Most visitors’ first sight of the southern Nicoya Peninsula is from the soothing, slow-paced ferry from Puntarenas: you’ll see its low brown hills rising up in the distance, ringed by a rugged coastline and pockets of intense jungly green. Much of the region, though, has been cleared for farming or cattle grazing, or, in the case of the surf towns on its far southwestern tip, given over to tourism.

The area’s main town is Cóbano, a dull transport hub with a petrol station, a post office and a Banco Nacional with an ATM, a rare convenience in these parts. Most tourists pass straight through on their way to the thriving coastal towns of Mal País, Santa Teresa or Montezuma, one of Costa Rica’s most popular beach hangouts. The partly paved road to Montezuma, lined by acres of cattle pasture, offers a startling – and disconcerting – vision of the future of the deforested tropics. Once covered with dense primary Pacific lowland forest, today only stumps dot the fields. Still, heroic efforts are being made by local conservationists to create a biological corridor throughout the peninsula, with the wildlife refuges of Reserva Karen Mogensen and Curú proving that nature can – and is – making a comeback. For details of ferries to and from the southern Nicoya Peninsula.