Guide to Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a Central American rainforested country with two coastlines, famous for its ecotourism. I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful country and experience its cuisine, beaches, and even volcanoes. Costa Rica is a unique destination because the country prioritizes sustainability and there is a clear respect for nature.
I spent about a week in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica, the northwestern peninsula off the mainland, bordering the Pacific ocean. Our hotel was specifically on the Bahia Panama, so I was exposed to diverse coastline experiences during my trip. With that, I will summarize my time in Costa Rica, highlighting my favorite places and activities, and providing recommendations for anyone considering a visit to the area.
Tip: Rent your own car. The main roads are well-maintained and it is generally easy to get around. Having your own car makes it easy to explore the region, as well as take day-trips on your own timeline. It also ends up being cheaper than renting taxis or taking group-tour transportation options.
Where to Stay
I stayed at the El Mangroove Hotel, on the Gulf of Papagayo, which is on the northern Pacific coastline of Guanacaste. It is a boutique hotel with highly modern architecture. Think sleek lines and minimalist designs that incorporate the rainforest and beach landscapes into its aesthetic. It was only twenty minutes away from the Liberia International Airport, but by the time we pulled up to the resort, it felt quite secluded and private.
The architecture was my favorite aspect of the hotel. As was the food, which was fresh and even better than most of the food we tried outside of the resort. The hotel is connected to its own private beach on the Bahia Panama and features a beautiful pool that runs perpendicular to the shoreline.
Other places to stay on the Guanacaste Province:
What to Eat
Sodas: To eat like a local, visit one of the countless street restaurants—known as Sodas—and order the Casado. This is the typical Costa Rican meal made up of rice and beans, a salad, and then your choice of meat (most commonly chicken or fish). Sodas vary in options and quality, but there are sure to be numerous along most roads.
Ginger Restaurant: Probably my favorite food experience during my trip to Costa Rica. The restaurant is an Asian-inspired tapas joint that perfectly combines classic Costa Rican fare with Asian flavors and techniques. The restaurant itself is a modern tree-house, which perfectly reflects the countries partialness to nature-inspired architecture.
El Mangroove Dining: Even if you are not a hotel guest, the two hotel restaurants are open to the public, and dishes are created by certified chefs. Definitely on the fancier side, expect high quality ingredients and beautiful presentation.
What to Do
Playa Conchal is a stunning, quiet beach that feels almost like a private cove. I witnessed a sunset on this beach, and no pictures can do it justice. It was pretty much an ethereal experience, I don't know how the lighting reflected itself so amazingly off the water. There are a small number of low-fuss cafés that serve food, coffee, and dessert on the shoreline.
Playa Tamarindo is probably the most popular beach in the region and seems more catered towards tourists. Surfers frequent this beach, and the main roads off the shoreline are dedicated to souvenir, surf, and clothing shops. There are countless restaurants and bars on the main road, many of which provide nightly entertainment on the beach, so this is definitely a happening area.
We had the opportunity to visit Palo Verde National Park. We saw a lot of amazing animals in their natural habitat. What I love about the parks in Costa Rica is that they are free, and there are rarely fences or barriers limiting the experience. It is the closest I ever got to monkeys in my life (literally an arms reach away from a pack of them). Basically, you enter the park at your own risk, but definitely worth it.
If you're seeking high-thrill adventure, Costa Rica is an amazing place to go zip-lining. Gliding over the rainforest was a very cool experience. The adventure park we went to had a beautiful infinity pool looking over the rainforest and ocean.
We took a day trip to Volcano Arenal to see the unique sulfur springs. We went on horseback up and through the lush hills of the volcano, and were led to a small sulfur pool which was naturally heated by the volcano. The mud in these springs have great benefits for the skin, so make yourself a face mask with some of the stuff in these pools. Absolutely do not forget the bug spray.
Costa Rica has a number of amazing waterfalls. We specifically went to the Catarata Llanos de Cortes. It is slightly smaller and more hidden than the more well-known waterfalls, but I preferred that. There is a small entrance fee given to the locals who maintain the area.
I really enjoyed my time in Costa Rica, and the Guanacaste province provides a great eco-tourism experience. I very much appreciate the country's dedication towards the preservation of its natural landscapes. Should I return to Costa Rica, I would love to explore more of the mainland, near the capital of San Jose.
See more travel posts here.