FOR ANYONE THINKING about visiting Nosara soon, Harbor Reef Surf Resort is a great option. The VN Team recently caught up with hotel manager Jon Calderaro to discuss Nosara’s vibe, his favorite activities, and the best places to score a bite to eat and a drink.
Thanks for talking with us, Jon!
The VN Team: What is your favorite thing about living in Nosara, why?
Jon Calderaro: The laid back lifestyle, sense of freedom, slow pace, dirt roads and the tranquility of Playa Guiones. I also love that there are no large hotels here or high rises to pollute the view of the jungle visually or with light at night. When you go to the beach at night, all you’ll see are the stars and that is rare these days in areas that have tourism. Not to mention there are surfable tropical water waves every single day of the year.
VN: Please tell us about the Harbor Reef Surf Resort. What makes it special?
JC: There is a vibe at Harbor Reef that exudes relaxation. I think though, that if you ask anybody in the last couple years that has stayed here they would say our friendly, attentive staff. We are always available and go out of our way to take guests certain places and show them the things that the locals enjoy. Thats the beauty of a small, family-run hotel, our guests don’t get lost in the shuffle. You also can’t beat our location – we are right next to the beach, yet still tucked back in a quiet part of the jungle surrounded by wildlife.
VN: When is the best time to visit Harbor Reef, why?
JC: That’s an interesting question, because honestly every month is great here. Personally, I enjoy the green season, which runs from May – November. During this time, we receive the most swell. This is low season for tourism but high season for waves and swell. We also receive rain this time of year, which, after the dry season, is very welcome.
We receive the most tourists during the Costa Rican summer season of December – April. During this time, we receive no rain at all, and the swell lineups tend to be pretty crowded. And while conditions are still great, we receive less swell. Still, there can be some epic days from the north swells we receive during these months and there are lots of activities around town during this time so it’s a good mix. The Costa Rican summer season is also the best time for people to learn to surf – and we do receive a lot of people during that time looking to learn to surf and enjoy the laid back surf vibe the hotel offers.
VN: Which Nosara restaurants and bars do you typically recommend to your guests, why?
JC: The area is filled with great cuisine and I really enjoy a large variety. I like Pacifico Azul on the other side of Playa Guiones for seafood – they do such a great job with every dish. For Italian I like La Dolce Vita in Esperanza – the owner really takes pride in each dish. It’s also a great romantic spot if you have a date. Of course, we have a great restaurant right here at Harbor Reef and you can’t wrong with our theme night, Taco Tuesday. The tacos are delicious and you can’t beat the drink specials and the vibe. If you head out to Nosara, you need to stop in to Rancho Tico – authentic Costa Rican cuisine combined with a fun vibe. The beers are cold and the casados are tasty! Not to mention they have an awesome pizza oven and, in my opinion, they make the best pizza in the area. Another great option for pizza is in Playa Pelada and that restaurant is called Pepperoni. Their other dishes are great too and the vibe is fun. Also in Playa Pelada is La Luna which sits up on a small bluff right on the beach. This is a must do for sunset one night if you are here during the high season. Reservations are necessary as they get very full, especially the outdoor tables.
Nightlife in the area is limited, but there are options. On Tuesdays, people generally either come to Taco Tuesday at Harbor Reef or the Gilded Iguana or start at HR and then hit Gilded for the live music. Thursday night is Reggae night at Chaman, and this one starts a bit late. Usually it doesn’t get going until after 11pm and goes until 2 or 3am. Saturday night, if you have the energy, I recommend going to Tropicana in Nosara. It’s a local discoteque and a lot of fun. Starts around 11pm and goes until around 2 or 3am depending on the crowd.
Those are the staples but there are other parties that pop up from time to time and we’ll dial our guests when something is in the works. Another great option for sunset is the Lagarta Lodge. They sit above the trees overlooking the Rio Nosara and the view is incredible as you can see Ostional and other spots up north, its pretty spectacular and a great option for a sunset cocktail.
VN: What kind of activities are available for your guests, hiking, zip-lining, fishing …?
JC: Besides surfing, there is a large variety of activities in the area, and we can set our guests up with all of it. Zip lining is definitely one of the most popular activities in the area, and comes highly recommended. The fishing here is incredible as well, with boat trips leaving out of Garza. You can also fish from the shore as well by La Boca of the Rio de Nosara. The Nosara River also offers other great activities such as SUP or Kayak tours. In the rainy season we can also arrange hikes to the many waterfalls in the area. Another great activity is to rent a quad and either explore on your own or take a tour with a guide. This will get you into areas not accessible by car. Another great way to see the land is on horseback tours thru the jungle and on the beach. Up in Ostional there is also the possibility of seeing turtles in season. The best time of year for this is definitely the rainy season when we see the most arribadas. When the turtles are here we let our guests know and can set up tours for them to view the large sea turtles. Its quite an experience. Another super fun tour I had the pleasure of doing last year was Howling Monkey Adventures. This tour includes being able to drive a Tom Car which is sort of like a military assault vehicle. It can power through anything and you can get to see hard-to-get-to locations: a must do if you are in town.