Destination – Guanacaste

Guanacaste

The Guanacaste Province is considered a precious treasure in Costa Rica’s northern Pacific. Here, you will find unforgettable national parks and protected areas, dazzling beaches, majestic volcanoes, and captivating folklore.

Guanacaste has the sunniest climate in all of Costa Rica, and is a preferred vacation destination for its famous beaches. Many different species of wildlife are protected in private refuges and national parks in Guanacaste. This region has much to offer; farming, fruit growing and tourism are the main economic activities. Its inhabitants are reputed to know how to celebrate in style. One of the most favourite pastimes is Tico-style bullfights, in which the bull always goes free without suffering.

After the Central Valley, this is the largest development zone in the country. The opening of the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia and the increasing frequency of charter flights, along with extensive luxury development on the Gulf of Papagayo, have significantly impacted this region. Its main attractions are sun and beach, sportfishing, golf, diving and general recreation.

In Guanacaste, you can enjoy these activities: Sun and beach, photography, sportfishing, architectural and historic sites, gourmet cuisine, bird watching, canopy zip-line tours, shopping for artisan crafts, recreational biking, hiking, horseback riding, snorkelling/scuba diving, and rural community tourism.

Guanacaste Major Attractions

Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Rincón de la Vieja National Park

The renowned Rincón de la Vieja Volcano belongs to the Guanacaste Volcanic Mountain Range, and is located approximately one hour away from Liberia and two hours from Guanacaste’s main beaches. The Rincón de la Vieja National Park is ideal for hiking. Trails take you to romantic waterfalls, and past exciting live volcanic activity like bubbling volcanic mud pits, steaming sulphur pools, and refreshing streams. Natural thermal springs in the area create an amazing experience of being in a spa under the open sky. Another unforgettable experience is riding on horseback in Guanacaste cowboy-style across the savannas at the foot of the mountain range.

Palo Verde National Park

Palo Verde National Park

The Palo Verde National Park, comprising a vast area of wetlands at the mouths of the Tempisque and Bebedero rivers, is a bird lover’s paradise. In these thickly vegetated mangrove swamps, you can see countless types of exotic birds, including many species of migratory birds, mainly during the months of December to April. This watery oasis in Guanacaste also is home to huge crocodiles and iguanas.

Miravalles Volcano Protected Zone

Miravalles Volcano Protected Zone

The main attraction of this Protected Zone is the Miravalles Volcano, being the tallest (2,028 m) peak in the Guanacaste Volcanic Mountain Range. Its slopes are famous for their hot springs, which can be enjoyed at pools located near the town of Guayabo. You also can visit volcanic vents in the area. There are several beautiful waterfalls, such as Cabro Muco, and another on the grounds of the La Fortuna high school farm; near the school are several lakes. Because the park contains a large underground heated reservoir, it is the site of Costa Rica’s first geothermal energy plant.

Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve

Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve

This Guanacaste nature reserve is located north of Palo Verde, and is particularly noted for the number of insect species it has, making it a special place for entomological research. The Lomas de Barbudal Reserve includes diverse habitats of savannah, riparian forests, primary forest and deciduous forest. There are rivers with quiet pools suitable for swimming. A notable element of the landscape are the Gold Trumpet Trees (“Corteza Amarilla”) that flower a brilliant golden yellow colour during the dry season, especially in March. Howler and white-faced Capuchin monkeys, deer and many birds are examples of Barbudal wildlife.

Bahía Junquillal National Wildlife Refuge

Bahía Junquillal National Wildlife Refuge

Part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area, the Bahia Junquillal National Wildlife Refuge protects a large area of tropical dry forest and coastal mangroves. Wildlife you can see here includes spider monkeys, howler monkeys, white-faced Capuchin monkeys, white-tailed deer, iguanas, and many types of marine birds. Additionally, four species of sea turtles come ashore to nest here in breeding season. There are trails, camping and picnic areas, toilets, public telephone and other services. Junquillal Bay is the main attraction; its quiet waters are splendid for swimming, snorkelling and boating. The refuge also includes other bays: Jicote, Cuajiniquil and the Los Muñecos islands.

