Best Local Experiences in Nosara, Costa Rica

Not many people have heard of Nosara, a small village on the western coast of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. This quaint town is in the Blue Zone, which is one of the rare places in the world that supports longevity and good health. People who live in the Blue Zone often live over the age of 100. There are lots of yoga centers, outdoor activities, local restaurants, quiet beaches, and places to relax on a long vacation in Nosara. Away from the hustle of the capital and touristy beach towns, Nosara offers a chance to live the “pure vida” or the good life. It is no wonder that Nosara is not only an upcoming vacation spot, but one of the best places in the world to retire and work remotely.

Here are some of the best local experiences you can have in Nosara…

Nosara views
Tranquil views of Nosara from Tierra Magnifica resort.

Drive To Nosara

The fastest way to get to Nosara is to fly into Liberia airport. You can then rent a car and drive 2.5 hours to Nosara or book a shuttle transfer. Another option is to drive from the capital of San Jose, which takes about 5 hours. Roads in Costa Rica are mostly very good (100x times better than the first time I drove there in 2007). There are a few bumps and dirt road on the last half-hour stretch, but overall, it is an easy drive into Nosara. I recommend renting with a reliable local company such as Adobe Rent A Car, and paying for car rental insurance, to avoid any stresses later on.

Nosara has windy hilly roads and lots of unpaved areas, so many tourists prefer to rent an ATV to get around. If you go this route, make sure to rent helmets and be very careful driving on the sharp turns. Most tour companies also offer transfers, but it is more convenient to have your own vehicle while in Nosara. That way you can check out some of the local beaches and restaurants on your own.

local hotel in Nosara
Tierra Magnifica feels like a luxurious treehouse setting.

Stay at a Chic Boutique Hotel

There are lots of hostels, small hotels, and home rentals in Nosara. The most luxurious of them is family-owned and run Tierra Magnifica Resort. Nestled on top of a hill, in a quiet residential area, the expansive resort has some of the most stunning views of the bay and surrounding jungle. I stayed at the newly unveiled decadent 1,500 sq. ft. master suite, with a living room, separate bedroom, 1.5 baths, and a huge balcony overlooking the resort and the coastline ahead. In the afternoons, I could see howler monkeys right outside the room swinging from the mango trees.

The architecture of the resort is minimalistic, yet elegant, blending in with the natural environment. There’s a restaurant on the property that is very popular even among locals. It has exquisite food, an extensive wine list, and a tropical backdrop that is worth stopping for.

locally sourced fruit pancakes
You will want to order these delicious pancakes over and over again!

Nourish Your Body and Soul

Each morning, my husband and I would walk pass the swimming pool, down to the yoga barn located a few steps away from our room, and practice self guided yoga surrounded by chirping birds. You can also book a lesson with one of the resort’s instructors (the owner’s son). Then, we would walk down trough steep staircases to a waterfall on the property and get our exercise for the day. We would then nourish ourselves with a huge brunch at the resort’s Huacas Restaurant. Breakfast is a big meal in Costa Rica and choices included fresh fruits, homemade granola, smoothie, purple corn pupusas, avocado toast, breakfast burrito and many vegan options. My favorite were the fluffy Huacas pancakes topped with red berry and hibiscus sauce. Most ingredients are sourced locally, which is why they taste fresh and wholesome.

meet locals at Tierra Magnifica
Hob nob with locals from Nosara at Tierra Magnifica’s July 4th BBQ party!

We returned to Huacas for dinner on many of the evening, for a chef tasting with Chef Paulo Valerios, and to celebrate Fourth of July with the owner’s family and other friendly Americans who live in Nosara. There was a BBQ party and live music that evening, but you can find themed nights (sushi, taco, etc.), wine paired events, and other festivities at Tierra Magnifica through the year.

Swim and Surf in The Pacific

Nosara is an emerging surfing capital in Costa Rica. It is common to see dozens of surf shops and surfing schools around town. Many travelers book a week-long trip to Nosara with the sole purpose of learning to surf. Probably the best part about surfing in Nosara is the long stretch of beaches with consistent waves and few crowds. There are no umbrellas and beach chairs here. You will need to walk through shrubs and sand to go for a swim or surf in the sea. This helps preserve the natural beauty of the place and doesn’t disturb the flora and fauna as much.

