Highlights and main attractions of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula

Bordering Nicaragua in the north west of Costa Rica, Guanacaste is a province whose name stems from the indigenous word ‘quahnacaztlan’ meaning Guanacaste Tree, also the national tree of Costa Rica. The region is marked by spectacular beaches, a host of national parks, a string of volcanoes, wild rivers and dry, wet and very humid forests including the last remaining bands of protected tropical dry forests that used to stretch all the way to Mexico and has virtually disappeared from Mesoamerican scenery.

Expect incredible beaches, tropical forests and fantastic wildlife.

Where is Guanacaste & the Nicoya Peninsula?

Beautiful beaches

Some of the most beautiful and diverse beaches in Costa Rica can be found on Guanacaste's stretch of Pacific coast. These shores are blessed with long beaches, coves and bays, rocky beaches, beaches protected by coral reefs, powdery white sand beaches, brown sand beaches, dark sand beaches and even dark blue-black beaches. But the true beauty is found in the marriage of beach and tropical rainforest, and nature is always just around the corner. Tamarindo, Conchal, Flamingo, and Playa Hermosa are to name just a few of many.

If you are looking to worship the sun at some point on your travels, then it would be difficult to miss out on beaches of Guanacaste. 

National Parks to explore

Enriched with a wealth of National Parks, Guanacaste is blessed with an abundance of wildlife and natural landscapes. Rincon de la Vieja National Park is home to the still steaming volcano of the same name. It is composed of nine adjoining craters, and is the largest of five volcanoes in the Guanacaste mountain range and adventure seekers can hike to the summit. The National Park was set up in 1973 to preserve the 32 rivers and streams that contribute to the areas watershed. It is home to the ‘guaria morada’, Costa Rica’s national flower, a type of purple orchid, as well as an abundance of mammals. Over 300 bird species make their homes here, and birders come by the dozen to try and spot toucans, eagles and even the elusive quetzal.

Santa Rosa National Park is one of the oldest and largest protected areas in Costa Rica. Established in 1971 it covers 386 square kilometres and conserves the largest stretch of tropical dry forest in Central America and significant nesting sites for several species of sea turtle. In particular, the mass nesting ground of olive ridley sea turtles at Nancite Beach which can reach up to 8000 at a time. However, most people flock here for the surfing, with near-perfect breaks at Playa Naranjo, formed by the offshore outcrop known as Witch’s Rock.

Palo Verde National Park, on the banks of the Tempisque River is a nature lovers’ dream. Formed of a large web of tropical mangrove forests, tropical lowland dry forests, savannahs and wetlands, it provides a home for crocodiles, sharks, caiman, snakes, various mammals and hundreds of birds. It is highly recommended for birdwatchers and wildlife seekers. 

Other notable national parks include Barra Honda, famed for its caves and unusual rock formations; Tenorio Volcano is noted for the volcano of the same name and the enticing Rio Celeste. Although less visited they are teeming with wildlife and stunning natural landscapes and well worth a visit.

The Nicoya Peninsula

The Nicoya Peninsula is large rectangular shaped outcrop that is separated from the mainland by the Gulf of Nicoya and the Tempisque River. Sun drenched and remote, with beaches to die for it has become a mecca for honeymooners and people trying to get away from it all. It has not seen the same development as some other tourist areas of Costa Rica but is still privy to some of the finest barefoot luxury found on the coast.

Our favourite place to stay for a bit of barefoot luxury is the welcoming Cala Luna Hotel or the luxurious Punta Islita.

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