Nicoya Peninsula

10 Off-the-Beat Destinations in the Nicoya Peninsula

May 14, 2024
Carolina Barrientos Carolina Barrientos
10 Off-the-Beat Destinations in the Nicoya Peninsula

Step off the plane and dive into the pages of a lesser-known chapter of Costa Rica at the Nicoya Peninsula.   

Here, every path leads to a story untold, and every shore whispers of adventures hidden just beyond the mainstream. You’re in the right place if you thrive on discovering the unexpected.  

This isn’t just about adding destinations to your itinerary; it’s about enriching your travel experience by connecting with the essence of untamed nature and the rhythms of local life. We’re not just visiting—we’re connecting, learning, and uncovering the secret spots that elevate a simple holiday to a journey of discovery.  

Let’s explore ten hidden gems that promise a different kind of Nicoya. 

1. Playa San Miguel 

Often overshadowed by its more frequented neighbors, Playa San Miguel offers a serene escape where miles of sandy coastline stretch seemingly into infinity.  

Here, the beach remains largely untouched by the hustle of tourist crowds, making it a perfect spot for those seeking solitude or a quiet picnic by the sea. The gentle surf is ideal for swimming and sunbathing, and you might find yourself sharing the view with only the occasional fisherman or roaming horse. 

For avid surfers, discover other best surfing spots in the Nicoya Peninsula that promise thrilling waves and scenic backdrops. 

  • Location: Southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula 
  • Best Things to Do: Long beach walks, horseback riding, surfing, relaxation, and photography.  
  • Best Time to Visit: Dry season (December to April) 
Nicoya Peninsula Costa RIca

2. Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve 

As the first protected area in Costa Rica, Cabo Blanco is a testament to the country’s dedication to conservation. This nature reserve is a paradise for nature lovers and hikers, featuring trails that meander through lush forests teeming with diverse wildlife, from howler monkeys to hundreds of bird species.  

Its remote beauty offers a deep dive into the ecosystem of the peninsula, with both challenging and more accessible trails leading to breathtaking views and hidden beaches. 

Delve deeper into the ecological wonders of the region by exploring other national parks and wildlife reserves in the Nicoya Peninsula. 

  • Location: Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula 
  • Best Things to Do: Hiking, bird watching, and exploring secluded beaches 
  • Best Time to Visit: Dry season (December to April) 

3. Montezuma Waterfalls 

These waterfalls are a spectacular sight, a trio of cascades hidden within the rich jungles near Montezuma village. The journey to the falls is an adventure in itself, involving a hike through the woods and sometimes a swim across a river.  

The largest of the three falls plunges from over 80 feet into a crystal-clear pool below, inviting a refreshing swim in its calm waters. The area around the waterfalls offers plenty of spots for relaxing and picnicking in a truly idyllic setting. 

Check out our guide to the top adventure activities to enjoy at the Nicoya Peninsula for more adrenaline-pumping activities to enjoy during your waterfall visit.  

  • Location: Near the town of Montezuma 
  • Best Things to Do: Swimming, cliff jumping, and hiking 
  • Best Time to Visit: Early wet season (May to July) 

4. Playa Barrigona 

Secluded and scenic, Playa Barrigona is enveloped by lush forests and boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the area.  

Accessible via a rough dirt road, the journey to Playa Barrigona is part of its charm, ensuring it remains uncrowded and pristine. The white sand and turquoise waters create a stunning natural palette, while the waves offer excellent opportunities for surfing in solitude.  

It’s a hidden gem that rewards those willing to venture off the main path. 

  • Location: North of Samara 
  • Best Things to Do: Surfing, picnicking, and enjoying the serenity 
  • Best Time to Visit: Dry season (December to April) 

5. Karen Mogensen Reserve 

Named after a pioneer of Costa Rican environmentalism, the Karen Mogensen Reserve is a sanctuary for wildlife and a haven for eco-tourists. 

This reserve features a trail network that leads through evergreen forests and past pristine streams. One of the highlights is a visit to the enchanting Velo de Novia, a 90-meter waterfall that cascades into a tranquil pool, perfect for a cooling dip after a hike.  

It’s an ideal spot for bird watching, nature photography, and experiencing the tranquility of untouched nature. 

To understand the historical and cultural context that shapes this reserve and others like it, read more about the rich history and architecture of the Nicoya Peninsula. 

