Nosara, Costa Rica Everything You Need to Know. I Mean Everything.
Imagine a small, beautiful beach town surrounded by jungle and wildlife with a peaceful multicultural community and many of the comforts of home. That place, named by National Geographic as one of the top surf towns in the entire world, exists. It is called Nosara.
Expats who live in Nosara will tell you there is no better place on earth.
One need only walk down the remote and dusty roads of Playa Guiones, pop into an organic café, take a class in one of the many exceptional yoga studios, visit some of Costa Rica’s best real estate, surf the clean consistent waves, or watch a stunning sunset to understand why.
With a strong expat community, excellent international academies for kids, and accessible health food Nosara has many of the luxuries and comforts of home tucked into a small Costa Rican beach town surrounded by nature. Many consider it the perfect place to relocate abroad.
Nosara is famous for its surf and world-renowned yoga, and arguably put Costa Rica on the map as a yoga retreat destination. This strong surf and yoga culture has brought sophisticated health conscious expats from all over the world.
For decades local associations have kept the beaches clean and the surrounding protected national parks and forest relatively undeveloped. It has the cleanest water table in all of Costa Rica, with clean ocean water and no dumping of gray or black water into the streams or beaches. It is one of the few coastal towns that lacks nearly any development on the beach.
This unique combination of North American culture and pristine Costa Rican wilderness attracts all kinds including the rich and famous. Woody Harrelson, Liv Schreiber, and several wealthy individuals have either lived here or visited in recent years. High demand has led real estate to soar but people continue to move and to buy. The quality of life here is so high, many choose to relocate regardless of the cost.
Location and Geography
The Nosara region is located on the North Pacific Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste about 100 miles west of the capital, San Jose, and sits between the popular beach towns of Playa Samara and Playa Tamarindo.
It consists of five beachfront towns: Playa Nosara, Playa Garza, Playa Guiones, Playa Pelada, and Playa Ostional. When many people cite Nosara, they are usually referring to the most popular beach town of Playa Guiones where most of the restaurants, yoga studios, surf shops, and hotels can be found.
The Ostional Wildlife Refuge borders Nosara and is the largest Olive Ridley turtle nesting site in the world. The Nosara and Montana Rivers are two of the longest in Costa Rica and are also teeming with wildlife. The rivers meet the ocean in Playa Nosara.
The official town center of Nosara is located about five miles inland from the beach and is where most of the local, Tico population resides. It has medical facilities, supermarkets, a local airport, a pharmacy, banks, and a post office.
Like most of Central America, Nosara has a rainy and a dry season but enjoys warm weather year round. The dry season coincides with the highest season for tourism and runs from late November through April.
Temperatures average in the mid eighties. Days are long and sunny with stunningly beautiful sunsets. With no clouds in the sky you can enjoy incredible nightly stargazing. The offshore winds create clean, consistent surfing conditions and surfers can ride waves all day long. The jungle tends to be dry and brown but there is still plenty of wildlife to observe especially near the beach and river.
The rainy season begins in May and ends in November. During this time the jungle becomes green and the foliage comes into bloom, bringing tons of wildlife. It tends to rain during this time in the afternoon and evening with sunny mornings for beach time.
Temperatures are about five degrees cooler and many tours and accommodations are available at discounted rates. The rainiest months are September and October when rain can fall all day. During this time many businesses close, reopening in November.
The land around Nosara was used for generations primarily for cattle pasture. As a result large areas of land were deforested. Much of the beauty of the landscape was destroyed during this time.
In 1962 a U.S. resident decided to purchase the entire coastline of land known as Nosara and implemented The Nosara Project which was the original master plan of the area. In fact, Nosara is the only town in Central America that was master planned. The development originally entailed 500 residential lots interspersed with commercial sites, parks, and a golf course.
The project was never fully completed as finances ran dry. Individual investors began acquiring the lots and formed the Nosara Civic Association in an attempt to carry out the vision of the original city plan. They fight to keep Nosara relatively undeveloped and free from pollution.
Today Nosara is dense with forest and much of the region is protected.
Like the rest of Costa Rica the primary language in Nosara is Spanish and the culture is Tico. Local Costa Rican phrases, cuisine, and art are enjoyed here. However, Nosara is culturally distinct from the rest of Costa Rica due to its strong expat population as well as its residence in Guanacaste.
Until 1846 the state of Guanacaste where Nosara lies once belonged to Nicaragua to the north. As a result Guanacastecos developed a strong sense of independence and cultural pride. You may even notice a variance in their accent.
