Experiencing Turtle Nesting Season in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica

Our Thoughts

After 10 years of running a successful photography business, I woke up one day and realized I was burnt out and in need of a complete change.

After 10 years of running a successful photography business, I woke up one day and realized I was burnt out and in need of a complete change.

Costa Rica had been on my bucket list for a while and suddenly the idea of spending three weeks in the jungle, surrounded by nature and within walking distance of a beach, seemed like the perfect escape!

Located in Central America and rich in biodiversity, Costa Rica is a leader in ecotourism and well-known as a destination for yoga enthusiasts, craving tranquility and nature. The Costa Ricans call it ‘Pura Vida’, which loosely translated means ‘Pure or Simple Life’ and it represents their culture and way of life. It’s about slowing down, living in harmony with nature, and taking time to enjoy the simple things in life. It seemed like a good place to press restart on my career, so I signed up for yoga teacher training, packed a carry on with the essentials, a yoga mat and a journal and boarded a flight to Liberia, Costa Rica.

The journey from Liberia International Airport to Nosara in the Guanacaste Region, takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes and arranging a private transfer seemed like a good idea.

There are many interpretations of “private transfer” and mine was an old minibus, which I seriously doubted would survive the often unpaved and crazy, potholed roads to Nosara. When the driver pulled over after about 90 minutes of driving, next to a random shack on the side of the road, I thought my worst fears had come true. Thoughts of being robbed or abandoned also crossed my mind but when the taxi driver returned, with a bottle of ice-cold water and fresh watermelon for us both, I knew it was time to relax and embrace the Pura Vida culture!

Nosara is popular for yoga retreats and yoga teacher teaching. I had been a Yogi for many years and wanted to get certified as a yoga Instructor so I chose a 3-week intensive teacher training course, at a yoga & wellness institute in the small beach town of Playa Guiones, near Nosara.

The Institute is surrounded by jungle and within a 5-minute walk of a fantastic beach. The Yoga Shala was on the first floor of the building, overlooking a beautiful yard with pool and lots of natural light. With walls of sliding doors that opened to a gentle breeze, it felt like you were practicing yoga in the treetops, with a soundtrack of local howler monkeys.

It’s hard to beat a daily yoga practice that has a jungle backdrop and has close proximity to a stunning beach—Playa Guiones has both. Waking up to exotic sounds of the jungle, doing morning yoga on the beach and taking lunch breaks in the warm ocean water, is my idea of heaven!

Playa Guiones faces West and enjoys sunsets that take your breath away.

Every evening the locals take their food and beverages and migrate to the beach to enjoy their daily ritual of watching the sun go down. The whole community seems to gather and take enjoyment from this simple pleasure. Playa Guiones is a small town that feels like a village but it has plenty of personality and has everything you need (remember ‘Pura Vida’!). Freshly roasted coffee beans, artisan stores and quality clothing can be found in the town and a good selection of groceries are available at the indoor organic market. ‘Pipa’, which is fresh coconut water, is available on the roadside by local vendors, who prepare the Pipa for you with their machetes. It is a welcome treat in the crazy hot sun.

There are plenty of yoga retreats to choose from in Playa Guiones and Nosara and one of my favourite places to visit was the Juice Bar at Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort. They have the best selection of smoothies and the resort itself is a haven of tranquility. Dining options in around Playa Guiones vary from full-service restaurants, like the Guilded Iguana, to food trucks serving local fresh food.

Not to be missed is an evening at La Luna Restaurant, which offers a Mediterranean menu on Playa Palada beach, next to Playa Guiones. If, like me, you appreciate restaurants with ocean views and great sunsets, you will not be disappointed at La Luna, It’s a stunning location and extremely popular so reservations are recommended.

The Guanacaste Region is also known for being one of the best places in the world to watch turtles nesting—another cross off of my bucket list).

At the end of my yoga training, I was able to visit Ostional Wildlife Refuge Park, and observe the olive ridley sea turtles nesting on the beach. It turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip. In Costa Rica they call it ‘Arribada’ translated means ‘arrival by sea’ and it is so incredible to watch.

Nesting takes place one week before the new moon and you have to arrive early, around 5 a.m. The roads to Ostional are crazy, unpaved and flood during the rainy season so a 4×4 vehicle is essential.

Tickets can be purchased at the entrance to the Wildlife Refuge Park for approximately $10 USD. Once you’ve paid your entrance fee, a park ranger guides you, in the darkness, to the nesting area.

The rangers use only infra-red flashlights (no camera flash allowed) which allows you to observe these wonderful, slow-moving reptiles, without disturbing them. The turtles can lay an average of 100 eggs at a time and can take up to an hour to complete their nesting.

As dawn breaks and the eggs are laid, the sun starts to rise and the turtles make their way back to the ocean. It is so moving to watch, with only the sounds of the ocean in the background. As it gets lighter, you begin to realize just how many turtles are on the beach. Watching them, slowing making their way back to the ocean is incredible.

There are many other activities to enjoy in the Guanacaste region, including surfing, which is hugely popular due to the world class surfing beaches.

I spent three weeks in Costa Rica and it was completely rejuvenating and life changing. I succeeded in becoming a yoga instructor but Costa Rica gave me so much more than that. Learning to embrace and live the ‘Pura Vida’ was the most rewarding part of my journey.

Travel Tips and Accommodation Recommendations in Nosara/Playa Guiones

  • Liberia International Airport is the airport of choice to access this region
  • Power outlets are the same as North America
  • USD is accepted but the Costa Rican local currency is helpful to have on hand
  • When to visit: I chose the dry/hot season , December to April
  • When not to visit: the heaviest rainfall is September to October —roads can be inaccessible due to flooding
  • Locals recommend using lavender to keep bugs away
  • Yoga Teacher Training: Nexus Yoga Institute (Janel & Horace are excellent instructors)
  • Yoga & Wellness Retreats: The Bhodi Tree Yoga Resort and The Harmony Hotel

Linda Vellis Cunningham

Linda is a beach-loving professional photographer & yoga instructor, with a passion for adventure travel and living her best life on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

View her adventures on Instagram: @yogiphotographer.

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