North Guanacaste harbors an important portion of the costa rican cultural and natural patrimony. Not in vain there is a significant number of protected areas, including coastal, mountainous, terrestrial, and aquatic ecosystems, where life develops with exuberance.

It is situated in the northern part of the country, and covers the pacific coast of Costa Rica, since the limit with Nicaragua to Punta Cerritos, located 22 km. west from de city of Santa Cruz. It covers an extension of approximately 100 km. of the Pacific Coast. In the past, this region has had its natural vocation in the cattle raising and in the agriculture. Currently, nevertheless, the incomparable beauty of its landscapes, that go from the tropical dry forest to the forest montano low and its hot climate, as well as its fertile nature, have done of Guanacaste one of the most concurred places by the local and international tourism. Besides an important backup in the Pole of Tourist Development of the Papagayo’s Gulf, there is the Daniel Oduber International, where a large quantity of flights arrives charter and regular flights from the United States.

North Guanacaste has two main tourist centers that are Liberia (central of stopover distribution, scale and excursion) and Santa Cruz, and three other tourist centers: El Coco, Tamarindo and Flamingo. The landscape of the coast is exceptional. There are beaches of white sands and a peaceful sea qualified by intense blue, especially the ones located inside Papagayo’s Gulf (Nacascolo, Virador, Iguanita and Panama). It is one of the regions of greater development, based on hotels of high investment with potentiality of direct demand.

The possible tourist activities to develop are diverse; they can relate to the vacation, the health, the culture, adventure and nature thus with recreational and sports aspects.



A pastoral region, Guanacaste offers this activity in coastal areas and in the mountains and their communities. Horseback-riding tours are available through tourism operators or family-owned farms that rent horses.


There is no end to the diversity of hiking options available for observing various natural, historical, architectural, cultural, religious and commercial attractions.


The region offers a variety of picturesque roads and adventure or leisure sites that allow touring on regular or mountain bikes. Beaches and mountains are among the most interesting riding destinations.


There are sites and buildings of architectural or historic interest and National Monuments that are considered must-see places, mainly in Abangares, Bagaces, Cañas, Liberia, Santa Cruz and Nicoya.


Typical towns are characterized by sodas (small restaurants serving local food), cafes and restaurants where visitors can sample the cuisine of Guanacaste. Cañas, Tilarán, Liberia and mainly Santa Cruz stand out as communities with traditions in typical food and drink.


Bird-watching is possible mainly in protected areas. Many sites offer the opportunity to “get with the birds,” with Palo Verde, Curú, Isla Bolaños and Tenorio among the biggest.


There are several options for visitors to observe the goings-on in the forest canopy, including various monkey and bird species.


This is a most popular tourist activity owing to Guanacaste’s climatic conditions and wealth of flora and fauna, as well as its varied natural, cultural and architectural landscapes.


This adventure or recreational activity is becoming more and more popular in Guanacaste, thanks to its excellent dive sites and the specialized companies that normally offer services abroad. Important sites include the Gulf of Papagayo and the Santa Catalina islands.


The handicrafts of Guaitil de Santa Cruz and San Vicente de Nicoya are made of pure clay using the traditional and ancient techniques of the Chorotega indigenous group. Ornaments, urns, flowerpots, vases, plates, decorative whistles and other figures are fashioned and may be bought for their fine finish and interest in several parts of Guanacaste. Visitors can also acquire other kinds of handicrafts fashioned out of jícaro (a kind of gourd) or the thipa plant, from which various paper products are made.


This is one of the Northern Pacific region’s main attractions. Artisan and recreational fishing are possible, but of greater interest are the tournaments in which several world billfish records have been broken. The fish are returned to the water after weigh-in.


Throughout the year, communities in the region celebrate various historical, religious, sporting, civic or artistic activities.

