Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province makes up the northwest region of the country and is famed for its many Pacific Ocean resorts.Â In many coastal communities around the world, once-sleepy areas beloved by locals, surfers, and a few ex-pats “in the know”Â sometimes turn into something louder, more expensive, and become anÂ intrusive threat to the natural beauty that drew visitors to the area in the first place.Â But all is not lost.Â As Eric Lipton recently wrote in the SundayÂ New York Times’Â Travel section, there’s an “anti-resort resort” on the Nicoya Peninsula, where “no new development is allowed in beachside conservation areas within 200 yards of the ocean,” and there are “no high-rise buildings, no fast-food restaurants, very few beach barsâ€”there are not even chaise lounges on the beach.”
This would-be Shangri-La is about 25 miles south ofâ€”and a world away fromâ€”Tamarindo. And, like Shangri-La, Nosara is a bit of a dirt-road challenge to get to. But once you’re there, you will discover a place that may be turning into the tropical Montauk of Central America, minus the day-tripping crowds and vehicular traffic. The draw? In addition to the surfing, the abundant natural beauty, and the emphasis on its preservation, the town and its beachfront areas are a gastronomic destination, with more great restaurants per square kilometer than perhaps anywhere else in the country. There areÂ four beaches in Nosara, and culinary activity takes place in all of them. In Playa Guiones, there’s Tibidabo (whose chef was trained at El Bulli in Spain), and Burgers & Beers (precisely!), and Rosi’s Soda Tica (In Costa Rica, a “soda” is a small restaurant serving homemade, native cuisine.) In Playa Garza, there’s the mom-and-pop Bahia Garza.Â In Playa Pelada, there’s El Chivo, andÂ La Luna.Â These are just a few of the many dining options in this high-bohemian paradise.
High Tech, Low Tech
TwoÂ of the enginesÂ of Nosara’s quiet renaissance are BuzzFeed co-founder John S. Johnson III, and his wife and business partner, filmmaker Susan Short. Johnson and Short own two small hotels, two condo resorts, and the local news weeklyÂ Voz de Guanacaste. In theÂ Times, Lipton reported, “they are determined to prevent large-scale, resort tourism from taking hold, and have enough available capital to actually stop it.” Local activityâ€”and what’s turned into an international “scene”â€”is centered at one of their hotels, which has a juice bar, day spa, yoga center, and an open-air restaurant (which does not serve junk food or sugary drinks). In the world of entrepreneurs, this kind ofÂ deep-pocket consideration amounts to a form of philanthropy.Â