Nosara boasts three of the best beaches in Nicoya, each with rocky tide pools great for soaking. They’re backed by hills smothered in moist tropical forest. Playa Nosara extends north from the estuary of the Río Nosara to Ostional; arribadas of olive ridley turtles occasionally occur. The sleepy village of Bocas de Nosara is five kilometers (3 miles) inland, five kilometers (3 miles) south of Ostional, on the banks of the river. It maintains a simple traditional Tico lifestyle but otherwise offers little appeal, except a lively disco and the airstrip.

Turtles on the beach in Nosara.

Turtles on the beach in Nosara. Photo © Frode Ramone, licensed Creative Commons usage.

Sibu Sanctuary takes in animals orphaned or injured by uninsulated power lines, vehicle strikes, and unleashed dogs.Playa Pelada is tucked in a cove south of Punta Nosara; it has a blowhole at the south and a bat cave at the north end. The main beach, Playa Güiones, is separated from Playa Pelada by Punta Pelada and is a ruler-straight five-kilometer (3-mile) expanse of coral-white sand washed by surf. Hence Güiones is popular with surfers. Beware of the strong riptides!

Inland of Pelada and Güiones, a sprawling enclave of hotels, restaurants, and surf shops form the main resort area, Güiones (also known as Beaches of Nosara), four kilometers (2.5 miles) south of Bocas de Nosara village. Beaches of Nosara started three decades ago as a foreign residential community where about 200 homes are hidden amid the forest. The place is in the midst of a decade-long real estate boom that has had a devastating impact on local wildlife.

The roads of Pelada and Güiones are an intestinal labyrinth sure to turn you around, at least in your head.

Wildlife Refuges

About 40 hectares (100 acres) of wildlife-rich forest are protected in the private Reserva Biológica Nosara (tel. 506/2682-0035) along the river; guided boat trips are offered. Guided nature walks are offered at 6:30am daily ($15 pp); self-guided walks ($6) can be enjoyed 6am-4pm daily.

Bridge in the Reserva Biológica Nosara.

Bridge in the Reserva Biológica Nosara. Photo © Peter Sheik, licensed Creative Commons usage.

Sibu Sanctuary (tel. 506/8413-8889) takes in animals orphaned or injured by uninsulated power lines, vehicle strikes, and unleashed dogs. Run by Brenda Bombard, of Harbor Reef Hotel, it specializes in rescuing and aiding howler monkeys and is an extension of her Refugio Animals de Nosara—a 20-hectare (50-acre) finca that rehabilitates those animals that can be reintroduced to the wild. Tours are permitted by reservation ($50) and involve a good hike. Donations are urgently needed.

Entertainment and Events

The nightlife in Bocas centers on two rustic yet atmospheric bars beside the plaza: Bambú, with live marimba on Saturday, and Disco Bar Tropicana (9:30pm-2:30am Fri.-Sat.), next door, which is the hot-ticket dance spot with a pack-’em-in disco on weekends. Its shuttle begins picking up guests at hotels in Güiones at 10:30pm and returns at 2am.

Tamer fare can be enjoyed at Café Lounge (tel. 506/2682-0080), at Kaya Sol Surf Hotel, in Güiones, which shows movies at 3pm most days; by night DJ Darren Zman spins everything from reggae to electronica. Theme nights include Latin night on Friday, with free dance classes at 8pm. El Fenix (tel. 506/2686-0287), at Playa Pelada, also has nightly themes, including an all-you-can-eat sunset party on Thursday ($10, including free sangria).

At sunset, head to Playa Pelada for La Luna Bar and Grill (tel. 506/2682-0122, 11am-11pm daily, $5), an atmospheric place with cobblestone floors, bottle-green glass bricks, and a terrace hosting a Friday-night “multicultural party.” It serves killer margaritas, plus lentil soup, sushi rolls, carpaccio, and more, and plays world music from Dylan to reggae.

On Wednesday, check out the live music (7pm) at Harbor Reef; and on Sunday nights, head to Pacífico Azul for barbecue and live blues.

Sports and Recreation

Fishing Nosara (tel. 506/2682-0606, U.S. tel. 904-591-2161) offers sportfishing, while Nosara River Safari (tel. 506/2682-0610) has guided nature-focused boat trips into the estuary.

Inevitably, Nosara has a canopy tour at Miss Sky Canopy Tour (tel. 506/2682-0969, adults $60, children $40), with 21 zip-line runs. The longest is 750 meters (2,460 feet).

For horseback rides and ATV rentals, call Boca Nosara Tours (tel. 506/2682-0280); or Güiones Adventures (tel. 506/2682-5373), specializing in ATV adventures. For screaming fun, rent a “Tom Car” ATV from Howling Monkey Adventures (tel. 506/2682-0624); dress to get dirty!

Tica Massage (tel. 506/2682-0096, 9am-6pm daily) has treetop and garden rooms for walk-in massage.


Nosara Surf Shop (tel. 506/2682-0113) has a Safari Surf School, including women’s and children’s clinics. It also sells and rents boogie boards and surfboards, as do Coconut Harry’s Surf Shop and School (tel. 506/2682-0574) and Juan Surfo’s Surf Shop (tel. 506/2682-1081). Nosara Surf Academy (tel. 506/2682-5082), at the Gilded Iguana in Güiones, has a surf school and offers sea kayaking. Drifters (tel. 506/2682-1380), at the mouth of Río Nosara, also rents kayaks.

A surfer and horseback riders enjoy Playa Guiones. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

A surfer and horseback riders enjoy Playa Guiones. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.


Nosara Yoga Institute (tel. 506/2682-0071, U.S. tel. 866-439-4704) is dedicated to professional training and advanced career development for teachers and practitioners in the field of yoga and bodywork. Perched in the hills behind Playa Güiones, it’s the perfect place to relax and recharge. The institute specializes in advanced techniques and offers intensive one- to four-week programs in yoga, meditation, and Pranassage (a private one-on-one yoga session), plus nature and health programs.

The Costa Rica Yoga Spa (tel. 506/2682-0192, U.S. tel. 888-533-6461), north of the river at Bocas de Nosara, offers an alternative, and has inspirational ocean vistas. The Harmony Hotel’s Healing Center (tel. 506/2682-4114), near the beach in Nosara, has free community yoga classes at 4pm each Wednesday.

Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Costa Rica.