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 bumpy narrow 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).
Our First Impressions of Nosara, Costa Rica
According to booking.com, 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. Maybe they were all out surfing Nosara Costa Rica? We had yet to find out.
We decided to stop by where we were staying, the Nosara B&B Retreat. “Let me introduce you to the area,” said the woman at the front desk 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 Guanacaste 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?)
So in that moment, we decided we would put their ideal lifestyle to the test and see if it was so perfect after all.
When 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.
Things to Do in Nosara and Playa Guiones Costa Rica
Enjoy Playa Guiones Beach
After popping into some shops and lingering outside the Nosara Real Estate office on the main street, we were off to check out Nosara’s famous surfing beach and the most famous of Nosara beaches– Playa Guiones.
Strong winds and low tide made the beach and the surf spots somewhat unappealing for surfing Nosara, especially for a beginner like me. So, we lingered for a while longer and opted to spend the afternoon at Playa Pelada instead.
However, the day we visited was a bit of a fluke. Playa Nosara is generally known for its consistent surf and good waves. The 7 kilometre beach has multiple beach breaks along its shore and on good days surfers can enjoy a 300 metre ride.
In fact, the waves at Guiones Playa are what put Nosara on the map! Even if you don’t surf, it’s fun to head down to the beach and watch the surf community do what they do best.
Head to Playa Pelada
Based on the number of locals hanging out at the beach, it was clear that Pelada was more swimmer-friendly than Guiones.
The beach at Punta Pelada was 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.
If you’re craving something to eat while at Playa Pelada, there are two beachfront restaurants- La Luna’s and Olgas. La Luna’s ended up being one of our favorite restaurants in town!
Visit a Wildlife Sanctuary
Nosara offers a few options for animal lovers visiting the Nicoya Peninsula. Set in such a lush jungle setting, wildlife is abundant in the area.
SIBUS Wildlife Sanctuary
Set on over 50 acres of pristine jungle, SIBU Wildlife Sanctuary cares for orphaned and injured wildlife. They specialise in caring for golden mantled howler monkeys and aim to rehabilitate them into the wild. A major concern of theirs is the amount of monkeys being electrocuted by power lines.
Visitors and volunteers are welcome to visit the wildlife 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
The Ostional Wildlife Refuge is another world class wildlife sanctuary specialising in an entirely different type of animal. The Ostional Wildlife Refuge is the largest Olive Ridley sea turtle nesting site in the world.
Each year between July and December an impressive amount of sea turtles come to lay their eggs in the sand at Playa Ostional. The phenomenon happens 4-6 times throughout that period lasting a few days each time. However, a few turtles can typically be spotted at Playa Ostional any time of year.
Anyone can visit the beaches of Playa Ostional for a $6USD fee. But if you would prefer to visit with a travel guide, there are a number of nature tours which leave from Nosara and can be purchased in town or from your Nosara Costa Rica hotels.
Experience Kayaking or Stand Up Paddleboarding on Río Montaña and Rio Nosara
See the beauty of nature as you head out onto Nosara’s nearby rivers in a kayak or stand up paddleboard. There are a number of Nosara tours available in town or at your Nosara hotels which take visitors to see the area where the Río Montaña and Rio Nosara converge.
Exploring the mangrove in this way allows you to see birds and other Costa Rican wildlife in their natural habitats as you relax on the water. In the end you’ll find yourself in mangrove tunnels as you make your way to Playa Nosara.
Go to Playa Garza
Playa Garza is located in the authentic fishing village of Garza. It is just north of Punta Guiones and is passed when traveling from Tamarindo to Nosara.
This down to earth beach has great surf spots along its 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.
Take a Yoga Class or Go On a Yoga Retreat
Nosara has some world-class yoga retreats and yoga studios. So much so that often when people search for what to do in Nosara Costa Rica, yoga is the first thing that comes up. That’s because the yoga Nosara offers is varied in style and in spaces.
Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort
Bodhi Tree 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 traditional of providing quality yoga classes in a beautiful setting.
This Nosara Costa Rica yoga retreat was named one of the top 5 yoga retreats in all of Costa Rica. They offer an assortment of yoga styles, including aerial, in their open-air Nosara yoga retreat classrooms.
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! Malanoche waterfall is the closest. However, it is pretty difficult to visit on your own so we would suggest you go with 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 it.
The other closest 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.
Take a Surf Class
Taking a surf lesson in Nosara Playa should be a no brainer, since Nosara was named one of the top 20 best surf towns in the world by National Geographic. The waves all throughout the area are known for their consistency and clean lines.
