Nosara Area

Nosara is a cocktail of international surf culture, stunning back-road topography, jungled microclimates, moneyed expat mayhem and yoga bliss. It effortlessly recalls Malibu, Oʻahu’s North Shore and Byron Bay, Australia, while remaining completely its own – only in Costa Rica – incarnation. Here, three stunning beaches are stitched together by a network of swerving, rutted earth roads that meander over coastal hills and kiss the coast just west of the small Tico village of Nosara. From the south, the first beach you’ll come to is Playa Garza, still a sleepy Tico fishing village with an arc of pale brown sand and headlands on either side of the rippling bay. Fishing boats bob 100m from shore and there’s a point break to the North side. There are a few cabinas and sodas here too and lots of sand space with precious few tourists.

But there’s a reason the majority of visitors descend on Playa Guiones. It’s quite simply a slice of raw nectar: a wide, generous, undeveloped arc of marbled sand, with a few pebbles and shells mixed in, excellent beach breaks and plenty of space. It’s an easygoing place for surfers, surf dogs and surf babies – you might just see unattended strollers lodged in the wet sand at low tide.

Playa Pelada, just north, is rough and rugged, dry and less endowed with surfers and luxury, which could be viewed as a luxury in itself. Things feel at once a touch spookier and more profound in Pelada. This beach lacks surf, so it’s wonderful for children. It also has those sheared-away boulders tumbling into a foaming sea, two alluring beachside restaurants and a fishing village intimacy that Guiones lacks.

Inland are remnant pockets of luxuriant vegetation that attract birds and other wildlife. The area has seen little logging, partly because of the nearby wildlife refuge.

The area is spread out along the coast and a little inland (making wheels a necessity). Nosara village, where you’ll find supplies and gas, as well as the airport, is 5km inland from the beach. The main areas with accommodations, restaurants and beaches are Playa Pelada to the north and Playa Guiones to the south. There are many unidentified little roads, which makes it hard to get around if you don’t know the place – look for hotel and restaurant signs, and ask for help.

Miss Sky Canopy Tour (Tel 2682-0969; www.missskycanopytour.com; adult/ child 5-12 US$65/45; h office 7am-5pm) Miss Sky has brought a canopy tour to Nosara, with a total length of 11,000m above a pristine, private reserve. The zip lines don’t go from platform to platform but from mountainside to mountainside, and have double cables for added safety. Your top speed will be about 45km/h. Tours leave twice daily, at 8am and 2pm. The morning tour is slightly longer.

Reserva Biológica Nosara Hiking (Tel 2682-0035; www.lagarta.com; admission US$6, guided nature walks US$15) The private 35-hectare reserve behind the Lagarta Lodge has trails leading through a mangrove wetland down to the river (five minutes) and beach (10 minutes). This is a great spot for bird watching, and there’s a good chance you’ll see some reptiles as well (look up in the trees as there are occasionally boa constrictors here). Non-guests can visit the reserve for self-guided hikes or guided nature walks.

Tica Massage SPA (Tel 2682-0096; www.ticamassage.com; US$35-65; h 9am-6pm) After a hard day of surfing, treat yourself to a (totally legit) spa treatment at Tica Massage, in the Heart of Guiones Wellness Center. Services cater especially to surfers; or opt for a foot massage, a face massage or an invigorating ‘Sea Glow’ massage.

Coconut Harry’s Surfing (Tel 2682-0574; www.coconutharrys.com; board rental per day US$15-20, lessons US$45; h7am5pm) At the main intersection in Guiones, this surf shop offers private lessons, board rental and stand-up paddle-board rental, and even rents snorkels and fins. Conveniently, there’s a second location near the main break at Playa Guiones.

Nosara Surf Shop Surfing (Tel 2682-0186; www.nosarasurfshop.com; board rental per day US$15-20, surf lessons per hour US$40; h 7am-6pm) It rents surfboards, repairs dings and arranges surf lessons and tours.

Juan Surfo’s Surf Shop Surfing (Tel 2682-1081; www.surfocostarica.com; board rental per day US$15-20, lessons per hour US$45; h8am-6pm) Juan Surfo is a highly recommended surf teacher. His shop offers lessons and rents boards, as well as organizing transportation and tours. Located on the northern loop road, 200m from the beach. Juan also rents rooms at the nearby Surf Lodge.

Nosara Yoga Institute yoga (Tel 2682-0071; www.nosarayoga.com; classes US$15) This well-known yoga institute hosts a wide variety of drop-in classes (six daily during high season) ranging from Vinyasa to restorative to core strengthening. If you want more, it also holds workshops, retreats and instructor training courses for beginner and advanced students in a beautiful jungle setting. In the hills near Playa Guiones.

