Nosara Costa Rica doesn’t give a great first impression. Unlike most other beach towns in Costa Rica, Nosara doesn’t have a town center with hotels, surf schools, shops, and restaurants vying for your attention.
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So driving down the narrow bumpy dirt road that leads to Nosara’s famous Playa Guiones, you never really get the feeling that you have arrived to this beach town.
After getting lost and running into a few more dead-end roads than we would’ve liked to (beware even Google Maps can send you down roads that are actually impassable by car), we finally made our way to Downtown Guiones, a 500 m road running down to Guiones Playa (also sometimes known as Playa Nosara, Costa Rica).
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Essential Travel Info
Nosara Airport is a small domestic airport located about 15 minutes from the main strip in Nosara Playa. There are no international flights to Nosara Costa Rica. However, the Nosara Airport does receive private chartered or domestic flights with Nature Air.
The closest international airport is Liberia Airport, located about two and a half hours by car in Liberia, Guanacaste. A number of direct flights operate daily from the US and Canada. However, it is often cheaper and more convenient to fly into the capital of San Jose.
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The driving distance from San Jose to Nosara is about 4.5 hours. You can hire a taxi or take a shuttle to Nosara from the airports, or opt to take a local bus.
Traveling from other parts of the country? Expect a 4.5-hour drive from Nosara to Santa Teresa and a 2-hour drive from Tamarindo to Nosara.
Getting around Nosara, Costa Rica
Nosara is a spread-out town, making it tough to get around from Guiones to Pelada on foot. Consider renting a car for your time in Nosara or renting a bike or golf course cart from one of the shops in town. You’ll notice lots of golf carts cruising the streets despite the lack of a nearby golf course. This is why.
READ NEXT: Essential Tips for Driving In Costa Rica
Is Nosara Costa Rica Safe?
Generally speaking, Nosara is safe. The biggest risk you face is petty theft. So our advice is to keep your valuables in a safe place, like your hotel lock box, and don’t flaunt your expensive possessions.
READ NEXT: Things to Know Before Traveling to Costa Rica
What does Nosara mean?
The meanings of the name Nosara are varied. However, some say that Nosara has origins that mean “Gift of God” in Spanish. Therefore we can’t help but think that it’s a name for the beauty and abundance of the area!
Our First Impressions of Nosara, Costa Rica
Nosara was 90% full when we booked our stay, yet walking down Downtown Guiones, it felt like we were there alone. Overpriced air-conditioned souvenir shops sat behind closed doors, with small “Open” signs serving as the only indication of any type of activity.
Not that we typically enjoy crowds, but we couldn’t help but wonder where everyone was.
“Let me introduce you to the area,” said the woman at the front desk of our B&B in Nosara, gesturing towards a large map hanging on the wall behind her desk.
“We are located in Playa Pelada, a smaller quieter part of Nosara, Costa Rica. You’ll find a few places to eat in the area, but the majority of shops and restaurants are all in Playa Guiones,” she explained tracing circles on the map.
“Everything is kind of tucked away, so you really need to know where you are going or you are bound to miss it from the main road.”
So with her advice, we dropped off our bags and hopped back in our car to explore. It felt like a bit of a treasure hunt.
Once in Playa Guiones, there was no denying it, Nosara wasn’t deserted. We just had to find its hot spots.
The town was enjoying their mid-Sunday morning rush. Kids were running around conversing in a peculiar Spanglish dialect, relaxed hippy mothers were cooling their babies in the shade of mango trees, dads with dreadlocks and artistic tattoos were discussing Nosara Costa Rica surfing and the latest news while sipping on coffees.
We ate our gallo pinto and silently observed the Nosara community in action. Everyone looked so zen, so happy, so in their element. Most of them weren’t local Costa Rican, but they weren’t visitors either. For these expats, this area was their home away from home and we couldn’t help but feel a tad bit jealous over their seemingly ideal lifestyle. (We were totally judging every single one of them based on first impressions, but let’s be serious, isn’t that the whole point of people watching?)
