The southern Nicoya Peninsula is one of Costa Rica’s most secluded vacation destination gems. From the hilly interior the mountains sweep down to the Pacific Ocean, creating some of the most beautiful and solitary beaches of Costa Rica. And research by The Blue Zones Quest in Nicoya in 2007 reveals how residents live long and happy lives here.
Because of poor roads, this beach area tropical paradise has long been off the beaten track for vacation travelers in Costa Rica. But roads and transportation are improving, and tourism is now an important part of the economy. Recently a new car ferry has been purchased to speed transportation between Puntarenas to Cobana and on to Tambor and other southern beach areas of the Nicoya Peninsula.
Thankfully, hotels and businesses have still remained small and mostly privately owned, helping to preserve the relaxed and unhurried atmosphere of the Nicoya peninsula. Travel here can be slow so resign yourself to a leisurely pace. When you arrive at your beach vacation destination you’ll be glad you came.
As it has always been easier and faster to travel to the southern Nicoya Peninsula by boat from Puntarenas, the region belongs to the province of Puntarenas rather than Guanacaste. Roads connecting to the northern province Guanacaste are still few and in poor condition.
While Guanacaste Costa Rica is known for its dry climate, the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula receives more rain annually, making it a transitional zone between dry forest climate and tropical rain forest. The wildlife in Southern Nicoya peninsula is common to both ecosystems and many animals are seasonal commuters.
The Nicoya Peninsula experiences two extremely different seasons: the dry season begins at the end of November and until May the sun drenches the land, making the beaches popular with Ticos and foreign tourists alike. Many trees lose their leaves and cars driving on the rutted dirt roads stir up clouds of dust, covering the roadside foliage and houses with a dull, brown layer.
The first rainfalls to relieve the dry season occur in May, initiating the “little summer”, a period of rain and showers. Rainfall increases during the following months to becoming very heavy in September to November, when the peninsula turns into a dripping lush rainforest. Temperatures during the rainy season, called winter here, may sometimes drop to 17 º C, while in summer, the dry season, the thermometer may climb up to 38 º C.
It takes a bit longer to travel to the Southern Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica than to many other parts of Costa Rica, but it’s worth it; you will certainly have some beautiful vacations on the beach and in the mountains.
The Gulf of Nicoya
The Gulf of Nicoya which separates the Nicoya Peninsula from the mainland of Costa Rica is a stunning marine and coastal landscape of wetlands, jagged rocky islands and cliffs, extensive mangrove habitat, and high biodiversity.
A geological fault once caused the land to submerge, leaving exposed only the tops of what were formerly low hills. These are the numerous islands which today dot the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica.
At its upper end towards the north, the Gulf of Nicoya is shallow and muddy. The Tempisque River washes much soil and organic material into the estuary, and mangrove swamps thrive on the shores. In Costa Rica mangroves are protected because they play an important role for aquatic life. In their foliage birds nest and the mud at their roots shelters mussels, crabs and shrimps.
The water in the upper Nicoya Gulf is rich in nutrients, allowing algae to flourish which feeds fish and molluscs. Most of the area’s inhabitants depend on food from the sea. From July to August however, nobody is allowed to fish, as this is the breeding time for maritime life.
The lower Gulf of Nicoya is much different from the upper part. There are few mangroves and the area is even less populated. Densely forested hills and promontories touch the sea, closing off secret bays. It is a fun adventure to rent a boat and explore these quiet Costa Rican coastal waters. The water here is saltier, clearer and much deeper: between 30 and 180 meters. There are many fish in the lower Gulf but by far fewer shrimp and shellfish.
Currently, only few of Costa Rica’s tourists visit this region – an advantage for those who love nature instead of crowds.
The Tambor beach area of Nicoya Peninsula provides numerous activities and diversions including a Casino at the Barcelo Playa Tambor Hotel, golf, world class sport fishing charters in the pacific ocean, scuba diving, mountain biking and horseback riding to name just a few. Tambor has several churches and a health clinic and 40 km away a major hospital in Puntarenas.
Playa Tambor is set in a valley of a large peaceful bay, Bahia Belena or whale bay. The beaches are soft sand and the waters shallow, perfect for swimming and enjoying the sensual Pacific ocean waves. Playa Tambor is surrounded by forested hills, part of a national Costa Rican biological corridor. The Curu Wildlife Reserve provides access to this wonderland of plants and animals, offering five ecological habitats to explore.
