Nicoya Peninsula

On the North Western shore of Costa Rica lies the largest peninsula in the shape of a crab claw, Nicoya Peninsula, sun drenched and beach lined, this piece of Costa Rica is boarded by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Golfo de Nicoya to the east and the wetlands of the Rio Tempisque to the north. From the dry regions to the north and the white sandy beaches as one travels to the southern portion of the peninsula one will find the vegetation thick as it flows to waters edge. The peninsula is home to a large variety of wildlife and vegetation. The area is also home to the Sabanero, Costa Rica’s version of the American cowboy.

Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, Nicoya Costa RicaThe southern coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula is dotted with small villages and some of the best beaches and most isolated in all of Costa Rica. Palm tree lined beaches running for miles and miles on end, and other areas are interrupted with many hamlets and rock covered coves. The interior of the Nicoya Peninsula is covered with ranches and farms. With a dry season lasting from November to April drenching the area, much of the vegetation will lose its foliage and roads will become swirling masses of dust and temperatures reaching the high 90’s. Making a 180 degree turn, the rainy season provides the area with lush forest, vegetation and temperatures in the low 70’s. The rains also make many areas and roads inaccessible, unless traveled by 4 wheel drive vehicle has given this a much laid back atmosphere. If one is looking for relaxation of just lying in a hammock and watching unbelievable sunsets, or just listening to howler monkeys and other wild animals, then the Nicoya Peninsula is the place.

Beachcomber Pete Map of Nicoya PeninsulaWith most of the Nicoya Peninsula being accessible only by ferry boats out of Puntarenas for the longest time, a whole day’s trip from San Jose has kept this area off the beaten path of most tourist. With the opening of the International airport in Liberia the northern part of the Nicoya peninsula has become more accessible. Resulting in large scale all inclusive resorts with some of the best 18 hole Golf courses in Costa Rica and Central America.

Surfers have flocked to the beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula for years, from Playa Grande and Tamarindo in the north to MalPais in the south. Nature lovers will find the area teaming with wildlife, with the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula an abundance of monkeys and birds along the coast to giant egg laying turtles on Plays Grande and Ostional. The months of September to December will find whales playing off the shores of Playa Manznillo. Scuba divers and snorkelers find the waters filled with spectacular marine life.

The provinces of Puntarenas in the south and Guanacaste make up the majority of the peninsula in the north, Nicoya is about 50 to 60 miles wide and round 85 miles in length from north to south, one will find roads connecting the two provinces far and in between, with many roads in bad condition, traveling in the region is very slow, thus the laid back and relaxed atmosphere. A relaxed exploration of the Nicoya Peninsula might require one to spend 2 weeks in an intoxicating relaxed atmosphere making it ever harder to return to ones normal life.


Nosara is a city in Costa Rica which is located right on the coast of the Pacific ocean. It is part of the Guanacaste region, which was once part of Nicaragua and has a unique spirit of independence and a rich cultural history. The city of Nosara is a beautiful reflection of this area with spectacular scenery and many activities to enjoy.

Although in the past, large areas of land in Guanacaste were deforested for cattle pastures, today Nosara’s surroundings have returned to a lush tropical forest and the city of Nosara is the picture of responsible development. Although it has many homes, it gives off a feeling of isolation at the same time. As a result of the Nosara Civic Organization’s vigilant protection of the environment, Nosara boasts some of the cleanest water in Costa Rica and there are beautiful untouched beaches which provide many activities to be enjoyed by all.

Another Day Ending, Nosara, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaTwo very quiet beaches are Ostional and Garza. Nosara-Ostional Wildlife Refuge is located on Playa Ostional and is one of the largest havens for the Olive Ridley sea turtle. Visitors can expect to see turtles year-round but especially in the months from May to November. Playa Garza is a perfect harbor protected from winds, making it ideal for fishing. Snapper, tuna and mahi-mahi can all be captured only 1/2 mile off the coast.

