On the northwestern edge of Costa Rica, Nicoya Peninsula features a spectacular beach scene attracting young expats who are spoiled for choice with year-round swells and seaside open-air yoga studios. With 10 days to explore the region by four-wheel drive, you’ll base yourself in three quintessential surf towns: Tamarindo, Nosara, and Santa Teresa.

Highlights

  • Wake up with morning yoga and fresh fruit smoothies
  • Ride some of the best waves in Central America (no wetsuit needed)
  • Snorkel a reef in Samara's calm bay
  • Climb a waterfall in the bohemian town of Montezuma
  • Kick back and take part in the peninsula's famous sunsets

Overview

The activities of surfing and yoga complement each other superbly. There is, perhaps, no better place in the world to enjoy this healthy combo than Nicoya Peninsula, where the most popular beach destinations in Costa Rica are found. Set against the Pacific’s consistent and warm waves, this itinerary takes you through Tamarindo, Nosara, and Santa Teresa, and is suitable for surfers of all levels. If this is your first time on a surfboard, it is highly recommended that you take lessons in Tamarindo where a slew of surf camps are based. 

Enjoy the adventure of having your own transportation so you can explore nearby beaches and villages, each with their own laid-back beach lifestyle. Make sure to rent an SUV that is suited for rough terrain — the further south in Nicoya Peninsula, the more rugged the roads. If flying in/out of Liberia isn’t an option, make the slightly longer drive from the capital of San José.

Note: If you're not interested in surfing, no problem! This itinerary suits anyone who enjoys lots of sunshine and beach hopping in a new country.

Overview Map

Brief itinerary

Day Activity Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Liberia; rent SUV Tamarindo
Day 2 Yoga; Playa Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 3 Playa Avellanas; Witch's Rock Tamarindo
Day 4 Playa Negra Nosara
Day 5 Yoga; Playa Guiones Nosara
Day 6 Ostional Wildlife Refuge Nosara
Day 7 Snorkel in Samara Santa Teresa
Day 8 Yoga; Playa Santa Teresa Santa Teresa
Day 9 Hike Montezuma Waterfall Santa Teresa
Day 10 Depart  

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Liberia to Tamarindo

Aerial view of downtown Tamarindo.
Aerial view of downtown Tamarindo.

Welcome to Costa Rica! At Liberia International Airport, you’ll pick up a sturdy SUV to get around the peninsula via occasional dirt roads, especially further south. It takes 90 minutes to get from the airport to Tamarindo on the Pacific coast. Here you’ll find one of Costa Rica's original surf town with dozens of beachfront hotels, restaurants, and bars for the ultimate introduction to Nicoya Peninsula. Locals may tell you Tamarindo is becoming touristy and overdeveloped due to the paved roads (easier access), but its central location in Guanacaste makes it a great base to get to other surf spots in this part of the peninsula. 

If you didn’t bring your own board, the first thing to do is get your hands on a rental at a local surf shop. Then head for the shore. Playa Tamarindo’s lengthy 1.5-mile stretch of beach is active with steady crowds, but it has easy waves to re-initiate your surf legs if it's been awhile. Newbies can sign up for lessons if needed.

Day 2-3: Tamarindo 

Playa Tamarindo.
Finish your day by surfing Playa Tamarindo at sunset. 

Wake up with a yoga sunrise session at one of the local studios and then wander around town, stopping at a cafe for a healthy breakfast. Once you’ve had your fill of the waves at Playa Tamarindo, it’s time to get in the car and explore. A good place to start is Playa Avellana.

A short drive from Tamarindo, this beach a ranks high on the cool scale for being harder to find. There are five surf spots in Avellanas, including a few that cater to intermediate and expert riders like the one nicknamed Little Hawaii, with the biggest waves rolling in during low tide.

Another must-see spot near Tamarindo for hard-core surfers is Witch’s Rock, located in a national park and accessible only by boat. This is a world class break with big, glassy waves that thousands flock to every year, made famous by the movie Endless Summer II. A few miles beyond here is Ollie’s Point, which is a right-hand point break. You’re likely to see other boats in the water, but it’s a big area, so it won’t feel quite as crowded as Witch’s Rock.

Day 4: Tamarindo to Nosara

Warrior pose on the beach.