  • JANUARY 10. Patron saint’s feast, Santo Cristo de Esquipulas, Santa Cruz
  • FEBRUARY Last weekend in February. Civic festivals in Liberia
  • APRIL Good Friday. Lagarteada (crocodile hunt) in Ortega de Bolsón, Santa Cruz
  • JULY 25. Nicoya Chorotega Tourism Expo-fair and Expoliberia, Guanacaste 25. Anniversary of the annexation of Nicoya Peninsula
  • AUGUST 1. Pilgrimage to Cartago 2. Virgin of the Angels Day 24. National Parks Day
  • SEPTEMBER 7. Cultural Week, “Liberia, the White City”
  • NOVEMBER Second Sunday. Día del Sabanero y Cocineras (Cowboy and Cooks Day) at Hacienda Santa Rosa
  • DECEMBER 11-12. Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Nicoya 24. Procession of the Valdelomar Baltodano family’s Baby Jesus to La Ermita de Nuestro Señor de la Agonía, Liberia 25. Christmas


    Rural tourism activities and services offered in the North Guanacaste and their corresponding locations within the region are as follows:

    Ecoturismo Bolsón is located in the town of Bolsón and provides lodging services in the homes of the Ortega and Bolsón families, which are well equipped to receive tourists. Activities: Río Tempisque and Palo Verde National Park tours for observing crocodiles, birds, monkeys and more.

    Located in Santa Bárbara de Santa Cruz, adjacent to the Colegio, Casa del Sol is a project promoting solar energy use. Activities: Sampling food prepared with solar energy.




Located in the northern part of Guanacaste, on wide, beautiful Bahía Salinas, this beach is very popular among residents of nearby La Cruz. The surf here is moderate, the sand soft. Famous for its sunsets, this beach invites visitors to walk along the shore and take in the splendor of the bay and Isla Bolaños.


This is a large beach, in front of which lies Isla Bolaños. The island can be visited by boat or kayak. A great place to windsurf during windier months, this beach is ideal for relaxing, walking and horseback riding, as well as exploring nearby places on mountain bikes.


Gentle surf makes this a perfect beach for swimming and relaxing in the shade of its lush trees. Rajada is also excellent for walking and photography.


Set in a beautiful, sheltered cove with little surf, this beach’s breathtaking scenery is complemented by its coastal greenery. It’s a great place to swim, relax and contemplate, as well as enjoy the plant and bird life.


Sheltered from winds, this bay’s main attraction is a beautiful mangrove swamp. It’s a popular place with fishermen, who find it a safe place for their boats.


Located within Santa Rosa National Park’s Murciélago sector, this beach is on the Santa Elena Peninsula, the geologically oldest region in Costa Rica. The lovely bay is bordered in the south by the Fila Carrizal mountain range, which stretches to Cabo Santa Elena. Abundant coastal greenery, ample space and calm waters make this an ideal place for relaxing, walking, swimming and observing the fascinating plant and bird life. Nearby beaches may also be visited, such as Santa Elena and El Hachal. Camping is permitted near the park’s administrative office, 17 kilometers from the beach.


This small, clear-water bay, 400 meters long, is located near Playa Virador. Like Virador and Playa Blanca, Prieta is great for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing while taking in the lovely, peaceful scenery.


This long beach is located 12 kilometers from Santa Rosa National Park’s administrative office. Its northern stretch features a tongue of dark sand surrounded by ocean and river mouths that form a wide estuary and mangrove swamp rich in plant and animal species. The beach is perfect for walking and taking in the magnificent scenery, which includes Peña de la Bruja, a rocky island popular with surfers. Camping is permitted.


With crystalline waters and gentle surf, Playa Blanca is located near Punta Mala inside Bahía Culebra. Along with other beaches, Blanca forms the Gulf of Papagayo tourism project. From this 960-meter-long beach, Playa Monte del Barco and Playa Chorotega can be seen across the way. Together, Playa Blanca and neighboring Playa Virador form a narrow natural bridge that connects them to Punta Mala. Set in a lovely cove with white sand and crystal-clear waters, Virador is great for swimming and diving.


With clear water and gentle surf ideal for swimming, walking and diving, this beach is well frequented by tourists arriving in boats from various nearby hotels or water transportation companies. Its indisputable beauty makes Nacascolo a great place to walk along the water’s edge and explore the small estuary at its southern end.


A beautiful beach at the back of Bahía Culebra, Iguanita is bordered to the north and south by two rocky points. To the south flows the Quebrada Grande, which empties into the Iguanita estuary, forming a dense mangrove swamp.



This small beach is located between two points that give it shelter, providing a lovely environment for relaxing and swimming. From the slopes and top of the neighboring hill, visitors can see all the splendor of Bahía Culebra—spectacular at sunset. Monte del Barco has been awarded the Blue Flag.


A large, fine-sand beach with little surf, Chorotega is fringed by mainly brazilwood, manchineel and mesquite trees. A small mangrove swamp occupies the Rocha estuary. Popular for swimming, relaxing, walking and camping, the beach is frequented by families wishing to enjoy the beautiful maritime landscape that stretches to the white beaches on the other side of Bahía Culebra.


Around two kilometers long, this lovely gray-sand beach is located between two mountainous points. To the south, in front of Punta Cacique, are Isla Pelona and Isla Montosa. With little surf and abundant coastal greenery, this Blue Flag beach is excellent for swimming, sunbathing, beautiful sunsets, water sports (including diving) walking and horseback riding.


With a long tradition, this is one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica. Located in a bay with little surf, it is highly suitable for swimming and boat anchorage. Its gray sands stretch for almost three kilometers. To the south is Punta Centinela, which features a white-sand cove. Playas del Coco offers a wide range of services that allow tourists to enjoy all kinds of recreational and sporting activities, including sport-fishing, diving and boat tours. The beach is also great for walking and horseback riding.


Set in a cove bordered by hills, this beach has gray sand and little surf. At its southern end is Punta Cirial, surrounded by crystalline waters. This beach is ideal for swimming, sunbathing and water sports such as diving and sport-fishing, which are offered in various parts of the region. Magnificent views of the Gulf of Papagayo are enjoyable from the heights of the adjacent hills. South of Ocotal is a smaller cove called Bahía Azul or Pez Vela (Blue or Sailfish Bay), known for its sport-fishing camp. Ocotal is a Blue Flag beach.


With gentle surf and lush greenery, this lovely beach is set amid a beautiful maritime landscape dotted with several islets. Sunbathing, swimming, walking and rest and relaxation are enjoyable activities, and the photo opportunities are excellent.


These beaches are set in two coves less than a kilometer long and flanked by hills that offer magnificent panoramic views of Bahía Potrero and Bahía Brasilito. The calm waters here are ideal for swimming. The Pitahayas and Santa Catalina islands can be made out from Playa Danta. Some nine kilometers away, the Santa Catalina islands make up one of the most preferred dive sites in the entire region.


This small beach lies to the south of Pan de Azúcar, and is separated from it by a rocky area. It features gentle surf and lush coastal vegetation. To the south are Punta Prieta and Chocoyas island, which separate the beach from Playa Penca and lend special natural appeal to the surrounding landscape.


Also small, this Blue Flag beach has moderate to strong surf and features an estuary and mangrove swamp that, added to the presence of Chocoyas island at the north end of the beach, make it especially attractive and highly apt for relaxation and contemplation.


Set in a bay of calm waters, this beach is some four kilometers long and features estuaries and mangrove swamp, as well as beautiful scenery. At its southern end lies Marina Flamingo (Blanca). Potrero is a great place for swimming, sunbathing, walking and horseback riding. Organized sport-fishing and diving are available here.


Set in a cove with moderate surf suitable for swimming, this beach features a mangrove swamp and, to the north, Isla Plata and Punta Salinas, which separate Brasilito and Potrero bays; Punta Salinas offers a spectacular view of both. Because of its natural beauty and the excellent and varied services it offers, Playa Blanca is ideal for those who wish to enjoy both beach and nightlife.


This beach and Conchal make up Bahía Brasilito. The surf and drop-offs are gentle to moderate, depending on the area. A mangrove swamp and Isla Loros lie at the southern end of the beach. Here, visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, walking and taking in the maritime scenery, as well as gorgeous sunsets.



This beach and Conchal make up Bahía Brasilito. The surf and drop-offs are gentle to moderate, depending on the area. A mangrove swamp and Isla Loros lie at the southern end of the beach. Here, visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, walking and taking in the maritime scenery, as well as gorgeous sunsets.