Costa Rica Phone and Internet Services
Costa Rica has a modern telephone and internet infrastructure, though the costs and speed are not comparable to north American counterparts. Most homes have land lines, and those that don’t have cel phone service. Fiber optic cable is being installed in many parts of the country and the promise of real high speed internet service looms on the horizon.
Los Delfines Golf and Country Club is in an unbelievably beautiful setting of tropical scenery and ocean vistas. The course is nine holes with another nine in development. Standard green fees are $20 for one round of nine holes. Unlimited golf play is available for $30 per day.
On the southern tip of Nicoya Peninsula is the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, one of the most beautiful parks in all of Costa Rica, and the first protected habitat in Costo Rica. Cabo Blanco features more than 3000 acres of primary forest and many miles of beautiful coastline home to countless animal and plant species, such as white face monkeys, howlers, squirrels, wild cats, ocelots and more.
For a real adventure visit Costa Rica’s Barra Honda National Park where intricate limestone caverns are still explored and mapped by spelunkers and scientists.
Ostional Wildlife Reserve was created in 1984 to protect the nesting beach of the Olive Ridley sea turtles. Near the third quarter of the moon, thousands of these magnificent animals come to burry their eggs in the black volcanic sands.
Come visit the Nicoya Peninsula for a Costa Rican vacation adventure of a lifetime. Stop by Beach Area Properties Real Estate and say Pura Vida and let us show you some outstanding Costa Rica Real Estate investment opportunities.
Fact: Life expectancy in Costa Rica for men is 76 years and for women 79.8 years, both longer than in the USA. Also the infant mortality rate is a lot less in Costa Rica in comparison with the USA. The UN (United Nations) has ranked Costa Rica’s public health system within the top 20 worldwide and the number 1 in Latin America!
With a network sponsored by the government with 29 public hospitals and more than 250 medical clinics throughout Costa Rica, the Social Security System (CCSS) has the primary responsibility for providing health services at low costs to the Costa Rican population. Not just available for Costa Ricans, the CCSS also provides low cost medical service to any foreign resident or tourist. Foreigners who live in Costa Rica with a residence can join the CCSS by paying a small monthly fee or another option would be that they can buy an inexpensive health insurance from the Insurance Company (INS) which is owned by the State valid with over 200 affiliated doctors, hospitals and pharmacies.
The hospitals and doctors in Costa Rica have the latest equipment, and the laboratories are simply perfect. You can feel secure having most operations here in Costa Rica without having to return to the U.S. or Canada. Most operations, such as surgical procedures are a lot cheaper here! A quick example, a heart bypass costs about 1/3 of what you would pay in the USA and the professionalism is the same or better.
Medical clinics and hospitals in the private sector provide services quicker and with more privacy, giving you the option to avoid long lines.
Costa Rica’s 3 largest Private Hospitals
1) CIMA, in the suburbs of San Jose in Escazu right off the highway, is the recently renewed private hospital and is affiliated with the Baylor UMC in Dallas, Texas and controlled by the International Hospital Corporation of Dallas, Texas. CIMA is a full service hospital that features the most modern health care technology, medical equipment and “the” most sophisticated physical plant in Central America. CIMA offers all services including Emergencies, Ultrasounds, X-rays, Intensive Care and much more. CIMA has adjacent a seven-story building where over 100 specialists have their offices. Their web site is at hospitalcima.com
2) Clínica Biblica, in the center of San Jose, is affiliated with the Blue Shield network Blue Cross. They also expect to be affiliated with Medicare. clinicabiblica.com
3) Clínica Católica, in the suburbs of San Jose, is another very fine private Medical Hospital with full Hospital and Emergency services 24/7, 365 days a year. Always the forefront of private medicine and patient care. La Clínica Católica has become the first hospital hotel in Central America. A total of 33 fully equipped rooms complement the facilities of this renowned health institution. This hotel offers significant benefits for surgically treated patients as a result of their doctor constant supervision and the special care provided, patient recovery is much better. hospitallacatolica.com
Most Costa Rican doctors have been schooled and trained in Europe, Canada or the USA. If you do not speak Spanish, you do not have to worry as many local Medical Doctors, receptionists and assistants speak English. The fees for office visits vary. A private specialist charges more or less between $25 and $40 per visit. Very important, Medical Doctors in Costa Rica take their time to answer questions and listen to the patient. Medical Doctors in Costa Rica usually give you their office, home and mobile numbers. House calls are very normal in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has become very popular for those in search of Cosmetic Surgery. Dental, from fillings to implants, is done continuously on people from all over the world. People from other countries in Latin America plan their medical needs; from a total hip replacement to heart valve replacement to be treated by the reliable and skillful physicians in Costa Rica rather than in their own countries. It is clear that not only does Costa Rica offer universal health care coverage to its own citizens, but also that same high quality care is also available for foreigners from all over the world. It does not matter if you are in good health now, as we all know unfortunately the probability of needing medical care increases with age. Knowing that excellent health services are available represents security and an enormous relief. So, health care should not be an issue in your decision to live here in Costa Rica.
