Down a bumpy dirt road on Costa Rica’s lush Nicoya Peninsula, you’ll find the small, sleepy surf town of Nosara. Hidden amongst monkey-filled trees, Nosara is best known for its great waves, chill vibes, yoga studios, and thriving international community. If you’re looking for the perfect place to experience Costa Rica’s wild nature, pristine beaches, delicious food – and maybe a dash of luxury, for good measure – you’ve just found it. And luckily, you have the Ultimate Travel Guide to Nosara, Costa Rica at your fingertips too!
From kayaking through mangroves, hiking in wildlife reserves, and practicing yoga at sunrise, to surfing perfect waves, wining and dining on the sand, visiting animal rescues, and kicking back at plush eco-lodges, there are so many incredible things to do in Nosara!
This Nosara Travel Guide includes all of the best things to do in Nosara, as well as where to stay, where to eat, and so much more!
Ready to plan your trip to Nosara? Let’s do it!
How to Get to Nosara
At the time of our visit, we were living in Playa Negra (located 30 minutes south of Tamarindo). We visited during the green season (also known as the rainy season), so driving down the coastal dirt road to Nosara was not an option. Near Ostional, there is an impassable river during the rainy season. That is, unless you have the most badass of cars. And even then, I’ve heard of them getting washed away.
We decided to rent a car in Tamarindo and took Route 152 to Route 160 (through Santa Cruz). Once we reached Nicoya, we took Route 150 all the way to Nosara.
The drives to Nosara from San Jose airport (Route 1 to 18 to 157 to 150) and Liberia airport (Route 21 to 150) are just as easy. If I were you, I would rent my own car and plan to drive on the paved highway – not the bumpy dirt coastal route – to Nosara.
Tips for Renting a Car
- Whether it’s the dry or green season, you’re going to want a 4WD or 4X4 rental car. At the very least, a normal SUV. The roads in Nosara are horrible (some say they’re the worst in Costa Rica!), so a sedan is hardly suitable. Click here to book your rental car.
- You will find the cheapest, best, and most plentiful options in San Jose. Liberia is second best. If possible, book your rental car for pick-up at one of these two locations.
- Worldwide, my go-to site for finding great deals on rental cars is Discover Cars. Click here to book your rental car.
Once you’ve arrived in Costa Rica, you can take a domestic flight to the small Nosara airport. SANSA Airlines flies non-stop to many places around the country, mostly from San Jose.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend flying to Nosara. The journey by car from San Jose will take about the same time as flying (when you factor in transportation to/from the airports, check-in, baggage claim, etc.), yet paying for flights and baggage is much less economical. Especially if you’re traveling with other people. Plus, you’re still going to need a mode of transportation while in Nosara. May as well bring your rental car with you!
How to Get Around Nosara
Ask anyone where the worst roads in Costa Rica are, and you’ll be met with a quick and sure response: Nosara! The main road through Nosara (Highway 160) is paved. But otherwise, the roads are a combination of dirt, gravel, and giant potholes (or mini lakes, in the rainy season)!
Nosara is very spread out, so planning how you’ll get around is essential.
- Walking: Walking around Nosara really isn’t an option. Unless you stay at a hotel near the beach and just plan to hang in that area. In that case, I would recommend staying at the beautiful Gilded Iguana so you can walk to the nearby restaurants, cafés, and Playa Guiones.
- Rental Car: As mentioned above, I recommend renting a car! You can rent one in Nosara, or in the best case scenario, you’ll pick up your car nearby the airport in San Jose or Liberia (where it’s cheaper).
- Tuk-Tuk: Don’t want to drive yourself around? No worries. You can traverse the town via Nosara’s version of a taxi: tuk-tuk! They’re surprisingly amazing at navigating the bumpy dirt roads.
- Golf Cart, Scooter, or ATV: These are the other favorite modes of transportation in Nosara. When you arrive, you can pick up a rental from one of the shops in the center of town. Out of the three, I’d go with an ATV! That way, no hilltop is inaccessible. Plus, you can take your ATV on adventurous jungle forays to places like the Mala Noche Waterfall.