Pilates Nosara yoga (Tel 8663-7354; www.pilatesnosara.com; per person US$10) Set in the Heart of Guiones Wellness Center, this studio offers Pilates mat and reformer classes (six daily during the high season). Teacher training and retreats are also held here.

Nosara Wellness yoga (Tel 2682-0360; www.nosarawellness.com; per class US$10, private sessions from US$60) In Playa Pelada, this wellness center offers everything from massage and acupuncture to Pilates and yoga. If that’s all too mainstream for you, sign up for a session of Aerial Yoga, which promises to ‘realign you from the compression of gravity.’

Sleeping & Eating

Playa Guiones

4 You Hostal Hostel $ (Tel 2682-1316; www.4youhostal.com; dm/s/d/bungalow US$18/25/40/55; p a i W ) A fantastic hostel close to the Guiones action. The high-end minimalist design makes this evolutionary flophouse (read: dorm) feel luxurious. Within the dorm are three pods, which have walls that don’t quite reach the soaring ceiling, allowing for extra privacy. The place is decked out with Balinese furniture and plenty of hammocks, not to mention a spotless community kitchen.

Nosara Beach Hostel Hostel $ (Tel 2682-0238; www.nosarahostel.com; dm/d US$20/55; W ) Lounge in a hammock on the breezy porch, overlooking iguana-filled gardens. You’re steps from the surf. You have a stone shower to wash away the sand and a comfy wooden bunk to crash on. There’s a big communal kitchen, a spacious TV room and – bonus – foosball. The vibe is super chill. All is right in your world.

Ask about giving back by volunteering at the reforestation nursery.

Gilded Iguana Hotel $$ (Tel hotel 2682-0450, restaurant 2682-0259; www. thegildediguana.com; r with/without air-con from US$85/57,steUS$85-113;paWs) Down the second access road to Guiones, this longstanding hotel for anglers and surfers has well-furnished rooms with tile floors, big windows and shared terraces. The cheaper rooms are close to the bar and tend to be noisy. The tasty restaurant (mains US$9 to US$14) serves generous platters of fish tacos, fajitas and seafood specials, and the attached bar is a popular gringo hangout, with live music on Tuesday and Friday nights.

Living Hotel & Spa Boutique Hotel $$$ (Tel 2682-5201; www.livinghotelnosara.com; r incl breakfast with/without bathroom US$108/86; paiWs) Relax amid the simplicity and serenity of this tropical paradise. Pristine white rooms have tile floors, shined wood ceilings and pretty stenciled walls. Tropical gardens surround the sparkling swimming pool, with plenty of communal space in the thatch-roof rancho. Located on the north beach access road.

Refresh your palette with a freshly -squeezed juice or some other healthy treat from the Living Cafe; refresh your mind and muscles with something from the full menu of spa treatments.

Nosara Suites Hotel $$$ (Tel 2682-1036; www.nosarasuites.com; d US$150; p a i W s ) Clearly the designer was given free rein in these six swish suites, which feature glass-floored lofts, floating staircases and plenty of original artwork. Also, enjoy the king-sized beds and rain showers. Set upstairs from Cafe de Paris, a local landmark and noteworthy bakery, where you should eat breakfast.

Casa Romántica B&B $$$ (Tel 2682-0272; www.casa-romantica.net; d incl breakfast with/without air-con US$127/119; p a i W s ) Steps from Playa Guiones. Really, you can’t get much closer. The rooms aren’t fancy and some have funky layouts with odd corners, but the best of the bunch have high-beamed ceilings, wood furnishings and views of the manicured gardens. Management is warm and welcoming. Small recommended restaurant onsite.

L’Acqua Viva Hotel & Spa Hotel $$$ (Tel 2682-1087, in Canada 1877-216-0181, in USA 1888-273-1977; www.lacquaviva.com; r US$218, ste US$290-310; p a W s ) One of the most luxurious resorts in the central peninsula. Inside and out, the property is stunning, with water, wood and bamboo features throughout. The 36 contemporary rooms are decorated in minimalist style with all the five-star amenities you’d expect. Yet we do have one complaint: the location. It abuts the main Nosara road, and it’s too far from the beach.

Nonetheless, the place is a stunner. The open-air restaurant and lounge, as well as the swimming pools, are open to visitors with a day pass (US$15). Well worth it if you need a break from the beach.

