Nicoya Peninsula

Costa Rica

Jutting into the Pacific Ocean, the Nicoya Peninsula offers first-rate, beautiful beaches. The Peninsula's jagged and mountainous landscape, in effect, isolates many of the region's small costal towns, strengthening their unique allure and authenticity. Indeed, the sleepy villages that dot Highway 21 perpetuate a compelling laidback attitude, contributing to this region's overall tranquil vibe.

The Nicoya Peninsula is full of natural beauty, and it maintains equally rich biodiversity. Dominated by mountainous terrain, the once volcanic landscape is now sheathed by dry and wet tropical forest. Wildlife lovers delight in what the Nicoya Region has to offer. Its national parks and reserves include: Barra Honda, Marino Las Baulas, Vida Silvestre Curu, and Cabo Blanco.

Tourists seeking the country's coveted coastal scenery also gravitate to the Nicoya Peninsula, where luminous sunlight smiles on the radiant ocean. Within the last decade, a construction boom, fueled by tourism and a high demand for property, has produced many foreigner-owned beachfront properties and businesses. Indeed, in some small towns, visitors may be pressed to find the local Costa Ricans.

The Nicoya Peninsula stretches south, from the beaches of Guanacaste to the top portion of Central Pacific coastline. The Gulf of Nicoya comprises a shallow water body between the peninsula and Costa Rica's mainland. Access to the region is made easy, thanks to the country's modern public transportation services. Almost all destinations are accessible by bus. Ferries from the town of Puntarenas provide transportation between the Peninsula and central mainland. Additionally, Liberia's Daniel Oduber International Airport and several small airstrips in Nosara and Carrillo bring many visitors within short traveling distance of their final destination.

The region's well-paved Highway 21 allows access to all of Nicoya's towns, resorts, beaches, national parks, and reserves. However, most roads leading from the highway to coastal villages are unpaved. Use of a four-wheel drive vehicle is often required, particularly during the rainy season. As a general rule when driving on the Nicoya Peninsula, roads get much worse the further south you travel. Torrential downpours, which have a tendency to wash away roads or simply make rivers of them, often obstruct journeys. Also, some of the region's rivers are still without a bridge, requiring cars to ford them. As hindering as this may seem, it is all part of the Nicoya experience and charm.

Gulf of Nicoya The Gulf of Nicoya (Golfo de Nicoya) lies east of the peninsula. Once mountainous terrain, the Gulf is a fascinating example of Mother Nature at work. Thousands of years ago, a volcanic fault line plunged the land into the sea, and only hilltops remained to form the Gulf's many speckled islands. Today, the aquatic wonderland is a stunning combination of marine habitat and coastal wetlands, dotted by its numerous islands.

The Gulf is made-up of shallow, yet nutrient rich water. It is an ideal habitat for mangroves, a unique tree found that grows in saline conditions along the Gulf's coast. Extensive mangrove forests play an essential role in the Nicoya Peninsula's ecosystem, and consequently, they have been established as protected territory by the Costa Rican government. These contorted, unique mangrove forests create incredible biodiversity found in few places outside of Costa Rica.

In the lower Gulf, by contrast, mangroves and estuaries are less prevalent. The water is deeper, saltier, and devoid of bottom feeders. Fish are more abundant, and the few locals that inhabit gulf islands live largely where they can depend on sustenance from the sea.

Of all the gulf islands, the largest is Isla Chira. It forms a nesting site for many exotic maritime birds including Roseate Spoonbills and other Long-Legged Waders. Vast mangroves and large estuaries support the island's extensive wildlife. The area is certainly off the main drag for tourists, and it offers few accommodations.

The uninhabited Tortuga Islands receive the Gulf's most ecotourism visitors. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities around these islands. The shallow Gulf radiates a transparent aquamarine, ideal for exploring the natural world beneath the water's surface. Private tours of the islands can be arranged from the port-town of Puntarenas. In Puntarenas, large ferries also provide transportation to the southern Nicoya Peninsula, either to Naranjo Beach (Playa Naranjo) or the hamlet of Paquera.

Top Attractions

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Destinations in Nicoya Peninsula

15 destinations



Costa Rica Attractions

Heres a list of Costa Rica's Amazing Sights and Attractions

Attractions
Destinations
Flora Fauna
Flora Fauna
 

Rhinoceros Beetle

 

House Gecko

 

Monkey Tail (Guaba chilillo)

 

Glass Frog

 

Common Basilisk

 

Spectacled Caiman

 

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

 

Leatherback Turtle

 

Fishing Bulldog Bat

 

Scarlet Macaw

 

Long-tailed Hermit

 

Boa Constrictor

 

Olingo

 

Common Dolphin

 

Spiny Green Lizard

 

Leaf-Cutter Ant

 

Puma

 

Blue-jeans Frog or Strawberry Poison-dart Frog

 

Millipede

 

Resplendent Quetzal

 

Monarch Butterfly

 

Magnificent Frigatebird

 

Jaguar

 

Green Page Moth

 

Two-Toed Sloth

 

Fer-de-Lance

 

Green Heron

 

Bare-necked Umbrellabird

 

Turquoise-browed Motmot

 

Agouti

 

Ocelot

 

Bottle-nosed Dolphin

 

Coati

 

Red-Eyed Leaf (Tree) Frog

 

American Crocodile

 

Baird's Tapir

 

Owl Butterfly

 

Tonka Bean Tree

 

Keel-billed Toucan

 

Vampire Bat

 

Humpback Whale

 

Barbachele

 

Spider Monkey

 

Ground Anole

 

Brown Pelican

 

Mantled Howler Monkey

 

Tarantula

 

Army Ant

 

Arboreal Termites

 

Giant Toad or Cane Toad

 

Kinkajou

 

Pacific Spotted Dolphin

 

Golden Orb Weaver

 

Great Green Macaw

 

White-Faced or Capuchin Monkey

 

Glasswing Butterfly

 

Armadillo

 

Pink Shower Tree

 

Stinking Toe Tree

 

White Leadtree

 

Fiery-billed Aracari and Collared Aracari

 

Ice Cream Bean Tree

 

Margay

 

Walking Stick

 

Long-tailed Manakin

 

Tayra

 

Green Turtle

 

Brilliant Forest Frog

 

Assassin Bugs and Kissing Bugs

 

Spanish cedar (Cedrela odorata)

 

Common Tink Frog

 

Zopilota

 

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

 

Narrow-headed Vine Snake

 

Collared Peccary

 

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

 

Oncilla

 

Jaguarundi

 

Orca, Killer Whale

 

Milk Frog

 

Elephant Ear Tree

 

Andiroba

 

Black Ctenosaur

 

Helicopter Damselfly

 

Fin Whale

 

Scorpions

 

Cook

 

Black Witch

 

Squirrel Monkey

 

Three-wattled Bellbird

 

Saman (Samanea saman, aka Albizia saman)

 

Blue Morpho

 

Chestnut-headed Oropendola

 

Violet Sabrewing

 

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

 

Bananaquit

 

Spotted Longwing

 

Three-Toed Sloth

 

Bullet Ant

 

Paca