Nosara is one of the best surf towns in Costa Rica. Its both a beach and town that offers the widest variety surfing options for both families and solo surfers. It also has as a good choice of surf style hotels, restaurants and transportation.
One of the most common questions I get when people ask me about Costa Rica is which town is the best surf towns to base a trip out of? Which side has better surf the east or west coast?
My answer is always the same “It depends.” It depends on the type of break your looking for and who you will be traveling with. However, in the end they always seem to end up at some point in Nosara.
In this article I will go over why Nosara is such a great surf spot and why it should be included on any surf trip to Costa Rica.
Surfing at Nosara Beach
Located on the southern part of the Guanacaste Peninsula the beach town of Nosara has been a popular destination with savvy travelers and well-heeled retirees looking low key but elegant part of Costa Rica to call home.
It is also important to note that Nosara is the principle town in a community of beach villages and that in referring Nosara we are also including the beaches of Guiones, Pelada and Ostional.
There are no enormous resort hotels or large restaurant district (other than Costa Rica dance halls) and the local population of both Ticos and Ex-pats have a long established respect for low profile tourism and wildlife preservation.
Nosara, and the beach communities that comprise the area, are blessed with beautiful beaches that capture a steady but pleasant breeze due to their geographic location.
Being far enough down the Guanacaste Peninsula to escape the fierce Papagayo winds but yet far enough north to avoid the sustained days of rain or overcast skies found in the deep part of the rainy season found to the south.
Those looking to experience on of the last habitats of dry tropical forest left anywhere in the world can find solace and enjoyment in the local reserves, watching howler monkeys play and feed at sunset or witness endless numbers of egg laden sea turtles crawl up the beach in the place where they were once born.
In and near Nosara are some of not only Costa Rica’s but the world finest surfing. Waves for surfer of all levels are a short ride away and offer idyllic backdrops for the perfect session.
Divers and Anglers can find a major continental shelf that drops off hundreds of feet deep, just three miles offshore, offering one the ability to have a an encounter with all means of sea life. Birds and porpoise in the tens of thousands, whales, sailfish, marlin and of course, sea turtles.
Major Surf Breaks in and Around Nosara
Like any other place to surf in Costa Rica, it’s best to get to know the area first, particularly the geography. Nosara itself has 3 major surf breaks, namely Bocas del Nosara, Playa Guiones, and Playa Pelada.
Having three very unique breaks within a small location is pretty good, considering you wouldn’t need to travel far for each one. Each of these surf breaks have their own unique benefits, so it’s possible to find a break that works well for every surfer, regardless of personal preference or skill level.
Bocas del Nosara
The word “bocas” means mouth in Spanish, which in this case, describes the Nosara River’s mouth, which is located on this particular surf break. Rio Nosara drains into the Pacific Ocean in this location and is why Bocas del Nosara is also known as the Nosara Rivermouth. This particular surfing spot is the northernmost of the three surf breaks in Nosara, a little over a kilometer north of Playa Pelada.
If you’re not particularly fond of areas that are a bit crowded, then Bocas del Nosara is pretty much paradise for you. Not many beachgoers go here, either. Unfortunately, the main reason why it’s so uncrowded is because it’s one of the most challenging areas to surf in.
The surf breaks here, much like the surrounding beaches is pretty much the rocky terrain, particularly at the river’s mouth. This rocky terrain is often described to create the best waves in the area. Naturally, this can be a bit dangerous to tackle if you have little experience or skill in surfing.
Playa Guiones has one of the most versatile breaks in Nosara, where surfers of any skill level or experience can enjoy the waves easily enough. This area produces decent waves regardless of whether it’s high tide or low tide. Playa Guiones produces white water waves perfect for beginners, but not farther off, you can also see 14-foot waves that more experienced surfers can enjoy. This makes Playa Guiones a very popular spot amongst surfers.
Naturally, if you don’t like big crowds, you may want to steer clear of this place. Alternatively, you can always visit this section when it’s not peak tourist season. Playa Guiones is popular with non-surfing tourists as well, so if it’s not tourist season, you more or less have the place to yourself.
One good advantage to this are being a popular tourist destination is that there are plenty of hotels, sodas, restaurants and stores, so if you’re in need of anything non-surfing related, everything is pretty much within reach.
