Guanacaste offers gorgeous beaches, great weather, and some of the best resorts in Costa Rica!

Key Takeaways

  • Guanacaste is renowned for its picturesque beaches, such as Flamingo Beach (Playa Flamingo), Playa Conchal, and Playa Avellanas, offering a variety of water activities and cultural experiences along its Gold Coast.

  • The province’s natural beauty extends inland, featuring national parks like Rincon de la Vieja and Tenorio Volcano National Park, which are rich in biodiversity and host unique geological formations, including active volcanoes.

  • Visitors to Guanacaste can engage in a diverse array of activities, from observing sea turtle nesting and birdwatching to enjoying luxury resorts and thrilling adventures like zip-lining and snorkeling.

Guanacaste's Gorgeous Beaches

Playa Conchal

Guanacaste is a beach lover’s dream come true. Famous for its ‘Gold Coast’, the province offers a smorgasbord of stunning beaches, each with its unique charm and appeal. From surfing hotspots and family-friendly shores to quiet coves framed by tropical dry forests, Guanacaste’s coastline is a paradise waiting to be explored. For instance, Playa Flamingo’s pinkish white sand, the exquisite Playa Conchal, and Playa Avellanas, a haven for surfers, are just a few of the must-visit white sand beaches on this beautiful coastline.

You’ll be dazzled by the extended summer days, rich culture, and diverse wildlife that make this coastline an exceptional destination. Whether you’re lounging on the white sand pristine beaches, exploring the local culture in Guanacaste’s capital city Liberia, or beach hopping from Playa Panama to Playa Hermosa, you’re in for a treat.

Family-Friendly Fun: Samara & Carrillo, Conchal, Flamingo, and Hermosa

Samara Beach combined with nearby Playa Carrillo is the perfect destination for family fun. With its calm waters and laid-back vibe, Samara is the perfect setting for family-friendly fun. The beach offers attractions like:

  • Snorkeling at Isla Chora

  • Horseback rides

  • Ocean kayak and dolphin tours

  • Surf lessons suitable for all ages

Several family-friendly beach hotels near Carrillo and Samara Beach ensure comfortable accommodations. These hotels are designed to accommodate guests with children, ensuring that your stay is comfortable and worry-free.

I should add that Samara is also a great option for adults. There are quite a few great restaurants to enjoy and several bars/nightclubs that are usually vibrant and lively.

Conchal is another gorgeous beach. Comprised of crushed shells, this paradisiacal playa is directly in front of Reserva Conchal. If you are not staying at Reserva Conchal, you will have to walk down the beach and over the point from Brasilito. This beach is ideal for swimming and fun for light snorkeling when the conditions are right, during the dry season.

Flamingo is just up the coast from Conchal. It's a long white sand beach, famous for its beauty and tranquility. This beach is good for swimming, though at times, may have stronger waves, ideal for boogieboarding.

Hermosa is just 25 minutes from LIR Airport, making it one of the most convenient beaches to access in Costa Rica. As the name suggests, it is a "beautiful beach". It's also quiet and ideal for swimming or taking in a gorgeous Pacific sunset. Playas del Coco is just a 15-minute drive away for nightlife, shopping, and a plethora of dining options.

Surfing Paradise: Tamarindo, Playa Grande, and Nosara

Tamarindo, a lively town located on the Nicoya Peninsula, is a haven for surf enthusiasts. The town’s crown jewel, Tamarindo Beach, is known for its excellent waves and soft sand, making it a sought-after destination for surfers worldwide. Novices need not worry as there are plenty of surfing lessons available. On days with calm conditions, Playa Avellanas also becomes a suitable option for beginners.

But Tamarindo isn’t just about surfing. The town offers a plethora of exciting activities for all tastes, including:

  • Exhilarating ATV tours

  • Serene horseback rides

  • Thrilling zip-line adventures

  • Snorkeling in the azure Pacific Ocean

Tamarindo ensures that every day is packed with fun and adventure.

Playa Grande is just up the coast from Tamarindo and offers world-class surfing and a much quieter and authentic Costa Rica experience. There is a small town center with a few shops, restaurants, and bars. It's a great alternative to Tamarindo, which is more "Americanized".

Nosara is another great surfing destination. It's also a good option for those who are interested in practicing yoga. The roads leading there are unpaved and quite bumpy, so be sure to rent an SUV with good ground clearance.

