THINGS TO DO IN GUANACASTE
Depending on your mood, time, budget and how far you are willing to travel either by car or bus, there are lots to do in this beautiful area while in Costa Rica.
Want to relax? Go to the beach!
In the Guanacaste province you can literally spend days looking and finding a plethora of beautiful beaches some well known and some hidden gems that only the locals know about. In some cases, you’ll have all to yourself. These are just some of the beaches in Guanacaste below in no particular order:
- Tamarindo beach. Although, a bit crowded specially in high season, we’re partial to Tamarindo because we LOVE spending at least an entire day sitting on the beach, watching the surfers try and sometime succeed in riding the waves, kids learning to surf and people watch since this is a very popular spot, you will not be bored here! Tamarindo is the go-to beach for beginners and mid-level surfers. The vibe is one of a surfers’ quaint, charming, small town. Once you get hungry, there are lots of great casual restaurants, food is fantastic, we have been going there every year for the past 7 years and tried out different restaurants every time and none have disappointed.
Shopping in Tamarindo? There are also lots of small and unique shops from art galleries, clothing, jewelry and many street booth vendors along the main street. Beware, Tamarindo’s prices have gone up during the last five years it probably has to do with the fact the is a very popular, touristy spot.
- Playa Hermosa. This is another beach we love to visit every time we have a chance. Located just 20 minutes from the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, and 7 kilometers north of Playas del Coco, Hermosa is one of the best maintained beaches in the country. Hermosa meaning beautiful in Spanish, offers visitors crystal clear blue waters and magnificent scenery, which makes it a very popular beach strip on the Pacific coast.
Playa Hermosa proudly holds the “Bandera Azul” “Blue Flag” prize given to those beaches that demonstrate high environmental standards and excellent safety facilities. Offering a two- kilometer of beach surrounded by tropical forests and ridges of volcanic rock it’s a great place to relax and unwind. Rarely crowded, always laid back, warm waters, and ideal weather conditions, Hermosa will also be one of your favorite spots. Playa Hermosa offers convenient accommodations and nice, fairly priced restaurants lining the beach shore.
- Playa Conchal. This beautiful white sand beach was made famous for one unique characteristic- it had shells instead of sand! There aren’t as many shells nowadays as people have taken them home as souvenirs, although you can still see bits and pieces of sparkling shells when you grab a handful of sand. Conchal is a beach you should absolutely visit when you are in Costa Rica.
- Playa Brasilito. If you’re looking to experience a more local, laid back small town flavor, Brasilito should be on your list. Although, located right next to Playa Conchal the two are completely different. Also, you can gain access to Playa Conchal through Brasilito. Playa Brasilito will provide the authentic, Costa Rican town feel, atmosphere and cuisine that lots of tourists are looking for.
- Playa Flamingo. White sand, expansive beautiful beach. If you’re looking for more services in the form of luxurious resorts, upscale restaurants and high end condos, while still experiencing the “pura vida” laid back feel this is the place for you.
- Playa Grande. If you want to experience great surfing, a less “touristy” area, where leatherback turtle nest Playa Grande is the place! Located along the Tamarindo Bay, Grande offers tan colored sand and bright blue waters. As part of the Marino Las Baulas National Park, Playa Grande it’s a famous spot for turtle nestings, therefore while open to the public, visitors aren’t allowed to go after nightfall in order to protect turtles and their babies.
- Playa Avellanas. Want a remote, quiet surfing spot? Avellanas is the place! With its nickname “Little Hawaii”, is one of the best beaches in Guanacaste, Costa Rica for its waves, sunset and bars. Since waves in Avellana can reach up to 18 feet, is considered to be more adequate for intermediate and advance level surfers.
- Playas del Coco. If you’re looking for a place where you can experience all that Costa Rica has to offer in one single place; a beautiful beach, shopping, local and upscale dining, as well as day and/or nightlife Playas del Coco is where you want to be. For visitors planning to explore the Guanacaste Province, Playas del Coco provides an excellent centric location. Located just a short drive away from Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport, the town is one of Costa Rica’s most well-known, fastest growing communities, since it draws lots of local and international visitors each year. As the largest village in the Province of Guanacaste, Playas del Coco offers an abundance of accommodations and services for all visitors and all budgets.
Coco Beach is recognized for its accessibility to supreme fishing areas and scuba diving locations, as well as for being the midway point to Witches Rock, a world-famous surfing spot.
Daytime activities in Playa del Coco include, relaxing on the beach, visiting near by small islands like Catalinas or Bat Island or national parks, shark watching while scuba diving, or you may run into big size marine turtles nesting on the beach. Waves are usually gentle enough for kids to swim and the beach is long enough so that no matter how crowded it gets, you’ll always be able to find a spot. Other activities include surfing, sport fishing, snorkeling, hiking, horseback riding or simply bird-watching.
There is a vast array of bars, restaurants and shops along the town’s main road which also leads to the main beach. Various grocery stores including local and upscale, plenty of souvenir shops.
Year-end holidays, as well as Easter and high season weekends, can be quite busy as many of the local families use their free time as well. While Coco is family friendly during the day, night life can be very active and best for the adults-only set.
Nightlife at Playas del Coco. There is plenty to do when the sun goes down at Coco. Downtown Coco is an exciting party location with dozens of bars and small clubs.
