Loving life on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica

This guest post takes us to the gorgeous Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica where Dahlia Nahome of Costa Rican Vacation is lucky enough to live all year round. Dahlia visited Costa Rica on her travels and couldn’t bring herself to leave the deserted beaches and beauty of the area where she now lives with her family – reading this article I can’t say I blame her!

Beaches in Costa Rica

Beaches in Costa Rica

Seven months ago my husband and I decided to sell our flat, put everything in storage, give up our jobs and go on an adventure with our  two children. The aim was a round the world trip calling at Costa Rica, New Zealand, Tonga and Australia. The aim was to spend quality time with Leon aged four and Delilah aged one and to possibly find a place to try and live a very different kind of life to the one we had in London.

We chose Costa Rica because we had visited parts of it five years previously before having children.  We loved it and knew we wanted to come back to spend a little more time here. What we didn’t expect was to fall in love with it so much that we ended up cancelling the rest of the trip and have since settled here, in Hermosa on the Nicoya Peninsula. In the last seven months we have had some truly brilliant travel experiences. So good and off the beaten track that we want to share them with people who are thinking of coming to the Nicoya Peninsula,which is on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

When to visit the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica

Weather wise the official line says that high season runs from November to April. This is the dry season or summer in Nicoya. There is very little, if any rain but you will find back to back glorious hot sunny days, unbelievable sunsets and clear night star filled skies. When I say hot, it gets pretty damn hot by April, so should you come at this time at year be prepared for some tremendous sweating and I would hugely recommend staying somewhere with air-conditioned bedrooms. May through till November is the wet season or winter here. It is true, there is rain. Some days lots of rain but if this doesn’t bother you, it is also, in my opinion, the best time to come to these parts and the cheapest and quietest.

Fantastic Beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica

OK, it’s important to say that Nicoya is one of the more difficult places to get to in Costa Rica. Hard but so very worth it. Forbes magazine voted one of our beaches in their top 10 in the world and our beaches were also voted the number one destination in Central and South America on Tripadvisors 2010 travellers poll.

I cannot describe the quality of these beaches. I’ve spent lots of time all over Europe, the US, Middle East and Asia and trust me, have been to some pretty special places but this part of the world is a hidden gem that so far, only A list celebs and surfers have made the effort to get to.Some of my pictures should help show this but some days you feel as thought they are your very own private beaches, even in the high season, because there is hardly anyone else on them.

Beaches in Costa Rica

Beaches in Costa Rica

Kids enjoying the beach in Costa Rica

Kids play on the beach in Costa Rica

There are also some incredible rock pools which you can either sit, swim or snorkel in during mid to low tide. Two local favourites are at the southern most tip of Hermosa beach, which opens up like a massive swimming pool when the tide is drawing back and the other is half way between Hermosa and Manzanillo. You can’t miss it. These are a favourite with the kids and make for some incredible photographs.

If you enjoy running or jogging as I do, there is nothing more inspirational than bare foot running on the beaches here. I am a London girl and still cannot believe the views I have everyday to motivate my legs to keep on going.

Beach in Costa Rica

Beach in Costa Rica

Adventure activities on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica

Map Pais, Santa Teresa and Hermosa have some of the best surf in the world too and there is another little hidden surf spot round the tip of the Peninsula (during the rainy season only), in a little sleepy spot called Cabuya. Not many people know to surf there. It’s more famous neighbour Santa Teresa gets rave reviews but it’s a hidden little gem for surfing at certain times of the year. The list of activities to do here whether single travellers, families with young children, or couples / group of friends is long but here’s my tips for finding the best of them:


Surfing (obviously) but you can have lessons with some exceptionally talented surfers / teachers. One such teacher is Jofrey Garcier, who can be reached at + 506 8877 4139. He is based out of Map Pais but will often teach at Hermosa and Playa Carmen dependent on the surf. He is the local surf champion and has been surfing since the age of about six. His English is fantastic and costs about $45 for a two hour private lesson.

Beach in Costa Rica

Beach in Costa Rica


There is also horseriding along golden sandy beaches for miles and miles and miles. You can even take a sunset ride along Montezuma beach on the full moon and ride back by moonlight – I did it five years ago and it is really special. Rides are easy to arrange and cost about $50pp for a 2 hour ride when you book through tour companies on the main drag but take care to ask for a horse that is ‘tranquilo’ or calm to ride. For people looking for something a little less touristy around the Santa Teresa area, try taking the unique horse tour through www.costaricanvacation.com. It takes you through a 5000 acre private beachfront cattle farm just north of Manzanillo. A family owned and operated ranch protecting one of Costa Rica’s most important watersheds including key turtle nesting habitat and the Caletas-Ario National Wildlife Refuge. Enjoy a natural landscape of rivers, mountains and beaches accompanied by local cowboys maintaining local customs and traditions culminating in a delicious cooked meal or BBQ prepared with local fresh ingredients.

