Guanacaste

With sun-splashed beaches and great Pacific surf, Costa Rica's northwestern province of Guanacaste teems with visitors from around the globe. The region's dry tropical climate encompasses a varied landscape. Popular white-sand beaches line the coast, and to the east, the Guanacaste Mountains feature fascinating national parks and caldera volcanoes. Travelers of every type can enjoy Guanacaste's myriad of activities, and Liberia's international airport (LIR) provides excellent regional access.

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Tenorio & Miravalles Protected Zone

Highway 6 is between two volcanic national parks – Tenorio Volcano National Park to the east and Miravalles Volcano National Park to the west. The rugged volcanic landscape is also home to a vibrant tropical forest.

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Palo Verde National Park

This remote sanctuary for neotropical birds is located at the mouth of the murky Tempisque River where the sluggish waterway pushes sediment into the Gulf of Nicoya (Gulfo de Nicoya). A vast network of mangrove-rich swamp, lagoons, marshes, grassland, limestone outcrops, and forests comprise the 32,266 acre (13,058 ha) Palo Verde National Park. Flanking the Dr Rafael Lucas Rodriguez Caballero Wildlife Refuge and the Lomas Barbudal Biological Refuge to the south, the three parks encompass similar habitats that form the Tempisque Conservation Area (Area Conservacion Tempisque), along with Barra Honda National Park.

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Corobici River

Originating in the Guanacaste mountain range in northwestern Costa Rica, the Corcobici River journeys south until reaching the estuary at the north end of the Gulf of Nicoya.

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Tamarindo

Once a quiet surf beach and fishing hamlet, Tamarindo is now a beach town with the infrastructure Western travelers have come to expect. Located on the Central West Coast of Guanacaste, Tamarindo still boasts unspoilt beaches and incredible biodiversity — despite the town’s recent and ongoing development. Come for fun in the sun and stay for the laid back vibe that is so characteristic of the region.

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Tenorio Volcano Area

The Tenorio Volcano area is located in the northern highlands along Guanacaste's eastern border within the Alajuela Province. With many rivers, waterfalls, dense and dry tropical forests, rainforests, and primary cloud forests, the area hosts an abundance of wildlife.

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Rincon de la Vieja

Encompassed by the scenic Guanacaste Mountain Range, the Rincon de la Vieja cinder volcano sits amid 34,800 acres of national park territory. It is a great place to escape from Guanacaste's sun-splashed beaches and to enjoy cool air, refreshing waterfalls, beautiful birds, and fantastic hiking. Its unique environment offers a different kind of Guanacaste vacation experience.

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Playa Hermosa Guanacaste

Hermosa, which means "beautiful" in Spanish, is an aptly named gray-sand beach that perches between two mountains. In fact there are two Playas Hermosa, the other being in the Central Pacific Coast near Jaco while Guanacaste's Playa Hermosa is situated between Playa del Coco and Playa Panama, Hermosa is seldom as crowded as its neighbors. It is a fabulous getaway for those seeking quality relaxation.

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Playa Grande

Separated from Tamarindo by the Matapalo River is Grande Beach (Playa Grande) located within Marino Las Baulas National Park, Grande Beach is the site of the arribadas of the leatherback turtle. In the past thousands of turtles barraged the coast to bury their eggs but the Leatherback population has drastically declined and in 2008 only 32 turtles arrived during the nesting season.

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Playa Avellana

Referred to by locals as "little Hawaii," Playa Avellana packs extraordinary offshore waves that can reach up to eighteen feet, making it an ideal destination for experienced surfers from around the world. Additionally, this secluded white sand beach invites tranquility and peace. It is a great spot to sit by the beachfront bar and take in the sights and sounds of the ocean. A very special feature of the beach is "Lola", the 400 kg pig that will be there to welcome you at the beach bar or in the shallow parts of the surf.

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Playa Potrero

Playa Potrero is a wonderfully tranquil place for passing the day, lying on warm sand, bathing in the sun and reading in the shade of palm trees. On the beach's north end, the small fishing village of Potrero looks to Playa Potrero and its bay. Toward the southern end, sits the chic beach community of Playa Flamingo.

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Liberia

Due to excellent facilities and its close proximity to scores of attractions, Liberia is an ideal stopover for many visitors. With the recent opening of the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, the once sleepy cowboy town of Liberia is undergoing comprehensive metamorphosis as it transitions from old colonial town to modern-day tourism hub.

