The Gilded Iguana
Nosara, Costa Rica
Modern surf hotel with posh amenities located a five minutes’ walk to the breaks of Playa Guiones.
Originally built in 1988, The Gilded Iguana has almost been around since the beginning of Costa Rica’s surf boom and due to a recent remodel, this charming surf hotel has never been better.
Designed by local award-winning architect Benjamin Saxe, the hotel features open breezy spaces with sleek modern touches, relaxed vibes, and lush landscaping. With an in-house restaurant and bar, multiple pools, hot tub, surf lessons, and their Surf Club (which gives you access to over 150 surfboards you can take for a spin), you’ll have access to everything you need for a pampered surf trip in paradise.
Location-wise, The Gilded Iguana is just 200 meters from Playa Guiones, one of the marquee beaches and surf spots on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Surf lessons are available a la carte, or if you’re interested in a more immersive experience, The Gilded Iguana offers an all-inclusive 7-night surf camp once a month. The retreat includes accommodations, daily surf lessons, video analysis sessions, surf theory, membership to their surf club (with unlimited board access), and more. The camp accommodates beginners to advanced surfers.
VIBE: Relaxed modern oasis
LOCALE: Charming quiet beach town
ROOMS: 29 / various rooms accommodate 2 – 6 guests
FAMILY FRIENDLY: Yes
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Liberia International (LIR)
PRICING: from $179 per night
The architecture and interiors throughout combine simple and unpolished materials such as teak, palm thatch, jute fabric, and concrete tiles with modern tropical furniture made with local materials and craftsmanship. Light-filled rooms feature indoor and outdoor showers and outside living spaces.
When you’re ready to relax after a full day of surfing, there’s no better way to do so than to kick back on a plush daybed at the pool or enjoy an in-house spa treatment. The hotel features numerous outdoor pools (including a hot tub and kid’s pool), surrounded by a peaceful picturesque deck area.
Eat & Drink
Daily breakfast is included with your stay, and the on-site restaurant and bar is open all day serving Mediterranean fare and Costa Rican favorites. From fresh seafood and pasta to ceviche and mojitos, you’ll find plenty of delicious options to refuel for another day in the waves. Live music Tuesdays from 6-10pm.
Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula enjoys consistent surf all year long, with the peak season being between April and September, when south swells are frequent. Nosara’s marquee spot is Playa Guiones, a long beach with numerous, punchy sandbar peaks and a reef break at the northern end. While the user-friendly waves at Playa Guiones have become rather popular in the past few years, the surrounding coastline is home to a number of semi-secret spots. Advanced surfers might want to explore north or south to search out more powerful and potentially hollow waves.
WATER TEMP: 77 – 86 °F (25 – 30 °C)
PEAK SURF SEASON: April – Sept
SHOULDER SURF SEASON: Nov – Mar
SURF EXPERIENCE: Beginner to advanced
CHECK IN: 3 pm
CHECK OUT: 12 pm
SURF ROOMS: from $179
PREMIUM ROOMS: from $235
PREMIUM PLUS ROOMS: from $259
SURFER SUITE: from $275
Good to Know
– The Gilded Iguana’s Surf Club is a luxe setup located along a path on the way to the beach and offers surf lessons, video coaching, photography, and guided surf excursions. Services can be booked a la carte, or you can become a Surf Club member for discounts on services, personal air-conditioned board storage, and access to all surf equipment (over 150 different boards for all levels and styles). Surf Club memberships are available daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
– Mountain biking rentals, lessons, and excursions are available at the hotel, and the staff at the front desk can help coordinate a number of tours such as fishing, ziplining, snorkeling, and more.
– The hotel is family friendly and has a kid’s pool for toddlers and babysitting services available at an extra charge. The first floor rooms are more easily accessible with little ones, and if you would like a crib, just ask when booking.
Nosara, Costa Rica
Nosara is both a district and a village on the Pacific Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. Known both for its world-class waves and vibrant yoga scene, the village has seen extensive growth over the past decade, but still maintains its quiet Central American charm.
In addition to great waves and other adventure sports, Nosara is also home to a variety of fun animals such as white-faced monkeys, coatimundi, and olive ridley turtles. A tidal blowhole and numerous animal rehabilitation and wildlife refuges round out the experience at this Costa Rican staple.
By plane: Nosara (NOS) is the local airstrip, and flights on the domestic carrier Sansa can be as short as 20 min from Liberia (LIR) and 45min from San Jose (SJO). The planes for these connections are small prop-engined aircraft.
The closest International airport is Liberia International Airport (LIR) which is a two and a half hour drive to the hotel, and San Jose International Airport (SJO) is a five-hour drive. You can rent a car, or the hotel can help arrange transportation from the airport. The price for transport in an air-conditioned minivan is around $140 per trip from Liberia, and $240 per trip from San Jose (a minivan can carry a group of 4 – 6 people with a piece of luggage for each person).
Tips for Renting a Car
For the most freedom and flexibility on your trip (especially to explore surf breaks), we recommend renting a car. For car rentals in Costa Rica, we highly recommend SIXT.
Here’s why in a nutshell: In Costa Rica, there is a mandatory third-party liability insurance for rental cars. Unfortunately, many companies and websites do NOT include this insurance cost in their quote you reserve online, so you could book a great-looking price online (like $5 a day) and end up having to pay an additional $12 – $27+ per day when you pick up your car, which can literally double or quadruple the cost of your rental car. (This is why most car rental companies in Costa Rica have terrible reviews.)
On our last trip to Costa Rica, we spent hours researching to try and figure out the accurate and best pricing for car rentals, and SIXT came out the winner. SIXT has clear pricing that includes the mandatory insurance (so there are no surprises), they have the best prices we found, and we ended up renting with them multiple times and had great experiences.
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