18 Things To Do In Guanacaste Costa Rica (2024)

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Welcome to Guanacaste!

 

In this blog post, we will share the best things to do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica!

 

In Northwestern Costa Rica, these extremely beautiful regions are well known for their breathtaking beaches, protected land, large biodiversity, and infinite potential for fun!

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Guanacaste is a diverse region with a wide range of activities (beach visits, national parks, and cultural experiences).
  • Ideal for both adventure seekers (ATV tours and horseback riding) and those seeking relaxation (beaches, watching sea turtles nest).
  • Beautiful boutique hotels to stay.

 

Let’s dive into the AMAZING activities.

Guanacaste Map

Guanacaste is located on the northwestern side of Costa Rica. On the north side, it borders Nicaragua; the province of Puntarenas and San José is on the south; and Alajuela is to the east.

Tenorio Volcano National Park and Rio Celeste Waterfall

Best Things to do in Guanacaste Costa Rica

The remote Rio Celeste Waterfall is a natural turquoise waterfall within Tenorio Volcano National Park.

 

The mineral deposits found within volcanic soils make for an interesting waterfall with stunning colors and attract visitors from all over the world.

 

It’ll be about 1-2 hours of hiking in one direction before reaching the Rio Celeste Waterfall.

 

There are a few hiking trails possible to go to the waterfall, but the most popular hike isn’t very challenging. You can expect a few steep hills, but they aren’t very long.

 

The hike is completely in the rainforest, so you can expect to see many species of wildlife!

 

If you want to know more about Rio Celeste, check out our dedicated blog post about our experience!

Rio Celeste Costa Rica: Full Guide (2024 Edition)

Visit a Volcano

Among Costa Rica’s volcanoes is the famous Arenal volcano and the equally famous Poas Volcano.

 

The picturesque Arenal Volcanic is an iconic attraction in Guanacaste. It is known as the most active volcano in the history of Costa Rica. Today,  the volcano is still geothermal active, but it has been in a resting phase since 2010.

 

Visit the volcano for a truly beautiful experience, and then dip into the beautiful hot springs during your visit.

 

If you choose the famous Arenal 1968 trail, the hike around takes approximately 2–3 hours. We recommend going to Arenal Volcano through La Fortuna, as this is the closest town and you have a wide range of amenities available.

Sea Turtle Nesting

guanacaste turtle nesting

Each year, the sea turtles return to Playa Grande to lay eggs on the seafloor for their nest. The most recurring species to lay eggs is the leatherback sea turtle or olive ridley sea turtle.

 

However, the nest times of these turtles have often been very unpredictable, so be prepared to be flexible with the days you would like to experience this.

 

Peak nesting season is typically from October to March. Tours generally take place at night; this is done in cooperation with the guide for a safe environment in which turtles come every year.

 

Playas del Coco

Playas del Coco has grown from a tranquil fishermen’s village into a famous tourist city and retired community in the Gulf of Papagayo.

 

It is situated just 25 minutes from Liberia’s airport and is one of many beaches on the Papagayo Peninsula, making it very accessible for travelers.

 

This is the perfect beach destination in Guanacaste, Costa Rica if you are looking for a calm sea experience; furthermore, it’s a great beach for swimming!

 

Explore the Pacific Coast of Guanacaste on a boat!

Papagyo’s and Tamarinda’s boat trips are plentiful. Your chance to sail to Guanatanacaste, Costa Rica, largely depends on the destination and what interests you.

 

There is nothing more exciting than taking an ocean cruise around Papagayo. There are several routes to the northern part of Guanacaste that depart from Papagogayo.

 

Celebrating an important day in Costa Rica? Book an individual yacht!

Take An ATV Tour in Guanacaste

Is there a hidden beach or a hidden cove? ATV tours from Flamingo Beach near Tamarindo are amazing! Using a car, you can go directly to Flamingo beaches.

The tour will take you to a variety of landscapes, and you will also enjoy the view of the amazing beaches.

 

As a bonus, some tours include stopovers at local villages, so you can explore the Costa Rican culture on your tour too! Expect to reserve a full day for your tour.

 

Discover Beautiful Beaches in Guanacaste

best beaches in guanacaste

Playa Hermosa: If you are looking for a family-friendly beach, this is it! The atmosphere is very laid-back and quiet.

 

This beach is less visited by tourists, but there are still many activity options you can explore while at Playa Hermosa, such as water sports and nature tours.

 

Playa Negra: We find this an underrated beach. There is something about the black sand that makes this beach so unique!

 

But there is more. Playa Negra has amazing waves for surfing, and the atmosphere is very laid-back. If you have watched the movie “Endless Summer II,” you will recognize the beach!