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Papagayo Gulf

The northern Guanacaste shoreline looks out over the expansive Gulf of Papagayo (Golfo de Papagayo), the setting for Costa Rica's premier luxury resorts and most sought after beaches. Immersed in stunning natural beauty, it is no wonder that the gulf is experiencing an unprecedented boom in the construction of all inclusive resort complexes.

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Bahia Salinas

Bahia Salinas is located in the far northwestern corner of the Guanacaste Province, near the border with Nicaragua. It is a remote and often windswept destination with scenic bay views and charming, untouched beaches. It is a relaxing place to experience rural Costa Rica and nature, and it can be a thrilling location for world-class wind surfing and kite boarding.

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Playa Conchal

At Playa Conchal, the sand is composed of millions of tiny crushed shells that rustle beneath your feet. The mesmerizing beach is surrounded by turquoise waters, and it sits in a bay next to Playa Brasilito. The clear waters of Playa Conchal make it a wonderful place for swimming or snorkeling with an array of tropical fish.

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Playa Panama

Panama Beach (Playa Panama) is located a short distance away from Playa Hermosa, on the southern point of Culebra Bay. Panama's 1-mile (2 km) dark-sand beach is ideal for visitors seeking quality rest and relaxation, and it offers a selection of moderately priced to luxurious lodging. Take a stroll under the swaying brazilwood, sarno, and mesquite trees, or enjoy a swim in Panama's calm surf waters.

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Playa Del Coco

Coco Beach (Playa del Coco) is well known for its popularity with Costa Rica's youth. Seeking fun in the sun, many people pack the beach from end to end on weekends. Although the town is only a small fishing village, Coco has built great tourism infrastructure, and it is one of the most frequently visited locations in the country with plenty of tours and activities to do. Its white-grey sands sit in a horseshoe-bay and stretch three kilometers to Centinela Point.

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Playa Negra

Playa Negra is a beautiful dark-sand beach famous in the surfing community for its right-hand barrel waves. The beach lays on the Pacific coast in Costa Rica's hot province of Guanacaste. Its location sits in close proximity to other popular beach breaks including "Little Hawaii"? on Playa Avellanas, a short 10-minute drive away.

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Playa Lagarto

Playa Lagarto is on the Pacific Coast, an hour north of Nosara and an hour south of Tamarindo. This is a remote area with fewer crowds and good surf.

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Matapalo Guanacaste

Matapalo is a small town in the Guanacaste region, near the Pacific Coast. It is a 10-minute drive from beaches along the Tamarindo Bay, like Playa Grande and Playa Ventanas. From Matapalo it takes 15 minutes to drive to Las Baulas National Marine Park. Matapalo has a few stores and small park.

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Playa Junquillal

Playa Junquillal is located along the northern pacific coast in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. Playa Junquillal and its surrounding beaches are a favorite among locals due to its close proximity to Santa Cruz a typical bustling Costa Rican town and one of Guanacaste's largest comercial centers.

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Playa Danta

Playa Danta is a black-sand beach on the Guanacaste coast, located about 45 minutes north of Tamarindo and 15 minutes north of Playa Flamingo. It’s on the Catalinas Bay, which has calm water that makes it an excellent spot for swimming and Stand-Up Paddleboarding.

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Brasilito Beach

Nestled along parts of Guanacaste's most lovely coastline is Brasilito Beach, a sprawling grey-sand beach and charming town. This hamlet is substantially less developed and visited than the neighboring Conchal and Flamingo Beaches, but is an ideal getaway spot for vacationers seeking a low key destination with plenty of local flair.

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Playa Azul

Playa Azul is a stunning beach, named for its mile-long stretch of dark, almost cobalt blue sand and azure sea. As one of Costa Rica's most exclusive gems, this remote Guanacaste beach sits off the beaten track, and it has only recently opened to tourists. It is a tranquil and tropical haven, surrounded by lush, verdant forest, and it is a virtual paradise for those who really want to 'get away from it all.'

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A little more about Guanacaste

Guanacaste's hot, dry climate makes the region a popular escape for those suffering cold winter months in the northern latitudes. Its white-sand coast is often regarded as one of Costa Rica's most beautiful, and the beaches offer many accommodations. Visitors to the region can take surf lessons and enjoy an active nightlife at the regional hub of Tamarindo; embark on an arduous volcano hike and explore refreshing waterfalls at Rincon de la Vieja National Park; or enjoy a day of relaxation and reading on the glamorous Playa Conchal. These activities are among many fantastic options in the Guanacaste area.