Guests at Tierra Magnifica Resort enjoy unlimited complimentary access to the posh Beach Club at The Gilded Iguana. Here you can get lockers, towels, and showers. There’s also games, TV’s and an open air cafe where you can enjoy coffee and snacks after your surf.

local beach in Nosara
Must watch the sunset at Playa Paladas.

The most popular beaches are Playa Pelada and Guiones, though the best kept local secret is Nosara beach. The most pristine beach was Playa Garza. It has blue water, white sand, and a handful of village homes. Sunset at Playa Pelada is a must! This is where most locals gather with their families, friends and dogs in the evenings.

zip line Costa Rica
Fly through the world’s longest canopies.

Zip Line The Highest and Longest Canopies

I have been zip lining all over the world, but the zip lining adventure in Nosara is the most unique. Miss Sky is the longest Canopy Tour in the world traversing over 11 km or 7 miles. You definitely feel how long the lines are and there are 21 of them! Also, they are situated in a way that you don’t have to climb trees or ladders. The lines are located on ground. But you will be taken on a military vehicle to the top of the forest. Then you will need to hike for a short time, but it’s worth the effort. Zip lining above lush green valleys, rivers, and waterfalls felt like I was flying in the sky. The guides do a great job of guiding you through and even taking photos for you.

The the zip lining in Nosara is an adrenaline junkies dream come true. But it is safe and enjoyable for all ages. I saw kids as young as 5 years old having a great time doing it!

nesting turtles costa rica
This is the closest you will get to see turtles in the wild.

Watch Nesting Sea Turtles

If you happen to be in Nosara right before a new moon, make sure to watch one of the largest turtle nesting and hatchings in the world. Thousands of Olive Ridley turtles lay their eggs at Ostional Beach each year. You can book a tour with a local guide to see them at daybreak or sunset. We did an evening tour where we walked on the beach in pitch darkness, with only an infrared torch. We saw giant turtles swim up from the sea, dig holes in the sand, and lay 100 eggs at a time. The mother turtles covered the nests with sand and returned back to the Pacific Ocean, to never see their hatchlings again. Only a fraction of the eggs survive. It is a surreal experience to see these magnificent creature out in the wild!

The local tour guides from Ostional Wildlife Refuge escort people in small groups, and educate them about the turtles. Most of the turtles that come to nest near Nosara are the Olive Ridley sea turtles, but you can also see leatherback and pacific green turtles during certain months. There may be up to 500,000 turtles covering the entire beach, allowing no room for humans to walk.

water sports with locals
Paddle board with locals from Experience Nosara.

Kayak Responsibly

There are lots of outdoor activities in Nosara. You can horseback ride, paddle board, bird watch, sport fish, scuba dive, and mountain bike.

Book the tours through independent local operators. Costa Rican (or Ticos) generally pride themselves in taking care of the land, while giving visitors a good experience. We did a kayaking tour with Rio from Experience Nosara. His family has lived in Nosara for over 300 years. Many of his family members lived up to be centurions. Rio says that the secret to their longevity is staying active, being outdoors, eating local, and having a good social life.

Like many local businesses, Experience Nosara promotes ecotourism by organizing guided activities in a responsible way. You can enjoy a day kayaking or paddle boarding on the rivers and oceans of Nosara, but make sure to respect the environment as well. Some of things visitors can do are – pick up trash, not touch the trees/ branches (as they may have delicate nests), and not interact (feed, touch, take selfies) with wildlife.

What To Expect While On Dental Tourism in Costa Rica

Getting your tooth pulled or having oral surgery while on vacation is something that you may have not ever thought about. But with increased costs of quality healthcare, more Americans are traveling abroad for dental tourism. In the past few months, I needed some very expensive dental procedures, which sent me researching for the best places in the world for dental work.

After looking at Croatia (best quality) and Mexico (cheapest), I settled on Costa Rica. I spoke to several friends from the U.S. who had traveled to Costa Rica for dental tourism about the experiences they had. They gave me referrals to dental groups in the capital of San Jose, and I consulted with the dentists virtually.