If you take a lesson or join a Nosara surf camp your instructor will avoid the more advanced breaks in Nosara Playa. Instead they will guide you to places along Playa Nosara where the waters are shallow and bottoms are sandy.
Safari Surf School is one of the more popular places to grab a lesson at Nosara Playa. However, 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.
Explore the Water by Snorkeling Nosara
If snorkeling is what you are after then visit the turquoise waters at San Juanillo Cove. It is located just off of San Juanillo beach which is located 30 minutes north of Nosara and is lovely in and of itself. 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 which depart from Nosara and take guests to observe San Juanillo Cove on a snorkeling Nosara tour.
Support Sustainable Shops in Nosara
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.
For food products, Organico Deli-Market has an extensive selection of gourmet and natural foods to choose from.
Take Part in a Beach Clean Up
Nosara is a very environmentally aware community which regularly hosts beach clean ups. You’ll often see flyers in cafes around the region inviting people to join in.
However, Harmony Hotel hosts a regular beach clean-up once a month at 8:00 am. Everyone can join in!
Attend the Farmers Market
Every Tuesday morning there is a farmers market in the center of Nosara. 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 has been closed down till further notice.
Best Playa Guiones Hotels in Nosara
There are lots of great places to stay in Nosara Costa Rica. However, these are our favourites for their commitment to sustainability.
Nosara B&B Retreat
We stayed at Nosara B&B Retreat, a charming property hidden amidst lush jungle trails which lead towards the secluded beach of Playa Pelada. As we related earlier, the staff was particularly gracious in helping us get our bearings in the area of Playa Guiones Nosara.
The retreat is eco-friendly and uses a gray water irrigation system and biodegradable cleaning products, and each room has a private bathroom with its own bathtub or shower. We were glad we stayed here.
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 location 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’s location is in the Playa Guiones town not far from the beach. It also has private parking and several restaurants within close proximity.
It’s really comfortable and we love their long list of sustainable practises.
Hidden behind an inconspicuous wooden roadside sign, this lush jungle enclave was right up our alley! Harmony Hotel is 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.
Those who stay 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 a number of suites to choose from at Lagarta Lodge with views of the jungle or ocean. They are well equipped, modern & stylish, and there is a restaurant and bar on site.
There are tons of options when it comes to booking an Airbnb Nosara Costa Rica. There are independent units run by expats and rooms in Costa Rican homes, you really can’t go wrong with an Airbnb in Nosara.
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The 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 7:00am to 10:00pm
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.
Nosara is truly mesmerizing.
Burgers & Beers Nosara
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 12:00pm to 10:00pm, Closed on Mondays
Offering exactly what it sounds like, Burgers and Beers Nosara is a great place to head for an ale and a juicy burger – even if you are a vegan. They offer options such as burgers made of portobello mushrooms or freshly prepared salads for herbivores. Their beer menu consists of many Costa Rica craft brews to try, too!
Hours: Saturday 9:00am to 11:00pm, Sunday 10:00am to 11:00pm, Monday to Friday 11:00am to 11:00pm
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 7:30am to 5:30pm
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.
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Essential Travel Info
Getting to Nosara, Costa Rica
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 from the Nosara Costa Rica airport. However, the Nosara Airport does receive private chartered or domestic flights with Nature Air.
The closest international airport is located about two and a half hours by car in Liberia Guanacaste. There are some direct flights from North America cities to the Liberia airport. However, it is more convenient for some people to fly into the capital of San Jose. San Jose to Nosara is about 4.5 hours by car.
You can hire a taxi or take a shuttle to Nosara from the airports, or opt to take a local bus.
People within Costa Rica can 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 hiring 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.
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.
What does Nosara mean?
The meanings of the name Nosara are varied. However, some say that Nosara has origins which 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!
At one point during our trip we found ourselves in front of Go Juice Truck, chatting with Nick, the owner, as he prepared our Tuna Poke Rice Bowl. Nick is a typical Nosara expat, a surfer who followed his dream of living in surfer’s paradise – Nosara.
He explained to us that the people in Nosara, “They came for Pura Vida.” And hell, we can’t blame them. It’s the same reason why we are here in Costa Rica and not at a 9-5 job in Canada or Australia.
Some say Nosara is the epitome of an Americanized town in Costa Rica. But we would argue that it is a unique expat community built around the best of Costa Rica’s values and the Pura Vida lifestyle.
“Nosara isn’t so bad after all,” I admitted en route back to our home base in Playa Avellanas. “I think it’s the kind of place that you just have to get to know…”
Perhaps, you’ll just have to experience it for yourself to believe us.