Best Time to Visit Nosara
The most popular time to visit Nosara Playa is from December to April, during the dry season. The weather is at its hottest and driest however, traveling to Costa Rica in these months also means higher prices and more tourists.
In our opinion, the “green season” is just as good a time to visit. The vegetation is lusher due to the rains, there are fewer tourists and prices tend to be lower. Just remember a rain jacket for those wet mornings.
READ NEXT: Best Time to Visit Costa Rica: Monthly Breakdown
Things to Do in Nosara, Costa Rica
Visit the Beaches
Playa Guiones Beach
There are no shortage of beautiful beaches in Nosara. But Playa, Guinoes, is arguably, the most famous and one of the best Nosara beaches
It’s known for its long stretch of pristine sand and excellent surfing conditions, making it a popular destination for surfers. One of the unique features of Playa Guiones is its consistent surf breaks, which make it an ideal spot for both beginners and advanced surfers. In fact, the beach hosts several international surf competitions throughout the year.
If you don’t have your own board or if you’re new to surfing, consider renting a surfboard and taking a few surf lessons. The Nosara Surf School offers group and private lessons for all experience levels, advance coaching, and board rentals.
Even if you don’t surf, it’s fun to head down to the beach where you can join other Nosara residents and watch the surf community do what they do best.
Playa Nosara is another beautiful beach located in the town of Nosara. It’s located a few kilometers south of Playa Guiones and is known for its laid-back atmosphere and scenic beauty typical of the Pacific Coast.
The beach is more secluded than Playa Guiones and is surrounded by a lush tropical forest, making it a great spot for nature lovers. It’s also a great place for swimming, with its calm waters and gentle waves.
Based on the number of locals hanging out at the beach during our visit, it was clear that Pelada was more swimmer-friendly than Guiones.
The beach at Punta Pelada is filled with locals fishing at sunset, kids playing football on the shore, and residents perched on their reclining chairs with beers in hand awaiting the perfect sunset and ocean views. After a quick swim, we found ourselves a perfect spot to catch the sunset.
Playa Garza is located in the small fishing village of Garza, just north of Punta Guiones. You’ll likely pass it if you travel from Tamarindo to Nosara.
This down-to-earth beach has great surf spots along its Pacific Ocean shore, is suitable for swimming, and is home to a few simple “soda’s” where you can grab lunch.
Unlike nearby Nosara beaches, expect to find more locals than expats occupying the sand at this beach.
READ NEXT: Best Beaches in Guanacaste
Take Surf Lessons
Taking a surf lesson while in Nosara should be a no-brainer since Nosara was named one of the top 20 best surf towns in the world by National Geographic. The region is known for its consistent waves and clean lines.
You can book a private lesson or join a Nosara surf camp your instructor to get local’s guidance on the best breaks around Nosara Beach. If you are an immediate surfer who doesn’t need a lesson it won’t be hard to find a surf shop to rent a board from either. There are plenty in town.
READ NEXT: Best Surfing in Costa Rica
Visit a Wildlife Sanctuary
Nosara offers a few options for animal lovers visiting the Nicoya Peninsula, set in a lush jungle with abundant wildlife found in the area.
SIBU Wildlife Sanctuary
Set on over 50 acres of pristine jungle, SIBU Wildlife Sanctuary cares for orphaned and injured local wildlife. They specialize in caring for golden-mantled howler monkeys and aim to rehabilitate them into the wild. A major concern of theirs is the number of monkeys being electrocuted by power lines.
Visitors and volunteers are welcome to visit the wildlife reserves and learn about the sanctuary’s work but touching the animals is prohibited to prevent the spread of disease and so that the animal life can return to the wild.
Nosara Refuge for Wildlife
Nosara Refuge for Wildlife has a similar mission. However, their facilities are currently under renovation so they are not running their educational tours at this time.
Volunteers can still apply and anyone can contribute to their “Stop the Shock” program. According to their website, “Refuge for Wildlife responds to over 100 electrocuted howler monkey rescue calls each year”. A sad figure!