Where to Stay in Nosara
Now that the logistics are out of the way, let’s talk about my favorite part: Nosara hotels!
In this beautiful beach town, a luxury boutique hotel, nestled up in the jungle, boasting ridiculous ocean views, is the ideal situation.
Tierra Magnifica Boutique Hotel
Want to experience the best that Nosara has to offer? Look no further than Tierra Magnifica Boutique Hotel.
This stunning oasis, situated in Nosara’s lush hillside, offers the most incredible ocean and jungle views, fabulous food at their on-site restaurant, Huacas (breakfast is included!), the most beautiful yoga shala, a waterfall nature walk on the property, a lovely pool, and of course, super attentive, friendly service.
Tierra Magnifica even offers free daily laundry service… Which is just about the coolest thing ever. Especially when, every day, you’re getting sweaty, hiking, doing yoga, and exploring under the Nosara sun!
Everything you could ever want is there for you at Tierra Magnifica. The name says it all: a luxurious experience showcasing the magnificent land of Costa Rica. I can’t imagine visiting Nosara again and staying anywhere else.
And did I mention the view from the shower? Well, it’s unreal.
Other Nosara Hotels
Still looking? If you want to stay near Playa Guiones, The Gilded Iguana Surf Hotel is super chic and beautiful. Their pool area is stunning and they have a surf club and juice bar too! (Guests of Tierra Magnifica get free access to their surf club too.)
Other popular accommodation options in Nosara include:
- Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort: the ideal place to stay for yogis, this resort is known for its yoga retreats and classes
- Lagarta Lodge: home to a massive biological reserve and amazing views, perfect for families
- Green Sanctuary Hotel: the best option for budget-conscious travelers looking for a relaxing jungle experience
Nosara Packing List: Must-Haves!
When you visit Nosara, there are a few non-negotiable items to pack!
Here’s a little Amazon shopping list, for your convenience!
- Eco-friendly & Organic Bug Repellent: because mosquitos and no-see-ums in Costa Rica are no joke!
- Reef-safe & Water-resistant Mineral Sunscreen: this is the best sunscreen I’ve ever come across. Reef-safe and all-natural for the win!
- Reef-safe Surf Mud Sunscreen: to protect your face and neck in the surf. A must!
- Manduka EKO Superlite Travel Yoga Mat: because Nosara is a yoga town through and through, and this super lightweight, grippy yoga mat will be your constant companion.
- GRAYL GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle: a prerequisite for any adventurous trip, so you can drink any water, any time. This is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. An actual life-saver.
- Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag: this is the ultimate Costa Rica rainforest adventure item. Going kayaking or rafting? Hiking and it’s starts to downpour? No worries.
- Quick-dry Turkish Beach Towel: a must, for obvious reasons; these towels are compact, quick-dry, soft, aesthetically pleasing, and come with a travel bag.
- GearTOP Bucket Hat: my favorite breathable, full-coverage hat for nature activities in the Nosara sun.
- Merrell Waterproof Hiking Boots: Planning to do some serious hiking in Nosara and around Costa Rica? These are my favorite hiking boots, for life.
Best Things to Do in Nosara, Costa Rica
#1. Visit a Wildlife Sanctuary
When it comes to observing, preserving, and supporting wildlife, there are a few different wildlife sanctuaries in Nosara doing seriously amazing work.
During your visit to Nosara, Costa Rica, plan to visit at least one wildlife sanctuary. Not only is it a cool, educational experience for you, but your visit directly impacts the local wildlife – leaving the animals a little better off than you found them!
Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary
Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary‘s mission is “provide a permanent, spacious sanctuary and ongoing care for wildlife that, due to psychological or physical injury, it is not possible to release back into the wild” – primarily due to issues humans have created.
Visiting Sibu’s jungle haven offers an immersive experience, allowing you to connect with, learn about, and support Costa Rica’s flora and fauna simultaneously. While there, you’ll see some of the sanctuary’s handicapped wildlife (including monkeys, sloths, coatis, and other animals).
Guided tours at Sibu are only available on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 AM. The tours are 2 hours long, cost $60/person, and you must book your tour in advance. Trust me, this is one of the best things to do in Nosara. You don’t want to miss out!
Nosara Refuge for Wildlife
Nosara’s Refuge for Wildlife (now known as International Animal Rescue Costa Rica) is another must-visit! The refuge’s work revolves around rescuing injured, abandoned, and orphaned howler monkeys and caring for them until they’re ready to monkey around again!
Here, you’ll have the opportunity to see plenty of rescued monkeys and learn about organization’s Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program.
To visit the Refuge for Wildlife, you must make a reservation. Guided visits are limited to 10 people and are usually scheduled between 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. Expect to give a $50 donation/person to enter.
#2. Explore Nosara’s Pristine Beaches
In and around the Nosara area, there are plenty of beautiful beaches to discover. Some are perfect for surf, others for chilling.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the best Nosara beaches to visit.
Playa Guiones is, by far, the top surf spot in the area – great for beginners and advanced surfers. But the 4-mile stretch of white sandy beach is also perfect for long morning walks. Or for chilling out and watching the sunset.
Playa Guiones is the main beach in Nosara, so obviously, you can’t come here and not visit Guiones.
Offering tropical tranquillity at its finest, Playa Pelada is a pristine half-moon bay beach just north of Playa Guiones. Whether you want to swim in the turquoise waters, sprawl under a shady tree, check out the many seashells, or explore the rocky tide pools and caves, Playa Pelada is all pura vida…
And the best part is, compared to Playa Guiones, crowds are nonexistent at Playa Pelada.
To top off your perfect beach day, mosey over to La Luna (see #7 below for more info!), and sip on a refreshing cocktail with the sand in between your toes.
15 minutes south of Nosara, you will find the placid fishing village of Playa Garza. Known for its chill vibes, calm, clear seas, and uncrowded, golden sandy beaches, Playa Garza is worth adding to your list.
Oh, and if you do go, then a stop at Perozah, a lovely beachfront restaurant and lounge, is definitely in order!
San Juanillo Beach
A 40-minute drive up the coast will deliver you to one of Guanacaste’s dreamiest (and relatively unknown) white-sand beaches.
If you have plenty of time to spare – and if your goals include beach bumming it, tanning, and swimming in brilliant azure waters, then head up to San Juanillo. The views will not disappoint!
#3. Go Surfing
If you’re into surfing, then you already know: Nosara, Costa Rica is officially on the map. These days, it’s consistently ranked as one of Costa Rica’s top surf towns, for surfers of all levels.
There are plenty of breaks to choose from, propped up by sandbars, rocky reefs, and river mouths. So depending on the tide, swell, and wind direction, you can almost always find a good option.
Guiones is the consistent go-to, but depending on the conditions, you can look to Ostional, Garza, and Nosara Beach.
Take a Surf Lesson
If you’re designating your trip to Nosara as the place you finally learn to surf, then, I reckon that’s a smart choice. There are plenty of beginner-friendly waves in Nosara and heaps of surf schools offering surf lessons.
You can book private surf lessons at a surf school like Agua Tibia, Tierra Costa, Nosara CR Surf School, or Nosara Tico Surf School for about $80-85 USD for 90 minutes. Of course they also offer group lessons and different multi-lesson packages.
Where to Get a Surfboard Rental
If you need a board, you can pick up a rental from any of the above schools (and plenty of other places in town). Board rentals cost about $20-30 USD for a full day, or $110-150 per week – depending on if you need a foamie or a performance board.
#4. Take a Yoga Class (Or Join a Yoga Retreat)
Nosara is definitely a yoga town! Whether you just want to drop in for a few yoga classes or extend your stay for yoga retreat or teacher training, there are plenty of places, spaces, and styles to choose from!
Since yoga is one of the top things to do in Nosara, many hotels offer daily classes to their guests. (Tierra Magnifica, where I stayed, offers daily classes in their open-air shala with epic views of Playa Guiones.)
If you’re keen to check out Nosara’s most popular yoga institutions, check out the below options!
P.S. If you’re like me, then you’d rather not rent/share yoga mats. They’re a personal item, for sure! This ultra-lightweight Manduka travel yoga mat is my absolute favorite. I travel everywhere with it and recommend it to anyone who’ll listen. Click here to grab yours!
Harmony Healing Centre Nosara
The Healing Centre at Harmony Hotel is one of the top places to practice yoga in Nosara, Costa Rica. Their gentle yoga classes are set inside an open-air shala, complete with jungle views – and even better, jungle sounds!
A range of daily classes – from vinyasa, meditation, and qigong, to hatha, yin, and breathwork – are available! Click here to check out their daily class schedule.
Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort
The Bodhi Tree Resort is known as one of the best yoga resorts and retreats around Nosara, Costa Rica.
Whether you’re keen for a high-energy vinyasa or restorative yin class, Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort has plenty of daily classes on their schedule – all set within beautiful 360-degree view, open-air yoga shalas.
If yoga (and the yogi way of life) is the most important aspect of your time in Nosara, then consider staying at the Bodhi Tree Resort. From daily yoga classes and luxe guest rooms to insane views and wholesome food, you can’t go wrong. Click here to book your stay now!
Yoga Teacher Training
Have your sights set on completing a yoga teacher training in Nosara? The Nosara Yoga Institute and the Yoga Collective Nosara are two great options to look into further!
#5. See Sea Turtles at Ostional Wildlife Refuge
About 25 minutes north of Nosara, you will find Ostional, a beach town that’s famous for its sea turtle arribadas – or arrivals. Every year, thousands upon thousands of Olive Ridley turtles return to the shores of the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge to lay their eggs.
Though Olive Ridley sea turtles (and two other species) still lay eggs and hatch every month on the shores of Costa Rica, the arribadas generally occur between late July or early August through late December. So with a little luck, you’ll see turtles no matter what! The best time to go is at dusk or dawn (5 am or 5 pm).
If you’re really lucky (like I was!), then you’ll see the turtles laying eggs and babies hatching… all in one night! It’s an unforgettable experience, to be sure.
How to Visit Ostional Wildlife Refuge
You can ask your hotel to book a nature tour to Ostional Wildlife Refuge for you. That way, you’ll have a guide showing you what to look for!
Alternatively, if you have a 4WD rental car, you can drive yourself there – and have a quieter, more magical experience without loads of other people around. The drive is pretty easy! (Just make sure to go slow enough to avoid the potholes. But that applies everywhere in Costa Rica.)
#6. Go on an ATV Tour
How’s this for an epic half-day trip?
Imagine: Spending the day driving your ATV around on mountainous jungle trails, passing incredible views of the ocean all the while. And then, topping it off with a tour of a local family’s coffee farm and the loveliest of farm-to-table dinners.
If this ATV tour doesn’t sound amazing, then I literally don’t know what does! Click here to book your Half-Day Mountain ATV Tour in Nosara.
#7. Sunset Dinner & Drinks at La Luna
As one of the only beachfront restaurants in Nosara (and by far, the best one!), you can’t miss sunset dinner and drinks at La Luna.
Expect delicious Mediterranean fare with a relaxed, pura vida beach vibe. It’s a little pricey, but honestly, you can’t beat the location or the beautiful atmosphere. Wining and dining at La Luna is one of the best things to do in Nosara, no doubt.
La Luna is also open for breakfast and lunch. In the high season, make sure to call to make a reservation – especially for outdoor sunset seating! This is an experience you won’t soon forget, so don’t skip it!
Want more Nosara food & drink recommendations? Check out my guide to the Best Restaurants in Nosara, Costa Rica!
#8. Early Morning Hike in the Nosara Biological Reserve
The Nicoya Peninsula is known for its dry tropical forest, and the Nosara Biological Reserve offers the perfect opportunity to explore it. The best time to go is very early in the morning – to beat the heat, and see as many animals as possible!
Set on more than 30 hectares of protected land (within the boundaries of Lagarta Lodge‘s property), the Nosara Biological Reserve is home to all kinds of wildlife, from birds, monkeys, anteaters, and butterflies to coatis, raccoons, iguanas, and insects. (Emphasis on the insects… And spiders.) This is where eco-friendly bug repellent comes in handy. Grab yours here!
