Adventure Guide: Nosara
Nosara is a laid-back gem of a town on the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica. It is known for its surf and yoga scene, good restaurants, and chill vibe. You definitely feel like you are in the jungle with monkeys descending from the trees and dusty unpaved roads. This is a fun town for adults of all ages. Many young adults come here and never leave. As for families, kids love Nosara because there is so much to do, and the older kids can get some freedom while remaining safe.
You can surf year-round in Nosara, but there is a rainy season from May through November. Some people prefer the shoulder months as it is far less crowded, rarely rains all day, and you get some incredible post-shower glass-offs. If you are a sun lover, this may not be the time for you. Also, while not an exact science, waves tend to be bigger from late March through October, so plan according to preferred wave height!
If you want to improve your surfing skills and are lucky enough to snag a spot- Surf Simply is the gold standard of surf camps. It is all-inclusive, and every detail is taken care of. The food is off the charts good, the massages are better than any spa, and daily stretch classes keep you moving. And none of this compares to the surf instruction in the water twice a day and with video in the classroom. If that weren’t enough, the media team sends you off with enough photos and videos to keep you going until you can return again. (Insider tip- Surf Simply mostly sells out over a year in advance. Put yourself on the waitlist as spots do open up regularly).
For more of a wellness vibe, the old guard go-to is The Harmony Hotel. The rooms have outdoor showers and hammocks and well-stocked mini fridges with a healthier fare- (be sure to try the local chocolates! They have surfboard rentals, an amazing spa, and an even better yoga program. (Inside tip- try Aerial Yoga, also fun for the family). The juice bar serves up tasty juices and vegetarian lunches. The restaurant is good and very family-friendly. It books up for most school holidays so be sure to make a reservation well in advance.
If you are a yoga junkie, Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort is your spot. It has a treehouse vibe complete with treetop rooms and studio views that induce wellness. There is a relaxing pool scene. The bar offers up healthy takes on traditional cocktails as well as a full array of juices. The restaurant has healthy fare. The shop is a hidden gem.
The Nomadic Hotel has more of the traditional, cool and chill surf camp vibe and offers basic amenities. The rooms are reasonable and it is a great place to connect with other surfers and travelers. There is even a shared bunk room.
And finally, you can not go wrong with renting a house in Nosara. Most homes come with concierge services, and there is a wide variety from which to choose. If you want a water view, you will have to go up high because there is no direct oceanfront property in Nosara.
Playa Guiones is the spot. The waves are generally bigger on the north end of the beach. High tide is cruisy and a bit fat; low tide can offer hollow barrels. It is an easy place to learn to surf as there is white water for miles. Out the back, you can find long green lefts and rights. The winds are generally offshore and good until late mornings and then die down for some of the most picturesque sunsets you will ever surf with as your background. There are lots of great surf instructors and surf schools. My two favorites are Tommy Potterton (The Wanderist pictured below) and his crew at Ten Toes Surf and Prado at Nosara Independent Surf.
Agua Tibia Surf School is another fan favorite. Warning: Nosara gets very crowded with lots of lessons, and surf etiquette often falls by the wayside, so expect a lot of drop-ins.
When the surf gets too big, head to the point break at Garda. While I have not surfed this yet, I am DYING to.
There are also some lesser-known spots for experienced surfers if you explore a little, but the surfers there do not abide by poor etiquette, part of which is giving away where these waves are!
Outside of surfing, yoga is the next big thing. There are plenty of studios, with the two most popular being the one at The Harmony and The Bodhi Retreat (mentioned above). There are also several smaller private practices.
You can horseback ride on the beach and on the trails. Take a zip line tour. There is an ATV tour to some fun waterfalls- you come back quite dusty, and it is not for the faint of heart in some spots, but the guides are at the top and ready to help. The animal preserve has monkeys, sloths, and toucans, among others; great for kids and animal lovers. You can SUP in the river for a different view of the landscape. Deep-sea fishing is big, and you can catch and eat dinner or take a catamaran tour if you need more time on the sea. If your timing is right, you can see the turtles laying eggs or hatching at Ostional.
Sunset on the beach is magic hour. Hang out with a drink of some sort, meditate, practice handstands or get out to surf until the sun hits the water. This is the best time to take photos (Reflection shots are a must!) There are always horseback riders, bicyclists, one-wheelers, and tons of dogs- everyone goes to the beach for sunset.
Eat & Drink
A trip to La Luna for a sunset photo op and dinner is a must. Order the starter plates, but order mains to share as the portions are big.
Coyol sits on a mountaintop, and even though it is a bit of an adventure to get there, it is stunning. You must go before sunset for the photo ops- especially in the large swing that soars out over the vista. The beef is off the hook, cooked in a smoker outside the restaurant, and the drinks are tasty.
Lagarta Lodge also has a restaurant that offers stunning views and great food. It overlooks Ostional and the river mouth.
Cafe de Paris is the go-to for fresh breakfast and baked goods.
Destiny Cafe (located in La Negra Surf Hotel) is a delightful newcomer for breakfast or lunch with a wide variety of fresh options. Get there early as there is often a wait at this first come, first serve spot. The juices are divine.
Il Basilico is the gold standard pizza and pasta stop. It is a great place to order in pizzas when you are too tired from yoga and surfing to get out the door.
Beach Dog cafe has casual fare for lunch and dinner. They often have live music at dinner and sometimes have an open mic-style evening.
Al Chile has great tacos and Latin fare. They have live music and some beach games and hula hoops, depending on the night. It’s family-friendly.
Love Nosara has great t-shirts, tank tops and trucker hats. Stop and get a pipa (fresh coconut to drink) and an empanada next door.
Olo Alaia is a great surf and coffee shop. They carry great boards and great swim/surf brands.
The Gilded Iguana and Bodhi Tree, as mentioned, both have decent shops.
Coconut Harry's Surf Shop and Nosara Surf Shop are standard beach shops for any of your beach needs or anything you may have forgotten. There is a little dress shop across from The Harmony and next to Al Chile, and they have great bohemian dresses and necklaces.
Nosara is VERY safe, but petty theft is common, and you should never leave your belongings unmanned on the beach. Buy cheap flops or get the ones that do not pop out so you can thread them through a bike lock. The wind and sunset combo can be tough if you have sensitive eyes, so surf sunglasses are never a bad idea here.
Hanging happy in my Revo sunglasses and Cynthia Rowley wetsuit