Monday 3/20: Beach Day at Playa Biesanz and Playa Espadilla, plus.. surf lessons!

Day 10 in Costa Rica: Monday, 3/20

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t love arriving to a new place after dark. When I am unfamiliar with a location, I find it generally disorienting to be attempting to get the “lay of the land” when I can’t see the whole bigger picture.

We arrived to Manuel Antonio on Sunday technically before dark, so it wasn’t really so bad this time, but by the time we had set out to walk to dinner, it was dark. Again, no big deal really, but I just couldn’t really get the best feel for the town. For example, from the street we walked on, by day, you can actually see out and down to the ocean! But at night, I had no idea what was out there… it just looked like a big, dark void. So on Sunday night I felt just a little bit “off”, I think because I just couldn’t really tell what this area was really like, I couldn’t tell if I liked it, or not!, and also, I think I just felt a little blah from the 4 hour drive.

Anyway, it was a beautiful morning when I woke up on Monday. I went outside and down by the pool area. My mom was already up and down there in a chair.

entrance to our Airbnb apartment

I had some tea and worked on a blog post, and then sat and dangled my feet in the pool for a while. There was a lot of bird activity in the trees all around us!

cool water
hot tea!

My mom took this picture of me just enjoying some morning sunshine. 🙂

relax mode

After a bit the boys came outside. Ethan went up to the top of the observation tower to see how the day was looking.

Can you spot his face in this picture? lol.

Asher swung in the hammock:

chillaxing 😉

Ivan and my Dad came downstairs too, and we talked about the plans for the day.

We would have 5 nights total in Manuel Antonio, and on this back half of the trip, I really hadn’t planned nearly as much as the front half. I did this for a couple of reasons.

One, I knew we had lots of active plans in the first two locations (ziplining, hiking, hanging bridges, cave tours, raft trip, etc.). It’s one thing to “go go go” for a week, but for a two week trip, I personally like to be mindful of what I call the “pacing” of the trip. The idea isn’t to go home after 2 weeks and think, “OMG, I’m absolutely exhausted!” There has to be the right balance.

We, as a family (my parents included) lean more toward doing quite a bit on vacations, and we like it that way. (Unless it’s just a purely lazy beach trip vacation- those have a time and a place, too!). But overall, if I’m going to fly thousands of miles away to a new place, and I only have a number of days to possibly ever see that place in my life…. well, you’d better believe I want to SEE and experience it! But, like I said, it’s a balancing act, because we also enjoy a slow morning swinging in a hammock, or lingering in a restaurant, or just sitting and taking in the sights.

The second reason I hadn’t planned as much in Manuel Antonio is because I knew it would be HOT. Extreme heat is not conducive, for us anyway, to doing a lot of hiking. It’s just not that enjoyable! So I planned more of that type of thing on the front half, and planned to leave these last days a bit more open for rest, relaxation, water activities, and beach time, but yet still some exploring, too. 🙂

So for Monday, we decided it would be a BEACH DAY. There were several beaches in the area I wanted to check out.

We weren’t in any rush though, so first the boys swam for a while in the pool. (To be honest, they spent most of the time “play fighting” in the pool, like, wrestling on that raft thing and dunking each other, and I found it incredibly annoying. Hahaha. Boys…. I was like, CAN’T YOU JUST SWIM AROUND?!?! 😂)

pool time
from balcony
Looks so innocent here.

After a bit we went up and packed our beach stuff up, and got sunscreen on! I asked the Airbnb host if they had any beach towels we could use (we all brought along lightweight microfiber towels, but I figured if they had real beach towels, I’d take them!) They did, so that was awesome.

getting sunscreen on!

Playa Biesanz

First on my list was Playa Biesanz. All the main beaches were just a very short drive from our place. Ivan had run to the supermarket next to the Airbnb to pick up some coffee and french bread, so we just ate that as a light breakfast before leaving for the beach.

