Nicoya Península South
Discover the diversity route
In response to an invitation
from the ICT (Costa Rican Institute of Tourism) and several
Tourism Chambers of the area, we embarked on a tour to discover the Southern
Coastal area of the Nicoya Peninsula.
Our three intense and tiring
days of exploration turned out to be surprising from beginning to end.
Historically, Southern Nicoya
had been left out of the most visited tourist circuits - not because of lack of
merit but rather due to lack of accessibility. As the roads network from
Guanacaste and connectivity via ferry from Puntarenas have improved
substantially, tourism has been growing and the available offerings have been
diversifying by leaps and bounds.
In a visionary decision, the
neighboring communities of Paquera, Tambor, Cóbano, Montezuma, Santa Teresa,
Playa Carmen and Mal País have come together and become organized to shape a
different destination, one that has plenty to offer.
The Diversity Route as a
joint entity is a different circuit, is a destination that is truly something
No doubt a potential jewel
which will be conserved as much as possible in its untamed form – without
much polishing – as their inhabitants have decided to preserve the rustic
spirit and its natural essence as present and future development guidelines.
Our adventure toward the
southern Nicoya starts in Puntarenas, when on a cloudy day we boarded the
comfortable Tambor III ferry to cross the waters of the Gulf of Nicoya and
reach the pier at Paquera on the southeast corner of the peninsula. We were received with great hospitality, and
immediately boarded a boat to go on a tour of the coast with its tens of
islands and isles that populate the local waters.
Despite the proximity to
Guanacaste, visiting the southern part of Nicoya is a radically different
Coastal seascapes of calm
waters, a climate less dry in the summer, a smaller scale and very personalized
tourist industry, plus small and picturesque little towns, provide a background
very different to that found further north, in the progressive and modernized
At the flora and fauna level,
the area has a unique quality that translates into a large variety of species:
this being an area of climatic transition between tropical dry forest and
tropical rain forest, it’s possible to simultaneously observe in this area the
species from both ecosystems – thus broadening not only the diversity of fauna
that can be seen here, but and also the possibilities of interactions that can
An excellent observation site
is the Curú Wild Life Refuge located between Paquera and Tambor. Here animals
are plentiful and roam freely, uninhibited by the presence of visitors.
When it comes to landscapes,
diversity is also manifested in a grand way: countless bays hidden among the
rocky estuaries, dense coastal mangroves, beautiful islands and little isles
sprinkled all over the coast form quiet canals surrounded by rock formations
and mountains covered by an evergreen jungle which hangs towards the ocean as
if seeking to dive into it. And amid
this scenery, also hidden between bays and forests, you find elite boutique
hotels accessible only by sea.
This is the ideal area to
enjoy quiet sessions of kayaking, sport fishing, diving or snorkeling. Touring the famous San Lucas Isle is
fascinating, a former jail now transformed into a site of great historical
value which is also a wildlife sanctuary.
Tambor Beach from the airplane.
West of Paquera, after
visiting Curú, we come to Tambor- a picturesque fishing town inserted in a
spectacular bay and a gigantic beach, intersected by the mouth of several
rivers and estuaries. In addition to beach activities, Tambor is an ideal place
to observe the fauna, particularly the fowl, either while touring the Pánica
River or the mangroves, or by land, while riding on horseback through the
beaches and forests.
In all this
area a successful program of reintegration
of scarlet macaws is being developed.
Tambor is also a
perfect spot from which to take a tour of the Tortuga Island, a nearby
archipelago of gorgeous scenery, beautiful vegetation and impressive turquoise
Continuing to the west moving
away from Tambor, the landscape changes and the diversity route offers us new
sights. Arriving at Cóbano we can choose
to take the road to the left towards Montezuma or follow the one on the right
to reach the area of Manzanillo, Mal País and Santa Teresa, famous surfing
We choose first the left
route heading to Montezuma, once a famous hippie enclave transformed today into
a pleasant tourist town with a very familiar atmosphere during the day that
turns into a party town at night. In
addition to the usual beach activities, from here you can visit magnificent waterfalls,
the unusual Cemetery Isle or the Absolute National Preserve of Cabo Blanco.
On the way to Cabo Blanco, it
is worth the time to stop at Cabuya to see an ancestral ficus of over 72 feet
in diameter, declared by the INBIO (National Biodiversity
Institute) as the “Exceptional Tree of 2009”.
|Another area attraction is
the Isla Cabuya, a very old cemetery some 100 meters from the coast but
accessible on foot during low tide.
||This ancient graveyard that the indigenous
people used since pre-Hispanic times continues being used these days as a
cemetery but it has also become an important tourist attraction.
The Cabo Blanco Absolute
National Preserve, very close to the cemetery, is the oldest natural preserve
in the country and a sanctuary for an ample variety of marine fowl and as well
as mammals such as porcupines, anteaters, coyotes, deer, monkeys and coatis
along with elusive felines such as jaguarondis, margays and ocelots.
The preserve combines areas
of dry forest with others of tropical cloud forests, hosting in excess of 160
arboreal species – among which are gigantic specimens of Pochote 150 ft. high
or an American mahogany over 200 ft. high.
Once more taking the route to
the north, the calm waters seen in the protected southern area soon become more
dynamic and restless, making it obvious that we are now looking towards the
west, towards the open seas. The coastal
area of Mal País, Playa Carmen, Santa Teresa, Playa Grande and Avellanas is an
extensive chain of beaches and communities where surfing and their nightlife
are the absolute main attraction although it also has many other possibilities
such as diving, fishing, snorkeling, canopy, wild life observation, horseback
riding and observation of cetaceans. About this area…we’ll tell you much more in the next issue.
|How to get
You can go
via the Puntarenas Ferry or one can choose to fly from Liberia or San José to
Playa Tambor on either Sansa or Nature Air. Another option (albeit somewhat lengthier), is to go from Guanacaste on
route 21 from Nicoya to Paquera.
option reserved exclusively for the adventurous is going to Manzanillo from
Sámara, on the western part of the Peninsula, taking route 160 – but this
route can only be travelled during the dry season and in a 4x4 vehicle. (Rivers
and estuaries must be crossed).
We now invite you to read the other articles of this issue on this virtual version of the magazine.