Today you'll say goodbye to Tamarindo and drive south towards Nosara, stopping at another remote surf spot called Playa Negra. This beach offers hollow right-hand barrels for experienced surfers, while beginners can find a perfect break on a smaller day. Due to the rocky bottom, the best time to catch a wave is during high-tide. Even farther south is Playa Junquillal, a long, uncrowded beach with strong, fast, and consistent waves for experienced surfers. 

The drive to Nosara is along well-paved highways for most of the way until about an hour outside of town when the road turns to rough dirt. This is your base for the next three nights. In addition to its abundance of yoga retreats, Nosara’s miles of unspoiled coast are the main draw. Local laws prohibit construction within 550 feet of the shore, resulting in pristine, undeveloped feel. The town is quite spread out compared to Tamarindo, so you'll be happy to roam around with an SUV exploring gourmet health stores, cafes, spas, and hip restaurants (some with live music) that are tucked into the rainforest, catering to travelers and expats. 

Days 5-6: Nosara 

Consistent waves near Nosara. 

Surfing in Nosara is exciting and varied with one of the most consistent breaks on the planet. Playa Guiones is the area’s popular beach for surfers of all levels. It has a sandy bottom beach break, so when the waves are small, it’s a great place for beginners. When larger swells come in, however, waves here can be quite big and powerful. Another good spot for the more experienced is nearby Playa Pelada, with a nice swell that breaks off the rocky point, making for potentially dangerous conditions for those who are out of their comfort zone.

Start or finish your days in Nosara with yoga at one of the several studios around town. On Saturday afternoons is the weekly farmers' market and day-trips can include visiting the Ostional Wildlife Refuge where sea turtles come to nest their eggs.

Back in Nosara, join the nightly town migration down to the beach for sunset before dinner. 

Day 7: Nosara to Santa Teresa

SUP yoga
Rent a SUP and take advantage of Samara's calm water. 

Say goodbye to Nosara and drive south to the town of Samara before continuing onto Santa Teresa. Samara is another great beach town with a crescent-shaped bay, and due to the calm water, this area is better for stand-up paddle boarding (rentals are available). There's also a coral reef for snorkeling where you can witness tropical fish and stingrays. Have lunch in town and then continue towards Santa Teresa along the rugged path; make sure to prepare for possible river crossings. 

Santa Teresa is the ultimate beach town attracting expats from around the world, especially from the U.S., Scandinavia, and South America. The long gravel road that bumps along the beach is quite the people-watching scene, where transportation options include vintage Land Rovers, ATVs, bicycle cruisers, and skateboards, and everyone seems to be clutching a surfboard or yoga mat. This is where you'll spend the last three nights of the trip, so enjoy the towns funky shops, farm-to-table restaurants, yoga studios, and small boutique hotels either on the beach or up the steep hillside.  

Days 8-9: Santa Teresa

Hike to Montezuma Falls.
Hike up to Montezuma Falls. 

Wake up with morning yoga session at one of the outdoor yoga studios like Pranamar, Florblanca, or Horizon, then have a healthy breakfast at Bakery.

The best surf spots for beginners are Playa Hermosa, north of town, and Playa El Carmen, south of town towards Mal Pais. Directly in front of town is Playa Santa Teresa, where the waves tend to get heavier, faster and steeper with a variety of breaks and swells for more experienced surfers. Suck Rock and La Lora are also legendary surf breaks nearby. 

Take a rest from the waves and drive to Montezuma, a hidden town accessed by heading down a steep hill that ends suddenly at a bohemian village full of dread-locked backpackers. Find the town's hiking entrance to Montezuma Falls and make sure to bring a camera and swimsuit in case you want to jump into the natural pool. Also nearby is Cabo Blanco, the 3000-acre nature reserve with well-maintained trails with exotic birds and mammals. The reserve is closed on Monday and Tuesday to reduce the impact of tourism.

Finish your last day by surfing in Santa Teresa during sunset. Have sushi and mojitos at Koji’s, one of the more popular restaurants in town.

Day 10: Departure

Congregating in Santa Teresa.
Surfers congregating in Playa Santa Teresa. 

Time to say goodbye and return home. Because of Santa Teresa's more remote location, it’s 4-5 hour drive back to Liberia International Airport, so make sure to leave plenty of room for the journey. Better yet, connect onto the next part of your adventure in Costa Rica.