Playa Real, together with Playa del Roble to the south and Playa Nombre de Jesús to the north, make up one long coast; the first two are separated from the third by Punta Real. All three are light-sand beaches that together stretch some two kilometers. The lovely coastal landscape is complemented by several islands and rocky promontories that add to the scenery. The gentle to moderate surf is suitable for swimming, walking and other activities such as sea kayaking.


This cove is located northwest of Playa Grande, from which it is connected (or separated) by a rocky promontory that, owing to its shape, gives the beach its name (“Windows Beach”). Ventanas is great for sunbathing, swimming, relaxing and walking north towards the point and diminutive Playa Carbón.


Forming part of Las Baulas National Marine Park, this beach gets its name from its great size. It stretches south to the Tamarindo estuary, site of a large mangrove swamp (the Tamarindo National Wildlife Refuge) that can be toured by boat to check out the flora and fauna. Playa Grande is particularly popular with surfers, as well as visitors wishing to observe nesting giant leatherback turtles. This Blue Flag beach is also great for sunbathing, walking and swimming.


Playa Tamarindo, along with Playa Grande and Playa Ventanas, make up Bahía Tamarindo. This beautiful beach features rocky areas and an island (Capitán) at its southern end. Its luxuriant greenery includes pink trumpet trees, tamarinds and coconut palms. Excellent and varied services are offered, allowing visitors to enjoy the beach by day and the nightlife after sunset. A Blue Flag beach, Tamarindo is ideal for relaxing, walking, horseback riding and sport-fishing and diving tours, as well as visiting the mangrove swamp and observing nesting sea turtles. South of the bay lies the most important stretch of coast for surfing.


Separated from Tamarindo by Punta San Francisco, this cove has two main areas divided by the mouth of the Río San Francisco. To the north the coast is rocky and unsuitable for swimming; to the south is a mangrove swamp. Both areas are very pleasant for walking and observing the scenery and diverse bird species. A Blue Flag beach, Langosta is quite popular with surfers.


Located five kilometers south of Langosta, this beach features a rocky coast stretching several kilometers, with lush vegetation. The surf is strong, with two distinct sections both good for surfing. Other activities include walking, swimming and observing little fish and mollusks in the tide pools that form in the rocks.


Located between Avellanas and Junquillal, this beach features a rocky coast, excellent surfing conditions and, despite its name (Black Beach), light sand. To the south lies a less frequented stretch of coast (Callejones) that is also good for surfing.


Long and wide, this beach has a varied landscape good for walking and horseback riding. Junquillal features coastal greenery, rocky areas and very good diving and surfing, for which it is well known. Fishing and kayaking are also possible at this Blue Flag beach.


Born on the slopes of Orosí volcano, this river runs 159 kilometers. Its tributaries include the Colorado, Salto, Bebedero, Bolsón, Diriá and Cañas rivers. Tours on this navigable river offer sightings of the numerous bird species that inhabit the mangrove swamps on its banks. The Tempisque’s lower basin is home to Palo Verde National Park.


Inaugurated in 2003, this bridge has replaced the ferry service that for many years allowed crossing of this river. A significant work of engineering built with cooperation from the Taiwanese government, the bridge spans 780 meters and serves as a launching point for major development of the Guanacaste region.


Located a few kilometers from the city of Cañas, this beautiful river can be run in rafts. Its Class I and II rapids are suitable for anyone wanting to take the trip featuring lovely river scenery and observation of birds such as herons and toucans. The Corobicí is one of the only rivers in the entire region with rapids.



These are located a few kilometers north of the town of Bagaces, on the highway to Liberia, where a turnoff to the left leads to this spot. Several meters tall and surrounded by lush greenery, the waterfalls form a beautiful curtain that falls into a pool where visitors can enjoy a swim and a small, light-sand beach.


A few kilometers from Liberia on the road to the Santa María sector of Rincón de la Vieja National Park is a deep canyon carved by the Río Liberia. From a scenic point of view the canyon is breathtaking; in addition to the canyon itself, the Rincón de la Vieja volcano may be seen, and the vegetation here is different from that in the lower parts of the region.


