Planning the Perfect Nosara Vacation
Deciding Where to Stay in Nosara
One of the most important decisions when planning your vacation to the Nosara area is deciding where to stay and determining whether or not you are going to have or even need a rental car. On main thing to know is that there are several different areas in the Nosara area, and the actual town of Nosara is inland, about 5 miles from the beach. The main beach sections in the area are Playa Guiones & Playa Pelada, and just inland from there are various properties in the hills. So, the main decision that you have to make when staying in Guiones or Pelada is: do you want to be walking distance to the beach, or do you want to be elevated on the hills with ocean incredible views?
Playa Guiones is the main surfing beach and generally where most of Surfing Nosara's clients tend to stay. The positives of staying in Guiones is that this is where the majority of restaurants, bars and shops are located, and also most importantly, very consistent surf. Another great thing about staying in Guiones is that you might not even need a rental car if you are staying within walking distance to the beach. The negatives of staying in Guiones is that it can be a bit more expensive and busier than some of the other areas. Playa Pelada is a beautiful beach, set right out of a postcard. It is an incredible place to swim, relax in the natural tide pools, fish, explore the tranquil beach and rock formations, and catch the most breathtaking sunset around. Pelada also holds many of the better pricing deals for the traveler on a budget. The negatives are the lack of surf (the breaks are more fickle and rocky) and it is a 5-8 minute drive to many of the restaurants and shops in Guiones. The hills surrounding the beach areas have many positives including outstanding views, cool breezes, privacy and just overall spectacular settings to relax in a hammock. The negatives are that you definitely need a rental car as you have a 5 plus minute drive to the beach. Also, the pricing can tend to be a little bit higher as there are many incredible homes up there and many of them carry a higher price tag. Don’t hesitate to contact Rich for any questions you may have concerning where to stay here, rental homes and our inventory or for any information you may need on the Nosara area.
There are 2 main seasons here in Nosara: Dry season and rainy season. The Dry season runs from December to April and this is generally the busiest time of the year. The offshore winds are blowing and we experience clean, fun surfing conditions. The foliage is a bit more brown this time of year, but there are still plenty of monkeys and wildlife. The rainy season runs from May to November and this is when all the plants and scenery really come alive and into bloom. The whole canopy here in the jungle expands and is full of colorful life. The rain pattern is often very similar to Florida with late morning and afternoon showers with occasional showers or storms at night as well. The heaviest rains typically happen in September and October and they can last all day long and be really intense. One advantage of traveling here during the rainy season (May to November) is that the rates for hotels and rental homes drop significantly. For this reason more people vacation here year after year during the popular summer months (June-August). Contact Rich at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more details on all of our vacation rentals and rates.
There is petty crime everywhere, especially in these Central American countries. Costa Rica is no exception, so always be mindful of your belongs while traveling in Costa Rica and Nosara. Do not leave ANYTHING of value in your car. Do not leave ANYTHING of value unattended on the beach. You may even want to hide your flip flops when you go surfing. Most rental homes have a safe, so make sure that you use it. Put all cash, cards, passports even valuable electronics in the safe. If you do not have a safe, put belongings in a secure place or keep those things on you at all times. Try to make sure your rental home has bars on the windows. Most hotels have security guards. Do not leave anything of value out close to the windows of your home. If you have anything stolen, please report it ASAP to the police in Guiones (next to Plaza Guiones, across from Casa Tucan.
Car Rentals - Do You Need One?
You do not NEED to rent a car when you come to Nosara. There are a few options and they all depend on your preference(s). Depending on where you are staying, you might not even need or want a car. If you are walking distance to the beach and the restaurants you don’t necessarily need a car. Otherwise you may want a car or some sort of transportation to get to the beach and around town. For alternate transportation, you can rent ATVs, Tuk-tuks and motor scooters here. You may also rent a car here in town, if you just want one for a day or two to explore. You can get to Nosara by bus or there are a number of shuttle options, as well. If you fly into San Jose or Liberia, there are shuttles from both airports to Nosara. The shuttle from San Jose is about $200-$250 one-way, and from Liberia it is about $100-$150. You can rent a car from both airports if you would like, as well. If you do decide to rent a car it is recommended that you rent a 4x4 SUV or truck for driving here in the Nosara area because of the condition of the dirt roads, especially in the rainy season. A small/mid-sized SUV will run you about $400-$500 for a week. So, the choice is yours about renting a car and it really depends on your situation. Keep in mind that if you don’t rent a car at the airport, and you realize that you want one when you get to town, there are 4 rental car companies here to chose from. If you do get a car and need to fill up with gas, the brand new gas station in Nosara is now OPEN.