Ostional Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1984, the Ostional Wildlife Refuge covers a 15km-long and 200m-wide strip of coastline just North of Nosara and is the largest Olive Ridley sea turtle nesting site in the world. Though it was established primarily to protect turtles laying eggs during the nesting season, it also protects the habitats of many coastal and marine animals.
It encompasses the three beaches of Playa Ostional, Playa Nosara, and Playa Guiones, follows the estuaries of the rivers and mangroves inland, and extends three miles out into the sea. The small, remote village of Ostional doesn’t have much to it, and they prefer it that way.
Hotels and restaurants in Ostional are limited. The biggest attraction of the area is the monthly Arribada!
Arribada: The Arrival
The arribada in Playa Ostional, Costa Rica is a natural phenomenon that occurs when hundreds and sometimes thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. This event occurs every month, but the number of turtles increases dramatically during the nesting season between August – December. The largest on record involved over 500,000 turtles! One five-day arribada can result in 10 million eggs being laid.
During an arribada, you cannot just wander into the refuge. To enter the beach, you must book a small group guided tour directly with the staff at the Asociacion de Guias Locales de Ostional.
READ NEXT:Witnessing Arribada in Playa Ostional, Costa Rica
To appreciate the beauty of Nosara’s rivers, Rio Montana and Rio Nosara, consider joining a kayaking tour. You can get an up-close to the mangroves and see the birds and wildlife in their natural habitats.
Take this tour at sunrise or at sunset (depending on the tides) accompanied by a local, experienced guide with a stop at a secluded black sand beach for refreshments.
Try Stand Up Paddleboarding
If you want a more active experience, another unique way to explore the waters in and around Nosara is stand-up paddleboarding.
The Nomadic Hotel offers a number of adventure tours, including stand-up paddleboarding. You can calmly paddle through the mangroves and along the Rio Nosara and the Rio Montana, or you can paddle through Garza Bay to get to the nearby beaches. It’s a great way to see the wildlife and get in a workout.
Take a Yoga Class or Join a Yoga Retreat
Often, when people research what to do in Nosara, Costa Rica, yoga is one of the first recommendations. Nosara has some world-class yoga retreats and yoga studios, in various styles.
Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort
Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort is one of the best yoga resorts in Nosara. They acquired the Nosara Yoga Institute when it went up for sale a few years ago and have continued the Nosara Yoga Institute tradition of providing quality yoga classes in a beautiful setting.
This Nosara Costa Rica yoga retreat is frequently named one of the best yoga retreats in Costa Rica. They offer an assortment of yoga styles, including aerial, in their open-air Nosara yoga retreat classrooms.
Blue Spirit is a luxury yoga and meditation retreat on Playa Guiones that also offers a spa, outdoor excursions, and gourmet vegetarian meals prepared with local ingredients. Sharing a border with Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, this retreat was created with a strong focus on sustainability and the preservation of Nosara’s ecosystem. The structures were built with locally sourced concrete and lumber, with rooms designed to allow for natural ventilation, and water heated with solar energy.
Visit the Waterfalls Near Nosara Costa Rica
One of the most common questions we get is, “are there waterfalls near Nosara Costa Rica?”. And the answer is yes!
Mala Noche Waterfall
Mala Noche waterfall is the closest to town. However, it is pretty difficult to visit on your own so we would suggest you go on a tour. It is located deep within the forest on private property. However, once you’re there you can buy snacks and drinks from the local who owns them.
The other waterfall near Nosara Costa Rica is Belen waterfall. It is located about an hour from Nosara by car and 20 minutes from Samara. If you have a car you can get there on your own. We would suggest you pack a picnic and spend the day, swimming in the pool at the foot of the falls.
Esperanza Tours is a local tour company that offers tours to the Belen Waterfall and the Mala Noche Waterfall, among others options. The Mala Noche Waterfall tour is the shorter of the two and starts at $65 per person, but the prices become more affordable in a group. If you’re traveling with friends or family, it’s a good excursion to look into.