Playa Biesanz is a small beach in a little cove. You have to park on a street and then hike down a trail about 10 minutes before you get to the beach. I figured we’d start with this one just for a little while, and then probably switch to the larger beach in town (and we’d rent chairs/umbrellas at that one).

typical road in Manuel Antonio area. Nice, but narrow.

I had read that there would be guys “working” there that would “watch your car”, for a fee. This is very common in Central America. Petty theft from cars is probably one of their most common crime issues, hence why they recommend you leave nothing in your vehicle. For the most part, we didn’t have to park in too many isolated areas on this trip in general, but this was one case where the car would definitely be unattended.

The random guy in the parking vest (lol… not an official job…) told us the fee he was charging (on the public street…I can’t remember, but I think just a couple bucks) and Ivan paid him. Whatever! He was very nice and friendly, and I was glad someone was there to watch the car, anyway. (Granted, we didn’t know him from Adam, but he seemed trustworthy. Hahaha.)

street parking near Playa Biesanz
heading to beach
My mom ready for the beach!

We hiked down the rocky trail, carrying our beach bags. IT WAS SO HOT OUT!!! Manuel Antonio is toasty.


It was very pretty! The boys and Ivan and I got a bit ahead of my parents, but apparently they saw a whole clan of monkeys in one of the trees. 🙂

Playa Biesanz:

Playa Biesanz! So pretty!
Headed straight for the water
Not too busy

It was beautiful. It’s hard to tell in the photos, but there are mountains in the distance (see above) that really added a neat dimension to this beach. Also, being nestled in a small cove, it was just extra pretty with all the trees and rocks along the shore. As you can see, it’s also a bit rocky on the actual beach, but it wasn’t too bad (and it was just plain sand in the actual water).

It was only moderately busy. I had read this was kind of a “secret beach”/ less populated (probably due to the parking situation and need to hike down to it). But I had my doubts as to how “secret” it was, because it was clearly marked on every map, and noted in everything I read. LOL!

Me making my first appearance on a Costa Rican beach!

The boys jumped right in. The water was fabulous. Nice and warm, with just that slight touch of cool to be refreshing. But not even remotely “cold”. Just how I like an ocean to be. I am NOT A FAN of cold water.

the boys

The boys migrated over to this one side where some waves were swirling in between these rocky cut out areas.


Ivan and I got in the water, too! 🙂

ocean selfie! 😉
Ethan on the beach
Me again 🙂

I ended up going to get my waterproof case to take my phone out, because it was just so pretty from the water!! I wanted to try to get a few shots from out there.

Whoops, cut out Asher. It was impossible to see what I was taking a picture of, with the bright sun reflecting off the plastic case!
The boys!!
They hung out in this area the whole time
View from the water, back up to the beach
so fun

After a while, I got out and stretched out on a towel…. wanted to try to “sun myself”, just a little…. Felt good after being in the water.

After the cold winter, HEAT and humidity felt amazing on my skin

Got up a couple times to see what the boys were doing, but they were fine out there on their own. Have I mentioned how great it is to travel with older kids (including one who is a competitive, extremely strong swimmer????) 🙂 🙂

beautiful area.

The only negative here was the lack of shade!! They did have guys renting umbrellas, but as we weren’t planning to stay all day, we didn’t want to bother paying for one. Fortunately, there were some logs and rocks back at the treeline. So while the boys finished swimming, we retreated to the shade to cool off!

Me and Dad escaping the hot sun

Eventually we had to drag the boys out of the water, promising them that we were just going to drive to the other nearby beach, and then we’d be there the rest of the day.

Hike back up

Drive to Playa Espadilla!

Very close by and convenient

Playa Espadilla

The main public beach in Manuel Antonio is called Playa Espadilla. It’s a loooooong beach that spans much more than a mile of the coast line. Therefore, there are many different “entry” points.

I had read, and our Airbnb host also confirmed, that the Northern end of the beach is generally quieter and had the best access. Also, tons of free parking right there! ALSO, a great casual, beachfront restaurant just steps from the ocean, too.

