The Peninsula de Nicoya is located in northwest Costa Rica and bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Gulf of Nicoya to its east. Its northern portion is in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province and southeastern end in Puntarenas Province. This region is famed for its long dry season of sunny warm weather and beautiful beaches including Nosara, Samara, Punta Islita, Santa Teresa, Malpais, Montezuma and Tambor. During the rainy season from May to November, the area can be enjoyed for its gorgeous morning to early afternoon sunny weather, always great beaches, lush green vegetation and opportunities for reduced vacation package rates and smaller influx of visitors.
This area also includes Ostional National Wildlife Refuge which is well known as one of the world’s most important nesting sites for Olive Ridley turtles that nest by the thousands in mass arrivals during August to October. Other important natural areas can be visited are the estuary and mangrove swamp near Nosara, the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve at the very tip of the peninsula and the Tempisque River wet lands.
The Peninsula de Nicoya can be reached by land using the route over the Tempisque/Amistad bridge or by flying to local airstrips in Nosara, Tambor, and Punta Islita, and then using land transport to the final destinations on the Peninsula. Another option is to combine land travel with the ferry from Puntarenas.
The following is a brief description of the best beaches of the Peninsula:

NOSARA
1. Description: It is bordered by wild untouched beaches to both the north and south. Nosara is known for its strong commitment to sustainability and conservation of its natural habitats. This area has enjoyed both the protection of the national park system as well as decades-old efforts of the local citizens’ association to keep the beaches pristine, ensure hundreds of acres of forest are protected and that local area development remains small-scale.

2. Distances/times from Nosara to:
SJO: 254 km/158 m – 5 hour drive approx.
Arenal: 231 km/144 m – 5 hour drive approx.
Monteverde: 183 km/114 m – 4 hour drive approx.
Liberia: 127 km/79 m – 3 hour drive approx.
3. Flying time from Nosara to: (based on Domestic flights-Private charters optional)
SJO: 40 minutes approx.
Arenal: 2 hours 20 minutes approx (3 stops: La Fortuna-SJO-Tambor-Nosara).
4. Recommended activities: Surfing, Deep sea fishing, Yoga lessons, Olive Ridley Turtle season from Aug-Oct at Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, Barra Honda National Park caving tours, Palo Verde National Park boat and/or hiking nature tours.
5. Best time of year to visit: Dry season from late Nov. to April when there is little chance of rain and abundant warm sunny weather. During the rainy season from May to November, great for surfing and wildlife nature/river tours, also it is turtle nesting season.
6. Recommended Hotels:
THE HARMONY NOSARA: www.harmonynosara.com
L’ACQUA VIVA RESORT & SPA: www.lacquaviva.com

SAMARA
1. Description: Samara beach is located within a perfect half moon bay and separated from Carrillo beach by a jutting point. The communities outside these beaches are dedicated to fishing and farming. Samara has gentle waters and a good steady offshore breeze ideal for windsurfing. Some four kilometers long, this beach features mangrove swamps and ample coastal greenery. This beach received the Blue Flag designation for its cleanliness. The area offers activities such as sunbathing, walking, horseback riding, swimming, mountain biking and boat or kayak trips, as well as various services allowing tourists to enjoy the beach by day and music and good food by night.

2. Distances/times from Samara to:
SJO: 239 km/149 m – 4 ½ hour drive approx.
Arenal: 216 km /134 m – 4 ½ – 5 hour drive approx.
Monteverde: 169 km/105 m – 4 hour drive approx.
Liberia: 112 km/70 m – 2 ½ hour drive approx.
3. Flying time from San Jose to Samara (ONLY private charter): 40 minutes approx
4. Recommended activities: Sea kayaking, Surfing, Deep-sea fishing, Snorkeling, Scuba diving, Paragliding and waterfall visits. Also Barra Honda National Park caving tours, Palo Verde National Park floating tours.
5. Best time of year: Dry season from late Nov. to April when there is little chance of rain and abundant warm sunny weather. During the rainy season from May to November, great for surfing and wildlife nature/river tours, also it is turtle nesting season.
6. Recommended Hotels:
THE HIDEAWAY PLAYA SAMARA: www.thehideawayplayasamara.com

PUNTA ISLITA

1. Description: A sun lover’s paradise-with golden sunshine, gorgeous sunsets, and breathtaking beaches-the quaint community of Punta Islita makes for an outstanding beach vacation. In addition to its pristine natural beaches, the tucked away village of Punta Islita contains a “bustling artistic community” and a lovely local arts museum. A charming white church and bell tower sit proudly in the town plaza. A winding, cliff-side road presents incredibly picturesque vistas as one drives into the village.

