Peninsula de Nicoya Travel and Vacation Guide

The Gulf of Nicoya

On the Nicoya Peninsula the only reliable road connection between the provinces Guanacaste and Puntarenas is along the Gulf of Nicoya. Other tracks connecting the northern with the southern province are only seasonally driveable and you need a car with 4WD. See » Driving from Manzanillo to Playa Coyote.

Gulf of Nicoya
Jungle shrouded in mist on the Gulf of Nicoya

From Naranjo to Paquera:

Few people live in this region and the lush jungle touching the sea and covering the islands gives a wild beauty to rocky cliffs, promontories and bays. Same as in many other remote parts of the world, these lonesome beaches are also littered with plastic trash. It originates from the metropolitan area of Costa Rica and is washed into the Gulf by the rivers.

Playa Naranjo isn't much more than the ferry slip, a small hotel and an abandoned gas station. A short drive from Naranjo is the Karen Mogensen Eco Reserve with trails through the jungle, river swimming pools and waterfall.

Playa Blanca
Playa Blanca

3 km south from Naranjo a side road to the left leads to Playa Blanca which looks upon the Sugarhat Island and the former prison island Isla San Lucas.
The cove of Playa Blanca has white coral sand and turquoise waters where you can snorkel and swim.
On the same road is also a small supermarket, restaurant and some dispersed villas and vacation rentals of the Roma del Mar development.

Beach Bar
Ranchos Ericka on the beach of Bahia Gigante

Further down the main road to Paquera you come close to the shore at Bahia Gigante, a crescent sandy bay with dark sand which is nice for a break and a snack in Ericka's cozy little restaurant by the beach. From here you look upon Isla Gitana which lies 400 m offshore. In pre-columbian times it had been used as a cemetery island.

Bahia Gigante
View of Bahia Gigante

Isla Gitana protects the Bahia Gigante and the adjacent Bahia Luminosa, making them a safe and picturesque anchor place for sail boats.

5 km further on you pass through the hamlet of Rio Grande. From here you can make a tour on horseback into the hills to get to the "El Salto" waterfall with its swimming holes. Also close to Rio Grande is the small, scenic cove of Playa Pájaro where you can swim and relax under huge old trees.

Paquera
Playa Organos near the ferry in Paquera

From Rio Grande it's another 7 km drive until Paquera, which is locally known for producing vegetables and fruits. In Paquera you find supermarkets, an ATM cashier, a gas station and some nice options for staying overnight. Cabinas in Paquera are inexpensive compared to the popular tourist spots. Although there isn't much to do in the small village Paquera is a good basis for visiting the Curu Wildlife Reserve which is only 5 km away. Local operators also offer boat and snorkeling tours to the Tortuga Islands or scuba diving.

Four km out of Paquera is the terminal for the ferries to Puntarenas. On the way to the ferry terminal a road to the right goes to Playa Organos, a placid wide bay with a picture-perfect sandy beach, surrounded by jungle. The bay is safe for swimming and you have views to the Tortuga Islands. Don't forget a repellent, as there are sometimes many bugs on Playa Organos.

Road Construction Naranjo Paquera
Road construction between Naranjo and Paquera

The road Ruta Nacional 160

The last years a lot of work has been done on the Ruta National 160 - the road from Santa Cruz to Cobano. In 2020 the remaining 24 km of unpaved road between Paquera and Playa Naranjo have been fixed. This stretch of road leads through mountainous areas and enormous quantities of earth were moved to cut a broad highway straight throught the dense jungle.
However there is still no public bus between Paquera and Playa Naranjo. Without own vehicle you have to cross the Gulf by ferry to continue by bus from Puntarenas. Or use a private shuttle from Samara, Nosara or Tamarindo to Montezuma, Mal Pais and Santa Teresa.