Go Snorkeling in San Juanillo
If snorkeling is what you are after then visit the turquoise waters at San Juanillo Cove, located just off of San Juanillo beach. This white sandy beach, located 30 minutes north of Nosara, is lovely in and of itself. It has an incredible view, and is less of a tourist attraction than other beaches in Nosara. The waves are relatively calm, but the area is rocky, so keep that in mind while swimming. It is a great place to spend the afternoon when you’ve had your fill of snorkeling.
The cove is home to diverse marine life and colorful fish. But if you don’t have your own equipment or wheels there are a number of tours that depart from Nosara and take guests to observe San Juanillo Cove on a snorkeling Nosara tour.
Monkey Quads offers a snorkeling tour of San Juanillo Cove, with lunch included. If you don’t have your own snorkeling gear, then you can rent equipment from the tour company. The guide is a local professional, and the tour lasts between four and five hours. It is recommended that you take the snorkeling tour during the dry season.
There are many shops in Nosara that showcase the work of local artisans.
- Jen Stones Design sells art, clothing, and jewelry.
- Love Nosara has really cute locally-made clothing in their open-door shop and we love that everything is designed, sourced and produced in Costa Rica.
- Organico Deli-Market has an extensive selection of gourmet and natural foods to choose from.
READ NEXT: How to Be a Sustainable Traveler in Costa Rica
Take Part in a Beach Clean Up
Nosara is a very environmentally aware community that regularly hosts beach clean-ups. You’ll often see flyers in cafes around the region inviting people to join in.
The Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper and the Nosara Civic Association both operate in Nosara and welcome any extra helping hands when beach clean-ups are scheduled. They post upcoming events on their Facebook pages, so they’re easy to keep track of.
Attend the Farmers Market
Every Tuesday morning there is a farmers market at Playa Guiones. Here you find local produce, delicious homemade goods like vegan snacks, and even artisan crafts by local designers.
The Tuesday morning Farmers Market is not to be confused with the market that used to be held near the skate park. Unfortunately, the Eskina Skate Park is currently inaccessible till further notice.
Where to Stay in Nosara: Best Nosara Hotels
There are lots of great places to stay in Nosara Costa Rica. However, these are our favourites for their commitment to sustainability.
Olas Verdes Hotel
Olas Verdes Hotel is located on Playa Guiones, partially surrounded by the Ostional-Nosara Wildlife Refuge. The hotel has access to the beach, a clubhouse, a swimming pool, and offers complimentary bicycles. They offer yoga classes, surfing lessons, horseback riding, and turtle tours to see the Olive Ridley sea turtles. There is a restaurant on-site, offering Costa Rican dishes and fusion dishes made from seasonal local ingredients.
We recommend Olas Verdes Hotel for their sustainability and desire to preserve the natural state of the ecosystem. They have a rainwater collection system, rely on solar energy, strive for zero waste, and use only native vegetation in their landscaping. They also encourage guests to get involved, inviting them to take part in the Pack for a Purpose project. This initiative encourages visitors to bring supplies needed for community-based projects.
Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort
If you are looking for a place to relax your mind and stretch your body, then Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort is a great option. It has a pool, bright sleeping rooms, and a spa. This resort focuses on the health and wellness of its guests. They also have an on-site restaurant, juice bar and offer daily yoga classes in their highly rated yoga studios.
Green Sanctuary Hotel
Also offering a spa and wellness center, Green Sanctuary Hotel has a garden, terrace, and snack bar. It is located is in the Playa Guiones town not far from the beach. It also has private parking and several restaurants within close proximity. Rooms at the hotel are comfortable and we love their long list of sustainable practices.
Hidden behind an inconspicuous wooden roadside sign, this lush jungle enclave was right up our alley! Harmony Hotel is arguably one of the best places to stay in Nosara. It’s a hot spot for yogis, health nuts, and lovers of nature, relaxation, sustainability, and as the owners describe it, “low key glamour”.
