Tucked away in the Guanacaste region on the northeast coast of Costa Rica, Nosara has a well-earned reputation for operating at a different pace. A long-established international expat community have made Nosara home, drawn to the town’s slow pace of life and beautiful natural surroundings. If you’re wondering is Nosara worth visiting then there’s easily enough to see and do to fill a few days.
Home to a small community of only around 4,000 people, Nosara is fairly spread out. The town’s center is about six kilometers inland from Nosara’s five golden beaches that each overlook the Pacific Ocean. Nosara falls inside the Ostional Wildlife Refuge which has protected the region from large-scale overdevelopment. It’s definitely worth visiting Nosara if you’re looking for somewhere to slow things down and tune into nature.
Nosara’s laid-back atmosphere is also enhanced by the town’s many yoga retreats and the waves that come in from the Pacific Ocean, making the town one of the world’s best surfing destinations. Few places capture Costa Rica’s Pura Vida approach to life like Nosara. If you’re thinking of heading to Costa Rica’s east coast here are seven reasons why you should visit Nosara.
Nosara is one of the best places in Costa Rica to surf. The town’s five long sandy beaches have drawn surfers here for years, though Nosara still manages to be a little under the radar in the surfing world. The waves off Nosara are pretty much perfect all year round and though they may be more suited to the experienced or expert surfer this is also a good place for beginners too. There are several surf schools in Nosara for anyone who’s looking to take up surfing for the first time and there can be few better places to pick up a board for the first time than Nosara.
The best times to surf Nosara’s waves are the early morning and in the late evening, just before sunset. All of Nosara’s beaches are great places to surf, but Playa Guiones may be the best of the bunch. Playa Guiones’ wide-open beach means that there are plenty of places to catch a wave, and it’s perfectly suited for surfers of all levels. Nosara’s laid back upbeat vibe and the lack of overdevelopment have helped to create the perfect environment for surfing culture to thrive.
A huge contributor to Nosara’s cool and calm atmosphere is the number of yoga studios and retreats that can be found throughout the town. Yoga is a huge part of Nosara’s culture and some of the very best yoga retreats are located here, often set amongst the forests or looking out onto the ocean. Whether you’re a fully-fledged yogi looking for an intensive experience or a novice looking for a couple of beginner lessons you’re guaranteed to find a yoga retreat or studio that’s right for you in Nosara.
Yoga has been a part of the town’s fabric for over 30 years and many of Nosara’s yoga retreats regularly top polls of the world’s best or most beautiful yoga studios. There are many to choose from that all run a variety of daily classes for different levels and that focus on different styles of yoga. There are also several yoga resorts that offer accommodation and complete self-care packages.
Nosara’s beaches are not only a great place to sunbathe or surf. They’re also a vital part of the local ecosystem, particularly for the leatherback and olive ridley sea turtles. Both of these two species of turtle live out in the Pacific Ocean just off Costa Rica’s shoreline. Over a few days every month thousands of ridley olive sea turtles and leatherback turtles come ashore to nest their eggs on the beach. A spectacular sight to behold, the process is called arribada, meaning arrivals. Once the eggs have hatched a few months after they’ve been laid you can watch the tiny newborn turtles make the opposite journey as they slowly return back out into the ocean.
It’s because of the arribada that the Ostional Wildlife Refuge was formed, to ensure that the environment remained a safe place for the turtles to nest their eggs. It’s worth visiting Nosara between July and December when the largest arribada takes place where hundreds of thousands of turtles come ashore during high tide after dark. It’s possible to get up close and watch the turtles as they come in from the sea in the Ostional Wildlife Refuge but only with a guide from the Ostional Guide Association. Being able to enjoy such an unforgettable experience makes Nosara worth visiting alone.
Though most well known as a surfing destination there are plenty of other ways to enjoy and explore the waters of Nosara. A number of tour companies offer a range of ways to explore Nosara’s rivers and waterfalls as well as the sea. One popular way to get close to nature is by kayaking along the Rio Nosara. This is a great way to see some of Nosara’s beautiful birds and maybe even crocodiles. Another way to travel along the river is by paddleboard, which also offers a great chance to get a unique view of Nosara’s wildlife.