If you go here, look for the Igloo Hotel on the map, and turn down that street to park just up the block. You’ll run right into the beach.

Parking near the beach, just a few steps away.
Ready for Beach #2
parking area
Love the view of the ocean through the trees

We decided we would grab some lunch at the restaurant first, before getting all settled in the sand. This place was perfect for what we had in mind- no shirt, no shoes required. 🙂

beach bar restaurant- Buena Vista Restaurant
lunch shot
The boys got fruit smoothies, OF COURSE.
Feeling great in beach mode!!!!

I ordered another shrimp ceviche, which surprised me by being served with these fried plantain chips instead of regular chips! It was tasty and refreshing.


A crazy monkey family was in the trees above us! This one guy tightrope walked across the lights strung up right in front of us, in a very shaky, humorous way. Haha! I have a great video of this.

so cute and funny
What’s up, guys? What’s for lunch??
Please deposit tips in the tip jar on my branch after the show, thank you very much.

My Dad and Ivan enjoyed this place because they could get a local IPA! 😉 Just what they needed to cool off…

Papagayo Brewing Co

Finally, we released the boys to head down to the ocean, after reapplying sunscreen! The sun was hot hot hot.

Beach boys

Here are some scenes from Playa Espadilla:

They literally never got out of the water. They body surfed for HOURS….

It’s a great beach!! Nice and wide, soft sand, and beautiful. Great warm water, and waves that were big enough to be super fun, but not so big that it was unsafe. Also, while there were some other people, it definitely never felt overcrowded at all. And, the beach umbrella rentals were super reasonable- only $15 I think for the whole day!

The perfect life…. lounging at the beach. 🙂
Hanging with Asher

We spent the next several hours just swimming, riding waves, laying in the sun, repeat. Felt so good!!!!

Surf Lessons

I had told the boys they could do a surf lesson on this trip, if they wanted to. Ethan didn’t seem interested, but Asher REALLY wanted to do this. We saw they had a lessons kiosk just down the beach, so he and Ivan went to check that out. He decided to go ahead and do it right away the first afternoon.

With his instructor

Here’s a photo dump of Asher surfing! This was super cool! He did great, and had sooooooooo much fun.

Waiting for his first wave
Standing up
And, he’s surfing! 🙂

He did really well! He seemed to get the hang of it right away, for the most part. I think I got some neat shots of him.

catching another wave
This might be a cool one to print!

He was ALL SMILES. I told Ivan, “I could see him being our kid that calls up one day and says he has decided to move to Hawaii to become a surfer dude or something…” 😭 He likes adventurous stuff like this a lot. Also helps that he is such a strong swimmer/ very comfortable in the water and waves.


His lesson lasted a full hour. I enjoyed just sitting on the beach and watching him from a distance. The sun was just starting to get lower in the sky, so sunset wouldn’t be too far off.

late afternoon
Lesson over, but learned he could rent a board whenever he wanted to continue practicing on his own.

As sunset time moved in, I wanted to try to get some family beach shots. (My family only complained a little… ha.)

At first people were resisting my pleas, so I went first. lol!
early sunset
me + sunset

Group shots!

the 4 of us
mom and dad

Then the other direction, because we realized we just looked like dark shadows in front of the sun….

Love this one!
And a bit zoomed out so you can see the background

And my parents! Great pictures:


We just lingered until the sun went down. Ivan bought us a coconut from a vendor passing by:

Settled in to enjoy the view

Sunset Views!


Dinner at El Wagon

It was not even 6 by the time the sun was down. We drove the short drive back to the Airbnb and spent some time showering off the sand and cleaning up. Changed into some non-sandy clothes and left to go get dinner!


I had planned basically nothing in terms of meals or restaurants in Manuel Antonio, but I had heard great things about this wood-fire pizza place called El Wagon. It was a very cute place, too, and close to the apartment.