Playa Guiones is undoubtedly the best beach for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. It is one of the world’s rare beaches with pink sand. Beautiful shells can be found along the beach. Just north of Playa Guiones, Playa Pelada is a family-friendly beach known for its tremendous powerful waves and a blow hole which is especially magnificent during the changing of the tide.

Playa Nosara is a river beach. Although the beach can be accessed by vehicle, walking is a better choice for those who enjoy a little adventure. Upon arrival there are opportunities to see ancient fishing techniques in action used by the fishermen of that area. Playa Nosara is also perfect for river canoeing.

In addition to activities for nature lovers there are modern conveniences in Nosara as well, which include banks, pharmacies, grocery stores, coffee shops, DVD rentals and internet access. Surf shops, boutiques and souvenir shops provide added enjoyment.

For those who would like to experience a pure and tranquil corner of Costa Rica with great opportunities for outdoor adventures as well as unmatched sightseeing, Nosara is a destination that will be remembered for years to come.

Curu Wildlife Refuge


The Curu Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica is a dry tropical forest on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The first private National Wildlife Refuge established in 1983, it has sandy beaches and an estuary as well as beautiful views from the surrounding hills. Wildlife is the main attraction in Curu and there is plenty of it.

There are well maintained trails for walking tours around the area and visitors get constant sightings of the plentiful birds in the habitat. Brown Pelicans and majestic Frigate birds swoop and dive in the shallows for sardines. There are also scarlet macaws, and hundreds of migratory and tropical birds. Costa Rica is also a place with a tremendous biodiversity of reptiles and there are many varieties seen in Curu. Considered one of the best kept secrets of Costa Rica, it is perfect for a rustic beach holiday without the crowds of tourists.

Curu Wildlife Refuge, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaA tropical paradise, visitors say it is from another era, untouched and ancient. Spider monkeys and Capuchin monkeys enjoy the good life in the tree canopy and watch visitors strolling through the shaded forest.

The Tortuga Islands are nearby and can be visited in kayaks. They are surrounded by giant Manta Rays, stingrays, dolphins, flying fish, nurse sharks and Moray eels. These can be seen while kayaking or snorkeling in the Bay of Curu. White-tailed Deer, coyotes, howler monkeys, boa constrictors, hermit crabs, raccoons, black and green iguanas, collared peccary, coati and armadillos are just a few of the many land animals to be seen in Curu.

The Curu Wildlife Refuge has been the home for reintroduction of endangered species. The Spider Monkey and Scarlet Macaw are making a comeback in the area after having been declared extinct in the 1990s. There is also a parrot conservation plan to protect suitable nesting sites for the many species of parrots in the area.

From San Jose, visitors drive or otherwise get to Puntarenas. There is a ferry to Paquera which takes between 60 and 90 minutes. From Paquera the entrance to the Curu Wildlife Refuge is 30 minutes. It is also possible to fly to the Tambor airport, the only airport on the Nicoya Peninsula, and drive to the entrance of the refuge in 20 minutes.

There are cabins with very basic amenities on the Curu beach. In Paquera and Tambor, about 10 to 15 km from Curu, there are less basic accommodations.

Playa Naranjo

Home to several of Costa Rica’s national parks and wildlife reserves, the Nicoya Peninsula contains many of that nation’s premier destinations for ecotourism. Travelers exploring the peninsula’s many natural and historical attractions often begin their journeys in the coastal town of Playa Naranjo, only 1.5 hours by car and ferry from the Costa Rican capitol of San Jose. Playa Naranjo’s proximity to several wildlife reserves, islands, and beaches along the Gulf of Nicoya as well as its accessibility by ferry, bus, and car make it an excellent jumping off place for trips to the Nicoya Peninsula.

Ferry Boat Dock Playa Naranjo, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaPlaya Naranjo maintains its charming rural character in spite of growing tourism and accessibility. In the past the area was home to cattle ranchers and the Sabaveros, Costa Rican cowboys who made their living on horseback. The efforts of local NGO’s have restored much of the rainforest that was razed to accommodate ranching. Many locals still make their living fishing the coast around Playa Naranjo, and isolated fishing communities on the islands provide rustic accommodations for adventurous travelers.

