- The Best of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Top Spots for WIldlife
- Costa Rica’s Most Beautiful Beaches
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
Nicoya’s most northerly beaches ring the horseshoe-shaped Bahía Culebra (Snake Bay), enclosed to the north by the Nacascolo Peninsula, and to the south by the headland of Punta Ballena. The huge bay is a natural amphitheater rimmed by cliffs with coves sheltering gray- and white-sand beaches and small mangrove swamps. There are remains of a pre-Columbian native settlement on the western shore of the bay at Nacascolo.
The north and south sides are approached separately by a pincer movement. The south side is reached via the road from Comunidad to Playas del Coco (the road divides two kilometers east of Playas del Coco; a turnoff leads three kilometers north to Playa Hermosa and, beyond Punta Ballena, to Playa Panamá).
The north shore is reached from two kilometers north of Comunidad via a road immediately west of the Río Tempisque at Guardia. This road is a fast, sweeping, well-paved, lonesome beauty of a drive that dead-ends after 15 kilometers or so at the spectacular Four Seasons resort (no entry except to guests).
En route you pass Witch’s Rock Canopy Tour (tel. 506/2696-7101, www.witchsrockcanopytour.com, 8 A.M.–5 P.M. daily, last entry at 3:30 P.M.), 18 kilometers from Guardia. It has 23 platforms over a 2.5-kilometer course with four hanging bridges and even a tunnel ($55).
Marina Papagayo (tel. 506/2690-3600, www.marinapapagayo.com) opened in December 2008 near the Four Seasons at Playa Manzanillo with 180 slips.
Playa Cabuyal, immediately north of the bay, hosts the super-exclusive members-only Ellerstina Costa Rica Polo & Equestrian Beach Club (tel. 506/2258-9219, www.ellerstinacr.com).
Papagayo Fishing and Canopy (tel. 506/2665-8458, info [at] papagayofloating [dot] com), on the road to Playa Cabuyal, has an 11-canopy zip-line tour plus float trips on the Río Tempisque.
Hotels and Resorts
Oasis de Papagayo Villas and Cabañas (tel. 506/2443-3201, www.hotelpapagayo.co.cr, $50 s/d), near Playa Cabuyal, offers five simple and modestly furnished cabins, as well as a pool.
The Occidental Allegro Papagayo (tel. 506/2690-9900, U.S. tel. 800/858-2258, www.occidentalhotels.com/grand/Papagayo.asp, from $250 s/d) overlooks Playa Manzanillo from a superb breeze-swept hillside perch. This four-star all-inclusive resort has 308 graciously appointed air-conditioned rooms in three-story edifices stair-stepping the hillside. Action centers on the huge pool with swim-up bar. A theater hosts shows, and there’s a disco and sports bar, plus water sports and scuba. Alas, the paltry gray-sand beach holds little attraction.
The super-deluxe Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (tel. 506/2696-0500, www.fourseasons.com/costarica, from $495 s/d), at the tip of Punta Mala, brings a whole new panache to the region with 145 spacious guest rooms, including 25 suites, exuding luxury, fine taste, and every amenity you could hope for. Facilities include a gorgeous spa and Arnold Palmer–designed 18-hole golf course (open to resort guests only). The setting is sublime, with two distinct beaches to each side (one bayside, the other shelving into the Pacific Ocean).
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition