Nicoya Península is the largest peninsula in Costa Rica, based on the pacific coast. Divided between the Guanacaste province and the Puntarenas province, it is well known for its beaches and super laid back vibe, filled with charm. The most popular destinations in Nicoya are Playa Santa Teresa / Mal Pais and Montezuma. Other noteworthy towns and villages to check out are Nosara and Samara - especially if you are a big surfer and Playa Grande in the South in the Las Baulas National Marine Park.
If you are coming from Guanacaste, the easiest option is to take a bus from the Liberia bus station. Here buses leave for Puntarenas almost every hour. The station is busy and confusing, but just look for the bus that says PUNTARENAS on it. Be patient - I promise a bus will come! You can pay the driver directly and the ride is here hours.
- Schedule: 5am, 7.45am, 8.30am, 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm.
From San José: You will need to go to Nueva Megaterminal. Here there are buses everyday that go directly to Santa Teresa and Montezuma and include the ferry trip as well. Plan for about 7 hours of total travel.
- Schedule: 6am, 2pm.
Once in Puntarenas, you will take a ferry to Paquera. Here, you will connect to a bus that will take you to Cóbano and from Cóbano you will take a bus to either Santa Teresa/ Mal Pais or Montezuma. It’s easier than it sounds, just get on the ferry and follow the crowds from there. Ferry is just over an hour.
- Ferry schedule: 5am, 9am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 8.30pm
- *IMPORTANT: The 5pm ferry is the last ferry with a connecting bus to Cóbano.
Nicoya Peninsula is another area of Costa Rica where I would say hitchhiking is safe (read my article on Guanacaste for more infomation) and widely used as a common mode of transportation. Just put your thumb out and whether it’s an ATV, moto, or car, someone will surely pick you up.
It’s worth it to note that colectivos are sparse and in Montezuma you will probably also have trouble finding a taxi, but it’s so small it’s not even needed! Santa Teresa, on the other hand, is filled with 4 wheel drive taxis equipped to carry all your surfing needs.
There are hourly buses that can take you from Santa Teresa to Cobano and Montezuma to Cobano. To get to Santa Teresa from Montezuma or vice versa you will have to transfer in Cobano. The only tricky thing about this is that the bus schedules don’t link up very nicely and you will most likely spend an hour waiting.
Santa Teresa is a small village on the western side of the Nicoya Peninsula. It is compact but long, with one dirt road that takes you everywhere you need to go. Like other villages on the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa started out as a small fishing village, but in recent years it has grown popular through tourism. Here, it is all about the surf and the beach. If you're new, come take a surf lesson, if you’re experienced, Santa Teresa’s beaches and waves won’t disappoint you.
If you need some help planning your adventures around Santa Teresa, get in touch with our friends at Ask the Mask. A locally run and operated organisation that can help you book tours, lodging, transportation and event planning in and around Santa Teresa. Check out their website here and follow them on Instagram: @ask.themask
Montezuma is the ultimate laid back, rest-and-restoration place in maybe all of Central America. It is so small, you can get to know the whole town like it’s your home in less than a week. The locals are super friendly and it is it’s home to beautiful waterfalls and unique off the beaten path beaches - just take a walk and turn off at any point and you’ll be sure to find a beautiful black rock formation beach.
Deepen your practice at Montezuma Yoga: A beautiful space to deepen your practice or just soak up a little extra restoration while enjoying Montezuma’s relaxed atmosphere. They offer classes and retreats.
Photo credit to: @sandy_in_costarica
Zeneida’s is the best community vibe hostel I have ever stayed at. Every night ends up being a community dinner where guests share music, conversation and card games. When they say, “come as a guest and leave as family” they really mean it.
They are located right in the middle of south Santa Teresa and north Santa Teresa and they are right on the beach, so you can literally wake up, walk outside and go for a surf. They offer both dorms and private rooms as well as a couple family style private rooms. You can expect to pay about 5,800₡ (€9 / $10) a night in a dorm bed. This is the place where people come and stay. Follow them on Instagram: @zeneidasgarden and give them a like on Facebook, you won't regret it :)
Proyecto Montezuma Hostel is located right on the beach and only a 10 minute walk from town and 3 minutes to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica. It is also a TEFL, surf and Spanish school (see Make an Impact section below) and a beautiful, peaceful and inspiring place to stay with a very tranquil community vibe. They have dormitories as well as private rooms with prices starting at: 6,700₡ (€10 / $12) for a bed in a mixed dormitory. Follow them on Instagram: @ProyectoMontezumaHostel and check out their website for more information on the Spanish/surf school.
- There are hundreds of little sodas along Santa Teresa’s main dirt road-all with comparable prices and options, super tasty, bit portions of classic tico food.
- Check out ZWART café which is a café, restaurant, and art gallery! Delicious, healthy food, and vegan options! Check them out on Facebook and please give them a like if you visit.
- Zula restaurant. This is the only place to get Mediterranean food in Santa Teresa, and man, it is good! Huge portions, tons of options, and so incredibly tasty. Check out their rave reviews on Facebook.
- Soda Las Palmeras has actually been coined as one of the best sodas in all of Costa Rica by many travelers so it’s a must! Located a little walk uphill from town center but still close enough to walk!
- Orgánico café serves amazing food and milkshakes and there is live music almost every night of the week!
- Puggo’s has a great vibe with a diverse menu featuring everything from sushi to Mediterranean food. Located on the main road, by Hotel Downtown Montezuma.
As part of the hostel mentioned above, Proyecto Montezuma offers free English classes to local residents, helping them secure jobs in Montezuma's growing tourism industry. For travellers looking to get more involved in the community and make an IMPACT, Proyecto TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), offers the opportunity to gain an internationally recognised TEFL qualification and spend time Montezuma to really get to know the village. There is also the opportunity to help with community led projects, such as Sea Turtle preservation. Take a look at their website and volunteer openings here.