Horseriding along golden sandy beaches

Horseriding on the beach in Costa Rica

Horseriding in the forest in Costa Rica

Horseriding in the forest in Costa Rica

Zip Line

Another great activity for those not scared by heights, is the zip line canopy tour in Mal Pais. I did it with my sister in law a few months ago and I was utterly petrified as we were taken through the safety tips and practice zip line. Once in the air, it was exhilarating.

Quad biking and 4 x 4

Beach sunset in Costa Rica

Beach sunset in Costa Rica

One last tip is my favourite little secret but is only really possible to get to in the dry season. You take a quad or 4x4x up Manzanillo beach, drive up towards the Bongo River, crossing a few low rivers on the way. A little way before the Bongo, you can take a little dirt road off the beach and head inland. This takes through amazing farm lands and eventually you hit a cross road. On your left is La Perla. It is a small bar which only serves beer and whisky and is run by a local family with some very strange looking dogs. For a piece of the real Costa Rica – this is a gem.

Yoga and more

There is yoga, nature walks through protected ancient rainforest parks, quad driving, sports fishing, mountain biking, animal sanctuaries, baby turtle sanctuaries, every Saturday there is an organic food market on the beach in Santa Teresa, amazing restaurants with awesome views of the Pacific, good shopping with artisan products made by talented local artists ………the list goes on and on and I have recommendations on all of them. There is something for everyone here. Come and visit soon.

Thanks to my guest writer Dahlia Nahome of Costa Rican Vacation for sharing the gorgeous part of Costa Rica where she lives – you can check out her website for more information and inspiration to plan your holiday there.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

More glorious places to visit in South America

Historic cities, natural beauty and a warm welcome in Colombia
Relaxing in the rainforest at the Tambopata Ecolodge – in Peru
A beach paradise at Cabo Polonio and Valizas in Uruguay

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  • Reply
    Mark H
    August 4, 2010 at 1:09 am

    A truly treasured life. I love the photo of the horses on the beach at dusk – beautiful image indeed.
    Mark H´s last blog post ..Drinks Around the World- Zobo Nigeria

  • Reply
    August 6, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    I really enjoyed this Costa Rica post. I will be back soon to read more.
    Coolmon´s last blog post ..Snorkeling Destinations in the Caribbean

  • Reply
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels
    August 11, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Everyone keeps asking me if I’ve been to Costa Rica. I haven’t, but each time I read another article I grow more certain that I would love it there. Perhaps I’m afraid to go, figuring I’ll end up moving there!
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels´s last blog post ..Hacienda Xcanatun – An Oasis of Tranquility in Mexico’s Yucatan

  • Reply
    August 12, 2010 at 12:25 am

    gorgeous! i sooooo want to go.

  • Reply
    Costa Rica
    January 24, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Great info on Costa Rica, I love all of the info on the different tours available. There is so much to do in such a beautiful, it is almost impossible to cover it all, but you did a great job. The ATZ tour is one of my fav’s also.

    Keep up the great work.

  • Reply
    Visit Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica and Boing 747 hotel | Heather on her travels
    March 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    […] Loving life on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica A grown-up backpacker at Machu Picchu – in Peru Historic cities, natural beauty and a warm welcome in Colombia […]

  • Reply
    Santa Teresa Costa Rica
    November 28, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Nicoya is a great place in Costa Rica. Let me share a detail about this place; Nicoya is the place in Costa Rica where people live more, I mean where people live 80-100 years.

    Santa Teresa, Mal pais, Tamarindo, Tambor are some of the great beaches in this place. Great Info about CR

  • Reply
    December 23, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Fantastic shots of the beach. I’m in Costa Rica now slowly making my way through the country. I’ll have to consider putting this place on the list. Thanks for sharing and happy travels.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      December 23, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      @Jen hope you find its as beautiful as it looks

  • Reply
    Shawna Collins
    October 23, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Heather!! Just curious if you home base is still in the Nicoya Pennisula of Costa Rica or not. We love it there 🙂

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      October 23, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      @Shawna Glad you enjoy Costa Rica – in fact I’m based in the UK as this was a guest post

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