2. Distances/times from Punta Islita to:
SJO: 261 km/162 m – 5 hour drive approx.
Arenal: 237 km/148 m– 5 hour drive approx.
Monteverde: 190 km/118 m – 4 – 4 ½ hour drive approx.
Liberia: 134 km/83 m – 3 -3 ½ hour drive approx.
3. Flying time from Islita to: (based on Domestic flights- Private charters optional)
SJO: 45 minutes approx.
Arenal: 2 hour approx (2 stops).
4. Recommended activities: Horseback riding, Kayaking, Jet skiing, Fishing with local fisherman. Also Coyote Mangrove tour, Barra Honda caving and Palo Verde floating tour.
5. Best time of year: Dry season from late Nov. to April when there is little chance of rain and abundant warm sunny weather. During the rainy season from May to November, great for surfing and wildlife nature/river tours, also it is turtle nesting season.
6. Recommended Hotels:
PUNTA ISLITA HOTEL: www.hotelpuntaislita.com

SANTA TERESA
1. Description: Santa Teresa is a booming new travel destination in Costa Rica which is especially attractive to surfers and beach-bound younger folks due to its great waves and broad sandy beaches. A thriving community of international artists, visiting Hollywood celebrities, surfers and yoga practitioners all come together to blend a unique eclectic mix of ideas, movements and conversations. However, you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy a vacation in Santa Teresa. Venture out to discover some of Costa Rica’s most coveted beaches which extend to both sides of Santa Teresa. A broad strip of forest hugs the shore offering shady hideaways. Views of the beach in Santa Teresa are still undisturbed as there are no high-rise buildings and construction is hidden behind the trees.
2. Distances/times from Santa Teresa to:
SJO: 135 km/84 m – 4 hour drive approx.
Arenal: 286 km/178 m – 6 ½ hour drive approx.
Monteverde: 108 km/67 m – 5 ½ hour drive approx.
Liberia: 210 km/131 m – 5 hour drive approx.
Note: There is a ferry (1 hour transfer) you may take from Puntarenas to Paquera (1 hour land transfer to Santa Teresa).
3. Flying time from Santa Teresa to: (based on Domestic flights- Private charters optional)
SJO – Tambor: 25 minutes approx.
Arenal – Tambor: 1 hour 45 minutes approx (1 stop).
Liberia – Tambor: 2 hour 30 minutes approx (1 stop).
Note: From Tambor to Santa Teresa it takes 35 minutes land transfer (16 km/10 m).
4. Recommended activities: Surfing, Fishing, Snorkeling, Kite surfing, Horseback riding, Canopy tour in Malpais, several hotels in Santa Teresa offer Yoga and Pilates. Also Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve hiking tour, Mal Pais and Montezuma Beaches, Chira Island tour to see artisanal fishing and women coops, Palo Verde National Park floating trips, Barra Honda caving.
5. Best time of year: Dry season from late Nov. to April when there is little chance of rain and abundant warm sunny weather. During the rainy season from May to November, great for surfing and wildlife nature/river tours.
6. Recommended Hotels:
FLOR BLANCA: www.florblanca.com
MANALA HOTEL: www.manalahotel.com
ATRAPASUEÑOS (DREAM CATCHER): www.atrapasuenos.net
LATITUDE 10: http://www.latitude10resort.com/
PRANAMAR: http: www.pranamarvillas.com

MAL PAIS
1. Description: The name Malpais means literally “bad land”. Actually nothing is farther from the truth. Known for its spectacular beauty, dramatic volcanic rock outcroppings and white sandy beaches covered with beautiful little shells. This is considered a surfer’s paradise because of the consistent waves, a long beach break and good swells. The beaches of Malpais are perfect for those looking for a peaceful vacation away from the crowds. Old growth dry forest stretches right onto the shore. Here there is a wide range of coastal lands, from short sandy beach stretches, to rocky outcroppings, or beaches composed entirely of tiny crumbling seashells.
2. Distances/times from Mal Pais to:
SJO: 135 km/84 m – 5 hour drive approx.
Arenal: 286 km/178 m – 6 ½ hour drive approx.
Monteverde: 108 km/67 m – 5 ½ hour drive approx.
Liberia: 210 km/131 m – 5 hour drive approx.
Note: There is a ferry (1 hour transfer) you may take from Puntarenas to Paquera (1 hour drive to Mal Pais).
3. Flying time from Mal Pais: (based on Domestic flights- Private charters optional)
SJO – Tambor: 25 minutes approx.
La Fortuna – Tambor: 1 hour 45 minutes approx (1 stop).
Liberia – Tambor: 2 hour 30 minutes approx (1 stop).
Note: From Tambor to Mal Pais takes 35 minutes by a land transfer (19 km/12 miles).
4. Recommended activities: Sports fishing, Horseback riding, Mountain biking and great hiking, Snorkel, Scuba dive, Surfing, Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve hiking tour, Montezuma Beaches, Chira Island tour to see artisanal fishing and women coops, Palo Verde National Park floating trips, Barra Honda caving.
5. Best time of year: Dry season from late Nov. to April when there is little chance of rain and abundant warm sunny weather. During the rainy season from May to November, great for surfing and wildlife nature/river tours.
6. Recommended Hotels:
MOANA LODGE: www.moanalodge.com
CASA CHAMELEON: www.hotelcasachameleon.com
BEIJA FLOR RESORT: www.beijaflorresort.com
BLUE SURF SANCTUARY: www.bluesurfsanctuary.com

