A NOVICE GUIDE TO NOSARA, COSTA RICA
If you started to research surfing in Costa Rica, a number of surf camps would show up, and probably a recommendation for Tamarindo. But, if you head a little over an hour south of Tamarindo, you’ll find the town of Nosara, with a handful of playas that function as their own towns within a town (despite not having street names). We recommend setting up a home base in Playa Guiones if you are traveling here to surf. Playa Pelada to the north offers a couple great restaurant options, Playa Ostional is the place to visit if you want to see turtles, and Playa Garza is a sleepy fishing village, great if you want to spend the day on the beach with no one else. No matter where you decide to stay, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll find pura vida.
Getting There / Getting Around
You have two options to arrive into Nosara:
- Recommended: Fly into San Jose and take a 15 minute Nature Air or Sansa flight to Nosara.
- Fly into Liberia, take a (bumpy) 3 hour car ride to Nosara. Transfers can be booked through Gypsy Cab Co. for $30-$70USD per person depending on time and group size.
While you can rent a car for about half the price of a quad, it’s more fun and faster to explore the area on an ATV. There’s nothing quite like cruising on a dirt road with the fresh ocean breeze against your face. Many of the locals have outfitted theirs with front baskets and side surf board racks. Rent your quad through iQuad. It’s a bit more expensive than other outfitters, but the quads are bigger and nicer quality, great for two people!
What To Do
Surf. There are plenty of places to rent surfboards around Nosara and Playa Guiones. $10-$15USD per day is a fair price. Juan Surfo’s, Corky Carroll’s, and the Frog Pad are all decent options and all offer surf lessons as well. Check magicseaweed for surf forecasts.
Yoga. While you can take a class at the Bohdi Tree Resort or Harmony Hotel for $10 or $12, respectively, we recommend taking an 11:00am class with Angie at Studio Guiones, a part of the Guiones Wellness Center, for $10 (mat and towel included, cash only). The screened in studio with views of a lush garden is a perfectly zen setting for a sweaty, yet low stress class with Angie. Studio Guiones is next to Tica Massage, down the street across from Harmony Hotel.
ATV. You rented this sucker for your whole trip, you might as well see what it can do! We took a tour into the mountains with Mark of Nine North Surf Co. Tours can booked through iQuad or directly with Mark at Nine North Surf Co next to the Frog Pad. Pricing is $130/couple including ATV rental; less if you already rented the ATV. One of the highlights was drinking a cold cerveza at a local woman’s home (Mariella) at the top of the mountain in the jungle. She let us tag along when she went to feed her animals, where we learned that one of the pigs would become carnitas by the time this guide was published.
Where To Stay
Nosara Surf Hotel (Playa Guiones). A short footpath away from the beach, private balconies/patios with hammocks, comfortable king beds, surfboard storage, air conditioned rooms, and owners that are actually at the hotel to give you personal, local recommendations make Nosara Surf Hotel, a new boutique hotel, the place to stay in Playa Guiones. Their restaurant, La Negra, attracts tourists and locals alike creating a relaxed atmosphere to meet people. Influences from the owners’ time spent in LA and France are evident throughout, with a relaxed frilly-grunge style that mixes clean white rooms with pops of neon, re-purposed items, and modern design | $140-$170/night bookable through their website or Airbnb.
Harmony Hotel (Playa Guinoes). If you are looking for a more traditional hotel experience with pool service and a spa, Harmony Hotel is the place. We found it a bit less charming after our more personal experience at Nosara Surf Hotel, but you can’t deny their gorgeous pool and smart design choices. Footpath to the beach for surfing; juice bar and yoga studios on site. Rooms start at $220/night.
4U Hostel (Playa Guiones). 4U is the top budget option in the area with newly constructed warm, modern design and clean rooms. It’s not in close walking distance to the beach, but if you have a car or an ATV, it’s in close proximity to everything.
Where To eat
Al Chile. Fresh, delicious Mexican-style fare. We ordered the chalupa (which is more like a taco salad than a Taco Bell chalupa) and fish tacos. Al Chile makes their own hot sauce to spice up your dish and their house specialty is a chiliagua shot (tomato hot sauce and the local liquor, guaro) that is best washed down with a Pilsen or Imperial beer. They make one dessert here and it’s worth every calorie: fried banana with vanilla ice cream and homemade caramel drizzle. Live music on Wednesdays.
La Negra. Smoky roasted chicken with a homemade pesto is served on Wednesdays with fresh guacamole, flavorful pico, fried plantains, rice, beans and a salad that will more than hold you over for your early morning surf session the following day. Don’t miss the rotating three course menu on Friday nights, or the tico breakfast, served every morning. The food at La Negra was a true highlight of the trip.
El Chivo. Another place to try a chiliguaro shot, but this time with a side of craft beer. El Chivo serves up delicious Mexican style fare in a beach-cafe-meets-sports-bar setting. Missing a key game while you’re on holiday? This is the place to come to watch it. Wonderful service and live music on Friday nights.
La Luna. The perfect place to watch the sunset or listen to the waves over lunch, La Luna serves Mediterranean style fare in an impeccably designed space. From the craft beer selection, to the unique pizzas (blue cheese and bacon on one!) to the healthy hummus platter, everything here is on point and created for enjoyment.
Go Juice. Served out of a brightly colored trailer, Go Juice offers coffee, acai bowls and fresh juices and smoothies. We recommend the Mixto Fresco, a smoothie made of coconut water fresh from the nut, watermelon, mint and lime. Don’t have enough colones on you after your surf sesh? Pura vida. Feel free to come back later to settle up. This laid back juice joint lives up to the Costa Rican lifestyle.