We didn’t get the chance to stay at Harmony Hotel but we did enjoy their daily yoga classes, delicious smoothies at their Juice Bar and a fabulous lunch at their on-site hotel. Guests can enjoy comfy rooms, an onsite pool, and nearby surf.
Lagarta Lodge is built on the concept of “Living in harmony with nature”. It has been awarded a certification of sustainable tourism and is known for its commitment to the community.
There are 36 suites to choose from at Lagarta Lodge with views of the jungle or ocean. They are well equipped, modern & stylish, and their suites prioritize privacy. There is an open-air lounge on-site, as well as the Restaurant Chirriboca and the Sunset Bar, and a wine cellar available for romantic dinners. The restaurant uses local, organic ingredients in their Traditional Costa Rican dishes, serving them in their private wine cellar or with a view of the ocean.
Adjacent to the lodge is Reserva Biologica, where guests can join a guided tour or freely explore the nature reserve.
Where to Eat in Nosara: Best Nosara Restaurants
La Luna Restaurant
Hours: Everyday 7:00am to 10:00pm
La Luna Restaurant was not the cheapest spot to dine in town, but we splurged on a great meal with a beautiful view. For a while, the Mediterranean feel of La Luna, the familiar chatter all around us, made us forget that we were in Costa Rica altogether.
La Luna turned out to be another expat hangout in Nosara. This was a gathering place for special events, birthday celebrations, catch-ups with friends, and romantic dates.
Harmony Juice Bar
Hours: Everyday 6:30am to 9:00pm
While we were at Harmony Hotel, we noticed that it was another local hotspot. “I’ll have the usual, Maria,” we heard again and again as the line at the Harmony Hotel Nosara Juice Bar moved along.
The Juice Bar was a place to catch up with friends, and the open-air yoga studio – a place to reconnect with your mind. You couldn’t ask for a more ideal setting.
Hours: Sunday 10:00am to 8:00pm, Monday to Saturday 8:00am to 8:00pm
El Chivo Nosara is a Mexican-inspired restaurant that focuses on having a great vibe for its patrons. The owners are originally from Canada but have traveled extensively in Mexico. They eventually landed in Nosara to create fabulous dishes, including vegetarian options. Don’t miss Taco Tuesday or their live music acts!
Go Juice Truck
Hours: Everyday 8:00am to 4:30pm
This quick and delicious food truck offers fresh juices, smoothies, acai bowls and other light lunch options like the tuna poke bowl and ceviche. Go Juice Truck is located close to the surf in Guiones and other things to do, Nosara. It is the perfect place to fuel up as you start your day or for a quick afternoon snack.
Destiny Cafe & Restaurant
Hours: Everyday 6:00am to 3:00pm
Destiny Cafe is a charming spot on Playa Guiones, specializing in contemporary Central American and Costa Rican meals. They are open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch, and every meal is made in-house from ingredients that are always fresh. They offer options that are vegan and vegetarian, as well as options that cater to other dietary restrictions.
1 thought on “Things to do in Nosara, Costa Rica: Comprehensive Guide (Updated 2023)”
Hi, I lived in Nosara, on Playa Guiones, for 6 years. I want to correct a few things, first Playa Guiones, is never called Playa Nosara, Playa Nosara is on the other side of Playa Pelada, before Playa Ostional, which is also part of Nosara. The second thing, Playa Garza, is south of Nosara, and Tamarindo is 28 miles north of Nosara.
Also, most people who go to Nosara, go there because it’s not like the other touristy beaches. Sadly, Nosara has grown dramatically in the past 10 years, hundreds of new houses, and there’s probably 50 new restaurants in the area, from Esperanza to Ostional.
Playa Guiones, has been called the American Village for about 20 years. It was started by American, Europeans, and Canadian expats. The majority of the land was purchased by an American back in the 70’s.
Nosara, doesn’t mean ‘Gift from God’, Nosara & Samara, were the daughters of the king of Nicoya….at least that’s the story I heard for the 6 years I lived there, from all of the native ticos from the area.