Bolaños Island National Wildlife Refuge

Bolaños Island National Wildlife Refuge

One of the smallest protected zones in Costa Rica, the Bolaños Island National Wildlife Refuge is located in Salinas Bay near Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua. This tiny oval-shaped island is a rocky crag of only 25 hectares. Its greatest importance is being a seabird nesting colony, especially for Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigate birds and migrating American Oystercatchers. It is an ideal destination for bird lovers.

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Tenorio Volcano National Park

The Tenorio Volcano National Park shelters plant species like orchids, bromeliads and ferns, a variety of trees, and natural hot springs. One of its unique attractions is the famous Sky Blue River (Rio Celeste), acclaimed for its sky blue colouring that results from the many minerals mixing in its waters.

Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa National Park

The oldest and largest national park in Costa Rica, the Santa Rosa National Park was founded to commemorate the Battle of Santa Rosa of 1856, which pitted invading forces against the Costa Rican heroes who defeated them. The park is the only one of its kind in the world where 10 distinctive habitats can be found, including one of the largest last tropical dry forests on the planet. It is home to white-tailed deer, howler and white-faced Capuchin monkeys, collared peccaries, Olive Ridley sea turtles, coatimundis, and jaguarondis. The park occupies most of the Santa Elena Peninsula, featuring meandering trails with stunning viewpoints, excellent camping facilities, and spectacular beaches – such as Hachal, Danta, Coquito, Santa Elena, Blanca, Nancite and Naranjo. Nancite Beach is where the Olive Ridley turtles nest, and Naranjo Beach is the location of famous surf spot, Witches Rock.

Las Baulas Natural Marine Park and Tamarindo National Wildlife Refuge

Las Baulas Natural Marine Park and Tamarindo National Wildlife Refuge

The Las Baulas National Marine Park protects the largest nesting colony of Leatherback sea turtles (“baulas” in Spanish) on the Costa Rican Pacific Coast. It is a significant nesting spot in the world for the giant sea turtle, which is in danger of extinction and is protected in Costa Rica. The nearby Tamarindo National Wildlife Refuge is a large mangrove estuary at the river mouth of the Matapalo River that divides Playa Tamarindo and Playa Grande. The most common species of mangrove trees found in Costa Rica are: red, black, white and tea. Mangrove forests are the ideal home for fish, crustaceans and molluscs. You also can see here many reptiles, amphibians and birds.

Guanacaste National Park

Guanacaste National Park

Located in the northern part of the region, the Guanacaste National Park spans an impressive 84,000 hectares and connects to the Santa Rosa National Park to form one of the world’s largest biological reserves. It includes the Orosí and Cacao volcanoes. Highlights of the park include tropical lowland dry forest, savannas, tropical cloud forests, Caribbean wet forests, and the headwaters of several important rivers. There is a large population of wild pigs, as well as jaguars, pumas, tapirs, deer, armadillos, monkeys, and a variety of birds.

Diriá National Park

Diriá National Park

River basins, watersheds, waterfalls, and about 1,500 hectares of tropical forest are the main characteristics of the Diria National Park. Elevations range from 140 to 960 meters; above 700 meters is considered cloud forest with its moss and bromeliad-covered trees.

Ostional National Wildlife Refuge

Ostional National Wildlife Refuge

The Refuge’s main purpose is to protect the thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles, as well as Leatherback and Pacific Green turtles that come to these beaches all year to nest and lay their eggs. From June to December, there is a phenomenon known as the “arribada” of the Olive Ridley turtles. About four to 10 times during this period, and lasting three to seven days each, hundreds of thousands of sea turtles arrive en masse to lay their eggs – each turtle laying between 100 and 200 eggs.

Barra Honda National Park

Barra Honda National Park

The main attraction of the Barra Honda National Park is the limestone caves with stalactite and stalagmite formations. An important geological resource, the caves range in depth from a few meters to 240 meters below the surface. A guided tour is the best way to see this cave system, since you have to enter vertically using a rope and harness. There is also an extensive network of hiking trails to explore the tropical dry forest.

Principal Guanacaste Beaches

Papagayo

Papagayo

Playa Flamingo is ideal for an unforgettable holiday, with its stunning white sand, unspoiled beaches and pristine clear blue waters. Flamingo offers visitors some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world, and a wealth of water sports like scuba diving and snorkelling. As well, Flamingo is close by to the amazing nature reserves of Santa Rosa and Palo Verde.