Today Canadian, American, and European expats lend a unique flavor to the local culture. It has one of the oldest expat communities in the entire country. Organic cafes, yoga studios, and Italian restaurants are all foreign businesses that add appeal to the area. English is widely spoken and at times in Playa Guiones you may feel like you’ve landed in the hidden gem of Southern California.
The Beach Towns
Playa Garza is known primarily as a fishing village. The offshore reef protects the bay from nearby currents and fishermen anchor their boats here as a result. In fact, it’s possible in the afternoon to purchase fresh fish right off the boat. The beach itself is lined with quaint restaurants and bars. At low tide a small cove with pink sand made from seashells is accessible.
Playa Guiones is the area’s longest and most popular beach. It stretches three miles with white sand and great surf. The beach has a large swell window, which gives it the most consistent surf in the entire country. The waves are fun for all levels, with swells that challenge the most experienced surfers and waves for complete beginners.
The town itself has several excellent yoga and pilates studios, expat-owned cafes and restaurants, several hostels, surf schools, and a few laid-back bars.
While Guiones is the beach for surfers, Pelada is the beach for swimmers. Snorkelers and divers can explore the caves and a local fisherman can take you on a boat tour to observe dolphins, turtles, and whales during mating season.
The town is very small and laid-back with a stunning restaurant, La Luna, that overlooks the beach with epic sunset views.
The ancient dark volcanic rock in Nosara created the dark sand beach of Nosara. It sits on the Nosara Biological Reserve and has two of Costa Rica’s longest rivers running through it, the Montana and the Nosara. You can spot 270 species of birds here, as well as monkeys, coati, raccoons, armadillos, anteaters, crabs, and crocodiles.
Many kayak, boat, and stand up paddleboard tours explore this beach, its rivers, and mangroves. You must wade the rivers to reach the beach or take a boat.
Located in the Nosara-Ostional Wildlife Refuge, this seaside village protects the largest nesting site in the world for the Olive Ridley sea turtle. Hundreds to hundreds of thousands of turtles come onto the shore to lay their eggs on the darkest nights following a full moon. Peak season takes place between May and November but you may see small groups year round.
Following the nesting it is possible to see the turtle hatching, where thousands of baby turtles run into the ocean to begin their aquatic lives. Volunteers can help protect the turtles from nearby dogs and vultures.
Surf is also prime here, however rip currents are strong making it unsafe for swimming.
The exceptional schooling available in Nosara is one of the key reasons families come from all over the world. The two private schools, Del Mar Academy and HSBA Academy, offer high quality education in an international setting.
Classes are taught bilingually exposing children to a second language and offering them the opportunity to build relationships with students from all over the world. These schools provide smaller class sizes for more one-on-one attention and focus not only on academic development but also on community and environmental involvement.
Del Mar Academy
Located in the jungle at the end of a small road, this Montessori school is surrounded by nature and wildlife. The school uses the Montessori teaching approach as well as curriculum from the non-Montessori educational community.
This approach encourages hands on learning to aid children in developing observational skills through activities that use all five senses. The classes are designed to accommodate each individual in his or her learning process. They accommodate children from toddler age until seventh grade.
The core subject areas covered include nutrition and health, multicultural environments, English and Spanish language, music and movement, creative art, and natural science as well as highlighting the importance of community service, the environment, and social awareness.
Field trips are planned throughout the year and involve curriculum related activities intended to enhance the student’s areas of study. Activities include nature hikes, fishing trips, visits to farms, museums, seashores, and eco preserves. There are also many extracurricular activities including dance, surf, swimming, baseball, tennis, and soccer.
The HSBA Academy caters to a wide age group offering classes for kids from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Creativity and curiosity are fostered through experiential learning and classes are taught bilingually.
The curriculum focuses on Math, Science, Language, Social Studies, and Art. Many extracurricular activities are available including yoga, art, music, cooking, physical education, and surfing. Classes take field trips frequently to local destinations to learn about the area.
Every Friday afternoon students and families can come to the surf club in Playa Guiones for free surf lessons from members of the Costa Rican surf team. Students also participate in community events like Nosara’s Festival of Lights and the Sustainability Fair to encourage community involvement and giving.
In Nosara one could easily spend days on end soaking up the sun and lazing on the beach admiring its beauty. But with so much to do, why would you? Nosara is home to world-class surfing and yoga and has plenty of other athletic activities and nature excursions for you to participate in.
The Nosara Yoga Institute paved the path for many yoga studios in Costa Rica today. It has long been a destination for yogis looking to receive their teacher training or simply deepen their practice.
Today Nosara has several studios that offer drop-in classes several times a day, and even more that have yoga teacher trainings and retreats. High competition means high quality and it’s hard to go wrong. Many special yoga events are held in Nosara that are not available elsewhere in the country.