The islands around Playa Naranjo share Costa Rica’s bloody colonial past. During the 16th century the conquistador Gonzalez Fernansdez Oviedo used Isla San Lucas, an island just offshore of Playa Naranjo, as a prison and death camp for the local Chara people. When Costa Rica achieved independence, Isla San Lucas became a government prison and quickly earned a reputation as the cruelest prison in the country. Today the prison is abandoned and the island itself houses a historical museum and nature reserve, home to a wide variety of wildlife.

Wildlife abound in the hills and jungles around Playa Naranjo. The village is the best place to begin an exploration of the Karen Mogenson Nature Reserve, a beautiful preserve of dry tropical forest that is a haven for jaguars, ocelots, butterflies, and countless other endangered species. A lodge at the reserve houses visitors in comfort, and local guides provide horseback and hiking tours to popular attractions such as the 84 meter Velo de Novia waterfall.

Playa Naranjo offers travelers an authentic rural Costa Rican experience. Secluded beaches and islands provide a respite from the bustle of more touristy areas, and the lush jungles have a rustic beauty that is unmatched elsewhere in Costa Rica.


Costa Rica is a country filled with fascinating and lively towns and cities to visit. Even outside of its main cities, Costa Rica offers a wide array of interesting places to visit. One of these hidden gems is the picturesque village of Paquera. Off the beaten path for most travelers, Paquera is still known for its rustic charm and beautiful natural scenery.

Paquera is located on the Nicoya Peninsula on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The village has a warm, sunny climate year round and is home to many great restaurants, shops and beaches.



Ferry Boat Dock, Paquera, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaThe village of Paquera, while small, still offers much to do and see. Visitors here can take in the sun at one of the Nicoya Peninsula’s world-class beaches nearby and go for a swim in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. Snorkeling is another fun activity to do here, as the coastline is home to a wide variety of marine animals and plant life. Visitors can also go horseback riding and take in the beautiful scenery first-hand. Kayaking and boating are other great recreational activities as well. The village also offers many great sightseeing opportunities, including its beaches and nearby forests and mountains. The exotic flora and fauna of the region are major sightseeing draws all by themselves. Paquera is also known to have some of the most beautiful sunsets in all of Costa Rica.

Paquera boasts a number of amenities for travelers as well. The village is home to a number of shops and restaurants and also an Internet café, taxi stand and gas station. The village is a regional travel hub and home to a ferry terminal to the city of Puntarenas as well as bus service to the cities of Montezuma and Tambor and the beautiful beaches of Mal Pais.

The region around Paquera is also worth a visit. Here, visitors will find the bustling city of Montezuma as well as the stunning Mal Pais beach. The idyllic seaside towns of Santa Teresa and Samara offer great surfing as well as a number of shops, restaurants and hotels.

With its rustic charm and beautiful setting along the coast of Costa Rica, the village of Paquera is definitely a place to check out.


When people think about tropical beaches, they often picture Costa Rica. Beautiful volcanic sands, sparkling water and lushly forested hills are all hallmarks of the beaches of Tambor. This small town gained international attention when it was used as the filming location for Fox’s television series “Temptation Island 2”.

The shallow, clear waters of Whale Bay are ideal for families with young children. The bay is protected from ocean currents and is home to some of the area’s best snorkeling and scuba diving. Whale Bay is named for the majestic creatures that once regularly visited the area to mate during the dry season. However, increased boat traffic has led to a sharp decline in whale sightings.

Tambor Bay, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaTambor is easily reached by car. Visitors will find the 45 km drive from Paquera pleasant, with breathtaking coastal scenes and verdant landscaping along the way. Those who are traveling from further away may wish to fly into Tambor’s airport, the only one on the Southern Nicoya Peninsula. Several flights daily go to and from San Jose, Liberia, Tamarindo and other destinations.

