In northwest Guanacaste on the Gulf of Papagayo, Papagayo and the peninsula bearing the same name is Costa Rica’s ultimate eco-adventure playground, known for it’s soft, golden beaches and deep sapphire sea. Its tranquil waters are perfect for swimming, diving and fishing. Here, some of the country’s most luxurious resorts serve up breathtaking views overlooking the sparkling gulf where dolphins dance and sea birds soar. Ecological diversity abounds in national parks such as Santa Rosa and Rincon de la Vieja. Don’t miss a thereaputic volcanic mud bath!
Following the coast south from Flamingo is the lively beach town of Tamarindo where you’ll find many casual dining establishments, boutiques, art galleries, and, you guessed it… surf shops. Wide, long beaches, strong surf, great swimming, watersports and fishing define Playa Tamarindo and other nearby beaches including Playa Conchal and Playa Langosta which have long been popular with surfers and sun worshipers alike. Playa Grande beach is a major nesting site for huge leatherback turtles, and forms part of Las Baulas National Marine Park. The mangrove-lined estuary of Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge protects animals such as howler monkeys and crocodiles. As you continue on to Playa Pinilla, you’ll encounter a never-ending swath of sandy, sun kissed beaches and a vast array of accommodations from small boutique hotels to luxury all-inclusive resorts.
Heading further south along the Nicoya Peninsula signs of civilization yield to wild wind-swept beaches with dramatic coastal scenery and small villages, each with its own distinct charm. Here, a laid-back lifestyle of health and wellness has earned the Nicoya Peninsula designation as one of the world’s five “Blue Zones” where residents live measurably longer than anywhere else on the planet. Nature thrives at Playa Ostinal where the Ostinal Wildlife Refuge protects the spawning of various species of sea turtles, particularly the Olive Ridley. Maritime riches are protected in numerous nature reserves including Cabo Blanco, Curu Wildlife Refuge and Palo Verde National Park which harbors Central America’s largest concentration of migratory aquatic birds. Surfing is king in the Southern Nicoya at beaches from Playa Nosara to Santa Teresa. Resting in the valley of a horseshoe-shaped bay, Tambor is a small quiet beach town that personifies the area’s relaxed and easy-going atmosphere.