Things To Do On The Nicoya Peninsula

Things To Do On The Nicoya Peninsula

Stretching along Costa Rica’s Pacific side, the Nicoya isn’t just about its famous surf locations or the picturesque vistas. It’s a biodiverse sanctuary, where the cries of howler primates reverberate through the forests and sea turtles nest on the shores. The vibrant local culture, imbued with a pura vida character, accentuates the magnificent natural beauty. Whether it’s ziplining through Montezuma’s foliage, diving into the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Nicoya, or relishing fresh ceviche at a beachside eatery, every experience here is memorable.

I’ve ridden waves at dawn, trekked through dense rainforests, and immersed myself in local fiestas. Each adventure, from witnessing bioluminescence light up the shores to unveiling concealed cascades, has left an indelible impression on my traveler’s psyche. To help you make the most out of your next excursion, here are my top 12 things to see and do on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Best Places to Visit on the Nicoya Peninsula

Ready to plunge into all the best activities to do on the Nicoya Peninsula? As indicated above, there’s something for everyone at this serene vacation destination in Costa Rica. So keep reading to discover all these unique Nicoya Peninsula sites to visit.

Are you seeking to go surfing, snorkeling, and trekking in pristine natural settings? Or would you prefer to immerse yourself in the region’s wellness culture, with yoga retreats and a concentration on healthy living, and simply decompress on gorgeous, unspoiled beaches? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees on the Nicoya Peninsula can accommodate your requirements. Here’s all the finest attractions on the Nicoya Peninsula that you should know about.

1. Santa Teresa and Malpais Beaches

Tambor, Montezuma, Malpais & Santa Teresa Costa Rica - Travel Excellence

Santa Teresa and Malpais are adjacent coastal communities that have become a magnet for surfers and beach enthusiasts equally. With consistent waves and a laid-back atmosphere, it’s no wonder these locations are often bustling with activity. Santa Teresa, in particular, features a long beachfront stretch ideal for sunbathing, beach volleyball, or simply enjoying a leisurely promenade.

In the sphere of the finest things to do on the Nicoya Peninsula, witnessing a sunset at these locations is a must. As the sun descends below the horizon, the atmosphere transforms. It depicts itself in tints of orange and pink, offering a mesmerizing backdrop against the surfers’ silhouettes capturing their last swells. Beyond surfing, the region is abundant in culinary options. From local beverages serving Costa Rican staples, there are also sophisticated cafés offering international cuisine.

2. Montezuma Waterfalls

Montezuma, an eccentric village on the Nicoya Peninsula, is home to one of the region’s most iconic natural attractions: the Montezuma Waterfalls. A series of cascading falls situated amidst verdant tropical forests, these waterfalls are a revitalizing retreat for travelers. The voyage to the cascades entails a brief trek. This hike is an expedition in itself as you navigate through dense vegetation and might glimpse local fauna.

The primary waterfall plunges dramatically into a natural pool, making it a popular location for courageous precipice jumpers. However, if adrenaline-pumping activities aren’t your style, you have other options. You can simply take a plunge in the cold waters or recline on the boulders, savoring the tranquil noises of cascading water.

3. Tortuga Island

The Nicoya Peninsula, with its extensive coastline and marine treasures, is a sanctuary for aquatic enthusiasts. And among its jewels is Tortuga Island, a must-visit site for anyone eager on investigating the underwater world. Located just off the peninsula’s southern point, Tortuga Island is renowned for its extraordinary snorkeling and diving opportunities.

Diving around Tortuga Island is unquestionably one of the best activities to do on the Nicoya Peninsula. The island’s adjacent waters are a sanctuary of marine biodiversity. Dive deep, and you might find yourself swimming alongside manta rays, lively dolphins, and colonies of vibrant tropical fish. The coral formations here are intricate and colorful, providing a home to a myriad of marine species.

4. Curu Wildlife Refuge

Curu Wildlife Refuge

If you’re a nature enthusiast, the Nicoya Peninsula won’t disappoint. One of its outstanding attractions is the Curu Wildlife Refuge, a biodiverse refuge that demonstrates Costa Rica’s commitment to conservation. Located near Paquera, this refuge is a prime example of how tropical dry forests and mangroves can coexist in concord.

