Visiting Ostional Wildlife Refuge
The magic of Ostional rests in the Olive Ridley Turtles that come to nest on this beach. During the rainy season, you can see thousands of turtles coming up to shore to lay their eggs and baby turtles hatch. The Wildlife Refuge is a paradise for the nature lover and this sight is bound to move you. One of the most beautiful things you will ever see is the tiny turtles taking their first but hazardous steps to the ocean!
Ostional is located on the Nicoya Peninsula in the Guanacaste Province. The international airport in Liberia (LIR) is about 2 hours away. The domestic airport of Nosara, however, is only a short 10 km from the beach! Additionally, Playa Ostional is known as an amazing surfer beach where some nice waves can be caught!
The Ostional Wildlife Refuge – Turtle Watching
The Ostional Wildlife Refuge was created in 1984 to protect the area from poachers stealing the sea turtle eggs. This makes this National Wildlife Refuge a very important Sea Turtle Conservation project. But what makes Ostional Beach so special is the size of the arribadas, or “arrivals”. They are truly massive and at its peak, there are so many turtles it is almost impossible to walk on the beach! As a result, the first eggs often end up being trampled by the following turtles. For this reason it is legal for locals to collect some of the eggs.
Local guides offer early morning tours so you can see the turtles hatch and watch the little ones make their way to the sea. The afternoon and night tours focus on the arrival of the turtles at the nesting beach. However, during the rainy season you will be able to see turtles at any time of the day. Always be respectful when visiting the turtle nesting ground and listen to the guides’ instructions.
You can also visit Las Baulas north of the refuge at Playa Grande to see the leatherback sea turtles and head to Tortuguero to spot the Green Sea Turtles!
Ostional might be most known for its gentle giants, but it is also a great surfing location. In between the main nesting area and the conservation grounds, you will find a haven of surf breaks. The waves are consistent and offer a challenge for surfers of all levels. Ostional can be a good option for those who find Playa Nosara a bit too crowded at times.
The Nicoya Penisula
As one of the five Blue Zone areas, the Nicoya Peninsula has a unique atmosphere. This is the place where Pura Vida meets a natural bend to a healthy way of life. The beaches reflect this lifestyle each in their own way. Playa Nosara is a surfer’s paradise as well as a mecca for yoga enthusiasts. Playa Samara, in turn, feels like the Costa Rican version of a hippie commune. Nicoya town was Costa Rica’s first colonial city and boasts the oldest church in the country. By exploring the rest of the peninsula, you can combine unique natural heritage with stunning beaches and culture!
Diria and Barra Honda National Parks
Costa Rica is of course much more than stunning beaches. Close to Playa Ostional you can explore two national parks both part of the Tempisque Conservation Area. Barra Honda is great for a hike but even more so for the caves underneath the mountain. Take a guided tour and learn more about the quirky formations! Diria National Park is perhaps a little less known compared to some others but well worth a visit. Part of the park are dry as well as tropical humid forests in the higher levels. There are two trails you can follow and one of them leads to the beautiful Brasil waterfall!
Visit during the rainy season: Turtles come to nest to Ostional Beach all year round. However, the periods of the huge arribadas take place during the rainy season from August to December. If you come during the dry season, you may spot a few turtles or none at all. You can also visit some other beaches in Guanacaste because even during the rainy season, you can get lucky and enjoy sunny days at the beach.
Wear dark colors: The turtles are sensitive to colors and bright light. So wear black or very dark colors to avoid distracting and bothering them.
Don’t block the turtle’s path: It may seem difficult but avoid crossing or otherwise blocking a turtle’s path. It can hinder them in their attempts to find a suitable nesting area.
Only visit the beach with a guide: Never visit the beach without a guide. Guards are located all over the area and will request you join a group if they find you walking alone.
If you are driving, rent a 4×4: Costa Rica has been investing greatly in its roads. But some places are still a bit rougher and not yet paved. The road to Playa Ostional is one of these places so if you are driving, make sure to rent a 4×4 vehicle.
Explore the nearby area: Be sure to pay a visit to the neighboring beaches and nearby national parks!
Nosara Domestic airport is located just a stone’s throw from Ostional. The airport only receives charter and domestic flights. Sansa offers daily flights from San Jose as well as Liberia. From San Jose the flight will take 35 minutes and from Liberia only 15. From there it is only 10 km to Playa Ostional. Private shuttles from San Jose can be provided but will cost you around $240. Shared shuttles are a more affordable option between $50 and $100. If you want to take advantage from the shuttle service between Liberia and Ostional, you will pay about half the price.
Ostional has only a couple of dining options but all of them are very good. The best choice has to be Luna Azul. This restaurant offers seafood as well as Central-American cuisine. Dinner at Brovilla is also bound to be a feast with local and international dishes alike.
Where to stay
Ostional is a quiet community and kept so for the sake of the many turtles visiting the beaches. But with Playa Nosara being only 10km away, staying there is a good option. Lagarta Lodge is a great place to help you discover Nosara in an eco-friendly boutique hotel. If you are looking for peace and tranquility, Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort will help you achieve that!
Respect the turtles!
It is a once in a lifetime experience to see these beautiful creatures nesting! Costa Rica is taking big strides in protecting its national wildlife but you too must always remember that these are animals following a natural process first, and a tourist attraction second. Back in 2015, it was reported that so many tourists were visiting the beach that the turtles were actually hindered in their nesting ritual. Observe wildlife and its wonders, but never forget to respect it too!