This area is the complete opposite of Bocas del Nosara, in that Playa Pelada is very family-friendly. If you’re on vacation with your family, and not visiting Nosara exclusively for surfing, then it’s a good spot. On top of that, it’s not as crowded as Playa Guiones.
This makes Pelada a good middle-ground between Guiones and Bocas del Nosara in terms of crowds, but the surf breaks tend to be easiest of all three.
The surf break here is mainly rocky outcrops topped by reef, though most of the area is sand, making it a good place for novice surfers. If you’re with your family, there are also good places to eat around here once you’re done surfing.
Learning to Surf at Nosara
Being such a popular surfing spot, Nosara also has a good number of places where you can learn how to surf. Of course, if you don’t have the right equipment on you, these surfing schools also offer equipment rentals.
As you might expect, many of these surfing schools are found in the most crowded area of Nosara, namely Playa Guiones. The best part is that these surfing school may offer discounts if it’s not peak tourist season. Here are some of the good schools:
Nosara Tico Surf School
This particular surf school offers a good variety of classes, whether you want a private session, semi-private or a group session. Many of Nosara Tico’s instructors are professional surfers, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. It’s locally-owned, so if you plan on studying surfing here, you’ll be supporting the community.
If you brought kids along with you, Coconut Harry has lessons for children as well as for adults. They also offer private and group lessons. Of course, if you’re just looking to rent out surfing equipment, they also have a few things to offer, even if you’re not planning on taking lessons.
Nosara Surf Forecast
Getting To and Around Nosara
First of all I would highly recommend that get your flights into Liberia instead of San Jose as its a lot closer and the road from Liberia to Nosara is well paved. From Liberia to Nosara is about a 3 hour drive and pretty straight forward.
From San Jose its technically about a 5 hour drive but that is a generous number as there are a lot of factors involved that will slow you up from San Jose such as slow cars and trucks, general traffic, driving over the mountains etc..
If you’re staying downtown in Nosara and planning to spend a couple days on activities where they’ll pick you and drop you off, you don’t “need” a rental.
However, if you decide once you get there and want a rental, your hotel should be able to help you with that however it may be more expensive then booking ahead of time. Without a car you can arrange for a taxi to other beaches or towns.
Flights to Nosara
Despite its small size the town has been able to maintain regular air service with a frequency better than much larger towns, a testament to the demographic of those that travel there and the small beach “suburbs” it services.
In fact both of Costa Rica’s domestic carriers, Sansa and Nature Air, service Nosara on a daily basis but since the number of seats available and their schedule means that if you are looking to fly than making plane reservations should be done before or at the same time you book your accommodations.
Since these carriers prevent or discourage strongly via their terms and conditions from you “holding” a seat without purchasing your ticket, you need to take this into consideration when planning for your group as well. This is one of those situations where an experienced and well-connected travel consultant is worth their weight in gold.
Please remember that no matter which air carrier you may use, both have severe restrictions on the amount of luggage you can carry due to weight considerations.
Getting To Nosara by Car
Nosara is also accessible by road, but the condition and distance from San Jose and Liberia has always made Nosara a place you “wanted” to get to as opposed to those located in ore strategic locals.
Nonetheless, if you have the time to relax and take in the beautiful scenery on your trip, having a car at your disposal allows you not only to carry more luggage, but also the chance explore the many named and unnamed beaches found nearby, and at your own pace.
If you decide to rent a car whether before you get there or once you arrive, then get an SUV. Even the tiniest 4WD is preferred to a standard. You’ll want the clearance. You probably won’t need the 4WD unless you get really adventurous.
Time and Temperature in Nosara
Costa Rica and therefore Nosara is in the Central Standard Time zone and it gets dark at about 6 p.m. — every day of the year. Because it is close to the equator, the sun rises about 5:45 a.m. and sets about 5:45 p.m.
If you are driving, try to be at your destination before sunset — road and street signs rarely exist ( but are getting much better) and there are few street lights. Also need to be aware of the people as its common to see them walking along the side of the road.
Many attractions in the Nosara area, especially those with wildlife, open as early as 7 a.m. — so get up and enjoy the day.
The weather in Nosara is tropical — humidity is always high. The busiest time of year there is November through May, when it is generally sunny and hot. Although Nosara is in one of the driest areas of Costa Rica look for it rain from June through October, usually between 3 and 6 p.m. September and October are is the time of year when it is most cloudy and rainy.
Regardless of when you travel to this area, always carry a waterproof jacket, for downpours can occur at any time.