Read my piece on Costa Rica in TIME Magazine

Dental tourism has become commonplace lately, though not everyone is comfortable with the idea, or knows how to navigate the process. Here are some personal accounts and tips so you will know what to expect while on dental tourism in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica central valley
Take a road trip around Costa Rica with Adobe Rent a Car

Why Go Abroad for Dental?

There are several advantages to getting your dental procedures done outside the U.S. The first and most obvious one is – cost. Dentists in the U.S. charge three times those in Costa Rica, and five times those in Croatia. Moreover, the best dental insurance is usually capped at $2,000 per person annually. This means if you have healthy teeth and require nothing more than twice a year cleaning, check up, x-rays and an occasional filling, the rest of the charges will come out of your own pocket. In my case, I needed 2 implants and 5 crowns, which would have costed over $20,000 in Atlanta. That’s the price of a new car!

When you go to a dentist in Costa Rica, they also help you file your dental insurance claim, so you can still your U.S. insurance money towards a more affordable treatment.

Secondly, the dental clinics in Costa Rica are set up in a way that all the specialists are located in one physical office. This means, you don’t have to run across different parts of town to meet with endodontics, oral surgeons, general dentistry, lab folks, etc. There are 12 kinds of dental specialists and I have been to practically all of them at some point! In my experience, the hassle of obtaining referrals, scheduling appointments, driving, waiting and transferring results (that are never actually discussed between the different specialists), causes intensified toothache.

Thirdly, the level of care and attention you get abroad is far superior to that in the U.S. When I visit my general dentist at home, she sees me for hardly 2 minutes, if at all. It is usually the assistants who do the initial consultation with the patient and reports to the dentist. But in Costa Rica, my dentist spent 3 whole hours with me on my first consultative day. He took 3D scans and x-rays, brought in his counterparts, discussed all possible options, and wrote out a plan for the next 6 months. The staff was not rushing out to see their next patient. During each visit, they always waited for me to think of questions, feel my bite, and be comfortable before walking out of the office.

dental clinic costa rica
Sunset view from my dental chair in Costa Rica

Cost vs Benefit

Yes there are additional costs involved in traveling abroad. You need to pay for flights, hotel room, food, sightseeing, etc. My dental office in Costa Rica partnered with local hotels and apart-hotels (with kitchens), offering discounted price to their patients. They also provided free airport transfers and a private car with driver for daily transport to and from the clinic. All in all, even after accounting for the travel expenses, my dental procedures came out to be less than what I would have spent at home. And I honestly enjoyed not having to drive myself back home after having surgery.

Before making a decision to travel abroad for dental tourism, you will need to consider your personal situation. How much work do you need to have done? Can you combine several pending procedures in 1-2 visits, that justify the additional travel expense?

How Long Do Dental Implants Take

For implants, you would need to travel to Costa Rica twice. Your first trip should last about 5 business days where you will have consultation, surgery and placing of the implants. After 6 months, you will need to go back for implant reveal and permanent teeth replacement. Though the procedure is less invasive during the second visit, you will need to be in the country for around 10 days, allowing a few free days in between for lab work.

The dentists in Atlanta do extraction and implant surgery only under general anesthesia, but the ones in Costa Rica do not recommend this unless you really want it. This makes recovery time faster and less painful. I had no pain during my hour long implant surgery and the only discomfort was from the medications (anti inflammation, antibiotics).

coffee farm
Relaxing at Hacienda Alsacia Starbucks Coffee Farm

What About Travel and Recovery?

Some people are concerned about being far from the comforts of home, while they may be undergoing pain and discomfort. You may not have your friends or family members to check in on while you are experiencing dental tourism in Costa Rica. The grocery stores abroad may not have your favorite soups or ice cream flavors. And language may also be a barrier. But, not having to clean your room or do your dishes is also nice.

I did take these points into consideration when booking my trip to Costa Rica and planned my two visits in a certain way, that I had the right environment and food to recover.

dental tourism
Goodness Dental clinic in Costa Rica

Find a Really Good Dental Clinic

After consulting with a couple of dentists in Costa Rica, I decided to go with Goodness Dental. Their customer service was spot on right from the start. The patient coordinator, Dr. Carlos Fiorito called me back right away and even answered calls on Sundays. He answered all my questions regarding materials, equipment, insurance paperwork, accommodations, timeline, etc. He looked at my reports via emails and assured me that the experts at the clinic would provide the best possible health plan.