Beach Dog Café CAFE $ (Tel 2682-1293; mains US$6-10, dinner mains US$12-15; h7am-3pm daily, to 10pm Wed & Sat; p W v ) Just steps from the beach, this groovy cafe is decadent and delicious. Try banana bread French toast for breakfast, or uber-popular fish tacos for lunch. Dinner is only a couple of nights a week, but they occasionally host live music and show movies on the beach.

Rosi’s Soda Tica Soda $ (Tel 2682-0728; mains US$3-6; h 8am-3pm Mon Sat) Next to Marlin Bill’s on the main highway, this is the only soda in Guiones and it’s a damn good one. Things are kept simple with casados for lunch and gallo pinto in the morning. All are served in airy, cheerful environs.

Marlin Bill’s Seafood, Burgers $$ (Tel 2682-0458; meals US$11-25; h 11am-10pm Mon-Sat) Across the main road from the Guiones swirl, this is one of the few restaurants with views of the ocean. The casual, open-air dining room is a perfect place to feast on grilled tuna, ceviche and other fresh seafood. Bill is famous for his burgers, so if you are hankering for the taste of home, he’s your man.

Playa Pelada

Robin’s Cafe & Ice Cream

Boutique Hotel $ (Tel 8718-3255; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; r US$3540; W) ‘A free spot for free thinkers.’ Surrounding a small shady garden, six sweet rooms have pastel painted walls, high wood ceilings and windows to the trees. The whole place is painted with creative, colorful murals. Bike rental available. This one is a gem. (Plus, it’s next door to the gelato place.)

Refugio del Sol Guesthouse $$ (Tel 8825-9365, 2682-0287; www.refugiodelsol.net; s/d US$35/55, d with kitchen US$65; p W ) A short stroll from the sand, this rustic lodge is decked out with ceramic tiled floors, beamed ceilings, wood furnishings, candles and lanterns, and other soulful touches that make it feel like home. Rooms open onto a wide L-shaped patio with hammocks. The gorgeous young owners make tasty Italian food for guests every night, and are generous of heart.

Lagarta Lodge $$ (Tel 2682-0035; www.lagarta.com; r s/d/tr/q US$85/90/96/102, ste s/d/tr/q US$120/125/ 130/136, air-con US$10; p a i W s ) At the northern end of Pelada, a road dead-ends at this 12-room lodge, a recommended choice set high on a steep hill above a 50-hectare reserve (bird-watching and wildlife-spotting are good here). Large rooms have high ceilings, stucco walls and private patios, while suites take advantage of floor-to-ceiling windows and extra living space. The panoramas are priceless.

The balcony restaurant is worth a visit just for the spectacular views of the river, mountains, and sea and sunset, though the rotating menu of international and Tico specialties is also appealing.

Villa Mango B&B B&B $$ (Tel 2682-1168; www.villamangocr.com; s/d/tr/q incl breakfast from US$78/89/101/112; p W s ) You can’t help but relax at this B&B in the trees, set high on a hillside with views of both bays. The spacious rooms have a Mediterranean flair, with gorgeous views and rustic stone and wood details. Lounge on the luxurious terrace and enjoy views of the ocean, or take a short stroll down to the isolated stretch of beach.

Rancho Suizo lodge $$ (Tel 2682-0975, 2682-0057; www.nosara.ch; s/d/ tr incl breakfast US$45/62/94; p W s ) Well organized and welcoming, this longtime Swiss outpost offers pretty tiled rooms with stucco walls, wood paneling and small terraces overlooking the garden. Shell-studded flagstones weave through the trees, home to howlers and iguanas. The nearby Pirata bar is a laid-back nightspot, 200m from the beach.

Nosara Retreat B&B $$ (Tel 2682-0209; www.nosararetreat.com; s/d/villa incl breakfast US$55/70/85; W) This sweet retreat is set up for yoga camps, but it’s open for individual travelers in search of a clean, quiet getaway. A rocky path winds through the shady garden, connecting the appealing rooms in the main house, the larger villas and the open-air yoga pavilion. It’s a rugged, five-minute walk to the beach.

Seekret spot Gelato $ (Tel 2682-1325; gelato US$3-6; W ) The secret is out: come to this sweet shack for an authentic gelato or sorbetto, made with love by Stefano and Frederica. For local flavor, go for coffee or coconut. If you need a pick-me-up, there are also fresh-brewed espresso drinks. It also has internet (US$4 per hour). Next to Paspartu Beach Hotel.

La Luna international $$ (Tel 2682-0122; dishes US$9-24; h 11am-11pm Mon-Fri, 8am-11pm Sat & Sun) Located on the beach, this trendy restaurant-bar has cushy couches right on the sand, perfect for sunset drinks. The interior is equally appealing, with soaring ceilings, a gorgeous hardwood bar and walls adorned with work by local artists. Asian and Mediterranean flourishes round out the eclectic menu, and the views (and cocktails) are intoxicating. Call ahead for reservations.