Playa Nacascolo

Playa Nacascolo

On the Papagayo Gulf, Playa Nacascolo has transparent water and gentle waves, very suitable for swimming, snorkelling and diving. Many tourists visit this beach by way of boat from nearby hotels. Its indisputable beauty makes Nacascolo a perfect corner of the North Pacific to walk by the sea; enjoy the small stream which is located at its southern end.

Playa Panamá

Playa Panamá

Located in the wide Culebra (Snake) Bay on the Gulf of Papagayo, Playa Panama is a very attractive beach of fine sand. Waves are small and there are no rocks, making it an ideal place for swimming. Nearby are Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, and the Four Seasons Resort with its Arnold Palmer championship golf course.

Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa

The aptly named Playa Hermosa, or “Beautiful Beach,” is only 20 minutes away from the Liberia International Airport. It is an excellent location for swimming, sunbathing, watching beautiful sunsets, walks, horseback riding, and water sports such as scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, sailboarding and windsurfing.

Playas del Coco

Playas del Coco

Located only 40 km from the Liberia International Airport, Playas del Coco is one of Costa Rica’s most well-known and popular beaches. Located on a small bay with little waves, the beach is great for swimming. Scuba diving, snorkelling and sportfishing are the main activities here. Playas del Coco also is the gateway to prime surfing at Ollie’s Point and Witches Rock. Walking and horseback riding also are popular. Being one of the largest beach villages in Guanacaste means there is very good infrastructure, with plenty of shops, restaurants, bars, discos, hotels and resorts.

Ocotal

Ocotal

This beach is one of the best places for snorkelling and scuba diving along the Guanacaste Coast. Playa Ocotal’s calm waters and sandy beach also are notable for swimming, sunbathing, and sportfishing.

Sugar Beach (Playa Pan de Azúcar) and Danta

Sugar Beach (Playa Pan de Azúcar) and Danta

These beaches are two coves less than a kilometre long, surrounded by hills from which you can enjoy a magnificent panorama of the bays of Potrero and Brasilito. Sugar Beach is very secluded and rich with flora and fauna; it has been named one of Costa Rica’s best beaches.

Playa Penca

Playa Penca

There is a stream and a mangrove swamp, which together with the Chocoyas Islet at its northern end, give Playa Penca a special natural attraction for rest and contemplation.

Playa Potrero

Playa Potrero

Estuaries and mangroves and a beautiful landscape characterize Playa Potrero. It is terrific for swimming, sunbathing, walking and horseback riding, as well as water sports like sportfishing and diving. Playa Flamingo is only a 5-minute walk south.

Flamingo

Flamingo

Playa Flamingo is ideal for an unforgettable holiday, with its stunning white sand, unspoiled beaches and pristine clear blue waters. Flamingo offers visitors some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world, and a wealth of water sports like scuba diving and snorkelling. As well, Flamingo is close by to the amazing nature reserves of Santa Rosa and Palo Verde.

Conchal

Conchal

With its white sugary sand and clear, calm water, Conchal is one of the most beautiful beaches along the northern Nicoya Peninsula. There are several resorts here with world-class golf courses.

Playa Ventanas

Playa Ventanas

This is a beautiful beach and tiny bay, next to Playa Grande, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, walking and relaxing.

Playa Grande

Playa Grande

This beach is part of the Las Baulas National Marine Park, a protected area for Leatherback sea turtles that come to lay their eggs between October and March.

Tamarindo

Tamarindo

Tamarindo is one of the most easily accessible beach towns of the north Pacific Coast. It is a lively surf town with shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, tour centres, and water sports rentals. Surfing is one of the major activities in Tamarindo.

Playa Langosta

Playa Langosta

The wide sandy beach of Playa Langosta is just south of Tamarindo and is excellent for surfing. The Las Baulas National Marine Park, an important nesting site for Leatherback sea turtles, is nearby.

Avellanas

Avellanas

Just 10 km south of Tamarindo, Playa Avellanas is a surfer’s dream paradise. This is a beach for experienced surfers due to large waves.

Playa Negra

Playa Negra

This dark sand beach has a rocky reef offshore that creates excellent waves for surfing. It is located just south of Playa Avellanas.