Known as the “white city,” Liberia is a typical flatland town with wide streets, old buildings and houses of bahareque (a material similar to adobe but made with cattle dung and straw). The city has managed to combine old edifices, customs and traditions with modernism and new buildings, including malls and various services.

Recent years have seen much urban development, and the new facilities of the Daniel Oduber Airport allow it to receive regular and charter flights from several cities in Canada and the United States.

Several protected areas may be visited from Liberia, including Santa Rosa National Park near the town of La Cruz and Rincón de la Vieja National Park. The beaches near the Gulf of Papagayo may also be enjoyed. In addition, the National Band of Guanacaste holds its traditional concert in Liberia every Friday and Sunday at seven p.m.


Guanacaste is known for its music, which is the most popular form of artistic expression in the province. “Music is an important character to be respected and appreciated,” and seems to be a natural ability among Guanacaste’s sabaneros.

As a complement to music, Guanacaste’s traditional dances have been preserved throughout time like oral tradition, and are the truest representation of what social and cultural life once was in the Guanacaste province. Greatly influenced by the Andalusian zapateado from Spain, dances include El Punto Guanacasteco, Los Amores de Laco, La Cajeta, La Flor de Caña, El Torito, El Zapateado, El Pavo and La Botijuela, among others.

One of Guanacaste’s most important staples, corn is the base of many of the region’s typical foods and beverages: tortillas guanacastecas, tanelas, tayuyas, tamales, pisques, tamal dulce, arroz de maíz, nacatamales, rosquillas, bizcochos, pozol, atol, chicheme, chicha, pinol and more.

Most houses have clay ovens, in which all kinds of breads and many of the foods above are baked. It’s interesting to know how some of these foods are prepared, such as arroz de maíz, made with white corn soaked and then ground—in the old days—by hand on metates (table-shaped stones, with stone pestles used for grinding); today this dish is made in machines, cooked with lard, seasonings and chicken broth, and made only from yellow corn.

As for beverages, there’s pinol, made from finely ground white corn roasted on a comal (a cast-iron plate used for baking tortillas). Chicha de maíz is prepared differently in several parts of the country; in Guanacaste, this beverage is made by browning and grinding the corn, adding a fair amount of pallastón, brown sugar and ginger, then allowing the mixture to ferment in earthenware jars for two to three days. Chicheme is a nutritious beverage popular at parties and prayer groups. This drink is an atol de maíz (a thick, hearty beverage made from corn) that is allowed to ferment naturally, with sugar, ginger, water and ground cloves added to it. Key places to enjoy these foods and beverages are the markets in Liberia and Nicoya, and the famous Cooperativa de Mujeres (Women’s Cooperative) in Santa Cruz.




Located in Bahía Salinas, this island has an area of 25 hectares and a maximum altitude of 81 meters. Rocky Isla Bolaños’ major importance lies in its seabirds, including frigate birds and brown pelicans..


This wilderness area is characterized by its dry forests and their guanacaste, rain and legume trees. It also contains mangrove swamps featuring black and red mangroves. Animals that may be observed include spider, Congo and white-faced monkeys, white-tailed deer and iguanas. Trails, a camping and picnic area, restrooms, public telephone and other services are available. Though Bahía Junquillal is the refuge’s main attraction, it also comprises Jicote and Cuajiniquil bays and Islas Los Muñecos.


This park has two sectors: Murciélago and Santa Rosa itself. Located in the northern part of the Santa Elena peninsula, Murciélago features several beaches, including El Hachal, Danta, Coquito, Santa Elena and Blanca. The administrative area offers parking, picnic tables, bathrooms, drinking water and camping. There are also viewpoints and trails.

The Santa Rosa sector shelters the largest tract of tropical dry forest in Central America. Wildlife here includes white-tailed deer and Congo and white-faced monkeys. This area features two beaches: Naranjo, which permits camping, and Nancite, which is operated as a biological station and where olive ridley turtles come to nest. Finally, Santa Rosa has great historical importance as the site of the Battle of Santa Rosa.

This sector offers several trails and viewpoints, as well as other points of interest such as the Monument to the Heroes of 1856 and 1955 and the historical house, which was completely rebuilt in 2002.