There are many well-marked paths and a roundtrip walk usually takes about 2 hours. My favorite one is the loop that passes by the river. We were lucky enough to see a crocodile basking in the sun on the riverbank.
You can hire a nature guide to go here with you, or simply take a self-guided tour.
#9. Go Horseback Riding at Sunset
Going on a sunset horseback riding tour is, undeniably, one of the most idyllic things to do in Nosara.
On this private tour, you and your horse will hike on jungle trails, through rivers, and stroll along the beach as the waves crash and the sun kisses the sky pink. If you love animals, and a little adventure in nature, then this one’s for you.
#10. Eat Local Tico Food at Rosi’s Soda
If you want to devour some local Tico food, I got you. Actually, Rosi does.
Rosi’s Soda Tica is a must if you’re craving a casado for lunch! If you aren’t familiar, a casado – which means marriage – is a typical Costa Rican platter that includes a combination of some or all of the following: rice, beans, a protein of your choice (mine’s fish or shrimp!), veggies, salad, plantains, and tortillas.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better casado than Rosi’s. It’s cheap, local, and scrumptious – a true staple in Nosara!
Keen to find the best sodas, cafés, restaurants, and bars in town? Check out my guide to the Best Restaurants in Nosara, Costa Rica!
#11. Kayak through the Mangroves & Río Nosara
Kayaking tours are one of my absolute favorite things to do when I travel. Especially when there are cool birds, howler monkeys, and crocodiles to spot along the way.
But sadly, I did not enjoy my kayaking tour through the mangroves and on the Nosara River. Our guide seemed disinterested in actually… guiding. So while I can’t recommend the popular tour company we went with, I can say that kayaking has the potential to be one of the best things you do in Nosara! You can get super close to crocodiles as they swim and bask in the sun.
If I did this tour over again, I would book a nature tour with Nature Tours Gabriela. She has amazing reviews on Tripadvisor and her kayak tours are just $55/person. She also offers kayak rentals, if you just want to go on your own.
#12. Find the Hidden Mala Noche Waterfall
If you don’t hike to a waterfall, did you actually visit Costa Rica? (No.) Luckily, Nosara’s Mala Noche Waterfall can offer you this quintessential Tico experience.
Hidden deep in the jungle, you may have a hard time finding this gem. So you can either:
- Hire a nature guide, or;
- Ask around for directions and surrender to the adventure of finding it yourself.
Note, the waterfall itself isn’t super impressive. A visit here is more about the jungle trek, followed by a refreshing swim in the fall’s pool, surrounded by Guanacaste trees. Just don’t forget your hiking boots!
P.S. Ladies, if you’re in the market for new hiking boots, these trusty waterproof Merrel boots are my all-time favorites.
#13. Zipline at Miss Sky Canopy Tours
Ready to pump up the adrenaline? When in Costa Rica, you have to zipline through the jungle canopy. It’s pretty much non-negotiable.
Miss Sky Canopy’s zipline claims the title for the longest canopy tour in the world!
On 21 different exhilarating ziplines (ranging between 300-700m), you’ll scream and soar over mountain ridges and rivers, with incredible views over the jungle – all the way to the Pacific. The 8 am tour option also includes time to see a waterfall and swim in jungle pools. Click here to learn more.
Note: If you’re planning to visit La Fortuna, you’ll have the opportunity to zipline there too! Views of the lush tropical rainforest, Lake Arenal, and the Arenal Volcano are just as amazing. Check out my guide to 19 Incredible Things to Do in La Fortuna here!
#14. Sip Cocktails at Howler’s Beach Lounge
If you like artisanal cocktails and tapas like I do, then you’re going to love Howler’s Beach Lounge. Relaxed jungle-beach vibes, great tunes, seriously epic cocktails, and scrumptious nibbles come together to make this gem of a bar.
From what I can tell, there’s no drink menu. Just order whatever you feel like, and expect the best possible version of that to be placed in front of you shortly after! I went for a chili mezcal margarita (but when do I not?).
Oh, and do yourself another favor: try the tuna carpaccio. A local guy passed this wisdom on to me, and it did not disappoint!
