Golden Guanacaste Costa Rica!
The province of Guanacaste Costa Rica is located in the northwest of the country. Extending to the Nicaraguan border in the north and down the majority of the Nicoya peninsula, Guanacaste is host to some of the most beautiful beaches and national parks of Costa Rica.
The province capital is Liberia, a town easily accessed by its Daniel Oduber International Airport which is receiving more and more flights from the US and abroad.
Guanacaste Costa Rica is notable for its cowboy or “sabañero” culture. The vast rolling savannah here is hot and dry for half the year with plenty of sunshine and is flanked to the east by the Cordillera de Guanacaste, a string of mountains and volcanoes. During the rainy season, the dry forests burst into emerald green and flowers abound.
Down the Pacific coast of Guanacaste you will find popular beach resort towns like Playas del Coco, Playa Flamingo, Playa Conchal, Tamarindo, Playa Nosara, and Sámara. Deserted stretches of beach abound, as do warm waters and some of the best surfing in Costa Rica, not to mention great diving.
For all these reasons, Guanacaste is really growing in popularity. Numerous stars and celebrities have visited the area – especially the coast – and some have even bought property. Andre Agassi and his wife Steffi Graf own land here, and just recently Mel Gibson bought a 163-hectare ranch outside of Sámara for an estimated $25.8M where he hosted Britney Spears in 2007.
The Golfo de Papagayo region around Playas del Coco and in the Bahia de Culebra in particular are gaining in popularity. The Four Seasons has a resort here and owns a vast tract of land reaching north along the Papagayo Gulf and a hand-full of five star resorts are slated for development, two of which will cost around $160M each and another being developed for a whopping $300M!
It would be quite easy to spend two weeks in just Guanacaste Costa Rica, due to the richness of landscape and the number of things to see and do. Check out some of the “must-sees” below.
Major attractions of Guanacaste Costa Rica and the Northwest:
- Volcán Rincón de La Vieja National Park – With an active volcano, the largest in the Cordillera de Guanacaste, and nine separate craters to explore, this park is sure to awe. Numerous hiking trails, waterfalls, and natural hot springs along with abundant wildlife make this a must see.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve – If you’re into birdwatching or emerald jungles shrouded in mist you will love Monteverde, one of the most popular sites in Costa Rica. Here you can take a break from the hot beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula and soar through the jungle canopy on exciting zip lines.
- Palo Verde National Park – Protecting over 13k hectares marshes, floodplain, and tropical dry forest, this national park is unlike others in that the trees here are deciduous and undergo a yearly transformation in which they simultaneously blossom with beautiful yellow and pink flowers and then lose their leaves. An incredible variety of insects congregate here as well as birds for all you birdwatchers.
- Santa Rosta National Park – Preserving more than 120k acres of dry forest, this park is home to numerous animals and dry season will ensure pleny are out looking for a source of water. You should be able to check off agoutis and tapirs from your list of animals to see. Some rare jaguar sightings have even been reported. In addition, Playa Naranjo beach within the park is the site of Witches Rock, a famous surf site so named for a large monolithic rock structure found just offshore.
- Tamarindo – Affectionately (and sometimes not so affectionately) dubbed Tama-gringo, this hugely popular beach resort town is a great place for nightlife and to learn to surf. More advanced surf breaks can be found just north and south of here at Playa Grande, Avellanas, and Playa Negra. Playa Grande is also a protected sea-turtle nesting beach. Click this link for more info on Tamarindo Costa Rica.
- Surfing – Famed Witches Rock & Ollie’s Point Surf Breaks as featured in Endless Summer II are both just a 45 min boat ride north of Playas del Coco. Too many other breaks to count can be found along the Pacific Coast of Guanacaste as it extends into the Nicoya Peninsula. Check out the Costa Rica surfing page for beaches with good waves.
- Diving at Islas Catalinas and Islas Murciélagos (Bats) – Arguably the best diving in Costa Rica can be found at these two island groups, both visited by dive shops from Playas del Coco – where I worked – and Playa Hermosa. I saw my first giant manta ray at the Catalinas and my first huge bull shark at Murciélagos (or Bats) Island. See my scuba page for diving info and pics. All the pics are from where I dove off the coast of Guanacaste Costa Rica.