The Nicoya Peninsula is home to stunning beaches and a laidback vibe. It's also Costa Rica's only Blue Zone location!

Key Takeaways

  • The Southern Nicoya Peninsula is a Blue Zone renowned for its relaxed lifestyle, diverse outdoor activities including surfing and yoga, and maintains its natural charm with easy access from San Jose or Liberia airports.

  • Northern Nicoya Peninsula offers family-friendly beaches and cultural experiences with traditional fiestas and historical ranching customs, alongside renowned surfing spots for all skill levels.

  • The Nicoya Peninsula provides unique wildlife encounters in areas like the Ostional Wildlife Refuge and Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve and offers a range of adventurous activities including surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, zip-lining, and immersive wellness retreats.

Unveiling the Southern Nicoya Peninsula

Playa Montezuma

The Southern Nicoya Peninsula, a Pacific gem, holds allure for adventure enthusiasts and nature aficionados alike. Accessible via a short half-hour flight from either the San Jose or Liberia airports or via a ferry from Puntarenas, this part of the world is highly accessible yet retains its off-the-beaten-path charm. Characterized by simplicity and relaxation, the lifestyle here is deeply intertwined with nature, with locals leading a life deeply entrenched in agriculture and upholding strong family bonds.

What sets the peninsula apart is its distinctive Blue Zone status, one of a mere five worldwide. This recognition is owed to the region’s laid-back ambiance and underdevelopment, making it an appealing choice for those seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A myriad of activities await in the Southern Nicoya Peninsula, including:

  • Surfing and water sports along unspoiled beaches

  • Inland hiking and wildlife spotting

  • Leisurely stays and yoga retreats in tranquil villages like Santa Teresa and Malpais

  • Healthy eating and a laid-back lifestyle

The transitional climate between the tropical dry forest climate and the tropical rain forest creates an environment suitable for a diverse range of outdoor activities and experiences all year round in the lush rainforest.

Santa Teresa Beach

Attracting surfers and wellness enthusiasts alike, Santa Teresa Beach stands as a well-liked tourist spot within the Nicoya Peninsula. Widely recognized for its reliable surf breaks, the beach’s vibrant surfing community attracts surfing aficionados from around the globe. Yet, surfing isn’t the only activity that draws visitors here. Santa Teresa is a tropical paradise where yoga is as much a part of the culture as the waves, with numerous classes offered to cater to wellness-focused tourists.

But the magic of Santa Teresa Beach doesn’t stop at the surf or yoga mats. With unforgettable views, it’s one of Costa Rica’s most picturesque locations, providing a stunning backdrop for both surfers and yogis alike. Visitors can choose from a variety of accommodation options, each one enhancing the area’s natural charm and the array of activities available. Some popular accommodation options include:

  • Beachfront bungalows

  • Eco-friendly resorts

  • Luxury villas

  • Yoga retreats

  • Budget-friendly hostels

No matter where you choose to stay, you’ll be surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of Santa Teresa Beach and its surrounding beaches.

Montezuma Village

Montezuma Village, where adventure mingles with relaxation, serves as a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts. The village offers a diverse range of outdoor recreational activities, including surfing, hiking, swimming, kayaking, zip-lining, scuba diving, and wildlife watching, ensuring an unforgettable experience for every visitor. A particular highlight is the Montezuma Waterfalls, a captivating natural attraction consisting of three different levels. Visitors can swim, hike, discover hidden pools, and unwind in the most popular first pool. For a nominal fee, access to the upper levels can be obtained through bridges constructed by a local tour operator.

But the allure of Montezuma Village extends beyond its natural beauty. Renowned for its bohemian ambiance, this place is a cultural hub teeming with art galleries and vibrant nightlife. Visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Costa Rican culture, indulge in traditional cuisine, and admire local crafts.

Malpais and Playa Carmen

Appealing to those in search of a quieter Nicoya Peninsula experience, Malpais and Playa Carmen are celebrated for their serene atmosphere and pristine beaches. These areas are not only stunning but also offer excellent surfing opportunities for beach enthusiasts.

Malpais and Playa Carmen cater to all needs, offering a diverse range of dining options that contribute to the overall pleasantness of the area for visitors. Accommodation options are abundant, with a variety of choices from the Indigo Yoga Surf Resort to the Casa Cameleon, ensuring every visitor finds a place to call their home away from home.

Embracing the Northern Nicoya Peninsula

Beautiful Playa Samara

Family-friendly beaches, top-tier surfing, and a profound cultural heritage converge in the Northern Nicoya Peninsula. Home to renowned surfing spots such as:

  • Playa Grande

  • Playa Langosta

  • Avellanas

  • Playa Negra

  • Nosara

This area is a paradise for surfers of all skill levels. But the appeal of the Northern Nicoya Peninsula extends beyond its famous waves.

