Cabuya Island at low tide

Cabuya Island at low tide

There are many attractions on the southern Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, but few visitors explore the tiny fishing village and mysterious island of Cabuya.

Costa Rica - Cabo BlancoCabuya is known as the gateway to the Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve, Costa Rica’s first privately protected reserve at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Seven kilometers after the beach town of Montezuma, you pass through the quaint village of Cabuya two kilometers before the Cabo Blanco Reserve. When you do, it’s worth it to stop and see the sights.

Beaches of Santa Teresa, Mal Pais and Montezuma are known for waves and great surfing. At Cabuya, there is a pretty white sand beach protected by a rocky reef that is safe for swimming — especially for children – without big surf or rip currents. Along the main road, you can’t miss the gigantic strangler fig tree – great for photographs to amaze your friends and family back home.

Cabuya Island cemeteryThe unique attraction of Cabuya is the small island situated 100 meters off the coast that has been used as a cemetery from pre-Columbian times to the present. At low tide it is possible to walk over to the island on a rocky path that gets exposed. The tide stays low enough to cross for a couple of hours; time enough to explore the cemetery, snorkel, go fishing and see the tide pools. The reef on the far side of Cabuya Island is one of the best spots in the area for snorkeling. During the day it is very hot in the full sun, so be prepared with lots of drinking water, a sun hat and sunscreen.

Fique plants (Furcraea andina) – known locally as cabuya – grow plentifully on the island and gave the area its name. Locals have used cabuya fibers for centuries to make ropes, garments, hammocks, baskets and textiles.

The island’s spooky reputation stems from the belief that it is guarded by spirits. The image is propagated by the nighttime funeral tradition of walking to the island with candles and lights, creating an eerie sight of lights floating across the water.

Where to stay on the Nicoya Peninsula

Beach bungalow, Hotel Tropico LatinoOn the other side of the Peninsula from Cabuya is the gorgeous, world-renowned beach of Santa Teresa Costa Rica. One of the best beachfront hotels in Santa Teresa is Hotel Tropico Latino, a relaxed and charming oasis on Playa Carmen. Tropico Latino features garden and beachfront bungalows and suites, a beachfront spa, yoga classes and retreats, and surf instruction and surf camps.

Hotel Tropico Latino offers guided tours of the beautiful Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve; the park is open Wednesday to Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

A hidden travel tip: You can have a beach sunrise and sunset all in the same day! If you go to Cabuya really early, you can see the sunrise over the ocean at Cabuya Beach since it is located on the southeastern side of the Peninsula. Then return to Santa Teresa for a spectacular sunset!

Article by Shannon Farley

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