Guanacaste Province contains diverse geographical features. Separating the sandy coastal land from mountainous terrain along Guanacaste's border, the Tempisque River flows from north to south and bisects the Province. In the Guanacaste Mountains to the east, a range of jagged peaks and volcanoes span 70 miles (113 km) northwest to southeast. These mountains house a collection of national parks: Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja, Parque Nacional Guanacaste, and Parque Nacional Volcano Tenorio. The Tilaran Mountains enclose Guanacaste along the southeast. Beginning at the south end of Lake Arenal, the Tilaran Mountains extend toward the Pacific coast, leaving only a small bottleneck of coastal lowland. At this bottleneck, the Inter-American Highway runs north of Puntarenas and into Guanacaste. It provides seamless travel to most of Guanacaste's attractions. Side roads from the Inter-American explore the tropical forest as it ascends into surrounding highlands. The forest gives refuge to exotic flora and fauna including an abundance of monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and toucans.

Historically, Guanacaste has been estranged from the rest of Costa Rica. During early pre-Columbian times, the indigenous Chorotega dominated the province; this fact is reflected in the dark skin and round faces of many modern Guanacatecans. The province has also been the focus of much politicking; it was once annexed by Nicaragua. Although Costa Rica won the dispute and claimed the province, Guanacaste retains a distinct identity to this day.

The region is a huge hit with visitors in search of internationally famed beaches. As a result, many of its sleepy fishing towns have continued to undergo rapid transition. New resort developments extend south from the Gulf of Papagayo in a seemingly endless expanse of beachside accommodations. Some accommodations offer unrivaled luxury, and while such high-end development may seem paradoxical in the developing world, this has been the fate for much of Guanacaste's coastline. The massive Gulf of Papagayo Project, for example, aims to develop 2,300 coastal acres (930 ha), and it has catalyzed construction of large resort complexes, hotels, condos, and exclusive villas from Culebra Bay to the beaches of Panama and Coco. With a huge influx of foreign residents and tourists, the wide-ranging affluence can at times bear more resemblance to Cancun than typical Costa Rica.

Recent decades of development have also transformed the once sleepy hamlet of Tamarindo into a thriving regional hub well known for its bustling nightlife. As Guanacaste's largest coastal town, Tamarindo is frequented by foreigners from North America and Europe. With a large white-sand beach and nearby conservation areas (National Wildlife Refuge of Tamarindo and Marino Las Baulas National Park,) Tamarindo is a favorite among tourists who want to observe the local wildlife and beach-goers who seek to enjoy Costa Rica's surf.

Guanacaste's largest town, Liberia, serves as the regional economic and administrative capital. Home to the nation's second international airport, Liberia is a main access point for many incoming visitors from abroad. Accordingly, Liberia continues to undergo major transformations, similar to those of the Guanacaste coast. Due to its close proximity to Pacific beaches and surrounding national parks, Liberia provides an ideal stopover point for visitors who want to experience every facet of the Guanacaste region.

Trips to inspire

Browse some of our favorite itineraries

Get excited and browse our selection of our favorite hand made tours including Guanacaste. From romantic honeymoons to family-fun; these are completely flexible and arranged to your needs.

6 days | $$

An All-Inclusive Beach Resort Family Vacation

Beautiful country and culture. We would like to return and go to the East side.

 An All-Inclusive Beach Resort Family Vacation
Costa Rica
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9 days | $$$

A Family Adventure—Volcanoes to Beaches

Great. What a beautiful country. Very impressive on how clean it is and the way of life.

A Family Adventure—Volcanoes to Beaches
Costa Rica
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9 days | $

We Had a Blast in Costa Rica

I would (and already have) recommend visiting Costa Rica to friends. I hope to go back someday myself. I think Costa Rica is doing a great job with sustainability.

We Had a Blast in Costa Rica
Costa Rica
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15 days | $$

Senior Couple Nature Explorer

We had a wonderful trip. All arrangements were handled promptly and on time. With howler monkeys outside our windows and being able to walk right onto the beach, it doesn’t get better than this.

Senior Couple Nature Explorer
Costa Rica
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15 days | $

A Real Taste of Costa Rica

We wanted to take the kids to Costa Rica to appreciate the ecotourism. Monteverde region blew us away with the Twilight Walk, Children's Eternal Rainforest and the cabins and greenhouse at Los Pinos, including the cabins designed to profit from natural light in the washrooms. The butterfly garden tour in Monteverde was my father's favourite of the many tours that we took and my children appreciated the coffee tour in Arenal for the hot chocolate that we made and for Gustavo's enthusiasm and interaction with the kids. Exposure to the nature was one thing but seeing how the society embraces nature for conservation was truly impressive.

A Real Taste of Costa Rica
Costa Rica
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