Planning a trip to Costa Rica between May and November? This guide will help you make the most out of your stay.
Believe it or not, Costa Rica experiences winter. The sun still shines most days (amen) but, from May to November, the rainy season sets in and allows the lush green landscape to flourish. For vacationers, this isn’t necessarily the most ideal time to plan a trip. At least that’s what I was warned when I was planning a week-long stay on the Nicoya Peninsula for my birthday in mid-September . After speaking to a couple property owners in Nosara, I questioned my timing for a split second, but I like to see the good in every situation. Costa Rica is still Costa Rica – beautiful beaches, delicious food, wonderful people and truly one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever explored. Rain or shine, I was going. If you’re hesitant on booking flights this time of year, here’s a couple things to note…
Fact: It’s a slow season. A handful of places along the coast shut down to prep for the upcoming months when tourism in Costa Rica is at its peak, but by no means does this result in the towns being completely ghostly. You can always find food, and always find a place to rest your head – the options are just a bit more minimal. Low season also means cheaper rates at hotels!
Fact: There will definitely be rain, but just how much is hard to predict. Some days the sun might shine all day, while others might be overcast and rainy. Lucky for me, this year has been extremely dry. I only saw rain 3 out of the 9 days that I was there and, on the days it did rain, it was brief, or only rained during the night. Buy a poncho and you’re set.
Fact: No matter what, you’re going to have fun.
Fact: This trip is one of the best I’ve ever taken.
I’d like to share what I learned after spending 6 days in Nosara and 2 days in Samara. Enjoy!
Where To Stay
Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort, Nosara
If you’re familiar with Nosara, you’ll know that it’s one of the yoga capitals of the world. Some of the bigger yoga resorts and luxury hotels shut down during this time of year, but the Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort is one of the few that remains open. This bohemian and eco-friendly palace is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. There were only a few other guests staying at the hotel – it seemed like we had the place to ourselves. During rainy season, they offer special discounted rates on the bungalows scattered throughout the property. The canopy-draped beds and outdoor wooden showers felt like a dream. There’s a juice bar that opens every morning at 9, so a juice and a swim in the salt water pool became ritual. Yoga is offered daily, or you can sign up for a surf lesson from one of their world-class instructors.
Learn more about Bodhi Tree Resort and book your stay. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook.
Casa Sanchez, Nosara
Airbnb is full of gems, just like the one pictured above. Casa Sanchez sits high in the hills of Nosara, nestled in the EE section that overlooks Playa Guiones. If an epic view is what you’d like to wake up to every morning, this spot will more than likely exceed your expectations. Built in the ’80s, this is one of the older, original houses in Nosara. The pool, deck, view, rooms…everything was more than I could have dreamed of. The current owner, Jeff, makes sure that everything is perfect during your stay and is super easy to coordinate with. My favorite thing? To get takeout from one of the local restaurants, then take it back to the house before sunset and eat in front of a pink sky.
La Villa Blanca, Samara
About an hour south of Nosara is the fun little hippie town of Samara. I’d heard awesome things about this laid-back paradise and, after leaving Nosara for a night out and getting a taste of the town, we decided to stay here for our last two days in the country. I found La Villa Blanca on Airbnb a day before we headed south. I loved how easy it was to book a place to stay so last-minute (another perk that comes with rainy season.) Samara is far smaller than Nosara, but full of great places to eat and fun things to do. La Villa Blanca is situated on a quiet street right in town, and only a block away from the beach. Book your stay here.
Where To Indulge
El Chivo, Nosara
Great Mexican food, live music, and a beautifully lit patio makes El Chivo the happening place to grab a drink and a bite to eat in Nosara during low season. Most places close around 10 pm this time of year, so plan to make it out before then!
La Luna, Nosara
La Luna is a must for anyone who visits Nosara. I called ahead to ensure it would be open during my stat. Plan to arrive just before sunset so you can watch amazing colors fall over Playa Pelada.
Harbor Reef, Nosara
I think we ended up eating at Harbor Reef about 5 times. It’s close to the main beach access at Playa Guiones, and was a great little place to grab lunch, pick up some wifi and partake in some traditional Tico food. The swim-up pool bar was pretty cool, too. The staff is beyond generous – we ended up becoming friends with one of the bartenders, Carlos, who introduced us to Samara. Great piece of advice – make friendly with the locals. They can show you around, and give you a true local experience.
Also be sure to check out The Beach Dog Cafe in Nosara which is right down the road from Harbor reef. Get the omelet with the mango and jalapeños for breakfast!
Microbar was our first taste of Samara. This place has 22 craft beers on tap, all coming straight from local Costa Rican breweries. They also have a full menu of “beertails”…cocktails made with beer, as well as a few light snacks.
The Flying Taco, Samara
The bartender at Mircrobar told us to head over to the Flying Taco to grab some food. We arrived with the plan to just get some take-out, but ended up staying for about 3 hours, making friends with the few other people at the bar and dancing to live music. Engaging other travelers and locals will no doubt allow for great stories, and offers you community in a far-off place. Samara is the kind of place where you’ll meet someone, then probably see them the very next day around town. The Flying Taco was a great setting for making new friends over a glass of wine and some tacos.
Locanda Hotel & Restaurant, Samara
Locanda Restaurant is that picturesque spot you’d see on a postcard. Parrots welcome you at the door, you can grab a beach bed to lay on while you eat, then walk only a couple steps to the water’s edge for a refreshing swim. You get a full view of Playa Samara while you dine on traditional Costa Rican and Italian dishes. This was a great place to start the day and grab some eggs and fruit or a smoothie for breakfast.
Mama Gui, Samara
The last meal of the trip was enjoyed at Mama Gui. This cozy Italian restaurant has inside or outdoor seating, and is one of the nicer places to eat in Samara. I’d recommend the Caprese salad and the gnocchi under a moonlit sky.
How To Explore
Rent an ATV
Everyone who travels to Costa Rica should rent an ATV. ABSOLUTELY. In our case, we rented them for four days, even with a rental car. Driving up and down the dirt roads of the Nicoya Peninsula is some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Most of Costa Rican roads are unpaved. Come rainy season, the dirt turns to mud, making it hard for cars to navigate unless you have all-wheel drive. The quads allow you to dip off onto little jungle paths that lead to amazing, untouched beaches, and provide more of a thrill than driving around in car. If you rent them in Nosara, take a day to drive north about 40 minutes to San Juanillo, then stop at Ostional on the way back. If you make it to Ostional at nightfall, just before or after a new moon, you can probably expect to see turtles. If you’re staying in Nosara, there’s a bunch of places from which to rent quads. Stop in at Monkey Quads and ask for their best rate!
If you’re renting quads in Samara, I’d recommend Outback Quad Tours. There’s guided tours available, but I’d suggest mapping out your own route. Try heading south along the coast all the way to Playa Islita, stopping off at the different beaches along the way.
If you follow signs for “playa….”, you’ll be good ;)
Have any questions? Ask below in the comments, and leave your recommendations, too!