Want more Nosara restaurant recommendations? Check out my guide to Where to Eat & Drink in Nosara, Costa Rica!
Nosara Travel Guide:
The Best Things to Do in Nosara, Costa Rica!
Looking for an adventurous, yet relaxing getaway in one of Costa Rica’s most idyllic surf towns? Nosara, Costa Rica is your place.
Known for its amazing waves (pretty much year-round), countless yoga shalas, relaxed vibes, and endless outdoor adventures, you couldn’t ask for a better beach vacation in Costa Rica.
With this Ultimate Travel Guide to Nosara, Costa Rica at your fingertips – complete with the best things to do in Nosara, the best places to stay, and plenty of hot tips – you’re sure to have the adventure of a lifetime. Pura vida!
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Nosara, Costa Rica Travel Guide: FAQs
My top picks for accommodation in Nosara are as follows:
Tierra Magnifica: for a lusciously comfortable, luxurious experience, immersed in Nosara’s incredible nature sights and sounds
The Gilded Iguana Surf Hotel: for super chic beachside lodging steps from Playa Guiones
Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort: for yogis looking to experience top-notch yoga retreats and yoga classes
Lagarta Lodge: for incredible ocean views and easy access to Nosara’s massive biological reserve
Green Sanctuary Hotel: for the budget-conscious traveler who seeks jungle relaxation, close enough to the action of town
If you’re into surfing, practicing yoga, eating delicious food, hanging at beautiful beaches, and exploring nature, then Nosara, Costa Rica is definitely worth visiting. This tiny town offers everything you need in a tropical beach vacation – without the intense crowds. After exploring the area and experiencing all the best things to do in Nosara, I can say that Nosara is absolutely worth visiting – for at least a few days! Use this Nosara, Costa Rica Travel Guide to plan your trip!
To get to Nosara from an international destination, you will need to fly into either San Jose or Liberia. From either airport, you can rent a car and drive yourself to Nosara (this is my recommendation, because the Nosara area is best explored with a car) or you can take a flight on a small plane to the tiny domestic Nosara airport. Find more details on flying to Nosara in this post!
Nosara is located on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province. Nosara, Costa Rica is best known as a destination for yoga, surf, abundant wildlife, great food, and relaxed vibes, as well as a thriving international community of local Ticos, expats, and digital nomads.
Personally, I think that the rainy season (or the green season) is the most beautiful time of year to travel to Nosara. A trip between May and August is ideal, because it’s lush, green, and lovely. It’s sunny most of the time, but it does rain often in the evenings – which is always welcome after a hot, humid day! I wouldn’t recommend October through November as it rains constantly.
The dry season, which runs from December to April, is also a great time to visit. It’s sunny pretty much every day, which obviously means it’s going to be hot. The surf is also best (consistently pumping) at this time of year in Costa Rica. Nosara is no different! The downsides of the dry season are that, obviously, everything is dry, so the jungles are brown and the roads are super dusty.
Overall, any time (other than between October to November) is a great time to visit Nosara!
This Nosara Travel Guide details all of the best things to do in Nosara, along with where to stay, places to eat, Nosara travel tips, and more. But to sum it up, the best things to do in Nosara include: practicing yoga, surfing, visiting a Nosara wildlife sanctuary, going horseback riding, going kayaking, going ziplining, spending time at the Nosara beaches (Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada), going ATVing, hiking, and more. Check out this blog post for all of the details!
I hate to burst your bubble, but here’s the fact: Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America. By far. And Nosara is no exception. Nosara is home to a large international community of ex-pats. It’s the place where city folk from San Jose come to vacation, and obviously a popular stop along the country’s tourist trail. From accommodation to food to tours, Nosara is not cheap (but it’s also not unreasonable – and certainly not unaffordable.) If you’re not familiar with Costa Rica already, you may be shocked that almost everything is priced in USD – making things even more expensive than you might expect. That’s just the way it is! If you have room in your budget to splurge a bit, you’re going to love Nosara. I know I did!
If you’re looking for a budget destination in Central America, check out Nicaragua or Guatemala.