Olga’s Beach Club COSTA RiCAN $$ (Tel 8848-0403; mains US$9-16; h 10am-10pm) The other beachfront restaurant on Pelada is an old-fashioned beach bar, offering traditional Tico fare, pizza and batidos – and the occasional pig roast. The place does not pretend to be anything other than what it is: an open-air palapa with tasty food and reggae music, good vibes and good views.

6 Drinking & Entertainment

Hear live music and get your groove on at the bar at Kaya Sol (p319) or down the street at the Gilded Iguana (p319). The Beach Dog Café (p320) also has live music when open in the evenings. Head to Olga’s Beach Club (p321) after dark for drinking and dancing.

88 Information

There are two gas stations in Nosara village. That strange concrete lotus flower that peaks above the trees and is visible from both beaches is the tumbledown remains of Hotel L­as Playas Nosara, and is a good place for a surreptitious photo shoot if not a beach getaway. it looks almost...haunted.
Banco Popular (Tel 2682-0011, 2682-0267;
h 9am-3pm Mon-Fri) Changes US dollars and traveler’s checks, and gives cash advances on visa cards only; the ATM also only accepts visa cards.
Nosara Travel (Tel 2682-0300; www.nosaratravel.com; h 9am-3pm Mon-Fri) in Playa Guiones, this office books air tickets, arranges car rentals and books hotels or vacation homes. Nosara Net & Frog Pad (Tel 2682-4039; www. thefrogpad.com; per hour US$6; h 9am-7pm Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm Sun; W) in addition to internet, the Frog Pad has used books for sale and rents out dvds, bikes (per day US$10) and surfboards (per day US$15).
Police (Tel 2682-0317) Next to the red Cross and post office on the southeast corner of the soccer field in Nosara village center.

Refugio Nacional de Fauna Silvestre Ostional

This 248-hectare coastal refuge extends from Punta India in the north to Playa Guiones in the south, and includes the beaches of Playa Nosara and Playa Ostional. It was created in 1992 to protect the arribadas, or mass nestings of the olive ridley sea turtles, which occur from July to November with a peak from August to October. Along with Playa Nancite in Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, Ostional is one of two main nesting grounds for this turtle in Costa Rica.

The olive ridley is one of the smallest species of sea turtle, typically weighing around 45kg. Although they are endangered, there are a few beaches in the world where ridleys nest in large groups that can number in the thousands. Scientists believe that this behavior is an attempt to overwhelm predators.

Prior to the creation of the park, coastal residents used to harvest eggs indiscriminately (drinking raw turtle eggs is thought to increase sexual vigor). However, an imaginative conservation plan has allowed the inhabitants of Ostional to continue to harvest eggs from the first laying, which are often trampled by subsequent waves of nesting turtles. By allowing locals to harvest the first batches, the economic livelihood of the community is maintained, and the villagers in turn act as park rangers to prevent other poachers from infringing on their enterprise.

Rocky Punta India at the northwestern end of the refuge has tide pools that abound with marine life, such as sea anemone, urchin and starfish. Along the beach, thousands of almost transparent ghost crabs go about their business, as do the bright-red Sally Lightfoot crabs. The sparse vegetation behind the beach consists mainly of deciduous trees and is home to iguanas, crabs, howler monkeys, coatis and many birds. Near the southeastern edge of the refuge is a small mangrove swamp where there is good bird-watching.

2 Activities

Mass arrivals of nesting turtles occur during the rainy season every three or four weeks and last about a week (usually on dark nights preceding a new moon), though it’s possible to see turtles in lesser numbers almost any night during nesting season. In the dry season, a fitting consolation prize is the small number of leatherback and green turtles that also nest here. Many tour operators in the region offer tours to Ostional during nesting season, though you can arrange with local guides to visit independently. Contact the Association Guias Locales (Tel 26820428) in the center of Ostional town across from Soda La Plaza.

Surfers catch some good lefts and rights here just after low tide. Otherwise, this stretch of sea is notorious for strong currents and isn’t suitable for swimming unless you’re green and have flippers. But there is 5km of unbroken beach here, sprinkled with driftwood and swaying with coconut palms.

4 Sleeping & Eating

Camping (US$3 per person) is permitted behind the centrally located Soda La Plaza, which has a portable toilet available. The soda is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Ostional Turtle Lodge lodge $ (Tel 2682-0131; www.surfingostional.com; s/d/tr/q from US$26/40/56/70) A great guesthouse with only five simple rooms, equipped with the basics (pay more for air-con). The pièce de résistance is the exquisite community rancho with hammocks, backed by mangroves, overlooking pastureland and within earshot of the sea.

