for our final flight. Costa Rica here we come! We landed a little after midnight which, luckily for us (and please forgive the sarcasm), meant we only had an eight hour wait at the Denny’s Aeropuerto before our shuttle transport arrived. Four coffees, three smoothies, two gallo pintos, and one breakfast special later, we were boarding our shuttle.

For only $42 (thanks, Interbus), we were whisked away to Tamarindo on an air-conditioned mini bus with wifi for five hours, which surprisingly even after 18 hours of travel was quite pleasant given the circumstances. From the Tamarindo drop off point, we hopped in a local taxi and began the final leg of our journey to our new home of Playa Grande. We were immediately stopped by a herd of cattle crossing the road– what at the moment felt like a rather peculiar occurrence, we would soon find out is quite common in Guanacaste. Thirty minutes later, we turned around the bend passing Frijoles Locos, and there she was: Welcome to ONDA! 

Playa Grande is nothing like any beach town I’ve ever lived in or visited. I sometimes have to pinch myself while watching the sunset glisten on the glazed sand at low tide.

Every chance you get, you HAVE to watch the sunset.

Go with friends, go with a beer– doesn’t matter, just go! That is number one on my list of Playa Grande musts dos, and here are the rest…

Sophia’s Must Dos in Playa Grande (if you know you know, ya know?)

  1. Sunset with a cold beer 
  2. Happy hour at Rip Jack (4-6 pm)
  3. Cafe Tin at El Beach Club for the best coffee, almond croissants, and sandwiches in town.
  4. Tacos and banana bread at Taco Star. Note: Taco Star is Cash only!   
  5. POTS & BOWLS (everything – trust me, just go)
  6. Pizza and craft beer at Las Olas Brewing for $10 on Wednesdays 
  7. Surf (obviously) with the instructors at ONDA! Playa Grande offers waves for all surfing skill levels, from pros to beginners.
  8. Take the water taxi across the estuary to Tamarindo. This costs 1000 Colones (cash) each way (DO NOT WALK ACROSS THE ESTUARY, THERE ARE CROCODILES). Beware: the water taxis stop running at 5:30 pm!
  9. Drinks at ONDA | If you’re looking to make friends, there is no better place! Playa Grande is home to some of the most friendly people, you will instantly be made to feel at home. I have honestly met some of the most amazing people in my life in Playa Grande– from locals to expats, to fellow travelers– simply by saying hello you’ve made a new friend! I truly feel blessed for all the new perspectives and knowledge I have gained from talking to strangers. And of course, they are never strangers for long.

Pro tip: Always ask your new friends how they arrived in Playa Grande, what they do, and where they have traveled!  

On a Lazy Lizard catamaran tour with friends I met at ONDA.

Speaking of Tamarindo, here’s the tea…

  1. Drinks at the Diria | Don’t let this beautiful hotel intimidate you, they have the best drink deals in town!
  2. Thursday nights at Pacifico for Reggae Night.
  3. Pro tip: Tama bars aren’t fun until 10:30pm.
  4. Rumors bar any night — if you like house music this is the place to be!

Getting around Playa Grande

You may be wondering, “Sophia I don’t have a car and the water taxis to Tamarindo close at 5:30 pm, how am I going to get anywhere?” Do not worry my friend. Luckily Playa Grande is a very walkable town! When looking to travel outside of PG, taxis are your best friend. Yes, Uber technically exists, but it is quite unreliable. Taxi numbers are passed from friend to friend, from traveler to traveler, so don’t be scared to ask for numbers of known, reliable, safe drivers.

And if you have the chance to explore further than PG and Tamarindo, make sure to visit Playa Conchal (an easy 20 minute drive max) and Brasilito for the best Indian food – Masala, I LOVE YOU.

Where to next, you may ask? New York City, the literal antithesis of Playa Grande.

To say I am grateful for this chapter of my life is an understatement, and though I am so excited (and a little nervous) for New York, I wouldn’t have the confidence or courage going in if it weren’t for taking the leap and moving to Costa Rica for 3 months. So for anyone out there reading this… if your best friend asks you if you want to move to Costa Rica, say YES

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