In early June, before the rains bloat the rivers and the roads wash away, when the flame red flowers of the malinche tree fall in halos around their trunks — the olive ridley sea turtles crawl ashore at Ostional beach under the cover of night. In the mornings, the Guanacaste cowboys create tornadoes of dust with their cattle, but in the afternoon the rains beat it back to earth, coaxing the jungle to exhale a new canopy.
Ranchers’ fence posts awaken — the severed branches of the indio desnudo tree— springing roots into the sopping soil, and bulging outwards against their barbwire shackles. Howler monkeys patrol tree tops and the coatis and gilded iguanas find refuge in the new shade.
Little settlements along the coast like Nosara and Samara are preparing for the tourist season, but the beaches still maintain their solitude. Expats from around the world have moved to this coast, all trying to figure out a way to make paradise profitable. They open small restaurants, yoga studios or hotels with kitsch names like Harmony, Bodhi Tree, and L’Acqua Viva. They worship the sunset and fish tacos, and are caught in an endless crusade to locate the all-knowing deity called wifi.
All this beauty resides on the great Nicoya Peninsula, jutting out from the northern coast of Costa Rica like a lone turtle fin into the deep wild waters of the Pacific. The Western coast of the peninsula stretches from popular beaches of Tamarindo in the north, down to the protected lands and rocky points of Cabo Blanco in the south.
Nosara rests in the middle of this expanse, providing a strategic base for exploring the pristine sandy coves of the Nicoya. Nosara itself features exposed surfy breaks at Playa Guiones, and a quiet sunset cove called Playa Pelada, where you can grab a cold beer from Olgas, or a gourmet meal at La Luna, and watch the sun drift below the crashing waves on the northern tip of the cove.
A short drive to the south passes through the black sand beach in the fishing village of Garza, and through a river to Samara. The outer reef at Playa Samara protects the beach, where black and white sands mingle in the surf, and thick clay under the sand supports mirror ponds of water reflecting the cloud speckled sky and iconic strangler fig in the middle of the beach.
Just a couple miles further south, the road joins the coast again and you are welcomed to Playa Carrillo as a movie star is greeted at the Oscars, with a natural red carpet of malinche flowers from the tree lined road. The coastal side of the road is ordained with palm trees, providing shade to those looking to slumber through the heat of the day. The waves gently gurgle ashore, sliding up the sand in the shape of the crescent mooned cove, ironing the sand flat like snow fall on the prairie.
Around the southern rocky point is Playa Camaronal, where a little watch tower constructed of drift wood stands above the messy wind swept surf to sight nesting turtles. The beach is protected and a ramshackle little communal hostel houses volunteers who help protect the turtles and at night, and lay splayed out below the sun during the day.
The quiet cove of Punta Islita is a great place to end a day trip south. The small town borders the school yard, and all the buildings including the little police outpost are covered in mosaic tiles, giving it the feeling of an artist’s Eden. Small pebbles fan out on to the deserted little cove, as split from a giant’s pail, and one can gaze far south to where the blue skies melt into the ocean.
The north coast of Nosara contains hidden little gems of nirvana as well. The black sloping sands of Playa Ostional are a renowned place to watch the turtles come in to lay their eggs at night, and just north, the town of San Juanillo hosts La Sodita, which provides one of the best places on the coast for black coffee, fresh fruit smoothies, fish tacos, and a big breakfast plate seasoned with love and avocado.
Playa San Juanillo is epic. Stretching from a protected cove in the south where fishermen stash their boats, it is bisected by a sandy spit inhabited by timid gilded iguanas, and ends in a rocky point crowned with agave. The northern cove is surrounded by jungle, and pink and purple spiraled shells washed in from the protective reef slink along the tree line as the nomadic homes of giant hermit crabs.
Punta Indio marks where the road ventures back inland, and adventurous campers can find a private cove among the cactus and volcanic rocks of the point. Marbella is the hard earned luxury outpost after a day of exploring the rocky reefs. Heavier grains of black sand reveal the cadence of the tide’s retreat in concentric arcs down to the ocean, where wispy clouds of white sand salsa in the surf. The Tiki Hut hangs hammocks between the palm trees, offering ceviche, baby back ribs, and cold Imperial beer — a pinch of sophistication in the wild surfer’s paradise.
This is the season where the rain clouds hold the flickering light of the setting sun every evening, and the butterflies crowd around afternoon puddles in the road. It is the time of transition, but it is just before anything really changes. The local surfers still shuffle their feet through the sand as they venture out to the breakers to avoid stepping on stingrays, and the endless coast of serene beaches around Nosara wait patiently to be explored.