By Jeff Silverstein
When it comes to winter getaways, I’ve always been partial to places that have a laid back, authentic vibe.
Big hotel chains and cookie cutter resorts just don’t do it for me. I much prefer a place that feels real – where there’s great food, lots of outdoor adventure activities if the spirit moves you, and really cool people.
Nosara, a town famous for its surfing, yoga retreats, and wellness credentials located on the northwest coast of Costa Rica in the Nicoya Peninsula ticks off all those boxes.
I first heard about this laid back surf town six years ago from a buddy of mine who owns a kayaking company on the west coast of B.C. He discovered Nosara years ago, and he has a knack for knowing about places that are off the beaten path.
My wife and I have been several times now, and it never disappoints. It has a laid back energy that is hard to beat, with some of the most beautiful, unspoilt beaches I have ever seen. In a few short years since we started coming here, it has sort of become our happy place that we find ourselves returning to time and time again.
Not only does it have world class beaches and surfing, attracting hardcore surfers from all corners of the globe, but this amazing wellness community has sprung up – no surprise given that it sits in the heart of one of world’s five Blue Zones.
These Blue Zones are communities scattered across the world that have embraced a constellation of things like daily exercise, a strong sense of family and community, and a diet that is largely vegetarian, where people live to a ripe old age.
We got a glimpse of this lifestyle one day on Playa Garza, a protected bay where it’s not uncommon to find yourselves the only ones on the beach. We love it not just for how unspoilt it is, but there are several very cool beachfront restaurants and bars and also happens to be home to Nosara’s local sportfishing fleet. So it’s incredibly picturesque.
With the sun setting over the Pacific and boats bobbing in the water, a huge extended family were having the time of their lives – nieces, nephews, parents, grandparents -all playing soccer on the beach and enjoying the surf.
People here seem to live with intention.
Nosara comes by all these eco-credentials honestly. This tiny Central American country only makes up a fraction of the earth’s surface, yet its home to about five percent of the world’s biodiversity. Its National Parks and Reserves cover about a quarter of its land mass, and it has won accolades the world over for its efforts to protect the environment and manage the impacts of tourism.
When we were last there, we spent a week taking surf lessons, ziplining through the jungle canopy on Costa Rica’s longest zipline, horseback riding on the beach, kayaking the Bocas de Nosara – a river estuary that weaves through pristine tropical mangrove forest and stunning biodiversity – playing tennis on some of the best red clay courts I have every played on, hiking, swimming and of course eating fabulous food.
Oh, and did I mention yoga? Nosara has a rich yoga culture and there’s tons of amazing studios to choose from, all with fabulous teachers offering some very cool classes. The Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort is a relatively new hotel on the scene and has a gorgeous yoga open plan pavilion perched high in the rainforest, as well as a kick-ass gym. And the Blue Spirit, a yoga and meditation retreat centre, is one of the first wellness hotels in Nosara.
The Harmony Healing Centre located in central Guiones has a spacious, open-air jungle studio with a huge variety of classes. And NALU Nosara, a tropical modern fitness studio, has a wide range of classes including Surfer’s Rehab Yoga, Restorative and Yin classes.
The main surf season runs from December to April when there are the most consistent swells. But when it comes to stunning beaches, there’s an embarrassment of riches. Nosara simply has some of the best beaches in the country, and they all offer a slightly different vibe.
The black sand of Playa Ostional, with its strong, hollow waves, is a top-choice for skilled surfers. It’s also home to one of the world’s most important nesting sites for olive ridley sea turtles.
Every year from August through December in the Wildlife Refuge of Ostional a rarely-seen biological wonder unfolds in the rainy season, the week before new moon, where sometimes hundreds of thousands of sea turtles come to this stretch of beach to dig their eggs into the black, volcanic sand.
Playa Nosara has a reef break making it perfect for beginners. And Playa Guiones, with the village of Nosara nearby and its gorgeous white sands, spectacular sunsets and panoramic views is ideal for all levels. And of course Playa Garza which is the quietest beach and a 10 minute drive from town, is less consistent for surfing but great for hanging out.
With a few more months of winter looming, Nosara is looking better than ever!
The good news is getting here is a lot easier than you would think. Air Transat, WestJet and Air Canada all operate direct flights from Toronto to Liberia, the closest major airport. From there you can either rent a car or arrange a ride and make the 2.5 hour drive to Nosara, or take a short 20 minute flight on Sansa, a Cost Rican regional carrier that flies daily from Liberia to Nosara. We’ve done both, and I must say that while the drive is fun, if you can time the Sansa flight right, it’s the way to go.
There’s no shortage of very hip places to stay in Nosara. On our first visit, we rented an amazing house overlooking Playa Garza from Wanderlust Realty who have a curated list of luxury vacation rentals. Visit www.wanderlustrealty.com
Other notable spots include the Bodhi Tree Yoga and Lagarta Lodge, an eco resort perched about the Bocas Nosara with views of the rainforest to one side and the wide expanse of Pacific ocean on the other.
Rent Nosara and Surfing Nosara also have short and long-term rentals of both condos and houses.
Nature Tours Gabriela Naturetoursgabriela.com +506 2682 0925
Miss Sky Canopy Tour missskycanopytour.com
Limo Dan – SUVs, Golf Cart Rentals & Airport Transfers Limodancostarica.com+506 8718 7197
La Luna – Nosara’s most celebrated and romantic restaurant. +506 2682 0122
Peroza – A hip restaurant and event space right on the beach in Playa Garza. Very cool vibe. Great food. +506 8628 2480 Peroza.com
Beach Dog Café – Great coffee and lunch spot steps from the beach! +506-2682 1293
506 Tennis Center – One of the best tennis facilities in all of Costa Rica +506-8836-5811
By Jeff Silverstein