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Nicoya Peninsula
Travel Guide


Plan for the Nicoya Peninsula with Local Expertise

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The Nicoya Peninsula is situated on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific Coast in the province of Guanacaste. The northern alternative to Costa Rica’s peninsulas, the Nicoya differs in many ways to its southern sibling, the Osa Peninsula. Although the Nicoya Peninsula too boasts a healthy amount of wildlife, it is more well known for its dramatic coastline and long stretches of sandy beaches, all set against the tropical backdrop of lush jungle. Life in the Nicoya Peninsula is slow and simple, and this mountainous and lesser-inhabited area of Costa Rica is popular with travelers who wish to experience the laid-back beach culture of the Pacific Ocean. The region’s diverse landscapes range from idyllic beaches to rustic fishing villages, and from mountain settlements reached by dirt roads to rural flatlands in the southern part of the peninsula. The small villages dotted around the peninsula have an authentic charm, and are a fantastic example of Costa Rica’s rich agricultural heritage, with many of the area’s inhabitants living a traditional way of life based around farming.

Experiences around the Nicoya Peninsula

What not to miss

Most tourists come to the Nicoya Peninsula to take advantage of its stunning beaches, which offer ample opportunity to explore the coast, soak up the sun, or partake in the plethora of relaxing activities such as snorkeling, diving, surfing, hiking, kayaking or wildlife spotting. The two most popular beach towns are Sámara and Carrillo, and the former benefits from a sweeping white beach that is ideal for swimming, while the latter is quieter and perhaps more picturesque. Get away from the crowds at Buena Vista Beach to the north of the peninsula, and take a trip along the Buena Vista River to spot some local wildlife, including blue herons, roseate spoonbills and crocodiles. People who spend a few days here often end up staying for a few months, such is the draw of a simpler way of life, where nature and the ocean are the focus rather than the humdrum and routine of life in the city. Days on the Nicoya Peninsula are whiled away easily, and at night you might be lucky enough to spot some nesting sea turtles, or just pop in for a moonlight dip in the sapphire waters of the Pacific.

Isla Tortuga & Curu Wildlife Refuge Top

The Curu Wildlife Refuge is a family owned protected area, is one of the ecologically richest reserves on the Nicoya Peninsula. Curú is the only place on the peninsula where it is possible to find Spider Monkeys, as well as over 200 hundred bird species such as the Scarlet Macaw. It is also possible to see white tail deer’s, coatis, anteaters, howler and capuchin monkeys, iguanas and many, many others species of animals. You will then go on a panoramic boat trip to the Tortuga Island. The surrounding bay, as well as the amazing rock formations along the way, will make this trip an exhilarating experience. Humpback Whales, dolphins and sea turtles can sometimes be spotted during this trip. Tortuga Island has white sand beaches, relaxing surroundings with Almond and Palm trees and this is where you will explore the magnificent coral reef nearby on a snorkeling tour. To swim in these tropical warm waters will make you feel revitalized. After a relaxing stay on Tortuga Island, the captain will lead the boat back to the Curú Wildlife Reserve.

Boat Excursion into the Curu Nature Reserve Top

Boarding your boat in Bahia Ballena, enjoy a relaxing cruise and watch the sea birds and possibly jumping fish while we cruise out of the Bay on our way to Curu Nature Reserve. You may also see dolphins, whales and sea turtles along the way. We will land on the beach of Curu Reserve, which is a working farm and has been operated by the same Costa Rican family for many generations. Here you will be able to hike and explore some of the parks amazing flora and fauna. There is a large variety of wild animals and many monkeys that live here in their natural habitat and which coexist with the plantations and the cattle farms. En route to Tortuga Island you’ll pass a shipwreck and a magnificent rock archway carved by nature, before snorkeling through the coral and a variety of tropical fish, oysters and octopus. The flora and fauna here is stunning and is nature at its best! You can enjoy a stroll along the gorgeous white sand beaches and be able to rent kayaks and other water sport equipment. Following the Tortuga tour, the boat will head out to the Pochote Mangrove to relax and listen to the sounds of the jungle and see some of the hundreds of types of birds and animals which have made this mangrove their home for many centuries.