If you are passionate about yoga, you will never be at a loss for things to do in Nosara. It is not uncommon to see groups practicing yoga on the beach and you may feel inspired to get playful with some acro yoga in the sand.
Public Yoga Classes
Nosara Yoga Institute
The Nosara Yoga Institute is perched on a hill in the woods in a small quiet space on the outskirts of Playa Guiones. Rather than mirrors you are surrounded by the stunning jungle. The tranquil setting is the perfect place to delve deep into your practice with skilled, experienced instructors.
Several public classes are taught each day for $10 in a variety of yoga styles including restorative, Hatha, and Vinyasa flow. Classes are taught in English but can be done bilingually in Spanish when necessary. Yoga mats and props are available for use.
The Harmony Hotel is a beautiful addition to the neighborhood of Playa Guiones with its luxury rooms, peaceful gardens, delicious restaurant and café, and amazing yoga classes. The open air studio sits across from a tranquil lily pond.
Classes are offered several times a day in a variety of styles including Vinyasa, Hatha, Yin, and Kundalini for $12. All props and mats are included. They also offer aerial yoga classes for those looking to get upside down. The pliable hammock cradles your body as you stretch realigning your body with the compression of gravity.
Those who suffer from back or neck injuries can particularly benefit from these postures as it allows you to take deep inversions without lower back compression. It is a truly unique style of yoga worth exploring. They often host yoga workshops as well for those looking to deepen their practice in specific areas like arm balances and hip openers.
Costa Rica Yoga Spa
Up in the hills near the Montana River is the Costa Rica Yoga Spa. They typically run retreats and yoga teacher trainings, but do offer public classes once a day, for $15, from their ocean view studio. For another $10 you can stay for one of their organic meals using produce from their garden. They occasionally host events open to the public as well.
Yoga Retreats and Teacher Trainings
With its beautiful relaxed setting and exceptional yoga centers, Nosara is a great place for those looking to complete a yoga teacher training or take a yoga retreat. There are many studios offering Yoga Alliance accreditation as well as relaxing, deepening retreats.
Nosara Yoga Institute
The Nosara Yoga institute was not only one of the first studios in Nosara, but in the entire country. They offer a variety of teacher training options from the basic 200 hour teacher training to 100 hour specialties to 1000 hour master level training.
Trainings strive to deepen students from the inside out with an interdisciplinary approach that stretches far beyond the postures themselves. They emphasize non-judgment and non-authority in their teaching to allow all students to explore their own yogic path.
They also host retreats throughout the year.
Blue Spirit is another famous yoga center in Nosara. They host yoga teacher trainings through YogaWorks as well as many retreats hosted by a variety of groups and teachers. All trainings and retreats include accommodations, gourmet vegetarian meals, and use of their stunning ocean view facility with a saltwater infinity pool.
Pilates Nosara offers several drop-in classes per day for $10 of both mat pilates and reformer pilates. Private pilates appointments are available on weekends. They also offer pilates retreats at the Costa Rica Yoga Spa often in combination with daily yoga. For those interested in becoming pilates instructors or simply improving their understanding of the practice they have teacher training courses and workshops.
The Enchanted Forest Hostel and Gym offers daily boxing classes led by a professional female boxer from the U.S., “Tiger Brenda”. Classes begin with a challenging, creative circuit workout before transitioning to the ring on the other side of her property. Brenda’s boxing classes are a fun way to get a workout and release tension.
Nosara was named by National Geographic as one of the top 20 surf towns in the world. With clean, consistent surfing for all levels, it’s easy to see why.
Playa Guiones has some of the best waves to learn surfing in all of Costa Rica. Right at the shore are rows of clean white water, perfect for beginners taking lessons. The shape of the wave is just the right curve for beginners and challenging enough to trim for experts. These waves can be surfed at any tide level so you can take lessons and practice in the water virtually any time of the day.
Nearby Playa Pelada has a volcanic reef break that can be surfed at high tide with the right south swell.
There are plenty of other nearby breaks that can be explored by vehicle including Playa Ostional which has heavy hollow breaks and Playa Marbella that has hollow but smaller waves.
Board rentals and private lessons are readily available, particularly in Playa Guiones, and there are several surf schools including Kaya Sol and Coconut Harry’s for those looking to really delve in.
The famous surf shop in Playa Guiones, Coconut Harry’s offers board rentals, lessons, and surf packages. They even sell boards for those who are dedicated to the sport. Lessons are taught by trained, certified instructors who offer professional services.
