QTRAVEL – Dozens of surfboards bobbed on the Pacific waves rolling in as the sun came down on yet another perfectly clear, piping-hot day in the Nicoya Peninsula beach town Nosara.
“Costa Rica in my mind, back then, you sum up my impression of the country in three ideas: Closer. Waves. Spanish-speaking people,” says of Costa Rica, John S. Johnson III, the Brooklyn- and Nosara-based co-founder of BuzzFeed, whose great-grandfather started the giant global pharmaceutical and personal care company Johnson & Johnson.
This hard-to-reach spot has pulled in surfers since American expatriates discovered it in the late 1960s. But something radical has changed on the beach. The $10-a-night flophouses that once housed the bohemian surfer crowd have largely been replaced by high-end boutique hotels, and more than a dozen new restaurants have opened in the last year alone.
They have helped lure affluent travelers to a once-sleepy yet still decidedly laid-back beach town, including waves of families who usually vacation in places like Telluride, Colo., Montauk, N.Y., or the south of France.
Its natural beauty is the primary draw. Nosara has a virtual amusement park of outdoor activities: some of the world’s best surfing, stand-up paddle boarding in adjacent estuaries, and, in the nearby mountains, one of the world’s longest zip-line tours.
But it is Nosara’s embrace of an eco-friendly, all-natural, organic lifestyle that rounds out its appeal. It is home to a dozen or so yoga retreats, day spas, natural healing classes and a culinary scene that emphasizes super-fresh ingredients like farm-fresh produce and just-caught seafood.
This is the kind of place where a crowd assembles at the beach for the sunset each day, in a Zen-like tribute to nature.