Playa Junquillal

Playa Junquillal

Quiet and serene, Playa Junquillal is a pristine beach unlike any other on Guanacaste’s Pacific Coast. The beach here is backed by grasslands and there are only a few hotels and restaurants. It is a better beach for surfing rather than swimming since the waters tend to be very rough. Hiking and horseback riding are popular here.

Ostional

Ostional

This beach is part of the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, scene of massive arrivals of sea turtles for nesting and laying their eggs – peak season is June to December. There are a few nice boutique hotels, but the beach is wild and not suitable for swimming.

Nosara

Nosara

The relaxed, international community of Nosara, on the northern Nicoya Peninsula, is known for its naturally beautiful beaches, surfing and yoga. The village is simple and charming with restaurants, bars and shops. Most hotels in the village are simple and comfortable; there are several luxury resorts outside of town along the beach. This area also is part of the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge.

Playa Guiones

Playa Guiones

Located next to Playa Nosara, Playa Guiones is a long, wide beach that is marvellous for surfing, snorkelling, walking and horseback riding. There is a great diversity of tourist services here, and the area offers peace and quiet, and relaxing beach time.

Playa Garza

Playa Garza

In Garza, a small fishing village just south of Playa Guiones, you can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, hiking, surfing and sportfishing tours.

Playa Barco Quebrado

Playa Barco Quebrado

Near Playa Garza, this beach known as “Playa Barco Quebrado” (Broken Ship Beach) is a beautiful cove with moderate surf. It is surrounded by high rocky cliffs that give it a special attraction. This beach is perfect for swimming and for relaxing. South of Playa Barco Quebrado is another attractive beach called Barrigona.

Sámara - Carrillo

Sámara - Carrillo

Sitting along the southern Nicoya Peninsula, Samara is a small sunny town with wide scenic beaches. The surf is small, and it is a superb vacation spot for families. Abundant coastal vegetation includes Manzanillo trees, coconut palms, and creeping plants such as beach bean. Towards the middle of the beach is a huge, old strangler fig tree that is a hallmark of Samara. Here you can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, swimming in the sea, mountain biking, boating and kayaking. Most hotels are simple and comfortable. Not as developed as Samara, Playa Carrillo lies just to the south. Lined with palm trees, and with white sand and aquamarine sea, Playa Carrillo is stunningly picturesque.

Playa Bejuco

Playa Bejuco

Situated 17 km south of Playa Carrillo, the wide beach at Playa Bejuco is very quiet and relaxing. Waves are moderate to strong. There is an extensive mangrove forest extending back from the beach at the mouth of the River Bejuco. The beach also has some rocky areas and coves excellent for tidal pools and swimming.

Playa Coyote

Playa Coyote

A beautiful and remote beach along the Nicoya Peninsula, south of Samara and Carrillo, Playa Coyote is tranquil and relaxing. The beach faces Bolaños Island, which can be visited in boat or kayak. During the windiest months, it is a very good place for windsurfing. Other fun activities include hiking, horseback riding, and exploring nearby places on mountain bike.

Playa Caletas

Playa Caletas

Considered a hidden treasure, Playa Caletas is a beautiful sandy beach with a near-constant offshore breeze keeping temperatures pleasant. The isolated area is south of Playa Coyote and is known as one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica for experienced surfers. Five kilometres south is the Bongo river mouth and estuary; the channel marks the border between the Guanacaste and Puntarenas provinces. About 4 km south of the river is Manzanillo Beach, which is beautiful and boasts lush vegetation. At Playa Caletas, you can rent horses, hike, enjoy the sea, walk, kayak, surf, camp, and enjoy sportfishing tours.

Playa Islita

Playa Islita

On the Nicoya Peninsula, secluded Playa Islita is a hotspot for honeymoons and romantic vacations. It is a crescent-shaped cove with little surf. Hotel Punta Islita is a famous luxury boutique resort here. Popular activities in the area include hiking, horseback riding, 4×4 tours, ATV tours, mountain biking, and boating to go fishing and diving.

Recommended Partners in Guanacaste

Hotel Bahía del Sol
Buena Vista Lodge
Hotel Capitan Suizo
Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas
El Mangroove Boutique Hotel
Hacienda Guachipelín
Hacienda Pinilla
Hotel Tamarindo Diria
Hotel Flamingo Beach
L'Aqua Viva Resort & Spa
Villas Playa Sámara