 

Playa Tamarindo: this is the most lively beach we have listed! Playa Tamarindo is known for having a very lively atmosphere and nightlife, excellent surfing options, and, of course, great local food. At Tamarindo, you can also explore the city and go on a shopping spree.

 

Santa Rosa National Park and Area de Conservación Guanacaste

guanacaste monkeys

Santa Rosa National Park is a protected area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

The entire area and the park provide protection for many ecosystems and animals. Central American tapirs, swamp hummingbirds, and large green macaws are the permanent residents of the park.

 

The most prominent inhabitants include a white-tailed deer, Howler, and a floppy whiteface monkey.

 

Santa Rosa National Park offers an array of wildlife habitats and 125 species of birds, among other creatures.

The park serves as a research center for scientific research and conservation of tropical ecosystems. The trails there have amazing hiking options!

 

Guanacaste is a cowboy country; go horseback riding!

horse riding in guanacaste, horse riding on the beach

Traveling is wonderful if you get to experience as many things as possible. The perfect destination to let your inner cowboy out is Guanacaste.

 

The area is filled with horseback riding options, and you can either choose an amazing location or go into a national park. Embrace healthy horses wherever your trip goes.

 

Below are some tour recommendations for horseback riding.

 

A great destination to go horseback riding is Playa Flamingo! Imagine being able to experience a panoramic view of the ocean while having an adrenaline rush.

 

One of our memorable experiences was our sunset ride there. The sky was clear blue, and you saw the selection of the sun on the sea. It was a very romantic activity.

Explore Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Rincon de la vieja waterfall

La Vieja National Park is well known for the Rincon de La Vieja volcano, its active crater, and the lava fields around it. The site has waterfalls, a lake, and a range of animals.

 

In the forest, you can go on different types of hikes, depending on the paths you choose. Personally, we found the most beautiful trails in the 1.7-kilometer loop of La Pailas in the park.

 

This takes place at the entrance and follows the sweeping terrain. Rincon de la Vieja is another national park known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Las Baulas National Park

We have visited numerous parks in South America, and we found Las Baulas National Park to be quite a special experience.

First of all, this park is one of the world’s most important nesting sites for leatherback turtles. You will get the chance to learn everything about the conservation efforts the national park is making for the species.

 

Beware, though; read their website before going to get a clear understanding of the rules and regulations, as they are strict about protecting the area.

 

As you have already discovered in this blog post, turtle conservation plays an important role in Costa Rica. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn about it!

 

Visiting the underground caverns in Barra Honda National Park

Barra Honda National Park caverns

Barra Honda National Park has a unique cave exploration activity in store for you.

 

The caverns have a natural network of limestone formations, creating a spectacular view. The limestone formation happened millions of years ago; today, you can explore the caverns with a guided tour.

 

The region is also quite particular. Costa Rica is quite known for its humid ecosystem in forests, but here it is quite the contrary; it is a dry tropical forest.

 

Rest assured, the park is very well maintained, and the guides are trained with a lot of experience, so you will be in good hands when you go into the caves.

 

Palo Verde National Park Wetlands

Palo Verde National Park bird watching

Palo Verde National Park is renowned for wetlands with large numbers of water bird species.

 

The park’s remote location attracts over 200 different species of birds, including migratory goose ducks and many other water birds.

 

If you are a birdwatcher, this will definitely feel like paradise for you!

 

Another great activity you can do here is take a boat tour along the Tempisque River. This is an incredible river safari, and you will see many birds as well as a lot of other wildlife.

 

Fun Fact: Palo Verde is a RAMSAR site; it is internationally recognised for being an important wetland location, and the park makes a lot of conservation efforts to preserve it.

 

How many days should you stay?

It’s possible you need three to five days in Guanacaste. We planned on spending about 10 days in this region, and we still felt like there was so much more we could have discovered. Costa Rica really took our hearts.

 

Dipping in relaxing Hot Springs at Rio Perdido

Rio Perdido, which means lost river, comprises an 800-acre private reserve in Bagaces. This is quite a hidden gem in Costa Rica, as this is a secluded area.

 

The main attractions here are the hot springs located in the dry forest. We found it therapeutic coming here; it’s such a contrast with the bustling cities we were exploring before in Costa Rica.

 

Going to this resort made us feel like we were in a wellness center. The area is very well maintained and provides an authentic experience.

 

Scuba diving

scuba diving in guanacaste

Scuba diving in Guanacaste is an essential activity for sea lovers. The Gulf of Papagoo is a good dive site with spectacular places, including the Bat Islands (Illas Murcielago) as well as the Catalina Islands off the coast of Flamingo.

 

Swim with eagle sharks or turtles; this area has so much marine life.

