Costa Rica's Guanacaste province lies in the northwest part of the country, with Nicaragua to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Known for its pristine beaches and biodiversity, Guanacaste offers visitors plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, Guanacaste is home to over 65 of Costa Rica's 300 or so beaches, earning the nickname "Gold Coast." The region offers many unique experiences including ziplining through the clouds in the region's rainforests to going on a sunset horseback rides along the water. Try spending a week here so you can truly get a sense of the "pura vida" lifestyle.

6 DAYS IN GUANACASTE, COSTA RICA

DAY 1 - RINCÓN DE LA VIEJA NATIONAL PARK

Spend the entire day at Hacienda Guachipelin — an ecolodge and working horse and cattle ranch — in Rincón de la Vieja National Park where your group can take part several activities including horseback riding, hiking, canyon zip lining, rappelling, white water rafting, and tubing.

The ranch offers a day pass where you can do four of the main activities for a reasonable price. Lunch is included with the pass. End the day by relaxing in the Rio Negro hot springs and mud baths.  

Nearby lodging options include the hotel at Hacienda Guachipelin and the Borinquen Mountain Resort.

DAY 2 - MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST

Head to Monteverde Cloud Forest after breakfast which is 2.5-3 hours away from Rincón de la Vieja National Park.

Go on a canopy tour where you can literally walk through the clouds via suspension bridges and treetop walkways. Keep an eye out for the fauna, notably the butterflies and hummingbirds. Visitors can also go zip lining through and above the forest which ends with a Tarzan swing (for those brave enough to try it).

Afterwards, explore the nearby town of Santa Elena and grab dinner at the unique Tree House Restaurante. Spend the night in the mountains at El Establo Mountain Hotel or Hotel Belmar.

DAY 3 - PALO VERDE NATIONAL PARK

In the morning, drive 2.5 hours to Palo Verde National Park. The park is unique as it has both wetland habitats and one of the world’s most famed tropical dry forests. It is also known for being a bird-watchers paradise — especially during the dry season between January and April.  

Visitors can take a river boat tour, which includes lunch and refreshments, to view the park’s wildlife. The tour stops by Pajaros Island to get a close-up view of the many bird species.

In the afternoon, head to Guaitil — a small village known for its Chorotega pottery — to take a pottery-making class before heading to Sámara for the remainder of the trip.

DAY 4 - PLAYA SAMARA

Some great accommodation options for the next couple of days are Azura Resort and Hotel Villas Playa Sámara — both are all-inclusive beachfront resorts located next to each other with Azura being the higher-end option.

Start off the day at the beach where you can rent kayaks and visit Isla Chora — a secluded island off the coast. This is a great spot for some snorkeling. Other water sports in the area include paddle boarding and taking surf lessons.

Spend the afternoon back at the resort relaxing by the pool or indulging in a spa treatment before dinner.

DAY 5 - PLAYA SAMARA

Have your resort organize a morning visit to a nearby coffee plantation to learn how coffee cherries are processed into coffee beans which are later roasted and packaged.

Upon your return, spend the afternoon at the beach or pool. Other activities include renting mopeds and exploring the surrounding area or taking a horse riding tour through nearby jungles and beaches. Be sure to head to the beach to see an incredible sunset.

After dinner, head to the town center to enjoy some nightlife — try the “hot shots” while playing a game of darts at Frank’s Secret Beer Garden.

DAY 6 - PLAYA SAMARA

Spend the first half of the day relaxing at the beach or pool before packing and heading to the airport to fly home.

The drive to Liberia takes 2-2.5 hours — be sure to give yourselves some extra time in case of any traffic or unexpected stops.

LOGISTICS

VISA REQUIREMENTS

US, Canadian, and EU citizens do not require an entry visa to Costa Rica. However, they must have a current valid passport and a return ticket to exit Costa Rica within 90 days. (Either to return to your country or to go to another country). Citizens of other countries should check their country’s resources to determine their visa requirements. Nationals who would normally require visas may enter Costa Rica for a maximum of 30 days if they are holding a valid, multiple-entry visa or residence permit issued by the US, Canada, or the EU. When utilizing a residence permit, it must be valid for more than six months on arrival.

FLIGHTS

Fly into and out of Liberia, the capital and largest city in the Guanacaste Province. You can also fly into San José, but it is a bit farther away from all the attractions in this itinerary.

GETTING AROUND

Our group chose to book everything with Monkey Tours who also provided all transportation. They did a great job organizing everything for us and were punctual getting us to each location. Because this itinerary covers a large region (versus spending the entire time in one location), you may also consider renting a car. The driving and traffic in the Guanacaste region did not seem too bad — but be sure to read up on driving in Costa Rica before finalizing your transportation arrangements as the rules are different there.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

LOCAL CUISINE

Three dishes that we enjoyed in Costa Rica were casado, galle pinto, and patacones. Casado, pictured below, comes in various varieties but it typically includes rice, beans, fried sweet plantains, and a protein such as fish, chicken, pork, or beef. Galle pinto is a typical breakfast dish that is a blended dish or rice, beans, onions, red peppers, and cilantro. It is served with eggs, fried cheese, sweet plantains, and corn tortillas. Patacones are flattened plaintains that are fried and topped with lime and salt. They are served with sides such as avocados, beans, and pico de gallo.

As for drinks, try guaro — a sugar cane liquor that is popular in the country. I recommend trying it in a mixed drink. We had several refrescos (pictured below) during our trip. These are refreshing fruit smoothies made with water or milk.

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