The Nicoya Peninsula is a fantastic place to visit whether you’re looking for the infamous health aspects of the “Blue Zone” or just looking to get away for a bit. But to make the most of your trip and be well prepared, there are a few things older travelers (or any traveler for that matter) may like to know before they arrive to ensure an enjoyable, healthy and safe trip.
1. Heat & Humidity
Unless you’re from a humid area, adjusting to the heat and humidity in the Nicoya Peninsula can take some time. It get’s HOT. And very humid. Go easy on the physical activity for the first couple days. Make sure you drink plenty of water (check out this filtration water bottle) but also replenish electrolytes. Since it’s humid, you’ll be sweating a lot so coconut water, citrus fruits, and bananas are good ways to replenish. Consider how direct sunlight may affect any medications you’re taking, and pack lightweight clothing (we like ExOfficio stuff), a wide brimmed hat, sunblock, and maybe a cold pack you can stick in the hotel refrigerator to help cool off when you’re out on activities. The humidity and moisture can mean more mosquitoes, so pack the repellent as well! (Here’s some of our suggested items to pack)
2. Road Conditions
One of the characteristics that makes the Southern Nicoya Peninsula attractive is it’s remaining ruggedness. That means many roads are still dirt and pebble and on some very steep hills. This may make it challenging to get around if you have any difficulty walking (i.e. knee, joint, heart conditions). The good news is it’s easy to rent a quad/4-wheeler for the duration of your stay. You can also arrange taxis and shuttles relatively easily through your hotel. The other note about rugged roads is that they can be very dusty during dry season, or muddy during heavy rains. So pack a handkerchief to cover your nose and mouth if it gets dusty to avoid any respiratory issues.
If you take any medications, bring them with you, take them wherever you go, AND bring your prescriptions. In the beach towns like Montezuma and Santa Teresa, there are no pharmacies, just a few over the counter items offered at the grocery stores. The closest pharmacy is several kilometers from there so please be prepared with any medical equipment you may need, including inhalers for asthma, vitamins, etc. Also bring an extra pair of eyeglasses and the prescription for them just in case. You can carry these items in a backpack or purse in a small first aid kit.
4. Physical Abilities
Again because the area is natural and somewhat rugged terrain, it’s good to know your physical abilities and limitations. Whereas national parks in many places have paved or cleared trails, railings and steps, not all have these luxuries. Additionally, activities that are not part of the National Park system will often be even more challenging. For example hiking to the waterfall in Montezuma, while not that far, can be tricky on wet rocks and crossing the river. So if you’re unsure of your balance, climbing abilities or endurance, please consider alternate activities. There are also still easier ways to see some sights than to hike the hard way like many people do. (Check our Bird Lover’s Morning and Let’s Get Local for some less physically demanding tours in the area.)
5. Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance is neglected by many travelers but really everyone should get it. You never know when something could come up and to be covered for medical expenses in another country is just the way to go. Some credit cards provide coverage for travel interruptions such as medical issues or injury. So double check BEFORE you leave. If your credit card doesn’t provide it, you can easily get it through sites like FrontierMedEx. Just to prove why it’s necessary, we’ve seen someone break an ankle and have to be rescued from a waterfall… when asked if they had travel insurance, the answer was no, and the price was high. Better to be safe than sorry!
6. Beach/Ocean Conditions
Another one that pretty much goes for any traveler to the area, currents can be strong! Exercise caution if you will be swimming in the ocean. If you’re not familiar with currents and riptides, ask a local and they’ll probably be able to tell you if it looks safe to go in. There are no lifeguards here so never swim alone either. Also keep an eye out for jellyfish. Once in a while they’ll be around but not too often. Keep in mind if you’ll be taking an island or boat tour, you’ll need to board from the beach. If the tides are high this may also make conditions a little tricky for boarding, and the ride a little (or a lot) bumpy.
7. Emergency Services
As mentioned in #5 emergency services could get expensive, but they are also limited in the area. The only clinic in the area is in the town of Cobano, which is roughly 10 kilometers (or more) from the beach towns. If you have any serious medical conditions, please keep this in mind. There is a 9-1-1 system you can call from any phone for an ambulance, but just something to be aware of when you are visiting or staying in remote areas. Same goes for police services in that they are few and far between in the area. Crime is rare but do keep watch of your stuff (cell phones and cameras) when you’re on the beach or if you venture onto a crowded bus.
8. Guided Tours
All guided tours are not created equal. Book a tour or hire a guide if you plan to hike, but ask in advance about the guide’s qualifications. You may want to ask for a private or small group tour so you can go at your own pace and don’t feel the need to keep up with the pack. When booking your tour, you might also ask about the level of physical fitness required for the activity, what times meals will be served, what equipment to bring, etc. and be specific in your questions to get all the details that will make you feel assured you’re in good hands.
9. Snacks and Water
Wherever you go, carry a snack and water. The benefit is twofold, you’ll be able to regulate blood sugars and hydrate if you’re not near a restaurant or grocery store, but also it could come in handy in an emergency. This is one of the driest areas of the country and during the dry season (November-April) there may be short periods of no water access. Additionally, earthquakes do occur, so in the event of any kind of emergency, having even a small amount of food and water on hand is a good idea.
10. Public Restrooms
Last but not least, we all want to know; how are the public restrooms? Conditions of bathrooms in restaurants vary, and that’s about as “public” a restroom as you’ll get. Restaurants in the beach towns are pretty good about letting you use their facilities without being a patron, but buying a drink or small item is always a welcome gesture. It’s a good idea to carry tissue and hand sanitizer in the event that there is no water (as does occasionally occur during the summer).
Well we hope you’re well prepared now and ready to set out on your adventure. The Southern Nicoya Peninsula is a gem and the beauty of it should not be missed. So pack your bags and please let us know if you have any other questions, we’ll do our best to answer anything!