Group surf lessons start at $35 and go up to $70 for private. They offer a variety of surf lesson packages for kids and adults as well as all-inclusive packages which include transportation to and from the international airports, breakfast and lunch, accommodations, and twice daily surfing.
Safari Surf School
Voted “Best Outfitter on Earth” by National Geographic and an Official Billabong Surf School, Safari Surf School has the most accolades of any surf school in Nosara. All instructors are certified and the company has been in operation for over 13 years.
They have surf camps for various skill levels from absolute beginner to advanced helping people at all stages in their practice improve. Packages start at $2000 and include twice daily surf lessons with certified instructors, breakfast, accommodations, airport transfer, and other activities including ziplining, yoga, and jungle hikes.
They have a surf school specifically for women with an all female crew of surf instructors. The women’s surf school offers walk-in lessons as well as week-long camps. The camp experience is essentially a retreat that focuses on health and wellness in addition to surfing.
Starting at around $2000 the retreat includes transport to and from the airport, twice daily surf lessons, daily yoga and guided meditation, $100 spa credit at Harmony hotel, adventure excursions like ziplining and hiking, six nights of accommodation, daily breakfast and lunch, several dinners at local restaurants, and other goodies.
Stand up Paddleboarding
Stand up paddleboarding has become a popular water sport across the world. It builds core strength and improves balance but is also downright fun.
Experience Nosara Paddlesurf and Coconut Harry’s run tours along the Rio Montana and Rio Nosara to the rivermouth at Playa Nosara. These tours weave through mangrove shoreline allowing you to see nature up close and personal. It’s almost like taking a hike on the water. Spotting nearby wildlife like exotic birds, snakes, and crocodiles makes it an adventurous ride! Tours cost around $60.
Blue Zone SUP runs a stand up paddleboarding camp where they offer enthusiasts immersive one week programs. Camps cater to all levels from absolute beginner to highly advanced. Each day participants enjoy SUP courses, nature excursions, and yoga. Packages include accommodation in Playa Garza and gourmet meals and start at $2,250.
If you want to do some exploring on your own, Coconut Harry’s rents stand up paddleboards for $30 a day.
Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga
Nosara occasionally hosts stand up paddleboarding retreats where you can test your balance on the water surrounded by nature. Nosara SUP Yoga offers tours where you can test out this new sport or rent a board and experiment on your own.
5 Rhythms Dance
The 5 Rhythms is a moving meditation that is occasionally taught at Harmony Hotel in Nosara. This style of dance is intended to heal the mind, body, and spirit through free-form movement. It usually lasts about three hours and is a unique and deepening practice not offered elsewhere in Costa Rica.
The rivers in Nosara can also be explored by kayaks if that suits your fancy. Nosara Paddlesurf leads half-day tours from down the Nosara River to the ocean, spotting wildlife along the way.
Drifter’s Kayaking does a similar tour and rents kayaks by the hour, allowing you to take your own self-guided tour.
Costa Rica is famous for its canopy tours, and Nosara has not only the longest of its kind in the world with over 11km of line, but it’s also one of the safest. Miss Sky Canopy Tours takes participants on 21 runs that are double lined which goes beyond the national safety standards.
You can enjoy wildlife and incredible waterfall and nature views on the lines, then you stop at a waterfall for a nice cool swim. It’s a great way to see the countryside.
The beautiful protected countryside surrounding Nosara makes for great hiking. The Nosara Biological Reserve has 35 hectares of flora and fauna on the south side of the Nosara River. In the wilderness here you can find monkeys, coatis, armadillos, deer, wildcats, and 270 species of birds. This particular hike takes two hours and is best done early in the day before it gets too hot and the animals are the most active.
Riding along the beaches of Nosara at sunset on the back of a horse is a memorable experience. Playa Ponies leads guided horseback tours along the beach and through jungle trails past howler monkeys, parrots, and crocodiles along the river.
Nosara is known for being one of the best places for sportfishing in Costa Rica. Here it is possible to catch sailfish, blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi, snapper, and more.
Fishing Nosara offers all-inclusive fishing vacation packages which include transportation, lodging, and fishing excursions. They also charter private boats for day fishing trips. Agua Azul is another company that takes groups on private fishing trips. You can also ask around to find a local fisherman who will take you out on his boat.
Snorkeling in San Juanillo
The laid-back white sand beach of San Juanillo might be one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. It’s a short drive from Playa Guiones but feels worlds away. The town is small, authentically Costa Rican, and surrounded by fishing boats. Several tour companies including Playa Ponies operate half-day snorkeling trips here where you can explore the offshore reef and its tropical fish and marine life.