There are some tables inside this old train wagon! Cute. But we sat in the main outdoor area, right on the edge of a jungley area.


We got a few pizzas to share. This one was really good, with some kind of chorizo on it that was much better than some chorizo is (Ivan loves chorizo, but I can take it or leave it. This chorizo was delicious, though.).


I’m glad we took a few family photos early in the meal, because towards the end, Asher totally conked out! I swear, it wasn’t even late for his standards- just after 9 pm when I took this picture. I guess 6+ hours of swimming and surfing wore him out, though! Haha!! (He always does this on beach trips. I cannot tell you how many times he has fallen asleep at a restaurant table on a beach trip…. when we was little, we used to just toss him on a booth bench with a sweatshirt under his head as a pillow, and he would sleep, happily, right there in the restaurant. hahaha!! It’s his trademark move and we all laugh about it. 😉

A sleepy surfer

Ethan, however, is our Energizer Bunny and I don’t think has ever fallen asleep in a restaurant in his life. Funny how kids are different!


It was almost 10 p.m. by the time we got back, and I think we were all a bit tired from all the sun and fun. I worked on a blog post from the hammock for a little bit before turning in. It was a great beach day!! I’m glad we were able to fit in so much variety on this trip- including some ocean time. (With much more surf and sand to come yet in our remaining days.)

Costa Rica really has something for everyone.


6 thoughts on “Monday 3/20: Beach Day at Playa Biesanz and Playa Espadilla, plus.. surf lessons!”

  1. These pictures are phenomenal, so I can only imagine how incredible it was to experience in person. The sunsets! The gorgeous water.

    Love those shots of surfing. My husband surfs; I’ve only done it once and it was so much fun, but I was EXHAUSTED by the end of the day. It is such a physical sport.


  2. yep, I’m pretty sold on Costa Rica! Spring break 2024 or 2025, TBD. I am mentally exhausted by the number of photos in your posts!! Not as a reader – i love them – but as a creator, I cannot complete, lol. Upload speed in CR must be decent!!!


    1. Hahahaha! Omg I know, it’s insane, but I tried to sort and cull them all back and found it took me MORE time to try to decide which ones to include, so then I was like, oh forget it! And just started selecting them all practically 😅😅. It’s actually easier for my indecisive brain…. What I do is go through pics on my camera roll and quickly click the heart (favorite) on any I like/would want to include… then I go in the WordPress app and can upload from the Favorites album to my WordPress Media Library. I also found that if I select the “Gallery” option, I can select and add many many photos at once, and then I can select the little button to “change block” and instantly convert the whole block of gallery photos to Images instead (I find the gallery photos are little and show up weird in emails, so I prefer single photos). Anyway, so I just basically dump all the photos into a draft post with no text, and then after I go back and add the text around the photos!! I have it down to a bit of a science, but yeah, it is ridiculous, I know. (But i justify it bc I am going to print these posts into a Blog Book!! My version of a photo book, I guess (which I never make, otherwise.) (and we are home now, but the upload speed was pretty decent there!)

      So excited for you guys to do CR!! I think you would LOVE IT.


  3. Wow, Playa Biesanz is really pretty and like you said, it looks like it was not too crowded, which is nice! Also it looks like the waves were not huge, which is good too. I do like big waves, but sometimes you feel like you are just fighting with the sea a lot, so it is nice to have some calmer waters. Your ceviche also looks delicious and I love plantains so that is a nice combo. One time I went to a beach community in Mexico and we ate so much ceviche and guacamole an it was so good and also nice not to have to pay a pretty penny for it like you do in the states. Also, I had a fresh coconut every day, which I definitely do not do at home!


  4. I will admit to seething with jealousy over a lazy beach day! It looks like it was so much fun and I’m glad you were able to get away and relax!


  5. what a fun day! I like spending time checking out beaches! and the surfing lesson, he seems to have some hidden talents!!! and absolutely love the sunset.


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