The clinic was located away from downtown San Jose, in a more upscale residential area. It was very clean, the equipment was modern and the staff friendly.

Each day, the receptionist would send me a text via WhatsApp to remind me of my appointment time and send a driver to pick me up from the hotel. Before I entered the clinic, I was asked to wash my hands and wear a face mask. My temperature was also checked daily.

In the lobby, 99% of the patients were young and old Americans and Canadians. We all shared stories about why we came to Costa Rica, what to expect post surgery, and travel tips around the country. The office provided free WiFi, soft drinks, made to order cappuccino and even ice cream! Medications and ice packs were delivered right to the office, so you didn’t even have to stop by the pharmacy.

hotel alta
Garden restaurant at Hotel Alta Las Palomas

Stay at a Peaceful Place

Though San Jose is a busy city, there are residential neighborhoods that are very quiet and scenic. I stayed at boutique Hotel Alta Las Palomas, nestled in the hills of Santa Ana. The spacious corner suite had a separate living room, master bedroom, bathroom, walk in closet, and a balcony with a stunning view. Because of its elevated location, the area is much cooler than the rest of Costa Rica. I visited in December and July. During both months, it was pleasant to sit outside any time of the day, while listening to tropical birds chirping.

There were lots of cozy spaces around the hotel to sit and read – including a library, garden with water feature and swimming pool surrounded by mango trees. The Spanish style architecture and photographs of coffee farmers are also worth checking out.

dining in costa rica
La Luz dining room

The food at Hotel Alta was some of the best I had in Costa Rica. Their award-winning restaurant – La Luz, served a huge a la carte breakfast (included with stay) of fresh fruits, juice, coffee, and entree. My favorite was the typico with scrambled eggs, rice, beans, plantains and tacos. They accommodated my dietary requests with a friendly smile (for the days I was on soft foods). My schedule included eating a hearty breakfast overlooking the gardens and valley. Then I was driven to the dental clinic, where I spent a few hours. In the afternoon, I rested and read, and in the evening, I went out for a stroll and dinner.

Animal Refuge in San Jose

Relax Near The City

During my first dental visit to Costa Rica, I had implant surgery and needed to rest. So, I did not plan for any big exertions for a few days. Toward the end of the week, I walked through Refugio Animal de Costa Rica, a wildlife sanctuary, located next door to Hotel Alta. There, I enjoyed learning about Costa Rica’s native capuchin monkeys, toucans and crocodiles. Those cute faces make you smile!

Nearby, I visited Multiplex (largest mall in central America), and the urban mixed use Avenida Escazú, with upscale restaurants, cinema and a park. In San Jose, I took a guided walking tour of the city, to explore the many markets, French neighborhoods, Spanish squares and architectural sites. In my downtown, I learned about the country’s history, economy and food culture.

waterfall gardens
La Paz Waterfall and Gardens

For a fun day trip, visit Poás volcano, Peace lodge garden and la Paz waterfall, and Hacienda Alsacia Starbucks Coffee in the Central Valley. This is a beautiful area of Costa Rica located only an hour from the city. You can book a private car with guide and driver directly through the hotel.

Take a Break in Costa Rica

If you are comfortable driving in Costa Rica, rent a car through locally owned and operated, Adobe Rent a Car. Driving allows you the flexibility of exploring the countryside and stopping at local highway restaurants, known as sodas. They have the largest fleet of car rentals in Costa Rica at very affordable prices. Their friendly representative delivered an automatic four-wheel drive to me, right at my hotel and picked it up too. The car was clean, serviced, and all the paperwork (including insurance coverage) well accounted for.

nosara beach
Sunset at Playa Peladas in Nosara

During the lab waiting period (around 4-5 days), we drove from San Jose to Nosara for a beach and jungle getaway. Located in the northwest part of the country, in the Blue Zone, Nosara has recently emerged as an expat destination. You will find million dollar homes, yoga studios, international restaurants, as well as local beaches and rustic jungles. More on that in my next post.

If you would like to experience dental tourism in Costa Rica, Go Eat Give can arrange your trip. Feel free to reach out to me: info at goeatgive dot com.