A short distance south of the town center is a small fishing community. The landing pier here is one of the few safe places that boats can anchor on Costa Rica’s Pacific shore. Captains who stop at Tambor’s pier will find water, fuel and food at the nearby restaurant.

Tourists will find many activities to occupy their time while visiting Tambor. Curu Wildlife Reserve and Cabo Blanco National Park are known for beautiful hikes and excellent bird watching. Cocalitos Beach is four km from Tambor’s southern pier. After walking to this secluded beach, visitors can view the El Chorro waterfall or relax in a natural swimming pool. Horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, beach volleyball, a casino, soccer, boating and golf are a few more of Tambor’s varied entertainment options.

Visitor’s to Tambor can spend a day or longer exploring the Tortuga Islands. Coconut palms, turquoise waters and pristine white sands await those who travel to the islands. Tourists can bask in the sun, enjoy world-class snorkeling or spend their time beach combing. The Tortuga Islands are only a short boat ride from Tambor.

Most of Tambor’s hotels and resorts are ocean-side or within walking distance. The northern part of the beach is home to the Hotel Playa Tambor, Costa Rica’s first all-inclusive resort. This accommodation is gated and has over 2,400 guest rooms.


 Cobano is the epicenter of activity for the southern Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. Visitors traveling to and from the local Pacific coast beaches will pass through Cobano. Just a few short years ago, villages in the area received their supplies from Puntarenas by boat because the current road network didn’t exist. At this time, Cobano was a sleepy cattle town containing roads that were barely passable. That has changed with the advent of the tourist industry that brings visitors to the marvelous beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula. The roads have improved significantly and transportation has transitioned from water to overland. The result is that Cobano has developed into a town bustling with energy as tourists enjoy a day at the beach and shop owners ply their trade. Cobano has an eclectic mix of restaurants, shops, markets, a hotel and a small selection of cabin-type accommodations.

Cattle Drive Cobano, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, Photo by AmarethosThe Fiestas Civicas is one of the major cultural attractions of Cobano. Held in February each year, the rodeo starts with a parade of horse riders or tope from the surrounding villages and cattle ranches. The parade route is from Cobano to the Plaza de Rodeo. The fiesta lasts for three days. Patrons can watch bull riding, stroll a promenade filled with colorful booths and sample the fare from numerous food stalls that feature “boca”, the local snack. You can also enjoy the party atmosphere of the nightly cumbia dancing. Visitors to the area will also enjoy spending a day at EcoRide Adventure Park. Approximately four kilometers from Cobano, kids and the young at heart can ride E-motorcycles, BMX bikes or mountain boards along a two kilometer track that takes them through the rain forest. The park is open every day.

The best way for visitors reach Cobano is by flying from the capital of San Jose to Tambor. From here, you can rent a car or take a bus and be amazed by the picturesque scenery as you travel to Cobano. Another option is to take a ferry from Puntarenas City to Paquera and then to drive Cobano from there. If you are traveling to the gorgeous beaches of Mal Pais, Playa Tambor or Montezuma, you’ll travel through Cobano and the town also makes the perfect stop over point for those heading on to tour the magnificent Cabo Blanco National Park.

Cabo Blanco “Absolute” Nature Reserve

Located at the southern most point of the Nicoya Peninsula lays Cabo Blanco “Absolute” Nature Reserve. Listed as one of Costa Rica’s best and beautiful nature reserves, Cabo Blanco is made up of  2,896 acres of pristine white sand and shell strewn beaches. From the tide pools along the ocean to the evergreen forest inland, this moist micro climate makes this a Naturist paradise. Winding trails and deserted beaches one will find Cabo Blanco is quite different from the rest of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve was created in 1963 much from the efforts of Nils Olof Wesberg and his wife Karen Mogensen , Danish-Swedish immigrants that lived in nearby Montezuma. The couple was upset after finding large sections of the area clear cut in the late 50’s and pushed for the area to become a Nature Reserve in the Costa Rica Park system. Today only around 15% of primary forest remains with the largest portion of forest being around 50 years old. Wesberg and his wife Mogenson were intrumental in the push for ecological areas and reserves throughout Costa Rica. Wesberg was murdered in 1975 during one such campaign in the Osa Peninsula. Mogensen continued the couples work till her death in 1994.Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve, Costa Rica

