7 Best Things to Do on the Nicoya Peninsula

Fun Fact: Nicoya is one of the world's five "Blue Zones," an area where locals live noticeably longer and healthier lives.

The Nicoya Peninsula is the perfect off-the-beaten-path escape. Explore Blue Zone living & detox from daily stresses at this international wellness destination. The peninsula is habitually overlooked by many travelers, but those willing to stray from the beaten path will be met with stunning natural landscapes and seclusion. The rugged, mountainous landscape and laid-back lifestyle are ideal for any traveler in need of a little rest and relaxation. Heralded for its magnificent beaches and long dry season with beaming sunshine, the Nicoya Peninsula is 80 miles long averaging about 31 miles wide. Water sports and wellness define much of the character of the area. Separated from the Guanacaste plains in the north by the Gulf of Nicoya, the Nicoya Peninsula is an isolated paradise and water wonderland of eco-epic proportions. The dramatically-sculpted Pacific shoreline is dotted with small bays, inlets, villages, and hidden beaches where nature, the sea, local Ticos, and travelers blend amicably into a lazy, lovely lifestyle.

Explore secluded beaches.

Things to Do on the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Punta Islita

There are six main beach towns on the Nicoya Peninsula: Nosara, Samara, Santa Teresa, Malpais, Cayuba, and Montezuma.

The best beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula are lauded for their seclusion and laid-back ambiance. Some of the region’s beaches have been discovered by surfers who are opening up heretofore hidden sections of gorgeous shoreline. Some of the most well-known beaches include Samara, Montezuma, Malpais, Carmen, Hermosa, and Santa Teresa.  Negotiating the dirt roads can be tricky, but that’s part of the fun and provides harmless yet compelling stories for those back home.

Montezuma Beach

The remote village of Montezuma has gorgeous rainforests, waterfalls, and surrounding beaches. The beach here is extensive, but is rocky and can be a challenge for swimmers. At low tide, travelers can explore and swim in the tide pools. Travelers can also hike in the nearby Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve on the southernmost tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Cabo Blanco has especially beautiful white-sand beaches, nesting grounds for native bird species, and abundant wildlife. For an adventure, check out Montezuma Waterfall south of the town. Hike along a stream past a couple of smaller falls before coming to the upper falls, the real crowd-pleaser. El Chorro is a seaside waterfall that can emerge weather dependent. Five miles north of Montezuma, it’s roughly a 2-hour hike on the beach to reach the waterfall.

Santa Teresa & Malpais

Malpais and Santa Teresa are two little beach towns. Although, Malpais refers to a string of beaches on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula: Malpais, Carmen Beach, Santa Teresa, Hermosa Beach, and Manzanillo Beach. Hermosa Beach and Manzanillo Beach are even more less-frequented. This up-and-coming wellness region is well-known for its incredible surf and laid-back beach vibes.

Samara Beach

Samara Beach wraps around a long horseshoe bay with calm water – perfect for swimming! Kayaking, snorkeling, and sport fishing are also popular off Samara Beach due to its calm waters. The long beach disperses some of the crowds that gather on the weekends for a relatively calm and laid-back beach experience.


Like Malpais, Nosara refers to a string of beaches along the secluded Pacific Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula: Guiones Beach, Pelada Beach, Garza Beach, and Ostional Beach. The town of Nosara is just inland from the beach. Guiones Beach has one of the most dependable surf breaks and is also popular for bodyboarding. Again, the vibe here is laid-back, and yoga and surfing are the sports of choice.

Take a yoga class.

Things to Do on the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Nicoyan towns like Nosara and Mal Pais/Santa Teresa are a favorite among surfers, yogis, and wellness enthusiasts. Even if you aren’t able to squeeze in a week-long yoga retreat, don’t miss the opportunity to take a relaxing morning yoga class with some of the top yogis in the world. No need to be a pro. The vibe here is laid back and the goal is relaxation.

Experience Blue Zone wellness.

Things to Do on the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

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The Nicoya Peninsula is one of five of the world’s “Blue Zones,” an area where locals live measurably longer and healthier lives. This is thanks in part to the stunning natural environment around them. The abundance of nutrient-rich fruits is a staple of the Nicoya blue zone diet and may explain why the region’s cancer rate is the lowest in the country. Spending a week there could do wonders for your mind, body, and soul!

Related: A Costa Rica Blue Zone Retreat Travelogue

Discover Nicoya wildlife.

Things to Do on the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Iguana from Latitude 10 Beach Resort

Travelers appreciate the abundant wildlife that comes to shore and that which swims shallow and deep nearby. The peninsula offers a variety of ecosystems with every opportunity to view nature: monkeys, coatis, sloths, marine turtles, parrots, countless species of birds, iguanas, dolphins, marlins, and manta rays are just a few of the marvelous creatures here to discover. The waters here are beloved for scuba diving and sportfishing, kayaking, boating, and surfing.

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Nesting at Ostional National Wildlife Refuge

Things to Do on the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Ostional Beach turtles from Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort

Ostional Beach within Ostional National Wildlife Refuge is where the remarkable arribada or mass sea turtle nesting of olive ridley sea turtles takes place. The sea turtles come to shore at night generally around a full moon in the thousands. The times of the arribada are a bit difficult to predict so there are no regularly scheduled tours, but don’t forget to ask your hotel if an arribada is happening if you’re staying in the area!


More recently, it has become a popular spot for a “digital detox,” taking a break from the technology that permeates modern life. The lifestyle here is simple, and the area is home to some of the most active, well-nourished, hard-working people on earth.

Spelunking Barra Honda National Park Caves

Barra Honda National Park is 38 miles or 62 kilometers from Samara Beach. The park has an extensive network of caves reaching more than 656 feet or 200 meters deep. The caves hold a number of secrets off-limits to the public like indigenous artifacts and the remains of humans. Only one of the caves, Terciopelo Cave, is available to the public.  Guided tours with equipment are available in the dry season from the end of November through April. The 3-hour tour begins with a 62 ft (19 m) descent into the interior of the cave. Discover the wonders of this limestone cavern: stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, cave grapes, and more.

More Things to Do on the Nicoya Peninsula

  • Surfing
  • Scuba and Snorkeling
  • Hiking

Nicoya Peninsula Travel FAQ:

Dry Season: December-April, Green Season: May-November
Average high 92°F
Bring beachwear and sunscreen!
  • Wild and secluded Beaches
  • Blue Zone
  • Wellness, yoga, and surfing
  • Gulf of Nicoya
  • Ostional National Wildlife Refuge
  • Olive Ridley Sea Turtles Nesting
  • Barra Honda National Park
  • Curu Wildlife Refuge
  • Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve
Many people will fly into either the Tambor or Nosara domestic airport due to the region's remote location. Generally, travelers visiting Montezuma, Malpais, or Santa Teresa will fly into the Tambor domestic airport. Private charter flights also have access to Punta Islita domestic airport.