Nicoya Peninsula

Endless Summer

Sand and Sea are the names of the game in sunny Nicoya. No wonder this region of Costa Rica is referred to as “Endless Summer.” Here is where you will find white sand beaches – which are very unique in Costa Rica. (With all of the volcanic activity in this nation you mostly find black to gray sand.) The Nicoya region has a 6-month dry season where sun and sand offer a great appeal. Ease into a hammock and enjoy watching some howlers monkey around in the lush treetops overhanging the surf.

Northern Peninsula

Playa Hermosa Area – beaches are wide and expansive. This is home to Bill Beard’s Diving Safaris. It has gray sand and is a favorite with swimmers.

On-Playa Panama you will find the mega-resort development known as Papagayo. Several beautiful hotels are in this area.

Playa del Coco is just south of Hermosa. Full of gray volcanic sand this beach is popular with divers and fishermen.

Playa Ocotal is the southernmost beach in the bay. Here is tranquility, scenery, white sand, and swaying trees. This is also home to yachts.

Playa Flamingo Area Beaches – here in Costa Rica’s premier beach resort. Pure white sand comes from finely ground white seashells. Horseback riding is a great way to get a tour. Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero, Playa Pan de Azucar, Playa Brasilito, and Playa Conchal are all in this area.

Playa Tamarindo – this is one of the most popular beach destinations in Costa Rica and a favorite of surfers. On the main drag, you will find plenty of good restaurants and artsy-crafty gift shops.

Adventures & Attractions: The big sport in Tamarindo is surfing. Diving is also popular as well as day and half-day deep-sea fishing excursions. ATV tours can be taken or go horseback riding. See the turtles nest (seasonal) at Playa Grande.

Santa Rosa National Park – this Pacific coast park was the scene of Costa Rica’s most famous military victory in 1856. An army, led by U.S. adventurer William Walker, invaded from neighboring Nicaragua and fought fiercely for about 15 minutes before being defeated by Costa Ricans. The park is now the site of one of the largest remaining dry tropical forests in Central America. Monkeys, armadillos, anteaters, and deer are the main attractions. (Pacific olive back ridley sea turtles nest at night on Nancite Beach in September and October.) The park also has mangrove estuaries, beautiful deserted beaches, and many birds. La Casona, a farmhouse on the site of the original battle, was lovingly replicated in 2002 after a fire destroyed the original structure. The museum is open daily 8 am-4 pm.

Central Peninsula

Santa Cruz & Nicoya – these cities are gateways to the beaches of the western and southern Nicoya Peninsula. Believe it or not, these cities are traditional farming and cattle ranching centers for the surrounding areas. Santa Cruz is known as the “National Folklore City.”

In Santa Cruz, you will find Chorotega pottery – Costa Rica’s polished, hand-painted glazed potery made by the pre-Columbian Chorotega peoples. Enjoy handmade tortillas, rice & beans, and regional dishes at Coopetorilla for a great eating experience in Santa Cruz.

Nicoya is a much larger city than Santa Cruz. Here it is more commercial and generally less interesting to tourists.

In this area, you will find Barra Honda National Park. This small park on the Nicoya Peninsula northwest of San Jose protects the flora and fauna of the tropical dry forest and has an extensive network of caves. You can hire local guides to lead you through the caverns, but the descent into the darkness—using a climbing ladder and ropes—is not for the fainthearted. The hike takes an energetic hour over a winding and steep trail. Several trails in the park lead through the forest to scenic overlooks, which give hikers a minute to rest while they get their cameras out.

Playa Samara – this wide white beach is protected by rock promontories at either end and an offshore reef – good for snorkeling. Swimming is safe in the warm shallow waters.

Playa Nosara – in this area you will find many retired North Americans.

Southern Peninsula

Playa Naranjo – hot lowland forests are the best way to describe this area. The shoreline is dramatic with steep green hills that come right up to the beach area. Take a ferry to get across the gulf from Puntarenas.

Playa Tambor – a destination like Papagayo, this area has many all-inclusive resorts.

Montezuma – one of the last outposts of underdeveloped, beautiful beaches. This area has long been a haven for free thinkers, nature lovers, beachcombers, and entrepreneurs. An enchanting ecological beach destination that welcomes visitors who respect the environment and the culture.

Tortuga Island

This island is in the Gulf of Nicoya and can see as part of a popular day-trip excursion that begins with a bus ride from San Jose to Puntarenas. From there, a boat takes you to the island for a day of snorkeling, paddling, or sunbathing. There are several companies that offer the trip, and most include a hot lunch served on the beach.