Activities for Kids
Most activities in Nosara are kid friendly, like ziplining, hiking, kayaking, and more, but Nosara also has many programs and camps catered specifically to children.
Del Mar Splash Program
Del Mar Academy provides a program for families who plan to be in Nosara on a short-term basis or who are investigating the area for longer term living. There are half-day and full-day options as well as a two week long summer camp with Spanish language tutoring and recreational activities like art and science experiments.
Attendees spend lunch and recess with Del Mar Academy full-time students to build lasting friendships with kids living in Nosara in case they do decide to enroll full time in the future.
Kids in Motion
Teaching children about themselves and one another through movement, Kids in Motion allows kids to express themselves with rhythm, art, and dance. They focus on encouraging the uniqueness within each child to build confidence. Programs include beginning acrobatics, musical theatre, ballet, hip hop dance, and even introduces kids to the 5 Rhythms of Yoga.
Boxing for Kids
The Enchanted Garden also offers boxing classes specifically for kids from 7 to 15 years of age. Classes are taught bilingually and enable kids to play and exercise in a boxing ring inside the jungle. Classes are $10 each.
Most surf schools in the area offer private and group lessons specifically for kids. Safari Surf School offers a kids camp which has a variety of activities including surfing. Beach activities like soccer, volleyball, board games, and tide pool excursions are also part of the camp experience.
Half-day and full-day options are available depending on the needs of your family. Camp instructors speak bilingually, simultaneously teaching your children Spanish. They also educate children on environmental conservation and the importance of keeping the beach clean. A half day costs $90 and includes snacks, a full day is $150 including lunch.
Scuba Dive Introduction
Paskis Adventures based in San Juanillo introduces children over 8 to the world of scuba diving.
Participants swim in a safe, supervised, shallow water area playing and learning to breathe underwater. It’s a great way to begin to learn about the underwater world.
Café de Paris has a mini golf course, which is great fun for kids and families. It is the biggest mini golf course in Costa Rica with 18 holes. There is also a playground and pool.
Think daycare on the beach. This organization arranges art classes, sports, and Spanish classes for your kids ages 4 to 12 daily from 9am to 4pm including lunch for $120. It’s a great way to relax on your own time while your kids learn some valuable skills and have fun.
Bars, Cafes and Restaurants
The Guilded Iguana
This bar and restaurant is a local hotspot near the beach in Playa Guiones. They serve traditional Costa Rican casados as well as nachos, burritos, and burgers. They occasionally have live music at night which makes for a lively scene.
Café de Paris
Incredible freshly baked breads and pastries are served in a lovely garden with pool, mini golf course, basketball court, and playground. Elegant Parisian breakfast and lunch is also served here.
Perched on the beach in Playa Pelada, La Luna is one of the best places to watch the sunset in all of Costa Rica. The outdoor tables all have an excellent view of the ocean for peace and relaxation. The menu boasts a wide variety of fusion dishes including fried calamari, beet salad, fresh fish, and grilled steak. Enjoy cocktails and wine on their full bar menu.
Olga’s Bar and Restaurant
Olga’s is another place to enjoy a lovely sunset in Playa Pelada. The fare is traditional Costa Rican cuisine served on a beachfront patio. Enjoy live music here seven nights a week.
Naked Foods in Playa Guiones sells truly raw, organic, allergy-free foods and beverages. They offer amazing juices like coconut water, ginger, cayenne, cucumber, and honey, bottled and refrigerated for you to take to the beach. Raw goodies and snacks include cacao spread, spirulina fruit roll ups, and dehydrated bananas. Jars of fresh spices are also for sale.
La Dolce Vita
Believe it or not you can find delicious, authentic Italian food on the beach in Costa Rica. La Dolce Vita is Italian-owned and serves up homemade delicacies like antipasto platters, lasagna, ravioli, grilled fish, and steak. They even have gluten free pasta options!
Located next to the beach in Playa Guiones, Kaya Sol is a local favorite for live music, fresh seafood, and plenty of vegetarian options. With traditional Costa Rican casado, grilled filet mignon, and vegan quinoa salads, they truly have something for everyone. Some nights they have happy hour specials as well as special BBQ menus.
Harmony Hotel Restaurant
Tucked away in the beautiful garden at Harmony Hotel is their lovely fine dining restaurant. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner featuring fresh, local ingredients, many of which come from their very own farm.
The menu is fusion with Hawaiian style shrimp, crispy falafel, sushi menu, and more. The open air restaurant has a full bar and mixologist crafting fine cocktails and mocktails.
