Nosara, a Pacific coastal town in Costa Rica's Guanacaste region, is blessed with stunning natural beauty unlike anywhere else on earth. Its astonishing biodiversity, friendly people, tropical climate, world class surf, verdant jungle and white sand beaches make it the perfect spot for relaxation, recreation and rejuvenation.
Nosara's beaches are ranked among the top 10 most scenic in all of Central America, and the town itself was recently voted by National Geographic one of the top 20 surf destinations in the world. The area is one of only a few "blue zones" on Earth, where people regularly live to be over 100 years old.
The area is also hot, humid and rugged, with a lot of dirt roads and fewer conveniences than you're probably used to. It's wet in rainy season, dusty in dry season and has insects all year round. To enjoy yourself here you must willingly and joyfully embrace everything that Nosara is, and everything that it isn't. If you can do that, you'll love it. Pura Vida!
Visitors to Nosara should fly to Liberia International Airport (LIR), which is approximately 2.5 hours from the retreat location.
Southwest and United both have convenient, reasonably priced flights to Liberia. Please be sure to book a flight that arrives with plenty of time to reach the retreat location before the start time. It's a good idea to insure your flight, in case you need to alter your travel dates or get your ticket refunded in the unlikely event that the retreat is cancelled due to under enrollment, tropical storms or other unforeseeable eventualities.
If you're coming from the U.S., you do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica; a valid passport and return ticket are the only requirements. If you're coming from a location other than the U.S., research entry requirements here: World Travel Guide website.
A variety of shuttle transportation ($55 and up) is available between Liberia and Nosara. Gypsy Cab is a good budget option. Limo Dan also offers airport transportation. It's a good idea to book your airport transfers to and from Nosara ahead of time. Your driver will be waiting for you when you exit the airport in Liberia, and will pick you up at your hotel on the day of your departure.
Rental cars are available both at the airport and in Nosara. If you're going to drive extensively around the area, 4WD is recommended. All major rental companies operate out of Liberia, as do some less expensive local options, such as Solid and Adobe. You are only required to purchase the minimum mandated insurance, but due to sometimes difficult driving conditions full coverage is recommended. Get more information, here.
You can rent a GPS from the rental companies for about $10/day, but Waze and Google Maps work just as well. Beware of Google Maps because it routes based on the shortest distance between points and doesn't always take road conditions into account; i.e., it might send you on goat paths over the mountains. Waze tends to be more reliable in that regard. Have a paper map with you as backup, just in case.
Cabs and tuk-tuks are readily available for transportation in Nosara and the surrounding area, and vary in price depending on the destination and number of passengers. Tuk-tuk drivers tend to have extensive local knowledge and are fun to ride around with. Information here. Rental cars and ATVs are also available locally.
people, food, water, money
Costa Ricans are a friendly bunch--open, fun, active--but you have to engage them to feel the love. Any sign of haughtiness or entitlement and they won't give you the time of day. Smile, try your Spanish, be a thoughtful, thankful guest, and you'll make friends wherever you go.
Typical Costa Rican cuisine centers around the casado: gallo pinto (rice, beans, spices), plantains, small salad, seafood or meat. Fresh fruit--pineapple, banana, papaya, watermelon, mango--accompanies most meals. Due to the tropical climate, vibrantly fresh vegetables can be challenging to find, but they're here if you're willing to shop around. Nosara has lots of restaurants serving all kinds of cuisine from Italian to sushi. All dietary needs and restrictions can be accommodated. See the restaurant list farther down for specific recommendations.
The water in Nosara is some of the purest and cleanest in the country. Gringos can drink it without worry of bacterial infection: brush your teeth, wash your dishes, etc. without worry. That said, the water is very calcium heavy and can negatively affect the unconditioned gut. For short visits, you're probably better off drinking bottled water and slowly introducing tap water until you adjust. During the dry season (November through April), water is in very short supply, so please use it conservatively.
The colon is the monetary unit of Costa Rica. 500 colones equal approximately one U.S. dollar. Both colones and dollars are accepted everywhere. If you buy something in dollars, you will get change in colones. When you go to the ATM you can get cash out in either currency. The ATM at Banco de Costa Rica, next to the gas station, is the place to make withdrawals; the other ATM in town is antiquated and frequently runs out of cash. Credit cards are accepted most everywhere, except for a handful of cash-only restaurants and businesses.
weather, insects, roads
The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica is dryer than the rest of the country and can get hot. Temperatures are typically in the mid eighties and nineties, and sometimes higher. It's humid and muddy in the wet season (May to October) and dusty and windy in the dry season (November to April). Be prepared for tropical conditions, but don't be daunted, because the weather is often sublime in both seasons.
Okay, bugs. They live here, lots of them. This is the jungle. No house or hotel can guard against them completely. Bring your bug spray and muster some entomological curiosity and you'll be fine. Here are some tips to minimize your contact: Don't leave damp clothes on the floor because they'll attract scorpions; check your shoes before you put them on; don't walk barefoot in the jungle.
Roads here can be challenging. After leaving the airport in Liberia you'll be lulled into thinking they're not bad, but then you'll make the turnoff to Nosara and hit the dirt. Nothing is paved except the occasional business-fronting stretch of crumbling asphalt. Expect washboards, potholes, dust, mud, river crossings, etc. And don't wait around for the road crew; it's not coming. Embrace being off the beaten track and you'll love driving here. Expect fresh asphalt and Starbuck's and you might not.
phones, internet, valuables
Cell phone coverage is good around Nosara, but data streaming is slow at 3G. Be sure to check with your provider about your coverage and alter your plan if necessary so you don't get crushed by international fees and data roaming. Some travelers opt to bring a cheap 'unlocked' phone and buy minutes on a SIM card when they get to Costa Rica. Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp are commonly used for texting and wifi calls.
Internet access is widely available at Nosara restaurants, bars, hotels. It also fails frequently due to shoddy infrastructure and unresponsive providers. But even during storms there are usually places where you can get online. Your computer and other electronics and appliances will plug right in; no need for adaptors. Electrical surges are common though, so use a surge protector for anything you leave plugged in.
Unfortunately, petty theft is common in Costa Rica (although violent crime is virtually nonexistent). Take precautions with your electronics and other valuables. Don't leave them in plain view in hotel rooms; lock them up or hide them. Don't leave your phone and wallet unattended in your car or on the beach, especially during busy times like Christmas and Spring Break. Leave jewelry, watches and other bling at home.
what to pack
Here's a list of stuff to remember to pack for a comfortable retreat:
Playa guiones restaurants, etc.
Playa Guiones is the main tourist area and surfing beach. Most of the restaurants, shops, hotels, etc. are located here. This list is by no means comprehensive; you'll find lots of other options as you explore.
Playa pelada restaurants, etc.
Playa Pelada is the beach north of Playa Guiones. This is a mellower, more natural location, with tide pools, white sand, palm trees, fewer tourists. This is the area where our retreat is held.
nosara central restaurants, etc.
A few kilometers inland, Nosara central is the non-tourist town where many local Costa Ricans live. The airport is here, as are the biggest grocery stores and lots of local restaurants, markets, businesses, etc. If you want to immerse in local culture, expat-free, this is the place.