Unforgettable National Parks

Rincon de la Vieja

The natural allure of Guanacaste Province extends beyond its beautiful beaches. The province is home to several national parks, each offering a unique and unforgettable experience. These parks, teeming with diverse wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, serve as gateways to Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity.

Experience the active volcanic landscapes and hot springs of Rincon de la Vieja, marvel at the turquoise waters of the Rio Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park, or explore the diverse wildlife in Santa Rosa National Park. Guanacaste’s national parks promise unforgettable experiences.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park & Guanacaste National Park

Rincon de la Vieja National Park offers an adventure unlike any other. Renowned for its active volcano, the park features a captivating landscape dotted with:

  • Geysers

  • Mud pots

  • Hot springs

  • Fumaroles

  • Gorgeous waterfalls

This makes it a must-visit destination for those seeking a unique thrill, geological wonders, and beautiful waterfalls.

But there’s more to this region than its active landscapes. The park connects with Guanacaste National Park, which in turn also connects with Santa Rosa National Park, creating a massive biological corridor. This corridor is home to a variety of ecosystems, from montane and dwarf cloud forests to tropical dry forests, offering a rich habitat for diverse wildlife. Here, you can observe creatures like puma, jaguars, sloths, and tapirs in their natural environment, making your visit an enriching experience. Note that most wildlife and rainforests are on the difficult-to-access northeast side of Rincon de la Vieja.

Tenorio Volcano National Park & Rio Celeste Waterfall

Nestled in northeast Guanacaste is the Tenorio Volcano National Park, home to the mesmerizing Rio Celeste Waterfall. Known for its vibrant turquoise color, the waterfall is a sight to behold, making it a highlight of any visit to the park.

Reaching the waterfall requires a moderate hike, but the sight that greets you at the end is well worth the effort. The dazzling turquoise waters, a result of minerals in the volcanic soil, provide a stunning contrast to the lush greenery surrounding the waterfall, creating a spectacle that’s truly a feast for the eyes.

Wildlife Encounters in Guanacaste

Olive ridley sea turtles at Playa Ostional, Costa Rica

One of the most rewarding aspects of a visit to Guanacaste is the opportunity to witness its diverse wildlife. The region is home to a wide range of exotic animals such as:

  • monkeys

  • jaguars

  • iguanas

  • scarlett macaws

This allows you to experience wildlife sightings like never before.

From observing the annual return of leatherback sea turtles to Las Baulas National Park in Playa Grande for egg laying, to birdwatching in Palo Verde National Park, Guanacaste provides a unique wildlife encounter.

Sea Turtle Nesting and Jaguars

One of the most amazing wildlife experiences in Guanacaste is witnessing the nesting process of sea turtles. Every year, leatherback sea turtles return to Las Baulas National Park in Playa Grande to lay their eggs, a crucial step in their reproductive cycle. The Ostional Wildlife Refuge is another popular site for observing this natural phenomenon, renowned for hundreds and sometimes thousands of olive ridley nesting turtles.

Santa Rosa National Park is home to Playa Nancite, which is another mass nesting site for olive ridley sea turtles. These turtles come to the beach in what is called an "arribada" by the hundreds and sometimes thousands to lay their eggs and then lumber back to the surf, returning to the ocean. Incredibly, jaguars are plentiful in this area and actually eat the sea turtles! Scientists come from all over the world to witness this rare display of nature in its rawest form.

But the sea turtles aren’t just fascinating to watch. They’re also an important part of the ecosystem. Guanacaste takes the conservation of these turtles seriously, with several measures being implemented to safeguard their nesting sites. These efforts ensure that future generations can continue to witness this incredible spectacle.

Birdwatching in Palo Verde National Park

For bird lovers, Palo Verde National Park is nothing short of a paradise. The park’s wetlands and tropical dry forests are home to a diverse array of over 300 species of tropical birds, including vibrant scarlet macaws and caracaras, offering a haven for birdwatchers.

The park offers some of the best birdwatching opportunities between December and April. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or a beginner looking to learn more about avian species, Palo Verde National Park promises a rewarding experience.

Luxury and Leisure: Peninsula Papagayo

Andaz Papagayo Resort

Peninsula Papagayo offers an ideal blend of luxury and leisure for those in search. This opulent hideaway is renowned for its upscale resorts and internationally acclaimed golf course, ensuring a leisurely vacation experience that’s second to none.

Reaching the peninsula is a breeze. Simply fly into Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia (LIR), and from there, it’s a convenient 30-45 minute drive to the peninsula. So, get ready to soak in the luxury and embrace the leisure that Peninsula Papagayo has to offer.