Pharmacies and Medicines.
There are a numerous of pharmacies in Costa Rica and most of them stock most standard medicines available in Europe, Canada and the USA. Please note that In general the cost of most medicines is up to 80% lower than those in the USA. Some drugs are available in any Costa Rican pharmacies without a doctor prescription. With exceptions to strong painkillers and narcotics that do require a special prescription. Pharmacists in Costa Rica are permitted to prescribe medicines as well as to realize on-the-spot injections. Schooled pharmacists are available to answer your questions and give free medical advice. Some pharmacies open 24/7; have employees that speak English and will often deliver to your home. Medical Insurance at Low Costs
The health care system in Costa Rica is available for foreign residents. If you are a resident in Costa Rica you can join the CCSS and enjoy the cheap medical coverage as most Costa Ricans do as well. Although most foreigners do not use this system because of the very good private hospitals and clinics, the emergency care they provide is very good. The CCSS also has Medical Clinics all over Costa Rica.
A lot of foreigners apply for the medical insurance offered by the National Insurance Institute (INS). There is no discrimination in Costa Rica; everyone is eligible to apply. Logically elderly people do need to submit to a physical before they can get a health care insurance. The health care policy covers expenses due to accidents, illness, hospitalization, office visits, lab work, medicines etc as well as medical expenses in foreign countries. Note: if you do try to collect the medical expenses from abroad, the Insurance Company will pay only the amount of the same treatment in Costa Rica.
When you buy the health care insurance policy, the INS will supply you with an ID card and a leaflet that shows the affiliated hospitals, doctors and pharmacies. Almost all surgical treatments are covered 100%. You will only need to pay a small deductible. If you seek for medical services not affiliated with the INS, you will have to pay cash. After submitting a claim to insurance company the money will be reimbursed in a few weeks.
Medical expenses caused by an accident, sickness and maternity are covered up to $200,000 per year. For persons over 69 the coverage is reduced to $60,000. As the medical expenses are very low in Costa Rica, this policy is more than enough. It is clear that retirees and other residents do not need to worry about lacking medical coverage in Costa Rica. Coverage can be adjusted by the wishes of the client.
The INS and other Insurance Providers offer an international insurance policy that covers your needs in Costa Rica and the rest of the world. The rates are higher but the coverage is still very reasonable.
To compare the CCSS with the health care insurance of the INS
CCSS – National Social Security System
• Doctor’s visits, all medications, all examinations and hospitalization
• Medical doctors are assigned to the patient
• Full medications including dental and eyes.
Why can you consider this insurance plan? Your health condition does not qualify for INS insurance. You need to take medication on a regular basis. Very low premium!
INS – National Insurance Institute
• 80% of doctor’s visits, medications, examinations and hospitalization
• Patient can choose the specialist.
• Any pre-existing medical condition
• Dental or eye exams, treatments or glasses, preventive medical check-up
• Illness or disorders related to female reproductive organs during the first 12 months of coverage
• Birth of a baby during the first 6 months of coverage.
International Health Insurance
For people that travel a lot the National Insurance Institute (INS) as well as other Insurance providers offer international insurance policies that cover your needs in Costa Rica but also in the rest of the world. These medical insurance policies cover the medical expenses due to an accident or sickness including for example: hospitalization, ambulatory, maternity, prosthesis, funeral costs and much more. The premium for this insurance is higher but still very reasonable. Premium depends on the coverage and can vary according to the carrier.
Costa Rica’s reputation is growing and growing for high quality, affordable and accessible medical services. According to the experts Costa Rica is a solution to the health care crisis in the USA. Costa Rica has many advantages being the closest foreign medical destination to the United States with cheap airfares. Many doctors are trained in the United States and therefore speak fluent English. So there is no big culture shock for American citizens to come to Costa Rica.