Nicoya Peninsula

An appendage dangling off northwest Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula is a fine contrast to the rest of the country. Although transport links are improving, the Gulf of Nicoya separates the region physically and culturally from mainland Costa Rica. The dry and moist forests that once dominated the landscape have been replaced by open pastures, with only the occasional guanacaste tree providing shade for grazing cattle. With a dependable dry season from December to May, conditions are ideal for lovers of sun, sea and surf.

The peninsula itself is also culturally divided. Small towns dotted along it's spinal route, Highway 21, serve as supply depots for nearby communities - some of the poorest in the country - in surrounding low-lying hills. These towns may be close, but they're a world away from the beach resorts of varying comforts that have sprung up along the coastline, pouncing on every inch of beach worth a towel, surfboard or fishing boat.

You can take your pick from bays and beaches covering the length of the western coast - to be honest if you like beaches you'll find something decent everywhere. In almost every bay there are quiet secluded villas and hotels providing mid-range comforts, as well as a couple of cheaper options and a few that are strictly upmarket.

Budget travellers using buses should head for Playa del Coco or Tamarindo, in the north, or Montezuma or Malpaís - a surfers' haven - at the southern end of the peninsula. All are served by public transport and enough visitors to keep the party going.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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