Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province makes up the northwest region of the country and is famed for its many Pacific Ocean resorts.¬† In many coastal communities around the world, once-sleepy areas beloved by locals, surfers, and a few ex-pats “in the know”¬†sometimes turn into something louder, more expensive, and become an¬†intrusive threat to the natural beauty that drew visitors to the area in the first place.¬† But all is not lost.¬† As Eric Lipton recently wrote in the Sunday¬†New York Times’¬†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 bars‚ÄĒthere are not even chaise lounges on the beach.”
This would-be Shangri-La is about 25 miles south of‚ÄĒand a world away from‚ÄĒTamarindo. 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 are¬†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.¬† In Playa Pelada, there’s El Chivo, and¬†La Luna.¬† These are just a few of the many dining options in this high-bohemian paradise.
High Tech, Low Tech
Two¬†of the engines¬†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 weekly¬†Voz de Guanacaste. In the¬†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 activity‚ÄĒand what’s turned into an international “scene”‚ÄĒis 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 of¬†deep-pocket consideration amounts to a form of philanthropy.¬†