Guanacaste, bound by mountains on the east and the Pacific to the west, this northwestern province boasts the country’s greatest tourism development and a coastline that stretches south some one hundred miles. Starting from its border with Nicaragua in the north all the way to the Nicoya Peninsula. Costa Rica’s driest region, this predominantly sunny province is known as the country’s Gold Coast as it is quickly claiming the vast majority of visitors—not only their first stop but often their only stop.
Guanacaste enjoys a tropical climate, predominantly sunny weather, and some of the most beautifully varied landscapes you’ll see in Costa Rica, particularly during the wet season (May–Nov), which finds the terrain’s canvas especially rich in color. To the east, the Guanacaste Mountains are home to 70 miles’ worth of active volcanoes; coastal lowlands with tropical forest that hosts exotic flora and fauna; and lovely national parks, including Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja, Santa Rosa National Park—the site of massive sea turtle nestings as well as a major battle for independence—and Rincón de la Vieja National Park with its hot springs and pristine waterfalls.
But it’s Guanacaste’s stunning variety of first-rate white-sand beaches that wins the crowds. Most of the region’s beaches are located where the Nicoya Peninsula meets the mainland, and many are the nesting grounds for sea turtles, including olive ridley and leatherback. Once-sleepy fishing towns have rapidly transformed, today teeming with hotels, new resort developments, and luxurious beachside accommodations. An endless list of activities offered in and around the region include relaxing on beaches, surfing, hiking and horseback riding, exploring volcanoes and waterfalls, fantastic bird-watching in tropical forests, and viewing abundant wildlife, such as monkeys, sloths, iguanas, coatis, crocodiles, toucans, and white ibis.
Liberia, the province’s largest town, is the region’s main access point and makes an ideal base for exploring given its proximity to surrounding beaches and national parks.
Guanacaste’s northern shoreline overlooks the expansive Gulf of Papagayo and its lush surroundings, where you will find the country’s premier luxury resorts and most sought after beaches, as well as a number of nearby national parks.
The beautiful mile-long, crescent-shaped beach of Playa Flamingo (also known as Playa Blanca) is one of the country’s first beaches to gain national attention. There you will find a range of luxurious hotels and restaurants—some of the best the country has to offer—exclusive beachfront resorts, and private property. As there is no village center, however, unlike many beach communities, activities to be enjoyed are limited, so heading to nearby Brasilito or beyond is a good idea for those seeking nightlife. A little farther south, Marino Las Baulas National Park is one of the most significant nesting sites in the world for the endangered leatherback turtle.
One of the only Pacific beaches to boast crystalline waters like those found in the Caribbean, nearby Playa Conchal and its crushed-shell sands is a gem. In addition to wonderful snorkeling, swimming, and deep-sea fishing, hiking in the nearby national parks and nature reserves can also be enjoyed.
Guanacaste’s largest coastal town, this once-quiet fishing village has rapidly transformed into the region’s most developed and accessible tourist town. Comprising an interesting mix of both local and foreign culture, Tamarindo offers a range of accommodations and the best selection of restaurants found in the Pacific, in addition to an active nightlife and plenty of outdoor options—the region a popular base for surfing at nearby Playa Grande, Langosta, Avellanes, and Negra.
Nearby Tamarindo National Wildlife Refuge is its greatest attraction and protects some 1,000 acres of forest home to fascinating flora and fauna. Fifteen minutes south of Tamarindo, Pinilla Beach is a rising destination boasting residential development projects with one of the best golf resorts on the continent as well as the deluxe beachfront property JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa.
Guanacaste Essential Information
Reasons to Visit
- Family Travel
- Honeymoon & Romance
- Multisport Adventures
- Spa & Wellness
- Sun & Sand
- 3-5 nights
When to Visit
- Good: September-October
- Better: May-August / November
- Best: December-April