What to See on the Nicoya Peninsula: 7 Best Destinations
Atop or near the top of the, “what to see in Costa Rica,” list is the Nicoya Peninsula.
Development on the Nicoya Peninsula has been conscientious and unobtrusive. Its natural wonders are unique, even for Costa Rica. And, in one of the two safest countries in Latin America, the Nicoya Peninsula is the region in Costa Rica with the lowest crime rate. Part of the reason being, the Nicoya Peninsula is the most affluent region of the “Rich Coast” country. Tom Brady owns property on the Nicoya Peninsula. MJ and Shaq have homes on the Nicoya Peninsula as well. Mel Gibson unloaded his “Costa Rican jungle estate,” for close to $30 million in 2018.
But, that does not mean there isn’t room for the modestly rich and travelers stretching their budget to vacation in Costa Rica! Though the price of food, lodging, and activities on the Nicoya are higher than anywhere else in the country, it’s money well spent.
The following destinations are the top 7 things to see on the Nicoya Peninsula.
- Playa Flamingo
- Playa Hermosa
The list begins with destinations at the southeast of the peninsula, moves across to the southwest, and up the Pacific Coast to the mainland.***
It is an aesthetic and undisturbed paradise.
Located on the southeastern end of the Nicoya Peninsula, the town has spectacular views both along the coast as well as inland.
Visually stunning, the ecosystems around Montezuma are still relatively intact. In addition to great views of beautiful terrain, there is a plethora of wildlife around Montezuma.
To the south of town is the beach.
At the northeast end of the beach, a trail wanders off into the jungle along the coast past several beach coves. Walk far enough, and you will end up at Playa Grande. Another trail heading northwest from town leads to the Montezuma Waterfalls. There, you can swim in a deep pool under a cascading fall that spills down the face of a cliff.
From town, you can also hike through the Romelia Wildlife Reserve. There, you can observe sea turtles laying eggs during the nesting season.
Two things to remember about Montezuma, the beaches are rocky and, again, it is on the southeast side of the Nicoya Peninsula. The coves and inlets are sandy, but the beaches and points do not have the soft sand you might be expecting. And, you can not watch the sunset over the ocean in Montezuma.
But, if you are going out of your way to visit the Nicoya Peninsula, it should be on your list of stops.
And still be in Costa Rica, Malpais is the farthest a person can get away from the mainland, save a few territorial islands.
Malpais is on the southwestern side of the Nicoya Peninsula. Malpais — spelled “Mal Pais” in Spanish and meaning bad country — is the antithesis of bad. Practically everything in Malpais is extraordinarily beautiful, clean, and safe.
To the west of town is the Pacific Ocean.
To the south of Malpais is the Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve. The Cueva Murcielagos (Bat Cave) Wildlife Reserve is also to the south. If you head to the east on the main road from Malpais, there are several trails heading into the forest. The lowland jungle around Malpais is littered with gorgeous waterfall hikes.
The Montezuma Waterfalls are about halfway between Malpais and Montezuma.
Known as a world-renowned yoga mecha, there are dozens of studios and yoga resorts in and around Malpais. And, if you are looking for the best resorts, hotels, and bed and breakfasts in Costa Rica, more than its fair share of them are in Mal Pais. The very rich on properties and homes in Malpais. Illustrating the level of affluence in Malpais, it’s where Tom Brady has his luxury home.
The nature lover will find more to do in Samara than almost any other destination on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Playa Samara, the beach, is in a semi-protected bay with a backdrop of palm trees. In the bay, there is a live coral reef that offers both scuba diving and snorkeling. There is also a small island at the south end of the bay, Chora Island, On Chora Island is a wildlife reserve.
West from Samara, it is a short drive to four different beaches. The closest to the town of Samara is Playa Buena Vista. There, sea turtles nest. In addition to the beach, Playa Buena Vista also includes a large estuary that is ripe with wildlife and wetland waterfowl. Playa Barrigona and Playa Barco Quebrado are both long, wide beaches in protected coves.
Farthest to the west is Playa Garza. A popular beach for photographers, Playa Garza offers both seclusion and space.
Nosara is up the coast to the northwest of Montezuma, Mal Pais, and Nosara.
The geography of Nosara includes long stretches of soft black-sand beaches, an estuary, beautiful waves rolling up on shore that seem to begin miles out, and the turtle nesting grounds of Ostional Wildlife Refuge.
The beaches west of Nosara are more than a half a mile from the main road. That means they are peaceful and quiet, devoid of the modern sights and sounds that haunt many of Costa Rica’s beaches.
In a single morning, you can walk south on the three-mile-long Nosara Beach to Playa Pelada and continue on to Playa Guiones then all the way to Playa Bote. The town of Nosara is nestled on a bluff above the beach.
The views down over the ocean make Nosara one of the most stunning places to see in Costa Rica.
And, while it does not pertain to the aesthetics of the are, “Nosara, Costa Rica’s Guiones Beach [is] Considered World’s Top Surf Break.”
If beaches-for-days is your idea of paradise, visit Nosara.
North of Nosara, Tamarindo should be toward the top of your list of places to see on the Nicoya Peninsula.
The town is quaint and classy. With respect to aesthetics, Tamarindo Beach is in the discussion of most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. And, gorgeous views surround Tamarindo.
The estuary north of the beach, Estero de Playa Grande, is the biggest on the Nicoya Peninsula. Just north of the estuary is Playa Grande, another of the must-see beaches on the shortlist of best beaches in Costa Rica. South of both the town and the beach is Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, Leatherback Sea Turtle National Park Marine.
Within sight of the beach is Isla Capitan, a small island just off the coast. Isla Capitan is close enough to paddle board or sea kayak to and the snorkeling around it is spectacular.
6. Playa Flamingo
The class and quality of the town of Flamingo set it apart, even in relation to other beach/resort towns on the Nicoya Peninsula. Flamingo looks more like a resort town you would find on the Coast of Miami than what you would expect in Latin America.
But, it is the geography of Flamingo that makes it unique. From the mainland, the town reaches out onto a large point. On the south shore of the mini-peninsula is Flamingo Beach. On the north side is a marina. A few hundred yards off the end of the point is Isla Plata, Silver Island.
Be aware, a great deal of the property around Playa Flamingo is private.
So, if you want to enjoy all it has to offer, make certain to book reservations at one of the resorts or hotels. The more selective you are, the more you can enjoy everything Flamingo has to offer.
7. Playa Hermosa
There are several Playa Hermosas in Costa Rica, but when people are raving about the Playa Hermosa, they’re talking about the one in Guanacaste.
There are very few Pacific beaches in the Americas that compare to Costa Rica’s Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste.
“Beautiful Beach,” in Spanish, Playa Hermosa should be on every list of the most visually stunning beach on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Soft, cream-colored sand; Pacific-blue water; a beach that stretches for over a mile; and an intact background of desert-tropics foliage, make Playa Hermosa second to none.
Unlike many of the private properties that limit access to some of the more beautiful features on the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula, most of Playa Hermosa is available to everyone.
To be fair, there are dozens of beautiful beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula. This is just a short list.