By Arianna McKinney
is nestled in the forested valley of Bahia Ballena, or Whale Bay – aptly named for the gentle giants that visit during the first few months of the year (though increased coastal activity has resulted in less frequent whale sightings in recent years). The grey-sand beach is lined with palm and almond trees that provide plenty of shade, and at low tide you’ll find lots of beachgoers playing soccer and sand volleyball. With its calm and shallow waters, Playa Tambor
is an ideal destination for families with children.
The small, laid-back village of Tambor
is the perfect base for exploring the southern Nicoya Peninsula. Home to the only airport in the area, Tambor’s daily domestic flights also serve the towns of Montezuma, Santa Teresa and Mal Pais. Most hotels are in close proximity to the beach, and the region offers a variety of activities from sport fishing and boating to horseback riding and golf. Eco-tourists and nature lovers will enjoy driving through the Biological Wildlife Corridor, as well as visiting the protected mangrove estuaries of Curu Wildlife Reserve: home to 232 species of birds, nesting sea turtles and big cats like ocelots, pumas and margays.
Take a catamaran tour from Tambor
or Montezuma to the tropical island paradise of Isla Tortuga, anchored in the center of the Bay of Nicoya. With its white sand beaches and lofty palms, this island is exactly the kind of place you’d want to be “castaway” for a day. Tortuga Island also offers fantastic diving and snorkeling, thanks to crystalline turquoise waters and vibrant schools of fish. When you are ready for a break from the water, take a short hike to find beautiful ocean views, play with the resident pet hog or just laze on the beach drinking refreshing agua de pipa (coconut water).
Originally a sleepy fishing village, Montezuma is a colorful hippie-style haven for foreigners seeking a peaceful spiritual retreat. Montezuma offers enchanting beaches, great food and economical lodging options. At night, the town comes to life with music and dancing at a handful of local discos. The beaches situated along this coast are exceptionally clean and some offering decent waves for surfing. Other activities include snorkeling, boogie boarding, horseback riding and international dining. Just outside of town is a gorgeous 50-foot waterfall.
The coastal town of Santa Teresa is renowned for its spectacular year-round surfing and endless stretches of beautiful white sand beach. Waves range from moderate to strong, providing surf opportunities for beginners and pros alike. If you can indulge in one of the area’s more exclusive boutique lodging options, you will feel like a true celebrity dozing to the sound of the waves on your front porch. Other area activities include deep-sea fishing, horseback riding, hiking, canopy tours and a visit to nearby Cabo Blanco National Park – a prime example of how ecosystems can be restored after indiscriminate deforestation. The park houses about 140 species of trees and diverse wildlife, including howler and white-face monkeys.