Costa Rica's Best All-Inclusive Resorts

Most of Costa Rica’s all-inclusive resorts are located in Guanacaste. These luxurious resorts ensure a relaxing vacation experience, free from worries. Popular amenities include spa services, all-inclusive meal plans, large freeform swimming pools, room service, entertainment, and more.

Among the highly recommended beachfront all-inclusive resorts in Guanacaste are the Westin Playa Conchal, Margaritaville, Azura Beach Resort, Planet Hollywood Costa Rica, Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica, and Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica. These resorts are praised for their exceptional services, cleanliness, and culinary offerings, promising an unforgettable stay in Guanacaste. Best of all, most are located within an hour's drive of LIR Airport.

Adventure Awaits: Exciting Activities

The canyon canopy zipline tour at Hacienda Guachipelin

Guanacaste is sure to satisfy adrenaline seekers. The region offers a plethora of exciting activities, including:

  • Zip-lining

  • Horseback riding

  • Snorkeling & scuba diving

  • Surfing

  • Whitewater rafting

Whether you’re soaring through the treetops or exploring the colorful underwater world, adventure awaits at every corner.

Among the premier zip-lining destinations are Hacienda Guachipelin and Congo Trails, each offering a thrilling ride amidst stunning landscapes. For water lovers, locations like Isla Catalinas and Playa Hermosa offer excellent snorkeling opportunities, allowing you to discover the diverse marine life of the Pacific Ocean. You can also access good snorkeling from Playa del Coco, Papagayo, and Ocotal Beach.

World-Class Sportfishing

Guanacaste, Costa Rica is home to spectacular sportfishing. The waters off the Gold Coast are brimming with marlin, sailfish, roosterfish, yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi, and numerous other species. Charters are available daily from most coastal villages.

When to Visit Guanacaste

Plan your visit to Guanacaste keeping in mind that the region predominantly enjoys dry weather throughout the year, with the exception of September and October, which are the rainiest months. The most favorable weather conditions with fewer rainy days occur during the dry season months from December to April. These are also the best months for birdwatching at Palo Verde National Park. May and June are a secret season with lower hotel prices and plenty of availability, even at the best hotels.

If you don’t mind the occasional afternoon rain shower and want to experience the region in its most lush state, consider visiting during the green season from June through November.

Savor the Flavors of Guanacaste

Savoring Guanacaste’s distinct flavors is a must to complete your visit. The region’s traditional cuisine is characterized by dishes like Casado, tamales, and empanadas, featuring unique ingredients such as cacao, carao, guapinol, and coconut milk.

Seafood is a prominent part of Guanacaste’s culinary scene, with dishes showcasing local catches like Mahi Mahi, Dorado, and red snapper. To fully immerse yourself in the region’s gastronomic offerings, visit local food markets like Tamarindo Night Market and Samara Farmers Market, where you can taste a wide array of regional delicacies.


In summary, Guanacaste offers a rich tapestry of experiences, from its golden beaches and lush national parks to its vibrant wildlife and luxurious resorts. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, a wildlife enthusiast, a beach lover, or a foodie, this sun-kissed province has something to captivate you. So pack your bags and set off on an adventure to Guanacaste, where every moment is a memory in the making.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Guanacaste famous?

In addition to its spectacular beaches, Guanacaste is famous for its music and traditional dances influenced by Spanish Andalusian Flamenco, which have been well-preserved over time. Its musicians are highly respected.

Is Guanacaste Costa Rica touristy?

Yes, Guanacaste, Costa Rica is known for its beautiful beaches and natural attractions, making it a popular destination for tourists. You can, however, visit many off-the-beaten-path beaches such as Playa Negra, Playa Avelllanas, Playa Hermosa, Samara, Carrillo, Playa Azul, Playa Ostional, and many other lesser-known beaches to avoid the crowds if you'd like. Guanacaste truly offers something for everyone.

Is it safe to swim in Guanacaste?

It depends on which beach you are visiting. We'd recommend narrowing your search down to the specific beach for accurate information.

What is the best time to visit Guanacaste?

The best time to visit Guanacaste is during the dry months from December to April when the weather is most favorable. However, if you'd like to save money, May through August may be a better time for you.

What are some exciting activities to do in Guanacaste?

There are plenty of exciting activities to do in Guanacaste, including hiking, zip-lining, horseback riding, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, and whitewater rafting. Plan your trip and enjoy these thrilling experiences.

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