What to pack - Necesities
- Sunblock with high SPF. No oil needed here we are only 9 degrees north of the equator, trust us you will catch a tan (or a bur
- Aloe or after sun lotion for when you do get that “base burn”
- Summer clothing (shorts, bathing suits, tee shirts, flip flops etc.) It is very casual here in Nosara, so pack light and make it easy on yourself! If you are coming in the rainy season, you may want to bring an umbrella and/or a light rain coat. If you forget anything, you can buy most things here in Nosara.
- Any over the counter drugs/medicines that you may want. We do not have a pharmacy in town at the moment, so it is best to bring any allergy medications and any other basic medications, i.e. cold medication, anti-diarrhetic, allergy medication, upset stomach medication, heartburn relief, Benadryl or anti-inflammatory medicine, pain relief medication etc.
- Bug repellent
- Check with your hotel or rental house because you may need to bring down towels (beach and/or bathroom) and/or sheets.
- If you have friends down here, see if they need you to bring down any items from that are hard to find, and I guarantee, they will have a list ready for you!
The currency in Costa Rica is called the Colon (plural is colones). The exchange rate varies between 535-600 Colones to the dollar. However, everywhere in Nosara and Costa Rica accepts the US Dollar. For this reason, we recommend bringing most of the money you need with you in the form of cash. Cash is king here. Some places in town will accept credit card as well, but not too many. We have a bank here in town (Banco Popular) and an ATM machine. However, the ATM only takes VISA cards. If you do not have a visa card you will have to drive to Samara (45 minutes) to get out money. It is not recommended that you bring checks of any kind (regular or travelers), as they are a pain to deal with here and many people will not accept them because they take 45+ days to clear.
How to get to Nosara
Flying - You can fly into San Jose (Juan Santamaria International Airport code - SJO) or Liberia (The Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, code - LIR). Then you can also jump on a Nature Air (www.natureair.com) or Sansa (www.flysansa.com) flight from San Jose and fly right into Nosara (our airport is about 10 minutes away from Guiones and Pelada). These jumper flights will run you a little over $100 each way and double as a nice little tour of the country from a birds-eye view. However, you may not be able to bring a lot of luggage and a lot of times they cannot fit surfboards on the plane. Check their websites for the latest baggage policies. You can also hire a driver to get you here. From San Jose a driver will cost about $200-$250 one-way, and from Liberia it will cost around $100-$150. If you arrive at night, a driver is recommended because they know the roads better, and driving at night here on the dirt roads is not highly recommended. If you decide to drive, San Jose is a 4-5 hour drive from Nosara, and Liberia is a 2 hour drive. See our driving directions here -
Health and Safety Tips
Water - Our water is safe to drink, and we have not heard of issues from drinking the local water here. If you prefer bottled water, it is sold everywhere, and you can buy big jugs at the Super Nosara in town.
Hydration is super important here as it gets very hot and dry (especially in the dry season/summer time, Nov.-April) Most people are pretty active here, whether it is surfing, hiking, running, horseback riding, etc you will sweat profusely. So, it is very important to replenish your fluids. It is recommended that you drink at least one big bottle of water (1.5 liters) a day.
We do have a local clinic right here in downtown Guiones. There are two doctors that work there and they are well-trained and speak English. So, if you need to see a physician for any reason, cuts, bites, sickness etc., Dr. Mauricio & Dr. Alejandro will take good care of you.
Dust - Our roads are not paved here in Nosara, therefore they get very dusty, especially during the dry season and when a lot of people are in town. Many locals and tourists alike drive ATVs, bikes, motorcycles and walk on down the road. So, if you are going to be doing any of the above, it is recommended that you bring a handkerchief or something to cover your nose and mouth. Also, we ask that you PLEASE be considerate of the people on the road and slow down while you are passing them so that you don’t dust them too badly.
We are in the jungle here in Nosara, so with that comes many different forms of wildlife and insects. So, it is always good to bring some Benedryl with you. The biggest threat that we have here as far as insects go are scorpions. You don’t see them everywhere, but it is always a good idea to check you shoes before putting them on. If you do get stung, it will hurt, but it is not threatening. You can always go to the Clinic if you need to, as well.
We do have Stingrays here in Playa Guiones and every once in a while someone gets hit by one. It is a painful sting and you should immediately soak your foot/leg in warm water. The Beach Cafe (right by the main beach entrance in Guiones) has a big bucket for soaking. So, it is always a good idea to do the “stingray shuffle” when you are walking out in the surf.