Horseback riding to Bahia Ballena Top

Make a stunning horseback riding trip to Bahía Ballena and it´s town Tambor with the excellent horses of Tango Mar. You will be accompanied by an expert tour guide, traveling through trails under the trees and passing the beaches of Cocoloco, Boca la Abuela and Piedra Colorada, until arriving to the panoramic view of the bay and stopping at the town of Tambor.

Tango Mar Romantic Sunset Cruise Top

Romanticism never goes out of fashion, let go and come aboard. A private boat will be taken in the afternoon at the scenic Tambor bay, bathed in soft glowing sunlight. It will take you across the bay, letting you grasp the beauty of the mountains that surround it, to finally reach the Pochote River’s Delta where the mangrove area rests. Up the river, you will find a calm and quiet place like only a Mangrove can offer, surrounded by nature and a seemly stillness, a mirror only broken by the sounds of the birds that live in this beautiful estuary. The cork will be popped and chilled champagne will be served accompanied by delicious hour d’oeuvres. As the boat drifts stealthy down the stream, you both will share a magical moment of your lives. Dusk will come without you noticing it and just as you come out of the mangroves and back into the bay, a display of amazing colors dashes the sky. Going back across the bay, you will witness the sun sinking behind the mountains.

ATV Forest 4 Wheeling Top

The Guanacaste province is famous for its beaches, but is also surrounded by beautiful transitional and dry-tropical forest and small towns. This ATV adventure is full of adrenaline, under the guidance of experienced guides you will hop on your four wheelers with automatic transmission so you can simply enjoy the ride. Explore unpaved roads, rustic towns, extensive transitional forests, and cattle ranches today on your ATV. Be prepared to tackle the challenging terrains together with your fun and knowledgeable guides, who will also introduce you into local history and geography. This is the perfect tour for those who would like to get off-the-beaten-track and experience good adrenaline! The ATV’s on this tour are easy and safe to operate; even riders with no prior experience can operate them.

Beach & Snorkeling at Conchal Beach Top

A full day of sun, sea and sand on a beach-hopping tour, which is the best way to get to know the most important beaches around. You’ll begin your day at the pristine Flamingo Beach, a designated Blue Flag Ecological Beach with powdery white sand. From there you’ll pass by Playa Grande before heading to Tamarindo for an ocean view lunch. After lunch you will head to Conchal Beach with its white sand and pristine waters. Here you can go snorkeling at the coral reef to enjoy the beautiful colors of the water and observe the underwater world of exotic fish at the coral reef. Following a full day on the beach you can enjoy a cocktail and sit back to watch one of the spectacular sunsets of Tamarindo.

Catamaran Sailing & Snorkeling Top

Aboard our luxury catamaran we begin this adventure from the Flamingo Marina area where the crew will set the sail and navigate us to access some of the beautiful isolates beaches and snorkel locations of Costa Rica. A snorkeling guide will show you the marine wildlife such as: pufferfish, starfish, sea turtle, dolphin, and whale. You can also experience kayaking and fishing. Stop in a tranquil bay, drop anchor, snorkel or reach a deserted white beach while the chef prepares a delicious buffet. Panache catamaran, after a stop, will catch the sunset, offering you cold tropical drinks and let you enjoy the most beautiful natural scenery.

Forest & Beach Horseback Ride Top

Today you will go on a unique horseback riding experience through the typical dry-tropical forest of the Guanacaste lowlands. This gentle horseback ride takes approximately 2 hours and before you depart, you will be given an extensive briefing on the basics of controlling your horse. On the tour, you’ll ride out on a variety of forest and mountains trails, as well as to a number of lookout points and secluded beaches that make for an memorable natural adventure. Keep your eyes out for wildlife along the way as you encounter howler monkeys, iguanas, pelicans, crabs among many others.