Most of the tour companies also head out on offshore fishing trips where there’s plenty of huge sea fish to catch, such as yellowfin tuna, marlin and sailfish. Any tuna that you catch you’re allowed to keep and bring back to the shore to cook. If you’d prefer to see more of what lives under the sea you can go snorkeling with the turtles, manta rays, octopus, lobsters and many multi-colored fish that can be found just off Playa Guiones. If you’d prefer to go even deeper you can scuba dive from nearby Playa Garza, where you might even get to see whales and sharks.
The tropical forests around Nosara are filled with various hiking trails that allow you to explore some of Costa Rica’s pristine and untouched wilderness. Most of the hiking trails head inland, away from the sea and into the forest. A good place to start is the Nosara Biological Reserve, where a self-guided hike around the trails can take a couple of hours. You can also take a guided tour of the trails to get a better understanding of the jungle.
Other forest hikes around Nosara vary in distance and difficulty. There are several loop trails that circle Nosara whilst others lead out for miles through the forests. A popular hike is to the beautiful Mala Noche waterfall near the Rio Nosara. The waterfall is something of a hidden gem and can be hard to find, though there are several tour guides in the area who can show you the way to the elusive spot.
If you’re looking for an easier way to get around some of the more off-the-beaten-track areas of Nosara then book one of the many ATV tours that are available in the area. ATV stands for all-terrain vehicle, and most of the tour companies in Nosara offer trips out exploring the region. Able to pass through some of the wilder areas with ease, and as many of the local roads are still unpaved, ATVs are the perfect way to get around and see sights around Nosara that you would otherwise struggle to reach.
Tour companies offer a wide range of different trips that typically last for at least three hours. There are many different types of tours, with many traveling through the jungle along the Rio Nosara to take in some of Nosara’s amazing wildlife. Longer rides go further out of town, including tours to see the waterfalls out towards Pilas Blancas or taking in the glorious views of Nosara and the coastline from the San Juan mountains.
If you just want to see the highlights you’d need at least three days to pack in the best of all the things to see and do in Nosara. If you’d prefer to stick around a little longer you could easily stay a week in Nosara and spend some time relaxing in between surfing, a spot of yoga and hitting the hiking trails.
The best time to visit Nosara is Nosara really depends on what you want to see and do. Nosara has a tropical climate with two seasons, a dry season and a rainy season. The dry season runs from late November to April with the rainy season lasting from May to early November. The dry season is when most people visit Nosara, as the days are clear with beautiful blue skies and typically end with a gorgeous sunset. Many of the trees in Nosara’s forests lose their leaves during this period, making it easier to spot the wildlife.
In the rainy season, mornings tend to be clear with beautiful blue skies before rain kicks in later in the day. Though it’s wet the temperatures remain high and it’ll still be hot. By September and October it typically rains all day. Floods aren’t uncommon during these months and many businesses shut down altogether and reopen in November.
Outside of these two months, however, the rainy season can still be a good time to visit Nosara. The forests are in full bloom and burst into color during this period and many tours operate at a cheaper rate. The waves in the rainy season are also considered to be better than in the dry season. The wet season is also when the sea turtles make their arrivals on Nosara’s beaches in much greater numbers.
For the best waves and the most sea turtles, the best time to visit Nosara is in the rainy season between May and August. For long sunny days, the clearest views of the local wildlife and beautiful sunsets then the best time to visit Nosara is between December and April.
On the whole Nosara is a safe place for visitors. There is a strong community feel here with a good-natured blend of local Ticos and international expats who have made Nosara their home. The crime rate is generally low and certainly lower than other parts of Costa Rica. As always it’s best to apply common sense and keep valuables safe and out of sight. Also, exercise caution when out after dark, particularly if traveling alone, as many areas are unlit at night. That said, Nosara is a popular destination for solo travelers and problems are rare.