Harmony Hotel Juice Bar
The Juice Bar is a casual alternative to the Harmony Hotel Restaurant for those looking for lighter fare. Inside of a lovely ranchito you can enjoy fresh organic juices, salads, and sandwiches on whole grain bread made in-house.
The David Kitson Public Library
Nosara boasts an impressive public library, a rare commodity in Central America. Their collection includes over 6000 books in both English and Spanish. They also offer community workshops, computers for public use, and meeting rooms.
Organic Grocery Store
Like in North America, communities can often be found where the food is. Organic Deli-Market in Playa Guiones is one of the only organic grocery stores in Costa Rica. They sell organic produce every day, a rarity in much of Central America, bulk spices and nuts, local cheese, and delicious ready-made soups, salads, and sandwiches. It’s like a mini Whole Foods. Expat locals frequent here often and community events are advertised on fliers when you enter.
Every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. is an organic Farmer’s Market selling organic meat, fruits and veggies, and homemade bread and pastries. You can also set up an account with Rainbow Organic, a local company that allows you to pre-order your farm box online. They offer organic produce, meat, and local cacao, honey, and coconut products. Franklin’s offers excellent and original products as well like homemade coconut oil, dried fruit, cacao treats, and other specialties.
Nosara Nannies is a local service in Nosara that provides short- and long-term childcare for children of all ages. Childcare providers are experienced and English speaking.
Watching the sunset
In the dry season, without fail there is a stunningly beautiful sunset every evening in Nosara. In Playa Guiones surfers come out of the ocean and land dwellers walk to the shore to sit and watch this impressive performance. It is a great way to feel connected with the entire community and to meet other expats and families.
Crime and Safety
Nosara is known for being a very safe place to visit. The local community is quite friendly and there is little crime in the area. However, theft is a problem in Costa Rica in general, so always take care and use your head. Never leave valuables unattended on the beach nor inside of your parked vehicle.
If you do encounter any problems in Nosara there is a police station in the town of Nosara and a Tourist Police Center in Playa Guiones. Here you can report any stolen items or crimes you encounter. There are also paid security guards at many restaurants, hotels, and businesses and local police patrol the area on motorcycles and ATVs.
Roads in Nosara are unpaved and very dusty in the dry season. They typically have potholes and at times farm animals blocking them. Take a deep breath and be patient and you should be able to get around just fine.
Nosara is reachable from the San Jose and Liberia airports by air through Nature Air, shuttle, car, and buses.
Once in the Nosara area there are roads and buses connecting the different beach towns. ATVs, rental cars, and bicycles are available for rent and can be helpful if you plan to explore other neighborhoods. Playa Guiones is quite walkable on either the road or the beach. On average a quad costs around $50 per day and a bicycle costs around $10 per day.
If you decide to rent a car you will need your driver’s license from home as well as your passport.
Government and Economy
Costa Rica operates under a democracy, headed by a president in power over a four-year term. Balance is kept in place with an elected congress and appointed ministers. There is no military as it was constitutionally banned in 1948.
The funds once used to sustain the military force became available for business development and social programs like healthcare and quality education. Over 90% of Costa Ricans enjoy public healthcare coverage and the country has significantly higher literacy rates than most Latin American countries, 94.7% to be exact.
As a result, Costa Rica is one of the fastest growing and most stable countries in Latin America. It has a significantly higher growth in income compared to Latin America as a whole, as well as lower poverty rates. The economic and political environment is stable, the country has strong institutions, open markets, and a well-educated workforce.
The government also has laws to protect citizens from foreign investors. Foreign-owned businesses must hire local citizens as their work source.
Costa Ricans are facing a new challenge as their country becomes an increasingly global marketplace. Do they conform to the free market economy of first world nations or continue to support the many social structures in place?
The national currency is the Costa Rican colone which typically exchanges to 1/500 of a dollar. Banks usually distribute bills in 10,000 notes, which equate to a $20 bill. The smallest bills are 1,000, or $2, and coins start at 5 colones and go up to 500.
Healthcare in Costa Rica is rated highly internationally. Citizens here have the health and life expectancy of developed nations due to inclusive universal health insurance and reputable private and public hospitals.
The public health insurance system, Caja, is available to all citizens and legal residents.
Throughout the country there are ten major public hospitals affiliated with the public health insurance program. Small clinics called EBAIS are located in nearly every small Costa Rican community. In Nosara you can find a clinic in the town center.
To join the public health care system one must pay roughly 10% of his or her income. This low cost and high quality system attracts many people, therefore wait times are long for all matters from regular checkups to important surgeries.