Wildlife - What you might spot
- Turtles (Ostional)
- Many different types of birds
Costa Rican Culture
First things first, Costa Ricans are often referred to as Ticos (males) and Ticas (females). This is not derogatory at all, so feel free to use those terms. The Costa Rican culture is a very rich and unique one. Everything moves a little bit slower down here and the pace of life in general is more relaxed. That is what appeals to so many visitors. With our fast-paced lives in the States, Europe and elsewhere, it feels great to come here and decompress. Costa Ricans are peaceful people and their country has never had an army. Therefore, they typically do not like conflict and would rather stay out of other people’s business. It is a developing country that has been growing fast over the last 20 years. As a result it has become the most expensive country in Central America to travel and live.
The lifestyle here is best described by the Costa Rican phrase, Pura Vida. Pura vida literally translates in English to “pure life”. However, here in Costa Rica the phrase is used for many things such as: hello, goodbye, all is well, life is good and answers to questions like: how are you, how is life, how is work etc. Costa Ricans are proud people and they love their country. So, they consider life to be very good and for the most part they enjoy life and live it freely. Pura Vida pretty much exemplifies the whole feel of this country and its people perfectly.
Obviously Costa Rica is a Spanish speaking culture, so we recommend trying to speak any Spanish that you may know as it helps you really experience the culture during your trip and feel a little bit integrated. Here in Nosara, many Ticos speak some English or at least understand it a little bit. So, you can get away without speaking Spanish here, but we always encourage people to try.
Costa Rican cuisine is very simple and fresh. The typical meal (comida tipica) here is called a “Casado”, which consists of a protein cooked very simply in a pan with just some herbs and spices (either fish, chicken or beef), rice & beans, salad and sometimes marinated vegetables. You will also find many fruit drinks such as watermelon, bananas, passionfruit, berries, etc. For breakfast, the typical plate consists of gallo pinto (rice & beans mixed together and fried in a pan), eggs and tortillas. Don’t forget to get a cup of coffee too, as Costa Rica boasts some of the best in the world! You can find places here with the typical Costa Rican dishes, and most places serve Casados, but Nosara also has different types international restaurants as well.
We do have internet and phone here in Nosara. Most restaurants, hotels and bars have Wi-Fi connections and it is high-speed internet. Some rental homes also have internet connections, so check with your rental agent. A few places also have free calls to the U.S. and Canada (Beach Cafe and Refugio del Sol in Pelada). Of course, we recommend you disconnect yourself (somewhat) while you are here on vacation, but if you have to be connected that is always possible.
Why should I come to Nosara vs. other parts of Costa Rica?
There are many beautiful beaches and towns along the coast of Costa Rica and specifically the Guanacaste province. However, the Nosara area, specifically Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada are very unique. One of the main things that people often point out is that there is absolutely NO development along the beach. This helps to keep the beach and the ocean clean, and it provides great natural views. This also is a breath of fresh air compared to the built up, over developed and tourisy places such as Tamarindo and Jaco. We have less crowds here as well and there is not the “spring break” party atmosphere that Tamarindo and Jaco are known for. The crime in these more built up towns tends to be worse as well, and there can sometime be more animosity between the local Ticos and the tourists. There are many foreigners here, both tourists and people living here full-time as well as plenty of locals, but the Ticos are super friendly and you will find yourself mingling with them as well as people from all over the U.S., Canada, England, Australia Switzerland etc. We have all the amenities (stores, restaurants, bars etc.) that you could need, but not too many and no McDonalds or other chain restaurants that have been popping up all over in the bigger, more touristy towns. You also really get a feel for the Costa Rican culture here in the Nosara area, especially if you just drive a couple minutes outside Guiones.
- Lagarta Lodge for Sunset and drinks.
- Olgas on the beach in Pelada for sunset and beers.
- Dolce Vita for a nice gourmet Italian dinner.
- Il Basilico (Chandy’s) for the best pizza, foccacia and carpaccio in town.
- Luna Azul in Ostional/San Januillo for special occasion dinners.
- Dona Anna’s in Garza for the fresh catches of the day.
- Vista del Paraiso (up on the hill in EE section)
- Pancho’s in Pelada for traditional Mexican dishes
Activities in Nosara
- You can schedule most of these activities below once you get here, with the exception of the Canopy Tour and charter fishing because they can get very busy.
- Miss Sky Canopy tour (recommend scheduling ahead of time)
- Surf lessons with Tico Surf School
- Quad (ATV) rental
- Estuary Tours
- Fishing - Inshore & Offshore Charter (recommended scheduling ahead of time)
- Horseback riding
- Turtle watching in Ostional - Arribadas. The best time of year to see this is from April - November and during the half-moon (either waxing or waning side)
- Fiestas (local rodeos)
- Weekly Calendar of Events
- Voluntourism - Volunteering on you vacation (Maybe Sarah writes this, or I can if she would like).
- How to help the local communities and schools while you are here - SNF plug