Its cultural identity is shaped by traditional civic fiestas boasting rodeos, customary meals, and dances set to Marimba and Cumbia music, alongside historically meaningful ranching customs.

Samara and Carrillo

Nestled along the Pacific Ocean, Samara and Carrillo offer a different pace of life. Playa Samara is renowned for its picturesque beaches and tropical dry forests, whereas Playa Carrillo is loved for its serene ambiance, gentle waters, and pristine white sand. In addition to their stunning landscapes, these areas also offer a range of water activities. From swimming to kayaking, snorkeling, and sport fishing, there’s something for everyone. Samara Beach is particularly suitable for novice surfers, featuring smaller, manageable waves.

Beyond the adventure, Samara also offers a lively nightlife scene. Visitors can immerse themselves in the energetic ambiance that makes this town so unique, with:

  • Beach tapas bars

  • Wine bars

  • Dance clubs

  • Live-music venues

Nosara and Playa Guiones

The tranquility of Nosara and Playa Guiones offers a stark contrast to the bustling beach towns of the Nicoya Peninsula. Renowned for its serene ambiance, these areas are perfect for those seeking a quieter, more relaxed experience. Wellness and yoga play a central role in the lifestyle here, with a plethora of yoga disciplines and retreats available in a tranquil setting.

But the appeal of Nosara and Playa Guiones is not limited to yoga enthusiasts. These spots also cater to surfers seeking advanced surfing opportunities within scenic coastal areas.

Wildlife Encounters in the Nicoya Peninsula

Olive ridley sea turtles at Playa Ostional, Costa Rica

Wildlife enthusiasts will find a sanctuary in the Nicoya Peninsula. With a diverse range of flora and fauna, it serves as a transition zone between tropical rainforest and dry forest, particularly in the southern region. There are wildlife reserves that boast plentiful plant and animal life, making it a must-visit for nature lovers.

With diverse habitats in the Curú Wildlife Reserve on Nicoya’s southern tip and the distinctive sea turtle nesting experience, the peninsula presents unrivaled wildlife encounter opportunities.

Ostional Wildlife Refuge

The Ostional Wildlife Refuge holds great significance as one of the world’s most important nesting sites for olive ridley sea turtles. The sight of these creatures nesting during the arribada is a rare and unforgettable experience. During this time, visitors have the chance to assist in protecting the perilous journey of baby sea turtles to the sea, providing them with protection from predators.

This spectacle can be observed at its best during the rainy season from May to December, with the largest arribadas taking place from September to November. Note that a guide is required to access the protected beach.

Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve & Palo Verde National Park

In addition to Ostional, the Nicoya Peninsula is home to a host of other protected areas teeming with wildlife. The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, the inaugural protected reserve in Costa Rica, and Palo Verde National Park, a diverse mangrove ecosystem, offer unforgettable encounters with Costa Rica’s nature.

Whether it’s birdwatching, boating tours to observe crocodiles, or exploring the park’s various ecosystems, these areas offer a diverse range of experiences for nature lovers. Guests in Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve can spot a variety of distinctive wildlife, adding to the rich biodiversity of the area.

The Curú Wildlife Refuge is one of Costa Rica's best hidden gems. This private reserve is home to numerous species of wildlife including capuchin, howler, and spider monkeys, anteaters, tayra, puma, and many other animals. Birdwatchers will revel in sightings of scarlett macaws, orange-fronted parakeets, elegant trogons, and many other species. The Curu Reserve is a true testament to how driven individuals can make a difference!

Adventure Awaits: Thrilling Activities in Nicoya

Adventurous spirits will find a wealth of exhilarating activities in the Nicoya Peninsula. Some of the activities you can enjoy include:

  • Water sports

  • Scuba diving

  • Canopy tours

  • Zip-lining

  • Bioluminescence tours

The peninsula is a playground for adventure enthusiasts.

Isla Catalinas and Tortuga Island, prime scuba diving and snorkeling sites in the Nicoya Peninsula, give divers the chance to encounter marine species such as white-tip sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, and large marine creatures. A word of caution though, when participating in water sports, it’s essential to ensure proper coverage, acquire knowledge about rip currents, and be mindful of one’s physical capabilities. Go with a guide!

Bioluminescence tours by kayak or boat are very popular in the Paquera area. These tours start at dusk and offer a brilliant and colorful spectacle during low moonlight cycles. A word to the wise; be sure to check the moon cycles before planning around this as it can be disappointing when the moon is not right.