Costa Rica also has private hospitals and clinics for those willing to purchase private insurance. These facilities offer high quality medical care at a sliver of the U.S. equivalent cost. This is one of the key reasons why Costa Rica has become so popular with expats and many tourists come simply to receive medical care.
Private insurance plans are available through the government-owned insurance company, INS, and include dental work, optometry, general checkups, and annual checkups. Prescriptions, exams, and hospitalization are covered at 80% cost and surgeon costs are covered fully. This insurance costs about $60-130 per month per person.
Expats may also choose to purchase international healthcare insurance which covers most private hospital costs but these plans tend to be much more expensive than private healthcare through the INS.
Pharmacies offer many drugs without a prescription, including birth control pills, cholesterol medication, etc., and pharmacists can diagnose and treat many problems. Typically residents head to the pharmacy first and consult the pharmacist about their ailments. He or she will either provide a solution or send you to a hospital if they believe the condition is more serious.
Keep in mind, there may be some pharmacists who are eager to sell many products and may misdiagnose you to prescribe you things that you do not necessarily need. Think of it like getting an oil change and take what they say with a grain of salt.
Nosara has several pharmacies including one in the town center and one in Playa Guiones.
Visas and Residency
North Americans are allowed to legally stay in Costa Rica for a maximum of three months at a time. Obtaining a visa prior to entering the country is not necessary, however proof of onward travel is required. After three months one must leave the country for a minimum of 72 hours, then may return for another three months. Tourists without residency are legally allowed to own vehicles, property, businesses, and generate income from self-employment.
If you wish to obtain residency, you must receive a minimum of $1000 per month in pension or other approved source or receive an investment income of $2500 per month or more or invest $200,000 in an approved sector of the economy like property.
After three years of this type of residency, you may then apply for unrestricted residency. It costs about $1100 per family member, $600 per child, to process. Renewals are required every year and you must reside in Costa Rica for 4-6 months in order to renew.
Money earned outside of Costa Rica is not taxed for residents and personal income taxes tend to be low compared to North America. Many personal expenses are deductible from locally-earned income and corporate taxes are also low.
Sales tax is 13% and import duties are high, from 50-90% of a vehicle’s blue book value. They are in the process of decreasing the import duties. Tourists may pay an exit fee of around $25 and exit fees are even higher for foreign residents. License plate fees are paid annually for vehicles but tend to be low. Property taxes are also very low compared to those in North America.
While the infrastructure may not be to North American standards, the country is much more advanced in this area than other countries in Central America. Most utilities are much more affordable than those in North America.
The phone system is owned and operated by a government agency called the ICE. This agency controls most of the utilities in the country. The phone system itself is excellent, however it can be quite difficult to obtain a landline if you are not already residing in a house that has one.
This option is only available to residents, so tourists will have to rely on cell phones. There are also limited phone lines available so wait times can span from weeks to years, particularly if you are in a rural area where poles and lines need be installed to get you a new number.
Installation can cost around $100, activating an existing line costs $30, and basic monthly use is $10 per month. These rates can change often.
Because land lines can be so difficult to obtain, it’s important to include them in rental and purchasing contracts to ensure your home or business has a fixed line.
Cell phones are readily available, but often use pay as you go SIM cards rather than plans. The two most popular companies offering this service are Kolbi and Claro. If you have your own unlocked iPhone, you can purchase a SIM card with unlimited data use for $18 per month compared to iPhone plans with AT&T in the U.S. for over $100 per month.
Those looking for fixed cell phone numbers and plans must obtain them from the ICE. This service is only available to residents and there is a limited supply of numbers.
Cell service in general suffers from coverage problems throughout Costa Rica as there are many dead zones in rural areas.
Costa Rica does have high speed internet service, however it is slower and less reliable than North America and Europe. Availability of high speed DSL lines is a big problem and you will need to contact ICE to see if DSL is even available for your home. Other internet service providers do exist, Amnet, Cabletica, and RACSA, but not all will be available in your area.
Basic internet can cost anywhere from $5 to $100 per month depending on your area and usage.
Internet sticks are a great option and are widely available throughout the country. These sticks use cellular service for internet so they can be used anywhere you go. The SIM cards provide the service and can be used interchangeably between the stick and your phone. You can purchase an unlimited SIM for $18 per month. The speed is not as fast as high speed in the U.S. but it’s fast enough to use Skype and stream video online.
Depending where you live, cable and satellite television service are available. Cable is widely available in the Central Valley near San Jose and in some of the more developed beach towns.
Satellite is available everywhere but is less reliable particularly during storms. The cost for cable is about $25 per month and provides many North American channels as well as local Tican channels. Sky TV and DISH Network are available but you will need to find the satellite dish and hardware locally.