 

We are both experienced divers, so we booked our dive immediately. But don’t worry, if you want to try out diving for the first time or want to get your certification, there are plenty of companies here where you can do this!

 

We recommend getting a PADI Open Water Certificate, as it is the most well-known one in the world, and on the website of PADI, you can find diving schools nearby.

 

It is important to note that the visibility of the water plays a role in how much you will be able to see during your dive. This has to do with the currents making the water less clear. The best time for diving is between May and November.

 

Llanos de Cortes Waterfall

Llanos de Cortes

By now, you are probably aware that Costa Rica is a land of waterfalls. It’s a favorite in Liberia’s Llanos del Cortez waterfalls.

 

This high, flowing stream is a paradise on the desert floor! Great news for you! This waterfall requires minimal effort; unlike other waterfalls, you don’t need to hike; just park your car, and you are nearly there.

 

This is a great location if you want to spend your day swimming, picnicking, and admiring wildlife.

 

Adventure Parks in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Looking for some thrilling activities in the region? There are many things to do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, that will fulfill your adrenaline rush.

 

The main attraction we recommend here is zip-lining. There are so many different adventure parks that offer these kinds of activities in the canopy.

 

Our top two locations for this are:

 

Hacienda Guachipelin: They offer a one-day pass that gives you access to multiple activities such as zip-lining, Rio Negro tubing, horseback riding, mud baths, hot springs, exploring the waterfall, and lunch.

 

Diamante Eco Adventure Park: They also have a one-day pass that includes multiple activities such as zip-lining, paddle boarding, kayaking, an ocean view lunch, and a tour of the education center at their animal sanctuary.

 

Visit the Ostional Wildlife Refuge

Ostional Animal Refuge, turtle conservation

This is another great location if you want to experience turtle nesting! Located on the Nicoya Peninsula, this is a famous location for Olive Ridley sea turtles.

 

Every year, an event occurs they call the “Arribadas,” which is when thousands of turtles come ashore to lay eggs. The best time to visit is between July and December.

 

To ensure the turtles remain protected during this event, organize your activity through an organization or a guided tour.

 

What is Costa Rica’s Guanacaste famous for?

Costa Rica Guanacaste is known for its amazing national parks, tropical dry forests, turtle nesting, volcanic mud, and a variety of UNESCO world heritage sites!

 

Getting to Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Liberia International Airport

Daniel Oduber International Airport is an international airport located near Liberia Guanacaste, which is why it is also known as Liberia International Airport.

 

We recommend flying to this airport if you will be spending most of your trip in Guanacaste; it’s easy to access any location you are starting your trip in.

Using Public Buses

There is a large array of options for buses in Guanacaste Province; they connect major towns and also remote areas. The tickets for buses are very budget-friendly.  The frequency depends on the area you are in.

 

If you are in towns such as Liberia, Tamarindo, or Santa Cruz, you will notice in the schedules that buses are frequent, whereas in more remote places, the frequency can be limited.

 

Renting A Car

If you want to travel at your own pace without the hassle of following schedules, we recommend renting a car!

 

This is by far our favourite way to explore Costa Rica. We love being able to stop anywhere we like, and activities are usually far from each other, so it’s a lot easier to coordinate everything with your own car.

 

Moreover, you can explore hidden gems. Be prepared to experience different conditions on the roads, as some towns are well maintained and others much less. You can also expect a lot of uphills, downhills, and tight corners.

 

We use Discover Cars when we rent a car for our travels; check them out below!

Guanacaste Hotels

Luxury

Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo, a concept by Hyatt, is a luxurious hotel that offers breathtaking views, world-class amenities, and exceptional service.

 

Whether you’re looking to relax by the infinity pool, indulge in delectable cuisine at the on-site restaurants, or explore the nearby beaches and rainforests, this hotel has it all.

 

Mid-range

Hotel M&M Beach House is a charming seaside accommodation that offers a delightful and relaxing retreat for guests. The hotel provides a perfect blend of comfort and tranquility.

 

With its warm hospitality and breathtaking views, Hotel M&M Beach House promises an unforgettable experience by the sea.

 

Budget

Woodstock Hostel is a hotel that offers a unique and vibrant experience. With its laid-back atmosphere and friendly staff, it provides a comfortable and welcoming stay for guests. Located in a picturesque setting, it is the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Conclusion

It’s a wrap for this blog post!

 

There are so many different things to do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, that you will have days filled with adventure.

 

Let us know in the comments below which activities you included in your itinerary!

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Laura & Alexander

We're two full-time Belgian travellers sharing our experience through our blog. Our aim is to inspire your next travel adventure with our best tips and tricks from every country we visit.

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