As a peninsular situated on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, with rainforest-covered mountains descending onto pearly white beaches that overlook blindingly clear waters, Nicoya Peninsula is about as close as you’ll come to paradise on Earth. Add to that a sense of isolation as the Gulf of Nicoya and the Tempisque estuary cut it off from the rest of Costa Rica, along with a changeable landscape, and you’ve got a spot that lends itself to complete relaxation and escapism from the rest of the world.
Thanks to its diverse terrain, the Nicoya Peninsula has become known for having the best beaches in Costa Rica and a warm climate most of the year. Its diversity continues as the western coastline faces the Pacific coast, while a small stretch looks towards mainland Costa Rica and the Gulf of Nicoya. And that’s not all; the peninsula links two provinces – the northern Guanacaste Province and the southern Puntarenas Province, which is the departure point for many car ferries.
Guanacaste has arid terrain, from broad dry forests to earthy volcanoes. But for most people, Guanacaste is all about the beaches with tropical surroundings, rocky cliffs, river estuaries and soaring waves that are some of the best for surfing.
Guanacaste has also gained a reputation for eco-tourism; several lodges and hotels have responsible practices with minimal environmental impact, and there are tours offering heart-thumping, knee-buckling and mind-boggling excursions into the deep recesses of the area’s rainforest. You’ll find undisturbed flora and fauna, and tantalisingly close encounters with birdlife from the heights of canopy walkways. Extreme adventures await within the water, too; gallop on horseback over soft sands and through waves, feeling the refreshing spray tickle your skin, or dive deep below the surface, spotting exquisite coral ecosystems, manta rays, lemon-coloured barber fish, and more.
The Puntarenas Province, on the other hand, has Puntarenas – the capital of the area, which stretches along a narrow point of land known as punta de arenas. Due to its coastal position, this is a popular destination amongst locals travelling around Costa Rica, and visitors enjoy learning about the city’s history as an important cargo port and its role as a fishing port today. The city has plenty to adore, including fresh seafood (best seen at the early morning fish market), and the many beaches are ideal for surfing and watching the sunset.
Other areas to consider during your holiday to Costa Rica is the southern region which features grasslands, undulating cattle ranches, and clusters of enormous trees. Here, the beaches are known for their turtles, while the ocean is populated by dolphins. Bahía Ballena (Whale Bay) is another excellent spot where pelicans hunt for fish, while Montezuma is known for its rows of hotels, trendy bars and close proximity to more expansive beaches and dramatic waterfalls.