The national postal service in Costa Rica can be difficult to accept. They do not use an address system, therefore locations are described in proximity to landmarks. Zip codes have recently been implemented but are not widely used yet. Consequently, most homes do not have delivery to their door. It’s best to get a postal box at the post office, however you may wait up to a year to receive one depending on your location.
Sending mail overseas can take five days to a month and mail sent to you may stop in customs where you will need to pick it up. Theft does occur so it’s best not to send valuables through the mail.
Private mail services are prevalent and offer courier mail to and from your doorstep. Rates differ but tend to be around $15 per month.
International couriers like FedEx, UPS, and DHL are options as well.
Electricity and Gas
ICE supplies electricity throughout the country. While most areas, and certainly all of Nosara, have electricity, power outages do occur, particularly during storms. It can take all day for ICE to repair power lines that have broken from trees and you will simply have to be patient and accept that there is not electricity that day.
Electricity costs about $20-30 per month depending on the size of your home and your usage.
Costa Rica uses plenty of electricity-conserving devices like on-demand water heaters and energy saving appliances.
Most homes use stoves powered by propane tanks, which can be purchased at supermarkets and local suppliers. This comes in handy particularly during power outages.
Water and Sewer
Many are surprised to learn that water throughout Costa Rica is clean and drinkable. 95% of homes are connected to the municipal water supply, which is treated. Most water bills amount to $5-10 per month. Most homes use energy efficient appliances like on-demand water heaters used primarily in the shower, and semi-automatic washing machines that use less water.
In Nosara, water is provided by the Rural Aqueduct Administration of Nosara and comes from nearby wells. Water testing is performed quarterly and residents are able to access the reports. Water is currently plentiful in the town but conservation is still practiced and encouraged, particularly in the dry season.
Costa Rica has a wide range of trash services, and in Nosara garbage and recycling are collected twice per week. Many other parts of the country do not even have proper garbage collection as they end up dumping the trash in nearby rivers and vacant lots.
The recycling program in Nosara has been initiated by the community and is quite comprehensive. Costa Rica as a whole has begun consolidating landfills and implementing a public education program on recycling and waste.
You can limit your waste considerably by reducing the amount of plastic you use by refilling plastic bottles, composting all of your organic scraps, and recycling as much as possible.
Who Might Not Want to Move to Nosara
While Nosara is a wonderful place well suited to some people, it is not for everyone. Costa Rica in general may be more developed and Americanized than the rest of Central America, but it is still a developing nation.
Those who need consistent reliable internet and modern conveniences may become frustrated with the limitations here. Additionally life moves at a slower pace in Costa Rica, particularly in small beach towns like Nosara. For some this brings peace, for others aggravation.
The dusty rough roads in Nosara may be difficult for some people as well as the proximity to nature. Few can deny the beauty of wilderness, but exposure to insect infestations and wild animals can be undesirable. Also, during the dry season there is little to no rain at all and the landscape can dry up and become covered in dust. The rainy season is greener and more beautiful but roads can become difficult and many outdoor activities are not possible to partake in.
Contrastingly, those who wish to be completely immersed in Costa Rican culture may find areas of Nosara, particularly Playa Guiones to be overly Americanized. Those seeking a singles or party scene will also likely be disappointed as Nosara is a very laid-back, family-oriented area and may prefer towns like Tamarindo, Jaco, Dominical, or Puerto Viejo.
Who Might Want to Move to Nosara
There are many reasons why a person would want to relocate to Nosara, and hopefully this article has succeeded in illustrating them. In summary, here is who would likely benefit from a move to Nosara.
Those looking for a community with many of the comforts of home like good healthcare and reputable schools will likely enjoy Nosara. Beach lovers, surfers, yogis, and most athletic individuals will also enjoy the many physical outdoor activities available in beach towns like Playa Guiones.
Those interested in living a healthy lifestyle will find that the many health-oriented restaurants, cafes, and markets in Nosara as well as physical activities and surrounding nature make it much easier than in other areas of the world. The laid-back, quiet, peaceful nature of Nosara is a huge draw for families looking to relax and live off of the grid.
Also, those who have some hesitations about moving to Central America due to language and cultural barriers may find Nosara to be an easier transition as it has an established English speaking North American expat community.
Making the decision to move abroad should never be taken lightly, but it can also be an incredible life changing journey. Perhaps Nosara is the place for you to start?
Map of Nosara, Costa Rica
Nosara Fast Facts
- Population: About 1,700
- Typical temperature:Mid 80’s
- Nearest airport with U.S. flights: Liberia
- Nearest U.S. consulate: San Jose