About Nosara, Costa Rica
Welcome to a special place in Costa Rica where the jungle meets the Pacific Ocean and the monkeys out number their cousins for a change. This special place is called Nosara and it is where an expatriate community staked their flag in the ground and declared, enough. Enough destruction of the very reason why they moved to Costa Rica in the first place and as such, Nosara became an accident that bloomed into one of the Orchids of the Americas.
Today, Nosara is best described as a lush jungle garden, with a controlled human presence. The expatriate community of Nosara deserves most if not all of the credit for this and much of what Nosara is about is largely what Nosara is not about. You will not find any high-rise condominium developments. There are and will never be, any shopping centers. Most important, there are no buildings within 200 meters of the ocean. Deserving much of the credit for this is an organization that oversee the preservation of the area that is today called, The Nosara Civic Association.
In the 1960’s much of what we now call Nosara was purchased and a planed development was in the works. Lots were drawn up for houses, the handful of golf courses were laid out and yes even the occasional shopping center marked off. Local roads were built, an electrical grid hoisted into the sky and big plans for the future were described to all who would listen. But the developers dream met reality when they failed to foresee the lack of interest in an isolated area with no paved roads in or out and the fact that it was far from what little of Costa Rica was developed in the 1960’s. As a result everything was for sale and large sections were bought up by various individuals with one common focus, preservation of the Costa Rica they saw was withering away.
When one comes upon Nosara one quickly notices that there is no one focal point of reference, no town square. Tucked away in the jungle are little pockets of human habitat, small businesses and the occasional restaurant/bar. When you arrive from Nicoya on the main road, you first come to one of the Guiones beach turn offs to the left, followed by several other left hand turns, all heading in the direction of the Pacific Ocean just 400 meters down from the main road. Each of these turn offs is a separate community, unconnected to the others, that can only be accessed by going back up to the main road by car or simply walking down the beach. There is a trail system through the jungle that connects them as well.
These separate areas are best described as South Guiones Beach, North Guiones Beach and Pelada Beach. These three sections make up the “Gringo” section of Nosara. The actual town of Nosara is still 5 km inland on down the main road and has more of the Tico atmosphere you would expect in rural Costa Rica. The Gringo section is as close to the beach as you can legally get. There is a 200 meter exclusion zone from the high tide line that is set aside for the preservation of the natural habitat. This one preservation feature has had a greater influence on the character of Nosara than perhaps all of the other covenants and restrictions combined.
Because of this exclusion zone, Nosara has been spared the commercial development that has devastated such communities as Jaco and Tamarindo. Commercial development has actually been run off by the Nosara Civic Association, an association of expatriate foreigners with one goal in mind, the preservation of peace and tranquility. Because over half of the area of Nosara is set aside for wildlife, you have to contend with the wildlife as the howler monkeys hang above your head and the coatimundis walk across your path. From the many variations of birds to the critters of the jungle, most of the animals pay little attention to the humans as both have learned to live together here in Nosara. There are even aerial sky bridges for the monkeys to help them cross the roads or the electrical grid. (Most businesses have a collection jar at the register where you can donate money for these bridges as well as other products to protect the animals. )
Of the three beaches (Playas) in Nosara, Playa Guiones, is by far the largest. Guiones is over 4 miles long and is perfect for surfers of all ages and levels of experience. There can be a stronger than average under tow but a little knowledge and experience and it is easily dealt with. While Guiones is by far the most popular of the three, the beach is so big that people are very well spread out with some sections practically abandoned. Playa Pelada, the next beach to the north, is a quaint secluded paradise with great swimming, snorkeling and very few people. Playa Nosara further to the North is a serious surfer beach separated from the rest by the Nosara River.
Playa Pelada is the best kept secret in Nosara. Most people who visit stay in the Guiones section, go to the Guiones beach and as a result never know that there is another beach just over the ridge to the north. Because Pelada and Guiones are separated by this ridge of rock, the only way to get from one to the other is to go back up to the main road or simply walk over the rock ridge. (One Minute walk!)
Playa Pelada has two sections, each with its own entrance. The northern section is very secluded and has one of the two entrance points to the beach. (This entrance not widely known as there are only eight private houses at this entrance, of which Casa de Memphis I&II are two of the eight.) The southern entrance of Playa Pelada has two very unique places to eat, Laluna (very Gringo) and Olga's (very Tico). These two establishments were located on the beach before the exclusion zone was created and have basically been left alone by the Nosara Civic Association.
Playa Pelada is known as the locals beach. Not that they live in closer to it, in fact they don’t, but for the reason that they know how to get to it. Few people even know that there is an entrance to Pelada other than Southern entrance at Olga’s and Laluna. For this reason the northern section of Pelada is deserted most of the time. (This is where the Casa de Memphis I & II are.) Playa Pelada is not known for surfing but the locals surf it all the time. Because the beach is half sand and the other half solid rock outcroppings, surfers need to be careful. The locals have already figured it out and he gringos give it a pass. One of the beauties of Playa Pelada is the marine life left behind, trapped in the pools carved out of the rocks, when the tide is out. Pelada is defiantly for the swimmers, kids and those who want to snorkel.
The next beach north is Playa Nosara. This is a serious surfer beach and the local kids are about the only ones wading the river to get to it. The surf at high tide is big, fast and unforgiving. If you want to see a collection of talent make it look easy, roll up you pants legs and wade across. You will not be disappointed.
Helping to protect everything is the Nosara Civic Association and it is not your garden variety, tree hugging, pacifist, extra crunchy granola crowd but rather a croup of individuals from all walks of life and nationality. They have yet to use violence in their efforts to keep rampant development out of Nosara, but they have come close and the Nosara Civic association is often held up as an example of citizen sponsored controlled development by the costa Rican government. These folks are dead serious and the developers who have tried to develop in Nosara have left and have learned a valuable lesson. Concrete and Nosara don’t mix!
Perhaps the best way to appreciate Nosara is to drive through Tamarindo and see all of the high rise buildings towering over the beaches and the hoards of people compressed together on the beaches below. Then drive to Nosara where the concrete is substituted for the towering jungle canopy and the droves of howler monkeys watching their cousins returning from the beach with little more than a pair of shorts and a surf board. And it's going to stay that way!