The main entrance into the Cabo Blanco nature Reserve is located about 11 km south of Montezuma, entrance is also available by walking the coastline south from the town of Malpais. To minimize environmental impact on the area the Reserve is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. One will still see signs calling the area Cabo Blanco “Absolute” Nature Reserve since the reserve was closed to all visitors until the late 80’s. At the southern most tip is located the white cap island called Isla Cabo Blanco. Named by Spanish conquistadors, after observing that the rocks were covered with Guano (bird droppings). Large numbers of brown pelicans and Costa Rica’s brown boobies can also be found in the sky’s of  the reserve.

Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa located on the southwestern Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. If coming from Cobano you will arrive at a crossroad on the Pacific, a left turn will take you to MalPais and a right turn will bring you into the village of Santa Teresa.

Long and wide open white beaches with unbelievable waves year round have made Santa Teresa a destination for the international surfer. In this day and age with internet and chat rooms the secret has gotten out that Santa Teresa is not only for surfers, an influx of newcomers have added their own styles and taste to the local scene.

Santa Teresa, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaOnce a small fisherman’s village, surfers for years had found the waters off Santa Teresa to be great year round for surfing; from beginners to experts, the waves with off shore winds have provided fantastic breaks.

A small village with one main road that parallels’ the Pacific for several miles has brought many small hotels, bed and breakfast inns and well as an international variety of restaurants to the area. If one is looking for large hotels and all inclusive resorts, Santa Teresa is not the place. One will find unbelievable beaches and very affordable accommodations.

Santa Teresa Main Street, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaOne need not be a surfer to enjoy the beauty of Santa Teresa, just relaxing on the beach, playing in the waves, exploring the many miles of white sand beaches to exploring the volcanic outcroppings extending into the ocean waves. The many small coves that line the beaches lined with tropical vegetation offer secluded getaways for relaxing and providing fantastic sunset views. For the water oriented traveler, one will find many opportunities to spend a day in the sun, from kite surfing to snorkeling and scuba diving being just a few. Hiking and Horseback riding along the beach or in the hills surrounding Santa Teresa offer fantastic spots for nature lovers. One will find canopy tours in neighboring MalPais as well as the Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve located at the southern end of Malpais beach very accessible. Day trips by ATV or car to neighboring Montezuma beach, Montezuma Waterfalls or just a ride up the coast to the small fishing village of Manzanillo will keep you busy for some time while on vacation in Santa Teresa.

Santa Teresa like the rest of the southern Nicoya Peninsula has two main seasons, the dry season ranging from around October to May and the wet season from the end of May to the beginning of October. The region being a little less humid than the rest of Costa Rica offers temperatures in the mid a 80’s during the day and with off shore winds coming from the Pacific will cool the night to a very comfortable temperature. With growth of Santa Teresa has also brought problems and arguments. The main road through Santa Teresa is unpaved and during the dry season can be very dusty, and conversely in the wet season a challenge to navigate. The locals feel the dirt roads are what have given Santa Teresa the charm of a small village and have limited the growth. With many foreigners moving in and opening restaurants and inns along the main road the dust has been a problem. Thus a very touchy subject in Santa Teresa.

Getting to Santa Teresa one has 2 options, flying into to Tambor airport with direct flights from San Jose and then taking a taxi to Santa Teresa. Or one can drive to Puntarenas and take the ferry to Parquera and then drive southeast through the town of Cobano and then onto Santa Teresa

Playa Caletas

On the northwest coast of Costa Rica, the Nicoya peninsula comprises the Costa Rican province of Guanacaste, which because of its unspoiled beauty and pristine beaches is fast becoming a popular destination for those travelers looking for a quiet and relaxing vacation free from the milling crowds that characterize so many Central American tourist spots.