Water Sports and Scuba Diving

Water sports in the Nicoya Peninsula are a key part of the adventure, with scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and surfing widely enjoyed by numerous visitors. The region provides excellent locations for these activities, making it a premier destination for water sports enthusiasts. Particularly, scuba diving presents the chance to observe a wide variety of marine life, such as:

  • white tip sharks

  • sea turtles

  • dolphins

  • manta rays

  • whale sharks

While engaging in these activities, it’s important to observe certain precautions, such as protecting oneself from sun exposure, being knowledgeable about water safety, and staying vigilant for hazardous riptides.

Canopy Tours and Zip Lining

For an adrenaline rush, the Nicoya Peninsula offers thrilling canopy tours and zip-lining experiences. Some of the premier locations for these activities include:

Safety precautions encompass the use of secure footwear, a harness, and a helmet. These activities typically last from a couple of hours to half a day, ensuring a day full of adventure.

Indulge in Blue Zone Wellness

A woman sitting on the beach in Nosara

One distinct characteristic of the Nicoya Peninsula is its status as one of the world’s blue zones, where residents enjoy longer lifespans than average due to lifestyle and environmental elements.

Adopting the lifestyle of the Nicoya Peninsula can confer positive impacts on mental, physical, and spiritual health, fostering longevity and holistic wellness.

Yoga and Meditation Retreats

The Nicoya Peninsula offers a range of yoga and meditation retreats, providing a rejuvenating experience surrounded by natural beauty. Towns like Nosara, Santa Teresa, and Montezuma are popular choices for these retreats, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced practitioner. A variety of yoga styles are offered, including:

  • Slow flow vinyasa

  • Restorative yoga

  • Guided meditations

  • Ashtanga

  • Vinyasa Flow

  • Shakti Flow

  • Power Yoga

  • Yin Yoga

These retreats typically offer paradisiacal beaches, beautiful scenery, charming villages, accommodations, daily yoga and meditation classes, meals, and ocean activities.

Farm-to-Table Dining

Farm-to-table dining is an integral part of the wellness culture in the Nicoya Peninsula. This concept involves sourcing ingredients directly from local farms to promote freshness, sustainability, and support for local agriculture. Renowned establishments like Nectar Restaurant, Hacienda Okhra, and Bernina Artisan Food serve traditional dishes like Gallo Pinto and Casado, prepared with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. This practice contributes to sustainable tourism by supporting local farmers and reducing the carbon footprint associated with transporting food.

Additionally, it promotes the use of locally grown fruits and vegetables, thereby helping to preserve the region’s biodiversity and traditional farming practices.

Navigating the Nicoya Peninsula

Traversing the Nicoya Peninsula is less complicated than it seems. The most efficient option for reaching the peninsula is by flying into the Tambor Airport or the new Cobano Airport in Cabuya, both of which are easily accessible for destinations such as Montezuma, Malpais, or Santa Teresa.

Besides air travel, visitors can opt to drive to Puntarenas and board one of the daily ferries to Paquera or Playa Naranjo. From there, they can use a rental car, shuttle, or bus to continue to destinations such as Santa Teresa and Montezuma.

Planning Your Trip: Best Time to Visit and Accommodations

Organizing your Nicoya Peninsula journey entails determining the timing and accommodation for your stay. The optimal time to visit the Nicoya Peninsula is during the dry season, which spans from late November to May, while the peak tourist season occurs from December to April.

As for accommodations, the peninsula accommodates budgets of all sizes. Some options include:

There is something for everyone.


The Nicoya Peninsula is a paradise like no other. From its pristine beaches to its vibrant forests, its enriching cultural experiences to its thrilling adventures, and its serene wellness retreats to its farm-to-table dining, the peninsula offers a diverse range of experiences that will delight every traveler. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or a wellness enthusiast, the Nicoya Peninsula awaits you with open arms and an unforgettable experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is so special about Nicoya Costa Rica?

Nicoya, Costa Rica is special because it is one of the world's "Blue Zones," where residents live longer than average due to calcium-rich water, healthy eating, family-based living, outdoor activity, and a commitment to a pura vida lifestyle. Residents follow a pura vida approach, which involves eliminating stress and taking time to connect with nature, friends, and family.

Where is Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica?

The Nicoya Peninsula is located on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, divided into Guanacaste Province in the north and Puntarenas Province in the south. It is situated at approximately 10°N 85.4166667°W.

Can you swim in the Nicoya Peninsula?

Yes, the western coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula offers plenty of beaches for swimming, surfing, and relaxation. Of course, some beaches should not be considered swimmable. Use common sense and ask a local before diving in!

What language is spoken in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica?

The language spoken in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica is Spanish, which is the official language of the country. Most tourism industry employees and many locals also speak English.

What is the best time to visit the Nicoya Peninsula?

The best time to visit the Nicoya Peninsula is during the dry season, from late November to May. The peak tourist season is from December to April. May and June are a secret season with lower prices, fewer tourists, and easier hotel availability.

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