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.

7 trips that put families in close contact with local wildlife

Snorkel with Whale Sharks in Cancun

Fulfill your family’s ultimate once-in-a-lifetime bucket list adventure by taking a dip with whale sharks – the biggest (and most friendly) fish in the world! From May to September, families staying at sister properties CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort and JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa can embark by boat to snorkel alongside these magnificent gentle giants where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico. Though they measure up to 40 feet long and weigh in at 15 tons, whale sharks feed exclusively on plankton and are totally harmless to humans. Added perk: guests at the Cancun Marriott Resorts can check out a GoPro HER04 for the day to capture unbelievable underwater family photo ops.

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Explore the Costa Rican rainforest

For an unforgettable nature-filled vacation, families should head to Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, spread across 900 acres of natural rainforest reserve in Costa Rica’s northern region — an area responsible for 6% of the entire world’s biodiversity. With more than 500 species of local plant and wildlife on property, kiddos just might spot a coatimundis, toucans or howler monkeys. Families can have nearby animal encounters with activities like horseback riding, ziplining through the trees, rainforest tours and more. As an added bonus, the carbon neutral resort offers an eco-friendly environment that teaches kids about sustainability and how to protect the area’s natural resources.

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Swim with sea turtles in Barbados

SUP dude? For an unforgettable animal encounter, families will love Colony Club‘s stand-up paddle board (SUP) and turtle swim excursion. Starting out on the white, warm sands of Barbados’ renowned beach, families will paddle out to The Lone Star Restaurant, one of the local, turtle hangouts, and dive into the crystal blue waters to get up-close-and-personal with the island’s friendliest marine animals – the once-endangered population of hawksbill and leatherback turtles.

 

Hangout with reptiles in Curacao

Situated on a 27 acre plantation of rare natural preserve, the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao offers an island-within-an-island feel with some of the most varied and exotic flora and fauna in the Caribbean. Through the resort’s eco-friendly, locally inspired Camp Arawak program, kids will love the chance to feed the resort’s resident iguanas. Plus, in between watersport adventures like snorkeling and paddleboarding, families can observe hawksbill turtles nesting along the resort’s private beach every July through September.

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TripAdvisor

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Paddleboard with Dolphins in Jupiter, Florida

Hotel guests staying at the oceanfront resort can head to the nearby Blueline Surf & Paddle Co., and work up a sweat navigating the mangroves of the Intracoastal Waterways on a 90-minute paddleboard eco tour, where you might see manatees, dolphins and sea turtles. Complimentary beach cruisers are also available for resort guests to get the heart pumping as they explore the charming, seaside town’s iconic landmarks, including the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and the Loggerhead Marine Life Center.  

Encounter sea lions, blue footed boobies and penguins galore in The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most unique species in the world, and Ecoventura’s fleet of eco-friendly cruises brings families face to face with daily excursions through the archipelago’s diverse islands. From swimming alongside sea lions (and plenty of curious sea lion pups) to watching the Blue Footed Boobies shake their feet in a mating dance, snorkeling with penguins off the islands of Santa Cruz and Isabella. In a destination as pristine and protected as the Galapagos, wildlife wanders freely and fearlessly in the islands, meaning parents and kids are in for the trip of a lifetime.

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Kayak through a bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico

A kayaking tour through the mangrove forrest of the Laguna Grande takes families to a secret hideaway — Fajardo’s bioluminescent bay. A short drive from San Juan, the magical waters are filled with millions of prehistoric organisms that when touched, leave a breathtaking glow in the moonlight. The excursion, organized by the family friendly San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, invites families to learn the history and science behind the twinkling trail in the bio bay while enjoying a ride under the stars.

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Feed alpacas and llamas in Cusco

The colorful city of Cusco and the surrounding Sacred Valley of the Incas is the perfect destination for adventurous families looking for a rich dose of culture. A short drive from the city center, Awana Kancha – a llama, alpaca and vicuña farm — brings families face to face with the region’s most loved furry animals in all shapes and colors. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by the resident animals eagerly awaiting to be fed giant handfuls of grass. The interactive feedings are followed by textile weaving demonstrations by the local women keeping the tradition alive. After a day long day of adventure, families can relax in  the historic JW Marriott El Convento Cusco, a 16th century convent turned hotel whose lobby is frequented by alpacas and llamas.
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~ Contributed by Julia Cavalieri, account coordinator at Diamond PR. Follow Julia on Twitter @diamondpr