- Playa Panama. If you are looking to escape the crowds, have long walks on the beach and enjoy calm waters with the family, this is the beach for you! Just under a thirty minute drive from the Daniel Oduber Quiroz Liberia International Airport, Panama offers crystal blue waters, grey sand while being surrounded by nature, beauty and a laid back atmosphere. Although the area is in development, the serenity and pristine conditions of the beach have not changed.
Playa Panama doesn’t have a town, that might present a challenge for visitors to get around. The easiest and fastest way to get around is by car. You can rent a car, book a private shuttle(1-4 people from LIR to Panama cost about $50), there are taxis available as well as buses that run from the airport to Playa Panama three times a day.
Activities in Playa Panama. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sport fishing, jet skiing, paddle and wind surfing are all accessible in Playa Panama. You can also rent kayaks and canoes on the beach. There are also several national parks nearby like Rincon de la Vieja National Park or Palo Verde National Park where you can enjoy day hikes, hot springs and adventure tours. Right across the bay, you’ll find the Four Seasons resort also nearby is Diamante Eco Adventure Park with it’s longest ocean view zipline!
Playa Samara. Tropical palm trees lining miles along the white sandy beach seem to be waiting to welcome visitors in this secluded, off-the-beaten-path location. Located in the South Pacific coast of Guanacaste, 105 kilometers from Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Quiroz International Airport and 225 kilometers from San Jose International Airport. Samara attracts younger couples looking to get away to more hidden and free of chain hotels and fast food restaurants. Samara is also known for its breathtaking sunsets and great surfing waves. Playa Samara has become a perfect destination wedding since hotels there remain reasonably priced, you can find bungalows, hostels and hotels their prices start as low as $16 per person note that prices may vary depending on when you visit.
What to do in Playa Samara. Snorkeling, surfing and stand up paddle board, fishing, kayaking, ATV tours, horseback riding, ziplining, Gyrocopter flight.
Daytime activities in Samara:
Kayaking or snorkeling to Isla Chorro (Chorro Island) or to the Cangrejal, the coral reel there is home to many tropical fish.
Camaronal Wildlife Refuge. Created to protect Camaronal beach, this wildlife refuge is where many turtles come to nest. The best time to visit is during rainy season, you can also take a night time turtle watching tour.
Ostional Wildlife Refuge. Hundreds of thousands of turtles come to nest at this beach in rainy season. Ostional is one of two places in the world where an arribada(mass gathering of turtles) occur and was created in 1984 to protect one of the world’s most important nesting sites of the olive ridley sea turtle. Ostional is only 1 hour away from Playa Samara.
Barra Honda National Park. Barra Honda’s main attraction is a large, intricate system of limestone caverns, decorated with multiple forms and figures. Only 19 of Barra Honda’s caves have been explored. The caves can be visited year round, tours must be accompanied by a local guide. Barra Honda is only an hour drive away from Samara.
Palo Verde National Park. Take a boat ride down Rio Tempisque to see caimans, monkeys, iguanas and immerse yourself completely into the Costa Rican bird’s world in Palo Verde.
- Playa Ostional. If you want to see turtles during your visit to Costa Rica, then you have to visit Ostional Wildlife Refuge, as this refuge protects 238 hectares of protected land, including 15 km of beach where thousands of turtles lay their eggs. This phenomenon only found in 7 places in the world, popularly known as “arribadas” or arrival occurs during the peak of rainy season from August to December.
- Playa Cabuyal. One of the lesser known, but equally beautiful spot is Playa Cabuyal. Located just a short drive away from Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Quiroz International Airport.
What you will find at Playa Cabuyal: Soft white sand, calm blue waters surrounded by a lush forest. Plenty of trees around it as well as piece and quiet. There are picnic tables and bathrooms.
What you won’t find at Playa Cabuyal: Crowds, hotels or houses. Just you and nature! Note: If you’re renting a vehicle make sure you it’s a 4×4 to get there; although you’ll take the road to the Four Season’s Resort you’d have to veer off and drive on dirt road for a bit.
- Las Catalinas- Playa Prieta, Sugar Beach, Danta and Dantita.
Las Catalinas is a recently developed beach town along the shores of the Pacific Ocean in the Guanacaste Province, about an hour drive from Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia. With over 1,000 acres of tropical dry forest hills and valleys with extensive hiking, running, and biking trails, it hosts the annual Las Catalinas Triathlon and Open Water competitions growing in importance among local and international competitors in recent years.
A little bit about the history of Las Catalinas is that was envisioned as a car-free, fully walkable beach town, based on the principles of New Urbanism, favoring interaction in a wide array of pedestrian streets, public plazas, recreational facilities, houses, apartment buildings, a beach club, shops, restaurants, and a boutique adults-only hotel.
With its proximity to the sea (Pacific Ocean), along with its nature reserve and system of natural trails, have made it an increasingly popular destination in Guanacaste, being featured in articles and covers of major travel publications such as the New York Times, Travel+Leisure, and the Wall Street Journal.
Outdoor Activities at Las Catalinas: Swimming, snorkeling, boogie boarding, body surfing, equestrian activities, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding, hiking, mountain biking, yoga.
- Playa Mina. You may find this beach as Playa Zapotillal on the maps, they’re the same. Located near Tamarindo, this hidden beach has a lot to offer! Soft white sands, stunningly clear water, lots of trees for shade.