The refuge encompasses several habitats, from mangroves and tropical forests to pristine coastlines. As you trek its trails, you’ll likely observe a variety of fauna. White-faced capuchin primates sway through the trees, while crimson macaws add a burst of color to the verdant canopy. The trails are well-marked, tailored to both casual walkers and ardent hikers.

5. Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve

When you think of Costa Rica, verdant rainforests and diverse ecosystems come to mind. And the Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve is a testament to that image. Located at the southern point of the Nicoya Peninsula, it’s the region’s first protected area and a beacon for conservationists worldwide.

The reserve features two primary trails that appeal to various fitness levels. The lesser trail, Sendero Sueco, offers a gentle walk through the forest. Meanwhile, the lengthier trail, Sendero Cabo Blanco, leads you to a secluded shoreline with views that are worth every step. Along the way, you’re likely to encounter howler monkeys, coatis, and a multitude of bird species.

6. Playa Samara and Carrillo

Playa Samara is not just another coastal community on the Nicoya Peninsula; it’s a destination that has captivated the affections of many. Its laid-back atmosphere seamlessly combines with the local culture, offering visitors an authentic sample of Costa Rican beach life. The harbor is protected by a coral reef. This ensures that the waters remain tranquil, making it an ideal location for families, swimmers, and those wanting to attempt stand-up paddleboarding.

A stone’s toss away is Playa Carrillo. This shoreline is the quieter cousin of Samara, less affected by commercial activities. Its crescent-shaped shoreline, fringed with towering palm trees, provides a picturesque setting for those seeking tranquility. Whether you’re lying down for a sunbath, having a picnic, or simply taking in the views, Carrillo promises serenity.

7. Nosara

When searching for Nicoya Peninsula things to do, Nosara stands out, particularly for those seeking a blend of adventure and relaxation. This coastal community has garnered international acclaim for its yoga retreats and wellness centers. Travelers from all over the globe converge here to rejuvenate their minds, bodies, and spirits.

Nosara’s beaches, notably Playa Guiones, offer more than just leisure areas. They’re renowned for consistent surf breaks, attracting both novice and seasoned surfers. Surf academies dot the shoreline, eager to assist newcomers to ride their first wave.

8. Playa Tambor

Playa Tambor - DTCComputers

Playa Tambor, situated in a semicircular harbor, provides a tranquil retreat from the more tourist-heavy locations on the Nicoya Peninsula. Its moderate waves make it a family-friendly destination, ideal for those seeking to unwind by the sea without the bustle of congested beaches.

The town itself has a laid-back atmosphere, with local fishermen often seen carrying in their catch of the day. For those inclined, fishing excursions can be arranged, giving you a chance to try your hand at hauling in something fresh. Nearby, the verdant Tambor Hills provide hiking opportunities, where you can observe diverse fauna and get panoramic views of the estuary.

9. Barra Honda National Park

If you’re the adventurous sort, Barra Honda National Park is your ticket to an underground realm on the Nicoya Peninsula. This isn’t your typical national park. While it has stunning arid tropical forests and hiking trails, its primary attraction is the intricate system of limestone caverns.

The park has around 42 caverns, but only a few are exposed to the public. The most famous, Terciopelo Cave, provides a challenging but rewarding exploration. Visitors are equipped with helmets, lighting, and guidance. With the assistance of experienced park officers, they descend into the depths to witness breathtaking stalactite and stalagmite formations. It’s a surreal experience, feeling like you’ve stepped into another realm.

10. Ostional Wildlife Refuge

One of the greatest activities to do on the Nicoya Peninsula, particularly for wildlife enthusiasts, is visiting the Ostional Wildlife Refuge. This protected area is globally renowned for its olive ridley sea turtle nesting events, known as “arribadas.” During these events, thousands of turtles venture ashore to deposit their eggs, creating a spectacle that’s both humbling and awe-inspiring.

The arribadas usually occur between July and December, with the main months being September and October. It’s a natural phenomenon that attracts researchers, conservationists, and tourists equally. While the sight of innumerable tortoises is the primary attraction, the refuge itself is remarkable. It is a refuge for diverse fauna, including iguanas, coatis, and numerous avian species.