Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica: Paradise for Beach Lovers!

The Nicoya Peninsula is known for consistent sunshine and beautiful beaches. Great waves for surfing, uncrowded stretches of beach, and opportunities to see wildlife combine to make the peninsula a very popular vacation destination, for foreigners and locals alike.

Not surprisingly, the Nicoya Peninsula is also where the majority of Costa Rica’s beach resorts are concentrated. Development is booming in this area, with condos and resorts popping up constantly and growth is evident in all but the smallest towns.

However, the majority of places are still quaint and laid back. Friendly surfers and backpackers are the main tourists, and interaction with the locals is easy and enjoyable.

Beginning in the northwest, the peninsula stretches 130km with an average width of 50km, and reaches past San José at its most southern point. The majority of the Nicoya Peninsula is in the Guanacaste Province, with the very tip belonging to Puntarenas.

There are numerous things to do and places to explore on the peninsula, and you could easily spend a month there, but a week to a week-and-a-half would be sufficient to check out a few of the hotspots.

Check out my lists of Popular Towns, Must-sees and Must-dos:

Popular Towns of the Nicoya Peninsula

  • Playas del Coco
  • Playa el Ocotal
  • Playa Flamingo
  • Playa Conchal
  • Tamarindo
  • Playa Nosara
  • Sámara
  • Malpaís
  • Santa Teresa
  • Montezuma
  • Playa Tambor

Must-sees and Must-dos of the Nicoya Peninsula

  • Barra Honda National Park – Amateur spelunkers, explore the caves at this great park – over 40 in total, some more than 200m deep. Plenty of cave creatures to see, like bats and blind salamanders. Dry season is the best time of year.
  • Surfing – Learn to surf in Tamarindo or head to Playa Avellanas (aka Little Hawaii), Malpaís, Santa Teresa, Playa Grande, or find your own spot – there’s no shortage of waves!
  • Cabo Blanco Absolute Wildlife Reserve – Discover the first of Costa Rica's national parks.
  • Playa Grande Marine Turtle National Park – Not just a spot for great and consistent waves, this beach neighboring Tamarindo is also a giant leatherback turtle-nesting site.
  • Scuba Diving – The best scuba diving in Costa Rica is along this coast, with a number of companies operating out of and around Playas del Coco – where I was a divemaster.
  • Isla Tortuga – A beautiful, picturesque tropical island definitely worthy of a day visit from Montezuma, or from Puntarenas. Swim, snorkel, play, or just soak up some rays.
  • Tempisque Safari Ecological Adventure – An excellent zoo and animal rescue center open 9-4pm daily. A $45 three hour guided tour includes a ride on a cart pulled by water buffalo and a boat tour of the Tempisque River.
  • Ostional National Wildlife Refuge – A remote location with few facilities, but worth the visit to experience a mass nesting of sea turtles. The refuge is located just north of Nosara.
  • Guaitil – One of the few ancient cultural sites, here local Indians craft attractive pottery according to pre-Columbian traditions. This town is 12km outside of Santa Cruz, which is 57km south of Liberia.

Getting to the Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica

Once in Costa Rica rent a car and drive to the northwest on the Pan-American Highway from San José until you reach Liberia, then head south. Or drive from the San José to the town of Puntarenas, which has ferries to either Playa Naranjo or Paquera. Ferries cross the Gulf of Nicoya (Golfo de Nicoya), which separates the peninsula from the mainland.

Private shuttles are another option if you don’t want to rent a car. The cheapest option would be to take a public bus from San José to Liberia, which takes about five hours.

Alternately, you can fly into Liberia’s international airport and drive directly south. Or you can take a domestic flight from San José to one of the more popular towns on the Nicoya Peninsula. Nature Air and Sansa are the two domestic carriers and they service Nosara, Tamarindo, Tambor, and Liberia.

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