Costa Rica has long been a top destination of travellers from around the globe. It has something for everyone but the reasonably unknown and unspoilt beauty of the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, on the Pacific coast around Santa Teresa, is a hidden gem. It has a growing community of surfers and artisans from all over the world who have decided to make it their home. This has translated into a vibrant and colourful place to explore and chill out, with the perfect combination of a tropical beach town matched with quality restaurants and services.
It is quite a difficult place to get to but once you make the trip from either San Jose or Liberia (and please only travel in a 4x4 in the wet season!), it is very much worth the effort.
Here are my top 5 reasons for adding it to your hit list of places to visit:
1. The beaches are your own. No more worries about other sun worshippers getting too close for comfort on a packed and sweaty beach. The beaches from Mal Pais up to, and especially Manzanillo are huge and people-less. You sometimes feel that you are on your own private beach and this photo shows you exactly what I mean.
Being in the tropics also means that the beaches are surrounded by lush, dense jungle, full of the sounds of howler monkeys and an abundance of huge palm trees. Pick coconuts and drink the fresh and naturally isotonic pipa juice from your hammock – it really is this idyllic. Our beaches recently won Trip Advisor's best beach in Central and South America.
There are rock pools between Manzanillo and Playa Hermosa between mid and low tide. Not only are these tidal pools breathtaking to see, but there are a whole host of little fish to share the experience with. This makes for stunning images for those budding photographers out there and it doesn’t cost a penny. When the tide is high, you wouldn’t even know they were there!
2. Incredible surf. I am not a surfer, but my husband is, so I feel qualified (by association), to write about it. I don’t know if you surf but this is an exceptional place to give it a go. During the dry seasons, the waves on Hermosa beach are consistent and gently rolling, providing the novices out there with sufficient white wash to get the basics covered and practice and practice and practice. During June, July and August, the surf can get quite big and scary or big and fun, dependant on your skill level. Being a surfing town also means that there is no shortage of quality surf instructors – for all ages and all of whom speak at least a few languages proficiently. Lessons cost around $40 - $50 for a two hour session and you can also hire boards from around $10 a day. The beach breaks of Playa Carmen, Mal Pais and Santa Teresa are some of the more consistent in the whole country. Waves all year round. There are also a number of secret point breaks that you might encounter.
3. Yoga. Where there is surf, you will find yoga – and lots of it too. Whether you are into pilates, ashtanga or vinyasa flow, there are some breathtaking places to practise that are extremely reasonably priced. One of the most beautiful I would recommend, is Horizon, Playa Carmen, with inspiring vistas. A favourite and long established yoga teacher for the area is called Nancy Goodfellow. Nancy is based out of Prananar down in Hermosa and can be reached through www.pranamarvillas.com. I have been with some seriously advanced people in her class who have rated Nancy amongst one of the best in the world.
4. The Sunsets. Moving onto something a little less high physical impact, the sunsets here are amazing. Being on the Pacific side of Costa Rica means glorious and never ending glows each evening. The only question is where to watch it each night: do you head up the mountain to Brisas del Mar for spectacular views of the peninsula, scrumptious cocktails and yummy food, head to the beach bar at D&N on Playa Carmen for some chilled out sunset music or simply retire to your beachfront villa or hotel?
5. Wildlife Aplenty. I touched on this earlier, but the Nicoya Peninsula really is haven for travellers looking to be submerged in nature. There are huge iguanas everywhere, white faced and howler monkeys in the trees outside your bedroom window, colourful parrots flying through the air, wonderful nature walks through the Cabo Blanco nature reserve and if you are lucky, you might even get to see baby turtles being released into the sea at Calatus, a 45 minute drive north of Manzanillo.
There are so many more reasons that you should think of coming to Santa Teresa – horse riding, buying freshly caught fish straight off the fishermen at Mal Pais, artisan organic farmers markets on Saturday’s or just slowing down for a few weeks, but for now, I hope that I have given you a taste for the Nicoya Peninsula. Come and enjoy it for yourselves.