  • Location: Near Jicaral, interior of the Nicoya Peninsula 
  • Best Things to Do: Hiking, wildlife watching, and visiting Velo de Novia Waterfall 
  • Best Time to Visit: Dry season 
Nicoya Costa Rica

6. Playa Coyote  

Playa Coyote is a serene and expansive beach, ideal for those looking to escape the more tourist-heavy areas. Its vast, sandy shores and gentle waves make it perfect for surfing, relaxing, and beach walks.  

The beach is also a key site for sea turtle nesting, offering visitors a unique opportunity to witness nature in action. 

If you’re interested in more surfing locations, learn about other amazing surfing spots in the Nicoya Peninsula. 

  • Location: Central part of the Nicoya Peninsula 
  • Best Things to Do: Surfing, relaxing on the beach, and watching sea turtle nesting 
  • Best Time to Visit: December to April for beach activities; July to November for turtle nesting 

7. Nosara Biological Reserve  

The Nosara Biological Reserve is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers.  

This ecological wonder is known for its rich biodiversity. It features a variety of ecosystems, including mangrove swamps and secondary forests, which are ideal for bird watching and exploring on foot or by kayak. 

Complement your nature exploration with culinary delights by checking out our food lover’s guide. 

  • Location: Near Nosara, known for its yoga retreats and expat community 
  • Best Things to Do: Bird watching, guided nature walks, and kayaking in mangrove swamps 
  • Best Time to Visit: Dry season (December to April) for easier trail access and wildlife observation 

8. Isla de Chira  

Isla de Chira is the largest island in the Gulf of Nicoya, offering a glimpse into the traditional lifestyles of its inhabitants. Visitors can engage with local communities, learn about sustainable fishing practices, and enjoy the island’s natural beauty. 

Discover more popular and breathtaking places to visit in the Nicoya Peninsula, ensuring your itinerary is packed with the best the region has to offer. 

  • Location: Largest island in the Gulf of Nicoya 
  • Best Things to Do: Engaging with local communities, bird watching, and fishing 
  • Best Time to Visit: Dry season (December to April) when access by boat is more reliable 

9. Guaitil Pottery Village  

Guaitil Pottery Village is renowned for its traditional Chorotega pottery, made using indigenous techniques and materials. Visitors can watch artisans at work, learn about the cultural significance of their crafts, and purchase unique handmade items. 

  • Location: Near the town of Santa Cruz on the Nicoya Peninsula 
  • Best Things to Do: Observe pottery making, learn about Chorotega culture, and purchase ceramic souvenirs.  
  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round, with the dry season preferred for travel comfort 

10. Ostional Wildlife Refuge  

Ostional Wildlife Refuge is one of the world’s most important nesting sites for olive ridley turtles. During certain times of the year, visitors can witness the arribada, a mass nesting phenomenon, and efforts to protect turtle nests and hatchlings. 

  • Location: Along the western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula 
  • Best Things to Do: Watching turtle nesting, guided wildlife tours, and participating in conservation activities 
  • Best Time to Visit: Peak turtle nesting season from July to December 

Key Factors for Your Nicoya Peninsula Adventure 

Planning your adventure to the Nicoya Peninsula? Explore beyond the well-trodden paths and discover hidden gems in this captivating region.  

Whether seeking secluded beaches, lush forests, or authentic cultural experiences, these tips will guide you to off-the-beaten-track destinations that promise unforgettable memories. 

  1. Choose quieter times outside of New Year and Easter week for smoother travel with fewer people on the roads. 
  1. Check holidays and when locals take vacation to plan your trip better. You can avoid crowded times or choose them for a more peaceful journey. 
  1. If you don’t like rain, avoid September to November. But if you’re okay with some rain, you can visit Costa Rica anytime. 
  1. Travel between May and August for better prices, and even though it might rain a bit at night, the days are usually sunny and great for exploring. 
  1. In July, you get two weeks of sunny days called “The Veranillo de San Juan,” perfect for outdoor adventures. 
Nicoya Peninsula

Unwind in Luxury Amidst the Blue Zone of Costa Rica  

After days filled with the rustic charm and natural wonders of the Nicoya Peninsula’s hidden treasures, imagine retreating each evening to the sumptuous comfort of an all-inclusive villa in Costa Rica. Here, you can unwind in a serene environment tailored to enhance your rejuvenation. Whether sipping a freshly made cocktail by the infinity pool or relaxing in a spa-like bathroom, luxury villas can ensure that every moment of your stay is as extraordinary as your adventurous days.

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