Mangrove & Estuary Tour on Kayak Top

The Tamarindo Mangrove and Estuary is protected area that boasts a beautiful nature wildlife refuge consisting of a very special flora characteristic of this ecosystem that is an estuary mangrove forests and wetlands, where a great quantity of fauna species can be found, such as brown pelicans, magnificent frigate birds, ibis, ospreys and roseate spoonbills as well as two types of monkeys, iguanas and the American crocodile. You will board either a single or double sit ocean kayak to paddle through this nature lover’s paradise. Using paddles and not a motor, will give you the chance to observe the different species of animals without disturbing them, allowing you to have better pictures and memories to take with you. After paddling for about one hour, some fresh fruits will be offered to you to give you new energy and hydration, to continue enjoying this beautiful natural environment that is now considered a wetland in action of international importance.

Pacific Green Turtle nesting tour at night Top

Pacific Green Turtle nesting tour at night Playa Grande forms, just like Playa Langosta located to the south of Tamarindo Bay, part of the National and Marine Park system ‘Las Baulas’. Both are protected nesting areas for giant sea turtles that arrive on its shores. During the breeding season (approx. November to end of January) you can visit the nesting area of the endangered Green turtles. After registration at the park ranger station, you will enter the beach area and be waiting there for a while, enjoying the waves getting on shore in the mystic light of nighttime and getting an introduction on the curious details of marine turtles. The official guide who will accompany you on the tour will be searching the area for marine turtles that are waiting in the ocean to start coming on shore. You will then start your walk along the beach to get to the place where you will experience one of the most incredible phenomenons of Mother Nature, when these endangered turtles begin to dig a hole in the sand to lay her eggs.

Whitewater Rafting Rio Tenorio (Class III/IV) Top

This exciting white water rafting adventure begins on the banks of the Tenorio River. Here your equipment will be reviewed and adjusted to make sure it’s a proper fit as well as get a comprehensive rafting safety talk and instructions on the basics of paddling and whitewater rafting. Launching your raft off into the Tenorio River, the adrenaline will be pumping as you begin to paddle through the deep red-rock canyon surrounded by magnificent landscapes of low, tropical and dry forest, view cascading waterfalls, relax in serene pools and experience some of the best rapids. You’ll experience over 20 thrilling rapids, and finish the tour off with Costa Rica’s most extreme whitewater river rapid – it is an incredible 12-ft waterfall drop that we have aptly named: ‘Cascabel Falls!’ – this is an amazing way to finish this tour!

Fast Facts on the Nicoya Peninsula

USEFUL TRAVELER INFORMATION

This section is a quick overview to help in planning your trip to the Nicoya Peninsula.

When to go

The rainy season begins around May, and from then on the showers turn into heavy rains from around September. By November, the region becomes a lush, green paradise that will appeal to photographers and lovers of verdant nature. For those who prefer their vacations a little less wet, luckily the dry season is very long in Nicoya, beginning around November and lasting through to April. The beginning of the dry season is the most beautiful time to visit as skies are clear and blue and the forest is a vibrant green after the soaking from the rainy season. Towards the end of the dry season, the area can get a bit dusty after many months of no rain. October is the wettest month and should be avoided, and Christmas and the New Year are the busiest and most expensives times.

How to get there

The easiest way to get to the Nicoya Peninsula is to fly into Costa Rica’s international airport in Liberia and get one of the public buses to Nicoya. Small local airstrips also serve Tamarindo, Nosara, Punta Islita and Tambor, with regular flights operating from San José. Private shuttles also ferry people to beach towns and there are boat services between Jacó and Montezuma. If you are planning on visiting more remote areas, it is perhaps best to rent a car. Just speak to one of our travel advisors and they can assist you with this.

Infrastructure

Given the popularity of the Nicoya Peninsula, a sophisticated tourist infrastructure has developed, so there is ample accommodation and a variety of cuisine to suit the taste of every traveler. Even the tiniest beach towns have a range of lodgings, but they do book up quickly so make sure to plan your trip in advance. Speak to one of our travel advisors early so they can book your accommodation for you, especially during high season. Seafood is always on the menu here, and there is a big focus on sustainably grown and sourced food, with lots of options for vegetarians.

Tour Packages to the Nicoya Peninsula

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