There are many beautiful beaches all along the Pacific coast of Nicoya, but toward the southern end is the hidden gem of Playa Caletas, a gorgeous strip of sandy beach that can seem more imaginary than a real place. Because of its relative isolation, getting to Playa Caletas can be rather difficult, but once there the primordial and unsullied beauty of the area makes the effort worthwhile. The offshore Pacific breezes moderate the temperature year-round, and the backdrop of rugged hills covered in lush forest truly marks the spot as a paradise found.

Playa Caletas, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaPlaya Caletas is one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica, and has recently become very popular with the surfing set. The swells can be quite large depending on the winds and tides, so it’s not a place for inexperienced surfers. For the experienced surfer however, the reef breaks and swells make for ideal conditions and tons of fun, with the best conditions lasting from April through August.

Another interesting attraction of Playa Caletas is that it is a primary nesting ground for both the Olive Ridley and the Eastern Leatherback sea turtles, both highly endangered species. Since 2003, the conservation group, Project PRETOMA, has been spearheading efforts to raise awareness and provide permanent protection for the area, and in 2006, the Costa Rican government set aside 313 hectares as the Playa Caletas-Ario National Wildlife Refuge. Every year PRETOMA operates a research project in the refuge coinciding with the sea turtle nesting season, from July through February, and to date has overseen the release of over 200,000 turtle sea turtle hatchlings into the wild.

Aside from surfing and wildlife conservancy, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy at Playa Caletas, from horseback riding, kayaking, sport fishing or just enjoying a leisurely stroll along the secluded shoreline. There are also a number of hotels and accommodations within easy distance to suit every pocketbook.

To easiest way to get to Playa Caletas is to take a domestic flight to Punta Islita from the capital of San Jose, and then drive down to the beach, which is about a half hour trip by car, depending on the season.

Playa Coyote

Playa Coyote is located in the southern region of the Nicoya Peninsula and is considered one of Costa Rica’s best beaches. Still, shallow waters allow for a peaceful swimming experience, but avid surfers can catch their waves at nearby Punta Coytote. The pristine beaches aren’t the only ares attraction the area has to offer. Snorkeling, fishing, exotic wildlife spotting (either with a guide or on your own) and spelunking are activities the adventure-seeking traveler will want to indulge in as well.

For nature lovers, the nearby Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve and Barra Honda National Park are not to be missed. Cabo Blanco was the first nature preserve in Costa Rica. Visitors are allowed to hike along their choice of two trails. The forest is lush with numerous varieties of trees, from cedar to wild plum and countless wildlife. Barra Honda National Park hosts an expansive system of caves, including the bat cave, known as the Pozo Hediondo, but each must be explored with climbing gear and a guide. For those less adventurous, the park offers a labyrinth of hiking trails that are more accessible.

Punta Coytote, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaPlaya Coyote can be accessed best by taking a flight from San Jose to either the Samara or Punta Islita airports and driving through San Francisco de Coyote. Most attractions can best be accessed by car, as bus routes are somewhat limited.

Nicoya Peninsula wasn’t always a part of Costa Rica. Initially part of Nicaragua following Central America’s independence from Spain in 1821, three years later the region seceded from Nicaragua and became part of Costa Rica. Playa Coyote falls in the province of Guanacaste, the name of the original Nicaraguan territory and still shares similarities in terrain and climate with the neighboring country. Agriculture and cattle ranching are primary economic sustainabilities of the area, with tourism playing an ever increasing fiscal role.

The Playa Coyote rainy season spans from May to November, the worst times being late September and October. Many shops and hotel in town shut down during this time, which is something to take into consideration when planning a trip. Temperatures range from mid to low 70s at night to mid to low 90s during the day all throughout the year, making for a comfortable climate whatever season you choose to visit.