Albergue Ecoturismo 
Arribadas 
(Tel 2682-0790; www.arribadas.com; cabins US$100) Located in the center of town, this lodge offers spotless rooms with high slanted ceilings, new tiles and private bathrooms. It’s normally used for groups of students and volunteers tracking turtles. They help arrange turtle tours, as well as offer a two-night turtle camp for kids.

Brovilla Resort Hotel lodge $$ (Tel 8519-6059; www.brovillaresorthotel.com; d with/ without kitchen US$107/85, villas from US$118; paWs) In the hills north of town, this is the area’s original ecolodge. Attractive rooms are constructed from wood and stone, with gorgeous stone showers and sliding doors opening to sea views. Concrete villas have flagstone accents, built-in cabinetry and loft bedrooms. Look for colorful murals and kitschy seashell accents, lest you forget you are at the beach.

Onsite, there is a palapa-style restaurant serving tropical fare and fresh-baked artisan bread. Reservations recommended; cash required.

88 Getting There & Away

Ostional village is about 8km northwest of Nosara village. during the dry months there is one daily bus from Santa Cruz (two hours), departing Ostional at 5am and returning from Santa Cruz at 12:30pm. Times change, so be sure to con

TRACKING TURTLES

 

Since 1997 Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas (Pretoma Marine Turtle restoration Program; www.pretoma.org) has collaborated with locals to monitor turtle nesting activity and operate hatcheries. Members of the community are hired as field assistants, and environmental education activities are held with the children in town. The project also involves tagging, measuring and protecting nesting turtles, which has resulted in a drastic reduction in poaching levels.

At the time of writing, Pretoma was operating projects in Playa Caletas, Playa San Miguel, Playa Corozalito (on the central Pacific coast) and Punta Banco, near the border with Panama. For more information on volunteering, visit the website.

Defined by its worries-by-the-wayside attitude and shorelines untainted by commercialism, Nosara is a small town famous for its yoga and surf. Many people know it as "No shoes, no shirt, Nosara," which aptly sums things up. Located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste region, the traditional village of Nosara sits six kilometers inland, although the beaches attract the biggest draw.

For decades, Nosara has been protected by the national park system, in addition to longstanding efforts of local citizens to ensure that this unspoiled forest and beach destination remains as such. Thanks to local restrictions that only allow small-scale developments, this skyline is dominated by gorgeous sunsets that drift ceaselessly into the ocean.

Nosara has three different beaches: Playa Guiones, Playa Nosara and Playa Pelada. It goes without saying, but sunsets are a must.

Playa Guiones

As the main beach of Nosara, Playa Guiones is a six-kilometer stretch of sparkling white sand. It runs southbound from Punta Pelada to Punta Guiones. This shore is considered a hotspot for surfers, packed with long left and right breakers and consistent swells. At low tide, beginners can try out their luck, but during strong swells and higher tides, this spot is best left for intermediate to experienced surfers. Between January and March, the crowds can grow pretty intense, but the length of the beach offers more isolated niches to relax and hit the waves in.

Playa Nosara

Playa Nosara is the least crowded of all Nosara's beaches. Characterized by its peaks and shallow rock reef lefts, Playa Nosara is a great beach break where you can catch some excellent barrels during strong southwesterly and southern swells. This long, dark beach runs from the Ostional Wildlife Refuge to Punta Nosara, all the way to the Boca Nosara river mouth.

Playa Nosara is ideal for intermediate to experienced surfers.

Playa Pelada

Located between Playa Guiones and Playa Nosara, Playa Pelada is a quiet shell-strewn beach with a rocky reef on the north side. The waves here aren't as consistent as Nosara's two other breaks, but when the surf is good, it can get pretty crowded. Be sure to check out the blow hole in the rocks here you can take a natural shower. Sheltered by an offshore reef, swimming is a popular option here. As far as surfing goes, conditions at Playa Pelada offers inconsistent barrels, best during northern swells at incoming high tides. If you're looking for some serious shredding, head to either Guiones or Nosara.

Other Attractions

For a Pura Vida time, visitors rave about the ATV and horseback riding tours. Along the way, you can marvel at the roaring waterfall and try coconut water on the beach. Try boogie boarding or family-friendly paddle boarding. Feel the real culture and support the locals at nearby restaurants. Within the area, you can find a wide variety of restaurants, including romantic hotspots meant for couples as well as kid-friendly locales serving up sandwiches and beverages.

 

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