MONTEZUMA
1. Description: This charming little village is nestled on the eastern shore of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, down dusty roads that lead to ridges covered with tropical dry forests and contrasting green terraces etched out by rivers and tides. Once a small fishing village, Montezuma has now become an international community with a friendly atmosphere. The enchanting surroundings form a tropical playground that provides a wealth of activities for the active tourist and the entertaining and unique centre of Montezuma is filled with a range of restaurants, shops and hotels that will beckon inquisitive travelers.
2. Distances/times from Mal Pais to:
SJO: 139 km / 86 m – 5 hour drive approx.
Arenal: 290 km / 180 m – 6 – 6 ½ hour drive approx.
Monteverde: 112 km / 70 m – 45hour drive approx.
Liberia – Montezuma: 244 km / 151 m – 5 ½ hour drive approx.
Note: There is a ferry (1 hour transfer) you may take from Puntarenas to Paquera (1 hour drive to Montezuma).
3. Flying time from Mal Pais: (based on Domestic flights- Private charters optional)
SJO – Tambor: 25 minutes approx.
La Fortuna – Tambor: 1 hour 45 minutes approx (1 stop).
Liberia – Tambor: 2 hour 30 minutes approx (1 stop).
Note: From Tambor to Montezuma takes 30 minutes by a land transfer (20 km/12 miles).
4. Recommended activities: Boat and snorkeling tour to Tortuga Island, Fishing, Diving, Surfing, Horse back riding, Canopy Tours, Hike to the waterfalls, Yoga, Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve.
5. Best time of year: Dry season from late Nov. to April when there is little chance of rain and abundant warm sunny weather. During the rainy season from May to November, great for surfing and wildlife nature/river tours.
6. Recommended Hotels:
YLANG YLANG BEACH RESORT: www.ylangylangbeachresort.com
ANAMAYA RESORT & RETREAT CENTER: www.anamayaresort.com
AMOR DE MAR HOTEL: www.amordemar.com

NICOYA PENINSULA NATURE HIGHLIGHTS

With many wildlife reserves and national parks nearby, hiking trails or by boat tours in rivers and estuaries a great variety of dry forest birds, wetlands birds and wildlife which can be observed in the region.

Wildlife includes: American Crocodiles, Green and Black iguanas, Olive Ridley turtles, Jesus Christ or Striped Basilisk Lizards, Boa Constrictor, Smoky Jungle Frog, Cane Toad, Guanacaste Stick Insect, Arboreal Termites, Sundown Cicadas, Peanut-headed Bugs, Malachite butterflies, Julias, Zebra Longwings, Postmans, Owl Butterfly, Four Window Moths, Golden Orb-weaver Spider, Halloween Crabs, Ghost Crabs, Hermit Crabs. Mammals: Spider Monkey, White-faced Capuchin, Howler Monkey,, Coatis, Tamandua Anteater, Agouties, White-tailed Deer, Collared Peccary, Tayra, Prehensile tailed Porcupine.monkeys, Nine-banded Armadillo, Silky Anteater.
Some birds that could be found in wetlands and pastures in the Peninsula: Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Wood storks, Jabiru, Harris’s Hawk, Zone-tailed hawks, Crested Caracara, Laughing Falcon, Double-striped Thick-Knee, Black-necked stilts, Northern Jacana, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.
Some birds that could be found in dry-forest in Guanacaste: Thicket Tinamou, Great Curassow, Crested Bobwhite, King Vulture, Orange-fronted Parakeet, White-fronted Parrot, Yellow-naped Parrot, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Black-headed Trogon, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Hoffmann´s Woodpecker, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Long-tailed Manakin, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Rufous-naped Wren, Banded Wren, Streaked backed Oriole.