At just over 32,000 hectares, this park contains Orosí and Cacao volcanoes, which are its main attractions. It is divided into three sectors: Maritza, Pitilla and Cacao.

The Maritza sector is located on the slopes of Orosí volcano, at 650 meters above sea level. It shelters a dry to wet forest that gives birth to rivers and streams, a variety of birds and a large population of collared peccaries. Available services include drinking water, outhouses, trails and general information. Located one kilometer south of La Cruz, the Pitilla sector’s main feature is its wet forest. Birds and other animals can be seen on the trails, as well as a spectacular view of Lake Nicaragua.

The Cacao sector is located on the slopes of the volcano of the same name, at some 1,100 meters above sea level. Trails connect dry forest to wet and cloud forests. With the proper permit, visitors may climb to the top of the volcano.


Comprising the massif that contains Rincón de la Vieja volcano, this national park has an area of 14,083 hectares and is divided into two sectors: Las Pailas and Santa María. The park contains nine volcanic cones and one lake, La Jilgueros. Pailas Sector: Trail (7.5 km) to the Von Seebach (1,898 meters above sea level) and Rincón de la Vieja (1,806 meters above sea level) craters; trail to las pailas (2.77 km); trail to La Cangreja (5.1 km) and Escondidas (4.3 km) waterfalls; trail to the Río Blanco pool (600 m); trail to fumaroles and mud volcanoes.

Santa María Sector: Trail to Enchanted Forest waterfall (1.1 km); trail to Pailas sector (8 km); trail to coldwater springs (1.6 km); trail to hot springs (2.75 km). In the vicinity of the administrative office there are restrooms, picnic areas and a camping ground, as well as a historical house and sugar mill. The park may also be accessed from Buenos Aires de Upala.


Located in Guanacaste’s Cordillera Volcánica, this park features several life zones, including low montane rainforest, very wet tropical forest and very wet premontane forest. Its maximum altitude is 1,916 meters above sea level. Plant species include palms, ferns, bromeliads and orchids. In terms of animals, there are white-faced and Congo monkeys, giant anteaters, pumas, tapirs and peccaries. Birds include a variety of trogon birds and bellbirds.

The park offers parking, drinking water, outhouses, researcher accommodations, information, trails and viewpoints that allow visitors to enjoy its features. These attractions and the hot springs are located not far from the administrative office, and are connected by a trail called Misterios del Tenorio (Mysteries of Tenorio). It is simply wonderful to swim in the sky-blue river, and to take in the park’s natural environs.



This protected area’s main attraction is its volcano, the tallest one (2,028 meters above sea level) in Guanacaste’s Cordillera Volcánica, Bagaces canton. Its slopes feature hot springs that may be enjoyed at the pool in Guayabo. Volcanic fumaroles can also be visited. There are beautiful waterfalls in the area, such as Cabro Muco and the waterfall on the grounds of the college in La Fortuna, near to which are several lakes. In addition, this area is home to Costa Rica’s only geothermal electricity production project.


Both these wilderness areas are located mainly in the Playa Grande area and in the Tamarindo estuary; however, they also include Playa Carbón, Playa Ventanas and Playa Langosta, Morro and Hermoso hills and the San Francisco and Ventanas mangrove swamps. Nesting giant leatherback turtles are the park’s main tourist attraction. Largest of the world’s sea turtles, the endangered leatherback is protected in Costa Rica.

The refuge’s main attraction is its mangrove swamp, with its fast-growing trees. Most common mangrove species here include red, black, white and piñuela. These mangrove forests are ideal breeding grounds for fish, crustaceans and mollusks. Reptiles, amphibians and birds may also be seen here. Tours are available for observing nesting leatherbacks and touring the Tamarindo estuary.


North of Palo Verde, this preserve is especially famous for the numerous insect species that make it an exceptional site for entomological research. The area also features several different habitats—savanna, riverine forest, gallery forest and deciduous forest—as well as rivers with excellent swimming holes. A great many yellow cortez trees flower here during the dry season, especially in March, flooding the entire area with their color. Barbudal’s fauna includes Congo and white-faced monkeys, deer and many birds.